is a summary of the main reasons why we believe the Lisbon Treaty should be rejected.
Please click on the headings to read a short explanation of each one.
- Ireland has already said No – politicians should respect
- The Lisbon Treaty is the EU Constitution
in all but name, which has already been voted down by France and the Netherlands
- The Irish ‘guarantees’ are meaningless and do
nothing to address Irish voters’ concerns – the Treaty has not changed by
a single comma
- There is no guarantee
that Ireland will get to keep its Commissioner indefinitely
Europeans have not been given a vote
Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland
Treaty is bad for democracy in Europe – less powers for national parliaments
- The Treaty creates powerful new institutions such
as an EU President and Foreign Minister, without allowing voters a say
- The Treaty does nothing to address the EU’s chronic
- Yes campaigners have not
Ireland has already said No – politicians should respect that
On 13 June 2008, Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum by
53.4 percent votes to 46.6 percent. Turnout was 53.1 percent.
sooner had the count finished, EU politicians were saying Ireland had got the
‘wrong answer’ and would have to vote again. The Irish government claimed
there was no intention to make people vote again, but eventually gave in to pressure
and organised a second referendum. This is in spite of a poll of Irish voters
taken 6 weeks after the referendum which showed that 71 percent did not want to
be asked again.
This is a matter of democracy. The
Irish government explicitly promised not to put the same text to the Irish again.
But this is exactly what they will do. The Treaty has not been changed in any
way, and Ireland has secured no opt-outs, which means Irish voters will be voting
on exactly the same text they have already rejected. Why should they have to
The Lisbon Treaty is the EU Constitution in all but name, which has already
been voted down by France and the Netherlands
This is not the first
time EU leaders have refused to take no for an answer. Unfortunately, forcing
the Irish to vote again on exactly the same text is part of a growing trend in
Europe of politicians ignoring voters’ wishes regarding the EU. It has to stop.
Lisbon Treaty was originally called the Constitutional Treaty. In referendums
in both France and the Netherlands voters said ‘no’ to the Treaty in 2005.
Turnout was even higher than in last year’s Irish referendum. But instead
of respecting the no vote in these two founding members of the EU, politicians
pressed ahead with the Treaty anyway.
In one of the most dishonest exercises
in recent political history, EU politicians changed the layout of the text, tinkered
with some of the language, and renamed it as the Lisbon Treaty. Several leaders
admitted that the idea of this was to pretend the text was different, and release
many governments from their promises to hold a referendum on the original text.
96% of the original text is in the Lisbon Treaty. Ireland was the only country
allowed a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, because it is constitutionally bound to hold
referendums on important EU treaty changes. In all the other countries, the text
was pushed through parliaments without proper democratic debate, and without asking
Tens of millions of people around Europe have rejected this
Treaty, and yet, if Ireland votes yes, they will have to live with it anyway.
That is not democracy.
The Irish ‘guarantees’ are meaningless and do nothing to address
Irish voters’ concerns – the Treaty has not changed by a single comma
Since the last referendum in 2008, EU leaders have agreed a list
of statements which do not change the Lisbon Treaty in any way, but merely reiterate
what the Treaty already says. These have been described as ‘guarantees’, but
in fact are not legally-binding under EU law. Even if they do eventually become
legally-binding in the form of a ‘protocol’ in the future, as is planned,
EU leaders have confirmed that they will still not change the substance of the
Treaty (see They Said It section). If the Treaty
had changed in any way at all, it would have had to be ratified again in other
This means that Irish voters will be voting on exactly the same
text of the Lisbon Treaty a second time around, despite having already rejected
it, and despite promises from the Irish government that they would not present
the same text again.
Unlike Denmark, where voters rejected the Maastricht
Treaty in 1992, Ireland has secured no opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty, but a
series of political commitments, meaning it will apply to Ireland in exactly the
same way as was envisaged when Ireland voted on it last year.
‘guarantees‘ are largely red-herrings which distract from the real problems
with the Treaty – such as the fact that it abolishes the national veto in more
than 60 areas of policy – on everything from transport to the rights of criminal
suspects and even some aspects of foreign policy. Ireland will lose 40% of its
power to block EU laws it disagrees with, and the Treaty creates a powerful new
EU President, and EU Foreign Minister, which will dilute Ireland’s influence
in the EU and the world. The Treaty also hands the European Court of Justice significant
new powers to act in sensitive areas such as Justice and Home Affairs.
back to top
There is no guarantee that Ireland will get
to keep its Commissioner Indefinitely
The ‘guarantee’ that Ireland,
and all the other EU member states, will each get to keep an EU Commissioner under
the Lisbon Treaty is no such thing.
