14th Aug 2020


The EU: reform or self destruct?

If the Irish were wondering whether they made the right decision by voting against the Lisbon Treaty, the reaction of the European political class confirms that they made the right call.

The Brussels response is simply to pretend that it never happened. Like people who have been brainwashed, they all say exactly the same thing.

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  • If we carry on like this the madmen in charge are going to blow the EU to bits. (Photo: IWRCampaign)

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

The German Foreign Minister says "we are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue.""

People who thought the treaty was dead, just because people had said no to it, were mistaken. The Irish no vote means nothing to the euro elite.

A full circle

The irony is that when the Irish voted against the Lisbon treaty last Thursday (12 June), a very long argument finally came full circle.

This whole business started when the Irish voted against the Nice treaty in 2001. In response the leaders of the European Union promised they would start to make the EU more democratic, more transparent, and start handing powers back to the member states.

But things quickly went off course. Although the leaders of the EU had signed up to these fine principles, and had even written them down in a grand document called the "Laeken Declaration", the great majority did not actually believe in them in the slightest.

Instead, EU leaders appointed the federalist Valery Giscard d'Estaing to draw up an EU Constitution, which gave even more powers to the EU. Under the Constitution, everything from immigration to your electricity bill would become a subject for Brussels to decide on, by majority vote.

When the Constitution was torpedoed by the French and Dutch, EU leaders simply dredged it up, gave it a fresh coat of paint, and had another go. I am not surprised the Treaty has been sunk again.

The surprise is that EU leaders have still learned nothing the second time around. Eventually rats in a maze will find their way out. But the leaders of Europe want to go round the same circle yet again, like a gormless coach driver with a broken sat-nav who can't admit to himself that he is coming up to the same dreary roundabout yet again.

Two ways out

There are two ways this mad process can end. One is to press on regardless and risk a crisis of legitimacy.

The news this week that only 29% of UK voters now support full EU membership should warn EU leaders that they are on very thin ice. Their reaction to the no vote so far plays perfectly into the hands of those who want to leave the EU.

The better way out would be to accept the no vote for what it was – a rational rejection of deeper EU integration – and to carry out the reforms that were promised in the Laeken Declaration.

But in Brussels that is clearly regarded as a crazy idea. Totally off the wall.

Instead the EU has launched a spin operation to smear the Irish as ungrateful bigots voting against abortion or for some other obscure reason. This spin has been so widespread and so successful, that it's worth repeating here the real reasons why the Irish voted no.

According to a poll for the Irish Times, the reasons people said no were to keep Ireland's power and identity, to safeguard Ireland's neutrality, and the fact that they didn't like being pressured to vote yes.

Crash or gentle reform

Europe's elite are clearly not going to listen, so it looks like the EU is heading for a crash rather than gentle reform. Sooner or later some way will be found to implement the Lisbon Treaty by stealth. Maybe the Irish will not be allowed another referendum.

Perhaps the contents of the Constitution will be repackaged again, this time in the Croatian accession treaty. It hardly matters which route is taken to overturn the verdict of the people.

Why are they so determined to continue. Politicians love the EU as it is today because they can dump their political problems onto it and evade responsibility.

That's why, despite the no vote, this week the French proposed the beginnings of an EU naval force and a single asylum policy.

Over the coming years more and more controversial issues are going to be loaded onto the EU, while at the same time its slender support in public opinion withers further.

Sooner or later this structure is going to buckle under the ever-heavier load. I can't tell you what will bring it down.

I can tell you that sooner or later it will come. The current model of responsibility without accountability, power without democracy, can only bear so much. If we carry on like this the madmen in charge are going to blow the EU to bits.

The author is director of the UK-based Open Europe thinktank.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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