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Ireland favours Lisbon by 60 to 40% margin now

by Frank Schnittger Sun Feb 15th, 2009 at 07:43:50 PM EST

Cross posted from the European Journalism Centre Think about it website
(Shameless self-promotion - please rate this post on the Think about it website above if you have the time - its only one click away, and two clicks later you could be back on your beloved European Tribune!)

As I suspected, the Irish Times held over the Lisbon portion of their opinion poll last week for publication today (Monday).  That way they get a separate day's headlines to pay for their survey.  Also not unexpectedly, there has been a decisive turn in favour of Lisbon in the current economic circumstances.

51% of voters would now vote Yes on Lisbon Treaty - The Irish Times - Sun, Feb 15, 2009

Support is growing for the Lisbon Treaty with a further swing to the Yes camp in recent months as the State's economic situation deteriorated, according to the Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll.

The poll shows that 51 per cent would now vote Yes, an increase of eight points since the last Irish Times poll in November, with 33 per cent saying they would vote No, a drop of six points.

There are still 16 per cent in the "Don't Know" category (down 2 points). When undecided voters are excluded, the Yes side has 60.7 per cent, with 39.3 per cent in the No camp. That compares to the referendum result last June of 53.4 per cent No and 46.6 per cent Yes.


It appears that the concessions offered to Ireland by the European Council have had some impact on public opinion:

51% of voters would now vote Yes on Lisbon Treaty - The Irish Times - Sun, Feb 15, 2009

In the poll, people were asked how they would vote in the light of the commitment to allow Ireland to retain an European Union commissioner along with legal guarantees on other Irish concerns about neutrality, abortion and taxation.

Voters were also asked if, in the light of the current economic crisis, they thought it was better to be part of the European Union. Some 80 per cent thought it was better to be part of the EU, while 13 per cent thought it was not and 7 per cent had no opinion.

What remains beyond doubt is that Ireland remains one of the most pro-EU member states in the European Union, but why the big change of heart on Lisbon?

To understand this question, we have to examine why the Irish people voted against Lisbon in the first place:

My take on this was published in the Irish Independent on 17th. September 2008:

Send treaty to Supreme Court - Letters, Opinion - Independent.ie

So, what are we to make of the Government research into why people voted 'No' to the Lisbon Treaty?

Firstly, it is clear that 70pc+ of Irish people remain positively disposed towards the EU -- including 63pc of 'No' voters -- which compares favourably to the EU average of 52pc.

Secondly, 46pc of abstainers and 42pc of 'No' voters stated that a lack of understanding of the treaty contributed to their decision. Putting a complex treaty geared towards institutional reform to a popular referendum is a fraught business when many people don't understand how EU institutions operate in the first place.

People are no longer prepared to support proposals they do not fully understand based merely on trust in the powers that be.

Thirdly, what is noticeable by its absence is any sense that the Irish people who abstained or voted 'No' were supporting Europeans who had been denied the opportunity to vote on the treaty -- an argument frequently made by the 'No' side. Libertas arguments that the vote highlights the democratic deficit in the EU are thus not supported.

Fourthly, only 26pc of 'No' voters mentioned issues specific to the treaty as being instrumental in their decision -- and the treaty issues mentioned, such as abortion and conscription, were often not actually relevant.

Clearly there was a strong objection to being asked to vote on a poorly understood and explained document -- an objection which was exacerbated and exploited by the 'No' side, who claimed that all manner of European elite conspiracies lay behind the sometimes abstruse, and almost always unread text of the document.

Perhaps the Government would consider putting the treaty to a constitutional test before the Supreme Court so that we can have a definitive verdict on precisely how it effects our Constitutional rights? We could then vote with absolute clarity as to the consequences.

FRANK SCHNITTGER

Clearly the ongoing controversy over Lisbon has had the effect of clarifying the issues for many voters who either abstained or voted no when the Treaty was first put to a popular Referendum last June.

The European Council concession on each Member State retaining a Commissioner, and a willingness to give legally binding assurances on issues such as Neutrality, Conscription, Abortion and Taxation have also swayed some voters.  However the biggest change since last June has been the collapse of the Irish Economy.  We no longer have the luxury of voting against the Lisbon Treaty in the hope of achieving some undefined better Treaty in the Future, we need the EU to lead more effectively now.

