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: www.europeanfoundation.org

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  • It’s really the elites who are isolated by refusing to accept the no votes in Ireland, France and Holland, or by denying their people referenda on Lisbon, despite in many cases promising referenda on the EU Constitition which was Lisbon under another name in terms of 95% of its provisions. The real pro-Europeans are the no voters who want to save the European project from those who would undermine its democratic-credentials through excessive centralisation of power in the hands of individuals either unelected by individual nations (yet holding power over them) or unelected by anyone at all.

  • Mack

    Jim –

    That’s an interesting post. I think there is one strong counter reason as to why a second Lisbon referendum is justified. While the Yes campaign on Lisbon 1 was a shambles the No campaign was full of misinformation and scare mongering about the Treaty. Unfortunately you repeat a lot of that misinformation in your ‘100 Reasons to Vote ‘No’ to the Lisbon treaty’ post (and I’ll follow up and deal with some of the more critical mistakes).

    The very act of expanding the Union, also reduces Ireland’s place within the Union relative to the total size of the Union. By and large though Ireland has gained significantly more from enlarged European markets, than we have lost in European influence. In fact we have been spectacularly successful in attracting top tier companies to Ireland who use Ireland as a base from which to sell into the rest of Europe. This in turn has meant increased prosperity and increased soft power / global influence. Continued expansion will make Europe an even more attractive place to invest, but expansion will not occur in the medium term without Lisbon. While have lost some high-profile multi-national companies, doing lower value manufacturing work thus far, we have been incredibly successful in recent years in attracting the likes of Google (who have their EU headquarters in Dublin) and more recently Facebook.

    Ireland is a major exporter of pharmacetical products, in part thanks to US multi-nationals such as Pfizer . Over the last 10 years India has managed to attract a lot of investment by computer software and hardware companies, they are now targeting pharma companies for their next growth phase. Ireland must continue to add to her value proposition to continue to attract and retain investment in this sector – which is vital for our economy. You can surely see that larger European markets, coupled with our indigenous skills base, attractive tax structure, strong legal protection for intellectual property rights, makes Ireland a more rather than less attractive option?

    Lisbon codifies an exit-mechanism from the EU. Irish sovereignty and democracy will retain it’s primacy. Lisbon, while it is not perfect, appears to be the best bet we have of enabling the expansion of EU free trade area, of ensuring peace and stability on our continent, of spreading prosperity to it’s margins. By extension, and in the lack of any alternative offered by the NO camp – Lisbon offers the best hope of boosting Ireland’s relative attractiveness of a destination for high-value-added FDI against emergent competitors in key areas such as India..

  • Crikey…is this the paramilitary wing of Coir?

    Nobody forced nobody to vote on anything, we have a written constitution http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/upload/static/256.htm and the Oireachtas is proposing the referendum as it is entitled to do

    The EU will decide on a pure population basis – False! The relevant article is clear 55% of states plus 65% of population.

    “As from 1 November 2014, a qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of
    the members of the Council, comprising at least fifteen of them and representing
    Member States comprising at least 65 % of the population of the Union.
    A blocking minority must include at least four Council members, failing which
    the qualified majority shall be deemed attained.” (TEU 16.4 consolidated)

    This actually leads to millions of different combinations so there can be no set calculation of the change

    Why should Ireland vote on what Poland or the Czech Republic might do?

    As for your 100 reasons many like MEPs expenses are irrelevant to Lisbon and most contain no treaty references such as inheritance law etc.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I agree – what percentage of Westminster voting power was made up by Irish MPs before partial freedom was obtained? Bet it was higher than 2% or even 0.8% and look how good that was for the country. A century of economic decline and worse followed.

    What turkeys ever voted for a dimunition of their power? It woill tell you what – watch the Lisbon vote. I cannot help but to think of the lies and bribery that surrounded the acts of union between Westminster with Scotland and later Irealnd.

    Are we really damned to repeat history.

