The UK and Ireland, nervously united on the Lisbon Treaty

You gain security but you lose power – that always was the deal in the Lisbon Treaty. The UK and Ireland are Siamese twins as never before. In Brussels,

Gordon Brown led the attempt to reach a compromise with Brian Cowen, the taoiseach, after the Irish leader warned he would lose the referendum expected in early October unless the concessions to Dublin took the form of a special “protocol” in European law. Given Tory opposition to the Lisbon treaty, the prime minister’s priority was to avoid any hint that the pledges to the Irish changed the Lisbon charter, requiring it to be revisited by the House of Commons.

If Ireland votes “no” a Conservative government is pledged to follow with a British referendum which will throw politics into a worse turmoil than today. At least the main Irish parties are unitedly pro-Europe. The British system is chronically divided.
Brussels –based think tank the Centre for European Reform is relieved that Libertas was obliterated in the European elections but is still nervous – at least Libertas was a focus for opposition that could now be dispersed among the independents and minority parties. Open Europe is scathing about the latest deal which in truth was always going to be a bit of oul’ cod to cover up the political incompetence of the first run. But after fears and fancies lost the first referendum, what was the alternative, except to throw some more wet fish at the thing again? No, we don’t want to abort your babies or get your sons killed in Afghanistan. Nevertheless the Eurosceptic think tank does its best to shiver the timbers.

The Treaty abolishes the national veto in more than 60 areas of policy – on everything from transport to the rights of criminal suspects and even some aspects of foreign policy. Ireland will lose 40% of its power to block EU laws it disagrees with – compared with a 4% decrease in Germany’s power to block legislation.

Well Germany is 15 times bigger so Ireland hasn’t done badly. And just to help the cause along, Sarkozy’s coming back to town, says Maman Poulet. If they don’t make it yes this time, they may was well bring back the kerns and gallowglasses to run the place. Party representative government in Ireland will have suffered a fatal blow. In the middle of a huge financial crisis, the whole thing falls apart, the currency link, the lot. What’s the alternative? Vote to rejoin the Union? ( There, that’ll do it). BTW, What a lot of humbug over the principle of holding a second referendum. In Ireland the Eurosceptics say you shouldn’t; in Britain, they say you must.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London