For the second time in two years the attempt to get a constitution for the European Community has come a cropper. That last three words is a marvelous phrase, by the way. No one seems to know where it came from, but its first use was in 1858:
[He] "rode at an impracticable fence, and got a cropper for his pains."
The Irish people, in a popular referendum, rejected the Lisbon treaty that would have created a new constitution for Europe. CNN describes this impracticable fence in this way:
After voters in the Netherlands and France rejected a previous EU constitution in 2005, most EU countries stopped leaving such matters to their voters, instead pushing it through their national parliaments.
However, Irish law requires its citizens be given the chance to vote on anything affecting the Irish constitution, which in this case is the Lisbon Treaty. So Ireland's 3 million voters decided on a document representing the 490 million people in the European Union.
Eighteen EU countries have ratified the treaty so far and, with Ireland's vote in, a decision is pending in eight others.
There is something very curious about all this. A European constitution would seem to be a bloody good idea, but surely the way to get one is to design it so that it could pass popular referendums in the various countries. That's what the American Founders did in the late 1780's, bypassing the state legislatures in favor of popularly elected ratifying conventions.
Instead, the European elites tried to write the people out of the picture by putting a second constitution, The "Lisbon Treaty" entirely into the hands of parliaments. The Irish alone failed to go along, and the ratification had to be unanimous, so it's back to the drawing board again. Notice the unintentional irony of that line: "Ireland's 3 million voters decided on a document representing the 490 million people in the European Union." Those three million were the only voters who actually got a say in the matter!
I wonder why it is that Europe's parliaments are so eager to sign a document that their peoples can be trusted to endorse. In the U.S., to overrule the voters you have to get the Supreme Court or some state Supreme Court to do it. But parliaments are elected, so why don't the people send the rascals packing?
What does this mean for a United States of Europe? Charles Moore in the British Telegraph tells us the treaty is dead.
In the Irish language, there is no word for "no". The Irish way of getting round this is to say instead: "It isn't." Yesterday we learnt that the Irish people, confronted with the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum, have said: "It isn't."
But not so fast! The Guardian reports that:
Refusing to take Ireland's 'no' for an answer, politicians in Berlin and Paris prepared for a crucial EU summit in Brussels this week by trying to ringfence the Irish while demanding that the treaty be ratified by the rest of the EU.
Well, so much for the rules. I am guessing that I would not like all the reasons that the various groups of Irish voters had for rejecting the Lisbon Treaty. But they did strike a blow for democracy. No government can work without forming elites, but democracy means that the work of the elites must ultimately be submitted to the people. The Irish alone, of all of Europe, seem to recognize this. Erin go braugh! Did I mention that my mother's maiden name is Daugherty?