Ireland rejects European treaty

IRELAND appears to have rejected the revised version of the European Constitution, with experts in Dublin predicting that the Lisbon Treaty has received the thumbs down in yesterday's referendum.

Graham Dines

IRELAND has rejected the revised version of the European Constitution, plunging the 27-nation EU into chaos.

Ratification of the Treaty must be achieved by all 27 EU states. Ireland was the only nation opting for a referendum - Britain is in the process of a parliamentary struggle on the document.

Although 18 of the EU's 27 member states have already ratified the major reform package, Ireland's constitution forced it to put the treaty to a plebiscite.

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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said next week's EU summit in Brussels was the place where joint decisions should be taken on an issue that concerned everyone.

“The `no' vote in Ireland has not solved the problems which the Lisbon Treaty is designed to solve,” Mr Barroso insisted. “The ratification process is made up of 27 national processes. Eighteen member states have already approved the treaty and the European Commission believes that the remaining ratifications should continue to take their course.

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“The EU institutions and the member states should continue the work of delivering for the citizens of Europe on issues like growth and jobs, social cohesion, energy security, climate change and fighting inflation. Working together in the EU remains the best way to deal with the challenges affecting Europeans today.”

Opponents of the treaty in the UK reiterated this afternoon their demand for a vote of the people.

Geoffrey Van Orden, Conservative Euro MP for the East of England, said: “Thank you to the Irish. This is the most tremendous news. Conservatives had campaigned tirelessly to make the Government keep its promise of a referendum in Britain as well as contributing more subtly to the Irish campaign.

“The Treaty of Lisbon was never just a technical document. It was about massive constitutional change and transferring a swathe of new powers from our nations to the EU - in other words, to the European Council, the Commission and the European Court of Justice. The British people never wanted this but didn't get the opportunity to say so.

“Gordon Brown should now, at last get the message. We don't want the Lisbon Treaty. We don't want an EU President, an EU Foreign Minister, an EU Army, EU embassies, an EU Charter of Fundamental Rights or the intrusion of the European Court of Justice into every aspect of our daily lives.

“There will be panic in Brussels and the Eurocrats, guided by Paris and Berlin, will be busy drafting Plan B - how to get the content of the Treaty through by other means.”

Labour's Richard Howitt, who supports the treaty, feared the Irish rejection would mean Europe would continue to be dogged by arguments. “It's an outcome which will do Europe no good at all because it perpetuates the debate about the institutional future of the EU.

“There are three possible outcomes to this - there could be some sort of further negotiations which would give concessions to Ireland ahead of a further vote; the treaty could be abandoned; or the 26 other EU states could carry on and leave Ireland behind.

“There is no chance of a UK referendum. The Irish vote was more to do with domestic politics, and that what would happen here. It would not be a vote on the Treaty of Rome,” said Mr Howitt.

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