Thursday, 26 June 2008

Ratification update

Stuart Wheeler has lost his High Court case to hold the goverment to its promise of a referendum. While Mr Wheeler has indicated his intention to appeal, the passage in the earlier version of this post about this legal hurdle in the path of final ratification of the treaty by Britain has been deleted.

However, further doubts are emerging that the Polish president is going to sign the treaty, with the office of the president beginning to publicly argue that the treaty is dead following the Irish No. This change is reflected in the updated summary below.

So far that leaves the treaty rejected by referendum in Ireland, its "substantially equivalent" predecessor rejected in public votes in France and Holland, and now ratification put on hold in the Czech Republic and Poland.

This effort by the EU - represented by the Lisbon Treaty / EU Constitution - to gather more power for itself at the expense of Europe's democratic governments has taken up nearly a decade of governmental wrangling and battling against public opinion that could have been much more profitably spent preparing European countries for major future challenges.

Another year of wrangling is now on the cards while the EU tries to find ways to get the treaty past the Irish people.

Enough is enough. Either the EU must now drop its 1950s superstate ambitions as a result of these multiple rejections of the Lisbon Treaty / EU Constitution project.

Or those who wish to see Europe make real progress in the face of modern challenges must start exploring new ways and new structures to achieve this beyond the malign influence of the EU's anti-democratic obsession with political integration.

It is self-evident that it is not necessary to pass ever more decision-making powers to remote central institutions for countries to co-operate together on the issues that affect us all.

So for how much longer will the EU's out-dated centralisation agenda be allowed to distract from tackling the issues that European countries really need to address to be fit for the 21st century?

Does Europe have any genuine leaders, with a vision for the future rather than a lazy adherence to ideas of the past? Now is the time for such a person to stand up.

------- Ratification: the state of play (updated) -------

Eight countries have yet to complete ratification of the Lisbon treaty through their Parliaments, with ratification in two further countries still awaiting presidential signatures.

While the treaty may have become law in the rest, it does not come into effect until all 27 EU member countries have ratified it. So here's a run-down of the hurdles the treaty has yet to clear:

Belgium: the treaty has been passed by the country's two houses of parliament and currently awaits approval in Belgium's five regional and community assemblies.

Czech Republic: currently
suspended pending a decision of the country's constitutional court on whether the treaty is in line with Czech law. President Vaclav Klaus has spoken out against continued ratification, as has the chairman of the country's senate.

Cyprus: ratification of the treaty is expected to go ahead on 3 July, according to the
Cyprus Mail. Only the Green Party has called for a postponement.

Ireland: having voted 'No' a week ago, Irish ministers and leading 'Yes' campaigners have
made it clear that due to the high turnout a re-run of the referendum will not be politically possible. Nevertheless, the country will be under considerable pressure from the EU and other member states, who are continuing to ratify the rejected treaty regardless.

Italy: the Italian government
has said that it aims to ratify the treaty by August, but there may be complications in the form of the Northern League - a major partner in Silvio Berlusconi's new coalition government. The party says that it intends to present a Bill demanding a referendum, calling the treaty "a serious abandon of sovereignty". However, Berlusconi's party has a significant majority together with its other coalition partner, so a referendum Bill is not expected to succeed.

Netherlands: the Dutch government seems ready to treat Ireland differently to the response they received after their 2005 rejection of the Lisbon Treaty's predecessor - the EU Constitution. Having
been approved by the country's parliament earlier this month, despite the presentation of a 42,000-signature petition demanding a second referendum, the treaty is now being considered by the Dutch senate. This is considered a formality and due to be completed over the summer.

Spain: ratification has been held up by a change of government but is likely to be completed, possibly before the end of June. The Spanish government
support continued ratification.

Reuters report that ratification of the treaty is to continue as planned despite Ireland's 'No' vote. This is according to a statement by the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, writing on his blog last Friday. The Swedish parliament will vote on ratification this autumn, and it is expected to receive majority support.

Two further countries which are generally described as having approved the treaty in fact have not absolutely finalised ratification.

In Poland, the treaty was approved by the country's Parliament in April, but Polish president Lech Kaczynski was reportedly waiting until the outcome of the Irish referendum before adding his signature.
Influential voices have urged him not to sign and on 23 June fresh doubts emerged that Mr Kaczynski will approve the treaty. According to EUobserver, presidential aide Michal Kaminski told Poland's Radio ZET that "There are a lot of indications that...the Lisbon Treaty today doesn't exist in a legal sense because one of the [EU] countries rejected its ratification," indicating that the president's office now regards the treaty as dead.

Similarly, in Germany, while both houses of the German parliament have passed the legislation ratifying the treaty, German President Horst Koehler has yet to sign it pending a
Constitutional challenge. Peter Gauweiler, an MP and member of the Christian Social Union, has launched the bid to have the treaty ruled unconstitutional citing objections that the treaty impinges on German sovereignty, in particular on the rights of German citizens to representation by members of the German parliament.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Myth-busting on trade

Reporting to Parliament yesterday on the outcome of last week's European Council meeting in Brussels, Gordon Brown repeated the hackneyed myth that "nearly 60 per cent. of our trade is with Europe and that 3 million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union."

So today the Democracy Movement has fired off a letter to the Prime Minister to request the evidence for this statement. The letter reads:

Dear Prime Minister,

In your statement to Parliament yesterday on the outcome of last week’s meeting of the European Council, you said:

"nearly 60 per cent. of our trade is with Europe and that 3 million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union."
(Hansard, 23 Jun 2008 : Column 30)

I am writing to ask if you would please provide me with the evidence for this assertion.

Specifically, confirmation that your 60 per cent figure for trade includes all trade and not just certain limited sections of exports, and that it also in the case of goods exports takes into account the distortion in figures created by the re-shipping ports at Rotterdam and Antwerp.

