Lisbon: focus on what is not there…

I posted my own tuppence worth on the ‘done deal’ for Lisbon II a couple of days ago on Brassneck. The draft resolution reads like a sales brief to a regional sales director who cocked it up last time; along with with the instruction: now redo your pitch! The payoff? The Regional Sales Director gets a permanent seat (ie a Commissioner) on the board for life (along with everyone else). The brief will provide the Irish public with a ‘negative’ focus on what is not there, rather than what is. It will not, nor seemingly was it ever intended, to buy off the Euro sceptics since there the resolution makes a lot of promises with little in the way of detail. And only most atavistic anti Europeans will rejoice at the corrosive burden now placed on an already creaking European bureaucracy, in giving every member country a free gift they may want, but will never likely need.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Nomad

    Maybe Charlie could pretend to read the treaty next time?

  • George

    “As Mark Mardell notes, other questions, like neutrality domestic taxation; abortion laws could be taken care of either by specific protocols relating to Ireland; or by amending the Constitution.”

    Mardell was incorrect in his assumption that there is any possible solution by amending the Constitution.

    EU law has primacy in areas of competence covered by the Treaty so it would be for the ECJ to adjudicate on those areas.

    Indeed, Article 29.4.10 was put in 35 years ago to ensure such primacy.

  • Oilifear

    “Indeed, Article 29.4.10 was put in 35 years ago to ensure such primacy.”

    And are you saying that you don’t respect the wishes of the Irish people when they voted 81% in favour or such?

    And let’s be clear about exactly what would be a competency of the EU after Lisbon.

    Following would be the exclusive competency of the EU:

    (a) customs union;
    (b) the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the
    internal market;
    (c) monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro;
    (d) the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries
    (e) common commercial policy.

    The following would be shared competency of the EU and member states (and subject to subsidiarily):

    (a) internal market;
    (b) social policy, for the aspects defined in this Treaty;
    (c) economic, social and territorial cohesion;
    (d) agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological
    (e) environment;
    (f) consumer protection;
    (g) transport;
    (h) trans-European networks;
    (i) energy;
    (j) area of freedom, security and justice;
    (k) common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined in this

    Under social policy above, the following areas are defined:
    (a) improvement in particular of the working environment to protect workers’ health
    and safety;
    (b) working conditions;
    (c) social security and social protection of workers;
    (d) protection of workers where their employment contract is terminated;
    (e) the information and consultation of workers;
    (f) representation and collective defence of the interests of workers and employers,
    including codetermination, subject to paragraph 5;
    (g) conditions of employment for third-country nationals legally residing in Union
    (h) the integration of persons excluded from the labour market, without prejudice to
    Article 166;
    (i) equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities
    and treatment at work;
    (j) the combating of social exclusion;
    (k) the modernisation of social protection systems without prejudice to point (c).

    Under public health matters above the following are defined:
    (a) measures setting high standards of quality and safety of organs and substances of
    human origin, blood and blood derivatives; these measures shall not prevent any
    Member State from maintaining or introducing more stringent protective
    (b) measures in the veterinary and phytosanitary fields which have as their direct
    objective the protection of public health;
    (c) measures setting high standards of quality and safety for medicinal products and
    devices for medical use.

    With specific regard to security:

    “The policy of the Union in accordance with this Section shall not prejudice the
    specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States …” (42.2 TEU)

    Now, that’s a whole lot of stuff – but where, George, would you fit neutrality, domestic taxation or abortion laws under any competency that would be conferred upon the EU after Lisbon?

    Maybe that, Mick, is why the “sales brief” focuses on what is “not there” … because things like neutrality, domestic taxation and abortion were simply never there to being with. It’s like telling people the boogie man doesn’t exist – only for them to take it as further evidence that he’s real. It’s a paranoid trap.

    George, look under the bed:

  • George

    I really don’t know what point you are trying to make.

    I’m highlighting the inaccuracy of Mardell’s view that a solution lies in putting something into the Irish Constitution.

    The objective is to alleviate concerns about EU competences. If that is the case then these concerns have to be addressed in an EU Treaty, not in the Bunreacht.

  • Assurances are not good enough. They must be legally-binding to carry any credibility, and even then, their format may be open to charges of a contrick. This is especially so if they come back with “declarations”, which is what is being mooted. They are saying Protocols are unlikely because it would require the member states to start ratification all over again, embarrassing govts in countries like France and Holland, where the Treaty is unpopular. If there are to be no Protocols, then Libertas and SF will argue the guarantees are not worth the paper they are written on. From what I’ve heard on, the ‘concessions’ will amount to a promise to make changes to the Treaties perhaps in 2011 (added to the Croatian Accession treaty), provided we ratify Lisbon. To a cynical Irish electorate, this will amount to being asked to take FF on trust – a tall order for a party notorious for breaking its promises e.g. ‘we will end waiting-lists in 2 years’ – Micheal Martin (former Health and current Foreign Minister 2002), ‘no’ second referendum, said Dick Roche on Newstalk before referendum when asked if it would happen if there was a no vote. In a recession, their credibility is even less as their ambitious election manifesto on tax-cuts reminds the electorate that these are not people you would necessarily buy a used car from. Paul Anthony McDermott gave an excellent analysis on Newstalk yesterday morning on the “grey area” of declarations and whether the ECJ would abide by them and recognise them as legally-binding. The govt will have to do a lot better than this.

