Taoiseach Brian Cowen: A lame duck

inside a month. McStalin took a year.

The Titanic, better known to aficionados of the Umbrella Blog as the EU Constitution (and which ‘they’ would like you to call The Treaty of Lisbon) hit an iceberg on Friday. Now the crew are feverishly looking for the lifeboats and are contemplating throwing the ship’s Irish Officers over the side. On deck, the EU’s spin band plays soothing tunes in an attempt to reassure us that all is well.

Taking a lawyerly look at some of the possibilities, one is struck forcibly by some obstacles that seem not as yet to have occurred to those who would overthrow the express democratic will of the gallant people of Ireland.

Ireland’s “No!” kills the Treaty of Lisbon dead. Neither it nor any of its provisions which lack any other legal basis in previous Treaties or legally binding agreements between the members of the EU can come into force. If any act takes place which is based on a now-orphaned provision of the Treaty which has no other legal basis, it is subject to challenge on the basis that such an act is unlawful.

That alone ought to be enough to drive a stake through the heart of this rotten Treaty, but as well all know Dracula has a fearsome ability to rise from the grave. For all that the people of Ireland thought that they were playing Peter Cushing to Brussels’ Christopher Lee, poised to hammer the said stake home, they will soon come to realise that Dracula has risen again and is now accompanied by some ghoulish vampires bent on terrorising them into do something, anything to get the Treaty back on track.

That seems to me to be unlikely. The turnout was about 60%, enough to make asking the question again politically dangerous, if not suicidal for the new Irish Taoiseach such that it seems he is unlikely to bend to any demand to try again. Nor, when heads have cooled and the EuroNabobery has had a moment to think about it, do I think that they will in fact make such a demand. It would be seen across Europe for what it is: the arrogant and bullying act of an anti-democratic elite which would further damage the EU’s legitimacy.

Such considerations rule out the cobbling together of some annexe to the Treaty designed to assuage the Irish.

But if such a document were to be annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon, then the Treaty becomes a different document from that which is, in the UK, the subject of the European (Amendment) Bill. The Treaty of Lisbon exists already and it is that finite document which is ratified by the Bill. Section 1 refers to ‘The Treaty of Lisbon….signed at Lisbon on 13th. December 2007’ which the Treaty plus a later annexure would not be. Only the Treaty signed last year is ratified by the Bill. No other document or documents come within its terms.

In any event, assuming that Labour and the laughably named Liberal ‘Democrats’ bulldoze the Bill through to Royal Assent this week, any amendment to the Treaty procured in an effort to soft-soap the Irish may well be construed as a Treaty which falls within the ambit of Section 5 which provides that certain treaties may not be ratified without the approval of Parliament. It is properly arguable that the Treaty of Lisbon plus new protocols or annexes would be just such a document. If that be right Brown would, perforce, have to submit the new Treaty once more to Parliament. He has now become so weak and the British electorate so hostile to the idea of this Treaty that such a course is politically unthinkable. To cheat once and get away with it is one thing (though still shameful and dishonest); to repeat the exercise would be a deceit too far.

What about a so called ‘two speed’ Europe? Suppose a group of States decided to proceed independently of others towards Federal integration and did so despite the disagreement of others. Would not any act of theirs which was repugnant to the Treaties constituting the EU be unlawful and thus open to challenge by the group of States left behind?

Thus a ‘two-speed Europe’ could only proceed if all 27 States agreed by Treaty that one group could proceed ahead of the rest. The problem legally for this idea is that any such Treaty would again be subject to approval by Parliament. Implicit in the idea of a ‘two-speed Europe’ is that we would still be, notwithstanding the change of gear, proceeding towards an integrated Federal Europe. Such a Treaty would also imply a significant alteration, once more, to our constitutional arrangements and would thus, on the face of it, be subject to a referendum.

If we were not once more cheated of such a plebiscite, one must believe that there would be a resounding ‘No!’ to such a proposal. In those circumstances the proposal would fail and our ties to this project would be loosened. If we were denied a vote, why then that would be political death to the Prime Minister who felt he could get away with it.

That leaves a ‘flexible Europe’. That might appeal to those who are Eurosceptic but who feel so insecure and uncertain of our abilities that they would still have Mother’s skirts behind which to hide. One cannot say what would happen to such a proposal for we know nothing of its shape. It might well be that the British people would accept some such arrangement akin to that which we thought we were getting in 1975 when our political masters last deigned to consult us. Anything else, who knows?

And then there is timing. We are now but one year from a European election and two years from a general election and. Further political acts by The Brown Junta on Europe which plainly defy the will of the British people betoken, in the former event, political oblivion for Labour (and probably the Lib ‘Dems too) in Europe, proportional representation notwithstanding and in the latter grist to the mill of a similar outcome.

All in all the future of Europe from a British standpoint, politically and legally, is a now a veritable maelstrom in which almost anything might be or become possible. Every day that passes with the matter unresolved restricts Gordon’s Brown’s freedom of action yet further as the day of the next election approaches. Each day that passes without a resolution means that when it does come a Conservative Government may then be in power. Whilst I remain distrustful of Cameron on matters European, he will surely not want to start his Ministry by refusing the British people once more a comprehensive say on Europe, if only to try and settle the matter for a generation.

Almost anything then might be possible.

Meanwhile the discombobulation of the EuroNabobery gives infinite pleasure. Beware though: like a rat in a trap they are at their most dangerous when cornered and are quite capable of demanding more Europe not less at times like these. For them only a dose of super-Warfarin might then be useful.

I forbore to comment on Richard North’s gloomy prognostication as to the death of Euroscepticism. I did not do so because I did not agree then and events have, I submit, proved him wrong, for the time being at least, with so many and varied possibilities for sabotaging Le Grand Projet opening up to left, right and centre as one writes. He wrote that this was his view with or without an Irish ‘No!’. Though we yet may see a devious reinstatement of all that the EuroNabobery lusts after, the Irish result has provided a target-of-opportunity rich terrain upon which to resume battle.

For that we have to thank the citizens of plucky little Ireland. Time was when that island was a thorn in the side of England and time was when the likes of France and Germany thought it in their interest to give material and political assistance to those who opposed British rule. Whilst that aid never of itself brought independence to Ireland, it played its part. Ireland did become independent and has not forgotten the grave struggle and loss of life that brought her to that point. The French, the Germans and their fellow-travellers are just now discovering that which we have experienced for five hundred years and more.

Such Irish spirit is unquenchable. So let us draw heart from her defiance and renew the fight.

For now the Euronabobery is putting a brave face on it all and trying to keep the ship on course. Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin will, of course, be paraded before the beaks as if they have been caught with their hand in the till but such a spectacle is to demean them and will surely be counter-productive in the eyes of a proud and independent people.

We may yet lose this war. But it is better to follow Churchill’s dictum:

“If this island story of ours is to end, let it end only when each of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”

than give up along the way.