The EU has made changes to its overarching constitution with a document known as the Lisbon Treaty, and the changes must be ratified by every nation in the Union in order to pass. In most countries, that was a rubber stamp with little or no public input. The Netherlands and France held referendum votes to pretend they were taking the pulse of their population - both received "NO" majorities at the polls, but Dutch and French officials knew what was "best" and ratified the Treaty anyway over the pesky, non-binding will of their own people.
Tomorrow, it comes down to Ireland.
It seems that tiny Ireland has a provision in its own constitution that requires the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified by a vote of the people. It is apparently the only country in the EU that has such a provision. And while Ireland has benefitted immeasurably from its membership in the EU (zooming from being one of the poorest member nations to the second richest after Luxembourg), there is a chance that out of 350,000 voters, the fate of the entire EU's constitution will come down to a few thousand Irish voters, and who bothers to show up at the polls on June 12th. The EU requires a unanimous vote of its members to ratify constitutional changes, and Ireland is bound by its own constitution to bow to the will of its voters (What a concept!). Latest polling figures are Yes 41%, No 33%, Undecided 26%. But similar numbers in another referendum in 2001 wound up going to the "No" side, so there are some who are very nervous.
Most labor unions and political parties are in favor of the Lisbon Treaty, but the No side has a few powerful, or at least noisy, friends. Sinn Fein is the only serious political party on the No side, along with a couple of multi-millionaire Eurosceptics. Ruth Dudley Edwards writes in today's Spectator online:
I haven’t seen so many confusing posters since Beirut in the early 1990s. They are layered on every lamppost in Dublin. The Yes lobby’s contributions are pious and vacuous and unwisely have photographs of politicians – an unpopular group at the moment. ‘Europe. Let’s be at the heart of it’ urges the Fine Gael offering, which features the EPP-ED cute little logo of stars inside a heart. ‘Good for Ireland Good for Europe’ say Fianna Fail. ‘Vote Yes for jobs, the economy and Ireland’s future’ beg the Irish Business and Employers Federation.
The No stuff is much more fun, emanating as it does from innumerable mostly obscure groups many of which hate each other: Sinn Fein (‘People died for your freedom. Don’t throw it away’) and the capitalist-backed Libertas (‘Keep Ireland strong in Europe. Vote No) are on non-speak(ing terms with each other). The messages are pitched at a wide range of constituencies: ‘Lisbon It’ll cost you’; ‘Follow the French and Dutch. Vote No’, and my favourite, which features three monkeys: ‘The new EU – won’t see you, won’t hear you, won’t speak to you’.
An unnamed taxpayer has funded newspaper advertisements denouncing the treaty as ‘God-excluding foolish Freemason determined.’
Natch. Of course we're behind it all.