Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why I am now opposed to the EU constitution

I'm not a euro sceptic. I'm not opposed to the European Union, and I do think the EU has an important role to play in the future development. Until recently, I would described myself as pro-Europe.

During the second referendum on the Nice treaty in Ireland, I was active in the Yes camp - to the extent that I made the case in discussion with friends and canvassed on the door steps in my hometown to get people to vote Yes to the treaty. This despite the fact I didn't even have a vote. I did this despite the No vote in the first referendum, because of my belief that the real problem first time out was that the Yes voters stayed home. In that sense, my decision was vindicated, as the actual number of No votes cast barely moved (529,478 in the first referendum as opposed to 534,887 in the second, yet the result went from 55% - 45 % against to 63 % - 37% in favour of the treaty). The results proved that the claims of euro sceptic groups like the Bruges Group that the original result showed "the people of Ireland have unequivably rejected the Nice Treaty"[sic] was plain wrong.

Things have changed in the intervening four years since the referendum - I've moved to England, and the EU Constitution was introduced and rejected by the Dutch and the French in referenda. The British, who were promised a referendum by Tony Blair, and the Irish, who have to a referendum under the terms of their own constitutions, haven't had a chance to vote. I was always concerned about the concept of a constitution - that's the sort of things states have, and I don't want the EU to become a Federal State. The Constitution was almost impossible to read, as opposed to the Irish or US Constitutions. Now, we have a constitution, rather surprisingly carved out at the end of the Irish presidency with much backslapping amongst the Irish media at the role Bertie Ahern had had in brokering a compromise. Despite that, the referendum was well beaten in the two countries already mentioned, and there they don't have the excuse that Ireland had with Nice in 2001 - namely a low turnout.

One other thing really bothered - the decision of the European Commission to over rule the European Parliament vote on software patents. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the issue (and I am opposed to software patents) for an un elected body to simply disregard the ruling of an elected body on an EU wide issue is fundamentally undemocratic.

After the "defeat" of Nice in Ireland in 2001, Romano Prodi said that the EU would listen and reflect on what the Irish voters had said. This has turned out to be complete hogwash - despite the votes against the EU Constitution, EU Ministers seem to be determined to push ahead with it. There is a story from this week on the BBC News site in which the Prime Minister is quoted as saying it would be wrong to rule out the return of the Treaty.

I can no longer continue to support an institution with senior officials who think democracy is something inconvenient and to be ignored when the people decide they want to slow things down. Cameron is absolutely right - this is an ex Constitution. Bereft of life, it is no more. And it is time for the EU leadership to accept that fact.

No comments: