Lisbon treaty Will Probably Be defeated

The Lisbon Treaty will in all likelihood be rejected.  That’s what the latest Irish Times/MRBI poll shows, and these polls have been consistently accurate in the past.

I don’t have a problem with a NO vote, even though I’ve said here that I intend to vote YES.  It isn’t the kind of referendum that will lead to deep-seated animosity like some of the abortion referenda we went through over the years.  It’s a political decision.

However, I’d be interested to know what’s driving people to vote No.  Very few people I spoke to have read the proposed text of the treaty, and that’s not surprising, because it’s ridiculously convoluted and impenetrable.  I spent a long and painful time going through it, and had to undergo the tender interrogations of fellow bloggers as a consequence, but I don’t mind that.  It goes with the territory.

I think the reason the electorate will vote against the proposal is very simple.  People said  No! I’m not going to vote for something I don’t understand.

They’re right.  Why should they?

The government made a complete shit of organising this, and ironically, in the process showed us why we need to embrace Europe more strongly.  In this little island, we have an authoritarian mentality that would be anathema to the liberal European ethos.  We have a health service without human compassion.  We have a police force without two brain cells to knock together.  We have a paralysed public service and a hidebound, self-serving political caste without education, vision or understanding. If anything ever illustrated why we need a better way, it has to be the failure of this government to respect the people’s intelligence and present them with a coherent proposal.  We need to adopt the mainland European way if we’re ever to escape from our parochial, corrupt little bubble.

It took me a long time to decide I was voting Yes and I certainly won’t demonise people for voting No.  That’s a perfectly valid political position to take, but it’s a pity that some people in the No camp couldn’t have been a bit more temperate. 

We had lunatics from the extreme Catholic Right forming an alliance with contractors to the US military all urging a No vote.  We had untruths combined with hard facts.  We had solid research mingled with plain lies.  We had fear-mongering and manipulation by Youth Defence side by side with principled objectors.  We had Sinn Féin killers warning us about war. 

And then we had citizens deeply concerned that we were going to hand democratic power to a Brussels-based bureaucratic cabal.  I respect that worry and I can understand it.

The people who most disappointed me were some fellow bloggers who chose to personalise it all.  That’s a pity.  After all, I wasn’t too far from a No vote myself, but on balance I decided a Yes vote was probably the better choice.

In the end, all you can do is your conscientious best.  We’re not superhuman.

36 thoughts on “Lisbon treaty Will Probably Be defeated

  1. I would be voting yes if I were still home. The problem is it’s a complex legal document. The legal of which has to carefully crafted because there are some 25 official EU languages now. All of which must be clear on its meaning.
    The other aspect is a case of ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ scenario. If the electorate demand the right to vote on it, why don’t they educate themselves on the matter? You can’t complain it’s too complicated if you are unwilling to make any effort. The other part then is if it is left up to the Dail to vote on, then a strong feeling of mistrust wells up that ‘those bastards are trying to pull a fast one on us’ and they are all fecked come the next election.
    For those becrying the bureaucracy of the EU, the treaty ironically is trying to address that in tying other aspects of EU legislation together.
    The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

    People are just thick and suspicious.

  2. Ok I’ll chime in. I don’t have a dog in the fight, so here goes.
    I was of the mind that the whole idea of the EU was to turn each sovreign state into a state along the lines of our states (USA). In that each country can make it’s own laws unless those laws run contrary to federal (EU) law. The big difference between the EU and the US… THAT I SEE… is that the EU retains pre-emption. In other words…Here there are explicit powers granted to the federal gub’mint and, theoretically, all other powers are held by the state but in the EU they, the federal gub’mint, hold the ultimate power.
    The whole Lisbon treaty is so convoluted that my first instinct is to get rid of it.
    My understanding of this Lisbon thing is that if the Irish people vote no then the EU powers are set to implement all it contains in bits and pieces by fiat rather than a vote.
    So it seems to me that if one wants to be a state of the EU and everything that entails then vote yes. If you want to hold on to your sovreignty and the fact you are the Rebublic of Ireland then vote no.
    This is just my view from without.
    please excuse my typos

  3. I agree. I think people are voting NO not because they do not feel connected with the values of the EU , but because they feel that the FF government has led the nation so far from the values of ordinary Irish people.

    I think I will vote NO for this reason.