And specifically, the source of your figure that 3 million jobs are dependent "on our membership of the European Union" - as distinct from jobs related to trade. Clearly it would be nonsensical to claim that the continuation of trade and the safety of related jobs is dependent on our membership of the EU, given many non-EU countries trade successfully with EU members and indeed have beneficial trade agreements with the EU as a whole.

Has the Prime Minister misled Parliament? We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

October or bust

Ireland being isolated? Quite the opposite. They're being crowded into a corner. Bullied by force of numbers into having to ask the people again, and this time get the 'right' answer.

With various EU leaders repeating the mantras that the treaty "is alive", that there is "no question of revising the treaty" and also that there's "no question of a two-speed Europe", what other option is being left open to Ireland exactly?

What's going on is transparent, and utterly shameful.

Pressure is on

That pressure is being applied, contrary to claims made not least by our own government, was neatly communicated by Irish PM Brian Cowen, speaking at the press conference that followed the European Council meeting.

"There are colleagues who believe there is not as much room for manouevre as many people would like to suggest that there is," he told journalists, courtesy of EUobserver.

Referring to his fellow EU leaders, he said "I made it clear that however frustrating for them, it is simply too early to know how we are going to move forward on this point."

Frustration? Misleading 'suggestions' about how much room to manouevre Ireland is actually being given? From the horse's mouth we're told
the predictable anti-democratic reality behind the blizzard of benevolent rhetoric we've seen in the last couple of days.

October deadline

According to the official conclusions of the two day meeting, Mr Cowen has been required to report in more detail on the "way forward" at the next European Council meeting in October, with speculation growing of a second referendum as early as November or, more likely, in Spring 2009.

Unless of course, between now and October, the Irish government decides to stand by earlier sentiments about the impossibility of a second vote on the treaty and explain to their EU 'partners' that it simply wouldn't be winnable.

After all, re-running the referendum would be betting the house, with a credibility-busting second 'No' vote likely to have serious implications not just for the EU as we know it today but the Irish government itself.

Between a rock and a hard place, Mr Cowen could choose to side with the people - not just the majority who have already voted 'No' in Ireland, but also the millions across Europe who oppose yet more political integration but have been deliberately denied a say.

Ratification opt-outs

As a country, Ireland wouldn't be alone. The Czech Republic secured a special footnote in the text of the meeting conclusions, referring to how its own ratification depends on the verdict of its constitutional court.

Perhaps more interestingly, according to that EUobserver article, Poland also insisted on a slight change to the text to the effect that Warsaw cannot be included in the group of those who have ratified the treaty.

As we set out in our ratification 'state of play' posting, President Lech Kaczysnki is yet to sign the document, and was thought to be awaiting the outcome of the Irish referendum.

This latest development would indicate that he still isn't about to sign in a hurry.

Let's hope that, come October, Mr Cowen does Europe a favour, decides to face down this gang of anti-democratic bullies, and tells the EU elite their out-dated treaty is truly dead.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Hold on treaty until court rules

Update (15:53): Speaking on the BBC news channel, Stuart Wheeler has said that he would be "very likely" to appeal if judgement goes against him next week.

That would block the final step in Britain's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty for very likely some months to come.


The BBC reports that the High Court has expressed 'surprise' that ministers are pressing ahead with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite judgement still pending in Stuart Wheeler's referendum case.

A direction from Lord Justice Richards, one of the judges hearing Mr Wheeler's case, has 'invited' the government to stay its hand in advance of the ruling.

The direction said: "The court is very surprised that the government apparently proposes to ratify while the claimant's challenge to the decision not to hold a referendum on ratification is before the court.

"The defendants are invited to stay their hand voluntarily until judgement."

In response, Gordon Brown has had to confirm that Britain will not ratify the treaty until the High Court has ruled, presumably meaning he will not yet send the 'instrument of ratification' to Rome - the final remaining stage in the process.

Judgement in the case is expected next week.

Does this mean, if Mr Wheeler chose to appeal a decision that went against him, our ratification could be in limbo for some months to come?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Ireland on the menu

As the EU and Europe's governing elite enjoy a sumptuous dinner at our expense in Brussels this evening, the only thing that could prove a little hard to swallow may be what Irish PM Brian Cowen has to say about his country's recent 'No' vote.

According to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, the EU is expecting the Irish government to pronounce on whether the vote was "definitive or not".

Apparently there remains some doubt about this in the EU's democratically-challenged upper echelons, despite a significant majority for the 'No' side and a healthy turnout.

Where's the confusion, exactly?

Yet, in an interview yesterday with Le Figaro, Mr Sikorski said "If Dublin does not decide to organise another referendum, it will be difficult to find a solution. We are waiting for the Irish government to tell us whether this decision is definitive or not."

But the bad news for Mr Sikorski and others is that, according to an Irish Independent report, Cowen plans to keep it vague, apparently intending to stress that it's "far too early" to draw conclusions from the referendum result and that the Government would require time to take stock of the outcome.

Testing out his line, Cowen reportedly told the Irish Parliament earlier this week that the referendum result meant “there is a serious political and legal situation that has to be examined”, and that he did not believe a solution would present itself “this week, next week or the week after”.

However, as we reported earlier this week, all around Cowen leading Irish politicians and 'Yes' campaigners already seem to have made up their minds that a second vote is not possible.

Reinforcing the point, Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is reported in the Irish Independent pointing out that the turnout for the referendum had been very high; the people had spoken; and the treaty as planned could not go ahead.

He told Irish radio, quite rightly, "I somehow suspect that if many other member states of the EU had to put it before their people, the result would be the same", putting to shame the line being rehearsed ad nauseam by Britain's most disingenuous superstate-fanatics such as Denis MacShane MP and Richard Corbett MEP that the 'Irish one can't be allowed to rule the EU many'.

It apparently hasn't crossed the anti-democratic minds of these two and others that the key statistic is not that Ireland's population represents 1% of the EU's but rather 100% of those allowed to vote on the Lisbon treaty, with polls showing people in many other countries would have delivered the same verdict on the treaty, given the chance.