  • Mack

    Coll Ciotach –

    At 2% Ireland hardly dictated terms! At 2% we had to persuade others of our views by the power of argument. What’s changed?

    The EU is NOT the UK. Ireland retains her sovereignty and her national parliament. Lisbon makes it easy to exit the EU, while allowing the EU to run smoothly as it expands.

    Ireland retains vetos and opt-outs in key areas. If we don’t like the direction the EU takes, under Lisbon we can easily exit but negogiate access to enlarged EU markets as equals. In so doing, we’d be allowing the EU to function, while operating in our own selfish best interests. We can do this under Lisbon, we can’t do it now. Without Lisbon enlargement stops.

    Are you are opposed to EU expansion, which also reduces our per centage vote? Do you think Ireland has benefited from EU expansion – or not?

  • Coll Ciotach

    Mack

    If we cannot dictate terms at 2% what hope have we at 0.8%? That is an argument for total withdrawal, which I am against.

    And you are right – the union with Brussels is evne more remote with even bigger masters – for do not tell me that it is a “union of equals” – the fact there is a second vote shows the respect the masters have for the Irish voter.

    Ireland only retains Home Rule – and one that is destined to be no more than a glorified council rubberstamping foreign decisions.

    I have no problems with more European countries joining and would encourage it. Provided thath it is only on the basis of a Free Trade Area, which means protectionism for those within it or else what is the point?

    If this is not a surrender of sovereignty there is no need for the treaty – just continue as is.

    Can our opt-outs and vetoes be given away by the Dail or by referendum?

  • Mack

    Coll Ciotach –

    We can opt-in out or out of provisions in the areas of freedom, security and justice (including immigration provisions). That’s up to the national government and our national democracy.

    If we cannot dictate terms at 2% what hope have we at 0.8%?

    It’s never been about dictating terms. We are pooling not surrendering sovereignty – and streamlining the processes under which the EU functions. Really, what difference does 1% make in a vote? Would our representatives even all vote the same way (Joe Higgins, Kathy Sinnot etc)?

    It’s worked well for us thus far.

    I have no problems with more European countries joining and would encourage it. Provided thath it is only on the basis of a Free Trade Area

    The thing is, most Europeans disagree with that and want some form of union. Lisbon allows a more efficient EU to expand. It also provides a mechanism by which we can leave and in those circumstances we could negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EU. The important point is though that Lisbon facilitates this – both the expansion of the EU and the Eurosceptic wet dream of pulling out of the political part but keeping the Free-Trade area for your own country.

  • Mack

    Coll Ciotach

    which means protectionism for those within it or else what is the point

    Protectionism is bad in general. Imports have to be paid with exports, so tariffs on imports favour local producers of tariffed products over local producers of non-tariffed products. (The one occasion where it is good, is when you temporarily protect an industry to build it up – a la Japan – but the problem there is that if everyone tries it, then it won’t work + it has to be temporary)..

    Free trade is good generally. In my industry – software, we build new software out of existing software components. If we had to pay import tariffs on software components, some combination of the price of software rising , falling wages and falling profits would occur at companies that use software components as part of their products. Protected companies that produce components locally would benefit of course, but this would come at the expense of those who purchase their components – and would enable them to sacrifice quality for price.

    Certainly, it would be highly unlikely that the likes of Google would locate here – if they had to pay import tarrifs on the software components they use on their servers. Protectionism benefits some local companies, at the expense of other local companies and at the expense of economic sophistication (complex products built up out of multitude of inputs). The EU is good because it prevents protectionism within Europe and enables us to knock down external barriers to trade via our combined negotiating strength – which Lisbon will also strengthen.

    The converse is that free-trade does threaten protected local industries. E.g. Local textiles firms may be threatened by cheaper textiles companies in the developing world. Free-trade will create jobs and wealth in the developing world at the expense of local protected companies. The solution is for local protected businesses to move up the value chain. To use the now cheaper imports from abroad is inputs into more complex products where they can add significant value before exporting them (e.g. live chickens -> raw chickens -> pre-cooked roast chicken -> chicken in a Mitchelin Star Restaurant).

