Evaluating the Lisbon Treaty Referendum

EU Ambassador and former Irish PM John Bruton explains what the successful Lisbon Treaty referendum spells for Ireland.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What will be the effect of the successful Lisbon Treaty referendum?

John Bruton: Well, I think that the fact that our Irish people have voted twice now to reject the EU treaties, they rejected the Niece Treaty first, and then they changed their mind and accepted the second time, and now they are – it looks as if having rejected the Lisbon Treaty, they will vote to accept it. This has created a measure of uncertainty which would remain and will make it more difficult for the European Union to contemplate future treaty revisions because it will say to itself, well, we have to get this through an Irish referendum as well as getting the Irish government to agree to it. It is not enough to get the government that the people have elected to agree, we’ve got to have a referendum as well, and that added uncertainty is going, I think make European Union leaders hesitant to amend their treaties. Now, in my view, any organization has to have the capacity to amend its rules. It has to have, not the capacity to do it easily, but to do it when necessary, responsibly. And the main worry is that we have by cause of the way in which referenda have gone in Ireland and the insistent on referenda on matters of detail that normally wouldn’t be the subject the referendum because of Supreme Court decisions. We’ve created a sort of an artificial blockage in the renewal of the European Union, which isn’t a very good thing, and it’s a problem that will remain with us.

The second consequence, however, I think will be as there would be a yes, is what I would expect, will be that Ireland will be, for day to day purposes, in a more influential position in influencing what the EU does than it would be if the Irish people had voted no. If the Irish people had voted no, the priority would have been for the rest of Europe to find a way of basically of circumventing Ireland, to go around Ireland rather than involve Ireland. In whatever they needed to do. And to try to find a way of doing anything that they didn’t – that they could do without having to get Ireland involved because Ireland has this complication. And so that’s not a good position – and would not have been a good position for Ireland to be in because Ireland needs to be able to influence EU decisions We are the most open economy in Europe to the rest of Europe. We are more influenced by what other countries do than any other country in Europe is influenced by other countries. So, therefore, we need to be able to influence our surroundings more than others need to influence their surroundings. And the way we have of doing that is by being a full hearted and fully participating member of the European Union.

Recorded on October 2, 2009