Lisbon Essay (9): They have not secured a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty

Eoin O’Broin lays out the core of Sinn Fein’s objections to the Lisbon Treaty. In line with the party’s position just after last year’s vote, their objection is primarily that nothing of any substance has changed in the meantime. The guarantees and the solemn declaration in favour of workers rights do not change in slightest the text of the document. He also points out that the self amending clause in the treaty undermines the Crotty (et al) judgements and means that future changes will be put beyond the reach of national referenda and, in effect, the Irish constitution. On June 12th 2008 900,000 people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. They did so because they believed that it was a bad Treaty and because they wanted for a better deal for Ireland and Europe.

The result presented the Irish government with a strong mandate to negotiate a better Treaty.

At the time Sinn Féin presented Brian Cowen with very detailed proposals as to how we felt the concerns of the electorate could be met. What did the government do? Just like their mismanagement of the economy, they prevaricated, sat on their hands and did nothing.

As a result they have not secured a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty. On October 2nd we will be voting on exactly the same treaty as we did last year. If it wasn’t good enough for the electorate then why on earth should it be good enough for us now?

At the European Council meeting in June of this year, the government agreed so-called legally binding guarantees on neutrality, taxation and ethical issues. They also agreed a “solemn declaration” on workers’ rights and reiterated their promise for every member state to retain a Commissioner.

On this basis the Yes side argue, the 53% of the electorate who rejected the Lisbon Treaty should reconsider their position. Unfortunately nothing in the so-called guarantees nor in the Solemn Declaration changes either text of the Treaty or the impact that it will have on Ireland or the EU.

We will still lose our Commissioner, only now in 2014 instead of 2009. Our neutrality (see Joe Higgins’ as yet unanswered concerns about sovereignty in LE4) will still be undermined. Workers rights and public services will still come under attack. And tax harmonisation will still be made easier.

The Government’s claims of having addressed the concerns of the electorate are entirely false.

Fianna Fail and their supporters in Labour and Fine Gael are also using the economic crisis to scare people into supporting the treaty. We are told that if we vote no we will lose investment, jobs, and support from our EU counterparts.

The truth is very different. The cause of this recession is the failed economic policies of this government and their counterparts across Europe. Many of these failed right wing politicians were responsible for negotiating the Treaty and many of their failed right wing policies are contained in the Treaty.

The route to economic recovery rests not in Lisbon, but in a change of direction at home and within the EU.

In 2008 Sinn Féin outlined the key reasons why people should oppose Lisbon. They remain the same. The Lisbon treaty:

* Reduces Ireland’s power in the EU – we will loose our permanent commissioner and our voting strength on the Council will be cut by half while the bigger states double their strength.

* Erodes our neutrality, drawing us further into a NATO compatible common defence and obliging us to increase military spending.

* Further undermines the viability of rural Ireland and family farming through the strengthened powers for the EU Trade Commissioner and effectively ending the Irish governments veto on mixed international trade deals.

Importantly Article 48 removes our automatic right to a referendum on future changes to existing treaties (see this blog post for some related thinking on the same point).

So what happens if we vote No again?

Ireland will remain a full and equal member of the EU. We cannot be expelled or marginalised. The EU will carry on as before. Inward investment will not be affected – indeed 2008 saw a 14% increase in foreign direct investment on the previous despite the scaremongering claims of the yes side.

And crucially a space will open for a debate on the future of the EU.

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