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☘Summary of 13 things the Lisbon Treaty would do

The Lisbon Treaty Re-run – 13 Key Facts

On Friday 2 October we will be voting on exactly the same Lisbon Treaty as Irish voters rejected last year. Not a dot or comma of it will have been changed. These are the main things Lisbon would lead to:

1. A RADICAL SHIFT OF CONTROL TO THE BIG STATES OVER THE EU: Lisbon would halve Ireland’s vote in making EU laws from 2% to 0.9%, while doubling Germany’s vote to 16% and increasing the vote of France, Britain and Italy from 8% each to 12% each. Lisbon would thereby base EU law-making in future on exact population size, just as in a single unified State.

At present EU laws are made on the basis of a “double majority” system – a simple majority of the 27 EU States (14 or more), as long as between them they have a weighted majority of 255 out of a total of 345 votes (Art.205 TEC*; Declaration on Enlargement). Under this system the Big States have 29 votes each and Ireland has 7.

Under Lisbon EU laws would be made by a majority of States (at least 55%, 15 or more), as long as they have 65% of the total EU population between them (Art.16 TEU). This change would double Germany’s voting power in making EU laws from its present 8% to 16%, increase Britain’s, France’s and Italy’s from their present 8% each to 12% each, while halving Ireland’s vote from 2% to 0.9% on the latest official EU population figures for 2009.

Instead of the Big States having 4 times Ireland’s voting weight, as now, under Lisbon Germany would have 18 times and France, Britain and Italy 15 times each. The Government’s White Paper writes untruthfully when it speaks of the “change to a double majority voting system in the Council” (p.44). A double majority of States and weighted votes already exists for making EU laws. What Lisbon does is to replace the existing system of weighted votes, which already recognises the larger size of the Big States, by exact population size as the key criterion for future EU law-making – so hugely advantaging the Big EU States at the expense of the small.

The Big Four EU States would between them have half the voting power on the EU Council of Ministers under the post-Lisbon voting rules, as compared with one-third of the weighted votes they have at present.

The new Lisbon-based voting system would also make it much easier for Germany, France and the Brussels Commission to impose sanctions on Ireland, up to and including limitless fines, under the rules of the Eurozone if we fail to get our 12%-of-GDP budget deficit down to the 3% target level for the Eurozone, according to whatever time-limit they should decide.

At present a special majority of two-thirds of the weighted votes of the Eurozone countries is needed to impose an enforcement procedure and sanctions on Eurozone countries that are running excessive budget deficits (Arts.104 and 122 TEC). Under Lisbon, 8 of the 16 Eurozone States, excluding the delinquent State (viz. 55% of the 16), could impose sanctions on a country running what they decide is an excessive deficit – as long as they have 65% of the 300 million Eurozone population between them. The State with the excessive deficit does not have a vote (Arts.126 and 238 TFEU; Protocol No.12 on the Excessive Deficit Procedure). Germany and France between them have nearly half the population of the Eurozone.

If we ratify Lisbon we will thereby be creating an iron rod to be laid across our backs by Germany, France and the Brussels Commission with regard to our budget deficits and general Government finances over the crucial next few years.

2. LOSING THE RIGHT TO DECIDE IRELAND’S COMMISSIONER: Lisbon would abolish our present right to “propose” and decide who Ireland’s Commissioner is (Art 214 TEC), by replacing it with a right to make”suggestions” only, for the incoming Commission President and the Big States to decide (Art.17.7 TEU).

The EU Prime Ministers have promised each State a Commissioner for the time being, but what is the point of us continuing to have an Irish Commissioner post-Lisbon when the Irish Government can no longer decide who that person would be? The Government White Paper makes no mention of this shift from a bottom-up to a top-down appointment process of deciding the members of the Commission.

This change in the mode of deciding on EU Commissioners is the reason why the Big Four EU States were willing to consider losing their own national Commissioner for five years out of every 15 under Lisbon, because they knew that they would have the decisive say in appointing all the other Commissioners through the incoming Commission President, whom they would have the key role in appointing.

Under Nice we can continue to have a permanent Commissioner on a 26-plus-one basis, as Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt recently suggested, and Ireland would continue, moreover, to decide who he or she will be. Under Nice we also have a veto on any change in the number of Commissioners. Under Lisbon we have no such veto.

3. GIVING THE EU THE CONSTITUTIONAL FORM OF A STATE: Lisbon would abolish the European Community which Ireland joined in 1973 and replace it with a legally new European Union in the constitutional form of an EU Federation. This post-Lisbon EU would for the first time be legally fully separate from and superior to its 27 Member States, would sign international treaties with other States in all areas of its powers and would make half or more of our laws each year (Arts.1 and 47 TEU; Declaration 17 concerning Primacy). This is quite evident also from the second sentence of the Irish Constitutional Amendment which is set out in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, and can be ontained free from Post Offices, Garda stations and Libraries.

In constitutional terms Lisbon would thereby turn Ireland into a regional or provincial state within this new Federal-style European Union, with the EU’s Constitution and laws having legal primacy over the Irish Constitution and laws in any cases of conflict between the two. Ireland would thus formally cease to be a sovereign independent State in its own right in the international community of States, and become like a provincial state inside an EU Federation.

One illustration of the constitutional revolution which Lisbon would bring about is that it would make MEPs, who under the current treaties are “representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community” (Art.189 TEC), into “representatives of the Union’s citizens” (Art.14 TEU).

