The Blanket

Just Say No

Ciarán Irvine • October, 2002

As the hyperbole, humbug and hysteria surrounding the Nice Treaty referendum re-run starts to reach fever pitch, there is still time to take a cold clear look at the various issues and slice through the fog of disinformation - especially that peddled by the Yes side - to try and establish the truth.

1. Why are we having this referendum at all?

We already voted No. But now we have to vote again on exactly the same Treaty. Why? Is this the quality of European democracy? We will be allowed to vote as often as we wish until we give the right answer? And funny how the other member states, great “democracies” one and all, have point-blank refused to ratify Nice by referendums in their own countries. They know well that the people of every other current member State would reject Nice if given the chance. Irish-style popular democracy, it turns out, is just too damn inconvenient for these virtuous “democrats”.

2. A No Vote will lead to economic devastation

And how exactly? The EU has no powers whatsoever to “punish” us economically for voting No. That particular red herring aside, the Yes side claim that multinationals will abandon Ireland in the event of a No vote. But why should they? Multinationals are here because they make profits - and very healthy ones at that; for the educated, English-speaking workforce; and for access to European markets. In a No vote every single one of those factors will remain in place. Nice has no ramifications for the European Single Market whatsoever. This whole issue is a mere scare mongering campaign with no basis in legal or economic reality. Do we really want to become “inextricably linked” to an organisation that tries to intimidate and bully its smaller weaker members in this way?

3. Nice is essential for enlargement

What can I say? Just about everybody of note in the European establishment right up to Romano Prodi has admitted this is not in fact the case. In fact the “doomsday scenario” in terms of enlargement proceeding, the worst case possible, is that enlargement will be delayed “by one or two years” (Peter Sutherland). So the Czechs and the Poles might be joining in 2006 instead of 2004. Of course, had the first democratic vote been respected, it could all be sorted out by now for enlargement to proceed as originally scheduled…next time, how about involving the 10 new countries in the negotiations to shape the Europe they want to be part of? Oh, sorry, that would be equitable and democratic, and we can’t have that in the Brave New Europe…

4. We have a moral obligation to Eastern Europe

Indeed we do, but not the obligation the Yes side are peddling. We have an obligation to these nations, newly emerged from under the Soviet jackboot, to safeguard their national sovereignties and ensure they get the best possible circumstances in which to prosper - both economically and in terms of their development into flourishing democratic states. The badly skewed terms of the Nice treaty will do neither. Why swap political and economic domination by Moscow for the “kinder, gentler” Imperialism of Brussels? Voting No means that the current legal basis of the Union stands - in other words these nations will join as legally equal Nation States, not second-class sub-provinces of Greater Europe.

5. Europe Prevents War

So? What has that got to do with Nice? And to be brutally blunt, if the other European States feel they need the EU to force them to play nice and not invade one another every generation, that says a lot more about them than it does about us. Next time some Europhile raises this, just point out that Ireland is one of the only European countries that never voted for extremist Fascist or Communist parties, had a Fascist or Communist Government, invaded anyone, persecuted minorities or built death camps. It is most definitely not the Republic of Ireland that needs a lecture on keeping the peace…

6. Nice does not impinge on neutrality

Hmmm. Then why spend €230 million on preparing the Irish Defence Forces to take part in the Rapid Reaction Force? Does Ahern’s promise of not joining a European military alliance carry the same weight as his promise not to join NATO’s PfP without a referendum? What of all the tonnage of documentation and strategic policy statements emanating from Brussels on the need for Europe to start matching the US in terms of ability to throw its weight around? Should anyone in Ireland take the word of a gallery of ex-Empires that they do not envy American military power - or that they don’t want to catch up? Yes, and I have a nice bridge I’d like to sell you. Then again, maybe you believe the world actually needs yet another 800-pound gorilla with nukes.

Ireland has the proudest record of UN peacekeeping service in the world. No other nation - not one - contributes as much in relation to their size as the Republic. Our service to the world is recognised and appreciated everywhere, and especially in the poor, disadvantaged and conflict-ridden nations of the globe. Ask yourself this - would you rather Ireland was respected by the downtrodden and afflicted for our principled military service; or seen as a good lapdog by the nuclear armed and militaristic powers of Europe?

7. Nice does not create a two-tier Europe

From the earliest days of the Treaty of Rome, the various members of the ECSC/EEC/EC/EU (or whatever yer having yerself this week) have enjoyed strict legal equality. The European project (so far) has always been about partnership - all of us together working for our mutual benefit. The only reason we are having a (second!) referendum on Nice in the first place is because, in the judgement of then Attorney General Michael McDowell, Nice fundamentally altered the partnership basis of the EU with the cynically named “Enhanced Co-operation” provisions and the extensions to Qualified Majority Voting. It is not exactly a secret that an inner core have their Enhanced Cooperation plans drawn up, and that item #1 is tax harmonisation. Now, just why do a group of equal sovereign States in an economic and trade customs union - if that is all Europe is intended to be - need to harmonise their taxes? The US is a group of States in a political, economic and monetary union, but there is no requirement for Massachusetts to have the same taxes as Kentucky…

Enhanced Co-operation creates “inner sanctums” with the political clout, and using the institutions of the EU, to drive the agenda. Ireland will be faced with the stark choice to go along with whatever the inner core want regardless of the cost to ourselves, or stay outside the inner core and be ignored and slighted by the rest of the inner sanctum club. Some choice.