  • Oilifear


    “The objective is to alleviate concerns about EU competences.”

    On the three concerns mentioned by Mardell in the quote:

    An example in relation to taxation: Lisbon would have allowed for common taxation policy were the Council to decide so in unanimity. A constitutional ammendment could preclude the government from ever agreeing to such and thus comprehensively rule-out any concerns over common taxation.

    On neutrality, constitutional amendments could stipulate the nature of Ireland commitments to the “solidarity clause” and the codify the “triple lock” policy in relation to involvement in any EU-related matters.

    With regard to abortion … I don’t think anyone would be so stupid as to go mixing Lisbon with a constitutional referendum on that particular chestnut!

  • George

    I see where you are coming from now (and I assume Mardell) but it is still coming from the point of view that Lisbon can’t do what some fear it can.

    You are talking about adding to the competences, such as taxation, which will only happen with unanimity but then a referendum would be necessary anyway, unless you are now in the Libertas camp regarding Article 48 self-amendment.

    Why would there be a need to put in a clause on taxation into the Bunreacht if, because it is a new competence, a referendum would be required anyway because of Crotty?

  • Oilifear

    Specifically with relation to taxation –

    “The Council shall, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after consulting the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee, adopt provisions for the harmonisation of legislation concerning turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation to the extent that such harmonisation is necessary to ensure the establishment and the functioning of the internal market and to avoid distortion of competition.” 113 TFEU

    A constitutional ammendment disallowing the government from agreeing to any such measure (or at least meassure affecting Ireland) would rule out any harmonisation of taxes without the assent of the people. (This is different from it being a competency of the EU.)

    With specific reference to the Article 48:

    “The decision referred to in the second subparagraph shall not increase the
    competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties.” 48.6 TEU

    i.e. the competencies of the EU cannot be expanded without a constitutional referendum.


    “If a national Parliament makes known its opposition within six months of the date of such notification, the decision referred to in the first or the second subparagraph shall not be adopted. In the absence of opposition, the European Council may adopt
    the decision.” 48.6 TEU

    A consitutional ammendment could make it necessary for the Oireachtas to refer any request to ammend Part Three of the TFEU under the Simplified Revision Procedures to a referendum. Doing so would effectivly nullify the dreaded Article 48, and – in Ireland at least – keep the ultimate decision on any ammendment with the people.

  • George

    I’m well aware of Article 48.

    The new Article 113 is the existing Article 93 so there is no difference under Lisbon.

    So the recommendation is to put in a constitutional amendment to stop our own government assenting to something. That’s the “deal”?

    Such an amendment would have nothing to do with the EU so why involve them.

  • Dave

    Oilifear’s argument is predicated on the assumption that both the Irish government and the EU respect the Unanimity rule. Being a Europhile, he hasn’t grasped that his own argument is rendered null and void by the second referendum being called because neither the Irish government nor the EU respect the Unanimity rule. Ergo, he has no basis in transparent reality for his deluded faith but continues to proffer his absurdity nonetheless.

  • Oilifear

    George, you said you didn’t believe that concerns about neutrality and taxation (forget abortion!) could be safeguarded by amending the Bunreacht. I demonstrated that they could be.

    You brought up article 48, I further demonstrated how concerns about that could be relieved by amending the Bunreacht.

    You replied, “So the recommendation is to put in a constitutional amendment to stop our own government assenting to something.” That’s what the Bunreacht is all about – it stops the government from doing something! Did you imagine that we could put an amendment into our constitution to stop somebody else’s government form doing something!? 🙂

    “Such an amendment would have nothing to do with the EU so why involve them.”

    Politeness, really. You can’t just piss on someone’s treaty and not tell them about it. But none of it would be without precedence. See the current section 9, proposed to be recast at 15, did this in relation to common security policy:

    15° The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to—
    i Article 1.2 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7° of this section, or
    ii Article 1.49 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 10° of this section, where that common defence would include the State.

  • ZoonPol

    Read the letters about Second vote on Lisbon Treaty

  • George

    you said you didn’t believe that concerns about neutrality and taxation (forget abortion!) could be safeguarded by amending the Bunreacht. I demonstrated that they could be.

    Don’t be putting words in my mouth. I said amending the Bunreacht would not address concerns surrounding competences of EU law (Post 1).

    I did not go into what were and were not the competences.

    For example, your taxation solution would address concerns about the Irish government, not about the competence of the EU in the area.

    We appear to be talking across points.

    As for bringing up Article 48, it was to highlight the fact that issues outside of the competence of the EU so these would have to go to a referendum anyway because of Crotty (Post 7). I fully agree with your analysis of Article l48.

    We seem to be talking across points here too.

    Politeness, really. You can’t just piss on someone’s treaty and not tell them about it.

    But this situation is already in place now, they are not pissing on the Treaty.

    What you call pissing on the Treaty, others call rights under the Treaty.