Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit (Or Not) : Lessons From Lisbon

 "Oh, no, no I've been through this movie before - Bob Dylan, 1964
Broken words never meant to be spoken,  Broken treaties broken vows, People bending broken rules, Everything is broken - Bob Dylan 1989

Opinion by Owen Martin.

Last Thursday's Brexit vote has re-shaped British politics for good or for bad. It was akin to throwing up all the pieces of a chess game into the air and re-starting the game wherever the pieces happened to land.   From an energy and climate point of view it is too early to say what will happen. Ireland may not have to build the North South Interconnector if the North revokes the EU legislation which prevents them from keeping their power stations open. Who knows, Britain may go into a period of traditional common sense where they dont have to worry about (nor spend billions on) changing the weather anymore. But any myriad number of things could happen between now and the time Article 50 is triggered, and between the time it is triggered and UK effectively withdrawing from the EU (Personally I was hoping to buy cheaper stuff from England but the sterling hasnt dropped as much as the media made out). 

The following diagram is fairly self explanatory and comes from a Norwegian newspaper
There are many hurdles that must be crossed before Britain makes an effective withdrawal, if it does at all. 

One possible option is that the political class that are saying now that they accept the result will change their minds in six months time as events sweep the political landscape from under their feet both at British and European level. Who knows where the pieces will land ? But haven't Ireland been here before ?

In 2008, Ireland voted No to the Lisbon Treaty. In 2009, they were asked again. This time they voted Yes to the same but slightly amended referendum. In the intervening years, there was no great political shake-up.  The Prime Minister, unlike in Britain, remained in office until the next general election in 2011. The opposition leader, Enda Kenny, also remained as leader. It wasn't until 2010 that opposition backbenchers revolted but Kenny successfully fought them off and is now Prime Minister (since 2011). Contrast this to what is happening in the days following Britain's cataclysmic vote. Of course, their vote is somewhat more serious although there was a real danger that Ireland would get left behind after their No Vote in 2008. 

Let's see what was said at the time in 2008 after the initial vote :

Prime Minister, Brian Cowen

And again 

And again 

The Minister For Foreign Affairs was at it aswell :

And the Left Wing Opposition :

Britain's Foreign Secretary was also very clear :

Financial turmoil was the result :

The No side were accused of lying :

A second referendum was not possible :

Sound familiar ?

A year later, Ireland were given another chance and this time voted Yes.  Of course, the EU could not continue without Ireland's ratification as other member states threatened legal action. Could it continue without UK membership ? The UK is the second largest intra-EU importer of goods and the second largest net contributor to the EU budget (worth about € 85 bn per year to the EU combined), so possibly not. We are about to find out.

The day after the Brexit referendum the mainstream media were busy telling us that Leave Voters didn't know what they were voting on, that they hadn't understood the issues at all : 

It is far more likely that the 28% of the electorate who hadn't bothered to vote were the ones busy googling the "EU". But Google and the media have planted the seeds of doubt. This is most likely a prelude to the Post - Vote Poll which I have no doubt will confirm their contention that leave voters, in general, were clueless. Here is the Post-vote poll taken after Lisbon Treaty Referendum Part 1 :

40% of the No voters didnt understand, so the referendum had to be run again and the rest is history. 

With the Tory leadership contest not happening for another three months, anything could happen in the meantime.


  1. The UK govt broke what should be a law, that there should be plans in place for both eventualities of a YES/NO referendum. The campaigns from both sides were dismal, with statistics being deployed by so-called experts to sway the undecided. I suspect like a majority I voted according to gut feeling and ignored all the propaganda. When the vote went against expectation I started googling what I'd voted for. One would have hoped that the govt would do like likewise, but they are currently consumed by the contest for a new Prime Minister.

  2. Does anyone know what is the position of China? It appears to have the right to dump steel and other goods into the EU. The EU demands that European countries outside the block must comply with free movement of people laws before they can trade. China does not allow free movement people from the EU, yet it can still trade.