Friday, 13 June 2008

Ireland shows Lisbon the red card!

So, it was a close one but the Irish have voted NO to the Lisbon Treaty. I heard the Irish Sun had a page 3 girl on the front page yesterday - with double Xs over her bits - and the words "No way Jose, vote no to Lisbon"! That must be what swung it then!

Anyway it may leave the treaty in dissarray but there are two important points to make here:

First, it clearly demonstrates the power of even the smallest of nations when you're a full member state in Europe - something that until we are Independent, Scotland is not. Ireland has a population of 3 million and, as my Irish friend pointed out to me today, with a turnout of 53% or little over 1.5 million people from 500 million in Europe as a whole, that's 0.3% of the entire population having the power to say yes or no to the Treaty. Right now we'd be dependent on the UK govt "granting" a referendum (you know, that thing that was in their manifesto but now seems to have disappeared) and then we'd be waiting for England to make the decision. With Independence we will have the same rights and the same power of veto as Ireland.

Secondly, it may not be the ideal outcome after years of negotiation but it gives Scotland an opportunity to again argue for the removal of exclusive competence for fisheries. Basically, the way the Lisbon Treaty stands (or stood) no country could opt out of the common fisheries policy - a policy which is damaging to Scotland's fishing community - and despite Ian Hudghton MEP and Richard Lochhead MSP (Fisheries Minister) pushing hard on this, Gordon Brown gave in on it and let it go.

Of course an SNP government in an Independent Scotland would have full negotiating rights and would NEVER give in on the CFP. We're not yet Independent but as OUR referendum comes ever closer, I believe two things could happen: Gordon Brown may think it wise to fight a bit harder for Scotland's corner for fear of losing us; and the EU may, in its negotiations, take Scotland a little more seriously knowing that it's likely we'll be a full member state in the next couple of years.

So it's disappointing for the high heid yins in Europe and something satisfactory will need to be worked out but it's been an interesting day and I'll look forward to hearing the response of the European Council next Thursday and Friday!

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