Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No plan B?

Certain parallels have been drawn of late between Gordon Brown's current predicament and the last days of John Major's regime. But, should the Irish vote against the constitutional Lisbon treaty, there may be another.

When the Danes first rejected the Maastricht treaty in June 1992, Major's government was already embarking on the UK ratification process, whence he came under great pressure to suspend proceedings until the matter had been resolved,

Similarly, according to The Times, should the Irish vote "no" on Thursday, Gordon Brown will also come under huge pressure to suspend the ratification.

Then, however, John Major was facing a fractious Commons with a narrow majority. Even so, he refused to give way, pushing ahead to a series of cliff-hanger votes which caused such damage to the Conservative Party that, even now, it has not fully recovered.

Brown, on the other hand, faces a different scenario. The Commons vote is safely in the bag and there is only the hurdle of the Lords to overcome. After three days of debate, they will be voting today and the outcome on a vote for a referendum is expected to favour the government.

With the Irish result not expected until Friday after noon, the period of maximum danger for Brown will have passed. However, there is still the third reading of the Bill, at which stage the government could – in theory – suspend proceedings.

There is, though, a precedent for pushing ahead, says The Times. After the Irish rejection of the Nice treaty in 2000, this is precisely what Blair's government did. But then there were the French and Dutch votes on the first version of the EU constitution in 2005, when Britain suspended the proceedings, never to restart them – until recently, with the reheated constitution currently before parliament.

The Times is reporting that foreign office officials say that they do not have a Plan B in the even of an Irish "no" vote. The constitutional Lisbon treaty, they says is already Plan B.

It will then be up to the EU heads of state and governments at the European Council on 19-20 June to decide what to do. Instinct, and a modicum of insider information, suggests that they will not push Ireland for a second vote. The Times thinks that the likely option is that they will abandon this treaty and revert to the existing Nice treaty framework.

There is, though, another option, whereby they can agree a modification to the constitional Lisbon treaty, excluding Ireland from the list of signatories. The remaining 26 member states can go ahead with ratification. Such a move might be of dubious legality, but such detail rarely worries the "colleagues" who have in any case been stealthily implementing the constitional Lisbon treaty, even though it is not yet in force.

Under such a regime, Ireland would be left out in the cold until such time as it "voluntarily" decided to join the Lemmings and complete the destruction of its status as an independent nation with a version of an accession treaty.

Whatever does transpire, the one certainty is that the "colleagues" will not allow a small country like Ireland, on the periphery of the Community, to derail the "project". And they are nothing if not inventive in bending their own rules when it suits them.

Thus, there may indeed not be a "plan B". Expect plan A minus one.

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