    In fact I identify now much more with the Social Democratic tradition of Europe than with the neo-liberal, americanised, corporate-stooge, corrupt FF puppet government. But by voting YES you are endorsing these fools whereas by voting NO you are smacking them down.

    It is a dilemma. By and large Lisbon is benign. The real fight will be in the ECJ. But a NO is needed to give a wake up call to the neo-liberal FFers

  4. Bock, I’m in all likelihood voting No and for the simple reason that No is my default position when asked to do something unless I’ve convinced that Yes is the better option. And I’ve seen too many problems with the Treaty to be convinced that it is a good deal, it’s not a bad deal but I’m not interested in going with a not good deal.

    I should say that I can conceive of reasons to vote YES and a means to convince others of the merits (and there are merits to this treaty) but no one is interested in my views so I’m sitting this one out from a campaigning point of view.

    I view voting for something as a lot like accepting a marriage proposal, sure she’s a nice girl and I don’t hate her but you don’t marry people because you don’t hate them. You marry them because you love them.

  5. Hopefully it will be defeated and its exactly what the yes side deserve.

    They attacked the various factions on the no side generally trying to paint them as a bunch of pariahs that nobody should vote for.

    Whilst constantly side-stepping any debate on the issues of the Lisbon treaty aka its unreadablity,
    Qualified Majority Voting QMV and its implications and what does the Solidarity pact involve ?

  6. Ferdia: there was distortion on both sides, but I agree with you. Ireland should have the deciding vote at all times. After all, we are the majority of the EU population.

  7. Bock i don’t think this wouldn’t be passed in any other country not by referendum anyway they just tried to force it throught here. The rest of Europe doesn’t really care about Ireland and i certainly don’t
    care about them.

  8. Ferdia: it isn’t an option to not care about the rest of Europe, I’m afraid. We haven’t had that luxury since 1973.

  9. Bock why is it so good for us ? I remember the 80’s as the worst decade for unemployment, emigration. There was nothing but factory closures all these jobs went somewhere and I wonder what countries where booming in the 80’s ? Things didn’t pick up here till 96/97 so it hasn’t been rosy all the time.
    I appreciate that you are pro-European we can’t be blind that we have taken plenty of hits on europe as well.

  10. Ferdia:True. My position is very simple: however bad we are now, we’d be ten times worse without our European involvement.

    Look around you and see how our country is dictated to by narrow vested interests like hospital consultants or religious orders, for fucksake! That doesn’t happen in France or Holland. It’s a different model, and one we should be aspiring to. A rational model.

    In the end, I just don’t like being run by gobshites.

    Dan: Same as that.
    .

  11. I wonder was this Irish Times/MRBI poll conducted before the Referendum Commission came out to clear up some arguements? There has been a lot of red herrings been thrown out recently like Lisbon will introduce Abortion by the back door or that we will loose our veto for WTO. Some of these arguements are begining to sound like Chicken Little!

  12. I’m voting no because I have read the treaty and am opposed to what it contains. Don’t get me wrong – I like the EU and particularly the Euro. I see the practical benefits of both. But the Treaty is a whole new ball game. It violates a number of red-lines for me:

    Most negatively to my democratic sensibilities, it contains 95% of the rejected EU Constitution that the Dutch and French peoples said no to. In doing so it turns the EU from a democratic project, into one that rides roughshod over public opinion. This is my biggest problem with it, but it is not the only one.

    Most of my remaining concerns revolve around loss of Irish sovereignty and the new voting system, which I feel gives too much power to the Big States and humiliates the small ones. The old form of Qualified Majority Voting we have now involves a triple-majority of number of states, population and numerical weighted vote. The latter over-represents Ireland per head of population with 7 out of 345 (2%). Under Lisbon, this is replaced with a double-majority of number of countries including population. The net effect of this is a halving of the Irish weighted-vote from 2% to 0.9%, while Germany’s is doubled from 8% to 16.7%. The only big state whose weighted vote is reduced is Poland (from 7.8% to 7.7%). 2 Big States and 2 other states will be able to block everything, while 11 small states won’t, because they won’t be able to exceed the 35% of population needed to form a blocking minority.

