We owe it to people of Europe to vote No


There are strong reasons to vote No to the Lisbon Treaty, writes VINCENT BROWNE

WITH ONLY a single hesitation will I vote No to the Lisbon Treaty on Friday. The hesitation has to do with Turkey, and nothing to do with the consequences to Ireland and/or the EU of voting No.

There are ostensibly persuasive arguments for voting Yes. They are: (i) we will damage our economic interests and prospects if we vote No; (ii) Europe has been good to us and we owe it to it not to frustrate reforms that have been in gestation for nearly a decade; (iii) the Lisbon Treaty will make Europe more efficient and therefore better for Europe and for Ireland; (iv) the EU will be more democratic if the Lisbon Treaty is passed, because the European Parliament will have more powers and national parliaments will have a greater involvement; and (v) the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty now would have a debilitating impact on the EU and Ireland, just at a time when Europe and Ireland need energy and focus to surmount the economic crisis.

In my view, each of these arguments is misguided. There are only two ways in which voting No could damage our economic interests: if, as a consequence, foreign direct investment were to be compromised; and if the support of the European Central Bank for our State finances and our banks were to be weakened.

How conceivably could our rejection of the Lisbon Treaty have any relevance to decisions of multinational corporations on investment in Ireland, given that they would continue to have access to European markets by locating here? Of course there might be confusion over the consequences of a No vote, but are our State agencies, notably IDA Ireland, so helpless as not to be able to convince would-be investors that our rejection of the Lisbon Treaty made no difference to their business interests?

As for the ECB, what reason is there to believe our rejection of the treaty would make any difference? Its focus is on how the State is going to rectify the crisis in our public finances, and how we are going to keep the banks going. And, by God, we have given it every reason to believe it need have no worries on that score.

Yes, Europe certainly has been good for us, and we would not have had a Celtic Tiger had we not been in the EU. In my view, we do indeed owe a debt of gratitude for what we have got from the people of Europe. I deal below with how best we might return the very considerable favours they have afforded us.

It is also true that the Lisbon Treaty would make the EU more efficient, but, in my view, efficient in a manner that is good neither for Ireland nor Europe. It would centralise power by ending the rotating presidency in favour of a full-time president who, inevitably, would defer to the agendas of the larger states. And it would facilitate more “efficient” decision-making on foreign policy, immigration and security measures, all of which I regard as a negative.

The EU would be a little more democratic, but this would be more than negated by the ruse which is at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty.

Certainly there would be dismay among governments and EU functionaries if we defeat the Lisbon Treaty, but I do not think this consideration should weigh heavily with us. We didn’t care a jot, it seems, when a year ago today we gave a blanket guarantee to the banks here that had huge, damaging repercussions around the EU. We didn’t care then about causing real difficulty for our European partners.

Is it plausible that this is now a major issue for us, since rejection of the treaty would have only a minor effect, as the reforms that were thought urgent no longer seem so nor even necessary?

There are considerable reasons to vote No. We owe it to the people of Europe, who supported us in our difficult times – and who we hope will do so again – to vote No. By doing so, we will be frustrating the manipulative strategies of those who devised the Lisbon Treaty as a way of getting around the rejection of the EU constitution by the electorate of France and Holland, and as a way of facilitating governments throughout the EU to avoid putting the issue to their electorates.

The European Union lacks democratic legitimacy, and instead of dealing with that issue head on, the EU conspires to avoid popular endorsement or rejection. Voting No is a way of stopping these anti-democratic capers, and in voting No we would be acting as surrogates for the people of Europe as a whole.

Then there is the European Defence Agency. Its role, in part (note: “in part”), is to facilitate the European manufacturers of armaments in making the instruments of war and slaughter more efficient and effective. It has also been thinking strategically about resource wars, and wars to keep Africans at bay. We should stop in its tracks the incorporation of this agency within the institutional structure of the EU, and that can be done by voting No.

Along with these, there is the centralisation of power which the Lisbon Treaty embodies.

Vote No and rejoice.