Ballot BoxShock horror! Scandal! Collusion! British officials have been conspiring with their Irish counterparts to help stitch up the referendum in Ireland on the Treaty of Lisbon, and a note about it has been leaked… Open Europe, Bruno Waterfield and Iain Dale have been getting in a lather about it. Of course none of those sceptics have bothered to report that a pro-Treaty MEP, Prionsias De Rossa, was assaulted at a public rally.

Let’s look at each of the issues in the note in turn. First of all, the date of the referendum. The Irish government can decide when that it is – and it of course is going to choose the date that is most convenient and get the result (Yes in this case) that it wants. Any factors that might hamper that have to be considered. Blair was paranoid about the timing of a referendum on the Euro in the UK, weighing up considerations of elections, parliament etc. – and this is no different. When politicians take decisions they use the powers they have – simple. Why is there any surprise at that in the slightest?

Then there’s the concern about the French Presidency. I don’t know anyone in the institutions in Brussels who isn’t at least a bit concerned about what might happen during Sarko’s 6 months at the helm. It might be good, it might be bad, but it’s going to be unpredictable. So why not hold the Irish referendum before then? It’s sensible.

As for the Commission keeping quiet – again, where is the problem? Is the UK government going to announce its most controversial tax policies a month before an election? Of course not, and no-one would possibly expect it to. It would be crazy to expect the Commission to not delay things, not criticise it for doing so.

OK, so the wording of the memo is loose and ill thought out in places, and the tone is damaging. But the total political content of all of this is negligible.

There’s a good analysis of this story from the Irish Election blog.


  1. Isabelle

    Please, if you read french language, read this article of a famous french newspaper:

    This is the way that french people see your decision ?

    PS: again, sorry for my language, if I made mistakes ?!

  2. Isabelle

    Sarkosy, our president, wants you vote again, he says that 53% isn’t a big majority and it isn’t enough legitimate.
    But him, he was elected with 53% ! What a politic man !
    He’s going to be the president of UC, I don’t know how he’s going to do for get around your choice but I’m sure he’s going to try it. Be carreful, if you want your vote continue to mean a volition. Often I liken him with Berlusconi, he’s just a little slier than him, but maybe not !

  3. Isabelle

    Hi, it’s the french girl. Thank you ! Most of french people is agree with your choice, not against Europe, it’s “could be” a good thing, but against Europe of banker, Europe of politics who are sold to the industries, Europe which wants to make “big money” with the USA.
    I don’t know exactly why Irish people votes NO, but it’s a hope for us !
    Again, sorry for my language !

  4. terence

    WELL DONE you lovely Irish people. At least you
    have a democracy unlike us english.
    From a displaced (many yrs ago) man of Ireland
    now in Lancashire

  5. Isabelle

    Sorry for my langage, I’m french !
    It’s very important that Irish people has the choice infront the european treaty. In France our politics had stole it, because socialists or conservators, they are all agree with the fact that capitalism is the best choice for us.
    Say NO, to european people and against the bankers !
    Thank you for your attention and sorry for my langage.

  6. Boring, boring… “They will send our children into dead, just to save their profits.” And how is voting No going to help that?

  7. James Connolly

    Good hearted women and men of ireland. Please do our european continent a favor and vote NO to the lisbon treaty.

    I ask your help for us all from germany. Most people in the 27 country’s are NOT AGAINST the european union but AGAINST an EU of the big businesses. Against an antidemocratic if not to say a faschist EU which do not care about their people. Wich do not care about our children and which do not care about peace.

    They only care about foreign ressources which they want to “secure” for europe by means of war if neccessary.

    They will send our children into dead, just to save their profits.

    Again, good people of ireland. Remind your history as a strong and free nation and as well remind your responsibility for every other european nation who don’t have the opportunity to vote about their future.

    God bless you..

  8. French nonist,

    Why don’t you remind the voters in Ireland that your crowning achievement is a European Union stuck with the Treaty of Nice?

    Is this what you want the Irish voters to perpetuate?

    So, how do you explain the social, ecological, democratic and peaceful superiority of the Nice Treaty compared to what is left of the work of the European Convention?

  9. French nonist

    Dear Irish friends and friends of Europe,

    I am a citizen of a EU member state. In my country, we have not been allowed to vote on the future of Europe. You, our friends in Ireland, alone have this right and are called to vote on the “Lisbon Treaty” on June 12th.

    I reject this Treaty as undemocratic in conception and in content. Please, vote NO on this Treaty for me as a first step to building a common social, ecological, democratic and peaceful Europe.

    seen on

  10. Ah, but this is a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, not the European Constitution. All the Constitutional stuff has been abandoned, red lines have been protected… 😉

    For what it’s worth I didn’t support the calls for a referendum in the first place in the UK and it should not have been in the Labour manifesto.

  11. “Is the UK government going to announce its most controversial tax policies a month before an election? Of course not.”

    Well, you say “of course not”, but one might expect headline measures to appear in a manifesto. Pulling them out of your hat the day after the election would be deceptive.

    Which brings us sailing nicely into the topic of promises found in manifestos 😉

  12. I don’t really see the problem in officials from two countries who favour the Treaty talking about winning a referendum in favour of it? They do after all serve the government of the day. Or are the phobics forgetting what the government position is?

  13. The fun thing is that EU institutions are accused of two things: 1) of ‘plotting’ treaty implementation and b) of delaying negotiations.

    The common denominator seems to be that the EU is always doing wrong, whatever it is.

  14. Pretty much agree with pretty much all of that. Storm in a teacup stuff, and all entirely predictable. Please note also that they aren’t getting in a tizzy about UKIP bunking money to the Irish “No” camp…

    What does surprise me (note: not really surprised in the slightest) is the complete lack of reporting from British eurosceptics on the actual reasons why the Irish “No” campaigners want the Lisbon Treaty rejected. Largely because it’s often for completely different – even diametrically opposed – reasons to those put forward by British eurosceptics.

    No surprises there – eurosceptics always seem to assume that everyone agrees with them (and that anyone who doesn’t either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is part of the conspiracy). After all, it’s only common sense, innit guv?

  15. Wouldn’t a Commission delay make sense anyway? The Treaty would change quite a lot from next year on. As long as Ireland has not voted Yes it’s hard to plan on next year.

  16. Let me qualify what I said a little… I know very well that the legislative agenda for a Presidency is set long in advance. The problem is the public relations aspect. Sarko has the ability to sound off about something perfectly mundane and make it sound scary… That’s why the Irish are right to be worried.

  17. Concern about the Sarko presidency?

    Nothing new — there will always be concerns that are then turned into scaremongering tactics that Ralf Grahn rightly calls media wildfire.

    EU Council presidency contents are prepared well ahead of time; in fact the practice of effecting a state’s presidential tenure is nothing but a whole big PR operation; crafting of policy is done by commission civil servants long before a nation’s presidency’s turn gets underway. What I’m saying is that there’s nothing to be concerned about. In theory (and in practice), all the other states know what President Sarkozy is going to present even before he takes over the helm.

    Those who are ‘concerned’ about a ‘Sarko presidency’ don’t know how the EU functions at the Council level.

  18. I have wondered at the choice of words of some opponents, talking about ‘strategy’ when it would have been more appropriate to call them ‘tactics’.

    But the lowest point reached in a while has been the wildfire fanned by a host of blogs, in relay, on the re-introduction of the death penalty by the EU, presumably over the heads of governments and national parliaments.

    Are the EU institutions and the member states’ governments fast asleep, when scare-mongering like this is allowed to continue?

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