Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Lisbon Treaty - What Now?

Following on from by betting post, the Irish have voted "yes" to the Lisbon Treaty, I bet on a "no" vote. My Mum always said to be humble in defeat, humble is not quite what I'm feeling right now after loosing money. Yet what's important is what happens now for Europe, what the treaty means for Britain and the EU. In the interests of disclosure, I'm not anti EU but pro EU with reform, I don't feel the Lisbon Treaty as it stands reforms the EU, it's just another layer of complicated legislation and management.

Ireland now having ratified the treaty means there's only two countries left to do so, Czech Republic and Poland, they are expected to say yes and ratify by December. The purpose of the Lisbon Treaty is to replace previous treaties and streamline EU institutions. It does this by creating an European Commission, which will have an EU president, named by the EU governments and an EU foreign minister will take office along side the president*. This is where is starts to particularly effect Britain.

The name of the person thought to be the EU president in waiting is, Tony Blair. It's difficult to know if the British media are scaremongering or if he's really in the running, as opinion of him is hard to gauge across Europe. Some people though would argue that this good for British interest in the EU, I however would argue that Blair has never been good for British interest, anywhere.

It also has a national effect in that the Tories policy was to offer a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, if it's not in force by the election, it's unlikely referendum will be forthcoming under the circumstances. For David Cameron though this could become a much bigger issue, Euro-scepticism is a really divisive issue within the Tory party and among it's supporters. He has to keep the kettle from boiling over, the referendum was a good way to achieve that. Thus he may have trouble ahead.

For Europe at large the Lisbon treaty expands the EU's justice and police decisions it also creates a rights charter for things such as freedom of speech, religion etc, both of these Britain has opted out of. Which means such legislation will not have a direct effect, though in reality given how interlinked each country is, it's bound to have an indirect effect.

Consequently the Lisbon treaty will mainly in Britain, entrench peoples views and stir up resentment, it will be a centre point of rage for Euro-sceptics. Something that will have to be addressed at some point, I doubt our current government will be the one to do so though.

* For more details the BBC have a handy Q&A page here.

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