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This is a long page due to the Irish rejection of the EU. I'll put in anchors for easier navigation eventually - but that will be after the exams...
From June 12, 2008

We must beef up the UN and the EU

If we are to tackle the perils of a globalised world, we have to rethink our international institutions

Globalisation, if left unmanaged, is a threat to Britain's national security. This is a bald statement, but it is true, and we would be better off as a country if its veracity were more widely accepted and its implications more fully understood. Globalisation may have brought huge benefits to millions of people around the world but it has simultaneously exposed us to new hazards that we are not well placed to meet. We need a new approach aimed squarely at the management of a world in which power is slipping beyond the control of states.
Today's security agenda is often presented as a long list of threats: international terrorism, transnational crime, the threat of a new pandemic, energy insecurity and the dangers of climate change. These are all pressing issues but it is too easy to present them as disparate and unconnected.
The fact is that transnational crime has not gone transnational by accident but as a direct by-product of the increased flows of goods, services and people in the mainstream economy. Terrorism has not become a bigger concern just because of the rise of jihadist groups but because global communications and the diffusion of knowledge and technology have extended the organisational reach and increased the destructive potential of even small numbers of people. The pandemic threat is not so serious just because of the possibility of a disease outbreak but because, in a world of people moving on this scale, a disease could be upon us long before we know it is even there.
The binding theme in all this is the interdependence that comes with globalisation: the extent to which we are all connected, reliant upon and vulnerable to each other, just about wherever we live on the planet. No issue is more emblematic of this than climate change, which may yet become a contributing factor to population displacement and societal conflicts around the world. And no issue is more symbolic of its realities than energy security, where the UK faces concerns over both the security and price of our increasingly international energy supply.
This is not a temporary state of affairs but a permanent one and an interdependent world is a world of shared destinies, where insecurities in one part of the world can quickly affect security in another. In this environment no state, no matter how powerful, can meet its security needs alone. Nor is the security front line any respecter of borders. The front line in the battle for security now exists simultaneously in the battlefields of Afghanistan, in the fragile states of Africa and the Middle East, in our public health arrangements to deal with biothreats and in our attempts to counter radicalisation.
In response to this we need a new era of multinational institution- building, and a deepened level of security and defence collaboration inside the EU. On both, we need to match the talking with action.
There is clearly a need for the Security Council to be reformed, to bring in new permanent members such as India, Brazil and South Africa. This would make it more reflective of today's world. We shouldn't, however, stop reform of the UN - or perhaps even start it - with the Security Council itself. There are other, more realistic goals. The UN needs to be seen more as an important conferrer of legitimacy on international action, rather than always as the implementer of action itself. It needs to direct additional financial and logistical support to regional organisations, such as the African Union, particularly in conflict prevention and the provision of well-trained and equipped peacekeeping forces. We should also reinforce important UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation.
Beyond the UN, we need a new era of treaty-based action. What we have in mind here is not John McCain's idea of a League of Democracies, which has a “return to the Cold War” mentality written all over it, but a more issue-based approach that strengthens treaties and institutions that already exist to address specific challenges. Examples here include the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Criminal Court and a post-Kyoto climate change framework. We also need to create new treaties and multilateral institutions to support them, to deal with issues such as global energy co-ordination, internet crime, terrorism and small arms.
In Europe there is no area of threat that couldn't be more effectively addressed through deeper collaborative effort. The EU is learning how to use elements of soft power to promote European interests abroad and to promote stability in the wider European neighbourhood. But multilateral co-operation at European level must also involve greater defence co-operation if it is to be taken seriously. The drive to create EU battle groups should be accelerated, made fully compatible with Nato response forces and should form the basis of an emerging European counter-insurgency capacity capable of operating in failed states and post-conflict environments. This will be vital if we are called upon by the UN or others to extend public authority into some of the ungoverned spaces that globalisation is helping to generate.
We also need improved EU intelligence co-operation to combat terrorism and organised crime, the creation of integrated EU special forces, and a serious increase in gendarmerie forces. But even this will not be enough. The EU nations don't just need collaboration on new formations, they need to spend money on the right kit, on the right numbers of troops with the right training to handle today's complex missions; and above all they need to be prepared to use it all. This means more collaboration in defence planning and procurement - to make the European whole greater than the sum of the national parts, but it also means far greater political will than has been on show so far.
For the first time in more than 200 years we are moving into a world not wholly dominated by the West. If we want to influence this environment rather than be held to ransom by it, and if we want to take hold of some of the worrying features of globalisation, then real, practical multilateralism is a strategic necessity, not a liberal nicety.
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen is a former General-Secretary of Nato, and Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon was the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia & Herzegovina. They are co-chairmen of the IPPR Commission on National Security in the 21st century.

