Monday, June 09, 2008

Lisbon:Lisboa - holding my nose and voting...

It's not a bad treaty, it's also not a very good treaty. I don't hate it, I don't much love it either. Yet I've got to have an opinion on it and I've got to vote. So what to do, well I suppose I should go over some of the basic arguments in my head.

It's long and complex: Yeah so what? Do you think a legal document should be written in baby speak? Or on the back of a cereal box?

You don't know anything about it: Then read it, Ok I read it. Perhaps I skimmed most of it. But I got the gist of it. (we're the good guys right?)

You don't understand it, then find someone you trust and listen to what they have to say on it and then think some more about it yourself.

So, where does that leave me? Blurry eyed and owing people pints.

There are specific things I don't like about it. The absence of a commissioner for 5 out of 15 years is one. I think my own proposals on a rotating commission with seniors and juniors would be more workable that the idea of reducing to 2/3 (after all we could be back up to mid twenties commissioners inside of 10/20 years). That said, there may be other better ideas, the problem is that we didn't hear about them in advance and make a judgement on what we liked or disliked.

I think the lack of engagement by the government of the day with the public prior to setting off to negotiate the treaty was a mistake, bringing this sheaf of paper home like it was Jack's Magic Beans is so 19th century.

Gov: "Look we signed a new treaty isn't it great!"
Voters: "I thought you were going out to get milk and sell the cow?"

We're getting a President of the EU sure but it is not a US style president who gets to declare war and do things on his own. Rather it is one who is there to provide continuity between the Presidencies of the circus that moves around from country to country every 6 months and who does what he is told by the heads of the member states. Less of a President and more of a butler with travel privileges.

And as for the foreign minister, we've had Javier Solano wandering the world the last few years and he's not exactly embarrassed us by setting off fire alarms in buildings or nuking Pakistan.

I think there is a basic contradiction in the no argument about democracy when they talk about QMV and how awful it is that larger countries with more voters get a bigger say than we do. Democracy is all about giving those with more votes, more influence.

And then it comes down to this. Last night's Q&A was useful in demonstrating that there is no Plan B for us, rejecting the treaty because we might get something better is not a sensible option. We could actually get something worse and the li(n)e from Mary Lou MacDonald that she believes the government capable of getting a better deal next time when she doesn't believe they were competent to get an even passably good deal in the first place. Doubling up might be the way she rolls but there is a time to cash in your chips and sometimes that is when you're way up, and sometimes it is just when you're marginally ahead. Also, with their excessive tales of woe the No side lost me last night because if they're seeing all these things that obviously aren't there then maybe the more plausible things aren't there either or simply aren't as solvable as they claim. That said, many serious and genuine issues have been highlighted during this campaign and I hope to God that we learn or relearn in some cases the lessons of Nice I which were that public engagement during the process is as important as the last 3/4 weeks of the campaign.

A key point for me was the impression from the No side that we would be just renegotiating with the EU as an entity, when in fact with Lisbon dead, it would be all 27 member states negotiating with each other and God knows where that will lead us. I don't much like this treaty but I can live with it. The idea that we should say No just so as to spin the wheel again in the hope that we might get something better is fine for members of gamblers anonymous but is irresponsible in grown political leaders.

See the point is this, there are aspect of the Treaty I don't like and there are aspects you probably don't like but the areas I would change you might leave the same and the things you would change I would be loath to touch. So we end up with some middle ground document that we all can live with and that is what this treaty is. It's not exactly what we wanted but when do you get that when you're an adult?

So I'm not crazy about this treaty but rejecting it because it ain't perfect doesn't make much sense. Do I think we could have done better? Yes! Do I think that by voting No we will on the balance of probability get a better deal afterwards? No! For that reason, I'm voting Yes.


vid said...

great post . However one flaw in your judgment. In a worst case scanario we can vote again before the end of the year. Of course the yes side cant say because it would mobilise the no vote. But which is more likely another treaty with worse deal for Ireland or another go at lisbon.

FutureTaoiseach said...

I don’t agree with you. Surely the status-quo is a better deal than Lisbon? I reject the argument for change. Studies by the London School of Economics and Science Po University in Paris showed a 25% increase in the speed of EU decisionmaking since Nice so we don’t need to give up vetoes or our Commissioner 1/3rd of the time.

I am voting no to reject the loss of Irish independence. I have drastically changed my attitudes to the EU since Nice, largely because of issues like mass immigration and job displacement, water charges on schools, and my shock at the refusal of the EU to accept the French and Dutch no votes. Unlike France and Holland we have the kind of constitution that can only be changed by referenda, and the Czech’s are said to be working on a Plan B anyway. I will not vote for Vichy Mark II.

Dan Sullivan said...

FT, voting No does not lead to a preservation of the status quo even you mention some plan B in prospect.

You might have not noticed but it was the governments of the Netherlands and France that negotiated the Lisbon Treaty after their own voters rejected the constitution. Isn't it the job of the Dutch and French electorate to deal with their own governments if they see fit to and not our job to be demanding regime change in those countries? Where is your respect for independence there?

You realise that you personally have no absolutely no credibility whatsoever on issues like "mass immigration and job displacement, water charges on schools" because they are the result of Irish government decisions such as not seeking an exemption from the water charges on schools, or a postponement of the free movement of labour after accession. A government you were a very vocal supporter of. If you want to blame someone for those issues, take a long look in the mirror.

John Browne said...

Ahh Dan, we all knew you were always going to come around to the party line in the end!

Anonymous said...

Hello Ireland ...

... here is Italy

Thanks to the geat irish folk who said NO to this treaty.

We Europeans out of Ireland we haven't the right to vote.

We haven't any chance to say our opinion about this treaty.


European Union is slowly becoming the Soviet Union with his central KREMLIN (Bruxelles) government.

Irish people gave us a sign of Hope and Freedom.