Thursday, 3 December 2009

Confessions on the Lisbon Treaty - No.1

Unelected 'quango queen' Baroness Ashton, speaking to the European Parliament on
2 December 2009 about her new role as EU 'High Representative for Foreign Affairs':

"This is brand new. I do not have an office, I do not have a Cabinet, I do not have a team. I inherited a blank piece of paper and at the moment I have written one or two small things on it."

Baroness Ashton speaking in the House of Lords on 22 April 2008, when responsible for guiding through the Lisbon Treaty:

"The proposal is that we have a high representative who becomes the vice-president of the Commission with very specific functions. That is a defined role within the treaty which is vested in one person." (hat tip Open Europe)

Now that the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified, the people who pushed it through Parliament are starting to contradict themselves as the truth inevitably emerges from behind the misleading claims they made at the time.

This treaty, and the actions now taken under it, have no democratic legitimacy.

Monday, 23 November 2009

No EU referendum? No majority.

UPDATE - 1 December 2009: A new poll in today's Independent further confirms the trend in public opinion against the Tories, since David Cameron's statement confirming he will not hold an EU referendum.

As the trend is enough to bring about a hung parliament, it's time for Mr Cameron to decide whether or not he wants to govern - and correct the EU referendum mistake that has triggered this downward spiral in public support.


A new poll published in yesterday's Observer has further stoked speculation that a recent reverse in public support for the Conservatives may bring about a hung parliament at the next general election.

Whereas last month's Ipsos-Mori poll saw a 7% jump in the Conservative rating, this month's results - following the announcement of David Cameron's new EU policy - shows a stark reverse.

The poll shows Tory support down by 6% and Labour up 5%.

A failure of either of the two main parties to win a working majority would put the EU-fanatical Liberal Democrats into a position of power to dictate policy in return for helping one or another govern.

Any deal with the Conservatives would very likely involve the chopping of EU-confrontational ideas like a UK Sovereignty Bill and the return of certain powers from the EU that David Cameron recently outlined.

Trust test failed

The Conservative party and its supporters would be foolish if they failed to notice how renewed predictions of a hung Parliament have started after David Cameron not only ditched a very public "cast iron guarantee" of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, but contradicted his own stated principles by failing to pledge any replacement EU referendum at all.

Whatever technical arguments can be made in justification of his updated stance following the removal of the final hurdles blocking the Lisbon Treaty's ratification, Cameron's new policy totally fails the trust test.

Somehow, the Westminster Village consistently fails to recognise that this is the most damaging test of all to fail.

A large proportion of people wanted a say on the scale of the EU's powers and now the Tories have become just like the other parties in preventing us having one.

That's the supremely damaging message that will have resonated most strongly from Cameron's recent statement.

In a bizarre move for a party that at best can hope to win a small majority at the next general election, the significant support that comes with an EU referendum was just thrown away and no striking attempt was made to hold onto it.

New referendum

The impact is now being seen in the polls. Predictably, the Conservatives are falling back into the low levels of trust and public support the other two parties have experienced since their own EU promise-breaking episodes.

But this emerging danger for Conservative prospects at the next general election can still be nipped in the bud - by a new EU referendum pledge.

But it had better come quickly, before momentum builds further in the wrong direction and it becomes impossible for Cameron to prevent near-triumph turning into tragedy.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tories take poll hit after dropping EU referendum

The first evidence that David Cameron's abandonment of his pledge to hold an EU referendum will hit the Tories electorally is provided by the latest Populus opinion poll, published in The Times today.

The poll, taken over the weekend, shows the Conservatives have registered a fall in their support, dropping to 39% - reportedly "at the lower end of their recent range".

Meanwhile UKIP have seen a striking gain, going up from 2.3 to 4.2%. According to the paper, excluding the two months around the recent EU parliament elections, this is "the highest level since 2005."

In another bad sign for David Cameron, figures for likelihood to vote among Tory voters also fell.

This reinforces recent reports and evidence on Tory grass-roots sites like ConservativeHome that the lack of a referendum pledge in David Cameron's recent EU statement is causing hassle for candidates, demoralising the party's activists and driving away potential voters.

Early referendum

When questioned specifically on the referendum issue, the poll shows that 46% said they thought that there "should be a referendum early in the next Parliament on the general issue of Britain's relations with the EU".

A figure of 48% are inaccurately reported as "backing the Cameron line", holding the view that "it would be pointless to have a referendum on Europe unless specific further changes in Britain’s relations with the EU were being proposed."

However, David Cameron is proposing "specific further changes" in Britain's relationship with the EU, yet is not offering a referendum. So, contrary to the report, these people are not backing David Cameron's position but should be taken as also supporting a vote.

In a worrying sign for the party of re-emerging splits on the EU issue, 59% of Tory voters said they still wanted an "early" EU referendum of some kind.

Hung parliament

Peter Riddell comments that if the Conservatives were to win approximately a 10% greater share of the vote than Labour - as shown by current poll ratings - it is uncertain that the Tories would win an absolute majority in the next House of Commons.

Because of the scale of the past three Tory defeats, the party still has a mountain to climb in terms of the seats they will need to win any kind of absolute majority in the next Parliament.

It simply can't afford to throw away support that could make a win-or-lose difference in countless constituencies.

Second thoughts

While it doesn't in itself represent a wholescale shift in opinion, this poll should nevertheless set off alarm bells within the Conservative Party as to whether dropping any kind of EU referendum pledge was a big mistake.

It would be no surprise to us if many thousands of voters are now be thinking: if David Cameron won't trust us enough to let us decide where ultimate governing power should lie, why should we trust him enough to make him our Prime Minister?

While the lack of a referendum commitment may not spark a downward spiral in the polls for the Conservatives, in diminishing trust among a small but statistically significant number of voters in each constituency, it is likely to have installed a glass ceiling of support through which David Cameron will now find it impossible to break.

Could David Cameron's refusal to replace his Lisbon referendum pledge with a commitment to giving people a say on his new EU policy have just cost him a majority government?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

No referendum, no trust

Those hoping for a sign that David Cameron is serious about changing Britain's relationship with the EU will be disappointed by today's statement.

Perhaps not so much over its proposals for a confrontational 'Sovereignty Bill' or plans to take back control over some policy areas from the EU.

But certainly over his unwillingness to consult people in a new referendum, and the worrying signals that sends out about the strength of his commitment to securing those changes.

New guarantees

In a speech this afternoon, the Conservative leader set out a new set of policies on the EU, after the final barriers were removed from the path of the Lisbon Treaty into law. These include:

- amending the European Communities Act 1972 to install a 'referendum lock', prohibiting any further treaty transferring power to the EU becoming law without approval by referendum.

- a 'Sovereignty Bill' to "make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament". Such a move would put UK law in direct contravention of Declaration 17 attached to the Lisbon Treaty, not to mention ECJ case law, which asserts the EU's legal primacy over its member countries.

This is what led recently to concern in Brussels over a similar assertion made by the German Constitutional Court.

