Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Erm, you remember that democracy thing?

Well, according to the European Parliament it can go jump in a lake. Because they’ve voted not to respect the result of the Irish referendum (constitutionally required, lest we forget) on the Lisbon Treaty.

What we effectively have here is an admission that referenda will not count even if countries do hold them. An admission that the EU will simply ignore any member state that has concerns with the Lisbon Treaty, now that the elites have come to an agreement.

What we have here, in other words, is an admission that the European Parliament does not believe in democracy.


(See also Devil’s Kitchen, with a good point about Tory – and UKIP – hypocrisy)

All this, of course, while allegations of endemic corruption amongst MEPs are beginning to snowball. Come on, EP – you’re supposed to be the respectable, democratic bit that we can all point to and say “hey, look – the EU’s going in the right direction, at least!” Get your sodding act in gear.


  1. We’ll make a full-blown sceptic of you yet, NM! And I have news of more amusing shenanigans up my sleeve too…


  2. Nosemonkey, I think that you make too much out of this. It is fairly normal in parliamentary practice for majorities to stick to the book, and to deny their opponents the satisfaction of carrying off all kinds of small nice sounding victories in the margins.

    If the Irish referendum results in a ‘no’ vote or the Lisbon Treaty does not get the necessary approval in some other member state, what happens then?

    The Treaty of Lisbon does not enter into force according to plan, since it needs 27 ratifications for that.

    But should eight years of reform process just be forgotten, or should other solutions be sought?

    Personally, I would like to look at the situation then for the EU as a whole, without morally tying my hands in advance.

  3. Whilst I take your point about hypocricsy, I would like to make it clear that those UKIP MEPs who were in the chamber at that point in the proceedings all voted to respect the results of the Irish referendum. Mr Wise has had the whip withdrawn for reasons about which you are aware, and thus is a law unto himself.

    A series of very thought provoking posts, thank you

  4. Ralf – France and the Netherlands voted no to the old constitution, but that didn’t mean the sensible reforms should be chucked out. That’s why I’m in favour of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, which is itself a rehash of the old constitutional text.

    If Ireland votes no, the Lisbon Treaty will not be able to be ratified without the Irish government first amending Eire’s constitution to enable them to overrule the referendum (as far as I can tell), as the treaty still requires unanimity among the member states to come into effect.

    But the key issue here is not whether this will have any legal effect, but that the EP has given a symbolic two fingers to the very idea of the citizens of member states being able to express their opinion. Yes, the majority should be able to progress (which is why I’ve long been in favour of a multi-tier EU) – but under the current rules, they simply can’t. Until they change those rules, they should abide by them.

    (Of course, though the Lisbon Treaty does introduce rather more qualified majority voting, it still doesn’t provide for a multi-tier system, and doesn’t introduce QMV on the major issues. So situations like this will continue to arise.)

  5. Nosemonkey, I still think that you give the vote on the proposed amendment an axaggerated reading.

    Anyway, I assume that we could agree on demanding swift action by the European Parliament to handle the report on misuse of funds. I would want to see:

    1) A swift announcement on when the report will be in the public domain.

    2) An announcement on how the European Parliament is going to proceed in order to root out malpractice.

    3) Concrete results of the above.

    No reason to rest until all three are dealt with conclusively.

    P.S. Are chicken suits allowed within the spending rules (or were they privately financed)?

  6. What? Maybe I completely misunderstood what this vote was about, however I think you got it completely wrong. What the EU parliament decided was that essentially the referendum in Ireland can not derail the signing of the Lisbon Treaty. How the Irish Government fixes this, is its own problem. This is a reasonable point of view.

    We should not give a veto over the treaty to a single country holding a referendum. This would certainly not be “democratic”.

  7. RZ – under current EU rules we have no choice but to allow any single EU member state to veto the treaty. That’s why the French and Dutch referenda called a halt to the constitution – even though several other EU states had already ratified it.

    Even under the Lisbon treaty, individual member states retain vetoes over new treaties and major alterations to the way the EU runs. Not to have member state vetoes is, effectively, to deny the right of individual states to set their own foreign policy agenda – and this is not, nor ever has been, an EU competence.

    What this vote does is say to Ireland “ratify this or else” – without specifying what the “else” may be. What it says to every other EU member state is “if your citizens don’t want to play ball, MAKE THEM”.

    I have no problem in the rest of the EU forging ahead with ratification while allowing member states who don’t want the Lisbon Treaty – or, indeed, any subsequent EU reforms – to hang back. It’s by far my preferred model for the way the EU should work, in fact (allowing much closer integration for the more enthusiastic states while allowing the more sceptical ones to move forward more slowly). But there are no guidelines in place for how this can work in practice – nor has it ever (as far as I’m aware) been officially suggested, nor is it part of the new treaty.

    And beyond that, the symbolism of MEPs voting to ignore a popular vote on a treaty perceived in some quarters as controversial is immensely stupid and damaging to the EU as a whole.

  8. “What this vote does is say to Ireland “ratify this or else” – without specifying what the “else” may be. What it says to every other EU member state is “if your citizens don’t want to play ball, MAKE THEM”.”

    Look, I respect your opinion, but this is simply your subjective reading of what this vote says. Let me express what I think in Ralf Grahns words:

    “Nosemonkey, I still think that you give the vote on the proposed amendment an exaggerated reading.”

  9. The European Parliament doesn’t have the power to override Ireland’s veto, so the vote itself is actually meaningless. It is there to send a message of intent – the EP wants the treaty ratified. (Which is fair enough, as it’s taken the EU years to get to this stage, and more delays would be ridiculous.)

    However, it’s the fact that this message can be interpreted in that way that I – and a good number of other bloggers (mostly anti-EU, admittedly) – have done that really worries me. At a time when the EU needs to be getting the people on board (both to gain support for the Lisbon Treaty and in the run-up to next year’s elections), MEPs could easily be seen to be giving the impression that they don’t care what the people think.

    It’s not because of what I think this vote’s done that I’m annoyed. It’s for the PR disaster it’s caused.

  10. What makes many people Eurosceptic is the attitude behind this kind of thing.

    Was it a line from Ibsen about the government abolishing the people, because they were wrong (in the opinion of the rulers).

    Try the other end of the telescope – imagine that the EU had a rule mandating that the only way to ratify an EU treaty/convention/rule change was by a referendum and that it had to pass by x% of y% of the voting population in each country….