I have veteran Indy commentator Bruce Arnold to thank for raising the impact of the German constitutional courts ruling on the tortuous Lisbon Treaty ratification process. As with most landmark judgements, people are cutting their own favourite slice of it. But basically, what it means is that the German President may sign the Treaty provided the Bundestag signs off on each of the changes. As the German Basic Law has no provision for referendums, this is the German way of disposing of fears of a drift towards a federal European state. Der Spiegel puts a strong nationalist gloss on the Court ruling that ought to be music to the ears of the sceptical British. Indeed, the German approach offers the UK a way out of the whole issue of consent, particularly the Conservatives who have impaled themselves on the issue of the referendum if the Irish vote No. Bruces Vote No puzzles me though. He accepts that the German court have ruled that the nation State remains the fundamental entity of the Union. This is surely the kind of assurance the Irish parties need to allay fears of being swamped. Once, Germany and France championed a federating dynamic but with enlargement and now recession, no longer. Fears that the European Court of Justice could subvert the Irish constitution are much exaggerated. The EU will remain a body of deal making between nation States, according to an improving framework and rules within a limited competence where it may be supreme. This is the political culture the Irish parties understand, as they go forward to the referendum. Of course with so much confusion in the UK and Irish public debates such as they are, ratification could still go belly-up. But probably not.
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