Article 17, TEU of the Lisbon Treaty
still clearly states that the number of Commissioners will be reduced to two thirds
of the number of member states. It says: “As from 1 November 2014, the
Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and the
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding
to two thirds of the number of Member States, unless the European Council, acting
unanimously, decides to alter this number.”
The Treaty also says
that this arrangement can be changed by a unanimous vote in the European Council.
Earlier this year, EU leaders promised the Irish Prime Minister that, once the
Treaty is in force, they will all vote unanimously to not use the default Lisbon
position of reducing the size of the Commission to two thirds of the number of
member states, and would instead continue to allow each member state to send a
Commissioner to Brussels.
However, this promise is not legally binding in
any way. The current EU leaders, who made the promise, cannot guarantee that
their successors will actually deliver on the pledge. The default position in
the Lisbon Treaty will always say that the number of Commissioners should be two
thirds the number of member states. If EU leaders wanted to change this, they
would have changed the actual text of the Treaty, the wording of Article 17, TEU
of the Lisbon Treaty, instead of just making a promise to ignore it in the future.
It is by no means a guarantee.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee whatsoever
that this arrangement, if it is agreed, will prevail in the future – it could
be that by as early as 2019 the Commission will revert to the Lisbon default position
of two thirds membership.
The status quo seems far safer for the long run.
Unlike Lisbon, under the current, Nice Treaty arrangements, EU leaders have the
option to reduce the size of the Commission by just one member,
meaning each member state would be without a Commissioner for only 5 years
in every 135. In contrast, under the Lisbon, member states could potentially
be without a Commissioner for 5 out of every 15 years.
back to top
Most Europeans have not been given a vote
Many people claim that the rest of Europe is just waiting for Ireland
to say ‘yes’ to the Treaty.
But Ireland is the only country to have
given its citizens a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Voters in several EU countries
were promised a referendum on the Treaty, but were denied a vote when EU leaders
began to fear that the Treaty would be rejected.
This is despite the fact
that, according to the only independent poll of all 27 EU member states, 75 percent
of voters across Europe, and a majority in every EU country, want to be given
a say on any new Treaty which gives more powers to the EU.
The most recent
poll showed that 77 percent of Germans want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Irish EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has estimated that 95 percent of
countries would have voted no to the Treaty if they had been given a referendum.
independent poll of all member states showed that at least half of EU member states
would have rejected the Treaty if they had been given a vote.
ahead with such an important Treaty without consulting the people will spell disaster
for the European Union in the long run. Most people in Europe are in favour
of the European Union, but they desperately want to be given more of a say on
big issues like Treaty change, and increasingly feel alienated and disenchanted
with an EU that refuses to consult or listen to them. By voting ‘No’ to
the Lisbon Treaty a second time around, Irish voters can speak for the rest of
Europe in demanding a stop to integration without the people.
back to top
The Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland
The Irish government claims the Treaty is good for Ireland, but during negotiations
on the text in Brussels, Irish ministers objected to many of its most important
aspects. Only 24% of proposed Irish amendments made it into the final text.
particular, the government was against the appointment of a permanent EU President,
which will replace the current system of rotating presidencies. It was also
against the changes to voting arrangements, which will see Ireland losing 40 percent
of its power to block EU legislation it disagrees with.
It said that national
parliaments should have a say in nominating the Commission President, and also
objected to the abolition of national vetoes in many policy areas, including criminal
justice and social security policy. However, on these and many other important
suggestions, the Irish government was ignored.
back to top
The Treaty is bad for democracy in Europe
– less powers for national parliaments
According to analysis by
academics from the London School of Economics, under the Lisbon Treaty all EU
countries except Malta will lose power to block EU legislation they disagree with
as the threshold for passing legislation is reduced and it becomes far easier
for the EU institutions to pass new laws.
The Treaty abolishes the national
veto in 60 areas of policy - in everything from transport, to the rights of criminals,
to some areas of foreign policy - without compensating for this with adequate
powers for national parliaments.
It is a common myth that the Lisbon Treaty
brings greater powers for national parliaments. In fact, the combination of
the loss of policymaking powers to the EU level, the loss of the national veto
brought by the increase in the use of majority voting, and new arrangements for
amending the treaties means that national parliaments will have less influence
on policymaking than ever before.