As I argued in the Irish Independent last November:
Time to put the EU house in order - Letters - Independent.ie

Brian Cowen is on the record as saying that the Lisbon Treaty, if passed, would have helped the EU to deal with the world economic crisis more effectively.

Opponents have challenged this assertion, arguing that there is no evidence the Lisbon Treaty would have had much effect either way.

However, would a full-time President of the European Council (as provided for under the Lisbon Treaty) have sat on his hands whilst Sarkozy fiddled?

Then we had the spectre of the EU Commission threatening sanctions against Ireland for breaking the EU Stability and Growth Pact when it was abundantly clear that many EU member states would have to do likewise in order to ameliorate the crisis.

Meanwhile, the EU Parliament was its usual ineffectual self -- it too was to get more powers under the treaty.

Eventually the European Central Bank saw some sense and reduced its interest rates having increased them as recently as August.

Could it have been more out of touch with the reality on the ground?

The reality is that the EU has been moribund since 2005, when two countries out of the 27 members rejected the original Constitutional Treaty -- much like the USA has been a lame duck post-Iraq. But at least the USA, under Obama, now seems to be about to renew itself. Meanwhile, the EU remains paralysed.

Do we believe that Ireland, acting alone, can solve our banking and economic crisis?

It's time we put the Lisbon Treaty behind us, thus creating a full-time president of the EU Council, and giving the European parliament more power.

Then we need to get on with the task of developing a more coordinated and cohesive EU response to the enormous challenges facing us all in the current world recession.

FRANK SCHNITTGER

To put it at its simplest, Ireland now has a far greater crisis on its hands.  We need to to be working with our 27 fellow member Governments, rather against them.  The time for Utopian arguments by Sinn Fein, Coir, and Libertas is over.  It's time we put the Lisbon Treaty behind us and started working more closely with our partners in Europe to make the EU work for effectively to deal with an economic crisis unprecedented in the history of the EU.  This latest opinion poll shows that the Irish people are gradually also coming around to this point of view.  It's far too early to predict a decisive positive outcome to the Referendum yet - a lot could still happen in the next few months.  But there are unmistakable signs that a consensus in favour of the Treaty is now emerging.

Display:
"too late" in gaelic?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 05:32:54 AM EST
This was put less politely by redstar in a recent diary... Beyond Brussels
As we face a serious economic challenge, with member states [such as] ... Ireland ... facing severe economic challenges causing hardship among our fellow European citizen, it's a fair question: what the hell good does the EU do? And what the hell good does the Euro do? ...

The more I think about it, I have to say, not a hell of a whole lot. After all, it doesn't take a genius to observe how easy it is for 1% of Europe to scuttle pretty much anything. And you may not like Lisbon or Nice or even Marseille (though I'll sternly take issue on this last one) but think about it... 1% of the EU could be condemning praise of motherhood and your right to a decent blood sausage, and next thing you know it, what is important to you have been cluster-fucked by a well financed campaign in one of those tiny little English-speaking countries, where certain rich people tend to have lucrative contracts with the US military. And we, Europeans, are supposed to be ok with this, and think those 1% of people who stupidly are taken in by this (among other things) should be considered proper partners?

I for one have had enough of this shit.

We should not forget that according to polls one of the motivations for the Irish "no" vote was the desire to keep the "tax sovereignty" (i.e., the right to race to the bottom on fiscal policy) that enabled the "Irish tiger" and the subsequent property/credit boom which already at the time of the failed referendum could be seen to have been fake Anglo-diseased nominal growth borrowed from the future.

Now that the clay feet of the Irish giant are dissolving in plain sight and tax sovereignty the fiscal race to the bottom has been secured, the Irish want to play nice with the rest of the EU.

Is Ireland´s position as "one of the most pro-EU member states in the European Union" (as Frank keeps pleading in all his diaries) based in anything other than narrow pecuniary interest?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:18:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But a campaign in France that led to a failure and hold the whole thing up  would be just peachy, because the French are well, The French. Well-known fact. Just as well it could never happen.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:27:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know whether I should be proud that Spaniards will uncritically vote yes on anything with a EU stamp out of a desire to be good Europeans.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:30:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you would have a point. As it were, we just broke political Europe and are the first victim of the "non" - just not in terms of money.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As it were, we just broke political Europe

And helped set up the circumstances for the No vote in Ireland.  