Monday 16 June 2008
‘The plan now is to quarantine Ireland’
BRUSSELS: The Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph reports on the EU’s plans to forge ahead.
Bruno Waterfield

The European Union is getting used to rejection.
Ireland’s ‘No’ vote had a feeling of inevitability about it. So too does the ‘business as usual’ response of keeping the Treaty ratification show on the road. While there is bound to be haggling over the future of the Lisbon Treaty, itself drafted to find a way around French and Dutch rejections of the European Constitution three years ago, the EU finally seems to have divorced itself from Europe’s citizens.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, made it clear that for him there was no great shock in the Irish vote. ‘It is not an accident, it is not a surprise. Many Europeans don’t understand how we are building Europe’, he said on Saturday. This message was underlined by José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, within hours of Ireland’s ‘No’ vote being announced. ‘The Treaty of Lisbon intends to solve specific problems. The “No” vote in Ireland does not solve the problems’, he said: ‘When 27 governments decided to adopt the Treaty of Lisbon they did not just do it for fun. They have done it because there is a problem and we should find a new way of working together in an enlarged EU. The problem is still there.’
The message is coming through loud and clear: the Irish people just don’t get it. One, the Lisbon Treaty is there because Europe’s leaders agreed it for the good of Europeans, to address problems such as climate change and terrorism. Two, the Irish could only help solve the problems by saying ‘Yes’. Three, ‘No’ is not a proper, or helpful, answer.
Ria Oomen, a right-wing Dutch MEP, spoke for many. ‘I feel very sad that just one per cent of the EU population can sink this deal’, she lamented. Or as La Libre Belgique opined: ‘What allows less than a quarter (!) of the population of an island of four million inhabitants to block institutional reform of an EU which numbers 500 million?’
This is completely undemocratic arithmetic. The Irish ‘No’ counts more than any of the 18 Treaty ratifications carried out so far, because it was a popular vote. The 862,415 Irish who voted ‘No’ count more because they are more real than other EU populations who have been cited as political ciphers by their governments in the ratification process. Ireland’s ‘No’ followed decisions taken by people involved in a living political campaign. It was not another mere statistical ‘Yes’, to be marshalled by EU apologists after denying referendums in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland and elsewhere. On 12 June, a survey published in the Volkskrant newspaper, a Netherlands equivalent to the UK Guardian, found that 60 per cent of Dutch people wanted the Irish to vote ‘No’. Across Europe, opinion poll after opinion poll has found that the majority of people are against the Lisbon Treaty or in favour of a referendum on it.
Hans-Gert Pöttering, the European Parliament’s president, also used the dubious maths system to point the way ahead. ‘The rejection of the Treaty text by one European Union country cannot mean that the ratifications which have already been carried out by 18 EU countries become invalid’, he said. ‘The ratifications in the other EU member states must be respected just as much as the Irish vote. For that reason, the ratification process must continue in those member states which have not yet ratified.’
This strategy, agreed almost unanimously by Europe’s capitals, shows that EU leaders are determined to isolate Ireland and minimise any future shifts away from what was agreed in the old European Constitution and then in the newer Lisbon Treaty. Three years ago, when the French and Dutch voted against the Constitution, the EU faced other referendums in Britain, Denmark, Ireland and elsewhere. Tony Blair, the then British PM, effectively called it off. ‘After these two “No” votes, and let’s be very honest, if there was a referendum in most parts of Europe at the moment, the answer would be no’, he said, at a press conference following a meeting in June 2005 with Jacques Chirac. This time the refusal of referendums in many EU countries, including Britain, has left the Irish standing alone.
‘This time the scenario is radically different’, said Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper on Saturday. ‘The idea is to completely isolate Ireland.’ EU officials and diplomats are keenly aware that if any other countries halt ratification after the Irish referendum, then the Treaty is finished - in the sense that it will be 2005 all over again. If 26 countries out of the EU’s 27 have ratified the Treaty, then the negotiations, where there will be different camps, can continue, albeit on a different footing.
Some time late this year, a quarantined Ireland can be told to agree to new proposals - either for ‘opt-outs’ permitting a second Irish referendum or a special ‘legal arrangement’ to allow the other 26 EU countries to move on without Dublin. The Lisbon Treaty may then live on; there might be a legal fix, there might not, and the Treaty may even fall. All of these are possible options. Only one thing is sure: whatever the legal arrangement, the EU will move on. One key lesson from 2005 is that the EU can operate at the pragmatic level regardless of what voters think. Writing in The Times (London) at the weekend, Britain’s former Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, revealed the bottom line: ‘Ways will be found to make Europe work, with or without the Treaty. For both pro- and anti-Europeans, things have not changed so utterly at all.’
‘The Irish people - the bastards - have spoken.’ That was the text message reportedly sent by one Dublin official to Brussels on Friday night. Andrew Duff, a UK Liberal Democrat MEP who helped write the original EU Constitution, was equally dismissive. ‘It’s such a toxic cocktail of anti-globalisers, neocons, the clergy and Trotskyists. Frankly, we’re in a big mess’, he said on Friday. It has become very fashionable to sneer at the Irish ‘No’; everywhere in Brussels there is prejudice against the ‘No’ lobby’s ‘populism’.
Many ‘Yes’ types have been horrified that Irish people voted ‘No’ because they ‘don’t know what they are voting for or they don’t understand the Treaty’. Jean Quatremer, Libération’s EU correspondent and the man behind the Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, was aghast. ‘Interesting isn’t it? They don’t understand, therefore they vote no. Brilliant.’ Jon Worth of Euroblog wrote: ‘Essentially, people are voting no, well, because they just don’t know… Get a grip folks!’
Yet in Ireland the ‘Yes’ side positively urged people not to read the Treaty, after the French reacted badly to being sent a copy of its Constitution forebear in 2005. Instead, ‘Yes’ supporters preferred raising ‘awareness’ of scary cross-border global security and climate change threats that invite action at the European level. Charlie McCreevy, Ireland’s EU commissioner, a Treaty supporter, stirred it up early in the campaign by saying he did not expect ‘any sane and sensible person’ to read the Treaty they were to vote on. ‘I don’t expect ordinary decent Irish people, or anywhere in the globe, to be sitting down and spending hours and hours reading sections about subsections referring to articles about sub-articles’, he said.
A leaked British Foreign Office memorandum, which went totally unreported in the UK press but did hit the headlines in Ireland, also unhelpfully picked up on Ireland’s turgid Treaty Bill. ‘The draft, largely incomprehensible to the lay reader, had been agreed following lengthy consultation with government lawyers and with the political parties’, said the memo, reporting back on a briefing by a senior Irish official. ‘Most people would not have the time to study the text’, it said.
Such contemptuous references to the capacity of the Irish people to decide on a ‘complex’ document were a pivotal factor in the ‘Yes’ campaign. The truth of the matter was, and is, that Europe’s elites are instinctively uneasy about people reading a text that was not written for them in the first place. And Irish voters reacted accordingly. The EU is not a system of representation or a public authority. It is a set of institutions and relationships that has emerged for the convenience of national state bureaucracies. EU treaties and texts are written for European officialdom, not for the peoples of Europe.
Bruno Waterfield is Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

