I am continuing on the canvass trail as Labour seeks a Yes vote in Thursday’s referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. While many people I am meeting have views contrary to my own and my party’s, I’ve still found a majority that are in favour of the Treaty and look forward to a positive result.
However, I have still found that some of the fears peddled by the No campaigners have many ordinary voters confused about what is and is not in the Treaty. In order to make an informed decision, I feel it necessary to clear up what exactly are the facts.
The Treaty will lead to a Superstate
The opposite is the case. The Treaty explicitly states that the EU is given its power by the member states, and it can only operate in traditional areas (such as defence) by unanimity.
EU Law will be superior to Irish Law
This has actually been the case since we joined the EEC – but only with regard to matters upon which we have agreed to pool our sovereignty. The EU could not operate if this were not the case.
It will lead to privatisation of Health and Education
Nowhere in the Treaty is privatisation mentioned. In fact, the EU has no position on privatisation. Nothing changes with the Lisbon Treaty.
It will lead to taxes from Brussels
There is no change in Ireland’s taxation laws and any changes at EU level will require unanimity. The EU may try to negotiate a consolidated tax base but Ireland can have the option to opt out.
We will lose a Commissioner
We will lose a Commissioner for five out of every 15 years and this applies to all 27 countries equally. There are simply not enough positions to warrant 27 Commissioners and each commissioner is bound to represent the EU, rahter than their home State.
Our neutrality will be gone
There is no change in this aspect. Ireland has a triple lock in respect of getting involved militarily – it must be agreed by the government, by the Oireachtas, and must also have a UN mandate. The lack of a UN mandate meant that Ireland did not get involved in peacekeeping in FYR Macedonia. The UN supports our mission in Chad, which is specifically to protect refugees.
It’s too complex
There is no doubt that the Treaty is complex. But it needs to be in order to protect it from constant legal challenges. It is similar to complex legal documents, banking documents and everyday bills in the Oireachtas. We must rely on the summaries we are offered. The consolidated version of the Treaties by the IIEA is a relatively easy way of reading the Treaty, and failing this the Referendum Commission is an impartial organisation that seeks to inform.
The Treaty can be renegotiated
The negotiations around the Lisbon Treaty have been ongoing for eight years. There is no doubt that if we vote against the Treaty, Ireland will not get a better deal and our hand will be dealt a severe blow.
The Treaty will bring in abortion
Not true. Our abortion laws remain unchanged under Lisbon.
This is the same as the Constitution
Much of the Treaty is the same as the EU Constitution, but with some contentious aspects removed such as a common flag, common anthem, etc. Although the Constitution was voted down in France and the Netherlands, many seem to forget that it was favoured by the people of Spain and Luxembourg.
I hope this clears up a lot of the fears that have been raised by the No campaigners. For more on this, the Labour Party have a ‘Reality Check’ section of their website. It is extremely important that everyone knows exactly what is in this Treaty, and what the facts are.