The current Government insists “tax harmonisation is not and will never be on our agenda”. The same Government that said they’d have a referendum before joining PfP, or that spending cuts (or “adjustments” if you prefer Bertie-speak) would not be necessary after the election, or any of a string of other meaningless “promises”. And of course, it says absolutely nothing about the next Government’s position…

8. Nice does not transfer power to the larger states

As the following table clearly demonstrates, this claim by the Yes camp is a blatant, shameless, bald-faced lie.

Each of the Big Five (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain) increases their share of the total vote. Every smaller country suffers a decrease in their share of the vote. Together, the Five have 143 votes out of the necessary 169 for a QMV decision. Only three of the other 10 small States, with votes adding up to 26, will be required to railroad through QMV decisions to the detriment of European democracy and the sovereignty of small States. On the other hand, if every small country voted together they would only have 94 votes and would still need 3 of the Big Five to get a decision passed.

9. There are no plans for a European Superstate

First of all it was a mere trade agreement to bring down tariffs between members. Then an agricultural support programme. Then we moved on to Brussels setting economic, social and commercial regulations across all walks of life. Then it became a mechanism for “economic cohesion” - redistribution of wealth from rich to poor within the EEC, out of which admittedly Ireland did very well.

Now, on these last two points the Government, Fine Gael and Labour pontificate that Europe has been “good to us” because it helped get our economy of its knees in the late 80s; and has imposed a wide range of health & safety and workers rights. Therefore, goes the “logic”, we “owe it to Europe to vote Yes”.

The astounding arrogance of such blether from this shower beggars belief. Let us remind ourselves - who was it that destroyed the Irish economy in the first place? Surely not Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour in the 70’s and early 80’s (when, lest we forget, we were already in Europe. Europe wasn’t much use in the long dark emigration years of the 80’s, was it?). And just why should we tug our forelocks to Europe for imposing rights legislation when what we should be feeling is outrage at the Irish Governments who failed to provide those rights? And who made up the Governments of old that failed the Irish people - economically and socially - and had to have others force them to give some basic dignity to the people and workers of Ireland? Why, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour!

But after all of that, Brussels wasn’t happy. Then we had to have control over fiscal policy removed via the Stability Pact; a common currency - the dear old Euro that has caused such a hike in prices; monetary policy removed to the unaccountable ECB; a nuclear armed Rapid Reaction Force; a Common Foreign and Security Policy (all agreed in Maastricht and Amsterdam)….now it’s Enhanced Cooperation, QMV, dilution of the voice of small States - all in Nice - and a European Constitution planned for 2004.

Where is all this heading? Where is the logical end of the road to this creeping integration? Will anyone on the Yes side tell you? Well, what do you call a political set-up with a Constitution, an Army, a single currency, a defence & foreign policy, a Parliament, an Executive (the Commission), various courts, control over monetary policy, control over fiscal policy, legislative powers in social, economic and commercial matters - all of which override national legislation? I don’t know about you, but to me if it walks like a duck….

The issue is not whether we are heading, at some unspecified vague time in the future, towards a European Superstate. The issue is why no-one on the Yes side will admit that, after Nice and the 2004 Convention, that State will already exist.

Add it all up. Consider the known character and track record of those urging you to vote Yes. Make no mistake - this is our final opportunity. After Nice we will never get another opportunity to influence the development of the “European Project”. Irish independence and neutrality will be gone forever. Look at the big picture in all its disturbing, anti-democratic glory.

And Just Say No.





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The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.
- Ayn Rand
Index: Current Articles

13 October 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Just Say No
Ciarán Irvine


Full of Sound & Fury
Aine Fox


The Edge of the Abyss...Again

Brendan O'Neill


If You're In, You Can't Win
Anthony McIntyre


How Clever Was Adams?
Henry Patterson


Please, My Friend is Being Tortured
Sam Bahour


11 October 2002


Just Desserts?
Anthony McIntyre


'Robocop' Raid Seen as PSNI Reversion
Eamonn McCann


A Secret History of the IRA
Niall Stanage


Immigrant Slave Labour
Liam O Ruairc


Fighting the Sharks
Sean Smyth


Academics on Independence, Part 2

Paul Fitzsimmons


Wake Up and Smell the Occupation
Sam Bahour


From the Mouths of Babes
John Chuckman




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