As Commissioner McCreevy later said to the EUobserver news website, "We should remember that Ireland is not alone in being unable to secure a popular endorsement of a European Treaty. As politicians this is something we need to learn from."

On its own initiative, the EU has been quick of the mark to scour the ground for signs that a second referendum would be winnable.

Imagine if our government refused to accept the outcome of an election that went against it, and decided to pick the opposition vote to pieces to find what sections it could buy off with slightly 'clarified' policies before calling a second election.

Welcome to the sad state of democracy today, under our growing new government in Brussels.

Lords vote to ratify treaty

The House of Lords yesterday evening gave final approval to the Lisbon Treaty in its scheduled Third Reading.

A last-minute amendment to delay ratification of the treaty out of respect for the Irish referendum result was voted down.

Lord Howell of Guildford's amendment proposed that "this bill be read a third time no earlier than Monday 20 October 2008 to allow — (a) Parliament to consider the most appropriate response to the changed circumstances and uncertainties caused by the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in the Irish referendum; and (b) any amendments to the bill made necessary by those changed circumstances to be considered in detail by the House, if necessary on recommitment."

Hitting the 'pause' button would indeed have been the proper course of action, if the government were serious about their declared wish to "take the time to allow the Irish Government to make proposals on what they will do next".

Instead Gordon Brown has shamefully gone along with the anti-democratic EU ploy to amass a weight of numbers behind the treaty, in order to bully the Irish government into holding a second referendum, and then the Irish people into approving what may only be a mildly 'clarified' treaty.

Howell's amendment was rejected by 277 against to 184 in favour.

The debate was interrupted by four protestors voicing their demands for a referendum from the public gallery.

The government intends to seek Royal Assent to the Bill very quickly - reportedly within the next 24hrs - just in time for David Miliband to get a nice pat on the head from his EU colleagues while in Brussels today and tomorrow for a meeting of the European Council.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

EU fumbles for grounds to justify second Irish vote

Update (13:46): Open Europe blogs that the Commission has only given the results of this poll out to selected journalists and have not published full details of questions asked. So the integrity of the poll can't be scrutinised.

As OE concludes, "It's a reminder that the European Commission is not just a civil service, but a campaign group".


The Daily Telegraph's Bruno Waterfield reveals on his blog that the EU is already moving to determine exactly what it will take to buy off a sufficient proportion of 'No' voters to win a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Such a move would completely contradict everything key figures in Ireland have said about the prospect of a second vote. But politicians saying one thing and doing another on the EU treaty issue wouldn't exactly be a shocking development to us here in Britain.

The EU's poll reportedly finds that 75% of 'No' voters "believe the Irish government can renegotiate exceptions", but this is hardly surprising. After all, that's exactly what happened the last time the Irish people said 'No' to an EU treaty, back in 2001.

The key question for the EU is whether any possible exceptions would be enough to gain public approval for Lisbon in a referendum re-run.

Key concerns

Questions around the treaty's influence on family law (abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia) and military neutrality may be easy to deal with through straightforward 'clarifications', in particular about the influence of the European Court of Justice in conjunction with the EU's so-called Charter of Fundamental Rights.

But those who hold concerns on these fronts may not be concerned about the EU's influence over these issues alone, so 'clarifying' these may not necessarily bring everyone who rates these issues into the 'Yes' camp.

Questions around taxation may prove trickier to divert, as France is obviously keen to push forward with 'harmonised' business taxes during its forthcoming 6-month EU presidency - a particular issue for Ireland, with its advantageous low rate of corporation tax.

The French are unlikely to want to give one of the key targets of such legislation a clear exclusion.

Harder still will be evidently strong concerns about the effect on Irish influence of changes to the EU's chief decision-making institutions, such as the loss of an Irish Commissioner and a cut in voting strength in the Council of Ministers.

These were institutional deals reached only after tortuous and complex negotiations, and special treatment for Ireland would be very difficult to secure.

So the EU is unlikely to want to reopen such negotiations. Yet, as we reported on Saturday, and this new poll confirms, questions of power and identity loom large in the reasons people voted 'No'.

Young oppose treaty

A cause of particular alarm for the EU in the poll's findings was obviously that there were many more 'No' voters than 'Yes' voters among young people aged 15-29.

More future-thinking than any age group, it's surely no surprise that few see it as sensible to cling to out-dated centralisation ideas of a century past. "Factor 2 to 1. Very Serious!”, the poll report says.

And of course we get the usual EU focus on those ("40%") who said they 'didn't understand' or 'weren't familiar' with the treaty. As if the massed ranks of Ireland's political, business, media and cultural establishment plus a massive financial advantage for the 'Yes' campaigners wasn't enough to 'inform' people of the treaty's alleged benefits.

Nevertheless, we're used to such findings being trumpeted by the EU simply to justify splashing even more public cash on more pro-EU propaganda.

A second 'No' vote would be utterly devastating for the EU as we know it today, and this poll appears to provide little comfort for the EU that this would not be the outcome of forcing the Irish people to vote again.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Urgent petition: Abandon Lisbon

We have received this message today and would urge everyone to follow the instructions and pass the details of the petition around friends and contacts.

Once you've signed, please remember to confirm your signature when you receive a confirmation request e-mail.

---- Original message ----

Last Friday the people of Ireland voted to reject the Lisbon Treaty. But politicians across Europe are refusing to accept the result.

They arrogantly insist that the Treaty must go ahead anyway.

Despite the no vote, the UK Government is planning to carry on regardless, and ratify the Treaty in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

This is part of an attempt to isolate and bully the people of Ireland.

Please take 30 seconds to send a message to Gordon Brown by signing the petition on the Downing Street website.

Tell Gordon to respect the verdict of the Irish people - and drop the Treaty.

Many thanks


How politicians are refusing to listen to the no vote:

French Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet says:
"I don't think you can say the treaty of Lisbon is dead even if the ratification process will be delayed."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says:
"We are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue."

