This is not to say that everything in the treaty is bad. It would have improved the institutional machinery in Brussels, sorted out a muddle in foreign-policy making and brought in a fairer system of voting by EU members. But these are not the sorts of changes to set voters alight. And in truth, few EU governments or institutions are genuine enthusiasts for the treaty as such (Germany, which would gain voting weight, and the European Parliament, which would win extra powers, are two exceptions). Most simply wanted to get it out of the way and move on to issues more interesting than the institutional navel-gazing that has preoccupied the EU for too long.
After the Irish no, that is precisely what they should now do. The treaty should be buried so that the EU can focus on more urgent matters, such as energy, climate change, immigration, dealing with Russia and the EU’s own expansion. It is disingenuous to claim, as some do, that without Lisbon no further enlargement is possible. Each applicant needs an accession treaty that can include the institutional changes, such as new voting weights or extra parliamentary seats.
Needless to say, many of Europe’s leaders will instead look for ingenious ways to ignore or reverse the Irish decision. But to come up with a few declarations or protocols and ask the Irish to vote again would not just be contemptuous of democracy: the turnout and margin of defeat also suggest that it might fail. Nor can Ireland, legally or morally, be excluded from the EU. Attempts by diehards to forge a core group of countries that builds a United States of Europe would also founder because, outside Belgium and Luxembourg, there is no longer a serious appetite for a federal Europe.
Ireland is a small country, to be sure. But the EU is an inter-governmental organisation that needs a consensus to proceed. It is bogus to claim that 1m voters are thwarting the will of 495m Europeans by blocking this treaty. Referendums would have been lost in many other countries had their people been given a say. Voters have thrice said no to this mess of pottage. It is time their verdict was respected.
Agreed. The Treaty is dead.