Monday, 16 June 2008

on Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty

So Ireland has said no to the Lisbon Treaty (53.4% said no, 46.6% said yes), the mini-treaty created to salvage all the best bits from the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. Having read the latter, I was hoping that the Lisbon Treaty would be endorsed.

Increasingly, people in the UK are keen to say no because they can, rather than actually voting on the issue. How many people read the Lisbon Treaty or its predecessor? Granted, the Treaty is written in legal jargon, but that’s how treaties are written. If it was a short snappy to the point document like the US Constitution, we would never hear the end of it from the Tories about how Europe is becoming federalised.

I agree with Nick Clegg, people don’t want a vote on the Lisbon Treaty; they want a vote on the EU in general. There are things wrong with the EU which need to be changed, this Treaty, perhaps ironically, sought to streamline decision making so that these changes could be made more easily. Interestingly, the Lisbon Treaty also gives a role, for the first time, to national parliaments, who would have had a greater say and a veto power over the changes of decision making in the EU.

This Treaty was meant to be the end of amending the EU, because the EU would be amended based on a case by case basis rather than through a new Treaty every few years. It was meant to do this by elevating the role national parliaments played in the EU, streamlining the Commission by reducing its number, an organisation that’s meant to represent the interests of all member states not just the ones they are from and by giving more power to the European Parliament to control the Commission and to balance the power of national governments in the Council of Ministers, who run towards the EU to legislate so that they can avoid having to go through their own national parliaments.

People are afraid of the unknown and will instinctively vote against it, the case for the Treaty from the Yes camp in Ireland appears to have been poorly formulated to educate people on the benefits of the Treaty. As a result the people voted against the Treaty because of fear of the EU, fear of change and based on hearsay.

The case for the EU needs to be made again, it is now time that a EU Membership (Referendum) Bill be presented to Parliament so the people of Britain can decide if we want to be in or out. We can then retreat to EFTA, pay a membership fee to be associate members of the EU and have EU decisions rammed down our throats as without being members we have no say. Precious little democracy there.

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