Spanish Europe Minister Lopez Garrido says:
"The treaty will be applied, albeit a few months late."

European Commission President Jose Barroso says:
"The Treaty is not dead. The Treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution."

British Foreign Minister David Miliband says:
"18 countries have now passed the reform treaty...each country must see the ratification process to a conclusion... there needs to be a British view as well as an Irish view."

Don't let the politicians get away with it.

Sign the petition now and send it to your friends.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Irish minister: 'treaty is dead'

"In the end it is for the Irish prime minister to decide what his next moves are. He has got to decide whether or not to apply the last rites'' says David Miliband in today's Daily Telegraph.

It's easy to see the government's unprincipled strategy. Expressing respect for the views of the Irish people is clearly a much lower priority than wanting to stay in the EU's good books - by avoiding being blamed for turning the Irish 'No' vote into a snowball of countries halting ratification.

But Mr Miliband apparently doesn't seem to have noticed that several Irish ministers and 'Yes' campaign leaders have already made it very clear that there will not be a second referendum.

And as Miliband says today on his blog, "It is clear that if the Irish do not ratify the Treaty then the Treaty will not pass into law."

Dick Roche: 'treaty is dead'

As far back as March, Irish European Affairs Minister Dick Roche was condemning the treaty in the event of a 'No' vote.

In a statement on his website Mr Roche said,
"there will only be one referendum held in Ireland on the provisions of the EU Reform Treaty ... There is no plan B and there is absolutely no possibility of this Treaty being subject to a further renegotiation. The idea that we can reject this Treaty and have another Referendum as happened with the Nice Treaty is a dilusion. That cannot and will not happen."

"Without Irish ratification, this Treaty 'is dead'", he concluded.

In the Observer on Sunday, Irish integration minister Conor Lenihan reinforced that sentiment, saying it was "unlikely" the treaty would be put to the republic's electorate again.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland on Saturday morning, Lenihan said, "I can't see a situation where we can put this matter again, to be quite honest with you, because the risk to Europe and indeed to Ireland... is to cause even more damage."

"It's not comparable to the previous situation with regards to the Nice referendum," he concluded.

Also quoted in the Observer article are 'senior strategists in Fianna Fail' - Ireland's main ruling party - saying it would be "politically impossible" to try to repeat what happened in 2002, when Ireland voted in favour of the Nice treaty 12 months after having rejected it.

"This time around, the turnout was high, so there can be no justification for it. The government is caught in a political trap," one senior Fianna Fail source is quoted as saying.

"There are local as well as European elections in Ireland next year and Fianna Fail will not risk having to hold another referendum.

"Within the next 12 months, at the very least, there is absolutely no chance that Ireland will re-run Lisbon."

Fine Gael also rule out second vote

On Saturday, Enda Kenny - leader of the main opposition Fine Gael party, which was a major part of the 'Yes' campaign - also ruled out the prospect of a second Lisbon Treaty referendum.

He expressed disappointment at the 'No' vote, but is reported in the Irish Independent on Saturday as strongly against any plans to put the treaty before the electorate again.

"We made it perfectly clear that there would not be a second offering in this case . . . The governments have to look at the decision the Irish people have made and decide how best to move the concept of the European process forward from here," he said.

No excuse for delay

So, Mr Miliband. If, as you say, the treaty cannot pass into law unless the Irish ratify, yet Irish ministers and key members of the 'Yes' camp are already ruling out a second referendum, why the delay in declaring this treaty dead and calling off our own ratification?

It's hard to see how the last rites of Lisbon - at least in theory - haven't already been read.

Plan C, D or E?

Confusion reigns on how the EU will respond to the outcome of last week's referendum in Ireland, ahead of a European Council meeting of heads of state and government later this week.

On Saturday,
French European affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet minister was quoted on AFP saying there is "no other solution" but for Ireland to hold a second referendum.

Particular interest is being paid to the French position, as the country takes over the EU's rotating presidency from next month and will consequently shoulder much of the burden of driving the EU's response to the Irish 'No' vote.

However, several Irish ministers made clear during the referendum campaign that a re-run would not be feasible.

The much higher turnout this time relative to the first Nice Treaty referendum back in 2001, which was re-run a year later, means there is no clear justification not to mention little political apetite for a second vote.

So, on Sunday, Jouyet was quoted in the Observer talking instead of some "specific means of cooperation" that would provide a purpose to continued ratification, lending credence to earlier speculation about 'legal arrangements' that might allow the Lisbon Treaty to be implemented regardless of the Irish vote.

The way would then be open to bring Ireland back fully into the post-Lisbon EU at a later stage, presumably by applying the pressure of every other country having proceeded without them.

Germany is also behind this approach. "We're sticking firmly to our goal of putting this treaty into effect," the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said. "So the process of ratification must continue."

Not surprising, given the German chancellor Angela Merkel devoted most of last year to getting the EU's 27 governments to agree on the Lisbon treaty after the rejection of the EU Constitution by the French and the Dutch in 2005.

Mixed messages

For its part, the European Commission is sending out mixed signals. Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday quickly retailed the 'carry on regardless' line. But a European Commission official was yesterday quoted in the Observer saying "Unless the treaty is ratified by all, there is no treaty."

Our own government also seems to have a foot in both camps. David Miliband rushed onto TV to say that ratification will continue regardless of the treaty's theoretical demise, and Gordon Brown reportedly telephoned the French president to confirm that Britain would proceed with ratification.

Yet, in the Sunday Times a "Downing Street source" echoes that Commission official, saying: "The legal position on this is very clear: the treaty cannot come into force until all 27 countries have ratified it".

'Two-tier' legal option

There's no doubt that the EU tends to treat the legality of its activities as a minor detail, as exemplified by how they have been steadily implementing aspects of the Lisbon Treaty well before it has been approved in all EU member countries.

But Ireland could be given a protocol with what amounts to an opt-out from every policy transfer and veto removal that Lisbon introduces.

