The protest in the Strasbourg plenary on June 18th
Pictured:- Myself, Chris Heaton-Harris and Syed kamall
Another Strasbourg demo. Probably another fine in the offing. On June 18th the parliament debated the outcome of the Irish referendum. A group of us were determined to make the case for democracy, so we appeared in green T-shirts with the slogan “Respect the Irish vote”. And carefully concealed about our persons we had several well-rolled banners, a dozen feet long, with the same slogan.
As Commission President Barroso rose to speak, we all rose in our places and stood. Since we had attracted particular opprobrium last time for chanting “Referendum” over the remarks of the Portuguese Prime Minister, we exercised vast self-restraint this time and stood in dignified silence. We also unfurled the banners. I shared mine with my comrade Dan Hannan. Of course the ushers arrived, right on cue, to confiscate the banners. They had been hovering anxiously for some time and trying to work out where trouble would strike — as though the T-shirts were not a sufficient give-away.
Somehow they got hold of Dan’s end of our banner, but I was determined to hold on to mine, and an unseemly tug-of-war ensued. Finally they let go. I staggered backwards against the row behind, and then we quietly reinstated the banner for several more minutes, until courtesy demanded that we submit to the authority of parliament. But by that time, the job had been done.
As usual, the parliament averted its electronic eye, and the official video coverage of the event will show not a hint of protest. But of course we had our own still and video cameras all over the place like a rash, and good if amateur coverage should be on YouTube very soon.
Amusingly, many of the speakers, sparked by our slogan, insisted that of course they respected the result of the Irish vote. But in the same breath they insisted that ratification should continue in the other 26 member states. This despite the fact that under their own rules, ratification requires all 27 to agree, so further ratification is redundant. You will recall that after the French and Dutch No votes in 2005, Tony Blair insisted that the EU Constitution could no longer be ratified, and that therefore there was no point in proceeding with a UK referendum. That logic now seems to have been forgotten.
The EU plan seems to be to ratify in 26 states, and then present Ireland with a fait accompli. Either they will have to vote again, or Brussels will invent some legal fudge (perhaps using the Croatia accession treaty) to bring Ireland on-side.
Fortunately there are still a few flies in Brussels’ ointment. There is increasing pressure on Brown in the UK to reconsider, with the Wheeler legal challenge, the new Open Europe poll, and so on. We are hearing that the Treaty is meeting headwinds in both Poland and the Czech Republic — keep an eye on those countries. In any case the anticipated schedule, of an EU Council in October and implementation before the 2009 euro-elections, cannot now be met. So we can turn next year’s euro-elections into the referendum we never had. I can’t wait.