Lisbon Essay (1): The treaty would isolate Ireland – a ‘No’ vote would free her

My post yesterday on the poor quality of the debate around Lisbon brought positive feedback from some unexpected quarters… It also brought in a short blog essay contribution from the young editor of the Eurosceptic European Journal, Jim McConalogue. It marks the first a series of guest essays on the broad subject of Lisbon that will run each morning here on Slugger from the No, Yes, and no fixed opinion camps right up until polling day on Friday 2nd October.

By Jim McConalogue

Of all the claims made by the ‘Yes’ campaign over Lisbon II, the most unfounded has been the insistence that a ‘No’ vote would leave Ireland isolated. That is contrary to what will actually occur – rather it is a Yes vote on Lisbon treaty which will isolate Ireland. Why?

Firstly, I believe that Ireland’s perceived isolation is a result of Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s inability to deal with the real issues in the Treaty in 2008, and the subsequent way in which he dealt with the whole operation since, rather than the problem with the people saying No.

In effect, the Government has allowed the European Commission to move in, take over and enforce a second referendum. The perceived isolation has no political reality, since it has been brought about by an obvious but silent failure of the Irish Government to act on behalf of the Irish people in its interests after the initial No vote, against a federalist European Union and its demands for a re-run. A second Lisbon No vote will end this assault on Ireland’s national democracy.

Secondly, there are provisions in Lisbon which would drastically reduce Ireland’s place in the European Union. It would reduce Ireland’s representation, leaving her completely isolated. Lisbon contains new provisions to put EU law-making on a pure population size basis, just as in any unitary or federal state.

At present, big states have 29 votes each in making EU laws and Ireland has 7 – a ratio of 4 to 1. Under Lisbon, EU laws would be made by a majority of the EU member states as long as they have 65% of the total EU population between them.

Instead of the big states having 4 times Ireland’s voting weight, as it is now, this change to a pure population basis would give Germany 20 times Ireland’s weight and France, the UK and Italy 15 times each.

So, while countries such as Germany double their voting power to 17%, Ireland’s voting power will be reduced from 2% to a tiny 0.8%.

Thirdly, the political reality is that if Ireland votes No, the Czech Republic and Poland will, in all likelihood, halt their ratification of the treaty, since they are already waiting to see what Ireland does. Given the status of legal challenges, Germany may not have ratified the treaty by then either. Of course, these are European countries which have had little in the way of choice that Ireland does.

The next UK Government, which must be elected by next May, will also introduce a Bill on its first day in office to hold a referendum on Lisbon in the UK and recommend a No vote to it, if the treaty has not already been ratified by all EU states. That will give Ireland’s close neighbours in Northern Ireland the chance to vote on Lisbon too.

If Ireland voted No, she would have far stronger relations in Europe in the long term than if she voted Yes and gave up her own national democracy.

I believe Ireland would remain freer and retain her hard fought for and hard won independent constitutional rights and democracy if she were to return a No vote. It is Ireland’s choice, and in many respects, the whole of Europe depends upon it.

I have written an assessment, ‘100 Reasons to Vote ‘No’ to the Lisbon treaty’, because I feel so strongly against the European Commission attacking the democratic wishes of the Irish people who rejected the Lisbon treaty – the most undemocratic text which will alter Ireland’s constitutional rights and Europe’s political structure irreversibly.

The Irish people have a choice. They can choose between a damaging European treaty foisted upon them, or to re-establish the principles of freedom and national democracy laid down in the Irish Constitution.

Jim McConalogue is Editor of The European Journal. See: