I hope I’m premature writing this – final results in the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon have not yet been released but all the tallies so far point towards a No vote. That’s also the impression conveyed to me via people in Dublin. No vote has been confirmed – 53.4% to 46.6%, with a respectable 53% turnout. The Irish Foreign Minister has admitted defeat for the Yes side. So what has to happen?
(1) Immediate Response
The response from politicians in other EU countries and from within the EU institutions should be calm and respectful. The Irish have voted no, and solutions need to be found. Even if, inside, plenty of politicians feel like Bernard Kouchner, his line is not one that should be repeated. It should be OK to mention low turnout, and a close(-ish?) result, but forget any talk of cajoling, forcing, arm twisting.
(2) Continue Ratification
Ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon should continue elsewhere. No country should unilaterally decide to suspend ratification. Apart from Ireland, ratification is ongoing in the UK, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden (see the list from Wikipedia). Especially in the UK situation, with the vote already passed in the House of Commons, what does the government have to lose by continuing? The line to take is that just as Ireland has decided against, so each country should also take its decision. An assessment of what then happens should be conducted once all countries have expressed their view one way or another. A 40-odd percent turnout, voting up to 60% no, among 3 million voters in Ireland should not yet be sufficient reason to abandon everything.
(3) Don’t reform regardless of the Irish result
It should be made very clear in Brussels that things will not carry on regardless. Just going ahead with the External Action Service, for example, is not acceptable (more from Bruno Waterfield on this) – it’s just sticking up two fingers to the Irish and that’s not acceptable. There are also institutional questions that cannot be answered if the Treaty is not ratified – no permanent President of the European Council for example. 2009 is not going to be fun in Brussels – the Treaty of Nice calls for less members of the Commission than there are Member States in 2009, but the text does not say how many. Tricky games to play there. But so be it.
(4) Analyze the result
What does the No vote actually mean? Is it a rejection of the EU as a whole? Is it a rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon? Is it discontent about the economy / the government / high fuel prices / economic worries? Did people not understand what they were voting about? Some sort of debate across Europe about how to set out the options in a referendum on a complex issue like the Treaty of Lisbon is needed – a ‘Don’t know’ option? Maybe a second referendum, but not on the same issue – do you want Ireland in the EU with the Treaty of Lisbon, Ireland in the EU with the Treaty of Nice, or Ireland out of the EU? These are rough ideas only – the Irish No is the rejection of something, but what exactly? In any case, another referendum in Ireland with the same question about the same treaty is a non-starter. Cowen should not consider it.
(5) Campaign better
How the hell do you argue in favour of something from the EU in referendum campaigns? The campaigning efforts in Ireland now, France and Netherlands in 2005, Sweden in 2003 and Ireland in 2001 have been quite rubbish. Money has been thrown at the campaigns, but there has been no clear leadership, no sensible strategy, and no clear message. Having high profile national politicians heading up a Yes campaign does not seem to work, although you could probably argue that the Treaty of Lisbon would have been better if high level politicians had not done so much horse-trading when agreeing the damned thing…
(6) Don’t make grand statements if they are unrealistic
There will be calls in some parts for the EU to start off with something new – something clearer, simpler, a statement of principles. Maybe sounds OK, but how the hell is it ever going to be possible to produce such a thing?
In short the response should be calm, respectful, and with a determination for all other countries to ratify before the EU then takes stock of the situation. Not a hope that happens though, I fear.
[UPDATE 1] Richard Corbett has some suggestions about how Irish concerns (whatever those are) could be accommodated.
[UPDATE 2] An interesting idea has come to me after reading Ralf’s analysis – why not offer EEA Membership as a half-way stage for the Irish? A new referendum with 3 options – EU with the Treaty of Lisbon, EEA (Norway style – market, no CAP, no decision making powers), or out of the EU?
[UPDATE 3] Mats EngstrÃ¶m at Europabloggen (in Swedish here) has a quote from Urban Ahlin, Social Democrat member of the Riksdagen European Affairs committee in Sweden, saying that “At present, it is difficult to move forward with the Swedish ratification”. So maybe Sweden might pull the plug on this before the UK does? Reinfeldt and his bourgeois alliance are not going to be keen to make a fight out of this.
[UPDATE 4] I’m struggling to find any decent analysis of the result, or suggestions about what to do. FT has a couple of reasonable pieces. Plus the amount of people reading this entry of mine is, as ever, lousy – only when I write something silly, personal or sensationalist do people bother to read. Political Betting on the other hand has 2 posts about the result, and seems to have missed what should have been the main issue for them – that Paddy Power paid out erroneously, thinking Yes would win.
[UPDATE 5] This is what referendum campaigns are like (BTW, welcome to the world of EU blogging Joan Marc). The 1st, 5th and 6th points make you smile while the 2nd, 3rd and 4th points are just gruesome. Beyond that nothing of much significance this evening – France and Germany say they want to carry on with ratification. Vaclav Klaus has said ratification will stop – well he would, wouldn’t he. I think some pressure will be applied to the less abrasive people in the government to make sure things will carry on.
[UPDATE 6 – 14.06.08] One day on and some good analysis is emerging. There’s an excellent piece from Fintan O’Toole in The Guardian that looks in more depth at what made the Irish vote No. James Rogers has also written a thoughtful reflection about the predicament Europe finds itself in. Jacob Cristensen has a summary of Eurobarometer stats for Ireland – interesting the low level of trust in Irish politicians. Lastly Head of Legal asks whether piecemeal changes to the institutions could be proposed to populations at the same time as European Parliament elections (I disagree with a lot of the rest of the post however). There’s something fundamental behind all of this: trust in politicians, and political leadership. These qualities seem dreadfully lacking across the EU – at national and EU level. How the hell do we change that?
[UPDATE 7 – 15.06.08] Some interesting analysis from Kevin H. O’Rourke at Vox EU, essentially that Yes-No votes were split according to different groups’ economic prospects in both France and Ireland, even if the arguments articulated were different. Charlie Beckett thinks the game has changed – going on as we have been so far is not an option. Unfortunately Will Hutton’s column in The Observer is a bit of a let-down – I normally think Hutton is great but lines like “The elite that plots this is a nonexistent phantom invented by populist demagogues” make me squirm – it’s not that there’s an elite plot as such, but an elite there very much is, as Carl Gardner and others have rightly argued in the comments.
Hello, just an American sticking his nose in. Lot of Euro interest over here lately, some of my friends are taking up the study of soccer, I’m trying to learn your politics. This issue is very confusing to try to become informed on at this late stage and I thought I’d just say that this is a great discussion here. No better way to learn about a political issue than to watch informed people debate it vigorously I always say.
Of course I’m going to jump right in and shoot off at the mouth on this. It seems to me that there are questions that ought not be decided in a democratic fashion but whether ones country should take big steps from being a sovereign nation towards becoming a state within a larger federal system is certainly not one of them. Shouldn’t that simple question be put on a ballot across Europe? Something like “Would you be in favor of your country giving up its own sovereignty in favor of becoming a state within the EU?” That probably sounds like a ridiculous thing to propose and its only because nobody in their right mind would go to the bother of printing up the ballots when its so obvious the result would be a resounding no. They may well vote to drop their tariffs if their neighbors will to advance their economy but there is no way they vote away their country. Isn’t the question amongst EU supporters about how to move forward presumptuous when there isn’t even agreement on whether to move forward?
Also, as turnabout is fair play I’ll try and answer any questions about how screwed up American politics is if anybody wants to hold my feet to the fire. But the EU situation is more interesting, take my word for it.
Let’s make the Irish vote again with some cosmetic non-binding assurance. Maybe a declaration that the Eu is opposed to masonic plots to rule the world should be worth trying.
Or, why not some other disguise: the Stockholm Protocol, anyone?
Let’s the Elector Princes of this non-imperial empire strike back.
And let’s real friends of Europe jam the net with very sensible proposals to make the Eu better. Like scrapping the Commission or the Parliament, maybe both. And why not the bloody unelected ECJ?
Well, I have a different proposal. Do respect the Irish voters. Take no as no. Simply call it a day and scrap the bloody thing altogether.
Euro and willingly eastern and northern countries should withdraw from this farce, restarting a new union based on something bolder than Lisbon the following day. The other countries could stay (IF they wish) in an improved EEA/EFTA, enjoying the beauty of fax democracy.
Eulogist and Billy:
Perhaps I should have stated, first of all, that I sympathise with Ireland while at the same time I am in favour of the EU project. I assume that the EU is already a real political community, although a “sui generis” one, which in my view should never become a full, European continental state. This is the real challenge we face: how to increase constitutionalism without increasing statism, and hence my preference for the American model if understood not “a la lettre” but as a way of doing things, a way of making a new, bigger community out of older, smaller ones which should never cease to be real political communities.
This American way of doing things constitutes, to my mind, the best way â€”or lesser evilâ€” to the EU now. In fact, centralization in the US has been slower than in the EU.
At the same time, I do not think that the state and sovereignty have a bright future ahead; probably they hardly exist right now. A minimum of primacy, supremacy, European laws superseding national ones and so on cannot be avoided. You cannot make an omelette (European integration) without breaking the eggs (national sovereignties). Supra-state integrations are common all the word over.
If so, our struggle should guarantee the respect of the principle of conferral, avoid undue implied powers, keeping values, morals, culture and generally sensitive topics beyond the reach of EU regulations; as well as defining some (few) hard cores never to be handed to Brussels, be they shapes of beer mugs, marriage, religion or whatever.
Ireland (and all other Member States) would have retained their right to veto any tax harmonisation – under the Lisbon Treaty just like under the present Treaty. Moreover, the proposal Lagarde intended to put back on the agenda was NOT about tax harmonisation, but about harmonisation of the corporation tax BASE – i.e. not about harmonising the tax amounts, but about harmonising in which the way taxable corporate incomes are calculated. A totally different beast, in other words, that would have made life easier (i.e. cheaper) for companies working in more than one EU country.
Ireland, like all Member States, kept its veto on Treaty amendments including changes towards different amending procedures.
Ireland kept an opt-out on police and criminal cooperation under the Lisbon Treaty.
Sovereignty, as in ‘scaring the hell out of China’, ceased to exist ages ago for any individual European country (including the big ones).
I just heard that she had removed plans for Tax Harmonisation from the agenda
“Tax Harmonisation (Although the area wasnt explicate, it did leave a back door for tax harmonisation, a plan that would have been pushed under Sarkoâ€™s presidency according French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde”
you are an amazing guy. Your ability to look into the of all no voters is a astonishing.
Apologies, I meant ‘precedent’ not ‘precedence’…
Oh dear lord. This is worrying, although amusing, and shows how much the “experts” are out of touch. Being Irish I feel I am more qualified then most of ye to comment on the true reasoning behind the NO vote. Here it is:
-Sovereignty (People saw it as a step closer to a European superstate. That is the plan afterall. One only has to look to the ideology of Jean Monnet to see this.)
-Tax Harmonisation (Although the area wasnt explicate, it did leave a back door for tax harmonisation, a plan that would have been pushed under Sarko’s presidency according French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde)
-Self Ammending (The can of worms)
-Privatisation of Public Services (Largely Nationalised country…. never going to vote YES while this is a possibility)
-European Law superseding Irish Law (Again a sovereignty issue)
-Eurojust, Europol etc. (This is just getting Orwellian)
If you are only speculating on the reasons then why bother write? I think it quite sad that the EU cant respect its own laws or the democratic process of the Irish people. And they want people to trust them? hardly setting a good precedence now are they?
Could any of the enthousiastic supporters of the “American approach” point out the bit in the American constitution where it says the USA is not a federation with a common foreign policy, primacy of federal law over state law, and without veto rights on anything for the individual states?