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 07:02:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which no vote? Nice, or Lisbon?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

by redstar on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 09:59:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
was driving a race to the fiscal bottom over the past two decades, thereby undermining European partners' whose largesse simultaneously I have been enjoying and using to facilitating an acceleration of the race to the fiscal bottom, a race which in the end is shown to be a con job.

Small surprise, once the con job is exposed as such, those who had been enjoying the temporarily winning end of it find "solidarity" with the rest of us now that the jig is up.

by redstar on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 09:58:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, yes, Ireland destroyed the European dream. All 3 or 4 million of us. We did it. Now send us to the naughty step while Sarko leads you into the light.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 10:08:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, now, you know tu quoque is not an argument.

This being said, as bad as Sarkozy is, I'm not sure he's worse than the neo-liberal lickspittle who've run Ireland into the ground since the 1980's, and only slightly worse than the genteel, socially backward patronage machine that preceded them.

by redstar on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 10:47:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Genteel"???
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 10:48:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I worked in Ireland in the 1980's and can assure that bad and all as things are now, things were an awful lot worse then, and worse again as you go back into the 70's, 60's, and 50's. Anyone who thinks that Ireland has been run into the ground since the 1980's obviously didn't live here then.  

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 11:41:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it's a work in progress. Let's wait and see what the Irish economy looks like in 2012.

As for prior to the 1980's, of course, so many were leaving, so the old model was very bad too. Just supplanted by a beeggar-thy-neighbour policy ever since, which in turn shows itself to be much (though not all) of a house of cards.

by redstar on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 11:52:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some translations occur to me. None are polite.

You know the way you whine about the portrayal of the French in the Anglo media?

Now, remind me what happened to the first version of the Constitution?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:22:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember having made similar arguments to the French left and other pseudo-pro-Europeans that promoted the "non" on various occasions over the past 4 years, so I'm comfortable that I'm an equal opportunity basher of the EU snob crowd.

Aren't you the one not happy when you are taken to task for criticizing someone because, you respond, you also criticize the other side?

I'm so pleased to learn that I whine.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:52:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Too late" is a pretty bizarre response.  Too late for what?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:55:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Too late for
It's time we put the Lisbon Treaty behind us and started working more closely with our partners in Europe to make the EU work for effectively to deal with an economic crisis unprecedented in the history of the EU.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 07:21:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to make the EU work for effectively to deal with an economic crisis unprecedented in the history of the EU.

Well, given Sarko's and Merkel's responses to the problem it's clearly too late for that.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 07:37:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe Lisbon is a red herring and simply an excuse for inaction. The EU could be doing all kinds of stuff under Nice if the elites had the political will. But they don't, which explains why Lisbon still hasn't passed.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 07:23:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The failure of the referendum destroyed the legitimacy of political action at the EU level. So all you get is inter-governmental crap, driven by the lamest common political priority of the day, and with only vague pretenses at being a "good European" (there's no mileage in that).

The "non" of the left ensured that we would have no more than that. It was the predicted result of that vote. I don't take any pleasure in saying it, because it's a shitty situation, but I was right.

Would we have had more neoliberalism and national selfishness in the past 4 years with a "oui"?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 07:50:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably more neoliberalism would have been implemented. It's hard to imagine more national selfishness.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 08:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by redstar on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 09:48:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Council concession on each Member State retaining a Commissioner, and a willingness to give legally binding assurances on issues such as Neutrality, Conscription, Abortion and Taxation have also swayed some voters.  However the biggest change since last June has been the collapse of the Irish Economy.  We no longer have the luxury of voting against the Lisbon Treaty in the hope of achieving some undefined better Treaty in the Future, we need the EU to lead more effectively now.
I am surprised you didn't link to your own diaries about actual opinion polls but just your own LTEs about them :-) So here are a couple of data points:The unknown unknowns of the Irish Lisbon Referendum [Updated]
Yes and No voters differ in terms of the perceived impact on Ireland of the No vote. Yes voters are much more likely than No voters to say our economic prospects have weakened and far fewer are likely to say they remain unchanged (47% versus 66%).
No voters had an unrealistic view of the econoomic situation... and
When asked directly, respondents cited the issue of protection of workers' rights as being "very important" more often than any other issue (of a defined set of issues) relating to Ireland and the EU. Retaining control over public services in the future was similarly cited. Although workers' rights and public services did not feature as issues of concern in the focus groups or to any great extent in the open-ended questions, they made some contribution to the different attitudinal profiles of Yes and No voters. However, the key areas of divergence between the Yes and No sides are retaining military neutrality, preventing excessive EU regulation, the rotating loss of the Commissioner and retaining full control over abortion laws. The focus groups reinforce these indications as to where the main battlegrounds between the Yes and No sides lay, with retaining full control over Corporate Tax also featuring as an issue.
You reap what you sow...