From June 16, 2008

Ireland under pressure as EU foreign ministers pick up the pieces of Lisbon Treaty

Ireland will today appeal for time to work out if it can save the Lisbon treaty as shell-shocked EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg to debate how to cope with the country's dramatic "no" vote.
The eight member nations yet to pass the latest EU treaty, including Britain, are being urged to continue their ratification processes to keep the document alive and in turn pile pressure on the government in Dublin to try a second referendum next year.
Ministers will hear a presentation from Micheal Martin, the Irish Foreign Minister, at the start of an extended lunchtime discussion on the way forward for Ireland and the EU.
Despite the deep frustration among EU ministers that the only referendum on their new rule book among 27 members resulted in rejection, no clear answers are expected to emerge today.
The EU's senior leaders are desperate to keep a lid on speculation about a two-speed Europe, which would leave Ireland behind. They are also leading a drive to stop other countries pronouncing the treaty dead.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, is in Prague to stiffen Czech resolve and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is meeting the Polish PM Donald Tusk in Gdansk.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, appealed for a calm and "respectful" response to the Irish vote, aware that Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg appeared to be ready to bully Ireland by issuing an ultimatum: pass the treaty or else.
"Today is a first chance for us to listen to the Irish foreign minister, to hear his preliminary assessment," Mr Miliband said as he arrived in Luxembourg.
"That will then continue at the European Council on Thursday and Friday, so I think listening is the order of the day."
He confirmed that Britain would press ahead with its treaty ratification on Wednesday, when it is due to complete its passage through the House of Lords.
"We must give the Irish space. To stand up for the right of the British parliament to take a clear view is the absolute democratic right of a British representative."
The mood among most of the foreign ministers seems to be to avoid rushing to say anything that would kill the treaty, despite the Irish vote.
Ursula Plassnik, the Austrian Foreign Minister, said: "We have to pursue our goal to make the European Union more efficient and more relevant to the citizen. That is why this process will not be stopped."
William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said that the Government should admit the treaty was dead.
"I just wish our Government would give a lead instead of saying let's see what everyone else does," he said. "The only point in other countries continuing to ratify the treaty is to put pressure on the Irish, to bully the Irish."

