Published in EUobserver, 18 June 2008
The defeat of the Lisbon treaty in the Irish referendum last week has led to lots of head-scratching about what do to next. The Irish foreign minister Micheál Martin has declared that he does not know yet: I think one should beware of anybody who claims that they do. We are in truly unprecedented circumstances.
Treaties have been rejected before, it is true, but this time is different. The Danish No vote over the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and the Irish No to Nice in 2001 were each followed by a period of discussion among the protagonists, a confirmation by the rest of the EU that the specific concerns of the Danish/Irish voters were not put at risk by the treaty in the way that some people had feared, and a second referendum a year later that reversed the earlier decision. Why can that route not simply be followed again?
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