EU leaders have agreed to a series of “guarantees” on the Lisbon Treaty in return for Ireland holding a second referendum, after Irish voters rejected the Treaty last year. They agreed on a declaration which seeks to address what EU leaders see as Irish concerns about taxation, ethical issues, workers’ rights and neutrality. They also repeated an agreement reached in December to postpone cutting the size of the Commission laid down in the Lisbon Treaty. The declarations have no force in EU law and therefore are not real guarantees.
The EU Presidency confirmed, “the text of the guarantees explicitly states that the Lisbon Treaty is not changed thereby”. Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch Brown said, “Ireland sought and has received guarantees, but the treaty has not been reopened. In that regard, it is a referendum on the same treaty as before.”
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer agrees, “It is an explanatory clarifying text which changes not a dot nor comma of the Lisbon Treaty.” Former Green MEP Patricia McKenna says that the “guarantees” given to Ireland are no more than a “ludicrous charade”and that the public has been given the false impression of legal certainty when this does not exist. (Yet the Irish Green Party says that it will campaign “vigorously” for the Lisbon Treaty.)
Following the December EU summit, at which the “guarantees” were first formulated, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin promised, “We will not be asking people to vote on the same proposition.” In May, Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche repeated this, saying, “Our partners understand, I believe, that we cannot and will not put the same package to our people later this year.”
Yet despite these promises, the deal makes no change to the text of the Treaty, so the Irish people will be voting on exactly the same text they rejected last year. 53 per cent of people said ‘No’, but they will be forced to vote again.
One leading German politician said the No vote was “a real cheek”, while a British Labour MP said the Irish voted No because they had “become extremely arrogant”.
The Treaty abolishes the national veto in more than 60 areas of policy – on everything from transport to the rights of criminal suspects and even some aspects of foreign policy. Ireland will lose 40 per cent of its power to block EU laws it disagrees with (compared with a 4 per cent decrease in Germany’s power to block legislation), and the Treaty creates a powerful new EU President and an EU Foreign Minister, which will dilute Ireland’s influence in the EU. The Treaty also hands the European Court of Justice significant new powers in sensitive areas such as Justice and Home Affairs.