Point is, I would love to see a constitution along similar clear lines for Europe. I just don’t see it getting adopted without the civil war that the Americans needed as well.
“The third and â€”to meâ€” obvious step would be to try the American model, broadly understood. Why not?”
Quite. I’m agreeing with you.
Tim: just a bit of EU history: the first, functionalist approach, produced some kind of a British-like unwritten European Constitution (Treaties, judicial rulings, principles…) which for some decades worked well but has recently shown its limits.
Second, Giscard and his successors have produced heavy, elitist, Continental-like documents which have proved to be both illegible and divisive.
The third and â€”to meâ€” obvious step would be to try the American model, broadly understood. Why not?
Not just as clear, but the same content….here’s how we elect the leaders and here is what the government may not do to the people, then yes, probably. As would I have.
Would the Irish people have voted “No” if the document submitted to them were so clear, short and reassuring as the American Constitution?
My belief is that the Irish people made the wrong decision by voting against the the Lisbon Treaty and the problem for the politicians is that they cannot find one (or even a few) particular reason why it was rejected so they do not know what to correct/change.
In a number of blogs I have seen comments such as “Ireland should leave the EU”.
The Irish people did not vote about being in or out of the EU so leaving the EU is not an issue despite the wishes of some begrudgers. No one expected Holland or France to leave so why would anyone (except a bully) expect Ireland to leave.
What is at issue is if the 27 countries cannot come to some arrangement which will allow the Irish government to ratify the Lisbon Treaty then there is a strong possibility that 25 (not 26) countries will re-badge the Treaty and then agree to go forward under “enhanced co-operation” without Ireland. Doing this could be a very bad mistake as the EU will be then perceived (internally and externally) to be an un-democratic organisation thus sowing the seeds of it’s destruction.
I said 25 because if the Labour party do not win the next general election there is a strong possibility that the UK government will try to alter their relationship with the rest of Europe thus creating a two track EU.
Ireland would be included with the UK in the slow track which would be a disaster for Ireland because we joined the Common Market so as not to be totally dependent on the UK.
While it would be in Ireland’s best interest to resolve the problem before the next General Election in UK I suspect that they (EU and Irish Government) will play a long game allowing the population to stew and reflect on the fact that they made a really bad decision. In the meantime, as window dressing, there will be minor additional undertakings that EU agreements will not impact on our neutrality or our low corporation tax.
In the end the Irish people will receive a second opportunity to vote.
Martin Keegan:”Who gets to decide which direction is â€œforwardâ€? ”
My Bilderberg Masters get to decide! And you will OBEY.
@rz – the problem with the enhanced cooperation stuff in the Treaty of Nice is that no-one has yet managed to use it! Plus you already have de-facto enhanced cooperation in foreign policy with the concept of constructive abstention and some countries not contributing to EU missions (only half the EU states are doing anything for the Chad mission for example).
Whatever politicians might say about enhanced cooperation I think the main issue is that concrete areas where anyone wants to use it don’t exist.
rz, what do you mean by “some states in the EU might be able to move forward”?
Who gets to decide which direction is “forward”? Is forward the direction favoured by the public? by Christian Democrats? by job-thirsty enarques who can talk the integrationist patter?
Why should European integration get to be called “forward”, rather than, say, the introduction of sharia law or a millet/verzuiling system?
I see that this discussion threat has likely come to an end. But maybe I can kick start a new discussion. I’ll just repost something I have more or less written on my blog:
My impression is that based on the Nice Treaty especially article 43 (or is it paragraph 43?), which allows enhanced cooperation of some of the member states (essentially the first step of a multi-speed
Europe) some states in the EU might be able to move forward.
Especially when it comes to foreign policy this might be an option. It should be possible for willing countries to establish a foreign policy representative and foreign policy service on their own. Maybe something similar could even be done concerning the permanent presidency. Some countries could simply establish a person and an office which coordinates their meeting in the council.
Unfortunately, even a tool of the European Elite like me has to do some work now and then so I’ll not be able to defend my statement much.