- opposition to the 'ratchet clauses' within the Lisbon Treaty allowing further transfers of power to the EU without the need for a new Treaty. Less significantly, Cameron pledged to "change the law so that any use of a ratchet clause by a future government would require approval by Parliament." But since a government by definition commands a majority in Parliament, such approval would hardly be such a struggle to secure.

The more significant point here was Cameron's statement "We do not believe that any of these so-called ratchet clauses should be used to hand over more powers from Britain to the EU."

- opt-outs from parts of EU social and employment legislation, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and restricting the EU's role in criminal justice. Trying to take back any powers from the EU will cause interesting upheaval. The EU is simply not built to transmit power in that direction - rather, to steadily suck all power to the EU centre.

However, Cameron's idea of "limiting the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction over criminal law to its pre-Lisbon level" is hardly a restriction at all. S
ince, even before Lisbon was dreamt of, the ECJ had imbued the EU with the power to set criminal sanctions - a definitive power of statehood never set out in any EU treaty.

Confining the ECJ's activism to pre-Lisbon levels will not go nearly far enough, even towards Mr Cameron's own limited own objectives.

Referendum contradiction

However the key contradiction in the Tory leader's statement came when he first decried the need for an alternative referendum on his negotiating aims as having "no practical effect". Yet later said he would consider such a vote at the end of a first Conservative term of government if his negotiating aims hadn't been met.

"If those circumstances were to occur," he said - referring to a failure to secure the opt-outs he seeks - "we would not rule out a referendum on a wider package of guarantees."

But what "practical effect" does he think such a referendum would have at that point, but not either in advance of his negotiations to strengthen his hand, or afterwards in approval of the deal he had achieved?

After all, as we highlighted yesterday, is this not the man who in The Sun attacked Gordon Brown for having the "arrogant belief that he - and only he - has the right to decide what's best for Britain's future"?

The man who said "Giving people freedom and control over their lives is one of the things that makes me a Conservative."

And what more fundamental question of freedom and control is there than to decide for ourselves where governing power should lie?

All about trust

Cameron's proposals contain some interesting steps. From our point of view, they can only be first steps. But a journey has to start somewhere, and at least it appears he is facing in the right direction.

Talking today of the Labour and Liberal Democrat failure to deliver a promised referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Cameron said: "It ranks alongside the expenses scandal as one of the reasons that trust in politics has broken down" - echoing a point the DM was making on this blog back in June.

Yet now he expects us to trust him based only on more words in a party manifesto? It's just not enough, and he cannot possibly expect it to be.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Cameron's moment of truth

With this afternoon's confirmation that the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has finally signed the Lisbon Treaty, all questions turn to how David Cameron is going to respond.

Klaus's signature, following a valiant resistance, removes the last remaining hurdle preventing the treaty from becoming law.

David Cameron gave a "cast iron guarantee" of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in an article in The Sun back in September 2007.

In the same article he said of Gordon Brown's refusal to give us a say that "It's the arrogant belief that he - and only he - has the right to decide what's best for Britain's future."

So is Cameron seriously intending to ditch the idea of an EU referendum altogether - and be condemned by his own words in Britain's most widely read newspaper?

Is there any integrity to his broader rhetoric about fixing our 'broken politics'?

Lisbon problem

Cameron's new difficulty with the Lisbon referendum is not hard to see.

Once ratified, the Lisbon Treaty will be merged into the existing EU treaties and become practically impossible to reverse in one go.

Voting weights will change, EU positions and institutions will be created - such as those of the full-time President of the Council of Ministers and High Representative for Foreign Affairs - and the EU's powers will be amended across the broad range of policy areas its institutions now preside over.

The 26 other national governments would have to agree to any changes, and are not likely to agree to reversing all this in one go.

Britain could of course still hold a retrospective referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, even after it's ratified. But at that stage, little practical change could come of the result.

As a symbolic vote, finally putting on public record Britain's opposition to the EU centralisation project, the idea of a Lisbon referendum still has some merit.

But in this 'new situation', shouldn't we be aiming higher than that? Aiming for something that brings about real change?

New treaties

What David Cameron will face, if he wins the next election, will not be the Lisbon Treaty any more. Rather, the newly amended versions of the main EU treaties, incorporating the Lisbon changes across the EU's entire field of operation.

His position, so far, is that in this case "political integration will have gone too far" and "the Treaty would lack democratic legitimacy in this country."

Towards addressing the scale of political integration, he has talked of reclaiming powers for Britain in specific, targetted areas - such as social and employment policies. Areas like justice and fisheries have also been discussed.

In doing so, he could seek to roll back the Lisbon Treaty piecemeal. But such a plan would go further, and reclaim powers conceded in treaties long before Lisbon existed.

More broadly, such a demand would undermine the entire idea and direction of the EU as we know it today.

But we've yet to hear how Mr Cameron proposes to resolve the EU's "lack of democratic legitimacy".

Dangerous path

As the only major party that has, thus far, stuck to its guns in supporting a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, the Conservatives must tread very carefully if they hope to carry over public faith and support to such a new strategy.

Most people don't trust politicians, and many eurosceptics don't trust the Conservatives any more than the other major parties.

What must first be made crystal clear to those within the Westminster Village is that trust will not be forthcoming based alone on fine words in a Conservative manifesto.

We've been there and done that. Labour and the Lib Dems, with their broken manifesto promises, have put paid to trust ever being given again on that basis alone.

Rollback referendum

If David Cameron wants to be seen as a leader - as someone who can be trusted to act - what's needed in tomorrow's policy announcement is a firm pledge to hold an EU referendum of some sort early in the first term of a Conservative government.

If not on the Lisbon treaty, then that referendum should be held on the package of powers that Cameron proposes to repatriate - on Britain's 'new deal' with the EU.

This pledge of a replacement EU vote is the only possible bridge by which supporters of a Lisbon referendum will feel able to transfer from that "cast iron guarantee" to the new policy.

The alternative - a complex renegotiation plan and no referendum pledge - is a path that threatens the Conservatives with internal divisions, agitation by eurosceptics both inside and outside the party, public mistrust and, ultimately, election loss.

Make or break

Cameron's announcement tomorrow might not in itself be enough to win him the next general election.

But if it lacks a replacement EU referendum for the one we were promised on the Lisbon Treaty, it could easily lose it for him.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Who are the real authoritarians, Mr Miliband?

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has in recent weeks launched a typically New Labour, McCarthyite attack on the Conservative party for teaming up with some east European political parties in the European parliament who are alleged to hold anti-semitic, homophobic and ‘neo-Nazi’ views.

However, since the European Parliament is clearly not where significant power lies in Brussels, the decision of the Tories to team up with East European centre-right parties is of little consequence, regardless of whether or not the claims made against them have been spun in some typically New Labour way by the foreign secretary.

McCarthyite tactic

New Labour, throughout its Peter Mandelson-orchestrated history, has frequently attempted to smear its opponents as being ‘far right’ or ‘xenophobic’ in order to distract attention from the actual substance of the inconvenient political position or claim being advanced.

The foreign secretary in making the attacks he has is merely continuing a long, disreputable tradition, characterised in relation to the EU issue principally by former Europe minister Denis MacShane.

