In a move that will enrage the EU technocrats Ireland has thrown a spanner in the works by declaring that the Euro budget discipline treaty should be put to its people via a referendum.
Not that a ‘no’ vote would change anything because it only takes 12 of the 17 participating states to say ‘yes’ for the treaty to come into force across the Eurozone.
An Irish no vote would be embarrassing to the Eurozone but in hard cash terms would potentially hit Ireland hard as it would then be unable to gain access to any future bail-out funds.
Ireland’s Taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, said that he was acting on the legal advice of his attorney general, MÃ¡ire Whelan SC, that under Ireland’s constitution ‘on balance’ the treaty does need a referendum.
The Telegraph quotes the Taoiseach as saying “It gives the Irish people the opportunity to reaffirm Ireland's commitment to membership of the euro.” But the Irish people themselves may not be as amenable. Especially as austerity bites, the EU accounts still not being up to scratch (accountancylive.com/croner/editorialDetails/category/Accounting/Accounting-Standards/editorial/Osborne-in-protest-at-sloppy-EU-accounting) and EU civil servants being after still more money.
But the question of why the wording wasn’t changed before this to ensure that a referendum was not required needs to be asked. As well as if maybe a few negotiated changes late in the day will then negate the need for one.
Conservative MP Douglas Carswell says in the Express “Three cheers for Ireland. It’s good to see democracy is still flourishing in some parts of Europe.”
While another Tory MP Peter Bone said “The Government is going to have a bit of explaining to do as to why the Irish can have a vote when we’re against the treaty and we don’t get a vote.” Although, as the fiscal compact does not apply to the UK then why would we be given a vote on it? There will however be an emergency debate on the treaty in the Commons today after Eurosceptic MPs called for it, presumably to assess any impact it would have on the UK.
But at the end of the day the choice for the Irish people may be a stark one – Democracy or money. And this time there is no second bite of the cherry to make sure they vote the right way in the end, they are being given one vote only.