  • Coll Ciotach

    Mack

    As you say the national govt can relinquish the veto – can you not see why that is not a veto?

    It is all about dictating terms. This “pooling” sovereignty is a nonesense – it was also pooled in the UK. That was good for us. Streamling smacks of letting the elite get on with it without interference.

    The difference of the 1% is that it represents a nation able to veto, no weighted non guarantees there, which as you say has worked well for us so why change it?

    How do you know what most Europeans want – they have been denied the chance to register what they want – with the exception of Ireland who are being dictated to and disrepected by being told to return and vote “correctly” this time.

  • The EU would function without Ireland, Uk, Czech Republic. Europe and those of us who live here would suffer.

    Dunno why anyone thinks the tail will wag the dog indefinitely.

    As the Republic will retain its referendum and other laws and this is not as large a step as was Mastricht for the UK surely you are misdirecting your concerns?

    “From 1987 the economy improved and the 1990s saw the beginning of unprecedented economic success, in a phenomenon known as the “Celtic Tiger”.[65] By 2007 it had become the fifth richest country (in terms of GDP per capita) in the world, and the second richest in the European Union, moving from being a net recipient of the budget to becoming a net contributor during the next budget round (2007–13), and from a country of net emigration to one of net immigration.”

    Getting your economy back on track is a bigger concern than minor details of sovereignty.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Mack

    I am perfectly aware of the debate on Free Trade. I am pointing out to you that without it what is the point of even having an EU. Sure we can all agree to have a Free Trade Area. Call it the European Free Trade Area for example. Then, if we think that it is so good we can extend it to the rest of the world and start paying a proper price for 3rd world goods. Then of course their woul not be a need for the European union except perhaps an agreement to gang up on those who wish to impose rules on us as regards farming intervention and so on.

    Are you really saying that the EU engages in Free Trade with the rest of the world?

    Or is the gaff made when you said “The EU is good because it prevents protectionism within Europe and enables us to knock down external barriers to trade via our combined negotiating strength” shows that you have just accepted the elites guff without thinking it through? As you said “It’s worked well for us thus far”.

  • Wilde Rover

    It is very easy to be mired in the minutiae of the labyrinthine layers of this, and the adjoining treaties.

    Broadly speaking, this was meant to be a union that cast aside past systems and put forward a positive, reflective, evolving new way of defining relations between the people of Europe.

    And yet it is not the people of Germany, France or Britain debating, arguing, shouting, pleading, but one small sliver of the whole on the fringes.

    As gratifying as it is to come from a place that saved western civilization it seems a little much to expect that little Ireland is duty bound to steer the course of the continent yet again.

    If this vote is not carried then might I humbly suggest that the citizens of those larger states might pull the metaphorical fingers out of their collective arses and begin proactive engagement in this process or call the whole thing off.

  • Mack

    Coll Ciotach –

    I think you are fighting the wrong battle, by the sounds of things you want Ireland to leave the EU but keep the free trade area? That is perfectly possible under Lisbon, though I suspect it isn’t what most Irish people want.

    This “pooling” sovereignty is a nonesense – it was also pooled in the UK

    Eh no, it wasn’t. In the UK sovereignty lies with Westminster, and is devolved from there not pooled too there. There is no pooling of sovereignty in the UK. Ireland in EU remains sovereign. We can withdraw if we wish and we can do so without a shot being fired.

  • Mack

    Coll Ciotach –

    We can’t veto progress in areas where other EU countries want to progress – but why would we want to do that?

    We can opt-in out or out of provisions in the areas of freedom, security and justice (including immigration provisions). There is no loss of sovereignty in these areas. If we like the provisions we can accept them, if we don’t we opt-out.