It would mean that the new Irish status would have to be resolved before the future dates that Lisbon's institutional changes -
such as the altered structure of the EU Commission and voting weights in the Council of Ministers - are due to come into force.

And it would mean the EU would also have to wait until that time for some other 'constitutional' changes, such as Lisbon's 'self-amending' clause. But this may not be such a burden as treaty changes would not be likely to be needed for at least a few years following ratification.

The political danger for the EU in introducing this 'two-tier' system in respect of entire treaties, however, is that far from becoming the intended suffering pariah, Ireland is actually seen to get along much better without being a 'full member'.

By dodging some looming new EU plans - perhaps on tax harmonisation and militarisation - people in other countries may observe that the semi-detached Irish deal is a more attractive one, and start pressuring their own governments to obtain the same advantageous deal.

Stealthy option

The alternative possibility of many of the changes proposed by Lisbon being introduced under existing EU treaty clauses is talked up in today's Daily Telegraph.

But it begs the question: if that's possible, why didn't they just do that in the first place? Instead of having this extremely damaging near decade-long 'new treaty' wrangle that started with the Laeken Declaration back in 2000.

Clearly there are some integrationist advances within the Lisbon treaty that the EU wants and which cannot be implemented under the current treaty.

But the idea also overlooks one peculiar tendency of the EU; that despite much in the way of greater integration being technically possible under its vaguely-worded treaties, it still always seems to need its 'big projects' to feel it really is advancing.

It's almost as if they consider, were the integration process to appear paused and people allowed to observe the status quo for too long - rather than argue over an element of future integration - too many might just realise that they don't much like the current EU either.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Czech president breaks ranks on treaty

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has broken ranks with the EU governing elite's carefully choreographed response to the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

In contrast to the 'carry on regardless' position of many other European leaders, including our own government, in a statement on his website Mr Klaus calls the Irish vote a "victory of freedom and reason over artificial elitist projects and European bureaucracy" and says that "ratification cannot continue".

While the Czech presidency is only a ceremonial position, and the country's government is unlikely to take the same view, according to the Daily Telegraph the Czech senate chairman has also rightly said that continuing to ratify the treaty would make "no sense".

The Czech Republic is one of nine countries that have not yet ratified the treaty. In Britain, the final Parliamentary stage of ratification is expected to be concluded on Wednesday next week.

Yet, as Global Vision - the research and campaigning organisation headed by Ruth Lea and Lord (Norman) Blackwell - very pragmatically puts it: "it would be inadvisable for Parliament to rush ahead with completing the passage of the Bill only five days after the Irish result rather than taking advantage of the time now available for further analysis and reflection on the changed circumstances."

For Gordon Brown to proceed with ratification regardless of the Irish 'No' vote would betray a blinkered obsession with pushing forward EU political integration, rather than exhibit the reasonable and rational response to yesterday's events that most people would surely expect from their government.

Respect for democracy

The Irish 'No' vote is an extraordinary result in a country where the vast majority of the political, business, media and cultural establishment is devoted to the EU project.

It demonstrates the considerable opposition to the centralisation of power in Brussels that the EU Constitution / Lisbon treaty has provoked.

Not even the last-minute intervention of the Pope could, in the end, swing a 'Yes' vote.

Open Europe very usefully give us the top reasons people had decided to vote 'No' to the Lisbon treaty, taken from the last Irish Times poll on 3-4 June. They were:

- to keep Ireland’s power and identity (24%)
- to safeguard Ireland’s neutrality (22%)

- don’t like being told what to do/ forced into voting yes (17%)
- bigger countries will have too much power (12%)

So let's have none of this EU elite spin that this result was not a vote about the treaty or the impact of the EU more generally.

The democratic 'No' campaign, hopelessly underfunded compared to the 'Yes' side, fought a spirited and commendable campaign against the odds.

They are to be congratulated and thanked by democrats across Europe.

By any democratic principles, the Lisbon treaty has been blown apart. However, that's predictably not how EU elites are responding. Their reaction can be summed up as 'carry on regardless'.

We'll be cataloguing the response of Europe's arrogant governing elite over the next few days, and laying bare exactly how little regard those driving the European Union have for people's views even when so democratically expressed.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Official: Ireland votes 'No' to Lisbon Treaty

Update: It's official! Ireland has voted to reject the EU's Lisbon Treaty by 53.4% to 46.6%. The result has just been announced live from Dublin Castle.

The outcome of the only opportunity people have been given to express their opinion on the Lisbon treaty is a resounding "NO"! But it follows rejections by France and the Netherlands of the treaty's "substantially equivalent" predecessor - the EU Constitution.

Gordon Brown must now consult his "moral compass" and resolve to respect the democratically expressed views of the Irish people - by halting ratification of the Lisbon treaty through our own Parliament.

The ratification Bill is due for its Third Reading on 18 June. That must not happen. He knows that Britain would also vote 'No' resoundingly, given the chance.

Will Gordon Brown respect democracy or not? That treaty should be dead.

The Democracy Movement is holding a ‘congratulatory picket’ of the Irish Embassy (17 Grosvenor Place, SW1X 7HR - see map) to celebrate the overwhelming rejection of the EU Constitutional Treaty. Please come along to join us - we'll be there from 6pm onwards and will distributing free cans of Guinness (while stocks last!).


Update: With 27 constituency results now in out of 43 total, the result stands at 53.6% 'No' -v- 46.4% 'Yes', but there are still some results due in constituencies that are likely to have strong 'Yes' votes.

Update: The BBC is reporting that the Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern has conceded defeat.

"It looks like this will be a No vote," Mr Ahern said on live television. "At the end of the day, for a myriad of reasons, the people have spoken."

With six official results in the overall result is 55% 'No' against 45% 'Yes'.

Gordon Brown must respect the Irish verdict and immediately halt ratification of the treaty through Parliament. The treaty is due for its Third Reading on 18 June.

Update: RTE is saying "It seems certain that Irish voters have rejected the Lisbon Treaty." Although official results are only just coming in, the strong 'No' vote coming through in early tallies has obviously influenced their prediction.