David Miliband’s intention now is to distract attention away from his government’s anti-democratic breaking of its promise at the 2005 general election to let the British people vote on the Lisbon treaty (the cynically re-named European Constitution rejected by a large majority of French and Dutch voters in 2005).

Nor does he want us to focus on the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the system of governance that citizens from all the member countries are being placed under the control of without their consent.

EU's fascist backers

Since Mr Miliband has attempted to create this McCarthyite smokescreen, he should perhaps reflect that, as Dr John Laughland’s book The Tainted Source: The undemocratic origins of the European Union so brilliantly demonstrates, the original project of creating a Pan-European political system was actually enthusiastically supported by fascist movements.

The National Alliance in Italy, the successors to Mussolini’s party and partners in the Berlusconi coalition government, are firm supporters of greater European political union today.

The British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, campaigned post-war on the slogan of ‘Europe a nation’. The original plans for a single currency were drawn up by the Nazis.

Former French presidents and drivers for European centralisation, Francois Mitterand, Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Delors were all active for the Vichy government in various capacities. Mitterand even received the Francisc medal from Marshall Petain for his service to the fascist regime.

Fascists were attracted to the idea of a politically unified and regulated continent with a non-elected elite at its core.

New euro-authoritarians

The peoples of Europe today are confronted by a new and dangerous post-democratic elitism - Euro-Authoritarianism - of which David Miliband is one classic manifestation.

Euro-Authoritarianism is self-evidently more subtle than Twentieth Century fascism, and it is not motivated by anti-semitism.

The Euro-Authoritarians do not seek to end multi-party elections, but rather to greatly restrict the parameters within which electorates can make meaningful collective choices.

This is achieved by transferring ever more law-powers to appointed, non-accountable institutions in Brussels and through so-called Human Rights legislation that enables judges to become policy makers though their interpretations of vaguely drafted articles.

The new Euro-Authoritarians are driven by a post-modernist, Third Way ideology. This represents a direct threat to the liberal, anti-colonialist legacy of the European Enlightenment and the idea that sovereignty should reside with national communities of people rather than unaccountable elites.

Mr Miliband and his associates in New Labour today are working to create an elitist, post-democratic political system based in Brussels that does not accord with the rule of law and can by-pass parliamentary and public accountability.

The Euro-Authoritarians fear the concept of popular democracy, hence their hysterical denunciations of the idea that voters should be allowed to directly determine important issues by referendum.

The New Euro-Authoritarians support…

…preventing the peoples of the EU member states having a direct democratic say regarding whether or not new law-making powers should be centralised in Brussels. When the French and Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the Lisbon treaty (then named the EU Constitution) their wishes were ignored. When the Irish rejected both the Nice and Lisbon treaties they were forced to vote again within a year in rigged referenda so that these treaties could be forced through.

…the centralisation of more law-making powers in Brussels. Once directives are passed, no national elected government or parliament can opt to reject or reverse them as the unelected Commission retains the monopoly right to initiate new legislation. Because of the volume of laws emanating from Brussels, most of the measures are passed in Britain through the use of statutory instruments. MPs do not even get the chance to debate them, let alone vote to block them.

…the introduction of a raft of measures designed to increase state surveillance and control. Lisbon will lead to the creation of the Committee on Internal Security (COSI) which will share DNA, fingerprint, CCTV footage and internet surveillance material between security organisations. In May, the EU Data Retention Directive was passed. This enables state agencies to find out what all citizens - not just those suspected of committing criminal offences - have been downloading and who they have been contacting electronically.

The Commission is already funding Project Indect which is a mass surveillance project dedicated to identifying "abnormal behaviour" through CCTV footage and a "continuous monitoring of websites, discussion forums, usernet groups… and individual computer systems".

The EU now has an embryonic police force, Europol, whose officers, like senior EU officials, enjoy, revealingly, immunity from prosecution in member states (Statutory Instrument 1997 No.2973). This body will gain powers of "implementation"of operational powers within the member states as a consequence of Lisbon.

EU citizens can now under the European Arrest Warrant be deported automatically to another member country without any hard evidence having been provided by prosecuting authorities. The Commission has been for many years financing various projects designed to result in the introduction of ID cards, though their formal implementation is still a matter of national law.

…the current undemocratic structure of the EU. In addition to the unelected Commission’s monopoly right to introduce new legislation, the Council of Ministers meets in secret and votes are not recorded. In reality, the vast majority of its decisions are taken by civil servants representing the ministers from the member states in COREPER. European voters cannot hold these bodies collectively responsible through the ballot box.

The executive and the key legislative body, therefore, are beyond democratic account. It is illegal under article 108 of the current treaty for elected representatives from the member states to in any way try to influence the deliberations of the European Central Bank.

Under Lisbon, the political leaders, meeting behind closed doors in the European Council, will be able to appoint a full-time president and foreign minister to represent the Union on the world stage.

… an elitist, corporatist system of politics. The mindset of the EU political class is to concentrate power in the hands of elite bodies representing big business and the major trades unions. Hence, the Committee of the Social Partners which affords elite access to the European Round Table of Industrialists.

The EU model of corporatist politics cuts out ordinary voters and gives a massive advantage to lobbyists from big financial interests, as was seen in the decision to outlaw 300 alternative health treatments following extensive lobbying by Pfizer, Boots and other big companies.

Cowardly elite

New Labour have shown themselves to be notoriously cowardly in terms of openly debating the EU issue, as well as virtually every other issue.

They prefer, as good authoritarians, to speak only at controlled, all-ticket events with no or only planted questions from the floor.

Having made his outspoken accusation in the cosy company of the press that EU critics like William Hague and the Tory party are consorting with ‘neo-Nazis’, does the foreign secretary - who claims to be an intellectual - have the cojones to publicly debate the question of ‘anti-democratic politics’ with Dr Laughland?

We would be pleased to make all the arrangements, including finding a neutral chairperson that both participants find acceptable.

So how about it Mr Miliband?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

BBC bias in Lisbon treaty reporting

UPDATE: Tues 20 October 2009

The BBC are at it again with their subtle bias: "His signature is now virtually the last hurdle before full ratification of the treaty,
which is aimed at streamlining the 27-member EU's decision making." A completely one-sided presentation of the treaty's purpose, given in the BBC's supposedly non-partisan voice, and therefore not fairly balanced by the critical quote from the clearly partisan Czech President that follows it.


A flurry of BBC reports surrounding the recent referendum in Ireland has once again displayed the continued pro-EU bias in the BBC's supposedly 'neutral' and 'impartial' output.

BBC stories about
the referendum result, discussing what the Conservatives now intend to do about the Lisbon Treaty and on questions about Czech ratification were all peppered with the subtly biased descriptive statements about the Treaty that have featured in many other BBC articles on the subject in recent years.

The BBC kicks off its latest festival of euro bias just a few paragraphs into the piece reporting the result of the Irish vote, by declaring: "The treaty - which is aimed at streamlining decision-making in the 27-nation bloc - ... "

This is of course an abjectly pro-EU 'government line' description of the purpose of the treaty, with which the treaty's critics would profoundly disagree.