As the German Constitutional Court
recently pointed out: “The status of national parliaments is considerably
curtailed by the reduction of decisions requiring unanimity and the supranationalisation
of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.”
the Treaty is ‘self-amending’, allowing the EU to increase its own powers
and change the Treaties over time, without the need for proper parliamentary and
Currently, changes to the Treaties must be ratified by
law in most member states, which has always in the past sparked public and parliamentary
interest and debate. In Ireland, any significant changes have to be put to a referendum.
Equipped with several different options for changing the Treaties – including
the so-called ‘passerelle’, ‘flexibility’ and ‘simplified revision’
procedures, the Lisbon Treaty makes it possible for EU leaders to agree future
changes to the treaties without the current requirement for national parliamentary
and public debate. This means that if Lisbon is passed, this is very likely
to be Ireland’s last ever referendum on EU affairs.
back to top
The Treaty creates powerful new institutions
such as an EU President and Foreign Minister, without allowing voters a say
The Lisbon Treaty would create a powerful new EU President, whose exact role
is yet to be determined. It is thought he or she will be paid the same as the
(appointed) European Commission President, who currently earns the same basic
salary as the democratically-elected President of the United States.
EU member states take it in turns to be President of the EU for six months at
a time. While not perfect, this system does at least ensure that the smaller
member states like Ireland get to set the agenda in Europe on an equal basis with
the larger countries.
It also means that the democratically elected prime
ministers and presidents of EU member states set the agenda in Europe and represent
the EU on the world stage. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the President of the EU
will be nominated, not by the people but by the European Council, by a qualified
majority vote and without consultation with national parliaments. He or she
will sit for terms of two and a half years.
The likelihood is that the
post will go to an ex-prime minister or president of Europe. This means that
whoever is appointed is likely to have lost the support of their own electorate
at home – such as Tony Blair, who is currently being touted as a future EU President.
the new EU Foreign Minister will be appointed by the European Council, acting
by qualified majority voting. Again, his or her exact role and salary remain
to be decided. The Foreign Minister will chair the meetings of EU foreign ministers,
even though the Irish government objected to that, and proposals he makes will
be decided on by qualified majority voting. Other new institutions include an
EU diplomatic service, and a European Public Prosecutor.
See our Guide
to Lisbon for more details about what is in the Treaty.
back to top
The Treaty does nothing to address the EU’s
The European Union needs urgent reform, in many
respects. However, instead of addressing the problems the EU is experiencing with
the powers it already has, the Lisbon Treaty seeks to give the EU more powers
at the expense of national governments and parliaments.
People in Europe
feel more disconnected from the EU than ever before. Turnout at the last European
elections hit a record low. People feel disenchanted with the European Union
for many different reasons, but several underlying themes crop up again and again.
The EU hasn’t had its accounts signed off in 14 years. It is losing
more than €1 million in fraud every working day, according to its own figures.
It spends €200m a year just ferrying MEPs back and forth between its two parliament
buildings in Strasbourg and Brussels. There is a feeling that the EU is doing
‘too much’, churning out too much legislation that all too often voters only
hear about once it has already been decided.
The Lisbon Treaty does nothing
to address these problems. In fact, it will make real reform of the EU even
more difficult in the long-run, by entrenching and empowering the institutions
and reducing the power of citizens to have a say. Once the Lisbon Treaty is
passed, it will be deemed that ‘reform’ has been dealt with and can be abandoned
for decades to come.
Yes campaigners have not been honest
Advocates of the Lisbon Treaty say they want a detailed debate about the content
of the Treaty, but instead often rely on irrelevant arguments about membership
of the EU.
Some even try to paint those who are against the Treaty as ‘anti-EU’,
or even ‘anti-European’. They refuse to acknowledge that it is easy to be
in favour of the EU but against this Treaty.
This is not a vote on ‘in
or out’ of Europe – it is about the kind of Europe we want to see. Polls
show that most people are in favour of their country’s membership of the EU,
but are worried about further EU integration. It is time the politicians listened
to them and represented them.
Some ‘yes’ campaigners are also pretending
that if Ireland votes no, it will have to leave the EU. This is nothing more
than a scare tactic. The same was said of the French and the Dutch ahead of
their referendums on the Treaty, but when they voted no, life continued as normal.
Ireland votes no it will not be slung out of the EU. The Polish and Czech Presidents
will refuse to sign it, as they are waiting for the outcome of the Irish referendum,
and the likely new Conservative government in the UK will put it to a referendum,
where it is likely to be rejected. At that point it will cease to be Ireland’s
problem and will well and truly be Europe’s.