From June 16, 2008

True believers could quit EU

The prospect of a “two-speed Europe” is being discussed in European capitals as an answer to the deep crisis that would face the EU if the Irish Government were to rule out a rerun of its referendum. Under the plan, a group of countries that ratified the Lisbon treaty would find a legal way of forging ahead in a “core EU”, while Ireland — and anyone else not willing to join the advance party — would be frozen out. Serious consideration to this idea is under way in Germany, France and Luxembourg, but Britain and others are firmly opposed.
In reality, the EU already moves at different speeds, a process set to become more common as the number of member states continues to grow. Britain has various opt-outs from EU decision-making, including those affecting justice and home affairs, while Poland was due to join the British opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights under the Lisbon treaty.
Provision for “enhanced co-operation” was made in the Nice treaty of 2003 but is rarely used: even the most ardent federalists know how damaging it would be for the EU to splinter into different camps. Also, it cannot be used for the kind of institutional changes at the centre of the Lisbon treaty. A cadre of “true believers” cannot push on with a president of the European Council or extra powers for the European Parliament without a fresh treaty signed by all members. Ultimately, the only way a hard core could go it alone is by doing just that — by reforming as a “Lisbon treaty club” and leaving the EU behind.
From June 15, 2008

Niel O'Brien: How can our No vote mean nothing to European leaders?

Irish voters sent a clear message to Brussels last week: we won’t be bullied into “ever closer union”. And if you had any doubts that voting against the Lisbon treaty was the right decision, then the reaction following Thursday’s vote should have put those to rest. From the moment it became clear that the No campaign was going to win, Europe’s political elite has been parading in front of the TV cameras to assure anyone who will listen that they won’t be influenced by the Irish decision.
Ireland only voted, they claim, because the people are “xenophobic”. That’s a polite word for racism. Oh yes, neither did the Irish know what they were doing. Another slur, but one that we should be getting used to by now.
There is a determination in Brussels to carry on as if nothing has happened. In total defiance of the wishes of the Irish people, Germany and France have jointly called for the ratification process around Europe to continue. Britain is in on the act, too. Gordon Brown phoned Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday to promise that Britain would still ratify the treaty.
The Dutch prime minister has also called for ratification to proceed. Maybe I’m missing something, but didn’t two-thirds of his own people vote against the treaty? The president of the commission, Jose Barroso, said in reaction to the No vote: “The treaty is not dead. The treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution.” With that kind of reaction, you begin to wonder why Ireland was allowed a vote at all.
One reason why the Euro elite is so upset is that they threw everything at winning this vote. The Irish government and its enormous group of Yes campaigners used every trick in the book to try and convince voters to accept the reheated EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters three years ago.
From suggesting that taxi drivers should be banned from putting “I’m voting No” stickers on their bumpers, to empty promises to farmers about a nonexistent power to veto the world trade talks, the government pulled out all the stops. But voters saw through the Yes campaign’s flimsy case.
In the Brussels bubble the discussion now is all about how to force-feed the country a treaty that it says it doesn’t want. After all, the wheels have already been set in motion. There are big empty offices in Brussels waiting for the new EU leaders to take up their posts. A little country like Ireland can’t be allowed to get in the way.
One option being discussed by Eurocrats is to repeat their Nice treaty tactics, a second referendum following some kind of phoney special “declaration” for Ireland. This is unlikely to work. Nobody can seriously expect Ireland to vote again. You can only reheat the same meal so many times without running a serious risk of food poisoning.
In 2001, the government said the 35% turnout for the original Nice Treaty vote wasn’t decisive enough and therefore another vote was needed. That definitely won’t wash this time with the turnout at over 53%.
Another Euro plan is to repeat the same farce that followed the French and Dutch rejections. This involved going away for a while and coming back with a rebranded treaty, but maintaining almost all its original content. No doubt it would come back with a cunning new name too: how about the Treaty of Dublin?
Neither possibility should happen. No is no — how complicated is that? In order to save itself from total democratic meltdown Europe needs to get back to square one. It’s not that difficult either. They only have to revive the Laeken Declaration of 2000, in which EU leaders acknowledged there was a gaping hole between the people and the politicians. The declaration said that it was time to start thinking about bringing powers back to the member states.
Unfortunately, that whole idea fell flat on its face when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president, was put in charge of turning these goals into reality. Instead of returning powers back to member states, he drew up a European constitution that transferred even more powers to the EU.
Despite what the political class are saying, this really was a vote against deeper integration. The polls show that the top reasons for voting No were not an unpopular government, worries about tax or concerns about abortion laws. People didn’t like
the treaty itself and didn’t want further powers to move to the European centre.
The No vote is not the end of the story — it’s the start of a new battle. It looks like the Eurocrats are learning the wrong lesson. They think the No vote shows that in future the public must be cut out of the process entirely. Andrew Duff, a federalist British MEP, said it was a “mad idea” to hold a referendum at all.
This week at the European Council a coalition of small countries — Ireland, the Czech Republic, maybe Denmark or Sweden — will call for the treaty to be dropped. But they will come under intense pressure from the big members to carry on regardless.
Britain is now making noises about backing Ireland but may yet end up in the posse calling for the treaty to go ahead. Having denied the British people a referendum on the text, Brown is intensely embarrassed by the Irish vote. Like a man caught with his pants down, the prime minister plans to hurry the treaty through the House of Commons.
But he is already coming under enormous pressure to either halt the whole process, or call a referendum and let the people decide. He may have crumbled before next weekend. Other European leaders may also be forced to listen to their voters soon.
That meeting in Brussels this week will be a decisive moment. Coming just a couple of weeks before France is due to take over the rotating sixth-month EU council presidency (during which it had planned to ramp up moves towards EU integration), the meeting will be Ireland’s one chance to call a stop to the process of ratification and make Europe listen.
Given last week’s vote it would be nothing short of outrageous if politicians try to ignore the Irish referendum. But that is exactly what they plan to do. The Italian president has already said so: “It is unthinkable that the decision of half the voters of a country that represents less than 1% of the EU can stop the reform process.” The Belgian prime minister agrees: “We need to assure in any case the entry into force of the treaty.”
Watching the reaction to the No votes, you wonder if Europe isn’t set to have its own Ceausescu moment. Remember that? As the Soviet Union began to fall apart, the Romanian dictator made a speech to a great crowd as he had done for decades. But for the first time the people began to boo and hiss. In response, party officials played loud canned applause over the sound from huge loudspeakers. But the people began to boo and hiss even louder. Finally — baffled that his loyal citizens should have turned on him so suddenly — Ceausescu turned and fled.
Of course he should have seen it coming. But he couldn’t because he had lived in a bubble for years, ignoring the problems his country faced and listening only to yes-men who told him what a great job he was doing.
The EU is not the USSR, but the Brussels bubble is rather similar insofar as the people who work in it can’t understand why the people are not blissfully happy with their wonderful achievements. They are about to get a rude awakening. This time No really does mean No.
Neil O’Brien is director of Open Europe