Update: Official results are starting to come in from constituencies, with first off the mark being Waterford voting 54% 'No' to 46% 'Yes'. See the results come in on the Irish Times results map.

Update: The Irish Times is reporting that the initial tallies indicate an overall 'No' vote, despite a strong showing for the 'Yes' side in some constituencies.

They're saying "A strong Yes vote in County Dublin seems to have been offset by a strong No vote in city constituencies in the capital" with "The No campaign appears to be winning in most constituencies across the State, with significant majorities emerging from rural and urban working class areas."

Update: RTE is reporting that the 'Yes' camp is gaining ground against an early strong 'No' showing. They are citing a 60-40 vote in favour of Lisbon in "middle class constituencies like Dublin South, Dublin South East and Dún Laoghaire".

Official results from the constituencies are expected over the next hour, with full results expected by mid-afternoon.

Update: The Irish Times is reporting that, in Mayo, the vote appears to be 60-40 per cent in favour of the 'No' camp with the majority of boxes counted. There was a 52 per cent turnout.

Initial 'tallies' are starting to come in from other constituencies, many also showing a positive 'No' result.


Irish broadcaster RTE
is reporting that early returns show a strong 'No' vote, but turnout seems to be higher than many have predicted, perhaps tending to the 50% mark. Not thought to be good news for the 'No' camp.

However, the turnout in rural areas is thought to be low. Speculation is that this is because many farmers who are traditionally supporters of Ireland's governing party and would otherwise be 'Yes' voters were in fact conflicted over the issue of EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson's actions on trade issues.

News from our contact at the count in Dublin is also positive for the 'No' side. The 'Yes' camp were expected to bank a big advantage in Ireland's capital, but there's reportedly amazement at the number of 'No' votes.

It's early days yet - we'll update this post as news comes in. We'd also recommend keeping an eye on EUreferendum for latest news.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Davis, liberties and the EU

The shadow home secretary David Davis today announced his resignation as an MP, in order to force a by-election in his Yorkshire seat of Haltemprice and Howden and spark a major national debate over the government's "relentless erosion" of civil liberties.

His move has reportedly been provoked by yesterday's narrow victory in the Commons for government plans to permit the detention of suspects for up to six weeks without charge, and his expectation that the government will use the Parliament Act to force the change through the House of Lords.

Mr Davis has said that he will fight for re-election on the issue of civil liberties alone, and on those grounds the Liberal Democrats have said they will not put up a candidate against him.

Labour have yet to declare whether they will field a candidate, but given the government's actions over the extension of detention without charge it would appear extremely cowardly not to stand against Mr Davis and join the debate.

The Lib Dems came second in the seat in the 2005 general election, only 5,116 votes behind Mr Davis. Labour came a distant third.

"Relentless erosion"

Speaking outside parliament, Davis said he wanted to take a stand against Gordon Brown's "relentless erosion" of long-held rights.

He cited the gradual erosion of the "right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason", the proposed "intrusive identity card system", the proliferation of CCTV cameras and the creation of "a database State, opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers".

"I will argue in this by-election against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government," he told reporters outside Parliament.

EU's 'Big Brother' database

One clear example of the problem, which should therefore form a major part of Mr Davis's campaign in addition to the issue of detention without charge, is the looming Communications Data Bill, announced in Gordon Brown's recent preview of November's Queen's Speech.

The Bill is designed to create what The Times back in May called a "'Big Brother' database for phones and e-mails", by permitting the collection and retention of records relating to every phone call made and e-mail sent.

However the fundamental purpose of the Bill is to "Transpose EU Directive 2006/24/EC on the retention of communications data into UK law", confirming that it is the European Union rather than our own government that is the chief architect of the plan.

EU role in erosion of liberties

The EU's hand in this proposed major new pillar of that "database State" should come as no surprise, as Brussels institutions have long been active behind the scenes in many of the erosions of civil liberties to which Mr Davis refers in his resignation statement.

As far back as 2002, the late Hugo Young writing in The Guardian was lamenting the erosion of Habeas Corpus as a result of the EU Arrest Warrant (EAW), which he described as a "sinister overreach".

Not just a means to combat terrorism, as it was spun on its rapid revival after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in America, the EAW in fact applies to to every crime carrying a sentence of 12 months or more.

It can be used to extradite British citizens to other EU member countries even for acts which are not considered crimes in this country, such as "xenophobia", and such vague charges as "swindling".

Yet standards of justice in many other EU member countries, as Hugo Young detailed in his article, are far from reliable.

On ID cards, my colleague Marc Glendening was as far back as 2003 and into 2004 pointing out the EU's role in encouraging and significantly funding the development of common identity cards.

This was advanced as part of the EU's drive to create what the European Commission in its 1997 criminal justice blueprint referred to as a "unified legal space", and subsequently gathered pace as a function of the EU's steady creation of a common borders and asylum policy.

In recent years the EU's activity in the field of criminal justice has grown significantly, and its interest in governing identity documents has since become more overt, by virtue of amendments included in the re-named version of the EU Constitution - now known as the Lisbon Treaty.

A proper debate

Commenting on the Communications Data Bill, David Davis was quoted in the Times article as saying: "Given [ministers’] appalling record at maintaining the integrity of databases holding people’s sensitive data, this could well be more of a threat to our security, than a support”.

Of course, it is just one example. But it is a major and approaching one that, by making it one of the high profile aspects of his campaign, his successful re-election could aim to see squashed.

While it's clear that our own government must carry much of the responsibility for the problems Mr Davis is concerned about, a proper debate about threats to civil liberties is simply not possible without acknowledging that the EU is also a big part of the problem.

Ireland votes

Polls have opened in Ireland in their referendum on adoption of the re-named EU Constitution.

Ireland is the only country to be getting a vote on the Lisbon treaty - the requirements of their Constitution not allowing the Irish government to deny the people a say on further transfers of power to EU institutions, as has happened in every other EU country.

