I don’t even have to check the usual eurosceptic sources to know how the Irish government’s research into the reasons for the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty is likely to be interpreted. Because, you see, they’ve found that the reason for the No vote was that the Irish people didn’t know enough about the treaty.
Cue screams of outrage from the eurosceptic hoardes: “You see! They’re going to tell us we don’t know what’s good for us! The people are stupid! They’ll press ahead with it anyway because they can use this to show we can’t be trusted! The elitist bastards!”
Well, perhaps. There are, after all, already rumours circulating of a second referendum being planned for next year – though it’s unlikely to be before the European Parliament elections or the arrival of the new Commission. But despite the torrent of frustrated voices from across the Channel calling for a fresh vote, read between the lines and it’s quite clear that the Irish government itself has made no such plans. Yet. Hell, even the latest suggestions of a fresh vote stem merely from a briefing paper prepared for the French EU presidency – and we all know that Sarkozy’s in favour of forcing the thing through (why else would he deny the people of France a vote on a treaty so heavily based on the constitution. Briefing papers – despite the spin – are not official EU policy.
But the thing is, this new research tells us nothing new. We knew ages ago from exit polls and countless surveys before the vote that one of the major reasons for the Irish No was that the treaty (and the constitution before that) was simply too complex, vague and self-contradictory for its own good. In trying to be everything to all people during the tortuous negotiations between the various EU member states, it ended up having all the usual characteristics of a bad compromise worked out in umpteen languages – wording that could be interpreted pretty much any way you like. Not much good for a legal document – and a disaster for its advocates, as every pressure group with a grudge was able to find something to worry about.
In other words, the reason that the Irish people didn’t understand the Lisbon Treaty is because it was rubbish.
Does this mean it shouldn’t be ratified anyway? Well, that’s up to the Irish government. The EU certainly shouldn’t (and under the present rules can’t) progress without unanimity on the treaty. And if one thing is certain to bolster the anti-treaty vote, it’s a bunch of Johnny Foreigners telling the Irish that they’re stupid. Ireland’s had enough of a bunch of foreigners painting them as idiots and telling them what to do – and look how well that turned out for the foreigners in question…