Recent events in Ireland have shaken up the political classes all across Europe, and the UK is no exception. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is also the leader of the Labour Party, has come to a somewhat different conclusion about the Irish referendum than have his colleagues in France and Germany.
According to today’s Times Online:
No 10 admits EU treaty is finished
Gordon Brown is privately ready to sacrifice the Lisbon treaty rather than allow the Irish no vote to create a two-tier Europe.
Despite the Irish referendum, France, Germany and senior Brussels officials have insisted there should be no delay in implementing the European Union blueprint. But No 10 sources say the prime minister would rather see the entire constitutional treaty collapse than allow individual member states to be left trailing in a two-speed Europe.
The collapse of the Lisbon treaty would take the heat off Brown as he faces down renewed calls for Britain to have its own referendum. If Europe presses ahead without Ireland, it would set a precedent for a two-speed club, with Britain likely to be stuck in the second tier.
A Downing Street source said: “The legal position on this is very clear: the treaty cannot come into force until all 27 countries have ratified it.”
Mr. Brown is quite right. But Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy aren’t sweating the legal niceties, so why should Britain?
The motto of the EU has long been “We don’t need no stinkin’ legality.” Why should it change just because a few thousand disgruntled Irishmen got the wind up?
Perhaps Mr. Brown has been browsing through the latest poll results and has noticed the new lows to which the Labour Party has sunk.
The article continues:
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One senior government official said anyone who thought the Irish vote could be ignored was “living in cloud-cuckoo-land”. The leaders of the EU’s 27 members states will meet this week in Brussels, but yesterday the Irish government ruled out forcing through a second referendum.
William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said European leaders had to heed the no vote or risk looking “remote, out of touch and more undemocratic than ever”.
Nice touch, that: “more undemocratic than ever”. A quiet acknowledgement of how undemocratic the European Union has been all along.
However, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president who will take over the rotating EU presidency next month, dismissed the Irish vote as a “hiccup” that should “not become a political crisis”.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, went further, stating that the Lisbon treaty provisions, which include the creation of a permanent EU president and the widespread abolition of national vetoes, could be implemented without Ireland.
In other words — legality be damned! — the hiccups of all those drunken Irish people don’t mean anything to the EU.
Even though the Labour Party disagrees, the government will continue its push to ratify a dead treaty:
In the short term, Brown will press ahead with Britain’s own ratification process. Despite calls by the Tories and Labour Eurosceptics for a delay, the treaty bill will still have its third reading vote in the House of Lords on Wednesday. “We have come so far,” said one senior government figure, “there is little point in stopping it now.”
And the EU apparatchiks are busy looking for the lipstick and rouge to put on the Lisbon pig:
In Brussels, meanwhile, after the initial shock of the Irish result, senior officials have already begun considering the complex legal mechanisms that might still allow the stricken treaty to be implemented. The details of any “two-speed” plan have yet to be worked out, but it is likely to involve devices such as “opt-outs” and “protocols”. One exotic idea being considered is a “legal bridge” linking Ireland with the rest of the EU.
Another scheme is to link aspects of the Lisbon treaty to the “accession treaty” of Croatia when it joins the EU in late 2009 or early 2010.
However, at this week’s Brussels summit, Brown will refuse to agree to anything that could leave the Irish out in the cold, according to aides.
Gordon Brown is presumably taking into account the facts on the ground, which are not auspicious for supporters of the EU and the current Euro-establishment. These are not good times for a pro-EU politician to stand for election in Western Europe. Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy may be insulated for the time being from any trivial concerns about the opinion of the electorate, but Mr. Brown doesn’t have that luxury.
He has seen the writing on the wall.
In a related development, a Conservative member of Parliament resigned his position in the shadow cabinet to launch a quixotic by-election campaign on the issue of civil liberties.
David Davis, like many others in the UK, has noticed that Britons are no longer free to speak their minds. Their ancient liberties have been eroded, if not altogether destroyed, and ordinary people risk arrest if they make public their politically incorrect “racist” opinions.
Mr. Davis has decided to stake his political career on the issue of civil liberties, and members of the Labour party are publicly supporting him. Once again, from the Times Online:
Rebel Labour MPs join David Davis campaign
The maverick Tory’s civil liberties fight suddenly looks a threat to Gordon Brown
Tory maverick David Davis yesterday received an unexpected boost in his one-man campaign to preserve civil liberties as rebel Labour MPs announced that they were ready to support him.
The MPs, who are risking expulsion from Labour, may yet turn Davis’s campaign into a problem for Gordon Brown, the prime minister.
Davis unexpectedly resigned last week as shadow home secretary to force a by-election and campaign against the “slow strangulation” of civil liberties. He was spurred to do so after the House of Commons voted to allow police to detain suspects for up to 42 days without charge.
Davis faces continued criticism from fellow Conservatives for his action, with one MP publicly accusing him of “folly and vanity”. However, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Labour MP for Medway and a leading critic of Brown’s terrorism legislation, said yesterday that he would travel to Davis’s Yorkshire constituency to lend his support.
“I applaud David Davis’s decision to resign and fight a by-election on the single issue of civil liberty,” said Marshall-Andrews.
The MP criticised the Labour leadership for its decision not to field a candidate to fight Davis and added: “The election will obviously transcend party politics and I have written to David Davis to inform him that I will be happy to accept any invitation to speak during the course of his campaign to ensure that the voice of a substantial part of the Labour party may be heard.”
Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, said: “Davis has a good argument. You can call it a stunt or a gimmick, but there is a serious side to this. I’m quite happy to join in. I’d be quite happy to share that platform to talk about what I think.”
Both Mr. Davis and his Labour supporters are risking the ire of their parties’ enforcers by breaching party discipline. But, having thrown the dice over the issue, they seem willing to take their chances with the result.
The violation of party norms here is so serious that the Tories have abandoned all discretion and have publicly chastised their colleague:
Nicholas Soames, Tory MP for Mid Sussex and a close ally of Cameron, said: “It is a disaster for David personally. Words cannot express how foolish he has been.”
Soames added that Davis had let down his party. “Politics is at all times a team game,” he said. “Reliability is all in politics.”
Although other Conservative MPs have expressed private anger at Davis’s resignation, Soames is the first senior party figure to attack him so bluntly in public.
So that’s it for David Davis. Having had the temerity to insist on the primacy of traditional British liberties, he is now considered “unreliable”.
It’s easy to see why this sudden and principled decision by Mr. Davis makes the Tory leadership nervous. Mr. Cameron is viewed as a relatively weak leader, with little to distinguish him from the ruling Labour party in matters of substance. Now he is faced with someone who has the sand to challenge him on a matter of principle, someone who is actually willing to remind voters of what the Conservative Party used to stand for.
No wonder Mr. Cameron is worried.
The Labour Prime Minister says the Treaty of Lisbon is dead.
A Conservative leader breaks ranks and Labour Party members support him.
Democrats who back Hillary Clinton say that they will vote for John McCain.
Some Republicans insist that they will stay home and let Barack Obama win rather than vote for John McCain.
Black conservative columnist Armstrong Williams may vote for Barack Obama out of racial solidarity.
Are the ice floes beginning to crack and shift?
Is it possible that the political arrangements of the last half-century, which until quite recently seemed set in stone, are finally starting to change?
We’ll know soon enough. Keep an eye on electoral politics in Europe and the United States.
We live in interesting times.
Hat tips: Gaia and Lawrence Auster.