It is No, then. I’m pleased, I must say. It’s not that I’m a Eurospectic: I’m not. Actually I think most of the content of the Treaty is perfectly reasonable. Why I would have voted no, and why I’m glad this has happened, is because I’m deeply frustrated by the arrogance of the leaders of the EU – Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and the rest – in seeming over the last three years to want to press ahead with the Constitution regardless of the wishes of the people they serve. The only leaders I’d acquit of this arrogance are the Spanish: they put the Constitution to a referendum and the Spanish said yes.
It’s high time that European leaders realised that these No votes are the result of people’s feeling that they have no influence over Europe: they are lashing out and punishing the politicians for not listening to them before now. They are demanding that politicians come to heel, in effect, and recognise who’s the boss. So will they? I’m not a conservative, but I have to admit that David Cameron, in his reaction to the news from Dublin, seems to have understood what’s happening and is reacting appropriately. This is now an ex-Treaty and should be buried. It is absolute nonsense to say the EU will seize up without Lisbon – it won’t. Laws are still being made in Brussels as we speak.
If politicians now refuse to accept this completely, then opposition, resentment and anger toward the EU will increase and deepen, and frankly I fear for the future of the Union because I think it would make the eventual departure of some member state – maybe the UK, maybe France, maybe Ireland – more likely. Today will be a truly great day for Europe if politicians get the message, stop empty rhetoric about bringing Europe closer to its people and do something to make that a reality.
In practical terms? I don’t think it matters whether the UK ratifies or not; declining to would show a correct understanding of what’s happening, but the Treaty can’t come into effect, so it’s irrelevant. Anyone who talks of a second Irish referendum is endangering Europe’s future: anyone who suggests it an arrogant fool, and no real friend of European integration. The best thing would be for EU leaders simply to draw a line under this – not contemplate negotiated alternatives or “ways forward”, all of which sound like a desire to ignore the Irish – abandon the Treaty and have a period of silence on Treaty change. Ten years would be a good round period for that I think although if politicians begin to act more humbly people may be able to accept modest proposals before then.
As for Treaty change some time in the future? I think any future changes should be made piecemeal: each specific reform – changing voting weights, for instance – needs to be put to all the people of Europe individually, and get assent from a majority in every member state. Yes, it sounds demanding, but then democracy is demanding. It’s the only way to create a really democratic Europe and stop the growing Euroresentment that’s far from just a British or Irish phenomenon.