October 2nd. Mark it in your diaries, for this is the date when the Irish will ratify – or not – the Lisbon Treaty.
After rejecting it in a referendum in 2008, a volte face looks likely according to the latest polls published by the Sunday Business Post which put the yes vote at 62%, the no vote at 23%, with 15% undecided.
If Ireland votes yes, you can pretty much expect the Presidents of the Czech Republic and Poland to fall into line and sign off the Treaty, though not without some snide remarks and some well-practiced playing to the media – not to mention their own electorate – about how the big bad EU has forced their hand.
Assuming this all passes off without too much of a furore (actually quite a big assumption), it’s all systems go for 27 Commissioners, one for each Member State, not to mention a new High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and a new President of the European Council.
If Ireland votes no…..the fun and games really do begin. With the Nice Treaty stipulating that henceforth there should be fewer Commissioners than Member States, some countries will have to forego their Commissioner. So what if the Commission is meant to be neutral? National prestige still holds sway in Brussels, and any losers in this horse-trading will want to be handsomely recompensed.
Much has been made of the EU decision-making process breaking down should the Irish vote no, but there is no reason for this to happen as it seems to be working perfectly fine at the moment. Ireland as a country might be in the dock for a short while, accused of being a eurosceptic nation, but this is not necessarily true either – they’re just Lisbon Treaty-sceptic.
Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times describes himself as an unenthusiastic supporter of the Lisbon Treaty, and that’s probably what the Irish will turn out to be on 2nd October. But how to transform this defeatist attitude into a positive affirmation about the EU and everything it stands for? That’s the challenge now facing the European Commission and its recently re-elected President Barroso.