Ireland, Lisbon Treaty, Orpington

Last week I went to Orpington Labour Party to talk about the Lisbon Treaty. After a delightful drive around this beautiful part of south-east London/Kent on my way to the meeting, I was pleased to be able to talk to one of our active parties.

The Lisbon Treaty would make the EU structures which were designed for a Common Market of six countries workable for a European Union of 27 member states. The proposals include an EU presidency which lasts for two and a half years rather than six months, a reduction in the number of Commissioners (there are currently 27), a new foreign policy post combining the External Affairs Commissioner with the European Council’s High Representative position and changes in the way majority votes are counted.

The meeting at Orpington was very lively. Inevitably the question of a referendum came up. Since Ireland said no to the Lisbon Treaty in their referendum and the UK Parliament has now ratified it, the question of a British referendum is now less pressing. I do not, however, believe there should be a referendum for two reasons. Whatever the pro-referendum lobby may say, the Lisbon Treaty does not represent a major change to the governance of Britain or any loss of sovereignty. In addition, Britain has no tradition of referendums, preferring representative democracy.

With the refusal of the Polish President to sign the Lisbon Treaty and Czech support for the Irish position, the way forward on Lisbon is less than clear. I am of the view that we should respect the Irish position and listen to the people of Europe. France and Holland rejected the previous Constitution in a referendum and now Ireland has voted no to Lisbon. As a passionate pro-European I fully support to EU. I do, however, at the moment believe it needs to find its way.