EU must give Ireland time - Brown
Gordon Brown has said EU leaders must agree to give Dublin "time to reflect" on its next steps over the EU treaty.
Voters in the Irish Republic - the only state to hold a referendum - rejected the treaty, which must be ratified by all 27 EU members, on Friday.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband, after meeting EU colleagues, told MPs that ratification in the UK would go ahead.
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the UK should halt ratification and make clear the treaty was finished.
The Bill to ratify the treaty is nearing the end of its progression through Parliament.
The House of Lords is due to hold the third reading of the Bill on 18 June.
Economic reform
There has been a long running campaign for there to be a British referendum on the treaty, which was drawn up after the EU constitution was killed off by referendum defeats in France and Holland.
A referendum had been promised by all the main parties on the constitution, but UK ministers have said a referendum was not needed on the EU treaty, claiming it did not have constitutional implications.

Is it not now clear beyond that there is profound opposition among the peoples of Europe over the substance of this treaty?
William Hague
Shadow foreign secretary
The Conservatives led calls for a referendum on the treaty, saying that it was virtually identical to the abandoned constitution.
During exchanges in the Commons Mr Hague said the Irish people had been "courageous" in the face of threats from some EU politicians.
And the republic had displayed true democracy by holding a referendum, adding that the result - 53.4% of Irish voters voted "no" - should be respected.
"Is it not now clear beyond that there is profound opposition among the peoples of Europe over the substance of this treaty?" he added.
Mr Miliband said the rules of the treaty and the EU were clear - "all 27 member states must ratify the treaty for it to come into force".
Tackling terrorism
"There is no question of ignoring the Irish vote or bulldozing Irish opinion," he said.
However, he added: "The government believes ratification should proceed as planned."
For the generally pro-EU Liberal Democrats, foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said the UK should not pre-judge what might happen at the meeting of EU leaders later this week.
He received an assurance from Mr Miliband that the UK would not ratify the treaty before the EU summit.
Mr Davey said the EU had worked adequately in recent times, so with or without the Lisbon treaty, the focus should now move on to concentrating on issues like economic reform and tackling terrorism.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/06/16 16:50:25 GMT