We, for example, would argue that the treaty's only purpose is to continue the EU political integration project, by transferring more decision-making powers from national governments and parliaments to undemocratic EU institutions. And to establish for the EU further symbols of the statehood to which it so clearly aspires.

Yet there, presented as the view of the 'neutral' BBC, the unalloyed government view sits. Completely unqualified and unattributed, supposedly a statement of impartial fact.

Credibility clash

Nearer the bottom of the same article appears a second, similarly biased statement of BBC 'fact'.

"The treaty is intended to make EU institutions better suited to the enlarged bloc of 27", the article intones. Another 'government line'.

At least, after this second biased claim, albeit right down at the bottom of the piece, the views of "opponents" are finally given a short airing.

But still that is unsatisfactory, as such opponents are being set against not the opinions of the EU, the government or some campaign group whose broad stance can be determined and their view put in context. But the view of the supposedly neutral BBC.

That credibility clash is a totally unfair one on the treaty's critics.

More bias

The same problem crops up in the BBC article questioning the Tory position on the treaty after the Irish vote.

Again, only a few paragraphs down, it is written that the treaty "aims to strengthen EU decision-making processes by using a majority vote, not unanimity, for more decisions."

Yet another completely pro-EU interpretation of the treaty's aims, unattributed to any known EU-friendly voices, and unaccompanied by any balanced mention o
f the consequent weakening of national democratic structures that more EU majority voting entails.

No mention, for example, of how majority voting allows entire governments and parliaments to be overridden by EU institutions and laws imposed on countries regardless of domestic popular or even political opinion.

Are we really expected to imagine that the BBC considers such trifling details of little relevance or interest to readers? Because if not, what other conclusion is there to draw but that of unthinking or deliberate bias?

No critical voices about the treaty are featured in this article at all. But two quotes - from Gordon Brown and Irish PM Brian Cowen - are included in effusive praise of the treaty.

Third time unlucky

And finally, in an article about the Czech ratification of the treaty, the BBC states without qualification as if it were indisputable fact: "The treaty aims to streamline EU decision-making and boost the EU's role globally."

"Opponents" do get a look-in this time, using the same non-specific line as previously that: "Opponents see Lisbon as part of a federalist agenda that threatens national sovereignty."

No detail there about specific negative treaty provisions that might actually make people question the treaty's merits. Heaven forbid!

Guilty verdict

Back in 2005, in a report the BBC itself commissioned, the Corporation was deemed guilty of an institutional pro-EU bias.

Probably worse than any deliberate bias, of which the BBC was cleared, the report concluded that the problem was institutional because the broadcaster “suffers from certain forms of cultural and unintentionial bias”.

It put this down to BBC journalists often being ignorant about how the EU works.

But a far greater contributor to the problem seems to be the internal perpetuation of an inaccurate cultural view of the EU's critics - a view that is too heavily defined by crude labels used by the government and other EU supporters to try to discredit their opponents.

The most commonly broadcast manifestation of this cultural fault is frequent use of the term "anti-Europeans" to describe EU-critics, with all the cultural antipathy to 'Europe' that term misleadingly injects into what is in reality a political debate about governing structures.

Sadly, on recent form, it seems very little progress has been made in the intervening years to restore the BBC's reputation for impartiality.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Ireland votes on Lisbon treaty

Ireland has voted to approve the Lisbon Treaty in the re-run of the referendum that led to the treaty's rejection last year.

In a vote tainted by irregularities and illegalities - such as blatant breaches of Irish referendum rules requiring balanced media coverage and no public money to be used for either side - the result this time was a 67% 'Yes' vote.

While it's hard to believe that the Irish people voted 'Yes' based on the idea that the economy would suffer further if they refused to give the EU even more governing powers, that seems to be exactly what a majority has been bullied into doing.

The pro-Lisbon
camp promised a 'Yes' vote would mean more jobs and economic recovery - the relevance of either outcome to the Lisbon Treaty having been dismissed by even the Irish Referendum Commission.

If these promises fail to materialize - for example, if Irish unemployment continues to rise after this 'Yes' vote - it will be clear beyond doubt that the 'Yes' camp has misled people.

In all likelihood, the only jobs the Lisbon Treaty will create will be in Brussels for yet more former politicians and more legions of attendant bureaucrats taking up new positions in the various EU agencies and bodies the treaty introduces.

That further needless financial burden on the backs of Europe's taxpayers will only delay economic recovery, not hasten it.

Imbalanced campaign

That the 'Yes' camp ran a fundamentally dishonest campaign appears to be widely accepted.

As ever, their chief strategy was to make a deliberate conflation between the implications of EU membership and those of the Lisbon Treaty, and claiming falsely that a 'No' would put Ireland's economic links to other EU member countries at risk.

The last thing the 'Yes' camp wanted to discuss was the the treaty itself and whether it is really necessary for yet more political decisions to be transferred to Brussels.

Whether, for example, it is necessary for the EU to have a full-time President, Foreign Minister, its own diplomatic service, or for Ireland to give up a large slice of its influence over EU decisions.

'No' outspent

This strategy was particularly potent at the present time, when Ireland's economic troubles have worsened considerably since the last Lisbon Treaty referendum.

The inaccurate representation of what the referendum was about by the 'Yes' camp was then rammed home by outspending the 'No' side more than ten times over.

In particular, serious legal questions must now be asked about the role played by the European Commission - a direct beneficiary of the result - which used millions of pounds of public money to influence the outcome in their favour.

The myth still perpetuated by a few starry-eyed EU luvvies that the Commission is the benign 'civil service' element of the EU structure must now be permanently marked 'busted'.

Wrong path

With this vote, Ireland has stepped into the worst of all worlds.

None of the promises made by the 'Yes' side can or will be delivered.

Millions of potential friends among ordinary people across Europe who would have liked to reject this treaty, had they been given a say, have been lost.

Respect will not even be forthcoming from EU political elites, who will most likely be chuckling behind Ireland's back in amazement that their economic scaremongering and shabby trick of empty declarations has actually worked.

Democracy tag team

The baton of halting the onward march of an illegitimate EU State now falls to the lone figure of Vaclav Klaus - President of the Czech Republic.

But even if it passes his final hurdles, the underhand way in which this treaty has been forced through has served to further erode faith in the EU project among those who uphold democratic principles.

Disquiet about how the EU and its backward-looking supporters amongst Europe's governing class have conspired to deceive people about their intentions and deny people a say on their actions will echo long into the future - long after this particular event is forgotten.

Today, EU elites may well celebrate another step towards this extra level being built on the EU's already lofty powers.

But it has been achieved at the cost of further crumbling the foundations of the EU's legitimacy.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Commission out of control

Is there any more democratically corrupt an idea than a governing institution - which stands to gain considerable extra powers depending on the outcome of a referendum result - splashing millions of pounds of public money trying to influence the result in their favour?

Public bodies using vast sums of taxpayers' money not available to campaigners on the other side of a referendum debate is not just unfair but, more seriously, incompatible with how governing institutions should behave in modern liberal democracy.

Yet this is the situation right now in respect of recent European Commission interventions in the Irish referendum debate on the Lisbon Treaty.

