Eurosceptics triumphant
July 26, 2008 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Have the Eurosceptics won? Despite the referendum in Ireland being badly lost, a rabidly nationalist media, and a tottering Labour government likely to give way to the most Eurosceptic government ever, pulling Britain out of the EU remains an obsession for a few rather than a concern for many. Even the Eurosceptic hardcore is fretting that once in power, David Cameron will have to cosy up to Brussels.
posted by athenian (32 comments total)
Euroskeptics? If the UK could stay outside of the EU - like Norway or Switzerland - they never would have joined in the first place - like Norway and Switzerland.

The game in UK politics is to appear to oppose the EU whilst doing all one can to remain a significant player in Brussels.
posted by three blind mice at 1:19 PM on July 26, 2008

I spend British pounds and sometimes Euros here in Brum. Scottish pounds not accepted. When I get Euros at my bank they come wrapped in plastic with a cardboard insert. Weird place the UK.
posted by srboisvert at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2008

For the FT to claim that the Lisbon treaty was "designed to streamline the workings of the EU" is disingenuous at best. It would have undermined national sovereignty and consolidated more power in Brussels, and was nothing more than a rehash of an earlier treaty that had been rejected by voters in several countries. The pro-EU governments who signed Lisbon were afraid to let their citizens vote, so they rammed it through their parliaments with no voter input. Only the Irish actually got to vote in a referendum about it due to a legal decision.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:15 PM on July 26, 2008

I think one problem is that the vast market of the British Empire was pretty seamlessly replaced by the vast market of the EEC/EU.

It doesn't really occur to British people that there's anything useful about having hundreds of millions of people able to buy your products and services without any tariffs or trade barriers. That's just the way things are...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

“Oi Sarky, now we’re really narky over EU treaty malarky,” waxed The Sun

Oh, Christ. Now they've just reinforced the ridiculous insistence of certain Scrabble players that 'oi' is a word.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2008

Excuuuuuuse me, sir, but "oi" is indeed present in the official Scrabble dictionary.

posted by Spacelegoman at 2:25 PM on July 26, 2008

David Cameron is going to have a tough job (and I am confident he will be PM sooner rather than later) talking tough on Europe while not undermining Britain's economic interests there. I suspect he will criticize bureaucratic or structural problems with the EU while not doing anything too drastic at a practical level. Besides, the Irish vote did him a huge favor by scoring an anti-EU point for him. If other nations reject various treaties, then Cameron never has to risk any sort of referendum at home.
posted by boubelium at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2008

"an earlier treaty that had been rejected by voters in several countries"

This isn't often remembered in British Euro-discourse, but the Constitution was also passed in referendums in Spain and Luxembourg before it was killed off by the French and Dutch.
posted by athenian at 2:35 PM on July 26, 2008

I think it comes down to this: A simple concept (foreign is bad!) is easier to sell than a complex one (a complex series of trade agreements and bureaucratic adjustments will have a net beneficial effect).
posted by Artw at 2:41 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and "Oi" is a word, STFU Yankzoners.
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on July 26, 2008

It doesn't really occur to British people that there's anything useful about having hundreds of millions of people able to buy your products and services without any tariffs or trade barriers.

When you use the word "your" are you implying that the British have something left to sell?
posted by srboisvert at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2008

Robert Kilroy-Silk, your time has come!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2008

When you use the word "your" are you implying that the British have something left to sell?

Cornish pasties?
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on July 26, 2008

at least our bananas can now be curvy
posted by A189Nut at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ireland may be the least Europhobic place on earth. You don't lose an EU referendum vite in a country which has adopted the Euro as its national currency without screwing something up royally.

The referendum went down for a number of reasons. In ascending order of seriousness:

a) Currently every EU member has at least one EU Commissioner in post. The treaty removes that automatic right and, being small, Ireland's more likely to be one of the countries with no commissioners in the future

b) The farm vote is enormously pissed at what (British) EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson is doing on their behalf in WTO negotiations.

c) The Irish constitution has a clause stating that the country is militarily neutral. Treaties like Lisbon become a part of the constitution as annexes. The treaty language strongly suggests military co-operation which would fall foul of the current constitution. If it passed Ireland would effectively have two mutually contradictory statements with full constitutional force in the canon. The drafters could have written a single sentence to make this clear for the Irish case, but didn't, which just lends more suspicion if you want to be suspicious.

d) The Treaty allows for self-modification without recourse to further public votes.

These are the reasons it failed at the ballot. However, none of them, even if we added them all together, would have caused the referendum to fail, but for...

e) The 'Yes' campaign was lazy, patronising and mostly non-existent anyway. Not once did this daily-politics-TV-watching viewer hear anybody tell me why I should vote for Lisbon. Not once. I was, however, told countless dozens of times that "nobody with a brain in their head would vote no", and "we'll be a laughing stockl if you vote no", and "a No vote is nothing more than evidence of your ignorance".

After a few weeks of that, Ireland's voters went to the polls on an unusually sunny day, and told them to Fuck Right Off.

(Statistically a number as close to) Nobody (as makes no difference) in Ireland is opposed to the EU or EU membership or the Euro.

But they're not about to change their constitution because someone orders them to while calling them an idiot.
posted by genghis at 7:56 PM on July 26, 2008 [8 favorites]

CAn't remember the last time I read the Sun website linked. Have a look at their European Anthem competition. The prize? The old joke staple...