4. MAKING US INTO REAL EU CITIZENS, WITH CITIZENS’ RIGHTS AND DUTIES VIS-A-VIS THE POST-LISBON EUROPEAN UNION WHICH WOULD HAVE PRIMACY OVER OUR RIGHTS AND DUTIES AS IRISH CITIZENS: Lisbon would confer on us an “additional” citizenship of the constitutionally Federal post-Lisbon European Union, owing obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our duty of obedience and loyalty to Ireland and the Irish Constitution and laws in the event of any conflict between the two (Art.9 TEU).

This would be quite different from the notional or symbolic EU citizenship that people speak of today, because Lisbon would transfer the law-making powers of the European Community to the constitutionally new Union which Lisbon would establish, and the Community would be then legally abolished. As real EU citizens for the first time, we would be subject to the refounded Union’s laws and would be expected to give our citizens’ loyalty to the authority of the constitutionally new post-Lisbon Union.

One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. The Irish people were not that happy when they were citizens of the UK State from 1800 to 1921. Although as citizens of the post-Lisbon Federal EU we would still keep our Irish citizenship, this would be subordinate to our EU citizenship and to the rights and duties attaching to that in any cases of conflict between the two (Art.9 TEU; Declaration 17 concerning Primacy).

5. THE EU COURT OF JUSTICE WOULD DECIDE OUR RIGHTS AS EU CITIZENS: Lisbon would give the EU Court of Justice the power to decide our human rights by making the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding for the first time (Art.6 TEU). This would give power to the EU judges to lay down a uniform standard of rights for the 500 million citizens of the post-Lisbon Union in the name of their common EU citizenship in the years and decades to come.

This would open the possibility of clashes with national human rights standards in sensitive areas where Member States differ from one another at present, e.g. inheritance and property rights, trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus, legalising hard drugs, abortion, euthanasia, labour law, marriage law, children’s rights etc. Ireland’s Supreme Court and the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights would no longer have the final say on what our fundamental rights are.

6. ABOLISHING THE NATIONAL VETO: Lisbon would abolish the national veto which Ireland has at present in over 30 new policy areas by handing over to the EU the power to make laws binding on us as regards public services, crime, justice, policing, immigration, energy, transport, tourism, sport, culture, public health, the EU budget, international moves on climate change etc.

7. REDUCING THE POWER OF NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS: Lisbon would reduce the power of National Parliaments to decide 49 policy areas or matters by shifting their powers to the EU, and increase the influence of the European Parliament in making EU laws in 19 new areas (See euabc.eu for the two lists).

8. A “SELF-AMENDING” TREATY: Lisbon could be regarded as a self-amending Treaty in that it would permit the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents to shift most remaining EU policy areas where unanimity is required and a national veto still exists – for example on tax harmonisation – to qualified majority voting on the EU Council of Ministers, without the need of further EU Treaties or referendums (Art.48 TEU).

Lisbon would also extend the so-called “Flexibility Clause”, which allows the EU to take action and adopt measures to attain one of the EU’s objectives even if “the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers‘”, to all areas of the Treaty and not just the internal market rules as at present (Art.352 TFEU). This would open the floodgates to more political integration, viz. centralisation, by means of this article, which is already widely used.

9. GIVING THE EU ITS OWN TAXES: Lisbon would permit the post-Lisbon EU to impose its own EU-wide taxes directly on us for the first time, on top of national taxes, in order to raise its “own resources” for the EU itself, without the need of further EU Treaties or referendums (Art.311 TFEU). This would have to be unanimously agreed by the Prime Ministers and Presidents, but seeing how they can agree unanimously to push through Lisbon, they should have no problem in agreeing EU taxes in due time to finance all the extra functions which the post-Lisbon Union would exercise.

10. A RACE TO THE BOTTOM IN PAY: Lisbon would copperfasten the Laval, Rüffert and related judgements of the EU Court of Justice, which put the competition rules of the EU market above the right of trade unions to enforce pay standards higher than the minimum for migrant workers. At the same time Lisbon would give the EU full control of immigration policy (Art.79 TFEU).

11. FOREIGN INVESTMENT AND HARMONISING TAXES: Lisbon would amend the existing treaties to give the EU exclusive power as regards rules on foreign direct investment(Arts.206-7 TFEU). It would give the EU Court of Justice the power to order the harmonisation of national indirect taxes if it judges that these cause a “distortion of competition” (Art.113 TFEU, Protocol 27 on the Internal Market and Competition). These steps could threaten Ireland’s 12.5% company profits tax, which is the principal incentive that attracts foreign companies to Ireland and keeps them here when they come.

12. A NON-ELECTED EU PRESIDENT: The Treaty would enable the 27 EU Prime Ministers to appoint an EU President for up to five years without allowing voters any say as to who he or she would be, thereby abolishing the present six-month rotating EU presidencies (Art.15 TEU).

13. NEUTRALITY AND A MORE MILITARIZED EU: Lisbon would militarize the EU further by requiring Member States “progressively to improve their military capabilities” (Art.42.3 TEU) and to aid and assist other Member States experiencing armed attack “by all the means in their power” (Art.42.7 TEU).


*TEC= European Community Treaty; TEU = Treaty on European Union as amended by the Lisbon Treaty; TFEU = Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as amended by the Lisbon Treaty. These two amended Treaties together would become the Constitution of the new post-Lisbon European Union.


Issued by the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Ave., Dublin 9; Tel.: 01-8305792; Director Anthony Coughlan. This document has been compiled with the aid of authorities on European and Irish constitutional law. See also the our web-site: nationalplatform.org
For more detailed information see euabc.eu This is a dictionary/lexicon on all matters to do with the EU and Lisbon, that is neutral as between the Yes and No sides. It has articles from both sides and seeks to give people the honest facts so that they can make up their own minds.


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