Irish vote no to Lisbon
What EU politicians refuse to face is that the EU project to integrate the states of Europe into a single state, transferring more and more powers from the governments of member states to Brussels, cannot proceed any further. The EU project, which started in 1957, has reached its limit. So the first reform that must be made to the European Union is the scrapping of the repeated treaty commitments to “ever closer union”. This is not a draconian measure. In itself it necessitates no change in the way the EU is presently run. Wholehearted European co-operation can and should continue.
More on my website http://www.EUnow.eu and in my book, The European Union and You, Saxon Books.
Blogging treason! “Earn a living”? How can you simply turn your back on blogging for the sake of a few pieces of silver? A disgrace, I say.
Quickly: I’m away from my computer all day Monday. If you’ve already posted something here you will be able to do so again without moderation. If it’s the first time you’ve posted then you might have to wait until sometime Monday evening until I can approve the comment. Apologies, but I do have to earn a living and cannot spend all my time blogging…
@rz – let’s not get carried away with the enlargement thing. OK, technically speaking, the Council vote allocations are in a protocol to the Treaty of Nice. But with an accession treaty you could allocate votes to Croatia, Macedonia etc. And if the EU does not sort out its institutions in some major way before Turkey is on the verge of joining then it says something very bad about the EU!
@Paul – OK, fine, that’s what I thought you meant. Also in my original post I’ve tried to balance the interests of the EU, Ireland and the other Member States of the EU in all of this. Just also bear in mind that there are many ways to generate consent for things – not only via referendums which have over the years been used for many strange ends, by Hitler and Mussolini for example.
By the way, if it is possible to decrease the number of Commissioners with the already established rules (as pointed out by Jon Worth on this blog) then one of the major things I like about Lisbon could be implemented anyway.
Jon >> Iâ€™m a bit confused by your line â€œSurely all these comments are just giving weight to the â€œscare tacticsâ€ used by the No side here in Ireland.â€ – do you mean here on this blog, or in general?
By comments I mean in general the post vote comments from Europe. The No argument was based on an element of mistrust as to what Brussels would use the Lisbon treaty to introduce, not so much as to what was contained in the text. A lot of possible hidden agendas were presented. The Yes argument was based on trust and how there were regulations in place to stop these “things” from happening, i.e. taxation, military spending etc.. Now as we hear whispers of continuing with the treaty regardless it proves that the mistrust of the No side is somewhat warranted. There seems to be a lack of respect for smaller countries and agreed proceedures.
I agree that trying to get agreement on such a large text is difficult. But maybe there lies the problem, the text is huge and very broad raging. Maybe if we break the document down into more manageable pieces it would be easier to digest. It is difficult, but it is too important to press ahead without the peoples consent. Europe has a dark history and all countries need to thread carefully and give any agreement the time and effort it deserves. That attitude that “well if you don’t agree you can just get out” is just ridiculous and if that’s the Europe we’re all signing up for, I for one don’t want to be a part of it.
Some camps are treating the Irish vote an anti-EU stance. The Irish people have a great respect and appreciation of the EU and value being apart of it. I do know a lot of people who voted No out of protest for other countries not being allowed to vote. This is a protectionist reaction not an anti-EU reaction.
“even rz agrees the present treaties will work for”
let me make some crucial caveat here. If we stay with the Nice Treaty then all enlargement of the Union has to stop (maybe with the exception of Croatia) . Especially if this is thought of as some type of time for ‘introspection’.
The Lisbon Treaty, Jon! If they’d voted yes, you wouldn’t have investigated ulterior reasons for that.
I don’t mind whether they start all over again, or whether they just do nothing for the ten years or so that even rz agrees the present treaties will work for. But those are the only two paths that can actually lead Europe closer to its citizens. If leaders don’t have an appetite, then tough! They need to eat it anyway.
I see what’s happening… But there are different ways forward. Do you take on board whatever critique is forthcoming, deal with it as best possible, deal with the concerns of Ireland, or do you start over again? Starting out once more is not something that any European leader has any appetite for.
