By Tom McGurk (for the Sunday Business Post)
Welcome to the most surreal week in the history of Irish politics.
First, on Thursday, four million Irish citizens resident in the Irish Republic will be asked to ratify a new democratic structure for the European Union and its 500million citizens. Despite the fact that this proposed structure will radically alter the relationship between all the member states and the union, and between all the citizens and the union, it apparently does not require the votes of the other 496million or so citizens. Such is European democracy.
Second, the treaty document that the Irish are required to ratify has proved to be almost unintelligible and, according to opinion polls, remains a total mystery to many ordinary voters. This week, thousands will go to the polls to radically alter the nature of the state they are living in, with no idea of what they are voting for or against. Such is European democracy.
Third, apparently if the four million reject Lisbon, it falls through for all 500 million. But then, on second thoughts, maybe not. After all, the Nice Treaty was rejected, but the question was re-asked until the answer was Yes. The constitutional forerunner of this Lisbon Treaty has already been rejected by previous referendums in France and Denmark. So if the Irish vote down the treaty, will it fall? The problem is that nobody is sure about that; Europe does not easily take No for an answer. Such is European democracy.
Fourth, given that all of this extraordinary political exercise is supposed to be about the establishment of new democratic structures in the European Union, shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing already? How more democratically surreal can you get, I ask? (As they used to say: Chinese and Russian papers please copy.)
Sadly, this is only the beginning of our problems, because even what is intelligible in the treaty is deeply concerning. For a start, the constitutional implications of Lisbon have been almost totally ignored in the debate so far.
The first two sentences of the amendment we are being asked to pass requires serious consideration. They read: ‘‘The state may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon signed at Lisbon on the 13th day of December 2007, and may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that treaty No provision of this constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the state that are necessitated by membership of the European Union, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the state.”
In other words, Europe pre-Lisbon and Europe post-Lisbon are two entirely different political and judicial jurisdictions. This first sentence of the constitutional amendment states that the state may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon and ‘‘may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that - Lisbon - Treaty’’.
This post-Lisbon EU would have the same name, but would clearly be a different union from the pre-Lisbon EU, which stems from the 1993 Maastricht Treaty. The second sentence of the amendment would then give the constitution of this post-Lisbon union supremacy over the Irish constitution as regards its ‘‘laws, acts and measures’’, so long as these are provided for in the treaties. So we are not simply restructuring Europe to cater for the logistical demands of the 27 states: rather, we are creating a new European Union superstate based, not on Maastricht, but on Lisbon. I think the European federal state is looming here.
When you then add to these constitutional changes the changes in voting, the elimination of vetoes in some areas, the proposed new community-wide structures in justice, policing and defence, the changes in weighted majority voting, and the new relationship between aggregate population and voting power, the European Union we now live in disappears over the horizon.
Effectively, Lisbon gives the new union a unified constitutional structure so that all areas of government would come within its aegis, either actually or potentially. The only major feature of a fully developed federation the post-Lisbon Union would then lack would be the power to force member states to go to war against their will. Were Lisbon a reasonable and authentic attempt to regulate a 500 million population with 27 states in the union along more efficient and democratic lines, nobody could oppose it. But what is being sold as a mere refurbishment exercise is actually a total restructuring: the relationship between national parliaments and the EU power centre, and the relationship between domestic law and European law, are utterly transformed. And, of course, Lisbon is but another snapshot of the inexorable political progression of the Eurocrats, seizing every opportunity to design a United States of Europe.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a European superstate run by Eurocrats who are unsackable, founded on a treaty that is unintelligible and watching the democratic linkage between citizen and state disappear under oceans of verbiage. I don’t believe the architects of this treaty, people like Valery Giscard D’Estaing or Guiliano Amato. I think they are practised political truth-massagers, - and tax-free ones to boot. As Amato himself said at the LSE last February: ‘‘The good thing about not calling it a constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it.”
The arrogance and dishonesty of the Yes campaign, too, have been deeply depressing, as if somehow the need for workers’ rights, charters of fundamental rights, an end to cross-border sex trafficking, climate change and global warming somehow cannot be dealt with except in the context of Lisbon. Such nonsense is mere camouflage for the fundamental structural change between citizen and state that Lisbon is creating.
Over and beyond all of this, there is the growing tyranny of Europe’s obsession with environmental and gender politics, its secularisation and multicultural agendas, its interference with national immigration policies and, above all, its failure to combat the relentless transformation of our society into a mere marketplace. Imagine a future in a Euro superstate almost entirely at the mercy of free market forces.
Come to think of it, if we defeat this referendum, it won’t be the first time that the Irish rescued Europe from the Dark Ages. I am pro-European, but I also want to remain primarily an Irish citizen, not a mere statistic in a European superstate. Therefore, I am voting No.