Opinion surveys have shown the 'Yes' and 'No' camp neck and neck, but the feeling is that the shock progress by the treaty's opponents revealed last Friday and over the weekend has spurred the government to re-mobilise the much more considerable resources the 'Yes' side has at its disposal.

Nevertheless, the Daily Telegraph reports that diplomats have already been cooking up an alternative to get around the eventuality of a 'No' vote and ensure the treaty is implemented regardless.

Another example of how the EU refuses to accept the outcome of democratic votes that go against its outdated quest to centralise ever more power. So even a 'No' vote is very unlikely to be the end of the story for the EU's plans.

Turnout is crucial to the outcome, with the weather likely to play a role. The forecast would appear to favour the 'Yes' camp with the Irish weather station predicting a dry day with a few showers.

Polling stations are open until 11pm this evening, and with counting due to start on Friday morning the result is likely to be available on Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Last gasp for the Lib Dems?

UPDATE (Wednesday 11 June, 21:09): The House of Lords has rejected a referendum proposal by 280 votes to 218.

As expected, Lib Dem peers voted against a referendum, which would have been approved if they had abstained in accordance with Nick Clegg's policy in the Commons.

So will Nick Clegg have the integrity to take responsibility for his party's damaging multiple U-turns, ending up acting completely in contradiction to a popular manifesto promise? Or will he admit he has lost control of his party? It's one or the other, surely ...


Tomorrow there will be a key vote in the House of Lords on the question of whether there should be a referendum on the re-named EU Constitution - now called the Lisbon Treaty.

Due to the different make-up of the House of Lords, with a large number of 'crossbench' peers not linked to any party holding the balance of power, a referendum amendment would very likely be approved if the 76 Liberal Democrat peers obeyed Nick Clegg's policy to abstain on the question.

However, the leader of the Lib Dem peers Lord McNally has already made clear that he and his colleagues will not be abstaining like the party's MPs.

The new instruction is to vote with the government, against a referendum.

The question is - on whose instructions? Either Nick Clegg has performed yet another policy U-turn, and told Lib Dem peers to vote with the government rather than abstain.

Or the peers are doing as they please and just plain ignoring him.

So Clegg must either take responsibility for the fact that his repeated U-turns on the popular referendum promise his party made at the last election are haemorhagging both credibility and popular support. Or admit he has lost control of his party.

Lib Dem voters back referendum

Back in March an ICM poll conducted for the Iwantareferendum campaign found that Liberal Democrat voters supported a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by more than two to one.

67% said that “Voters should decide in a referendum” while only 30% thought that “MPs should decide in Parliament.”

Shortly afterwards, most Lib Dem MPs having abstained on the issue in the key Commons vote, the party performed terribly in the local elections, failing to capitalise on the flow of voters away from Labour. Particularly in areas where their promise-breaking stance on a treaty referendum was highlighted the most intensely.

A matter of trust

The potency of the treaty referendum at the ballot box has been grossly underestimated by the government and the Liberal Democrats.

Noting that the European Union comes low down the list of voters' concerns, they schemed that they could confront the evident strong public support for a treaty referendum and get away with it.

However, typically of today's political class, they gave scant regard to the 'small' matter of their manifesto promises.

The promise-breaking nature of their actions has caused the referendum issue to transcend into a matter of trust. And the high profile failure to deliver a clear and popular promise made at the last election - almost regardless of the issue itself - is a much bigger electoral liability.

From that point on, nothing a promise-breaking MP says can be believed - a distasteful trait the memory of which also lingers far longer than the details of the act that confirmed it. Hardly a good basis for an MP to request support.

So this issue is not so much about the referendum itself anymore. It has become a matter of trust. And MPs who have appeared to hold trust - much more so than voters' concerns about any single issue -
so cheaply are far more likely to pay a heavy price at the ballot box.

Last gasp

In this context, if Lib Dem peers block any chance for the party's MPs to redeem themselves, tomorrow's Lords vote could be the last event standing between the Lib Dems and
meltdown at the next general election.

With a high proportion of the party's MPs in marginal seats, the Lords' actions will place over 30 of their parliamentary colleagues and the future leadership prospects of Nick Clegg firmly in the firing line.

The only way back from their predicament is for the party's MPs to be given a new opportunity to support the referendum that they promised at the last election.

So when they vote today, those peers must either vote for a referendum as the party promised at the last election, or at least vote in line with their party leader's policy and abstain.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Big week looms for treaty

Several major tests for the EU Constitution treaty culminate this week, making the next few days the treaty's final major hurdle to ratification.

Having on 22 April won the right to a judicial review on the government's abandonment of its manifesto pledge to hold a referendum, today and tomorrow Stuart Wheeler will return to the High Court to argue his case.

An important distinction that few are making in comments and reports about this case, fed by reports that House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin is intervening to combat the challenge, is that Mr Wheeler is not trying trying to overturn the will of Parliament.

His case is solely about the government, its public statements, and whether abandonment of a clear committment to a particular course of action is lawful on grounds of fair dealing with the public - a principle known as "legitimate expectation".

Judgement is not likely be given his week. The verdict on just leave to seek judicial review was deferred after the 22 April hearing and only given on 2 May. So we are unlikely to immediately know the outcome of the full hearing.

Even if Mr Wheeler wins his case, it will be technically possible for the government to still ignore the verdict. But it would be politically very hard for them to do so - to continue to pursue a course of action which a court has declared unlawful.

Full information about the case, including submissions made by both sides, is available on Stuart Wheeler's website. As is a Contributions Form, for those who wish support Mr Wheeler with what, if he loses, will be the considerable costs of this brave action.

As he says: "Although I am the person bringing the action it is, in effect, on behalf of all those of us – well over half the population – who want our say in a referendum."


Wednesday will see a key moment in progress of the Lisbon Treaty through Parliament, with a vote in the House of Lords on whether there should be a referendum.

