Libertas has been campaigning loudly (and expensively) against the Lisbon Treaty, which now involves taking out full-page ads in local newspapers. In these ads, they repeat several old pieces of dressed-up nonsense about the Treaty. I reproduce them here in full for the purposes of dissection.
8 Reasons to Vote No to Lisbon
1. Creates an unelected President and a Foreign Minister of Europe
The new President and Foreign Minister for Europe will be appointed by the European Council by qualified majority vote. Although many of the terms and conditions of these roles have yet to be decided, they will be committed through the Lisbon Treaty to “drive forward” the agenda of the Council and discussions have already taken place to provide a presidential palace and executive jet for the President.
There is no such thing as “President of Europe”, and Libertas’s use of the term is deliberately misleading. The Treaty merely changes the existing part-time position of “President of the European Council” to a full-time job. Currently each head of government takes it in turn to be President for six months at a time, in addition to their real job. The President’s role is comparable to that of Secretary General of the UN.
The so-called “Foreign Minister” is similarly misrepresented. The EU already has a Foreign Relations Commissioner, whose brief will be expanded by Lisbon. Matters of foreign policy will remain subject to national veto, so the Foreign Representative will only be able to act if and when all governments have come to an agreement.
The agenda of the Council is set by the members of the Council, i.e. national heads of government. The Council President and Foreign Representative are appointed by the Council to help the Council get its job done – that’s what “drive forward the agenda” usually means. There is nothing remarkable about this.
The EU has considerable clout in the world, but has a very fragmented governance system which makes it hard for non-EU countries to deal with it effectively. These proposals introduce some needed continuity into the EU’s external relations. By using terminology that deliberately and misleadingly evokes the trappings of statehood, Libertas are attempting to turn these sensible proposals into bogeymen.
2. Halves Ireland’s voting weight while doubling Germany’s
The Lisbon Treaty would implement a new system of voting by the European Council which is primarily based on population size. This means that Ireland’s voting weight would be reduced from 2% at present to 0.8% if the Treaty was implemented, while Germany’s would increase from 8% to 17%.
Libertas have deliberately left out the rest of the new voting rules, which state that measures must be passed by 55% of the member states, representing at least 65% of the population. This was specifically designed to protect the interests of the smaller states. They also neglect to mention that Ireland (and all other small states) will remain significantly over-represented in the European Parliament.
Representation based on population is fair, especially when combined with protection for smaller states. The current voting system is based on arbitrary voting weights that were drawn up in back-room deals in which some countries got short-changed.
3. Abolishes Ireland’s Commissioner for five years at a time
The Lisbon Treaty proposes to reduce the number of Commissioners to two thirds of the number of member states. This would mean that, on a rotating basis, Ireland would have no seat for five years out of every 15 in the body that has the monopoly on initiating legislation. This would clearly affect a small country like Ireland to a far greater extent than, for example, Germany which is having its voting weight doubled under the Treaty.
This does not “clearly” do anything of the sort. They repeat their over-simplification of the new voting system, and again they forget to mention Ireland’s over-representation in Parliament, which is involved in amending all Commission legislation. They also gloss over the fact that a country of 4 million having the same status in the Commission as one of 80 million is the epitome of small-country power.
By contrast, under the current system they simply can’t find enough work for 27 Commissioners to do, and the problem of overstaffing will only get worse as more countries join.
4. Opens the door to interference in tax and other key economic interests
Article 113 of the Lisbon Treaty specifically inserts a new obligation on the European Council to act to avoid “distortion of competition” in respect of indirect taxes. The proposals for a common consolidated tax base and the commitment of the French government to pursue it combined with a weakening of Ireland’s voice in Europe through the loss of a permanent Commissioner and halving of its voting weight represent a clear and present danger to our tax competitiveness.
The CCTB can be vetoed at any time by Ireland under either the old or new systems. Commissioners and voting weights have absolutely nothing to do with it.
5. Hands over power in 60 areas of decision making to Brussels
The Lisbon Treaty provides for more than 60 areas of decision making from unanimity at present to qualified majority voting. Some of those areas include decision-making on immigration, sport, culture, transport and the appointment of the European President and Foreign Minister.
This is true. Whether you think it’s a bad thing or not all depends.
6. Gives exclusive competence to Brussels over International Trade and Foreign Direct Investment
For the first time, under the Lisbon Treaty foreign direct investment would become an exclusive competence of the EU as part of its common commercial policy. This means that the tools which have been used so successfully by the IDA to attract tens of thousands of jobs to Ireland will become the sole preserve of the European Union and the Irish Government will have to seek permissions
They mention international trade in the heading but not the body. This is because international trade has always been the exclusive competence of the EU and Europe as a whole has benefitted enormously from the arrangement. Foreign direct investment has come to Ireland for many reasons – mainly the English language and favourable tax rates, neither of which are threatened by Lisbon.
7. Enshrines EU law as superior to Irish law
On June 12th we will be voting on the 28th amendment to the Irish Constitution which clearly restates the following:
11° No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union referred to in subsection 10° of this section, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”
Not this old canard again (it’s a perennial favourite of British Eurosceptics).
Note the use of the word “restates”. This is because EU law has always been superior to national law. If countries were free to contradict any EU law they liked (or didn’t like), it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on. That’s how it works.
Lisbon changes nothing.
8. The Treaty can be changed without another referendum
Article 48 of the Treaty enables changes to be made to it after ratification without the constitutional requirement for another referendum in Ireland. This is confirmed by the independent Referendum Commission on its website which states: there “may” be a requirement for a referendum to implement such changes.
Yes, but only some provisions may be so amended, and all such changes are subject to national veto. A referendum is required in Ireland if (and only if) the Irish Constitution needs to be amended – this is a matter of Irish constitutional law and is unaffected by Lisbon.