Voting till they get it right

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 


28 February 2012

Ireland to hold referendum on European fiscal pact

The news broke this afternoon that Ireland is to hold a referendum on a German-inspired fiscal compact that will impose a permanent budget corset on 25 of the European Union’s 27 member states.

The news will be greeted with gloom and despondency by orthodox policy-makers throughout the European Union.  The budget treaty was deliberately drafted to avoid the need for a referendum in Ireland.

The last thing the Eurocrats promoting the treaty wanted was that it be subject to the mercy of a popular vote. That is not how they do things in the European Union.

Ireland is the only EU country in which a referendum is required when treaties are signed which impinge on the state’s Constitution. All the other signatory countries can ratify international agreements in a parliamentary vote stage-managed by their political parties.

The Irish Government, which pulled out all the stops to avoid calling a plebiscite, had to cave in when Irish Attorney-General Máire Whelan, the country’s senior law officer, advised the Cabinet this morning that “on balance” a referendum was required to ratify the treaty.

The date has yet to be announced.

Those opposed to the treaty should not rejoice too soon, however.

On the one hand, they should not assume that the Government will lose the referendum. The Irish and European establishments will now mount a no-holds-barred publicity campaign to persuade voters to vote yes, warning that the country will be turfed out of the single-currency eurozone – and lose access to European funding – if it votes no.

On the other hand, treaty opponents should be mindful of the basic European rule governing plebiscites. This is the principle of successive plebiscites.  It means that voters are invited to vote in a succession of referendums until they get it right, ie until they come up with the result that the establishment wants.

Irish voters rejected the Nice referendum in 2001. But neither the Irish Government nor the European Union accepted this result. A further referendum was held in 2002, at which point the people gave in and voted yes.

In a subsequent referendum in 2008 Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty. They were obliged to vote again the following year, when the treaty was approved.

The general view in Ireland then was: “What is the point of voting no if the Government won’t accept the voice of the people?”

What indeed?

More trouble ahead for the treaty, meanwhile, in Britain. The British Parliament is to debate whether the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is legally entitled – as the Eurocrats wish – to adjudicate in matters involving the fiscal treaty.

The ECJ was set up to lay down the law in disputes within the European Union. The fiscal compact is outside the union, since two EU states, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, are not party to it.

This story will run.


You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


This entry was posted in Economics, Europe, Germany, Ireland, Politics, UK and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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