Lisbon Essay (28): How on earth do we switch this (EU) thing off?

Declan Ganley of Libertas notes that if you vote yes tomorrow, then there may be no more opportunities for the plain people of Ireland to turn this process around. This, he argues, is not the second time this treaty has been voted on but the fifth. That the only changes that have been made to it in all of that time (he makes the score 3-2 to the No side by the way) are purely cosmetic demonstrates just how far the democratic and bureaucratic elites of the European Union have got from their ‘polis’. The decision tomorrow will shape Europe. And the decision the voters make should not be made in fear of the future, but in terms of how seriously people want to taken by those lofty elites elites in future..

By Declan Ganley

Thank you for the invitation to contribute.

If you have not made up your mind by now, my guess is that an intricate discussion of the provisions of the Treaty will not sway you either way, and that you have begun the process of balancing and weighing the arguments that will decide which box you tick on the morrow. Instead, I want to leave you with a few thoughts on what our vote will say about the direction of the Union in the years to come.

I was moved by Margot Wallström’s impassioned plea (LE20) for the EU to stop looking inwards when I read it on these pages the other day, and like her, I agree that suspicion towards our partners is counter-productive and corrosive. The EU has been great, and can be greater – on that we should all agree.

What worries me about our vote is this: of all the questions the yes side can answer about the Treaty, one has remained ignored. How do we stop it? Forget for one moment whether you like it, or not, for there is as in all documents of its scope much to commend, and much to commend its rejection.

Many people have spoken of things that will happen after our vote. Let me tell you one thing that will not happen if we vote “YES”: No survey will be commissioned to find out why we did. No studies will be done. Whether we voted out of fear or loathing will be ignored. Our vote will be placed in a box which says “right answer, move on”.

When our leaders go down the path of asking us to explain why we vote in a particular manner, the essential ideal behind the secret ballot is lost. Europe has started down a path whereby the culture has shifted to a situation where our leaders demand explanations from us, and not the other way around. Votes against a Treaty or any other document beloved of the project can, under this new definition of democracy, never be considered to be a vote against the direction of the project itself.

This is not the second referendum on this Treaty. It is the sixth. It has so far been voted on five times, and if it were a football match, the score would be 3-2 to the NO side. Despite this, the only changes that have been made to the document are cosmetic. It is a fact that no law that could have been made under the document rejected by the French could not be made under the document we decide on tomorrow, and vice versa. The democratic process has not changed the direction of the project at all.

So, how do we stop it? Even a “NO” tomorrow may not achieve that, our politicians say. A third referendum has not been ruled out. When you arrive at a situation in society wherein you must explain your secret ballot to the Government, and wherein your vote is not permitted to bring real change to the issue on which you were asked to adjudicate, it is time to look inwards. When you find yourself living in a democracy, but unable to join with a majority of your fellow citizens to influence a long term policy trend, it is time to look inwards.

Our decision tomorrow will indeed shape Europe. You have been asked to vote with fear in your hearts, and to consider the “consequences” of your decision. If that is what you do, then so be it. I will not question you, and nor will anybody else. I ask you only this – as your pen hovers over the ballot tomorrow, think for one moment about the message you are sending our leaders about how they should treat us in future. I have, and I’m voting for Europe, and voting NO.

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  • zeleneye

    Good old Ganners: back in the fray to save the oIrish people from disaster. A third referendum has been ruled out, so lets knock that one on the head Decko.

    By my reckoning, there have been far more than 5 votes on Lisbon so far, so that’s another straw man to knock on the head. Votes in parliaments are also democratic votes – who are you (an electoral reject) to claim they are not democratically valid. Sarkozy was elected as president of France having said explicitly he wanted to push for a revised version of the constitution that France voted no to.

    As you note, there is much to like and much to dislike in Lisbon. I really think Europe would be better without a non-elected president of the Council for example. However, there are also a lot of positives (extension of EP legislative powers, role of national parliaments in legislative process etc.).

    The Irish decision will indeed shape Europe, as you say, however it will also shape Ireland. So, while I have misgivings about some of the Lisbon provisions, I think the implications of a no vote for Ireland would be truly catastrophic.

  • zeleneye

    Oh and there’s also the point made in one of the other essays…that if we say no to Lisbon, we say to no to all the good things in there.

    We will not get them back. There will be no appetite for negotiating a new treaty, after 8 years of haggling. They will just make the necessary changes to Council voting and move on.

    With an EU of now 27 member states, it is also clear that even if they were to renegotiate, there is no guarantee it would be any more acceptable to Ireland.

    Decko, you claim to want a one-page treaty. Do you really think you will get 27 member states and all the conflicting interests they represent to boil down all their demands to one page?

    If you really do believe that, I’ll have some of whatever you’re smoking.

  • Dave

    “The EU has been great, and can be greater – on that we should all agree.”