    And then we lose our automatic right to a Commissioner. Now you may argue so are the big states. That ignores the fact that he/she is a far more important figure for small nations, as he/she acts as a counterbalance to the overwhelming dominance of the Big States on the Council of Ministers where QMV applies. In the context of both a halving of Ireland’s vote and the loss of a Commissioner, on balance this benefits the Big States more and they become more dominant.

    The gives up the Irish veto in several areas including energy, public health, sports and tourism, and cultural policy. This could lead to nuclear powerstations being forced on Ireland, Irish language policy being decided at the Council of Ministers in Brussels, and even sports policy being forced on us against our will. Add that to the Charter of Fundamental Rights becoming legally-binding as EU law, which the ECJ will have the right to interpret, and you have a fully-fledged Federal State with a Supreme Court and an unelected government.

    This is far too much too soon. Im voting no.

  13. 1. If you don’t understand a contract, you don’t sign it. This treaty is impenetrable and open to flatly contradictory interpretations. And it was written to be that way deliberately.
    2. This was voted down already in France and Holland. The EU needs to respect the peoples from whom they draw their power.
    3. The rest of Europe has been denied a vote on this, which is disgraceful.
    That’s why for me.
    Though I endorse people voting no for whatever reason, just as long as the treaty is rejected.

  14. I think the looseness of the “federation” should be maintained. There are too many differences between the countries in Europe – too much old bad blood – to make a US model feasible. It’s not entirely feasible here.

    I don’t know enough about the thing, but that’s what my instinct would be, for what that’s worth.

  15. I weighed in here:
    http://avoidinglife.typepad.com/avoiding_life_one_post_at/2008/05/weighing-in-on.html

    I think the EU should stick to economics. Europe is too diverse a place to impose upon in other arenas. We have very little in common socially with the continent and they even less with the former Eastern Block countries. There’s no way culturally it can all mesh.

    I’m disappointed in the government, but even more the opposition. Can’t help but feel they’re all for it because when their time is up in Ireland there’ll be a cushy job for them in Brussels.

  16. “Vote yes or we’re all in the shit”. It hasn’t been explained in the peoples language, the ordinary people like myself, who have tried to read the treaty, and ended up with a headache.

    From what I did understand, I’m voting no. I don’t trust it and this country is too small and will be swallowed up with eventually no say or minimal. I don’t see us benefiting.

  17. it’s a tough call but europe has brought us out of the dark ages and if they can help us change our politics from FF and FG then I’ll happily take the bad with the good.

  18. I’m still going ‘YES’. The headline concerning the poll in the Irish Times probably sold a few more papers but I’ll treat it with a good deal of skepticism until the real votes are counted.

  19. Bock i understand what u mean about the country being ran by “gobshites” but the EU hasn’t done anything for us in that regard and it is up to the people here to sort it out. Cast your mind to last year and Aer Lingus pulling out of the Shannon-Heathrow route all the companies in the Shannon industrial estate were approached by the development agencies of France, Germany and Holland about relocation to there countries.
    Europe is something to be wary of too …
    Anyway the Lisbon treaty is undemocratic and bad deal for Ireland.

  20. I see where you’re coming from in your view that the EU will save us from the dark ages, Bock – but I’m not convinced that it will. It hasn’t so far. We have done that for ourselves, as we have grown up as a nation.
    I’m voting no because I don’t trust the treaty or the FFers.
    Too many interpretations.
    Too many unknowns.
    Too many maybes.
    I’m not anti EU but I am anti the EU forcing this on members. I don’t like that no-one else is being allowed to vote. I have thought very carefully about it, I have read the damn treaty and I am taking it very seriously. I feel a duty to register a no vote e.g. for all the French Sarkosy said would vote no.
    The EU is not all good. Some of its directives / restrictions have strangled small businessess in Ireland. The mountains of paperwork make farming a headache. Yes, farmers have received tons of grants, but the numbers of farmers making a living from the land have reduced incredibly since we joined the EU. That’s just not good.
    I think a no vote would show that we’re not blind to faults.
    I don’t like the red herrings that have been thrown around, but the yes side have thrown a few too.
    I don’t like many of the people on the no side, but I don’t like FF at all, and will not vote yes because they tell me I should. I don’t believe a word from them. I see this referendum as an opportunity to say no to FF.
    Overall, and taking everything into consideration, (the treaty itself most of all, but other things too) I will definitely be voting no.
    As for the EU getting rid of FF and their contempt for us, I think we’ll have to do that ourselves, Bock.

