The very last word on Nice

I know, I know. You’re fed up hearing about it and it’s finished and get over it and move one, etc. I know already.

I just can’t let it go without a few observations.

Firstly, well done to the Yes side, they won the arguments.

But the No side also won because the debate on Europe will never be the same again.

There is no doubt that a large body of people in this country are against federalism and that will be a weight that will bear down on the shoulders of our negotiators in future treaties.

Believe it or not, we are just eighteen months or so away from a new EU treaty. This treaty will have grand designs. It aims to give the EU a constitution. This is something everyone should welcome and should keep an eye on.

At the moment the European Convention is meeting to decide what should be in the next treaty and probably what should be in the constitution.

The Convention is tasked with finding out just what the EU should be about. What is its role in the world? What powers should it have? How should it be controlled? What should its relationship be with the nation states?

This is fundamental stuff. We shouldn’t go asleep thinking that we will have a referendum at the end of the process. We should make our views known now.

The first problem I see is that Ireland’s representation at the Convention is hopelessly unbalanced. Of the seven Irish members and alternates only one – John Gormley – was opposed to the Nice Treaty. One is a civil servant and the other five were strongly pro-Nice.

Other anti-integrationists across Europe have pointed out that the Convention is biased in its membership. Many of these members see Europe as a competitor to the US. They want the EU to play power politics on the world stage. The institutions they propose for the EU are indistinguishable from those of a nation state.

If this vision ends up as the outcome of the European Convention, it will polarise Europe. I don’t believe that the vast majority of people in Europe want such a state and they will not accept it.

The Irish rejection of Nice the first time around has had an impact across Europe. How could it be, they asked, that the people most favourably disposed to the EU could have rejected the Nice Treaty? The answer is that the Irish, and every other nationality, have not been engaged by those trying to build the EU. I believe that the No vote has had a profound impact and is written all over the Laeken Declaration where the European politicians fret about the distance between the EU and Europeans.

The thing to note is that this debate is not in the future. It is happening now.

Write to your TD, write to your local paper, write to the Irish members of the convention. They are: Dick Roche, Bobby McDonagh (Dept of Foreign Affairs), John Bruton, Proinsias De Rossa, John Gormley, John Cushnahan and Pat Carey. (Three Dubs there, three Johns and no women. Representative or what?)

As well as that…

A new constitution for Europe

The idea that the EU is about to get a constitution will ring alarm bells for many No voters. They will see this as further evidence of a European Superstate. They would be wrong.

The European Constitution should sort out a host of things. It need not alter the working of the EU one jot. Just a summary of what is going on at present will do fine.

The most important is that it will tell us how the EU works. I have to say that I find the EU absolutely baffling. What’s the difference between the European Council and the Council of Europe? What does the Commission do? What are the Three Pillars? Then there’s the Court of Auditors and the European Parliament? You need a degree in English just to read the stuff.

For example, did you know that the European Community still exists? I thought it was replaced by the EU. But no, the European Community applies to First Pillar while the EU applies to all three Pillars. Is that clear?

That’s the reason we need a Constitution. Someone’s got to sort that stuff out. We have to know what is going on out there. In plain English.