EU crisis talks begin

  • Mark Mardell
  • 16 Jun 08, 12:10 PM
The foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg will be keen to hear what Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche, who played a big role in the referendum, has to say for himself. His thrust will be "keep calm, give us time, don't push us too hard". Click here to listen to what he said to me:
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The UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, on the way into the meeting, said that Britain would continue to ratify: "It would be a bizarre situation for every country to take a view about the Lisbon Treaty but for Britain to refuse to take a view," he told me.
But what will happen next? People are starting to back one of three options:
Ireland votes again;
Abandon Lisbon;
Move ahead without Ireland.
Luxembourg's foreign minister has suggested that Ireland could be given assurances about defence and abortion: a clear prelude to a second vote.

The new Italian foreign minister, former commissioner Franco Frattini, said as he went in that the referendum was "a cold shower, but Europe does not stop for this". Perhaps that is close to the third position.
No one senior is talking about leaving Ireland out in the cold, but some MEPs are in favour of this "coalition of the willing" and there is a suspicion that this is the French and German fall-back position if Ireland doesn't vote again. Mr Miliband is clearly against. He told me Ireland must not be bulldozed, and that it was written in "black and white" that the treaty must be backed by all 27 countries.
They are still in the first meeting as I write and the real discussion will be over lunch, which lasts until four in the afternoon. It's alright for some.

Why politicians hate referendums

  • Mark Mardell
  • 16 Jun 08, 01:00 AM
It was a long Friday the 13th.
The last broadcast on the Irish "No" out of the way, we wearily made our way back home from Dublin Castle, though Temple Bar, the area of Dublin filled with clubs and bars.
A group of young men, pints in hand, tattoos on their necks, having a quick fag outside a Chinese restaurant wanted to shout "No, to Lisbon!" into our camera. Too late, the day was done.
One of them asked, "Is it really true they would have re-introduced the death penalty if we'd voted 'Yes'?"
This is, of course, why many politicians hate referendums. People will vote on many issues, some nothing to do with the issue at hand, some pure fantasy.
Ireland's worries?
This means it is almost impossible to answer the question posed by some who want to press ahead with Lisbon. Politicians who argue that ratification should continue say a second vote is possible. They say, "We have to find out what worries the Irish had, and deal with them." This is too rational by half.
The Irish were worried by many things? There were many things, some true, some not, some specific, some very general.
Referendums may be a bad way of dealing with complex legal treaties, but this vote was about the European Union. No-one can argue that this was a protest against the Irish government - Brian Cowen's poll ratings were sky high when he recently became Irish prime minister.
Some voted about specific issues, like abortion and taxation. Some voted against the general drift of the European Union. But many I spoke to didn't understand the treaty.
Unsexy debates
Some argue that means Lisbon is awful, by definition. On Friday I took part in a BBC Radio 5Live discussion with the editor of the Irish Sun, who argued it was difficult to understand, and therefore nonsense and so people were right to vote against it.
I think this line of logic is hard to sustain. Most treaties, most diplomatic agreements, and indeed most proposed laws have to be written in complex legal language. They are, by their very nature, difficult for even specialists to understand. If you can't boil it down to a simple headline, then it is very difficult for busy people with busy lives to engage in the arguments.
Purely in a sprit of fantasy politics, I make the suggestion of offering a string of referendums before negotiations on single issues. Are you in favour of an EU foreign minister? EU embassies? Fewer commissioners? A change to the voting system? A president for the European Council?
These may not be the sexiest debates to have over a pint, but you can discuss them sensibly. Then a government would know where its red lines were.
It will die
But back to reality. Foreign ministers will meet in Luxembourg today and start talking about "What next?". So they will first ask "What does Ireland want?"
If the answer is, "Not a second referendum", then there will be more talk about a two-speed Europe. I read a fair amount of stuff in newspapers about going ahead as a group of 26 without Ireland. They may be right if a way can be found of carrying on with most countries operating under Lisbon rules, with Ireland trailing behind.
But none of my sources think this is either sensible or possible. You can opt out of the euro - you can't opt out of a voting system, or the number of commissioners.
My hunch (and it is an informed guess, I won't eat my hat or beat myself up if I turn out to be wrong ) hasn't changed: Lisbon may not be dead, but it will die.