"The winner gets 1000 euros plus an all-inclusive night in the EU capital of Brussels. The runner-up gets two nights. "
posted by Gratishades at 1:58 AM on July 27, 2008

"we'll be a laughing stock if you vote no"

For some reason, EU-positive campaigns always use that approach, all over Europe. And the reply is usually "so you'll be a laughing stock if we vote no?" followed by the local equivalent of "kthxbye."
posted by effbot at 2:24 AM on July 27, 2008

Of course 'Oi' is a word.
posted by pompomtom at 3:47 AM on July 27, 2008

Genghis is right. One tiny correction: Irish neutrality is not enshrined in the Constitution - it's just a very long-standing policy which could technically be reversed at any time. Irish neutrality is not protected by law, only by overwhelming public opinion.

And after all, when we're providing facilities at Shannon to US troops engaged in the Iraq War , we're not really neutral. (Nor were we during WWII, which was a good thing.....)
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:03 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

And "oi" is totally a word.
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:04 AM on July 27, 2008

1) Oi is totally a word.

2) Ireland may arguably not be constitutionally neutral but does have a constitutional policy of non-alignment:

Article 29.4.9: The State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 1.2 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 7 of this section where that common defence would include the State.

3) Ireland is not Eurosceptic. It is a point of Irish law that anything that "substantially alters the character of the Union must be approved by a constitutional amendment" and for this and other reasons, we had the opportunity to vote in a referendum while our neighbours did not.

For anyone interested in the history of Irish neutrality and the Irish experience during WWII, I highly recommend That Neutral Island by Claire Willis if you can find a copy. I couldn't actually find one on said island and had to get mine from the land of the Blitz.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:38 AM on July 27, 2008

The preservation of an independent Irish State may have significant benefits for the Irish and certain EU entities that would be impossible were Ireland to fully join the EU. That's a separate topic though.

Even here in the U.S., Federalism was painfully born, nearly died several times, and was largely resolved only by a devastating war. There is still a great deal of resentment and political wrangling over state, local, and Federal powers and responsibilities. This is with 50 states that share a common language and a relatively homogeneous culture and history. I don't envy the task of EU Federalists.

The Eurosceptics have genuine and rational reasons for their positions, though marketing Euroscepticsm is easier by mongering a fear of foreign boogeymen. I was just looking at a container of Kraft Parmesan Cheese last night, wondering if the EU martinets would let Kraft sell cheese made in New Jersey be called "Parmesan". That's the kind of thing that pisses people off, it's not just fear of the foreign future.
posted by Xoebe at 8:50 AM on July 27, 2008

Kraft.... Parmesan... Cheese...?

That sounds like teh sort of thing that should be nuked from orbit. Is it orange?
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

xoebe: Not allowing New Jersey dairies to call their cheese Parmesan only pisses SOME people off. Specifically, it pisses off people who are producing Parmesan-style cheese in New Jersey. On the other hand, businesses in Parma will be delighted, and will be lobbying hard to keep their special geographical denomination.

Get a rich ex-Aussie American who owns a paper to put a screaming headline on a tabloid "Mad Brussels Bureaucrats Ban American Parmesan" (even though it's not banned, it's just got to be described right) and you've got your Euroscepticism right there.
posted by athenian at 10:08 AM on July 27, 2008

DarlingBri, point taken. Ironically, of course, that amendment was only introduced to placate the No Campaign to the Nice Referendum; Ireland's historic neutrality has only been a political matter.
posted by tiny crocodile at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2008

athenian And I dare ass that those who are producing (let's be generous) "Parmesan-style" cheese in New Jersey don't vote in European elections, whereas those working in Parma do. So, that's hardly going to make the EU impopular, except to those who have too rich a diet of that ex-Aussie American's lies (unfortunately, due to his sway over most of the British written press and TV, that means most of the UK).
posted by Skeptic at 10:37 AM on July 27, 2008

"It doesn't really occur to British people that there's anything useful about having hundreds of millions of people able to buy your products and services without any tariffs or trade barriers."

What? No. That was probably the only thing that occured to the British people. My own (now) heavily Eurosceptic parents voted yes (including for me, as I was a mere babe at the time) on the basis that was the goal of the whole thing. The FT article even mentions Maggie making much of that work because British Banks wanted into other countries:

"Soon after the summit, she embarked on her campaign to make the European single market work properly by tearing down national barriers – including myriad different standards and regulations – which inhibited free trade."
posted by Auz at 6:24 PM on July 27, 2008

I think everyone in Europe likes the free trade idea. Most people even liked the Euro-idea, how practical with the same currency everywhere. But in Sweden our primeminister pulled a new version of the "you'll be a laughing stock" idea by stating to journalists that "it doesn't matter, we'll adopt the euro anyway" to which half the population responded ORLY? as they voted no just to piss that fast bastard off.
posted by dabitch at 12:24 AM on July 28, 2008

The main reason the treaty failed in Ireland is because the No coalition put out reams of misinformation early and often. The treaty was a tough sell, it's basically a load of small adjustments to bureaucratic processes. If the Yes campaign had spent more time attacking the No side's dishonest arguments instead of condescending to a justifiably confused public there would have been a very different outcome.
posted by minifigs at 2:46 AM on July 28, 2008

There is a section of the Conservative Party which is favourable to pulling Britain out of the EU and negotiating accession to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (presumably to be renamed the "Free Trade Area of the Atlantic"). This would allow Britain to shake off the shackles of Eurosocialist inefficiency and liberal "human-rights" laws such as the blanket ban on capital punishment, whilst giving it access to a huge market.
posted by acb at 4:57 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

acb: there is indeed such a section of the Conservative Party. And there is a section of the Labour party that favours renationalising transport, banks, oil, gas, electricity, telecoms and road haulage; unilateral nuclear disarmament; and imposing a 99% marginal rate of tax on all income over £25,000.

And both sets of people are called raving lunatics.
posted by athenian at 3:36 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

acb Ask the Canadians about softwood logging, and enjoy your "Free Trade Area of the Atlantic".
posted by Skeptic at 3:42 AM on July 30, 2008

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