The notion that Ireland has to vote again on the same text, with the question posed exactly as last week, is a non-starter. Ireland doesn’t like something – but what exactly?
You see what’s happening? Paul’s post tells the whole story. As a result of the reaction from frustrated “pros”, the Irish would probably vote 60%+ “No” if asked again today.
I don’t think any Irish “No” voter has any responsibility to say what is the way ahead until the “Yes” side has accepted the way ahead is not now Lisbon. That acceptance is the first, necessary step.
@Paul – thanks for the comment. I hope we’re managing here to have a measured and reasonable discussion. I’m a bit confused by your line “Surely all these comments are just giving weight to the â€œscare tacticsâ€ used by the No side here in Ireland.” – do you mean here on this blog, or in general?
Plus to equate democracy with referendums is overly simplistic, and you must also see that trying to get an agreement on a very complex text in 27 countries is a very hard task.
What is the right way forward? Give us some suggestions!
I voted Yes in the Lisbon treaty, I read a large portion of the document and found that by and large the No argument was based on scare tactics. I am a very pro-EU supporter. However, having heard the reactions coming from Europe I am personally disgusted. First of all I was shocked that every other country was not given the same right to vote on such an important document in the first place. The core workings of an integrated Europe should be based around a solid democratic process. Ireland has voted No. This should be respected, in any proper democratic union it would be. This is not whats happening. Whats even worse is that a I am getting a true sense of how the rest of Europe really views the rights of a smaller country like Ireland. If it were France or any of the other larger country’s a “well forget them and move on” attitude would not happen. Surely all these comments are just giving weight to the “scare tactics” used by the No side here in Ireland. Dare I say it’s proving them right? For one I am starting to have a sour feeling towards our European “friends”. I am even now beginning to regret not adding weight to the No vote. I think if we are bullied into voting again, it’ll will be a definite NO from me next time. These are frightening reactions we are seeing, it really gives me an uneasy feeling about handing to much power to a group of people who so quickly disregard their own self imposed set of regulations, and democracy as a whole because they just don’t like it? And we want to hand these people an EU army. Beware, is all I can say.
@Carl – Brown doing it…? Really? You need to be super brave, or have solidarity from those around you to do such a thing. Strikes me there are few other EU leaders who would join Brown in such an endeavour.
Barroso is more interesting – he has enough allies to be radical, and his term is ending. However I suspect the fact that he’s been inside the bureaucracy for a while now, and the appeal of a second term might prevent any radical ideas there…
I think the principle of “a single statutory document embodying the constitution” goes back a little further than the 18th century. Solon’s Athenian constitution for instance.
@Martin Keegan: Ahh..ok. I don’t even no what ‘teleological’ means. But maybe we are straying a bit away from the actual point of this comment thread. I only wanted to defend myself against the charge of being a democracy-hating Elitist.
I’m always alarmed when I hear that something is “built” on something else, or “founded” on something, or “based” on some “principle”. This is almost always the prelude to some teleological argument of the form “the purpose of X is underdefined/ambiguous principle Y, where Y is something I but not everyone else agrees with. Therefore X must do what I want.”
European nations are not “built” on anything, as that’s just a near-meaningless misleading metaphor.
Remember that at least one EU member state, the UK, has an uncodified constitution. It’s impossible to say that the UK is “built” on anything at all, particularly not representative democracy, which evolved as feature of the changing constitution only in the last two hundred of its several hundred year development.
In countries which have suffered revolutions or invasions there may be no acceptable pre-existing constitutional arrangement, and thus a single statutory document embodying the constitution may be necessary (though these statutory constitutions seem to be a Swedish / American invention of the late eighteenth century), allowing some to claim that the polity is somehow “founded” on some set of declarations embodied in the document, but really, it’s just rhetoric inhibiting debate.
thank you for understanding why many people in my country (England) are furious at the political establishment for betraying its commitment to hold a referendum. Under these circumstances, do you really think we have a system here of ‘representative democracy’? Quite the opposite. The UK is a monarchy, not a democracy.
