Friday, 27 June 2008

Don't Worry Your Pretty Head About It

I just noticed that I didn't post about it at the time (something I apparently make quite a habit of - your up-to-date news! Three weeks after it's of any use!), but there's some stuff that I think needs saying about the Lisbon Treaty.

As you may or may not know, the Lisbon Treaty was created to replace the rejected EU Constitution, and so as not to have the same trouble again, most of the MEPs decided not to put the treaty to referendum in their countries. The only exception was Ireland, whose laws make a referendum on matters such as this compulsory. And, of course, the Irish voted No. Despite the fact that all member states have to ratify the treaty in order to be enacted, I believe the current EU plan is to pretend Ireland didn't say anything, though some have suggested changing three words and making them vote over and over again until they get sick of it.

I don't understand why the EU is so surprised at the Irish No. The Constitution was roundly rejected and the Lisbon Treaty looks quite a lot like the same old thing in shiny new packaging, and nobody seems willing to dispossess us of the notion in any specific terms. Nick Clegg (aka Cameron 2.0) of the Lib Dems said the treaty was "very different" to the Constitution, and Gordon Brown said the treaty wasn't the same as the Constitution because it said it wasn't (I don't have a link for this, because it's from a speech he made on the Breakfast News). Apparently, the first page of the treaty says something like, "This is not a constitution, because the people said no to a constitution, so this is something else instead." I'm sorry, but that is hair-splitting, manipulative guff. I could say "I don't speak English" but it wouldn't make it true. Writing "Not A Constitution" (I am so sick of typing that word) at the top in big letters doesn't make any difference to the contents at all.

We simply do not trust anything that comes out of Europe these days - I speak of Europe as a Parliament as opposed to a continent - because they simply do not see the need to tell us anything. Oh, they complain loudly about the "misinformation" distributed by the Irish No campaign, but they don't offer any specific refuting evidence. The BBC informs us that the treaty is indeed largely similar to the Constitution (argh), including the same loss of veto powers and redistribution of voting weights, which was a huge problem last time. The BBC, I assume, has read the treaty. I tried reading the (insert C-word) when it first became available for public reference. I planned to read the whole thing, translate it into human language and post it on my website. I got about sixty pages in before my head exploded. It was not written with the intent of being read. I came across numerous ambiguously suspicious passages, but I could not say with any degree of certainty whether a certain passage meant the end of autonomy for national banks or meant absolutely nothing. You cannot read it and extract the intent behind it - it has been written with the express purpose of concealing intent. You have to know what it means before you read it. Were we told what it meant? Were we hell. We were told it was no big deal, just a silly little document, something about trade, don't worry your pretty little head about it. The big men in suits will take care of all the nasty words. And frankly, even if it was just a silly little document with no wider ramifications whatsoever, we do not take kindly to being told that, and we assume, quite sensibly, that they're trying to hide something. Now, I don't think it's necessarily the case that the public has to know everything about the way the country is run. In fact, it's probably a bad idea more often than not. What's also a bad idea is making it quite obvious that you're not telling them ANYTHING. Here it is in dramatised form:

The British public: The treaty is pretty much the same as the Constitution.
The British government: No, of course it isn't. We rejected the Constitution and this is something entirely different.
The British public: What makes it different?
The British government: Oh, this is just a little something about trade, not even important enough for you to vote on. Don't worry about it.
The British public: This is hugely suspicious.
The British government: Suspicious? It's not suspicious! Who's been spreading these lies?

So when the time came for the Irish to vote on it, were they going to trust the people who said, "Don't read it, just sign it!" or the people who told them actual stuff that was actually in the document? Perhaps these people exaggerated, or were scare-mongering. Yeah, maybe. But they were giving out information. The European Parliament could easily have given out a few sheets of easy-to-read facts about the more boring stuff included in the treaty, but they chose to tell us instead that thinking too much will give us wrinkles. So there's really no call for them to be surprised when Ireland decides to take the only information it's got. To most of us, the whole thing smacks of taking the old Constitution round to the tradesman's entrance and pretending it's just the potato man.

Public: We weren't expecting a potato man.
Government: Oh, come on! It's just potatoes! What harm can that do?
Public: Is he going to charge for these potatoes?
Government: Oh, sweetie, we take care of the money. Go and knit a nice rug, that would be productive.
Public: This potato man looks weird.
Government: RELAX! Jesus, you and your damn prejudices.

So, really, guys, let's have a little more respect around here. We're already vaguely suspicious of anything you do because you're politicians. Telling us not to worry about it is both insulting and counter-productive, since we all immediately start wondering what we have to worry about. I am interested to see where we go from here - I want to know exactly how respectful Europe will be towards the Irish No. I could imagine some serious problems if they decide to ignore it, but somehow I really don't see that stopping them. Watch this space - I'll attempt to make it interesting. Possibly with more dramatisations and some one-line comic relief characters.

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