Irish voters reject EU power grab

The Treaty of Lisbon, in effect a new constitution for the European Union intended to add to the power of EU bureaucrats at the expense of democratically elected national governments, was rejected by Irish voters yesterday. Predictably, the New York Times is disappointed.

If that outcome is confirmed in official results, it will mean that the 27-member bloc will be in turmoil, its latest attempt to reform stymied by less than one percent of its population of almost 500 million.

A small recalcitrant backward minority thwarting the democratic will of half a billion people? Well, not exactly. Whenever EU voters have had the opportunity to be heard on earlier versions of  the plan to gut national sovereignty in favor of bureaucratic power for Brussels, they have rejected it.

Needless to say, the EU will press on with its power grab, regardless of voters' wishes. The Times quotes disappointed officials

In France, senior officials insisted that, whatever the Irish outcome, other European countries must continue their procedures to approve the treaty.

"The most important thing is that the ratification process must continue in the other countries and then we shall see with the Irish what type of legal arrangement could be found," Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the French minister for European affairs, told LCI television. He did not specify what form this legal arrangement might take. [....]

Andrew Duff, a British member of the European Parliament who supports the treaty and the spokesman on constitutional issues for the Liberal Democrats, described the vote as a "tragedy for Ireland, the EU and Europe's place in the world".

"The problems the treaty was established to address are still there: effectiveness, democracy and capacity to act," he said. "If the outcome of this is that we are obliged to struggle on with the existing treaty, then the Irish will have done no favors for themselves or us."

Mr. Duff added that EU leaders will have to try to assemble a new strategy when they meet for a summit in Brussels next Thursday.

"I think the Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, will have to explain himself at the summit. If he brings a credible and coherent proposal to extricate the EU from this mess, then he will be listened to. But I suspect he can't because there isn't one." [emphasis added]

"I think we are probably going to have to wait for quite a considerable time before political circumstances have improved to the degree necessary to acquire public consent."

The arguments used to advocate the treaty to Irish voters betray a mentality common to welfare states: we subsidized you, so now give us political power

Alex Adrianson of Insider Online wrote

The New York Times quotes    French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner saying:

It would be very, very troubling that we would not be able to count on the Irish who counted a lot on Europe's money.

Times reporter Sarah Lyall goes on to explain:  

Ireland is one of Europe's great success stories. European largess has helped fuel the country's extraordinarily rapid transformation from a poor, homogeneous, largely agrarian society to a place of flourishing international business.

It doesn't speak well of the treaty that its proponents must resort to saying "you owe us" in trying to convince Irish voters. If giving the EU more power were prospectively good for Ireland, then support for the treaty shouldn't have to be seen as a quid pro quo for past assistance.

In fact, as many observers have noted, the key to Ireland's stunning economic growth the last two decades was not EU subsidies (handed out to countries that are poorer than the EU average - welfare, in other words), but rather radical tax cuts and deregulation, which ignited the "Celtic tiger" phenomenon, propelling the Irish to genuine prosperity. Benjamin Powell of the Goldwater Institute explains: 

Non-interest government spending was cut from 55 percent of gross domestic product in 1985 to about 41 percent in 1990. The top tax rate fell from 65 percent in 1985 to 44 percent in 2001, while the standard income tax rate was cut from 35 percent in 1989 to 22 percent in 2001. In the 1980s, Ireland's per capita income was only 63 percent that of Great Britain, but by the end of the 1990s, Ireland had shot past both Britain and Germany in per capita income.

Apparently the Irish voters, having learned from their experience with a low taxes and reasonable regulation, are not anxious to return to a system premised on the notion that bureaucrats must regulate everything in detail, and taxes must be high.

Hat tip: Nancy Coppock