Here, the behaviour of the Liberal Democrat peers will be pivotal to the chances of a referendum motion being passed. However, every indication is that the party's peers will vote with the government against a referendum.

Whether, in doing so, they are defying their leader's 'abstention' policy on the issue, or the Liberal Democrats as a whole have flip-flopped on the referendum question yet again, is a key question.

But in either case, the answer is not good news for the party or its increasingly hapless leader Nick Clegg.


Finally, on Thursday 12th, voters in Ireland will go to the polls to cast their verdict in the only referendum being held anywhere in the EU on the re-named EU Constitution treaty.

Polls indicate that this may prove the treaty's sternest test. On Friday an Irish Times survey showed a 17-point jump for the "no" side, putting it five percentage points ahead. Yesterday, a poll published in the Sunday Business Post put the pro-treaty camp in the lead, but only just - 42% to 39%.

A 'No' vote would certainly cause the EU some turmoil and place an (albeit no doubt temporary) obstacle in the treaty's path that we may be able to capitalise upon.

But as we know from bitter history, time and again the EU has refused to accept the outcome of democratic votes that go against its outdated quest to centralise ever more power. So a 'No' vote is very unlikely to be the end of the story.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Linking MPs' pay to responsibilities

Peter Lilley brought some welcome common sense to the House of Commons yesterday, with an extremely relevant contribution to the on-going debate about MPs' pay and expenses.

He proposed a Bill that would require the Senior Salaries Review Body to "take account of transfers of powers between Parliament and European Union institutions when making recommendations on the pay of Members of Parliament."

The Bill is a cross-party effort, co-sponsored by the Labour MP Gisela Stuart. Ms Stuart is particularly well placed to know about power transfers involved in the Lisbon Treaty, having been a leading member of the Convention that drew up the original EU Constitution.

In his introductory statement, Lilley said:

"In virtually every occupation, it is recognised that pay should reflect responsibilities. If people receive more responsibilities, they get higher pay. If they move to a post with fewer responsibilities, they expect to receive lower pay.

"The same should be true of Parliament. If, as is contemplated under the Bill that deals with the European constitutional treaty, this House hands over more of its powers to European institutions, MPs’ remuneration should reflect that diminution of their responsibilities."

Could anyone possibly argue with that? And is there any doubt that the EU has steadily increased its powers at the expense of Parliament?

So the thrust of Lilley's case is a very hard one for MPs to refute credibly. His opening remarks on the scale of Parliament's reduced responsibilities are well worth reading in full.

Lame response

Only one MP attempted to respond to Mr Lilley's proposed Bill. That was Hugh Bayley (Labour, City of York), who back in March voted in favour of the renamed EU Constitution treaty and against the referendum he promised local voters at the last election.

He grandly dismissed the notion of linking MPs' pay with responsibilities (like every other occupation) as a "nonsensical proposal", making two main counter-points.

First, he claimed that it can't be true that MPs have fewer responsibilities as the volume of legislation being considered by Parliament continues to increase year by year.

However, had Mr Bayley been listening properly, he would have heard Lilley's key point that much of that 'volume' now has its origins in the EU - laws which MPs have no power to change once they reach Parliament, but which they are required by the EU Treaty to approve.

Hence volume does not equal responsibility when all that MPs increasingly do is wield a rubber stamp.

Second, Mr Bayley pointed to the difference in spending as a proportion of total wealth between the EU and our own government, presumably implying that as our government spends much more, then our political leaders must be doing the work.

However, as even most "Euro-enthusiasts" will acknowledge, while the EU makes laws it is national governments that must implement them. Which explains why governments and parliaments still shoulder the bulk of the costs and spending, while nevertheless having less and less responsibility as law-makers.

As Mark Leonard of the Brussels-financed Centre for European Reform put it, in a moment of rare candour: "Europe's power is easy to miss. Like an 'invisible hand', it operates through the shell of traditional political structures. The British House of Commons, British law courts, and British civil servants are still here, but they have all become agents of the European Union implementing European law." (Europe's Transformative Power, Centre for European Reform, Bulletin 40, February/March 2005).

So Mr Bayley's second point betrays either a complete ignorance of the basics of how the EU works, or an intention to mislead.

MPs in the dark

However, the most penetrating part of Peter Lilley's remarks came when he tried to explain how so few MPs ever seem to realise the true scale of power transfers to the EU in every new treaty, or how many have already been transferred. He gave three reasons:

1. that Governments of all persuasions always deny that any significant powers are being transferred;

2. once powers have been transferred, Ministers engage in a charade of pretence that they still retain those powers. Even when introducing measures that they are obliged to bring in as a result of an EU directive, they behave as though the initiative were their own.

Lilley cited the recent examples of
home improvement packs, fortnightly bin collections and hospital reconfiguration which, he said, have all been triggered by EU directives. But there are many others, as has been so well illustrated by Open Europe's study The EU and You: the hidden power of Brussels.

An example in the pipeline is the proposed Communications Data Bill - the 'Big Brother' Bill that will permit the collection and retention of all communications data, designed to transpose EU Directive 2006/24/EC on the retention of communications data into UK law.

Consequently, the national media idly report these issues without mentioning their EU origins, leading also to little public awareness of the true extent of the EU's role in how we are governed;

3. that the transfer of power is easy to miss because it occurs not all in one go but by a process of salami-slicing, resulting in Parliament sleepwalking into becoming little more than a provincial assembly.

Why do our political leaders behave this way? Lilley concludes that the EU benefits from their self-importance, saying that they "prefer to claim paternity rather than admit impotence—the fate of the cuckold across the ages."

Posture without power

Sadly there's little prospect of Lilley's proposed Bill being passed. As he himself recognises, turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

The truth, as he went on to say, is that "Too many Members are happy to avert their eyes from what is happening, so long as they retain the prestige and emoluments that were appropriate to a fully sovereign Parliament."

But his initiative must nevertheless be welcomed as an attempt to wake MPs up to how the process of handing ever more powers to the EU will ultimately have for them some very personal implications.