It’s not been a big news story, but if you think about it, it could be one of the biggest political stories of 2008: on Thursday, Irish voters choose in a referendum whether or not to approve the Treaty of Lisbon, replacing the doomed European Constitution and reforming the existing EU treaties.

It’s always been doubtful which way this would go. As early as last November polls were showing low enthusiasm for the Treaty – and a big majority of don’t yet knows. European internal market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has admitted the Treaty is a difficult sell and even two weeks ago, when polls showed the Yes camp slightly ahead, the suggestion was being raised that Ireland might be about to say No. While many people are still undecided, the latest Irish Times poll suggests that the Noes may now be a few points ahead. It’s close.

This is massive: if Ireland says no, even by a decimal point, the Treaty will be dead. Well, if not dead legally then at least in a vegetative state: all member states must ratify for the Treaty to take effect. But I think it will be dead politically, and with its demise EU will be in its biggest crisis so far. The wrong response from politicians – I think even supporters of the Treaty would reject it, and they certainly should – would be to plan for a second referendum at some point to try and get the right answer. It’s been done before, and I think that tactic should be consigned to Europe’s past. Europe and the Treaty have already lost respect because of politicians’ obvious decision to ignore the results of the French and Dutch referendums in 2005, and EU leaders need to start listening to European citizens.

The right response would be to accept that the entire “Future of Europe” Constitution project was probably a mistake from the start, certainly went badly off the rails in 2003 (if not earlier) and that the EU should simply get on with its actual job and forget about institutional change for at least ten years.

There’s an executive blogreader’s summary of the campaign and polls at Wikipedia; and here are a few links to help you follow the campaign. First, the Yes to Lisbon website. Second, Libertas, which is campaigning against the Treaty. And finally, the Irish Referendum Commission’s official site. You can listen to an RTE radio debate on the Treaty from yesterday, here, and RTE has webpages dedicated to the campaign and a Lisbon Treaty blog.

2008-06-10T03:39:00+00:00Tags: , , |