The Future of EU Reform (Updated)

I have no opinion whatever on the merits of the Treaty of Lisbon, which treaty’s rejection by the Republic of Ireland’s voters has thrown plans for greater European governmental consolidation into a cocked hat:

DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland’s voters have rejected the European Union reform treaty, a blueprint for modernizing the 27-nation bloc that cannot become law without Irish approval, electoral officials said Friday.

In a major blow to the EU, 53.4 percent of Irish voters said no to the treaty. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen now will join other EU leaders at a summit next week to try to negotiate a new way forward.

Anti-treaty groups from the far left and right mobilized “no” voters by claiming that the treaty would empower EU chiefs in Brussels, Belgium, to force Ireland to change core policies — including its low business tax rates, its military neutrality and its ban on abortion.

“This is a very clear and loud voice that has been sent yet again by citizens of Europe rejecting the anti-democratic nature of Brussels governance,” said Declan Ganley, leader of Libertas, the most prominent anti-treaty campaign group in Ireland.

The euro common currency fell to a one-month low on the news.

This isn’t the first time moves closer to a single government for the 27 EU members have been stymied by recalcitrant voters: the proposed EU Constitution was rejected at the polls a couple of years ago. The Treaty of Lisbon was an attempted endrun around the constitutional approval process, which ran into a dead end when France and the Netherlands rejected the constitution in 2005. This is likely to be an important development for European society.

Throughout human history a number of pretexts have been used by one human being to claim the right to tell other human beings what to do. For millennia the mandate of heaven (the “divine right of kings”) was the explanation for why rulers deserved the obedience of the ruled. In democratic societies the right to rule is something seen as being delegated by the people to their leaders rather than descending from the gods.

Technocrats claim the right to rule by virtue of their purportedly superior expertise. They’re impatient about explaining the need for the measures they believe to be required to voters. Voters don’t have the knowledge or background to understand these profundities, anyway. That’s my understanding of one of the key reasons that Irish voters rejected the treaty: the treaty’s proponents couldn’t give a credible explanation in plain language of the benefits of the treaty.

I don’t think we should have any illusions that attempts to implement the measures proposed first in the EU Constitution and later in the Treaty of Lisbon will end here. Proponents will ensure that the next essay won’t be sabotaged by its lack of popular support. The measure will, no doubt, be approved by the governments of the various member countries and with that approval they’ll abandon any pretext that they’re governing by the will of the people. The people, no doubt, will barely notice.


Fellow Watcher’s Council member Wolf Howling is elated:

What you will now hear is loud squealing from the direction of Brussels as the incredibly anti-democratic folks who are determined to make an EU super-state wholly irrespective of the wishes of Europe’s citizens try and figure a way around this. And as the EU Referendum documents, it has already started…

There’s an interesting discussion of the rejection in this post at A Fistful of Euros.

Another discussion in the comments at European Tribune.

The Dissident Frogman reacts as you might expect.

3 comments… add one
  • The Irish voters have given a clear enough verdict to opt out of EU treaty reform. Nobody should force-feed them the same or almost same Lisbon Treaty again.

    But respect is a two way street. It would be politically absurd to let the Irish people override the ratifications of 18 member states of the EU, according to their constitutional requirements, or the ratifications underway.

    Therefore, the substance of the Lisbon Treaty must be preserved for the ratifying states, which means that it has to be adjusted to take the Irish opt out into account (and possibly one or more other states).

  • Unrelated comment:

    You are tagged Dave

Leave a Comment