    If you like the EU, why prevent EU expansion? Why kick away the ladder to those less fortunate than us, having climbed it ourselves?

    The Irish economy will benefit from an expanded free-trade area.

  • Coll Ciotach

    But sovereignty was pooled – all got represented by election.

    Why would you want to veto – national interest springs to mind – such as
    can we have our fish back?
    no
    we will withdraw
    go ahead but we will still take your fish.

    I do not want to stop expansion – the more the merrier as it stops the core countries dicatating the odds as they are on this vote.

    Glad to see you are back to free trade area. at least we agree to that – could we expand it to the 3rd world maybe?

    There is no need foor the United States of Europe – thyis is were they are going and it nneeds to be stopped.

  • “Lisbon codifies an exit-mechanism from the EU. Irish sovereignty and democracy will retain it’s primacy.”The mechanism for exitting the EU is subject to Qualified Majority Voting under Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU as amended by Lisbon. The blocking minority is 4 countries including over 35% of the EU’s population. As such, it may become more of a prison than an exit-mechanism. In any case, I don’t want to leave the EU, but I do want an end to further political-integration, which is sucking the sovereignty out of this country. We should be able to have our cake and eat it: pick and choose what we like and what we don’t. I don’t favour withdrawl, but neither do I favour Lisbon. It’s not a choice between all or nothing. We don’t have to get out of the way if we don’t want to. When the EU gave each member state the right to block treaty-changes, it allowed Ireland to block Lisbon, and as such we are only acting within our legal rights, for which I refuse to apologise.

    “We can opt-in out or out of provisions in the areas of freedom, security and justice (including immigration provisions). There is no loss of sovereignty in these areas. If we like the provisions we can accept them, if we don’t we opt-out.”

    Correction: The Government can choose to do so. But the Government has sneaked in provisions into the wording of the referendum legislation to allow it to abolish our right to optout on Justice and Home Affairs, resulting in QMV to decide immigration and asylum, policing and other aspects of Justice policy. As such, Ireland will only have a 0.8% say in our own policy in these areas. That is simply unacceptable to me. The relevant passage of the referendum-legislation (the 28th Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2009) is as follows, (with the “Protocol No.21 in 7(iii) being the optout protocol which the referendum wording allows the government to abolish). Note also that Paragraph 7(ii)allows the government to abolish our passport checks on immigrants travelling from the 25 Schengen countries by joining the Schengen-acquis:

    “7° The State may exercise the options or discretions—
    i to which Article 20 of the Treaty on European Union
    relating to enhanced cooperation applies,

    ii under Protocol No. 19 on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework of the European Union annexed to that treaty and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the
    European Union (formerly known as the Treaty
    establishing the European Community), and

    iii under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, so annexed, including the option that the said Protocol No. 21 shall, in whole or in part, cease toapply to the State, but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.”

  • Mack

    FutureTaoiseach –

    Correction: The Government can choose to do so

    It sounds as though you trust neither the political structures of the EU or even Ireland!

    The terms of the withdrawal or modification of terms are subject to ratification by QMV not the withdrawal itself. I can’t see that mechanism being used to prevent a country leaving especially seeing as no such codified mechanism exists currently (in the absence of such Greenland negotiated it’s exit). I think it’s stretching it to say it’s a prison.

    I’d have thought that Article 49 gives Ireland or any other nation an opt-out of further integration. It allows any member nation to renegotiate the terms of it’s membership while allowing the rest of the EU to move forward with their own plans.

    but I do want an end to further political-integration, which is sucking the sovereignty out of this country

    Lisbon offers more versatility for redefining relationships within (or outside of) the EU for member states than what we have currently. What’s more this isn’t delivered to Eurosceptic nations at the expense of those who want deeper cooperation in some areas.

  • FutureTaoiseach:

    Article 50 of the TEU (amended) reads:

    3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of
    the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2,
    unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides
    to extend this period.

