Friday, July 25, 2008
Post-Referendum Ireland Turns Increasingly Eurosceptic
The EU still holds out the hope of winning a second Irish referendum. At least they are pretending that they do, as they must realise that the national mood is swinging against the likelihood of that outcome. If the Irish vote a second time, and give the wrong answer, the EU will no doubt demand a Parliamentary-only ratification from Ireland, and simply ignore the referendum results.
How that will play out with Irish loyalty to political parties, is anyone's guess. A surging tide of euroscepticism could even be enough to build a powerful rush for the exit from the EU. If the EU continues to ignore the democratically expressed wishes of the Irish, as Sarkozy is doing by calling for the Lisbon Treaty version of the European Parliamentary elections in June 2009, if past form is anything to go by, the Irish will start to get angry.
The evidence is that this is starting to happen. Open Europe's report from today is instructive -
Majority of Irish voters happy with Lisbon No vote result
The Irish Times reports on a poll released yesterday, conducted the day after the Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum, which has found that the majority of the Irish public are happy with the result of the Lisbon Treaty referendum, including one in 10 of those who voted Yes.
Fifty-four per cent of those polled said they were happy with the result, while 34 per cent were unhappy, and 11 per cent were undecided. The paper notes that the "poll holds some disturbing findings for the Government", including the fact that nine per cent of those who voted Yes in the referendum say they are now happy with the result. Behaviour Attitudes, the firm that conducted the poll, said that this suggests that the Yes voters' support "was rather 'soft' to begin with".
According to the Irish Independent, the Irish government is to set up a Lisbon committee, expected to have around nine members. The committee will hear from groups on both side of the Lisbon argument about how to proceed.
The Economist notes that "Mr Cowen is playing for time. But a deteriorating economy is making cuts in public spending unavoidable, so he seems sure to become more unpopular... would a second referendum held by the autumn of next year be any more winnable? So far Mr Cowen looks less of a political visionary who sees a way out of the Lisbon impasse, and more like Mr Micawber, desperately hoping for something to turn up."
With Irish anti-EU sentiment hardening, and support for the pro-Lisbon British Labour government collapsing to vanishing point, a unique and entirely new situation is arising where both Irish and British electorates are becoming predominantly and strongly eurosceptic at the same moment. It only needs another crack in one of the two country's relationships with the EU to appear, and that could have knock-on effects in the other - each movement in loosening of ties with Europe encouraging the other to hanker after greater freedom. The underlying weakness of the EU's position in the British Isles, that is Britain and ireland in combination, is getting critical.
If Gordon Brown were to stumble and Cameron to get into control in Britain, he might find himself in a very strong position to renegotiate, at a moment when Ireland is already asking the EU for special opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty. The unravelling that has begun, is not looking likely to be respun. If the EU attempts to exercise authoritarian power to whip either country back into line, the electoral results would be catatstrophic to their interests. That said, it seems highly likely that that is exactly what the EU will attempt to do.
26th July 2008 UPDATE - William Hague writes in support of the Irish NO vote in The irish Times. See HERE. Titled 'No Outsider Has Any Right To Tell The Irish How To Handle Lisbon'.
Extract - it is looking increasingly likely that at the next British general election, now less than two years away, the British people will choose a new government. If Lisbon remains unratified by all EU member states, a Conservative government will put Britain's ratification of the treaty on ice and hold a referendum, recommending a No vote to a document we believe represents an outdated centralising approach to the EU. So the chances are growing that Ireland's voters will not be alone in saying No to Lisbon for long.