Friday, 13 June 2008

Ireland's red card to the Lisbon Treaty

So, Ireland has voted to reject the Lisbon Treaty and given it a red card.

On a 53% turnout, 53.4% voted against the treaty. This result should not come as any great surprise. The simple fact is that people aren't interested in continual discussions about the reform of the EU's institutions. The EU has spent the past seven years trying to look at ways in which the EU institutions can be brought closer to the people of Europe. Back in December 2001 the Member States adopted the "Laeken Declaration", which while it paved the way for the setting up of the European Convention, it also recognised that the biggest challenge facing the EU is the widening gap between the European institutions and the citizens. The perception of the EU as being remote, too bureaucratic and incomprehensible remains.

The trouble is while France and the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitutional Treaty by referendum back in 2005 and Luxembourg and Spain voted yes in their referendums the Lisbon Treaty was rehashed as the plan B. 18 Member States have since ratified the Lisbon Treaty but before it can be implemented and enter into force it has to be ratified by all 27 Member States - one of the guiding principles of the EU is that all countries have to ratify treaties and it would be highly ironic if the EU violated its own constitutional practice and railroaded the treaty through.

At least the Irish people have had a chance to have their say. The people of Scotland and the UK were denied a say on the treaty following Gordon Brown's decision not to keep his government's promise of a referendum.

The SNP decided that the Lisbon Treaty was not the way forward for the EU. For one thing, the conservation of marine biological resources under the Common Fisheries Policy was to have been made an exclusive competence of the EU. This was a red line issue for the Scottish Government and despite our concerns as well as those of Scotland's fishing communities, London chose to ignore and refused to seek any further changes.

It is now for EU leaders meeting in Brussels next week to listen to the concerns of the people of Ireland and to rethink where Europe goes from here.

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