Irish No sparks EU crisis

  • Mark Mardell
  • 13 Jun 08, 03:55 PM
What does Ireland's No mean for the European Union? Here is a longer version of my thoughts for Radio 4's 1800 bulletin.
This is a multiple crisis. The Lisbon Treaty itself is a watered-down version of the European constitution, which was abandoned after it was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands three years ago. Lisbon was only stitched together after tortuous negotiations, carefully balancing the competing wishes and concerns of 27 countries. To go back to the drawing board is unthinkable to those who would have to do the work, as well as fairly pointless.
So it's a crisis about what happens to the ambitions and the rule changes in the documents.
Some politicians, particularly in France, will want Ireland to vote again - perhaps after a concession allowing all countries to keep a commissioner.
But it is also a crisis about legitimacy. The Irish voted No to the Nice Treaty in 2001 and were asked to vote again a year later. That time they said Yes. The Danish voted No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 - and voted Yes a year later. The French and Dutch rejected the constitution in 2005 and the leaders designed Lisbon instead.

If Ireland is asked to vote again, voices saying that the EU doesn't understand the word "no" can only grow louder. In the end Lisbon could be declared dead. Some bits would be implemented without a treaty, others abandoned and others put into a new treaty when Croatia joins the EU in a couple of years' time. So it's also a moral crisis: we face another few years of potentially boring navel-gazing, when some European leaders say the only way to sell the EU is to deal with things like climate change, immigration and terrorism.
Friday 13th may turn out to be very unlucky indeed for those who believe in the EU project... not that it will stop them trying to press ahead regardless.

Ireland votes No - what next?

  • Mark Mardell
  • 13 Jun 08, 12:53 PM
Ireland has voted No to Lisbon. For European Union politicians who back the treaty it is indeed an unlucky Friday 13th. But what will they do?
The plan is that all other countries will press ahead with backing the treaty. I am told Gordon Brown has phoned the French president to assure him that is what he will do. But this surely is just a holding pattern. Without Ireland on board Lisbon is dead.
The ball is in the court of the Irish prime minister. Many politicians in Europe will hope that he will, at some later date, call another referendum. It's likely that even some No campaigners in Ireland will urge him to go back and demand some concessions. If he went down that route Brian Cowen would be taking a grave political gamble, risking another No. If the EU demands another vote it will hardly enhance its reputation for democratic accountability.

European Treaty: Irish plan to get around 'no' vote

By Bruno Waterfield 11/06/2008

Officials in Brussels are working on plans to ensure that the European Treaty is still implemented elsewhere if Ireland votes against it in the referendum. Although measures such as creating an EU president, "foreign minister" and European diplomatic service may be delayed, they are still expected to be introduced. One diplomat said a "bridging mechanism" was being discussed. If Ireland rejects the treaty, it may simply be removed from the list of signatories and will not be legally obliged to abide by it. By late 2009 or early 2010, when Croatia joins the EU, an amending "Accession Treaty" will be signed by all members including Dublin.

Incorporated into it would be a series of protocol texts giving paper "opt-outs" on controversial Irish EU issues, such as taxation powers or greater military co-operation. Such texts would be similar to Britain's existing protocol opt-outs on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and social issues in the Lisbon Treaty text being ratified in Westminster.

Ireland, like the rest of the Europe, does not hold referendums on EU enlargement treaties and with new protocol opt-outs Dublin may get a new Accession Treaty past the Irish parliament without a popular vote. "This mechanism would be no more incomprehensible or legalistic than the Treaty itself," said one official. "It is probably no more difficult than the legal footwork necessary to turn the Constitutional Treaty into [the] Lisbon [Treaty] after the French and Dutch rejected it. The issue will be timing."

In recent weeks, Irish officials have held secret talks to implement the Lisbon Treaty regardless of any referendum on the text. During talks to create an EU diplomatic corps on May 7 and May 13, Irish diplomats presented a position on the composition of the European External Action Service and role of the EU's new "foreign minister". Secret minutes seen by The Daily Telegraph show that Ireland's EU ambassador, Bobby McDonagh, pleaded with his colleagues to keep the talks and Dublin's position confidential. "[We] have to remain cautious in presenting these issues [referendum]!," the minutes record.

The House of Lords rejected a Conservative bid to force a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, with Liberal Democrat peers siding with the Government to defeat the move by 280 votes to 218.

The Lords must stop Gordon Brown bulldozing Lisbon Treaty through

By David Owen 15/06/2008

The British political system has often been admired for its pragmatism. We are not, by instinct, an ideological people. On Wednesday, when the text of the Lisbon Treaty is due to receive its third and final reading in the House of Lords, peers have the chance to reinforce that reputation and demonstrate that we respect the Irish referendum. Also to reject with conviction any attempt to stampede parliament into premature acceptance of the Treaty. It is our right as parliamentarians, on behalf of our citizens, to demand of our Government that it uses the opportunity given by the Irish rejection to refashion the working of the EU in a manner which will command more support and reduce public hostility or indifference.