  21. Just a few comments and observations:
    If TDs were expecting to get a cushy job in Brussels when there time is up, I wouldn’t rate
    their chances, with only 13 MEPS elected every 5 years as compared to 166 TDs and even then
    they have to compete with the average Joe/Josephine like Mairead McGuiness, Colm Burke, Kathy Sinnott, etc.

    Shannon was an example of one regional airport on this island competing with Shannon which is
    no different from other countries vying for multinational business when they become
    uncompetitive.

    If France & Holland voted this treaty down then are they denied a vote? I though this Reform
    Treaty was in response to the rejection of the constitution?

    With regard to energy policy and “could lead to nuclear power stations being forced on Ireland”, here is a quote from page 117 of the Treaty
    “Such measures shall not affect a Member State’s right to determine the conditions for
    exploiting its energy resources, its choice between different energy sources and the general
    structure of its energy supply, without prejudice to Article 175(2)(c).”

    I know the treaty isn’t an easy read, much like the terms and conditions you get when you sign
    up to anything today, but I don’t think its 294 pages is meant to be deliberated obfuscating, just that it’s a legal document developed over 8 years by 27 governments and a European Convention.

    One positive out of the changes to the Commission is that the unelected commissioners will not be the same policy powers, instead the elected MEPs along with the council of ministers will have power of co-decision in 95% of areas dealt by the EU.
    Another area which introduces more accountability is that national parliaments will have a vote in vetting EU legislative proposals and if one third of the parliaments reject a proposal it will have to be reviewed.

    Who said the Treaty doesn’t have something for everybody, it even introduces a process for withdrawal from the EU!

  22. DC 1974 you more or less prove my point about how Europe poached jobs from Ireland in the 80’s.
    Its wasn’t new business they were competing for, it was existing business’s in shannon that were approached. Imagine what would happen if that corporate tax rate was changed ? they wouldn’t be much to hold any multinational here ?
    DC with the veto gone the country might have to do
    that in the future- leave.

  23. Don’t forget to Vote!

    The Lisbon Treaty – Main points summarised from the Referendum Commissions Booklet

    The usual way in which EU laws are made is called “co-decision”, which involves a proposal by the Commission, a discussion between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament and a final decision by the Council and the Parliament. The Treaty proposes to redefine the decision making procedures and extend the power of the European Parliament.
    – Concerning the European Commission, at present, each Member State nominates one member of the Commission. We will have a commissioner for 10 of each 15 years in future.
    – Concerning the Council of Ministers, at present, it takes decisions in private but if the Treaty is ratified, the Council will meet in public. Qualified Majority Voting will be applied to new areas except decisions on defence and taxation which will continue to be made unanimously.
    – The European Council will be chaired by a President instead of the head of government of the member state holding the six month rotating EU Presidency.
    – The European Parliament will make decisions jointly with the Council in more areas and over the entire EU budget.
    – The Treaty would give National Parliaments 8 weeks after the publication of an EU legislative proposal to vet that proposal and offer an opinion.
    – The Treaty proposes that a citizens’ initiative of at least one million citizens from a significant number of member States would oblige the Commission to bring forward proposals on a particular issue.
    The Treaty would give the EU joint competence with Member States in a number of new areas, including energy and aspects of the environment and public health.
    – Ireland is not obliged to take part in, or be bound by, decisions in what is known as the “Area of Freedom, Security and Justice”. The opt-out for Ireland and the UK is to continue.
    – Concerning religion, the Treaty states that the EU respects the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.
    – Regarding common foreign and security policy, the main decisions in this area must be made unanimously. The proposed change to the Constitution would continue the present arrangements for Ireland’s military neutrality.
    – There is also a solidarity clause in the Treaty which states that member States are obliged to assist each other if one is the victim of a terrorist attack or a natural or man made disaster.
    Finally, the Treaty proposes to give the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union the same legal value as the main treaties. It is proposed that the Charter will apply to the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and to the Member States when they are implementing EU law. Individuals who believe that their rights under the European Convention have been breached by the EU could then bring a case against the EU before the European Court of Human Rights.