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:27:52 AM EST
From the same diary:
The main reason cited for voting No was `lack of knowledge/information/ understanding' at 42%. There can be little doubt that this emerged as the primary reason for people voting No.

You're splitting hairs about what crazy shit people ended up believing or claiming they believed in order to justify their decisions once you get past that - and I'm guessing a large chunk of people who didn't cite that reason damn well should have, given the nonsense they did cite as concerns.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:32:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now the question is, would having passed Lisbon in 2004 (and Aznar's Spain was responsible for that delay, soon to be joined by Poland) have allowed the EU to suffer less in the current economic crisis?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:34:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was there anything in it that would have made the slightest bit of difference?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:35:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With the same people in charge, no.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we might have had President Blair organising some conferences on how to respond ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 06:38:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean like he did during the last Gaza crisis?
by Bernard on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 11:16:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been away.  Apologies also if I didn't revisit earlier diaries sufficiently, but this diary was primarily written for the Think About IT site and I am unsure how much interest there is there in matters Irish, and so I tried to keep it as short as possible.  There has been NO discussion there of this diary so its very hard for me to judge what people are interested in reading about there.  Kudus to Eurotrib for the (as usual) pretty lively discussion here.

Some personal observations.  

  1. I have always been pro-Lisbon so I don't make any pretense of speaking on behalf of "Ireland".  I was appalled by the no vote, as my readers here will know.

  2.  I tend towards the realist school of international relations which holds that nations act in their own self interest so I'm not quite sure what the accusations of national selfishness are all about.  As far as I can see France or other EU member states have not been slow to act in their own self-interest either.  That is what "nations" are structured to do.

  3. Nations have more in common than they have dividing them, and so more often than not it is in their interest to act cooperatively with each other.

  4. In my view Lisbon was in Ireland's and all other EU member states best interests as a more functional EU can operate better to all our advantage.  (What individual states lose in Sovereignty they more than gain through cooperation/joint action/pooled sovereignty).

  5. The process of Ratifying the Constitution/Lisbon has been a shambles from day one and few leaders/national polities are in a position to point the finger at others

  6.  Longer term the EU is going to have to develop some more direct democratic legitimacy and popular participation - if not in this Treaty, then in the next - and if the Lisbon controversy has helped to clarify that, it may have fulfilled some useful purpose.

  7.  If taxation was a red herring when raised by the No side then, it is also a red herring when raised by the Yes side now.  Lisbon was never about that.

  8. There is nothing wrong with individual polities wanting to retain some local autonomy - that is what the principle of subsidiarity is all about.  The point is that Lisbon is an incremental (and positive) relatively minor extension of EU Competency and weighted majority voting.  So what's wrong with that, providing you think the EU is generally a good thing?

  9. Ireland isn't looking for a hand-out from anyone at the moment - although it will require a derogation from the Growth and Stability pact - as will many other member states.

  10. Ireland is experiencing a classic property/financial bubble burst which happens to be happening at the very worst possible time in terms of the world economy.  This was largely caused by a populist Government reducing taxes and failing to control gross public expenditure inefficiencies at a time when they had lost control of monetary policy and didn't understand that they had to use fiscal policy to rein in the bubble instead.  They also allowed a Civil Service culture to develop which was about maximising expenditure rather than productivity/quality and was, above all, about avoiding progressive organisational change and development.  Although they were wedded to a free market ideology for some things, there is no ideological objection to a very large state sector.  In that regard it isn't all that different from a European median in terms to the extent of the public/private sectors.  So what's all the ideological bile about?


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 11:28:31 AM EST


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