    In other words, if agreement cannot be reached within two years, you leave regardless.

  • Flurry

    I’m voting no again. And if it comes back a 3rd time unchanged, I will vote no again.

  • Mick Fealty

    Flurry,

    It would add considerable value to the conversation if you could tell us why?

  • The Plague

    There’s a good article from Daniel Hamilton at Conservative Home blog which explains why Ireland is required to vote again (and again) until it finally votes the correct way:

    “Whilst the original Constitutional Treaty was technical, and correct, people didn’t read the Lisbon Treaty, they didn’t understand the first word about it. No real debate about the Lisbon Treaty could happen. This was a deliberate decision of the European Council.” – EU Development Commissioner, Karel de Gucht.

  • Faolchu

    I dont know a whole lot about the debate to be honest but I do find it interesting (and understandable) that the EU voting rights in Brussels will rest on the population requirements of the country. But what happens when Turkey joins within the next five to ten years? Does it suddenly enter and become the biggest majority shareholder of the lot? Or is there provisions in this Lisbon treaty to stop that happening? It would seem slightly unfair that the original 12 member states that set up the community nearly half a century ago were to be dictated to by a relative blow-in.

  • Mack

    Faolchu –

    Turkey has a population of around 100million the EU has a population of over 500million. So Turkey would not be able to dictate terms. It’s by no means certain that Turkey will be admitted as a member either. As Michael Mc Loughlin points out above it isn’t purely on population basis but a combination of states and population (i.e. you need to get the support of a large number of the member states + a majority of population based votes).

  • Neville Bagnall

    “I am perfectly aware of the debate on Free Trade. I am pointing out to you that without it what is the point of even having an EU. Sure we can all agree to have a Free Trade Area. Call it the European Free Trade Area for example. Then, if we think that it is so good we can extend it to the rest of the world and start paying a proper price for 3rd world goods. Then of course their woul not be a need for the European union except perhaps an agreement to gang up on those who wish to impose rules on us as regards farming intervention and so on.”

    There are two approaches to free trade.

    One is inter-governmental and is concerned with creating a free market. Theoretically everyone is equal, but large economies more powerful than small economies. There is usually a court to enforce compliance. Its easy to get into, but after that you are on your own.

    The other is supra-governmental and is concerned with creating a common market. Power is roughly divided on the basis of population. There are multiple institutions to enforce compliance. Its harder to get into, and harder to stay compliant, but efforts are made to correct internal imbalances.

    I know which I prefer.

    There are a couple of reasons the EFTA isn’t global. In its current form (and iirc historically) its main function is to operate the EEA. To join it you have to adopt a lot of European Law (including freedom of movement by the way), but don’t get a say in forming that law. The EFTA is the case study for the difference between loss of sovereignity and pooling sovereignity.

  • Neville Bagnall

    “The mechanism for exitting the EU is subject to Qualified Majority Voting”

    Anyone who thinks that the other member states will keep us in against our will… Would it have been better if our withdrawl was subject to unanimity?

    “We should be able to have our cake and eat it: pick and choose what we like and what we don’t.”

    Its like MS Word – nobody uses more than 20% of the features, but everyone uses a different 20%.
    Everyone picking what they like is what you have without a Union. 500 different bi-lateral agreements and nobody can figure out what they can do where.

    “Correction: The Government can choose to do so.”

    Correction: The Oireachtas can choose to do so. Small difference I know, but still.

    “allows the government to abolish our passport checks on immigrants travelling from the 25 Schengen countries by joining the Schengen-acquis”

    We only opted out of Schengen to keep the common travel area with Britain. Passport checks are pure form with EEA citizens, as they have free movement anyway and externals can travel from Britain to Ireland without passport checks. If the USA couldn’t keep the Irish out, we’re not going to stop illegal immigration. We’d catch more illegals with proper Health and Safety inspections and have less delays in Dublin airport.