Friday, June 06, 2008

Ireland must vote No to the Lisbon Treaty

In one week’s time, Ireland will vote on whether to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.

The last time something like this came around was in 2005, when the electorate of France and the Netherlands both voted “No” to the EU Constitution. Since then, European politicians have been tinkering with the formula, trying to preserve as much of the failed EU Constitution as possible, without calling it a constitution. Giuliano Amato (the vice-chair of the convention responsible for drafting the EU Constitution) stated “The good thing about not calling it a Constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it”.

Ireland is in a unique position, as due to the constitution of Ireland, a referendum is absolutely required. The Irish electorate will be the only non-politicians to be asked to approve this treaty, across 27 European countries!

The treaty is impossible to read, which is a good reason to be very suspicious.

There are many bad parts of this treaty, but the main part to be worried about is that part of signing up means that you agree the treaty can be changed after the fact, without your further approval. In that sense it is a blank cheque – and changes might be made that could be pushed through without a referendum at a later stage. In other words, this would be the last time that the politicians had to worry about the Irish public actually being able to make a meaningful decision. It’s clear that after the disaster of the Netherlands and France expressing their democratic right to decide (and deciding the way the politicians do not want), they will do everything to avoid having to ask the public for our opinion.

This treaty obliges Ireland to increase military spending. It provides a means for the EU to promote Nuclear Energy. It undermines workers rights (and if you are a normal person working for money, you are a worker). It passes 105 powers to the EU from Ireland (including International Relations, Security, Trade and Economic Policy), and more than 60 of these power-transfers may see Ireland unable to stop law changes that are not in the interest of Ireland.

There is nothing un-European about voting no to Lisbon. I am pro-Europe, and the way to make Europe more like it should be, is to protect our right to decide who speaks for us. Millions of electors across Europe are relying on us and our right of referendum (enshrined in the Irish constitution – at the moment) to vote no on their behalf.

It’s always possible to agree to changes to Europe at a later date. A no vote is not a step backwards - Europe is functioning quite well as it is, the world will not cave in. The politicians are entitled to redraw their proposals again, and bring them back to us.

But from a ‘Yes’ vote in Ireland, there is no way back. We will not be asked again, and the politicians can decide what you said ‘yes’ to after you have committed.

One final point - this treaty is unreadable, and can be changed after you agree to it in principle.

Would you sign a contract that was so complicated it was impossible to read, and that could be changed after you signed it by the other party?

Do the right thing for Ireland, the right thing for people across Europe who don’t have the privilege of a referendum, the right thing for you - vote no.

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