Ireland Rejects Treaty of Lisbon

It’s received precious little notice here in the States but Irish voters have rejected the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU’s latest move towards reform and greater consolidation of power in Brussels:

DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland’s voters have rejected the European Union reform treaty, a blueprint for modernizing the 27-nation bloc that cannot become law without Irish approval, electoral officials said Friday.

In a major blow to the EU, 53.4 percent of Irish voters said no to the treaty. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen now will join other EU leaders at a summit next week to try to negotiate a new way forward.

Anti-treaty groups from the far left and right mobilized “no” voters by claiming that the treaty would empower EU chiefs in Brussels, Belgium, to force Ireland to change core policies — including its low business tax rates, its military neutrality and its ban on abortion.

“This is a very clear and loud voice that has been sent yet again by citizens of Europe rejecting the anti-democratic nature of Brussels governance,” said Declan Ganley, leader of Libertas, the most prominent anti-treaty campaign group in Ireland.

The euro common currency fell to a one-month low on the news.

Ireland, one of the greatest beneficiaries of EU largesse, is hardly hostile to the EU. With generous EU grants Ireland has been transformed from one of Europe’s poorest countries to one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Rejection of the treaty was probably due to some combination of a reassertion of Ireland’s pride in its own distinctive institutions and the failure of proponents of the treaty to produce a convincing plain language explanation of the benefits of approving the treaty. The opaque bureaucratese of the treaty certainly made it impossible for the treaty’s text to speak for itself.

I’ve put additional thoughts on the implications of the rejection at The Glittering Eye.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Given that I’m now professionally an Atlanticist, I’m a bit torn on this. I am, however, unreservedly amused at David Kopel‘s headline, “How the Irish Saved Civilization, Again.” And I agree with him on this point:

Treaty proponents lamented that Ireland, with only 1% of the EU population, could derail a 27-nation treaty. But the very fact that only 1% of the EU’s population was allowed to vote on a treaty which would massively reduce national sovereignty and democratic accountability was itself an illustration of the enormous “democratic deficit” of the EU in general, and the Lisbon Treaty in particular. According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Lisbon Treaty would be defeated in every EU nation if referenda were allowed.

I never liked the heavy-handed workaround of the Lisbon model, thinking that if the EU member states are going to cede significant sovereignty they ought at least do it in an open, transparent process.

The EU continues its eastward expansion, which I believe mostly good, partly by holding out the economic carrots of membership but partly, at least, by touting its “shared Western values.” It requires would-be members to jump through substantial hoops in order to get in accord. It’s only fitting, then, that it should abide by those same shared values in such an important process.

UPDATE (Dave Schuler)

I’ve found the complaints about how un-democratic the treaty being defeated by the Irish is being floated by supporters of the treaty enormously amusing. The reason that Ireland was the only country to vote the treaty down was that Ireland was the only country to hold a popular vote on the matter. The probability that a direct popular vote in all 27 EU countries would have resulted in the treaty being approved is, was, and always has been zero. Indeed, the only way the measure proceeded as far as it did was that the other EU countries’ governments avoided a popular vote.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    Rejection of the treaty was probably due to some combination of a reassertion of Ireland’s pride in its own distinctive institutions and the failure of proponents of the treaty to produce a convincing plain language explanation of the benefits of approving the treaty.

    The reason that Ireland was the only country to vote the treaty down was that Ireland was the only country to hold a popular vote on the matter. The probability that a direct popular vote in all 27 EU countries would have resulted in the treaty being approved is, was, and always has been zero. Indeed, the only way the measure proceeded as far as it did was that the other EU countries’ governments avoided a popular vote.

    You don’t think that there might be a few voters who don’t want to turn their lives over to unelected bureaucrats? A similar measure in the US that turned over power to unelected and self perpetuating bureaucrats would fail. Not because of ‘pride in distinctive institutions’ or ‘failure to explain the benefits’ but because of common sense.

  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    With generous EU grants Ireland has been transformed from one of Europe’s poorest countries to one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

    Ireland’s economic growth had a lot more to do with lowering of their taxes and creating a much more business friendly environment for foreign businesses that moved there.

    Since when did massive government bureaucracies ever create prosperity?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    No, I don’t, yaj. Most of my European friends are considerably more tolerant of government than Americans typically are. What I’ve been given to understand is that treaty opponents made their case on the basis of things like abortion and Irish neutrality (“distinctive institutions”) rather than opposition to centralized government.

  4. Triumph says:

    It’s received precious little notice here in the States

    The reason that it is not on the front pages of today’s papers is that the final count wasn’t announced early enough for this morning’s editions.

    If you go to the websites of the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal–at least–the story receives “front page” treatment.

  5. Nicole says:

    The EU continues its eastward expansion, which I believe mostly good, partly by holding out the economic carrots of membership but partly, at least, by touting its “shared Western values.”

    I’m in agreement with James that the eastward expansion of the union has been a huge net positive, so it’s worth noting that the Lisbon rejection (which I also have mixed feelings about) may endanger future enlargement rounds:

    “I think that globally, an Irish ‘no’ would mean that the European Union would no longer be in a position to pursue further its policy of enlargement…. For institutional reasons in the first place, because the Treaty of Nice… is designed for up to 28 [member states]. After that, we’ll be in ‘no man’s land.'”

    Of the current candidates, only Croatia would be guaranteed entry under existing rules.

    That would be very unfortunate, both for the countries in the Balkans that are standing in line behind Croatia, and for former Soviet states like Ukraine whose membership is much further away.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    If you go to the websites of the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal–at least–the story receives “front page” treatment.

    I certainly think it deserves front page treatment. Your explanation may well be correct. However, I know of quite some number of big city newspapers where this story would never get prominent treatment (although local high school basketball coverage would).

  7. teqjack says:

    Note that this was basically the second attempt. After the French and Dutch “NO” votes, the populaces were disenfranchised. Ireland was the only country to allow its people to votein this second try. Third time around, I have no doubt they too will be kept from voting.

  8. William d'Inger says:

    I think that was one of the last gasps of freedom in Europe. The ruling elites are creating a Soviet Union-style dictatorship. Once they have seized the reigns of power, Mother Europa will micro-manage every aspect of life with Orwellian intensity.

    I wouldn’t be worried about it except for the fact that American europhiles (liberal Democrats) will be exceedingly jealous if they can’t enforce their Benevolence on us.

  9. Mark Daunt says:

    i would just like to clear up a few things that have been commented on. firstly Ireland had a referendum because for the lisbon treaty to become law in ireland the irish constitution would have to be amended, any amendmant to the constitution requires a referundum.
    The main reasons why people voted no is because they did not understand the document and it was quite clear that nobody did (including the government), we simple knew it would reduce irelands power within the union while increasing the unions power over ireland.
    the reason most people who voted yes did so is because they did what they were told to do.

  10. Only 5 days after the wonderful, common sense- filled Irish people voted “no” to this ghastly document, it was railroaded through the House of Lords and given the Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II for the UK.

    In theory, as the Irish people (so far the ONLY nation in 27-member E.U. to have a vote) rejected the Treaty, it SHOULD be dead. But, Oh no!

    That’s NOT the way things work in the E.U. – look at it’s history. Let’s face it folks, the European Union is the Soviet Union by a new name, and even Mikhael Gorbachev thinks so. And Vladimir Bukovsky – he lived it too.