Sinn Féin - On Your Side

For a better deal in Europe vote no

19 May, 2008

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald speaking at the launch of the party's campaign against the Lisbon Treaty said 'it is possible to get a better deal in Europe if the Irish people vote no on June 12th and send the government back to the negotiations."

Ms. McDonald said:

"On 12th June the Irish people will go to the polls and whatever happens on that day Ireland's place in Europe is secure. The government has cynically tried to play on people's fears in an effort to avoid real debate on the contents of the treaty. Because the fact is that the Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland. It will reduce our political strength, further undermine neutrality and is bad for the economy and workers rights.

"The Lisbon Treaty will significantly reduce the influence of smaller states within the EU. There are three key areas where this will happen: loss of a permanent Commissioner and 50% reduction in our voting strength at Council, additional powers for EU institutions including the removal of more than 60 vetos for member states and Article 48's new procedure which will allow the European Council to amend existing treaties without recourse to referenda.

"Combined, these changes mean that Ireland will have less influence in the design of future proposals, less votes in key decisions, and a reduced ability to block decisions that are not in Ireland's interests.

"Government ministers have tried to argue that this stream lined approach will be good for Ireland. I believe that this loss of power will put us on the margins of Europe.

"For a small country like Ireland it is vital to have a permanent Irish voice at the European Commission especially when you consider that this state will only have 12 MEPs and our voting strength on the Council of Ministers will be halved if Lisbon is passed.

"While the larger states will also be rotated on the Commission, Britain, Germany and Italy almost double their voting strength on the Council of Ministers and have far more MEPs than Ireland. The Commission is the one place where each country regardless of size has an equal say.

"Ireland's representatives on the Commission have played a crucial role over the years. And no matter how good a relationship the Irish government builds with EU Commissioners from other states it is no substitute for an Irish voice at the table.

"For generations this state has prided itself on its position as a military neutral and also as a symbol of peace keeping in conflicts through its commitment to the United Nations. Successive EU treaties and government policy have gradually undermined this position with efforts to create an EU common defence policy. The case has yet to be made for why the EU must have common EU foreign, security or defence policies or a diplomatic service, yet this is exactly what the government are asking us to sign up to.

"The Lisbon Treaty will result in greater amounts of Irish taxpayers' money being spent on Irish and EU military capabilities. It will further consolidate the EUs control over foreign and security policy. It will allow for the emergence of mini military alliances of member states and for the first time the EU will have its own Foreign Minister with a diplomatic corps who will oversee such policies.

"Any political party or government who argues that all of this does not affect Ireland's neutrality either does not understand the Treaty or simply does not care.

"The Lisbon Treaty is also bad for the Irish economy, for agriculture, for business and for public services. Contrary to the government's claims, Article 48 removes an important protection against Tax harmonisation. Article 188 removes the government's veto to block the kind of international trade agreements currently being negotiated by Peter Mandelson at the WTO. And both Articles 188 and 16 give the EU new powers to compel member states to open up their public services, such as health and education, to competition, bringing with it both privatisation and inequality.

"At a time when our indigenous businesses, especially small and medium sized businesses need support, the Lisbon Treaty will hamper their development. At a time in which rural Ireland needs a fair deal at the WTO, the Lisbon Treaty will undermine our ability to protect the farming economy. And at a time when our public services are crying out for investment, the Lisbon Treaty promotes the kind of approach that has led to the two tier systems already in place in this country.

"There are those who argue that there is no Plan B. This is nonsense. It is possible to get a better deal in Europe if the Irish people vote no on June 12th and send the government back to the negotiations. Essential to any new Treaty for Ireland is to keep a permanent EU Commissioner and maintain our voting strength, a specific article protecting neutrality, protocols reserving this state's right to continue making its own decisions on taxation, an article specifically exempting health and education from competition and privatisation and protections for workers' pay and conditions.

"For a better deal for Ireland and for a better deal in Europe Sinn Féin is urging voters to say No to the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th." ENDS

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