May 20 2008

Lisbon And Me – Consequences

Published by at 12:01 am under Blog,Politics

I’ve detailed the meaning of the extensive language in the Lisbon Treaty, I’ve given my opinion regarding the poor campaigning on both sides of the argument. Now, I plan on doing something neither side seem willing to do. I want to discuss the consequences and repercussions of saying Yes or No to this treaty.

So, what happens if we say Yes?

So, what happens if we say Yes? Initially, not very much apparently. Most of the changes proposed won’t come into effect until 2014 and, as suggested before, much of what will change will be bureaucratic in nature: name changes and voting numbers. So, why do we need a time consuming referendum?

Something I neglected to discuss in my article explaining the Treaty was the immediate change that would occur to our own Constitution. The changes include the deletion of Article 24.4.9, which states:

The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defense pursuant to Article 1.2 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7° of this section where that common defense would include the State.

Now, that sounds to me like they are paving the way for a joint defense force for Europe, of which Ireland will be a part, except for the fact they are inserting a whole new Article (29.4.15) with virtually the same wording. Further evidence of the stupid bureaucracy surrounding this entire endeavour.

The problems begin in the rather long winded and confusing insertion of Articles 29.4.11, 29.4.12, 29.4.13 and 29.4.14 which says the state agrees to a whole bunch of stuff, none of which is detailed in the changed Constitution, merely referred to by Article numbers.

Here’s the wording of the articles – feel free to skip down to the explanations:

Article 29.4.11

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.

This article gives constitutional backing to the supremacy of EU law which has been laid down by the European Court of Justice. Surely, this is the most significant of changes. While it may not state it in definitive terms, this section seems to be conceding that EU Law overrides the Irish Constitution. I am not a legal mind, but that if that is even inferred here, then here is a conclusive argument for the No campaign. The Irish Constitution must come first. If it is not the supreme and final point of law in our state, then it is not worth the paper it is written on. This is my new reason for calling for a No vote.

Article 29.4.12

The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.22, 2.64, 2.65, 2.66, 2.67, 2.68 and 2.278 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 10° of this section and Articles 1.18 and 1.20 of Protocol No. 1 annexed to that Treaty, but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Articles 1.22 and 2.278 of the treaty provides for Enhanced Cooperation among groups of Member States. This is not huge on the detail but it could be argued as a good thing by the Yes side – it may help reduce friction between nations and nationalities. It could lead to harmony between different ethnicities, religions and other groups. The No side could see this as a small step towards that Common Defense thing that we are so strenuously trying to avoid.

Article 2.64 deals with a myriad of issues mainly Security, Discrimination, Enhanced Cooperation and the role of National Parliaments. Article 2.65 deals Policing, border checks and Asylum. Articles 2.66 and 2.67 deal with Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Criminal Matters. Article 2.68 deals with Police Cooperation, and seeing as there is enough difficulty getting our police force to cooperate with our neighbours up North, I don’t see this Article being anything other than a publicity stunt.

This amendment will basically allow Ireland to participate in schemes in these areas, when it so wishes, and opt out when it does not suit. This, on the whole, may seem positive, but with the two major political parties in this State trumpeting a pro-Europe stance, I can’t see us opting out very often, can you?

Article 29.4.13

The State may exercise the option to secure that the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (formerly known as the Treaty establishing the European Community) shall, in whole or in part, cease to apply to the State, but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

This allows us to opt out (which has the same flaw as the Article above) in the areas of freedom, security and justice, but if our Constitution is being overridden by EU Law, I can already hear the debates in the European Courts.

