EU treaty revisions make Irish vote less likely

Fri, Jan 20, 2012, 00:00

EU OFFICIALS have spurned German pressure for constitutional limits on debt and deficits in Europe’s new fiscal treaty, a development which could make it easier for Dublin to avoid a referendum.

Germany pushed forcefully in the past week to incorporate a demand for constitutional provisions in the treaty. However, a new draft leaves it open to the Government to enshrine a “golden rule” on debt and deficits in secondary legislation.

There would be no automatic requirement for a referendum in that event, although it remains to be seen whether German chancellor Angela Merkel insists on constitutional measures in the final text.

Also in question is whether any other treaty provisions lead to a public vote, something the Government does not want as it fears defeat.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that the Government cannot decide on that until the final text is agreed.

A Supreme Court challenge to any move to proceed without a referendum is considered inevitable, but EU leaders have resolved that no country will be able to veto the treaty by saying unanimous ratification is not needed for it to come into effect.

The negotiation is stepping up a gear as finance ministers prepare to gather in Brussels next Monday for two days of talks.

A draft treaty circulated last night after discussions at official level will serve as the core text for the last phase of the talks, which began little more than one month ago.

Seen by The Irish Times, the latest text has been hardened to allow Europe’s highest court to levy financial sanctions against governments which breach its rulings on new legislation compelling them to run balanced budgets.