Four reasons for a No, and four more not to vote Yes

Fri, Sep 18, 2009, 01:00

Dubious ‘guarantees and assurances’ given regarding the Lisbon Treaty studiously avoid its rotten core

LIKE FRANKENSTEIN’s monster, here comes the Lisbon Treaty once more, rising from the undead. Though 66 million French and Dutch voters were simply bypassed to avoid more pesky referendums, Ireland’s Constitution precludes such an elegant solution, forcing a second vote on the same treaty.

True, some dubious “guarantees and assurances” have been obtained to address five concerns of the hyper-sensitive Irish that are convenient to discuss.

Ireland will keep its commissioner and control its own taxes. No innocent Irish lads will be conscripted as EU cannon fodder, abortion will not be imposed and workers’ rights and public services will be protected. But since they’re not copper-fastened into the treaty itself, they cannot be unchallengeable: they are less guarantees than target-rich “assurances” for future treaty lawyers.

Anyway, they only nibble at the treaty’s edges, and studiously avoid the rotten core to which so many people fundamentally object. For me, this leads to four powerful reasons to vote No, and four more not to vote Yes.

Firstly, there is the dishonesty of having converted the readable, understandable, if internally contradictory Treaty Establishing A Constitution For Europe into the Lisbon Reform Treaty – an interminable series of unreadable, incomprehensible amendments to two prior EU treaties (Maastricht and Rome) – while otherwise retaining nearly all the content of the rejected constitution.

A No vote is the only response to such shamelessness.

The second powerful reason is similar but different. Just as no rational person would dare sign a contract that he/she couldn’t understand, so no one should vote for a treaty without understanding it. It still takes me 13 hours to read once, so unless you have a spare week to absorb it in conjunction with Rome and Maastricht, and you don’t like signing blank cheques, No is the only rational vote.

Across the EU, 60 to 85 per cent (depending on sources) of legislation already originates in Brussels. Yet Lisbon would transfer more than 100 new competencies from national to EU level. Another 60-plus EU mandated areas would move from unanimity to majority voting, reducing further the influence of individual nations. This would represent the single largest transfer of powers from nations to Brussels in EU history.

Just one example. At present, individual states fund the EU. But Lisbon empowers the EU to impose its own taxes. See Article 259, which amends Article 269 in the Rome or Maastricht treaties, neither of which runs to 269 articles, to create Article 311 of a so-called “consolidated” treaty which supposedly consolidates all three treaties but is not itself a treaty – and has no legal force. What fun this is! And how lucrative for treaty lawyers.

But honestly, do citizens really want to surrender ever more sovereignty, resulting in even more EU laws? It’s the third powerful reason to vote No. In Ireland, all the main political parties are united in urging us to vote Yes. Yet nobody today can trust the wisdom of the ruling Coalition and supine Opposition, which have brought the country to the brink of financial ruin with reckless policies and neglect. The current political elite is one group whose judgment on what’s good for Ireland is supremely suspect. If they say Yes, that’s the fourth powerful reason to vote No.

The Yes-sirs who would have us approve the referendum are putting out postcards, pamphlets, websites and print, radio and TV blitzes to explain the unintelligible treaty. But these explanations are not the treaty being voted on. Moreover, how can we know they’re not simply biased attempts to highlight the good stuff while obfuscating the bad? Such media campaigns are no reason to vote Yes.

Many prominent personages in Ireland, Brussels and elsewhere are urging us to vote Yes, but they are heavily invested, personally, in continued enlargement of EU activity, because that’s where their careers lie. With the EU so influential in national law-making, domestic legislators won’t advance their careers by opposing the EUrocracy. And if you’re part of that EUrocracy – or dependants such as lobbies, lawyers, think tanks or service providers – Lisbon’s expanded powers can only mean more work, bigger budgets, massive recruitment and thus juicy promotional opportunities for you.

Passionate exhortations by self-interested individuals are no reason to vote Yes. Neither is the Yes-sirs’ frequent if illogical equivalence of a Lisbon No with departure from the EU. The Irish naysayers don’t want to leave the EU; we love the EU and the euro just as they are; they’ve been wonderful for Ireland, so why mess with the formula? But we don’t want to expand the EU’s powers with untold consequences, nor create through a badly written document a treaty lawyer’s paradise.

The final red herring is the credit crunch. The Yes-sirs perpetrate the calumny that the EU would meet another Irish No with economic revenge. Of course some angry EUrocrats may try to block goodies from Ireland’s maw. But the EU is not those Brusselarians – it’s the 500 million citizens, and of these we know the French, Dutch, British and Germans would reject Lisbon if given the chance, so a mass plot against Ireland is inconceivable. This empty threat is the fourth non-reason to vote Yes.

We should reject Lisbon in our own enlightened self-interest, but also on behalf of the unenfranchised EU half-billion.

Tony Allwright is an engineering and industrial safety consultant, and blogs on international and national issues –

John Waters is on leave