Commission circus

First we had Catherine Day, secretary-general of the European Commission and, if EU-fanatical voices are to be believed, effectively head of the EU’s civil service.

According to the Irish Times, at the beginning of September she "spent the past week in Ireland undertaking a series of media appearances and public-speaking engagements to support the Yes campaign."

Just imagine the outrage if the head of Britain's civil service during a general election campaign spent a week publicly campaigning for victory by one or other political party while still in post.

Leaving aside the political consideration, who paid for Ms Day's trip?

Then along came European Commission President Jose 'dimension of Empire' Barroso, hot footing it to Ireland brandishing the taxpayers' cheque book.

Visiting Limerick last week he pledged just under £13.5m (€14.8m) to 'help former Dell workers find new jobs'.

"I am very glad that the Commission can demonstrate concretely the Union's solidarity with Limerick [...] in this manner," puffed Mr Barroso. Neglecting to mention that the EU had already approved a far more substantial £50m (€55m) grant given to Dell by the Polish government, towards expanding the computer company's operations in Lodz - the place to which the Irish jobs were exported.

Then, as we highlighted here last week, we saw Transport Commissioner (and Commission Vice President) Antonio Tajani joining an invective-strewn 'Yes to Lisbon' flying tour of Ireland organised by Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair.

Capping it all, yesterday the European Commission paid what has subsequently been confirmed as £139,000 (€150,000) to insert in all Irish Sunday newspapers over 1 million copies of a 16-page pamphlet 'explaining' the Lisbon Treaty.

The pamphlet says "Today, members of the EU enjoy a wealth of benefits: a free market with a currency that makes trade easier and more efficient, the creation of millions of jobs, improved workers' rights, free movement of people and a cleaner environment.

Then claims, even more controversially, "These are major goals. The Lisbon Treaty is designed to give the EU the tools to achieve them", before launching into a rollecoaster ride of serious inaccuracies and major omissions.

This latest wad of public cash spent by the Commission on securing for itself more power was on top of a £1.4m (€1.6m) contract the Commission signed earlier this year with public relations firm Edelman, to conduct a "PR blitz ... aimed at the three groups who voted en masse against the Lisbon first time around."

Action 'illegal'

Reacting to the news of the Commission pamphlet in last Sunday's newspapers, former Green Party MEP and chairwoman of the anti-Lisbon People’s Movement, Patricia McKenna, has sent a legal letter warning the commission she would take out an injunction against any newspapers carrying the guide to Lisbon.

“This clearly breaches Irish law as set down by Supreme Court in the McKenna judgment in 1995 where taxpayers’ money cannot be used to promote one side in a referendum. This guide is advocacy,” she said.

According to Bruno Waterfield in the Daily Telegraph, even the legal services of both the commission and the Council of Ministers expressed reservations the publication of the "citizens summary" of the Lisbon Treaty.

Waterfield quotes an EU official saying: “The lawyers asked if it was right for the commission to produce a summary of Lisbon, before it was ratified and when there was not one for the Constitution."

In addition to Irish law, McKenna also questioned if the commission breached EU law, given that the institution has no treaty-given role advocating the ratification of EU treaties in member countries.

Rules sacrificed

Yet somehow the European Commission is getting away with interfering, using large sums of public money, to its own potential benefit.

The truth is, the EU elite are so desperate to barge their self-aggrandising Lisbon Treaty past this only permitted public verdict that the rules are being flung out of the window.

Vote NO

That the Commission sees its antics during the Irish referendum as acceptable says everything we need to know about the dangerous, pre-Enlightenment era attitude to democracy and the rule of law at the heart of the EU.

Please, Ireland. Today, only you have the power. This is not just a vote about the EU and Ireland, but about Europe and democracy.

For the sake of democracy in Europe. Please stop these people, by voting 'No'.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Ryanair suffers for O'Leary's Lisbon lunacy

UPDATE: Weds 30 September 2009

Michael O'Leary truly gives the game away in a TV interview, saying: “One of the reasons that I am campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote is that our Government is incompetent, yet I need to persuade them to sell me Aer Lingus” - according to The Times.


The Daily Telegraph today features a great article on Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary's 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign.

The outspoken airline boss - king of surprise extra charges and nemesis of customer service - has pledged to splash half a million euros on a Ryanair campaign in support of a 'Yes' vote in Ireland's looming repeat referendum.

But landing a potent succession of punches against the campaign, the Telegraph first launches into a 'double whammy' attack on the EU's Transport Commissioner for joining in with a pro-Lisbon flying circus orchestrated by O'Leary earlier this week.

The suggestion is that the Commissioner both broke impartiality rules by taking sides in Ireland's debate over the Lisbon Treaty and, by accepting free flights and hospitality, also engaged in a potential conflict of interest given his role in decisions over airline policy.

But even better, the article goes on to humiliate O'Leary himself for his blatant personal hypocrisy over the EU and the last referendum result, pointing out that the Ryanair boss's current view is very different to the one he reportedly held last October, following Ireland's first 'No' vote.

Bias Bellenaise

During six hours of Ryanair flights around Ireland on Tuesday, Commissioner Antonio Tajani reportedly enjoyed on-board chicken Bellenaise and wild rice as his host O'Leary launched into numerous foam-flecked tirades directed at "No to Lisbon" campaigners.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Tajani stood silently by during a succession of press conferences in which Mr O'Leary mocked Lisbon Treaty opponents as "numpties", "numb nuts" and "clowns" (solid arguments to hand more decisions over to Brussels there, Michael!) all the while referring to the attendant eurocrat as "my new friend commissioner Tajani."

Allegations of two serious offences against Commission rules committed by Mr Tajani has sparked a chorus of calls for his resignation, coupled with accusations levelled at O'Leary that he has launched his "Yes" campaign to curry favour with both Brussels and the Irish government that hold such sway over his current business ambitions.

As transport commissioner, Mr Tajani plays a key role in setting the rules governing airline operations and also has influence over competition rulings such as those covering Ryanair's desperate attempts to take over Aer Lingus.

In addition, just as O'Leary leapt aboard the 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign all cosy with the Irish governing elite, this outstanding matter is under consideration by the Irish Aviation Authority.

If approved, looser seating arrangements would likely boost Ryanair's profits by hundreds of millions of pounds.

Giving away an insight into his true motivations, according to the Irish Times O'Leary earlier in the week said of Brussels : "these f***ers have very long memories. They stuck it to us enough times."

"You can never link one with the other, but Ryanair’s offer to Aer Lingus is the only airline merger that’s been turned down by Brussels on competition grounds in 30 years," he said.

Can't link one with the other? Really, who is O'Leary trying to kid?

Flying flip-flop

Besides the business considerations over which O'Leary is clearly prepared to help pawn Ireland's democracy, his sudden conversion to the Lisbon Treaty also flies in the face of his previous remarks on EU issues.

Back in October, after it had become clear that Ireland was going to be forced by the EU to vote again, O'Leary said: "It seems that only in the EU, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice. The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do."