BTW I am not a conservative, and do not have any aversion to the ‘raw majoritarianism of direct democracy’ – provided that the power of the state (and thus the democracy that controls it) is limited.
The problem isn’t necessarily with the Lisbon Treaty itself, but with the process of adopting such treaties:
a) they’re not put to a direct vote
b) individual countries have veto rights (tyranny of the minority)
The solution is a pan-European referendum on all new treaties (and EU expansions) with double majority voting (50% of voters + 50% of member states).
The Irish (and everyone else) can have a referendum on the referendum, but if they reject it they should get out of the EU.
@Carl Gardner: I am sorry, I am aware that you are certainly not are Euroscpetic.
@Trooper:”Can you explain how someone can be in favour of democracy but at the same time refuse to hold a referendum?”
Absolutly. All European Nations are build on the principle of Representitive Democracy. Especially conservatives have always rejected the raw majoritarianism of direct democracy.
Now, in the case of Britain, where the gouvernment explicitly promised a referendum and than decided not to hold it,I can understand your anger.
in response to the remark that EU supporters are against democracy – IF THE CAP FITS, WEAR IT.
In the UK, we were promised a referendum. That referendum has been stolen, for one reason above all else: because the government and their fellow travellers fear that the people will vote ‘no’.
Can you explain how someone can be in favour of democracy but at the same time refuse to hold a referendum?
Jon: how about Gordon Brown? It could be a transformational moment for him. Or Barroso, who’s very well placed to do it.
rz, I don’t know how to respond to your “Eurosceptic” comment! I don’t think of myself as a Eurosceptic (I think I’m part of a “third way” Europe badly needs right now), but you may think I am – it’s up to you. I’m not scared of the label. You can’t place arbitrary restrictions on the way others debate, though!
@Carl – very much agree it’s needed. But where does that start? What politician with any degree of responsibility in the EU is capable of that currently?
Let me plead with you, Jon: sorry to sound patronising (I really don’t mean it that way, please discount the way the web makes us sound cattier and nastier than we intend) but you’re so close to “seeing the light”.
Just try imagining the weather-changing effect of a humble approach. A Portillo-style awakening, a realisation (1) that there is a lot, a lot of resentment and hatred of the EU out there (2) that it won’t go away by mere denial and (3) that EU leaders themselves have to take responsibility for what they’ve done to cause it. The opposition prospers in Britain now because they realised they, not the people, had to change. I’m not saying that revelation alone was sufficient to put them where they are now – but it was necessary. The European Council now faces its Portillo moment and needs a similar conversion experience.
Or maybe a Labour analogy would appeal to you more. This is like 1983 or 1987: a point comes when you have to realise that for years you’ve been against the grain of what people will accept, and that you simply have to change or die.
Accepting the need to change is emotionally painful, but it’s enormously liberating, too, and opens up all kind of possibilities. Beyond the acceptance is potentially that optimism you’re looking for.
Mr. Gardner, I would apreciate if you would not use the Eurosceptic way of debtaing: Implying that everybody who disagrees with you hates democracy. I think it is obvious that waiting for everybody to agree via referndum will simply stop any further integration (thats why I am for a Multi-Speed Europe).
“What is vital is a change of approach, or style and tone from the European Council. It has to accept, however painful it may be, that all the effort expended since 2001 on the â€œFuture of Europeâ€ has been a failure because the product – the Constitution and then Lisbon – has utterly failed to meet the objectives called for by the Laeken declaration.”
Great plan, but it will change nothing. The reason why we end up with super complex endless treaties is already contained in your aproach of waiting for every country to sign. This leads to a treaty which has to fullfill every special interest of every country (or: the gouvernment of every country and the Lobbyists behind it).
As I said before I concede that most likely the Nice Treaty will work for quite a while longer. But for your approach it will have to work forever.
