So there will be another vote in Ireland on the Treaty of Lisbon. “Oh no” was my first reaction. Then the first person who heard my reaction asked me “so what else should they do?” That is a question I cannot answer, and indeed I don’t think that Libertas has the answers either. Lest we forget Heads of State and Government have been trying to reform the EU’s institutions since 2000 (when the last Treaty was agreed in Nice) and the process has become more and more painful and contorted.
What are the grounds for Ireland voting again? The idea is that there should be some declarations to keep Ireland happy – that there will be no EU army, no change to Irish abortion laws, and no challenge to Ireland’s taxation system. None of that is substantive as the original Treaty of Lisbon didn’t touch upon those things anyway. The only substantive change is that the Member States agreed that all countries will retain a member of the European Commission, rather that the 2-out-of-every-3 terms arrangement proposed in the Treaty originally. Is that going to be enough to make a difference? Frankly, in itself, I don’t think so.
The challenge for Brian Cowen remains this: how does he, and indeed all of the Irish political establishment deal with this demographic in the previous referendum, as explained by Kevin H. O’Rourke at Vox EU:
According to Eurobarometer, 60% of the self-employed, 66% of senior managers, 58% of professionals and 57% of those who left the educational system after the age of 20 voted in favour of the Treaty. By contrast, 58% of the unemployed and 74% of manual workers voted against it.
I’m really far from sure whether a few odd concessions will make a difference to those people.
And then what about the campaign? Will Cowen and others really be willing to mount a better campaign than the first time? Or are they going to try to guilt-trip Ireland into voting yes? And if the vote is negative again, then what happens? The whole thing looks so deeply inadequate from all sides – a Treaty now lacking in substance, a rightly reticent population, a political class without ideas. Where is there any optimism in all of this?
Unlike Head of Legal I suppose I still want a Yes vote, because the prospects of a No vote are worse – more years of wrangling and uncertainty. But I’m tired of all this lark.