During yesterday's Today FM debate on the Lisbon Treaty featuring both O'Leary and Libertas leader Declan Ganley - which the Irish Times describes as quickly turning into the 'Mick and Declan show' - Ganley drove the charge of personal hypocrisy deeper.

To titters from the audience, O’Leary was reminded of his previous criticisms of the European Commission as “Stalinist” and “an evil empire” run by “morons” and “gobshites”.

Symbolic of the level of debate on the issue that the 'Yes to Lisbon' side has to offer, an unrepentant O’Leary reportedly rolled his eyes and retorted “Accept No for an answer Declan and bugger off”.

If only the EU would accept 'No' for an answer, Declan probably would.

Ryanair boycott

During the course of the Lisbon Treaty debate, the embarrassing intervention of Michael O'Leary has only added to the evidently already plentiful supply of bad press Ryanair is clocking up.

Apart from pushing a campaign directly opposed to the democratic decision already made in a referendum by a majority of Irish people, millions across Europe oppose the Lisbon Treaty and the EU's whole current direction.

In addition to three countries having voted against the EU Constitution / Lisbon Treaty, the only independent poll of all 27 member states, taken in 2007, showed that majorities in 16 countries would vote 'no' to a Treaty giving more powers to the EU.

A reality that is all too evident when you look at websites such as that of the Europe Says No campaign.

So for the owner of a Europe-wide airline to plant himself so publicly on the wrong side in a Europe-wide debate smacks from a business point of view of shooting yourself spectacularly in the foot.

O'Leary might think he's sticking it to the 'No' side, but his level of debate is an embarrassment and in reality his interventions are daily putting the boot into the Europe-wide popularity of his business.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

'Europe Says No' to the Lisbon Treaty

A new, pan-European campaign called Europe Says No: No to Lisbon, Yes to democracy has been launched.

The campaign is being organised by a wide range of people across Europe, and across the political spectrum, who want to see the Lisbon Treaty rejected.

In advance of Ireland's outrageous repeat referendum on 2nd October, Europe Says No aims to show how many people across Europe would themselves vote 'No' to Lisbon ... if they could.

The initiative has brought together an excellent range of supporters, including Harry van Bommel (Socialist Party MP in the Netherlands); Gustav Fridolin (Swedish journalist, author and former Green Party MP); British Labour MP and former minister Gisela Stuart; Sari Essayah (Christian Democrat MEP for Finland) and many others.

On 2nd October, Ireland will have an historic opportunity to lead Europe to a better, more democratic future by once again voting 'No' to the Lisbon treaty.

Please show your support for a second Irish 'No' by visiting the
Europe Says No website and leaving a supportive comment. Make sure your voice is heard!

The campaign also has a group on Facebook, which needs as many members as possible to ensure a strong message is sent in support of a second Irish 'No' - click
here to view.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Schools cuts will only pay for extra £2bn to EU

This weekend Schools Secretary Ed Balls became the first cabinet minister to set out where the axe may fall on public services, in the government's bid to bring Britain's finances back into balance.

But rather than cut the unjustifiable extra £2bn the government plans to give to the EU next year, Mr Balls revealed that he wants to cut the same amount from the schools budget instead.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Balls said that up to 3,000 senior school staff could be axed instead of excessive spending on the EU.

Primary school heads as well as deputies, assistant heads, plus heads of subject in primary and secondary schools could all find themselves in the firing line.

But any benefit to our public finances contributed by these likely painful schools cuts will be quickly eaten up by the looming 60% increase in the amount Britain pays into the EU's mismanaged accounts.

Rot at the top

As the minister widely recognised to be Gordon Brown's right-hand man, it's fair to assume Mr Ball's stance - that cash for key services must be chopped before cash for the EU - represents misguided attitudes to public services right at the top of government.

But how many MPs - especially those in the most marginal seats - will stand by this twisted credo when schools in their own constituencies face staff cuts?

MPs can't possibly hope that voters will accept an explanation that the state of our public finances warrants cuts when people can see even more billions being splashed on the audit-failing EU.

Angry reaction

The government's plans have been angrily criticised by teachers' organisations and are already being described as a potential 'bloodbath'.

Speaking about Mr Balls, Mick Brookes of the the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The impression he gives is that head teachers are among the 'bureaucrats' who can be replaced."

"What does he think they're doing all day? We're looking for him to get his own house in order before criticising school leadership."

EU waste

Stopping the complete waste of public money on the EU - at the very least blocking next year's unacceptable £2bn increase - would be a good first step towards the government getting its own house in order.

Two recent examples of how the EU is wasting public money on a grand scale are typical of the stories that now appear regularly.

According to the Irish edition of the Sunday Times earlier this month, retiring Irish Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is set to receive a massive £362,000 (€400,000) EU payoff, having spent five years enjoying a £216,000 (€239,000) EU salary plus lavish expenses.

Worse, Mr McCreevy is just one Commissioner of 27 enjoying that pay packet, and not the only one soon retiring.

And just last week there was news via EUobserver that the EU is splashing £280m on a new, self-titled 'palace' in Brussels to house its top officials.

Take action

To contact Ed Balls and ask him why teachers are getting the chop rather than the £2bn extra the government plans to give the EU, you can email him at

Friday, 11 September 2009

EU gets 60% more as public services face 'efficiency savings'

This week, Alistair Darling proclaimed that the government is "ready to make the tough choices necessary" in order to bring Britain's public finances back into balance.

Speaking in Cardiff, the Chancellor warned of "slower growth in public spending in the coming years" and that "setting priorities inevitably means tough choices."

"The first priority", he said, "has to be to look for areas where we can achieve greater efficiency."

The Chancellor's comments have been seen as paving the way for public sector spending cuts expected to be outlined in the Pre-Budget Report this autumn.

Wrong priorities

But in an early example of the kind of priority setting we can expect from this government, just a couple of weeks ago we learnt that one of the most wasteful elements of government spending - Britain's cash contributions to the European Union budget - will next year rocket by 60%.

According to the BBC, the increase will take Britain's annual net contribution to the EU budget from £4.1bn to £6.2bn in 2010 - equivalent to writing a cheque to the EU for £119 million every single week.

Unjustifiable increase

Handing this much extra cash to the EU is completely unjustifiable, not just in today's tightened financial circumstances, when public services are clearly facing cuts.

But also in light of the fact that the EU's accounts have been severely criticised by auditors now for 14 years running.
Even the EU's auditors have trouble telling us how EU institutions are spending the money they currently receive.

That any public money at all is still being handed to the EU, given the
on-going uncertainty by auditors over how it is being spent, is scandal enough. But now Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling plan to give the EU billions more.

Short-sighted deal

The increase comes as a result of the 2007-2013 EU budget deal done by Tony Blair in late 2005 and pushed through Parliament by Gordon Brown in 2007. All highlighted by the Democracy Movement at the time in a campaign called Stop the Cheques.

Some of the main myths perpetuated by the government to justify the deal were dismantled in our December 2005 EU budget factsheet and these points remain just as relevant today.

Because if you tackle the government over their enthusiasm for splashing billions more on the EU, you'll get the same old myths in response.

The full consequences of that short-sighted deal are today hitting home at the worst possible time for Britain's public finances.

