Monday, June 23, 2008

Why dan hannan is wrong

We hate to say it, because he has spent a long time in the belly of the beast, and knows it well - but we think Dan Hannan is wrong about there not being a second Irish referendum.

He is right that it is a terrible gamble for Cowen:

A second "No" would not just delegitimise the Lisbon Treaty; it would delegitimise the EU leadership that had required the second referendum; and it would condemn the Irish government that had sided with Europe's élites against its own people.

And he is right that they could get most of the treaty by the back door - be it by decisions in the council, or via the "Croatian Gambit."

We also thought that that was the most likely way to side step the no vote - have a look at our briefing note from last week. But having soaked up the atmosphere at the European Council last week we are not so sure.

Consider these few points.

Firstly, they think they can win it. We are about to see a propaganda campaign of such ferocity you'd barely believe it. "They are going to throw the kitchen sink at us", warned one old hand at the European Council on Friday.

Secondly, they have gone slightly mad. Rather than sneak in via the back door, they are determined to smash down the front door and grab what they want. This is not rational, but it seems that it is what they are going to do. Partly to try and get back some legitimacy, partly because it has worked before, and partly because it is simpler and easier to agree than a complicated operation to chop up the treaty into bitesize chunks.

Thirdly, if it goes wrong, there is always a fallback plan.

First there was plan "A", the EU Constitution.

Then there was plan B, the strangely familiar looking "Lisbon Treaty".

Now there is plan C, a second referendum, but even if it goes wrong, they can just default to plan D - going down the stealthy route that Hannan expects.

And of course, they (apart from the absurdly europhile Cowen), don't really have much to lose. If there is a no vote the EU might be mildly is embarrassed again. So what?

But if they go for plan D now, and something goes wrong, then what then? Why use your emergency backup plan before you really have to?

It seems crazy. But they are so determined to have the Treaty, they just can't wait.

Why are they so keen? The most significant thing about the Constitution is that it's the first treaty to be self-amending. So there will be no need for any further treaties, and no opportunity to call for a referendum in future.

Referendums are the only device which managed to check the relentless march towards ever closer union. Once the voters are cut out of the loop, the process of political integration will be able to accelerate, and the pesky voters won't ever be able to get in the way again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Secondly, they have gone slightly mad."

Yes, I think that sense is what's also making me uneasy about the idea they won't go for a second referendum, despite the evident risk.

They've become like a dog with a bone; absolutely irrationally determined not to let go.

But while the EU may not have much to lose from a second 'No', holding their Plan D in reserve, what about Cowen? Would losing a second referendum make his own position untenable, and how would he like that?

Because ultimately it's up to him to call that second vote, or tell the EU to forget it because it can't be won.