Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The Lisbon Treaty: Why so unpopular?

It’s the single most important question – because without an answer, how can the EU progress? Brian Barder has a good stab at providing an answer – well worth reading in full:

most of the sentiments, worries and concerns contributing to the No vote in the referendum are widely shared in many other EU countries; few are unique to Ireland, and those that are probably have similar counterparts elsewhere in the EU. The people of some EU countries differ from the Irish in exhibiting a high level of antipathy to the whole European project: the UK is certainly one of these, and some of the new eastern and central European countries (and/or their leaders) are others. Even those who are generally pro-European are often critical of the lack of transparency of many of the processes of the EU, of the centripetal tendencies of the Commission, of the failure to clean up the Union’s finances, of what is rather vaguely referred to as the democratic deficit. All such tendencies will tend to predispose a goodly number of individual European voters to vote No in a referendum on almost any proposition recommended to them by their political leaders, however intrinsically innocuous.

The only trouble with all this is, of course, that the “why” ends up complicating the issue yet further. Rather than being merely an Irish problem, or merely a European one, the Irish “no” ends up due to global concerns – and, let’s face it, what isn’t a global issue these days?

This makes the “No” problem far harder to solve, for sure. But it also surely helps underscore just how ineffective individual nation states have become at dealing with problems that are increasingly global in scale. Strength in numbers sounds like an ever safer bet the more the economy suffers jitters and the more that globalisation continues.

This is something that the whole EU can, with any luck, start to get behind – because it’s the whole reason that pretty much every member state joined in the first place. Its the economy, stupid – and I’d say it’s about time the various leaders of the various EU member states began to remember that. The fancy bits and high ideals can come later – the first step is to bolster the economic base. That was the initial aim of the European Project, after all. The EU should remember that it needs to learn to walk before it tries sprinting…

Note: This is another in an apparently ongoing series of occasional posts where I’m effectively thinking out loud. I’ll have changed my mind again in a couple of hours, most likely…


  1. Trying to ‘get around’ the Irish No, is not the way to enhance the credibility of the Irish government, the European Council or the EU.

    If many of the concerns are pan-European and the hostility towards the European Union on the rise, institutional reform and democratic foundations need to be laid at the EU level, where the substantial challenges are.

    With or without the Lisbon Treaty, the EU needs a democratic overhaul, even if a number of member states refuse to budge.

  2. just how are you going to make the economy of this country better by giving large chunks of our money to the EU and seeing the senior mandarins at Whitehall commit economic sabotage against us (and blame the EU for it) ?

  3. Ralf – pretty much agreed. My preferred solution is a complete ground-up rethink, with consultation with the people the foundation for any way forward (perhaps a series of multiple-choice questionnaires done census-style? And I’m only half-joking… Haven’t seen a better suggestion yet…)

    Robin – We’re talking ideal for the future here, not current realities – isn’t that obvious? Being more or less in favour of laissez faire capitalism, if I had any say in the matter I’d make the economy of this country stronger via an EU that promotes largely unfettered internal free trade between member states (plus various partner countries via a hopefully ever-increasing series of agreements which an economy the size of the EU’s would enable us to get going). It’s unlikely that’ll happen with the protectionist tendencies of some elements within the EU, certainly – but it’s a starting point to work from.

    Oh, and do please try to remember that I’m not a Commission mouthpiece – pretty much everything I write on this blog would label me a Eurosceptic in almost every EU country bar the UK.

  4. “the first step is to bolster the economic base”
    “It`s the economy,stupid”

    Sorry I brought up the subject of economics then.

    “The fancy bits and high ideals come later”

    Ah thats what you mean when you say “We`re talking ideal for the future, not current realities “. No it doesn`t seem obvious. Seems to apply to the writer of the blog.

    I do agree with you on one thing. You do change your mind rapidly.

  5. Robin,

    There is no contradiction in making the economy better by handing out ‘large chunks of our money to the EU’. There is a whole family of decision problems studied in Economics where coordination among the players (in this case the member states via the EU) outperforms selfish independent decisions. Whenever the decision concerns the allocation of resources, ‘handing out the money’ is a mechanism to commit to coordination. This is the whole reason why organizations, from small firms to supranational organizations, exist in the first place.

  6. Sorry Spaniard but socialism on a supranational scale doesn`t work. We might make Spain richer by giving our money to it, but it doesn`t help Britain.
    Anyway why the EU—Europeans ? What`s wrong with people on other continents ? Why should we feel the need to give a leg up to Estonians but not Namibians ?
    The more I see of the EU the more it does look racist. Put some of the words about “European values, European solidarity etc”that EU leaders utter into the mouths of Le Pen, the BNP or even the Great Dictator and it would be repulsive. The EU is the selfish one on the scene.