EU waste

The EU has to be by far the least deserving of all possible recipients of extra public cash.

Beyond the critical role of public services like the NHS, on which so many depend, you only have to watch programmes like Channel 4's Secret Millionaire to see how many people are struggling with next to no financial help to support the worst off in our society through small, local charitable initiatives.

For these people, often working to improve people's quality of life in struggling communities where the local council cannot or will not provide much-needed facilities, even small amounts of money can make a huge difference to their work continuing.

Next to such real life realities on our screens every week, news that the audit-failing EU, with its legions of pampered hangers-on and lavish glass palaces in Brussels, is being given an extra £2bn by the government - despite no-one being absolutely sure how such money is being spent and regular reports of waste and fraud - is a glaring injustice.

Real message

The message from Alistair Darling is clear. Swathes of services on which people depend for their health, care, education, financial security and much more will shortly find themselves in the firing line. But spending on the EU is sacrosanct.

The reality is that, as public finances are squeezed, the government plans to deprive essential services of funding and cause cuts in order to pay for this outpouring of cash to the wasteful EU.

Unless the government and the MPs who voted to approve this EU budget deal take urgent action now to reverse it - to refocus public money on real needs in a very different economic situation than when the deal was agreed - they must accept personal responsibility for the resulting public service cuts to come.

Short-sighted decision-making, disinterest in correcting their mistake despite the billions at stake, topped with hypocrisy over the proper funding of public services will hardly be the best scenario for success in the looming general election.

Alistair Darling may talk of his "tough choices", but inaction now over the unjustifiable scale spending on the EU will mean that he makes the choice of many at the ballot box very easy indeed.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Cameron must clarify referendum pledge

The fate of the EU's Lisbon Treaty is set to come to a head in just a few weeks time.

A repeat Irish referendum is due on
2 October and ratification by Germany is expected shortly afterwards.

EU pressure will then fall on Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who has indicated that he will hold out as long as he can before signing the treaty into law.

Here, continued vague statements from the Conservative party on whether they will hold the referendum promised for the Lisbon treaty or give people a say on an alternative don't lend credence to the party's idea of being seen as the next government.

So DM campaign director Marc Glendening has this week written to Conservative leader David Cameron, asking for clarity.


Dear Mr Cameron,

I am writing to you to try and ascertain what exactly is the current position of the Conservative party in relation to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

The consensus of opinion in the media and political worlds is that if, by the time the Conservatives form the next government the treaty has been ratified in all the other EU member states, you will drop the Lisbon referendum pledge.

Ken Clarke, appearing on the BBC's Politics Show on June 14, said that: "If the Irish eferendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled olicy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened."

A Tory Central Office spokesman was quoted as saying in response to Mr Clarke's that "There is no change to Conservative policy. As Ken Clarke explained, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified and in force across the EU by the time of the election of a Conservative government, we have always made clear that we would not let matters rest there." This seems to implicitly confirm what Ken Clarke said.

When William Hague was challenged on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman during the recent European parliamentary election campaign to say one way or the other whether the party would still adhere to the referendum pledge following a possible 'yes' vote in the second Irish referendum, and ratification in the other countries that have not yet done so, he refused to answer the question. He too fell back on the "we will not let matters rest" mantra.

However, in contrast, Dan Hannan MEP has said recently that he remains convinced that you are still committed to consulting the British people directly in a post-ratification referendum on the treaty.

The Democracy Movement is Britain's largest non-party pressure group campaigning against today's EU. We are increasingly being appoached by our supporters and members of the public, some of whom are supporters of your party, trying to ascertain what is now the party's true position on the Lisbon Treaty and referendum, due to its pivotal bearing on how they will vote at the next general election.

As things stand, we can only tell them that it looks as if, like Labour and the Liberal Democrats, you too will abandon your manifesto promise of a referendum. Beyond that, it is impossible for us to give a meaningful response to these enquiries, as the Conservative party is refusing to state a clear position.

Why not now end the damaging speculation that you are planning to drop the referendum commitment and state unequivocally that - regardless of whether or not the Lisbon treaty has come into legal force by the time you become prime minister, and in accordance with the "cast iron guarantee" to hold a referendum you wrote of in The Sun (26 Sept 07) - you will call a referendum within a specified period of coming into office?

Unless you are able to do this, the Democracy Movement and others will be forced to assume that Ken Clarke's above-mentioned endorsement of the status quo should Lisbon be ratified is the settled position of the Conservative party.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Marc Glendening
Campaign director

Please join in this quest for clarity from the party that looks likely to be our next government, by sending a version of this letter to your own Conservative MP or, especially, candidate hopeful of being elected. We would be very interested to see a copy of any reply you receive.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Stage set for repeat Irish referendum

Despite having widely dismissed the idea of a second referendum, Ireland's politicians have gone back on their word.

Perhaps the grim predictability of this situation is the reason that there's barely a whisper from the media about such extraordinary U-turns, threadbare justifications and little interest in confronting politicians with their previous statements.

Such as that of Irish EU Affairs Minister, Dick Roche, when shortly before the last referendum he wrote on his website; "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."

As a demonstration of complete lack of respect for public opinion on the part of the political elite, coupled to the media's increasing failure to expose and confront such collapses of integrity, this situation is surely a perfect example of the vicious circle lying at the heart of the steady degradation of public faith in the political system.

Long saga

Last week's EU summit - together with Wednesday's announcement of the 2nd October as the date on which Ireland will hold a repeat referendum - has set the stage for the next big showdown in the saga of the EU Constitution / Lisbon Treaty.

It's worth remembering that this is a saga that goes all the way back to the Laeken Declaration of 2001 which, despite some commendable decentralising recommendations, gave rise to the highly centralising EU Constitution.

That Laeken proved not to be worth the paper it was written on when it came, subsequently, to the legal expression of how the EU would proceed is perhaps a useful example of how influential such 'declarations' by Europe's heads of state or government truly are over the EU's eventual direction.

Having been born, ultimately, of one worthless declaration by European leaders, it would be extraordinary if the Lisbon Treaty were approved by the Irish people on the basis of another.

Since Laeken, in a period when European countries have had many rather more pressing economic and social concerns deserving of their attention, huge amounts of political capital has instead been wasted by European leaders trying to manoeuvre greater power for the EU's institutions past a succession of reluctant peoples.

Before even looking at the tactics used, the potential progress in other economic and social areas that this elite obsession with the EU has cost should be considered a scandal in itself.

This is a saga of a treaty that, if today's political leaders had any respect for democracy, should have died many years ago.

Instead, their bizarre, antiquated obsession with a 1950s European State ideology apparently trumps all. When that seems even to include democracy, we enter very dangerous territory indeed.

Weak declarations

So back it comes again. Having been rejected overwhelmingly by the French and the Dutch, repackaged, rejected again by the only country given a say on the re-named version, now back it comes to Ireland accompanied by some 'declarations'.

Set out in the official conclusions of las
t week's EU summit, these declarations are aimed at addressing the concerns of just enough 'No' voters on such matters as Ireland's Commissioner, military neutrality, tax and policy on abortion.

