Ireland and Lisbon

Mr Ganley is Back

According to on-line reports on RTE and the Irish Times today, Declan Ganley will announce his return to “lead” the No campaign in the referendum. Most commentators see him and his movement Libertas as the main contributors to the No vote in the first referendum.

He did announce after the European elections, when he failed to win a seat, that he was bowing out of politics and would play no part in the second Lisbon referendum. On 31st August, he was reported in the Irish Independent as saying that a return to the Lisbon campaign would be a “waste of time” and that he had firmly ruled out any involvement on his part in the campaign this time around.

Obviously, those previous statements are now inoperative.

The first hint of his return came in a friendly and sympathetic interview in the Wall Street Journal of 11th September. In the course of that interview he said that Article 48 of the new Treaty on European Union would mean that “..with just intergovernmental agreement, with no need of going back to the citizens anywhere, they (governments) can make any change to this constitutional document, adding any new powers, without having to revisit an electorate anywhere..” and that “If the Irish vote yes, in other words, Oct. 2 would mark the last time that Brussels would ever have to bother giving voters a say on what the EU does and how it does it.”

Oh dear. Here we go again.

Article 48 does NOT give the governments power to change the treaties as they wish. It outlines two ways in which the treaties can be changed. Any change in the competences or powers of the EU must, among other conditions, be ratified by all member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements (Article 48.4 TEU).

The second way would allow member states to change in a limited way the voting procedure for some of the articles regarding the practical day to day functioning of the EU. Any such change would require unanimous agreement among all member states.

The independent Referendum Commission set up under High Court Judge Frank Clarke has this to say about the power to change the treaties:

At present the Treaties governing the EU can be amended only by the member states first unanimously agreeing to an amending treaty, which must then be approved by each member state in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. In almost all cases this involves parliamentary approval. In some cases, for example in Ireland, a referendum may be required.

The Lisbon Treaty now proposes to give the European Council (Heads of Government) the power to propose changes to certain parts of the governing Treaties, although this proposed power is quite limited. Any such change cannot increase the competence of the EU – the scope of its powers … In addition, any such proposals must be agreed unanimously by the European Council, meaning that any one member state may veto such a proposal. If the European Council does agree a proposed change, then in order for it to come into effect, it must be ratified by the member states in accordance with their own constitutional requirements. This may require a referendum in Ireland as happens at present.

The Lisbon Treaty also proposes to give the European Council the power to amend the Treaties so as to allow Qualified Majority Voting … to operate in certain areas where unanimity is now required. It will also give it the power to apply the Ordinary Legislative Procedure … in certain areas where a Special Legislative Procedure applies at present. Any such proposal must be agreed unanimously by the European Council.

This means that any member state may veto such a proposal. If the European Council does agree a proposed change, any national parliament may prevent these changes coming into effect. Under the proposed amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, the approval of the Dáil and Seanad will be required for Ireland to agree to such proposed changes. Such changes would not require a referendum in Ireland.

The power to change from unanimity to Qualified Majority Voting, or from a Special Legislative Procedure to the Ordinary Legislative Procedure, does not extend to military and defence issues.

It could apply, for example, to taxation where unanimity is required at present. However, in this case, any such proposed change could be vetoed by Ireland.” END

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