Et tu, Brian!

Brian Cowen’s hasty switch from Blair to Bruton as the favoured Irish candidate for the presidency of the EU council is a wise move by the government leader most in need of maximum European goodwill. The unelected taoiseach would be as good as anybody else, given that the word from the Brussels summit is that they want a soft chairman from the now dominant centre right bloc and not a traffic stopper. After 10 years as PM which ended under a cloud, Blair had just too much history. Too much Iraq, too much faintheartedness over Schengen and the euro ( the latter thanks to G Brown). He would have barnstormed the EU and the world, trailing clouds of optimism, threatening to eclipse quieter souls like Merkel and the wee member States and inevitably attracting Gallic jealousy from the extravagantly vain Sarkozy. Attempts to build a British caucus around the accession States appears to have foundered. It’s all good news for the Conservatives, who now know that their fears of el Presidente for a super-state are ill founded. Their threat to treat a Blair prresidency as ” a hostile act” was a gamble, but it paid off. As soon as he can, now that the Czech president appears on the brink of signing the treaty, Cameron will settle for a weak promise to hold a British referendum – if ever the EU decides to frame another one. Perish the thought in my lifetime. See Nick Robinson’s blog

David Cameron’s “cast-iron guarantee” to Sun readers of a Euro referendum expires, I’m told, once there is no further chance of stopping the Lisbon Treaty. In its place comes a different cast-iron guarantee of a new law to force any future government to put any future EU treaty to a popular vote.

Meanwhile, after all that fuss and all that referendum voting, Europe will stumble on, much as usual.

  • Pete Baker


    As I mentioned here

    Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell thinks Bruton is “well worth a considerable flutter.”

  • Guest

    “et tu,Brian”???????????

    Et toi,Brian?
    Et vous Brian?
    et thusa Brian?

    Don’t mean to be difficult but come on!

  • Mark McGregor


    Croatian Accession and Iceland and Turkey and whover would require a further treaty in the near future, courtesy of Ireland’s constitution. So that would mean a British referendum may not be too distant…unless of course Lisbon II really did mean the Irish people don’t get to decide on international treaties in future…

  • George

    “a wise move by the government leader most in need of maximum European goodwill”


    The EU searchlight has moved on.

    The unelected taoiseach


    You’ve not read the Bunreacht.

  • foreign correspondent

    Whoever is chosen should
    a) not have started any illegal wars recently
    b) be from a country within the eurozone, (or at least with very concrete plans to join the euro)

  • Dave

    “Croatian Accession and Iceland and Turkey and whover would require a further treaty in the near future, courtesy of Ireland’s constitution.”

    No they don’t. The Maastricht Treaty covers accession, and more specifically the Copenhagen criteria. Neither state is subject to a veto by any Irish constitutional requirement, nor does the Irish government have any valid reason to veto their respective accessions. The Crotty judgement no longer applies. It only ever applied if any significant area of Irish sovereignty was to be derogated. Since there is no area of Irish sovereignty that is outside the scope of the Lisbon Treaty, there will never be another referendum in Ireland on EU integration. Derogation of any remaining sovereignty now resides with the state, and no longer resides with the people.

    Slimy Miliband understands how the EU works. He knew that Blair was the candidate that eurosceptics were hoping for and that the EU were too damn clever to appoint a rock star (who would, like U2, stop the traffic) as president since that would draw too much attention from the plebs toward the EU as an emergent state, and so he stuck his tongue three inches up EU ass in order to secure his appointment to the post of foreign minister as compensation to the UK for the rejection of Blair. It just ges to show how these slimeballs will sell-out their countries for personal reward.

  • Brian: I don’t know if it’s possible to pass a law that would bind Parliament’s future behaviour as Cameron proposes. I mean, politically the Tories would have to adhere to any gesture they make in this area, but there’s no way under the UK constitution to absolutely restrict future Parliamentary decisions like that.

  • Brit

    “a) not have started any illegal wars recently”

    Could you please:-

    1. Identify the wars you contend are illegal

    2. Explain, with reference to relevant legal rules and requirements, how and why the above war(s) were illegal.

    3. Provide details of your qualitifcations and expertise in international law and the laws of war.

    4. Explain the moral/political/philosophical consequences of a war being “illegal”

    5. Set out whether you think the Kosovo war, lacking in UN sanction, was illegal?

  • Brian Walker

    Ciaran, Can Parliament bind its successors? Interesting question. It’s an evolving situation. The Human Rights Act and the NI Act 1999 appear to do so in practice, and qualify parliamentary sovereignty. But in the case of s future referendum on a hypothetical question, I guess it’s more of a poltical pledge than a binding requirement.

  • Guest

    Parliament cannot make laws that cannot be undone.
    For example,Union of Great Britain and Ireland “forever”.That is the legal point of view,but of course when we are talking about hundreds of years who cares about constitution.

  • I talked with a friend that knows a thing or two about this earlier on and he disagrees with me. He says that, so long as Parliament can legislate further down the road to undo a referendum pledge, then that’s OK.

    Still, Vernon Bogdanor in The New British Constitution (p.173), says that

    “what Parliament cannot do, according to one version at least of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, is to legally bind itself, either to hold a referendum on any particular issue or to accept the outcome of a referendum. Parliament can always, if it chooses, ignore the outcome, however politically unwise that might be.”

    Whose interpretation this is isn’t footnoted so I’d need to find the time to investigate further where Bogdanor is coming from, but it’s an interesting perspective nonetheless.

  • Ian

    The guarantees to Ireland that swung the ‘Yes’ vote second time around are due to be tagged onto the next ascession treaty. Those guarantees actually represent a partial rowing back from the high water mark of EU integration that Lisbon represents. e.g. the guarantee that each member country will get to nominate a Commissioner. So for the Tories to oppose any further treaties would mean they oppose the partial return of powers to individual member states!?

  • Ian

    (To clarify, under Lisbon, unless modified via the agreed protocol, there will no longer be the same number of Commissioners as member states, as has been the case up till now.)

  • Brian Walker

    Ciaran, You’ll find in Bogdanor plenty of evidence that appears to qualify parliamentary sovereignty. The trend towards a more “legal” rather than a political” constitution is one of the themes of the book, as I’m sure you know. This doesn’t mean Parliament can’t unmake laws, just that recent developments, like the referendum and devolution, may be creating new constituional devleopments which are harder to unmake. It’s hard to imagine Parliament abolishing the Scottish Parliament or the new Supreme Court, for example. And the courts have already set aside an Act of Parliament that was at odds with the supremacy of EU laws.