Yet, as discussed in a previous posting, the Lisbon Treaty is not needed to ensure that Ireland retain a Commissioner. Not that Commissioners represent their country in any case, the terms of their office requiring that they commit to "acting in the interests of the Union as a whole and not taking instructions from national governments".

The declaration on neutrality is extremely weak, in that it only assures Ireland's right to choose the "nature" of its assistance to another country rather than whether the country wishes to take sides in a military incident at all.

Moves to harmonise business tax rates have long been on the EU agenda even without Lisbon. So the assurance that the Lisbon Treaty makes no change to the "extent or operation of the competence of the European Union in relation to taxation" rings more than a little hollow.

And according to the EU's own Eurobarometer poll, the number of people who voted out of concern over EU intereference in Irish family policy such as on abortion was very small indeed (2%).

That same poll showed that a far larger proportion of 'No' voters did so to "protect Irish identity" (12%), because they're against a unified Europe (5%), are concerned about the influence of big EU member countries versus the small (7%) or because they don't trust their politicians (6%).

But there's little that can be done to ameliorate the Lisbon Treaty's effects and buy off 'No' voters on these fronts, as all EU treaties are in fact specifically designed to steadily reduce the political identity and influence of Europe's nation states and advance in their place a single political structure in Europe for all major decision-making.

Critical or meaningless?

Depending on which country's politicians you listen to, these declarations are either of critical importance, change everything and justify a whole new referendum (Ireland).

Or are effectively meaningless, change nothing and there's no need for the treaty to be re-opened (Britain and other countries who have denied their peoples a say).

While current polls in Ireland show a majority now ready to vote 'Yes', that was also the case in the run up to the vote last time around.

It's also clear that many of the recent poll questions have been framed as to make anything other than a 'Yes' answer utterly unreasonable, designed as a political initiative to build momentum behind that view rather than to accurately measure it.

Legal questions

Currently the declarations have the legal force of an agreement between national leaders under international law. Yet what has been agreed by leaders can, in principle, be unpicked by leaders alone at a later stage. Long after people have voted, and beyond public control.

Declarations on this legal basis alone can offer little reassurance that they will be respected.

So the stated intention is - after the referendum - to give the declarations greater legal weight by attaching them as a protocol to the next accession treaty admitting a new country to the EU.

Croatia is often mentioned as the most likely candidate, but its membership talks are mired in difficulty over a border dispute with Slovenia and deadlines for joining seem to be disappearing ever further into the future.

There's also the matter that such an accession treaty will not appear until after June 2010, from which point the Conservatives may be in government and responsible for its ratification - Lisbon protocol and all. Whether such a treaty will gain majority support in Parliament at that time must remain a doubt.

So in addition to their limited relevance, whether these declarations will ever gain sufficient legal validity to justify the Lisbon Treaty being given advance approval must remain a significant concern when Irish voters once again go to the polls.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Shadow-boxing over constitutional reform

Westminster has today been discussing the subject of 'constitutional renewal', prompted by a statement by Gordon Brown.

Yet when a significant proportion of Britain's laws now derive from remote EU institutions - against which a large majority so recently voted during an EU-specific election - Gordon Brown doesn't seem to think the EU even worth mentioning as part of the problem of how to reconnect politics with the public.

Throughout a statement that threw in every possible distraction - from holding a consultation on changing the voting system to the establishment of some new quango to supervise MPs - the EU didn't get one mention.

On the one hand, Brown claims, he wants the "devolution of power". This, he concludes, will lead to the "engagement of people themselves in their local communities."

But on the other, via the Lisbon Treaty, he's clearly happy to see ever more decision-making centralised in remote EU institutions in Brussels - in the process denying us a promised say - and can't see why that's causing people to disengage from Westminster politics.

"Let us stand together for integrity and democracy", he concluded - after setting out how he plans to ignore the key message of the recent European parliament election.

Instead of a proper acknowledgment of the EU's role in draining away the standing of parliament and sterilising Westminster debate, today we had the government's attempt to change the subject.

Expenses myth

The idea that last week's election wasn't really about the EU at all, but a protest vote about MPs' expenses or other aspects of how parliament works, doesn't stack up.

First, despite their MPs being arguably as badly affected by the revelations as Labour - think duck ponds and moats - the Conservative vote actually went up.

Second, the Lib Dems - a party that was deemed to have come out better from the expenses scandal, but which connived with Labour to deny us the promised referendum on the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty - saw their vote drop.

Where is the quest here to punish all the Westminster parties?
But the message on the EU - on the Lisbon Treaty - is crystal clear.

Those opposed to today's EU were up. Those who support the status quo - who actively blocked us being given a say on passing more power to the EU - took a hit.

Not listening

That's why today's statement couldn't be a worse response for Labour's prospects at the next election.

It couldn't be worse because it's increasingly hard to imagine that no-one in government recognises how much of a problem in our democratic system the scale of the EU's powers is now causing - and how much people want to see that change.

Rather, it shows, no-one wants to put that key problem right.

That isn't reducing the 'disconnect' between public and politics. It's making it so much worse.

Monday, 8 June 2009

People have spoken - now it's 'do or die' for Brown

Gordon Brown may have survived trial by Labour MPs, as seems to be the news emerging from this evening's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

But he has not yet saved himself from public opinion.

The media have spent today wallowing in the twin themes of the election of two BNP candidates as MEPs and further debate about Gordon Brown's leadership of the Labour party.

These may well be the most controversial outcomes for commentators, but ultimately they are side-shows.

The danger the media must avoid is that the overall message delivered by voters is overlooked.

The glaring message from yesterday is that people want less EU integration, not more. Overwhelming support was given to a wide range of parties representing all sides of the political spectrum that oppose the Lisbon Treaty.

The spotlight must now shift on to how Gordon Brown intends to deliver what people have clearly said they want.

Not only are Labour MPs, according to those coming out of tonight's meeting, asking how their party can reconnect with the public, and what policy changes are needed to achieve this.

But also millions of people will be watching closely in the coming days to detect whether, after the uproar against our political leaders that has built over recent weeks, Westminster is finally listening.

It's all about Lisbon

As we've said already, the only response that addresses all prevailing political problems is for Gordon Brown to immediately rescind Britain's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

The treaty is not only an issue that, more than any other - due to the conspicuously broken manifesto promises of a referendum - speaks to problems of trust between governors and the governed.

As we will show tomorrow, the treaty's emergence in October 2007 actually kick-started the disconnect between Gordon Brown and the public that has today grown to a critical condition.

But it also speaks directly to questions of the degradation of Parliament and consequent falling public faith in our democratic system - a trend that was exacerbated by the recent MPs' expenses scandal.

So tomorrow the story must shift on to what Brown is going to do at the looming EU summit on 18-19 June to deliver on the message of this election - and deliver convincingly enough to stand a chance of saving himself at the next general election.

To go to that summit and do anything other than rescind the Lisbon Treaty is unthinkable in terms of his own fate, the fate of the Labour party and the fate of public faith in our political system.

Having seemingly survived trial by Labour MPs, Brown has 10 days to rescue his future in the court of public opinion.