Article 29.4.14

The State may agree to the decisions, regulations or other acts under:

  1. Article 1.34(b)(iv)
  2. Article 1.56 (in so far as it relates to Articles 48.7 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 4 of this section)
  3. Article 2.66 (in so far as it relates to the second subparagraph of Article 65.3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), Are you lost yet, because there’s seven in total?
  4. Article 2.67 (in so far as it relates to subparagraph (d) of Article 69A.2, the third subparagraph of Article 69B.1 and paragraphs 1 and 4 of Article 69E of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union),
  5. Article 2.144(a),
  6. Article 2.261 (in so far as it relates to the second subparagraph of Article 270a.2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), and
  7. Article 2.278 (in so far as it relates to Article 280H of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union),

of the Treaty referred to in subsection 10 of this section, and may also agree to the decision under the second sentence of the second subparagraph of Article 137.2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (as amended by Article 2.116(a) of the Treaty referred to in the said subsection 10), but the agreement to any such decision, regulation or act shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Article 1.34(b)(iv) deals with the European Council should decide that the Council should use Qualified Majority Voting in areas not specified by the Treaty. This is only an issue if you have a problem with the changes to the QMV. Personally, I am fine with it – it gives smaller states a higher weighting than the larger states, so their voices will not be lost in the din.

Article 1.56 deals with further revisions to the Treaties. This is a little grey for me as it seems to be saying that this Treaty cannot be revised without a referendum (in Ireland’s case), but from my reading of the Lisbon Treaty itself, Europe will (if ratified) have the power to make changes to any Treaty without the need to go back to the people. They will simply need agreement from each member state’s government. I would like this clarified, but I have not been able to find clarification.

Articles 2.66 and 2.67 are mentioned above and relate to Judicial Cooperation. Article 2.144(a) changing the Legislative procedure to “ordinary legislative procedure” by decesion of the European Council. is similar to the change to the QMV – it is down to personal reservations about changes to decision making procedures. Article 2.261, 2.278 and 2.116(a) deal with procedures and rules regarding the allocation of budgetary powers and are more clerical issues.

Constitutional Consequences

So, this is why it is clearly more than a simple Eurocratic exercise. The consequences of our changing the Constitution may not be immediately apparent, but our constitution is one of the strongest and most envied across the world. We should be very careful and well informed about every single change we make to it. We are, each of us, guaranteed so many rights and freedoms by our Constitution. The Americans have such pride in theirs and it’s odd that we do not have similar feelings towards ours.

And a No vote?

And a No vote? What will happen if we vote no? Will the rest of Europe wage war upon our defection? Or will they breathe a sigh of relief that the one and only stopgap (the Irish Referendum) remaining between the safe and sturdy status quo and the untried and untested Eurostate, has stood up to the seemingly inevitable?

It’s not that simple. The reason this treaty is so confusing and divisive is that no body can sufficiently explain the repercussions of either outcome. The consequences of ratification may not be seen for many years from now. By 2014 the political landscape of Europe could look very different. The current downturn in the economy and the rise of a number of new political leaders throughout Europe (our own Brian Cowen, Britain’s Gordon Brown, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and even Germany’s Angela Merkel (elected Nov 2005)) make the future impossible to predict.

A No vote will invoke the political ire of many though. This is clear. Internally, Fianna Fáil will look very egg-faced if they fail to return a Yes. Indeed, Fine Gael lead figures, with their 5 MEP’s having a significant interest in a Yes verdict, will try their best to make it look at though they were not the ones who failed, and instead blame the Government. And with a Government in place pushing so hard for a Yes vote, in a country that votes No, tensions, mistrusts and paranoias will abound. An article about the bias evident in the Referendum Commission suggests that there is pressure coming from on high to push the Yes vote. How worrying it will be for the current government if we say No.

And externally too, this Treaty has already cost a lot of time and money Europe wide. 13 of the 27 European governments have already accepted the Treaty, seeing as no other country requires a referendum allowing the people to choose for themselves. Remember, we are the only people who have the opportunity to vote on this – we should be proud of our democracy. So, the political repercussions of a No vote on the European front is much harder to predict. Again, there may be relief from countries such as the UK, who are controversially not holding a referendum, and the Czech Republic, who are still trying to decide if the Treaty abides by Czech law.

