Even before the official result had been declared, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced that the Lisbon Treaty was not dead and that ratification would continue. One by one, the various national leaders put out statements to the same effect.
"It is not truly democratic that less than a million people should decide the fate of half a billion Europeans", said the leader of the Euro-Greens, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Well, then, how about allowing the others to hold referendums, too? This, of course, is the last thing that the EU wants. Its leaders now understand that they cannot win anywhere. How, then, can they keep their constitution? First, they will push through as much as they can under the existing dispensation.
To a large degree this has already happened. Many of the institutions that would have been created by the constitution have already been established in anticipation of a "Yes" vote: the Human Rights Agency, the External Borders Agency, the Defence Agency.
When asked what legal base these bodies have, Eurocrats point to a flimsy cat's cradle of commission communiqués and council resolutions. The question naturally arises: if they already had the authority to create these institutions, why did they need to write them into the Lisbon Treaty?
But that question will ultimately be answered by the European Court of Justice, which rarely lets the letter of the law stand in the way of deeper union.
About 85 per cent of the treaty can be pushed through this way. I can think of only three aspects of the treaty that cannot be secured through lawyerly creativity: the European president; the new representation levels in the commission and council; and "legal personality" for the EU – that is, the right to sign treaties as a sovereign state.
This last looks like being the sole casualty of the Irish "No". The other two will be agreed at an intergovernmental conference next year.
Ireland will be told that, since this is a rearrangement of the existing institutions, and not a transfer of power from the nations to Brussels, there is no need for a plebiscite. And so, two years from now, we will have 99 per cent of the constitution. But there will not be any more referendums. The people have forfeited their leaders' confidence.
Daniel Hannan is a Conservative Euro-MP Read full article: EU treaty: What next
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