"The Irish referendum was an inspiring example of democracy in action.
People say that there is a disconnection between the EU and its
peoples. Thursday’s vote was proof that when you give people a real say
on the EU they respond in vast numbers. Turn out was higher than in any
European election held in this country.
It was also a courageous vote. Threats were made that Ireland would
suffer if they voted ‘no’ but that did not deter the Irish from making
their own decision on the Treaty.
And I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary did not find it in him to congratulate Irish voters on either of those points.
Following as it does the French and Dutch rejections of the original
Constitution, a Treaty that was, in the then Irish Prime Minister
Bertie Ahern’s words, ‘ninety per cent’ the same as the Lisbon Treaty,
is it not now clear beyond doubt that there is profound opposition
among the peoples of Europe to the substance of this Treaty?
Given that no one would ever call the peoples of France, the
Netherlands and Ireland anti-European is it not now clearer than ever
that it is absurd to describe as anti-European disagreement with a
Treaty that further centralises power away from Europe’s nation states
towards remote institutions?
The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that the result had to be respected and that ‘there can be no question of bulldozing or bamboozling or ignoring the Irish vote’ and we very much agree with that, but isn’t that exactly what he and the Prime Minister are doing by pressing on with ratification in this country?
If that is the Government’s position why was one paper briefed yesterday that the Prime Minister ‘is privately ready to sacrifice the Lisbon treaty’? If that is the Government’s true position why won’t ministers say it? Instead of trying to have it both ways why can’t we have some clarity from this Government?
Did not a previous Labour Foreign Secretary set out the only right course for this country yesterday when he wrote: ‘by any conceivable test of democratic procedure, the House of Lords should vote to put Treaty ratification on ice … to simply plough ahead on a straight vote to accept or reject the EU … Bill is to demonstrate nothing less than a contempt for the democracy on which the European Union is supposed to be founded’?
And isn’t the Czech Prime Minister right to say that the ‘Irish no [is] no less serious than the previous French and Dutch noes’? So why when after those referendums did the then Foreign Secretary come here to announce that the ratification of the Constitution was suspended has this Foreign Secretary come here to announce the opposite? Is the message that in today’s EU small countries don’t count?
Shouldn’t this Government show some true leadership in Europe and state plainly that Britain will:
- Suspend ratification in this country immediately;
- Give a clear message at Thursday’s summit that this Treaty is finished and
- Make the fundamental point that no lasting political institution can be built in democratic societies without the peoples’ consent?
Isn’t that what real respect for the referendum would mean?
And is it not now essential that all preparations for implementing the Treaty, including on the European External Action Service, are now suspended and that the EU takes no action that is not legally provided for under the current Treaties?
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that respecting the result means not asking the Irish people to vote again?
Will he undertake on the Government’s behalf that they will take no part in any bullying of Ireland?
And would it not be extraordinary for the Irish to vote twice on this Treaty when British voters haven’t had the chance to vote once?
The Foreign Secretary says ratification here must proceed so there can be a ‘British view’ on the Treaty. But isn’t the reality that this Government has not yet spoken for the British view?
If the Government really wanted to find out the British view there are two very easy ways for him to do so.
The first would be to call a general election, of which the Prime Minister is with good reason terrified.
And the second is to keep the promise this Government solemnly made at the last general election to call a referendum in the United Kingdom, a referendum which would assuredly tell the brave people of Ireland that in rejecting the Lisbon Treaty they are by no means alone.”