Saturday, June 14, 2008

Putting it all back together again

The biggest complaint that I hard against the Treaty of Lisbon is that it was too long and full of legal sounding phrases.

If you want a minimalistic treaty that does not grant excessive powers to the EU, seems to me that you will end up with a carefully written, long, legalistic, international treaty.

Whether this is appropriate material for a referendum is open to debate - I don't think it is and I am a firm believer in Parliamentary democracy.

I do not, in fact, believe that referendums are a more valid expresion of the popular will than representative democracy and I think the Irish result demonstrates that in abundance.

The Irish referendum demonstrates that people are wont to vote on all sorts of things, both real and unreal - the current government, fears over abortion, neutrality and so on, not focusing on the text of the Treaty which will (even if realy pared down) be too long and complicated for the electorate (how many people in the UK read the parties' respective manifestos?).

Any way, the fact of the matter is that Ireland does have this constitutional requirement of a referendum which is queering everyone's pitch so far as I can tell.

There might be some point adding protocols and binding declarations to the Treaty and then getting Ireland to vote again but that is not likely to work, as most people now admit.

Many of the No campaign in France and also Ireland state they are in favour of a "social Europe" and yet that is the first thing that has been killed off - it is now all but impossible to get things like the Charter of Fundamental Rights through the ratification process, and as for the rest. Certainly new accessions now seem very remote.

Future treaties are likely to be very simple, one issue only where the heavens will not fall in if the vote is not carried and where the matter at hand is so technical and minor only Ireland will have a referendum. And written on one side of A4, so it can be read by voters before casting their ballot.

There might even be a way of making changes to practice without a new Treaty, perhaps proceeding intergovernmentaly, perhaps by setting up new Treaty bodies that countries can opt into (and out of?) at their leisure.

I am sure, with Denis McShane in today's Times, that the EU will continue, but the EU that our political elites have imagined over the past decade is now well and truly at an end.

Comment in today's Guardian:

Fintan O'Toole The fear factory that devastated Ireland's political class
Colm Toibin A godsend to every crank in Ireland

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