    The problem with a mixed messages from pro-EU reformists such as yourself in the present context is that the people will conclude that those who have made the EU “great” are best placed to make it “greater” so that counterproductively translates as a vote to support the status quo and present regime in their efforts to ‘reform’ it (a line that Daniel Cohn-Bendit was spinning in his “Bastard” essay for Slugger). They will not conclude that Brian Cowen is best placed to do that.

    What is so great about an organisation that acts as a fifth column, actively subverting democracy, sovereignty, and national interests within its Member States because it must undermine respect for and understanding of these concepts if it is to successfully encourage the citizens of these states to transfer control of them to the EU in pursuit of its objectives of “ever-closer union”? The common market is just a means to common country. If Irish people now give their sovereignty away and declare that they have no democratic right to decide national policy for themselves or peruse a national interest, then that is the culmination of 37 of sustained brainwashing that tells them that the “EU has been great” for Ireland.

    Wrong. Free trade has been good for Ireland, but the EU is not needed for free trade. All that is needed for free trade is for those states who wish to trade freely with each other not to impose tariffs on each others’ goods. The EU has been disastrous for Ireland. It has kept its farming industry backward and made it subsidy-dependent (with farmers receiving the bulk of EU largesse and the citizens of EU Member States paying the higher food prices required to subsidize them). It has decimated the Irish fishing industry, and allowed EU Member States to extract circa 200 billion euro worth of unprocessed fishing stock from Irish territorial waters (and rising by 6 billion euro every year). The processed value, incidentally, is a multiple of the unprocessed value, not counting that jobs and taxes lost to the Irish economy is another multiple of it. Transferring sovereignty over Ireland’s monetary and macroeconomic policies, along with regulation of its banking sector, has decimated this area of the Irish economy. There are dozens of examples.

    Yet, despite the EU controlling the governmental function in this area, where is the accountability for what is demonstratively bad government? There is none. It is as if the laws that govern this state are not to be considered as having any negative outcome where those laws are of EU origin. EU government can never be bad government therefore no matter how bad the country becomes under EU rule, ignore EU rule (where most of our regulation comes from) and blame all bad government on national government. This has the happy outcome for the EU that the people are encouraged to transfer their sovereign powers away from the national government (i.e. themselves) and toward the EU. Again, where do you think this mentality comes from? It is EU propaganda. And besides, because the people no longer have the power to determine their own regulations in the areas where they have transferred their sovereignty, they have deleted these areas of from the democratic remit, so debate about them becomes pointless (they cannot change the bad policy or amend the bad law). Debate merely serves to draw attention to the fact that they have rendered themselves powerless. That, bt default, cancels both democracy and debate.

    What is so great about an organisation that imposes costs of 600 billion euro a year on European business in the form of red-tape but only adds 160 billion euro a year to European GDP in the form of a Single Market? What is so great about an organisation that is killing Europe, dragging its share of global GDP down from 27% in 2000 to a projected 15% in 2018 while the USA will hold its share during the same period and other countries will dramatically expand their share of it? The EU’s ‘business model’ is simply to add more states and thereby increase the size of its internal Single Market. In effect, it must lock people into its own backwardness because that is the only way it can guarantee a market for its uncompetitive goods (which is why its manufacturing sector is in fatal decline, heading below 25% of its GDP). It can’t add any rich states, so every poor state it adds drags it down further.

  • Dave


    When you tell people how great the EU is (and produce nothing to back it up), you de facto measure its imagined greatness by how it has undermined democracy, sovereignty, and national interests within its Member States. People now it great that no one buys Irish goods to promote the national interest and presumably it must be great that Irish government will have less power, never mind that it is the peoples’ sovereignty that they are giving away.

    My vision of Ireland’s future is as a strong independent and wealthy exporting nation where its people determine their own affairs, so I do not share the vision of pro-EU quislings whose vision of Ireland is as a backward and insignificant region of a backward and insignificant federal state. I will be voting No, and not to reform a failed institution that is beyond reform but to destroy it.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “My vision of Ireland’s future is as a strong independent and wealthy exporting nation where its people determine their own affairs,…”

    Aye, De Valera kinda had the same vision!

  • Dave

    As did John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi, et al, in regard to their respective states.

    Don’t be afraid of independence just because a bunch of self-serving political hacks tell you that you must be a dependent serf to others.

    The EU is not the world, kid: post Lisbon it will be just another of the worlds 206 states.

  • Dave

    Incidentally, exports are important to every one of the world’s 2006 economies, and they are vital to any state that relies on natural-resource imports such as Ireland, so let’s take a look at Ireland’s exports and see if EU integration has been helpful to them.

    These CSO statistics show that Ireland’s exports stagnated in 2001 after integration into the EU’s eurozone. Exports are, in fact, now half the level in real terms than they were before this deeper EU integration occurred.

