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Leading by the noes

Posted by Richard Friday, June 06, 2008

There is much excitement in eurosceptic camp with the news that the latest opinion poll on the Irish constitutional Lisbon referendum is showing the "No" side surging ahead in a dramatic reversal of opinion.

We are told by RTE news that this is the finding of a TNS/mrbi poll which appears in today's Irish Times giving opponents of the treaty a five percent lead over those in favour.

This is all the more remarkable as, up to now, opinion polls have consistently shown the "Yes" side ahead, although opponents have been closing the gap. But now the "No" side has done more than that, surging into a commanding lead with just a week to polling day.

The poll shows the "Yes" side at 30 percent, down five points since their last poll three weeks ago, while the "No" side is at 35 percent, up a staggering 17 percent, with "Don't Knows" down 12 at 35 percent.

By any reckoning, if the movement continues at this rate, the political establishment is heading for a crushing defeat. However, any hope that the constitutional Lisbon treaty will be killed off is sadly misplaced.

The worst-case scenario from the perspective of the "colleagues" is that the treaty will go ahead without Ireland, applying to the 26 other member states. All that is needed for that to happen is an agreement at the next European Council to proceed – legal niceties will not be seen as an obstacle.

There will be a "bridging" instrument already prepared that will enable the Irish government to work under the Nice rules yet remain within the Community framework.

Before that, though, there will be a process of negotiation and the plan is to offer the Irish some opt-outs, in the form of a declaration, which will address the main issues raised during the referendum campaign.

The details will emerge in time but, even a spokesman for Sinn Féin - the only political party to oppose the treaty – concedes there will be a deal. This is Eoin Ó'Broin, SF's director of European Affairs, and he dismisses any idea that there is no "Plan B".

There always is a "Plan B" and the "colleagues" are not going to let a little thing like a "No" vote from a marginal country on the periphery of the Union derail their plans.

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