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Ireland will lose veto on international trade talks if Lisbon is passed

21 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty speaking during a Seanad debate on the WTO talks said that if the Lisbon Treaty is passed Ireland will lose its veto on international trade agreements.

He said, "Given the agenda being pursued by Peter Mandelson and the EU Commission this loss of veto will have serious consequences for Irish farming. And the situation will be made worse with the loss of a permanent Irish Commissioner."

Senator Doherty called on rural communities to come out and vote no so that the government can be sent back to negotiate a better deal for Ireland in Europe.

Mr. Doherty said:

"On June 12th the Irish people will go to the polls and whatever happens on that day Ireland's place in Europe is secure. Over the last number of weeks there has been a lot of commentary but very little debate about the facts in relation to the Lisbon Treaty. I welcome the opportunity to make some comments about the current WTO talks and the implications for Irish farming in future talks if the Lisbon Treaty is passed.

"It is clear that there is a great deal of confusion about the contents of the Lisbon Treaty including among senior government Ministers. Yesterday the Tanaiste incorrectly stated that larger states had two members on the EU Commission, a few days before that the Taoiseach was forced to admit that he had not read the Treaty in full, Defence Minister Willie O'Dea incorrectly said that this state has a veto on other EU states coming together in mini military alliances and Foreign Minister Michéal Martin incorrectly said that Ireland will retain a veto on international trade agreements.

"And to make matters worse on Questions and Answers last week Government Chief Whip Pat Carey and Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney when asked was there a link between the Lisbon Treaty and the WTO talks contradicted themselves repeatedly.

"Irish farmers and families across rural Ireland are rightly concerned at the agenda being pursued by European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in the WTO talks. Mandelson's approach is part of a pattern that emerged under his predecessors Pascal Lammy and Leon Brittan and will continue after he is gone. It is an agenda that aggressively promotes free trade irrespective of the costs to European family farms and rural communities, or the world poorest countries.

"The IFA have estimated that the European Commission's trade agenda will cost €4 billion in lost revenue to the state as well as 50,000 farm livelihoods and 50,000 jobs. It would totally undermine the CAP, and the European model of farming based on preserving family farming and food security.

"Sinn Féin shares the IFA's analysis. We are also concerned that this bad situation will be made worse by a number of specific provisions in the Lisbon Treaty.

"Because of the confusion in this chamber last week I would like to set out in some detail the facts in relation to the loss of veto on international trade agreements if the Lisbon Treaty is passed.

"Article 188 of the Lisbon Treaty deals with the EUs Common Commercial Policy. It outlines the remit and rules for the negotiation and conclusion on international trade agreements with non-EU countries and international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation. This article makes a number of important changes from the current situation.

"Article 188c details the specific rules for the opening and conclusion of such agreements.

"At present qualified majority is the general rule for such agreements except if they include services such as health, education, social services, culture and audio-visual services and intellectual property.

"The current round of WTO trade talks include agriculture and such services. This means that the kind of international trade deal currently being negotiated by Peter Mandelson at the WTO could be blocked by the Irish government if it bad for Irish agriculture.

"If the Lisbon Treaty were ratified this veto would be lost. It would be replaced by a much more limited veto on health, education etc which could only be used if the agreement could be proved to "risk seriously disturbing the national organisation of such services.

"So what does all of this mean for Irish agriculture. The WTO negotiations are unlikely to conclude before the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Article 188 removes the grounds on which such a veto could be used. If the Treaty is ratified no veto will be available to the Irish government and they will be powerless to block the deal.

"As if all of this was not bad enough, the loss of an Irish Commissioner for five out of every fifteen years from 2014, and the reduction in Irelands voting strength by 50% at the European Council will further reduce our influence. Further review of the Common Agricultural Policy is likely after 2013. This means that future discussions at Commission could take place without an Irish voice at the table. It also means that our voting strength at Council will be reduced while states such as Britain and Germany will increase. How could any of this be good for Irish agriculture?

"In recent years the European Union has overseen the destruction of the Irish fishing and sugar beet industries. Many people are now asking if they intend to do the same to Irish farming.

"The Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for rural Ireland. I would call on rural communities to come out and vote no on June 12th so that the government can be sent back to negotiate a better deal for Ireland in Europe." ENDS

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