  24. Bock, there is nothing in the wording or the statements of this treaty that are blatantly offensive, most of it’s concepts are admirable. However, there are two areas that leave doors open to future abuses: Article 48, also known as the “self amendment clause” allows for changes to be made by the Commission to any part or provision without a future referendum or consideration of the voters. Secondly, Articles 16 and 188, in combination, group healthcare, social services, and education into the area of “trades and services” which may be open to privatisation by commercial enterprises. The wording of these articles is optimistic but the loopholes remain, in it’s current form this treaty could allow for disasterous consequences.
    If we were to err it might be better to err on the side of caution and vote no until these items are corrected. Cheers!

  25. Since healthcare and education in Ireland are already dominated by private interests, I’m not clear what will change.

  26. Ferdia, I haven’t heard of Europe poaching jobs from Ireland as a reason for our economic decline in the 80s before. More often than not the reasons cited are internal, like the government overspending of the late 70s after the oil crisis, then the stiffling high taxes (up to 80%!) of the 80s and you never were quite sure who was in charge, what with the rise and fall of several governments.
    Below is what the Referendum Commission have to say about the tax veto. (www.lisbontreaty2008.ie)
    Areas to which Qualified Majority Voting applies:

    At present, QMV applies to decisions on a wide range of issues including agriculture, competition rules, consumer protection, environment and judicial co-operation in civil matters. It is proposed to apply QMV to a number of new areas – these include energy, asylum, immigration, judicial co-operation in criminal matters and sport.
    Certain decisions will continue to be made unanimously – they include decisions on defence and taxation. This means that any Member State may veto a proposed change in these areas.

  27. If Ireland’s healthcare and education will be subject to competition from other european providers that can only be good thing for Irish consumers.

  28. Regarding Article 48
    I have read this a couple of times and can’t find any self amendment bit. Here’s what it says about amendments:
    “A conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States shall be
    convened by the President of the Council for the purpose of determining by common accord
    the amendments to be made to the Treaties.
    The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States
    in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.”

    The last line is the important one in that it would require a referendum in our case.

  29. DC all those jobs went somewhere .. Italy has more changes of Government that Ireland ever had ….
    Also you didn’t answer about all those companies in Shannon industrial estate being approached by various European development agencies when Aer Lingus pulled shannon-heathrow.
    I guess that ireland got good at poaching themselves.
    Anyone see Q&A ? I think you can more or less call it now the No’s have won all the debates.
    Ganley was very good and really showed up the politicans. He would do a better job than B Cowen any day.

  30. Bock: in order for healthcare to be profitable the services have to be run dispassionately, usually by insurance companies, and subject to private investors or shareholders. The government has long wanted to distance itself from the responsibility and obligation of the health and welfare of it’s citizens; but, I think we can do better than the American model.
    DC1974: the last line is indeed the important one. We are having a referendum this time for one reason only, to change our Constitution. Once it is changed in favour of the EU then there will be no need for any further referendums to be put in front of the Irish people concerning EU directives.

  31. Caoimhín: I’m not advocating the American model. I think we need a model like they have in New Zealand. I also think we need to confront the greed of our medical profession.

  32. I didn’t think you were Bock, but this Treaty will pave the way to bring us in that direction. I’m not familiar with the New Zealand system but will look into it, thanks for the tip. There can hardly be fewer healthcare models than ours that are worse!
    As far as greed goes that is not the answer either. Today it was announced that over 200,000 people are now on the dole in this country, all around greed is getting us nowhere fast.

  33. Ferdia, I don’t see how other countries seeking new inward investment ties in the the Lisbon Treaty. I think this would have happened irrespective even if Ireland was or was not within the EU, it’s more of reflection of the global economy and multinationals go where they can get the lowest taxes and cost of doing business, an educated workforce, accessibility, etc.

    Caoimhin, I still don’t see how Article 48 can be self amending as amendments can be proposed but
    “The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States
    in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.”
    which in Ireland’s case would require a referendum in accordance with constitutional requirements.

  34. The one thing that I’m surprised was not covered by the No campaign was the actual reason we had a referendum in the first place, a change to the Constitution;

    “No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union referred to in subsection 10° of this section, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”

    To this laymans eyes this means that any EU directive/law would supercede the Irish Constitution. This to me is a huge backdoor and devalues one of the most important “documents” of the country. It is not the only reason I voted No, but this point alone would have put me in the No camp.

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