    2001 92,689,900
    2002 93,675,200
    2003 82,076,100
    2004 84,409,500
    2005 86,732,300
    2006 86,772,000
    2007 89,226,100
    2008 86,346,100

    In contrast, before integration into the EU’s eurozone, Ireland’s exports rose from 25,178,525 in 1993 to 92,689,900 in 2001. That period from 1993 to 2001 was actual ‘Celtic Tiger’ period. It was an export-driven boom. The period after this deeper EU integration was a credit-driven boom. Ireland traded its actual Celtic Tiger economy for an overdraft.

    Most of Ireland’s exports are outside of the eurozone (only 16 of the 27 Member States are members of the eurozone). The majority of Ireland’s export are rendered uncompetitive because of an overpriced currency that harms trade in the regions of the world where we do most of our exporting, leading to stagnation in Ireland’s exports as shown in the figures. To get around the handicaps of an overpriced currency, exporters would have to focus more of their trade within a region of the world that is in terminal economic decline.

    So why did Ireland’s europhiles ignore the disastrous consequences of this deeper integration into the EU when it is clearly not in Ireland’s national interest, leading the destruction of the exporting sector of the economy on which Ireland’s economic success was founded? Because the euro was always a political project and never an economic one. Integration itself is always the goal, not integration for the purpose of promoting Ireland’s national interest. As Romano Prodi, former President of the European Commission, said:

    “The Euro symbolizes the determination of the people of Europe to share a future together.

    The European Union is not just about economics: it is also a fundamentally political project – and the Euro symbolizes this. To millions of European citizens, the Euro notes and coins in their pockets make Europe tangible and visible in everyday life as never before. The Euro will thus become a key element in their sense of shared European identity and common destiny. Before the end of next year we will have completed negotiations to bring as many as ten of them into the Union by 2004.”

    Ireland’s export-driven Celtic Tiger economy was sacrificed for a political goal. That is all that EU integration ever amounts to: political goals disguised as economic goals.

  • These CSO statistics show that Ireland’s exports stagnated in 2001 after integration into the EU’s eurozone.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

  • Dave

    You are welcome to show that Ireland’s exports soared after it was locked into an overpriced currency that rendered exports less competitive or that being locked into said overpriced currency had no effect on exports.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Integration into the Euro area happened long before 2001. In fact most of the transition benefits happened during the convergence phase before the actual introduction. This does correspond to the productive era of the celtic tiger, but since our growth was also inflated by the 1993 devaluation, separating the various elements of the boom will always be open to interpretation.

    While only 16 members are currently within the Euro this is only going to rise, as the expansion members are committed to joining.

    There is no doubt that the Irish economy has been mismanaged since 2001, with inflationary and anti-competitiveness policies that carry a bigger cost within a currency union than without. We now face the uphill task of regaining that competitiveness.
    Thats the flip side of not facing what Iceland is facing.

    Monetary union is not a panacea, but nor, if handled properly, is it a burden. It may only add a few percentage points of trade to the eurozone, but a few percentage points adds up in a market of hundreds of millions of consumers.

    The Euro, like the EU itself, has proved remarkably successful. Certainly the doom-sayers that predicted collapse are having to re-evaluate.

    Despite the conspiracy theorists predicting domination from the centre, or the libertarians predicting stagnation and collapse, Europe works and grows because it requires compromise, engagement and new thinking. That has a momentum and reward of its own. Irrespective of the outcome of todays referendum, that will be as true tomorrow as it was in 1957.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Mr. Ganley asks how we stop Europe. I’ll give him the credit of presuming he means how do we change it to more closely reflect the will of the people.

    The simple answer is that we have to create a European polity. And elect governments and Members of the European Parliament that have clear European policies. But as he has discovered, creating a pan-european political movement is easier said than done.

    Personally I believe it will be extremely hard to create a European polity until there is an elected pan-european position, and that will not happen as long as Europe remains a confederation.
    But Europe is more visible, powerful and democratic now (from a very low base) and is, at least structurally, slowly becoming more so.

    I welcome the existence of Libertas, while disagreeing with its policies. I also find its membership and candidates to be somewhat at odds with its leaderships position, but again I will give Mr. Ganley the benefit of the doubt.

    At the end of the day, if Mr. Ganley wants to “stop Europe”, he needs to stop concentrating on referenda, and return to party politics. It may not be viable to create a pan-european party from scratch, but Europe does need a clarion voice for the creation of a grid of real pan-european coalitions, both left and right, federalist and confederalist, rather than the loose party groups currently in existence.

    I take Mr. Ganley at his word that he does not wish to dismantle Europe but rather make it more accountable to the peoples of Europe. I welcome and applaud that. After all, in those 5 referenda before today, the vote may have been 3-2 against, but the majority voted yes.