Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
What the Government DOES need to do next time around is spell out what the rest of the EU WILL do if Lisbon is rejected a second time. Of course this will be presented by the NO campaign as bullying, but nobody is forcing Ireland to tag along.

You are on a loser here, if not this time then later on down the road. The problem with the Crotty decision, or more precisely with the manner in which Irish governments have decided to interpret it, is that it is a time bomb. With each successive referendum you add some latent hostility from the "you mean we have to vote AGAIN? Will it ever stop?" attitude. Then you have the accusation that no answer except the "right" answer will be accepted and "they" will keep coming back until you give "right' answer. What this results in is an accumulation of bile. Given the previous Nice referenda, my initial thought was that the No campaign was starting out with the advantage. That is what makes the complacency of the Yes campaign so frustrating - they should have seen this coming.

You are absolutely correct to say an referendum would not be required to implement an "Ireland-opts-out" scenario. But holding a second Lisbon-approval referendum backed by the perceived threat of what will happen if you vote No again is just way too easy to present as "bullying". Even if the electorate reverses the vote, you will have just accumulated more bile and next time you will have an even steeper hill to climb. Any consequences that flow from a second No should just as naturally flow from the initial No - otherwise the "threat" is a new addition. The fact that the electorate was not aware or may have been deceived on this point is neither here-nor-there. They voted; the consequences should follow even if those consequences were not recognized.

Now I absolutely do not want the Irish government to follow a course that begins to exclude Ireland. I think it would be bad for the EU and a disaster for Ireland. That is why I am only half in jest when I propose reversing the question. The logic is that the Irish government negotiates the terms of its exclusion, then it says "Ok people, this is what you have voted for, are you SURE you want to do this?". To my mind it is a far easier referendum to market. You are not asking the same question so much as looking for confirmation. The rational is that even though the confirmation is not required, the consequences that flow from the initial vote are so potentially damaging to the national interest that the government feels obliged to seek that confirmation before proceeding. The fact that the No campaign would not simply be able to dust off their generic "Don't be bullied - Vote No"/"If you don't know - Vote No" posters would just be an added bonus. The down-side is that the electorate may say "Yes, we are sure" and then the course is set.

And you are welcome regarding my other response. Anyone willing to fight the good fight deserves whatever little input I can give.

by det on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 07:53:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I agree with your "accumulation of bile" theory with respect to the EU.  There have always been opponents of the EU  and a degree of nationalism is there either overt or below the surface in all EU members.  This time we have them a critical mass by posing a spectacularly inappropriate Referendum question which required an understanding of a 300 page document that even many political leaders have not read.  We often buy stuff without reading the fine print, but that's not generally a good principal to amend your constitution on.

I'm also not sure that the reverse psychology of posing a referendum question that you want to lose is a good idea.  I don't think anyone campaigned on the basis of wanting to be excluded from anything (even if that is what they privately wanted) but rather under the illusion that the current status quo is tenable indefinitely until such time as someone (e.g. Sinn Fein) can negotiate a better deal for Ireland.

The political and legal question here (under existing international law and Treaty obligations) is whether Ireland  can stop the 26 other members proceeding to implement aspects of Lisbon by joint agreement under the Nice enhanced cooperation provisions and with Ireland effectively opting out. Certainly it makes a mockery of the NO camps protestations that they are supporting European democracy by preventing the settled will of 26 democratic Governments being implemented.

We insist on the Unionists sharing power with Sinn Fein in the North.  The EU is also a power-sharing agreement between 27 Governments which depends on good relationships and good will being maintained.  People understand this.  Once it is clear that there is no question of a significant re-negotiation of the Treaty - then people will have to decide whether sticking to our Nice status quo is worth the cost of pissing of the other 26 Members.  Given that people barely understand the difference between Nice and Lisbon in the first place, that should be a no brainer..

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 04:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series