Too Much, Too Quickly

The Treaty is too much too quickly. I would like someone to explain to me why so much has to be pumped into this one (exceedingly long) document. Surely, a phased introduction of many of the measures (many of which would not require a referendum) would make more sense and would allow people time to understand a smaller, more manageable proposal down the line. Enda Kenny was very fond of saying something didn’t smell right when Bertie’s Mahon problems came to light, but with this Treaty, Enda, something does not smell right. To use two wonderful words that are often bandied about by politicians trying to sound important – there is far too much manipulation and obfuscation here. There is nothing straightforward about this and if we are being asked to make changes to our Constitution, then we need to be sure, beyond reasonable doubt, that we are doing the right thing. Well I, for one, still have doubts. My No stance is still in place. I am still awaiting a decent argument from the Yes side.

Previous Posts

3. Political Apathy and a Yearning for Change
2. Lisbon and Me – Deciding Our Future
1. Lisbon and Me

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11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Lisbon And Me – Consequences”

  1. Darrenon 19 May 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I sincerely hope this is my last post on this subject (or at least my last lengthly post. I have never had any interest in politics and I think the thing that made me look into Lisbon is the mystery element of it. If it is such an important part of our political landscape, then why is it being ‘sold’ so badly and why are so many people confused and angered by it?

    I can’t wait until it is all over and I can go put my head back in the sand, but I fear that now my interest has been piqued, I may not be able to lay it down again so easily.

    Thank you again to everyone who has read my posts on Lisbon and especially to those who gave their time to read them in full and to comment.

  2. Grandadon 20 May 2008 at 1:16 am

    Another excellent post, Darren.

    Unfortunately you have only confirmed my suspicion that it is more complex than I though it was!

    The more I read, the more it stinks……

  3. darraghon 20 May 2008 at 9:25 am

    excellent work sir

    Their voices will not get lost in the din

    Despite Elly’s excellent education of me previously, I’m still going to come back to how this will benefit Ireland – and only Ireland – long term.

    I’m a shareholder in this country. I pay my taxes and my rates, I contribute socially and financially to its future. I abide by its rules. I do not cause trouble. I’m responsible enough to try and avoid any accidents that would put me in harm’s way and therefore be a burden on the already hectic system.If this was a company I’d be a fairly okay employee. I’ve been through the training programme, signed the contract and believe I contribute toward its present and future.

    Therefore it’s well within my right to question whether what they’re doing about the Lisbon Treaty is good for the country.

    I’ve deliberately avoided talking about this elsewhere not only through lack of knowledge but because there are other things to talk about. In the same way as no one can give a satisfactory answer as to why a no vote would be bad for the country’s future, I haven’t read anywhere that’s told me how a “better Europe” will benefit the day to day local matters of the country – education, health and welfare.

    Yes, it’s great to have the Euro, great to be able to travel (or was when Ryanair actually were great value) and great that we have someone fighting our case for funding for infrastructure (despite the seeming ineptitude of most county councils or contractors to do something on time or budget), for farmers (so why are they still protesting?), to keep our fishing waters for our fishing industry etc. But is that to do with the louder voice, the skill of the representatives or just a matter of presenting the right case, filling out the forms and getting what we were promised when we joined the EEC anyways? Surely as members of this community that’s what we’re entitled to?

