Sunday, September 19, 2004

Those referendums in full(ish)

Courtesy of the European Voice, a weekly published in Brussels that is full of news about the EU, we have a reasonably complete list of the referendums (called referenda in the arrticle, but let that pass) on the Constitution. The paper does not speculate about the outcome, though another article bemoans the likely influence of those pesky eurosceptics. So we have to do the speculating ourselves.

First off is likely to be the Netherlands in 2004. The chances are that there will be a yes vote but the turn-out and the margin are uncertain. The Dutch have been grumbling recently and they do not like contributing quite as much money as they do to the whole project. Naturally, they will want to round off the presidency with a successful plebiscite and the government will pull out all stops.

Spain will hold its referendum in February 2005. The chances are that the Spaniards will vote yes, unless Zapatero really messes things up by then. Those funds are needed by the economy.

Portugal will probably have a referendum early in 2005 and is likely to vote yes.

Ireland will have one some time in 2005 and there are no bets at the moment. Anything can happen.

France will probably have one late in 2005 and, again, the outcome remains unpredictable. There are too many imponderables in French politics and too many twists and turns in the average politician’s path.

Belgium will probably have a referendum at some stage, though it will be non-binding, which is probably just as well, given the way votes having been going in that country and given the war waged on the biggest opposition party, the Vlaams Blok.

No date has been announced in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg or Poland. Apart from Luxembourg, these are all risky propositions. Denmark may well vote no, and the East Europeans are already unhappy with their somewhat Faustian bargain.

That leaves the UK, where the date is also unknown. The European Voice seems to think it is likely to take place “following the general elections in late 2005”. Perhaps they have forgotten that the UK takes over the presidency in July 2005. The chances of an election during the subsequent six months are nil and the chances of a probably contentious referendum campaign during an inevitably fraught presidency are also low. The smart money is still on election in the spring of 2005 and referendum in spring 2006. Outcome remains uncertain, despite the likely shenanigans around the No Campaign.

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