After Lisbon – a heretical view

So Ireland voted no. May I make some humble suggestions to the great and good:

  1. Take it like a man. I’m talking to you, Barroso. I don’t know what you wanted to achieve by claiming the treaty was still alive, but all you did was prove the No campaign’s point for them.
  2. Don’t panic. There’s nothing in Lisbon that’s so urgent it can’t wait six or twelve months for the dust to settle. It’s not like you don’t have other things to be getting on with.
  3. Deal with specific problems. If there’s something in particular holding up Croatia’s membership, treat it as part of their accession deal. Don’t try to do too much at once (e.g. consolidate the treaties, write a constitution and increase the powers of the EU).
  4. Make the best of what you have. The Nice Treaty states that after the number of members exceeds 27, the size of the Commission will be reduced to less than 27. It could be argued that this is already sufficient legal basis for reform, so long as that reform is seen to be fair.
  5. Be generous. It’s already accepted practice for the Council to nominate the EP’s suggested name for Commission President. How about letting him suggest the names of the other Commissioners? And you could voluntarily let your national parliaments have their debates on proposed directives. It’s amazing how much you can get done with a gentleman’s agreement.
  6. Try to be popular. Aw, go on. You never know, the electorate might even grow to like you.

Nigel Farage of the UKIP was on Newsnight last night claiming, inconsistently, that a) if you don’t understand something, voting no is a good idea, but b) the result “obviously” means the Irish don’t want more political integration. It’s always hard having a debate with a Eurosceptic on such issues, as they have a habit of changing the subject to “get out” at the first opportunity. ;-)

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3 thoughts on “After Lisbon – a heretical view

  1. There’s nothing in Lisbon that’s so urgent it can’t wait six or twelve months for the dust to settle.

    There is one important matter. I believe that a number of new EU agencies proposed under the Lisbon Treaty have already been created in advance of the treaty being ratified. If true, apart from the sheer arrogance this displays, how can this be legal? These agencies should be closed and all employees not only sacked but required to repay all salaries and expenses. An investigation of possible criminal charges against all concerned would also be a good idea.

    It’s not like you don’t have other things to be getting on with.

    That’s the problem with all levels of government – the constant belief that there are things they need to do.

    Points 3 and 4 above seem to be advocating the usual EU policy when setbacks occur, namely to implement whatever they can, however they can, disregarding the opinion of the people. The constitution which morphed into the Lisbon treaty has been rejected by the French, Dutch and now the Irish. As referenda do not give a line by line choice, we must assume everything in the treaty has been rejected.

    It’s already accepted practice for the Council to nominate the EP’s suggested name for Commission President. How about letting him suggest the names of the other Commissioners?

    Why should the Commission President have the authority to decide who the Commissioners will be? Surely each national government should simply declare who their Commissioner will be?

    (Ignoring my own opinion here that neither the EP nor the Commission should actually exist).

    And you could voluntarily let your national parliaments have their debates on proposed directives.

    *Blood pressure rises to dangerous levels*

    Several points here:
    1. Who exactly is the “you” here? EU as a whole? Barroso?
    2. How can stop a national parliament debating anything?
    3. “your” implies ownership. Does the EU belong to the nations? Or do the nations belong to the EU?

    It’s amazing how much you can get done with a gentleman’s agreement.

    Coming from a country whose unwritten “constitution” seems to be little more than a few gentleman’s agreements, this is what I’m afraid of!

    The process by which these collective decisions are made, and in particular the checks and balances within the system, and the limitations on what they can do, is vastly more important than any decision they could ever make.

    Try to be popular. Aw, go on. You never know, the electorate might even grow to like you.

    My advice (to all politicians, not just the EU ones) would be to know your place. You are the servants, we are the masters. You work for us, not us for you. Be humble, servile and self-sacrificing at all times. Be sincere in this – we don’t want a bunch of Uriah Heaps either.

  2. These agencies should be closed and all employees not only sacked but required to repay all salaries and expenses.

    Er, are you seriously saying that employees should be held personally responsible for mistakes made by their employers?

    As referenda do not give a line by line choice, we must assume everything in the treaty has been rejected.

    Yes, this was my point 1. But what about those things that are already perfectly legal under the existing treaties?

    Why should the Commission President have the authority to decide who the Commissioners will be? Surely each national government should simply declare who their Commissioner will be?

    It’s an attempt to get around the one Commissioner per country problem. Currently, each Commissioner is assumed to work on behalf of their nominating country, hence the reluctance to give them up. It also makes the Commission look like an old politician’s club instead of a civil service (which they were originally supposed to be). Countries could still veto the Commission President’s names of course.

    There are already two representative bodies in the EU, the Council and the Parliament – that should be enough.

    Several points here:
    1. Who exactly is the “you” here? EU as a whole? Barroso?

    The politicians. Specifically the heads of government in this case.

    2. How can stop a national parliament debating anything?

    In Westminster at least, the Government can refuse to allocate time. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere. But what I meant (and probably should have said explicitly, with hindsight) were the specific binding debates mentioned in the treaty.

    3. “your” implies ownership.

    I wasn’t implying ownership, merely association. As in “my neighbour”.

    Coming from a country whose unwritten “constitution” seems to be little more than a few gentleman’s agreements, this is what I’m afraid of!

    The EU’s powers are limited, unlike (in theory anyway) Westminster’s.

  3. Er, are you seriously saying that employees should be held personally responsible for mistakes made by their employers?

    In general no – only those employees specifically involved and responsible should be held liable for mistakes, e.g. the health and safety manager and the senior managers/directors in the event of an industrial accident. However, if the very existence of the employer is not legal (or not yet legal), and particularly when the employer is a government agency, then all employees should be liable.

    Of course this may not apply in this case – perhaps these agencies are legal under previous treaties.

    Yes, this was my point 1. But what about those things that are already perfectly legal under the existing treaties?

    This is a dilemma. It may be legally OK to proceed under existing treaties, but having put them in a new treaty which has been rejected, it will appear (rightly or wrongly) as arrogant politicians and bureaucrats ignoring public opinion. In hindsight, they shouldn’t have added these to the treaty, but they did and will now have to deal with the political consequences.

    It’s an attempt to get around the one Commissioner per country problem.

    Going back to 27 Commissioners may be an option, if the Irish are going to have to vote again.

    It also makes the Commission look like an old politician’s club instead of a civil service (which they were originally supposed to be)

    The problem is not so much that the Commission is an old politician’s club, but that we accept them back into our national government afterwards.

    The politicians. Specifically the heads of government in this case.

    Ah, sorry. My objections go away (somewhat) if the “you” is the national governments. I had assumed it was at the EU level.

    The EU’s powers are limited, unlike (in theory anyway) Westminster’s.

    I was talking over dinner with a Romanian and a Bulgarian last month, and the subject of the EU came up. They said that the EU was popular in their countries, as it imposed some discipline on their national governments. Given the corruption in all three of our countries, I can see how that might be appealing. However, I still believe it is the wrong solution, quite apart from the fact that the EU itself is corrupt and unaccountable. If we want honest and sensible government, we need to insist upon it locally, not rely upon the likes of the EU and the UN. Of course this assumes we have an honest and sensible electorate, which government policy deliberately discourages.

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