Red Herrings & Falsehoods
During the campaign we propose to nail the myths. Meanwhile, let’s focus on the facts. For example:
Will we lose our automatic right to a Commissioner under the current rules?
Without the Lisbon Treaty we will lose our automatic right to a Commissioner.
If Lisbon is rejected the Nice Treaty is the law.
Under Nice the Commission must comprise less than 27 members once membership of the EU reaches that number of member states. The EU enlarged to 27 on January 1 2007.
So under existing law the Commission which will be appointed in autumn 2009 will have fewer than 27 members. This will change only if the Lisbon Treaty becomes law.
If Ireland votes against the Lisbon Treaty, the other member states may consider that is it right and proper that Ireland is one of the first countries to not have a Commissioner from 2010-2014.
Keeping an Irish Commissioner is in our own hands.
What about tax?
Is Lisbon one step closer to Brussels setting our tax rates?
The Lisbon Treaty makes no changes in relation to taxation.
The Lisbon Treaty does not mention direct taxation, such as corporation tax.
Matters relating to direct taxation remain the exclusive competence of each Member State and each Member State has a veto on decisions related to direct tax. Nothing can be imposed on Ireland in respect of direct taxation.
The European Council has indicated, in response to concerns raised by the Irish Government that it will give a legal guarantee that nothing in the Lisbon Treaty makes any change of any kind, for any Member State, to the extent or operation of the Unions competences in relation to taxation.
Between the Lisbon Treaty and the New Deal we have belt and braces reassurance that corporate tax policy is for Ireland, not for the EU to decide.
Will the Treaty bring in an unelected, unaccountable President of Europe?
The proposal is simply to replace the rotating system for chairing meetings of the European Council (the regular meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Member States). Currently, Prime Ministers take in turn to chair for six months at a time. It is proposed, instead, that they choose someone for a two and half year period to prepare and chair their meetings. That person will have no autonomous decision-making power.
As has been seen with the recent Czech Presidency where the Prime Minister lost a vote of confidence in his national parliament and so had to resign, EU Presidencies, as currently constituted, can be distracted and derailed by national considerations that are unrelated to leading the EU.
A permanent chairperson would be a change for the better! But it is not creating a President of Europe.
Will the Treaty fundamentally change the EU from a group of member-states to an undemocratic superstate?
Consider the facts.
The EU is a union of states and peoples which at all times must act within the laws as laid down by treaties and the European Court of Justice. The EU derives its powers from its Member States and not the other way around. This is specifically spelled out in the Lisbon Treaty.
The Member States are fully represented in all European institutions and decision making bodies.
The Treaties lay down very specific rules about how the EU does it business and what it can do. The Lisbon Treaty makes clearer than ever before, which decisions are taken at EU level, and which are taken at national level.
The EU budget accounts for less than 1% of the combined income of its member states.
The member state budgets themselves range from 35% to 60% of their domestic national income.
Membership of the EU is based on the free choice of sovereign states and peoples. It is a voluntary entity. Choice, not coercion, is the means of entry.
States are free to leave. The Lisbon Treaty for the first time expressly establishes a procedure to facilitate the orderly withdrawal of a member state that so chooses.
The ties that bind Member States together are the mutual benefits of prosperity and peace.
For smaller states there are enormous benefits in terms of international relations to a system that is based on the rule of law, due process and checks and balances that guarantees a voice for all states.
In terms of their interests and values, EU membership enhances the ability of its member states to deal with shared cross border challenges.