    This country suffers from its lack of knowledge about rights. It’s been our biggest handicap for far too long. We’ve traditionally kept silent about abuse of children and the elderly, of corruption in our politicians or police force, of the farce in our health and legal “justice” systems because we don’t want to rock the boat, to be seen as trouble makers, to potentially lose the good thing we have going because we’ve been “bold”. Ah sure we’re happy to line the streets for Paddy’s Day, to fill the pubs, croker and fields for matches and to sing along with the Taoiseach thinking “sure isn’t it grand” but compared to the bigger countries – the ones this treaty will “protect” our “little voice” from we’re just lapdogs. No major protests about a better health system. There are voices but not many. There are still waiting lists, cancer wards (and hospitals) closing, services massively under resourced and under funded and apart from the odd prime time special or shock heading on the front of the tabloid rags we’re quiet about it. We’re happy to let the powers that be, the same powers who keep the country how it is looking after it because we don’t believe – really believe – we have a voice, a say or a chance to change things. We see the massive protests in France and Italy and think “oh that’s terrible that is” but we don’t get the full story of why it’s happening – because the people – the shareholders in that country – don’t like the way business is being run and don’t have enough faith in strongly worded letters to local politicians, to the irish times or metro letter page or to an angry call to Joe Duffy or Matt Cooper. As with anything true change will come when someone takes the matter into their own hands and makes the difference.

    What we have – the Ireland today – the good parts anyways are because of the people who got up and did something. The business men shrewd enough to invest wisely bringing jobs, the politicians who recognised an opportunity to make a difference, the people who supported the change and who worked tirelessly – and in many cases voluntarily, quietly, without publicity, recognition or thanks – to make that difference. We joined the EU because we were sold the dream of how it will make the country better and continue to. It’s been our representatives, our MEPs who have spoken to the right committees, got the right funding and networked the right way who have helped make that happen,

    We don’t owe Europe anything. We contribute enough to its development. We owe it to ourselves not to be distracted by things that won’t make a real, positive, evident and concrete difference to the people here and to use our voice, our votes and our say in this to say to the Government to stop the messing, to focus on fixing the problems here and not to be spending vast amounts of time and money on this utter nonsense – if it was THAT good for us surely it would be easier to show the benefits and there wouldn’t need to be a vote, now would there? – to start raising awareness of and fixing the problems of poverty, of illness, of education, literacy and all the other ones that actually will benefit the country and its people.

    I’d rather keep my vote for something that will change lives. Until then it will be no from me too.

  4. Joeon 20 May 2008 at 9:49 am

    Excellent post, really clears some things up

  5. Anthonyon 20 May 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Very good post! I’ll be linking to this for a few people, even though I’m still thinking of voting yes i’m still not too sure. My brain’s all muddled about it now.
    Thanks for the clarifying confusion 😛

  6. Fergal Dalyon 21 May 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I too will be voting “no” however the bit about putting EU law above our constitution is nothing new. Look at the current constitution, that’s already in there. It’s pretty much the definition of ratifying the treaty – if every country allowed their constitutions to still reign supreme then every single bit of EU law would get shot down in one country or another and there’d be no uniformity.

    Of course Lisbon is vastly broadening the scope of EU law so it’s putting far more out of reach of our constitution than previous treaties did, justice, law enforcement etc.

    There are plenty of other reasons to vote “no” 🙂

  7. Adamon 24 May 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Isn’t the supremacy of European law to the Irish constitution already within Bunreacht Na hÉireann?

    It’s in Article 29.4.10, the Lisbon amendment just seems to move it down one rung.

  8. Darrenon 24 May 2008 at 3:23 pm

    @Adam From what I can see, you’re absolutely right. I am very new to this political learning and that is an Article I did not know about. I can’t say I like it, but if it’s already there, then it is irrelevant in my decision on the Treaty. I think I’ll have to put in a bit more work before I decide on a firm Yes or No. I wish someone would just sit me down and go through all the pros and cons of it all. My head is wrecked trying to work it out on my own.

  9. Adamon 24 May 2008 at 4:58 pm

    As am I – I was sure that there was already a reference to European law being above Irish law but had to go look it up to be sure.

    I’m still on the fence myself and I haven’t even started to research it to any real degree – something tells me even if I sit down and read up on it for the next 3 weeks I’ll still be confused.

    Most public groups talking about the treaty are doing so in a loaded way – be it for or against the whole thing. The RefCom are supposed to be the objective ones in all of this but the ‘No’ camp say their not… of course one side or another was going to come along with that complaint no matter what happened so it’s hardly a surprise.

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