There is a lot of talk about the vote on the Lisbon treaty and we are fast approaching the time of voting. I have been speaking to a lot of people about this matter and the opinions are greatly varied. However, it is very worrying that the proportion of people who still do not know what they are voting on is so large, and more worrying again is those who have selected their vote purely on party allegiance or anti-party politics.
I can vaguely recall a time in my life when all major political parties in Ireland were united on a single issue and the only snipes between them was that one was not pulling its weight enough to support the issue. No argument, no falling out – since when have the opposition and leadership ever agreed on anything? Which means that we have to ask questions. I vaguely remember agreement between a large number of political parties but when it comes to this matter I am also not surprised by it; any serious political party in Ireland is so freaked out by potentially upsetting the EU and being viewed as a backward member state that they will just nod along with any major EU suggestion. Please remember that our government hasn’t been so keen on issues like bringing VRT into line with the rest of the EU for the last many years so why should it suddenly be so prepared to accept everything else?
I’m in no way anti-EU, in fact I think that we as a country have benefited greatly since joining the union. However, the perception of what is ungrateful is very wrong here. Failing to ratify the treaty simply means that the EU will continue to function as is, Ireland will still be governed the way it is and will still be entitled to all the benefits that it has ever received from the EU. We will not lose out by failing to pass this yes vote. What does happen however if we vote yes is that we give away large aspects of our democracy, we vote yes to exclude Ireland from the EU Commission and we effectively vote in a self-modifying treaty that Ireland may never have a say in the direction of. It is only since I started looking into this treaty in detail that I have changed my vote from yes to no and the more I learn the more steadfast I become on that no vote. Here are three things you should be aware of, if you don’t already know:
- A yes vote for the Lisbon Treaty means that the make-up of the EU Commission will be irrevocably changed to include only 66% of member states as appointees within the governing body. These appointees will be rotated every 5 years but effectively this means that Ireland can potentially be excluded from highly important decisions on our own governance. The people of Ireland elected a government for the country, other governments do not know the importance of certain decisions for Ireland in terms of business and trade. It does not make sense for Ireland to dispose of its own ability to make or influence decisions that affect our future.
- Citizen’s initiative – our token acknowledgement of democracy. Citizen’s initiative is a clause in the treaty whereby a minimum of 1,000,000 people of voting age must get together and make a proposal to the EU on a matter that they feel deserves attention. Now with the exception of human rights there is very little that links all EU countries in a common vision, most countries want the best for themselves, not others. The chances of every single adult of voting age within Ireland getting together to bring matter before the EU is frankly highly imaginative but that is effectively what must happen if the Irish people are unhappy about something and we have no commission representation. Ask yourself how realistic this is.
- Tax harmonisation is something that is greatly favoured by the treaty. However, there is a caveat for certain tax categories that may be vetoed by the national government. In simple terms this means that things such as corporation tax may fall foul to harmonisation thereby removing Ireland’s competitive advantage to attract international companies and taxes such as VRT can be vetoed and still controlled at the national level resulting in even worse conditions for the Irish people. The majority of “yes” campaign posters out there at the moment are spattered with “vote yes for jobs”, if corporation tax is harmonised then it is very likely that jobs will suffer massively in the Irish market. We live in a time whereby many international companies are already pulling out in favour of cheaper labour markets, those that stay behind do so only for the tax breaks – remove the tax incentive and then the floodgates of the recession that we have been tentatively staving off for the last while will truly be opened. Ireland will then have the impossible task of having to crush its labour force into cheaper salaries, made impossible by the civil service and national pay deals that will bring the country to a standstill if revoked, and tackle the insurmountable problem with the cost of living in order to claw itself back into the market.
So please think before you vote. Any “yet to be defined” aspects of the treaty, of which there are many, are effectively putting a blank contract in front of you to sign. Would you sign a blank contract of work before commencing employment and have your employer fill out your duties later on?
Those of you who are voting yes because Sinn Féin have launched a “no” campaign, for shame on you. Not only are you a worthless factor of the democratic system, you are also a detrimental obstacle to independent thought and should do everyone a favour by abstaining from the vote rather than voting against another party that you don’t like, in a vote that has absolutely nothing to do with party politics. For anyone else, I will respect your vote/opinion as long as you came to the conclusion yourself and are not simply voting that way because your party said you should. Your party will not represent you in the EU when there is no Irish representation on the commission so do yourself a favour and think for yourself rather than letting your party dictate your involvement/opinion.