@Tim – I think that, bearing in mind the problems Switzerland is causing the EU on corporation taxes at the moment that the chance of negotiation of something quite so favourable is low. Plus there are areas of law (all food law for example) that Switzerland implements all of EU law anyway, as it’s just easier for them to do so, rather that operate two sets of standards on that. Oh, and Switzerland is joining Schengen too…
@Carl (latest comment) – the EU will not grind to a halt in the short term without the Treaty of Lisbon. But it did give some handy tools for the future – a more sensible and fair allocation of voting rights, more QMV. Those things would have been useful but not vital. Having worked for a decade on these sorts of changes, and with the referendum in Ireland not having delivered a No vote as a result of these institutional matters I can see why Heads of State and Government want to try to carry on…
Hell, look at this way: they have messed up a hell of a lot so far, annoyed a hell of a lot of people, so why not tough it out through a few more obstacles? That’s how the thinking goes I think. And bearing in mind that if they did stop now we wouldn’t get anything better… then…? No damned idea. If there was some bright, optimisitic route that was actually viable then I’d go for it, but I don’t know what that route is.
“The problem is that for EEA members (and Switzerland is not a member of the EEA) is that they have no say at the decision making table. Those directives and regulations are decided without them. So Tim, I think youâ€™re wrong on this one, and Martin is right.”
Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong of course.
The distinction then is between EEA (Norway) and EFTA (Switzerland) and of course, given the outline as you’ve given it the UK should be EFTA, not EEA.
@Martin – apologies for the lack of reply on the rubber chicken entry. I must say it’s because I didn’t entirely follow your point on that one… I’ve replied there now – happy to take on board any other comments.
@Tim / Martin re. EEA – those countries are subject to a common tariff barrier on everything except agriculture (raw produce – i.e. a potato, but not a packet of crisps) and fish. All European law regarding the Single Market has to apply – i.e. every single directive and regulation about the manufacture of whatever widget. The problem is that for EEA members (and Switzerland is not a member of the EEA) is that they have no say at the decision making table. Those directives and regulations are decided without them. So Tim, I think you’re wrong on this one, and Martin is right. The up-sides are not being in CAP, and not paying much into the EU budget.
@Carl – back to the leadership and motivation thing here. In the current political environment who has the nerve to be honest and straightforward about these sorts of questions? We end up with a nasty paralysis as a result. I’m no good at putting forward a pro-EU case, as to do so is premised on what the European Union might be, not what it is currently, and I’m more and more suspicious of political elites and especially how administration works.
In short the post above is the best summary I could muster of something that was forward looking and half optimistic. I don’t like the solution I’ve proposed, and whichever way I’m going to be hit for it. But such is life as someone generally pro-European and stuck between institutions that inspire little respect on one side and vehement euroscepticism on the other hand.
No, rz, I mean on a country-by-country basis. The fact that you say this is impractical because one or two countries would “always block it” reveals the problem with your approach: your acceptance of any democratic mechanism is contingent on its likelihood to deliver what you want.
I totally disagree about reform of institutions. The EU is managing quite well now – the idea that Lisbon is crucial or necessary is utterly bogus. What is vital is a change of approach, or style and tone from the European Council. It has to accept, however painful it may be, that all the effort expended since 2001 on the “Future of Europe” has been a failure because the product – the Constitution and then Lisbon – has utterly failed to meet the objectives called for by the Laeken declaration. It has to accept that Lisbon is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to stop digging, get out of the hole and either (1) set off in a completely new direction, nothing like Lisbon or (2) simply get on with doing real things like internal market measures and just shut up about grand plans.
It might indeed be possible to work another 10 years with the Nice Treaty and meanwhile think about how we organise Europe with different types of integration.
But it is crucial to stop any enlargement until this point has been fixed.
Ok,ok I read what you wrote now more carfully and you make some good points. But lets face it: Reforming the EU Institutions in the face of the increased size of the EU is a make or break decision. Either we reform or the EU will go down the drain.
But as I have said before most likely we will finally have to accept that a Union with 27 so different countries is just to big and form some type of Core/Multi-Speed Europe.