The Government wants the Lords to ignore the Irish "No" vote and go ahead and ratify the Treaty, even though it cannot now come into law, as planned, on January 1, 2009 - and will probably never come into law in its present form. By any conceivable test of democratic procedure, the House of Lords should vote to put Treaty ratification on ice, at least until there is an agreed EU policy as to how to handle the Irish "No" vote. To simply plough ahead on a straight vote to accept or reject the EU (Amendment) Bill is to demonstrate nothing less than a contempt for the democracy on which the European Union is supposed to be founded.

What is needed is an all-party motion to postpone the third reading on the legislation, and this ought to be carried by peers regardless of how they voted in the committee and report Stages of the Bill. Indeed, I hope that peers who, for a variety of reasons, may not have been able or did not wish to vote on the referendum debate last week will this coming Wednesday make a real effort to attend. We have, after all, been faced with this question before. In 2005, prior to the vote in Holland and France on the EU Constitutional Treaty, Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, promised that the referendum in Britain would go ahead regardless of how those countries voted.

Nevertheless, after they voted "No" he cancelled the referendum, arguing it would be absurd to continue until it was clear how the EU was going to respond. In fact, as we know, there was a cynical repackaging of the Treaty. No one knows at the moment - and certainly it cannot be resolved until the European Council meets on Thursday and Friday - what will emerge. It seems that the Irish Government will ask for time to consider how to handle the situation, if for no other reason than that on this occasion there was a far higher turnout and this makes it very hard to have a second referendum, as happened when Ireland voted "No" to the Nice Treaty in 2001.

Nor can the second referendum held by Denmark after the Danes voted "No" to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 be cited as a precedent, given that the French and Dutch voters have already demonstrated that the Irish are not alone on this issue. Though some countries may demand that the EU goes ahead with 26 out of its 27 member states implementing the Treaty, putting Ireland into some form of limbo, there is no legal mechanism for doing this and not much political enthusiasm for it either.

The likelihood is that, slowly, the member states will tease out those parts of Lisbon that can legitimately be implemented without treaty amendment, and quietly give up on those aspects that cannot. The Treaty has always been a package of measures supported with varying enthusiasms by different countries.

A lot of small member states have never liked the Blair proposal to appoint a president of the European Council who is not a head of government, yet it would still be perfectly possible to bring greater consistency by agreeing a procedure whereby one member state in the group holds the presidency of the European Council for 18 months, as opposed to the current limit of six months.

Some countries pay only lip service to the desirability of extra powers for the European parliament, particularly when they watch its MEPs' total inability to grapple with the corruption in the handling of their own expenses. Member states are also divided about reducing the number of European commissioners. There are many examples where there is flexibility for more efficient working relationships to be established while accepting that the Lisbon Treaty is dead.

In truth, Lisbon was not just about making the Commission work effectively. If it had been, there would be far less opposition. The problem was that the Lisbon Treaty also pushed forward integration, and it was this aspect above all which French, Dutch and now Irish voters disliked. It is very hard for the political elite in Europe to accept that their dream of ever-greater integration does not carry conviction with their own electorates. They refused to admit this when France and Holland voted "No" and instead pretended that public resistance could be overcome by committing themselves privately to not having any referenda.

Fortunately for the EU's democracy the Irish constitution demanded such a step and the Irish people have now spoken for millions in Europe. Yet still the elite try and pretend that they can avoid facing the reality that their dream of integration in many countries is unloved and unsupported.

Lord Owen was UK Foreign Secretary, 1977-79

The Czechs have hammered another nail into the coffin of the Lisbon treaty by declaring that ratification must stop.

EU referendum: Czech president says Lisbon Treaty project is over

By Justin Stares 14/06/2008

Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who is supported by the country's largest political party, called the Irish referendum vote a "victory of freedom and reason" and said "ratification cannot continue". His view was echoed in the Czech senate. "Politicians have allowed the citizens to express their opinion only in a single EU country," Mr Klaus said.

"The Lisbon treaty project ended with the Irish voters' decision and its ratification cannot continue," he wrote on his own website, according to Czech news agency CTK. The resounding Irish no was a "victory of freedom and reason over artificial elitist projects and European bureaucracy," he said.

Premysl Sobotka, Czech senate chairman, also said there was "no sense" continuing with ratification, according to the agency.

The Czech Republic, traditionally one of the more Euro-sceptic of the EU's 27 member states, is one of nine countries which have not yet ratified the treaty. While little opposition to continued ratification has been seen yet among leaders of the other eight, efforts to keep the Lisbon Treaty alive in any form would be near impossible if another country joined Ireland in rejection.

A summit of EU leaders will look for possible solutions to the institutional crisis next week.