Ah, yes, European democracy

A second Brexit referendum could be for the best: look at Ireland and Lisbon
Brigid Laffan
When Ireland went back to the polls in 2009, it wasn’t about overturning democracy, but doing it properly

European democracy being defined by producing the correct answer rather than any will of the people.

37 thoughts on “Ah, yes, European democracy”

  1. Speaking of B-Arkers:

    Brigid Laffan is Director and Professor at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Director of the Global Governance Programme and of the European Governance and Politics Programme at the European University Institute (EUI), Florence.

    What’s the point of Brigid?

  2. Director of the Global Governance Programme

    Brigid doesn’t like nation states. Brigid wants you to be ruled by a remote, unaccountable global elite. For your own good, of course.

    She’s definitely found a home there at the Guardian.

  3. “Doing it properly”

    I can only assume that is some slur against the Irish as too incompetent or mentally retarded to put their X in a box? But after some EU training they did it right the second time around?

  4. ‘Centre for Advanced Studies’

    Doesn’t that just remind you of Mr Burns’ award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

  5. I am actually grateful both to you, Tim for pointing out this article, and to Ms. Laffan for writing it. It lays out precisely the Blueprint the Remainers will follow in the event a second referendum is granted – to a tee:

    ‘In all cases governments, with the support of their parliaments, engaged in a sophisticated political exercise of managing the cross-cutting dynamics of domestic and EU-level politics. The exercise of national political authority was to the fore’

    Pro – EU politicians (which comprises a majority of the political class – probably more than 70%) .will arrange to ensure they mutually benefit with their EU counterparts and receive EU taxpayers funding in excess of the norm in return for their enthusiastic support of a ‘People’s vote’ – it’s an age old trick – ‘buy off’ recalcitrant politicians in the country

    ‘Armed with the results, the Irish parliament interrogated Ireland’s future in the EU, and its deliberations led to the publication of a report titled Ireland’s Future in the European Union: Challenges, Issues and Options. While the people had spoken through a referendum, representative democracy reasserted its core role in the Irish political system and the quality of debate underlined the seriousness of the issues at stake.’

    The entirety of the EU’s research resources and the substantial permanent bureaucracy, as well as numerous ‘arms length’ organisations beholden to the EU in academia and the ‘charity sector’ will be enlisted to manufacture authentic looking research ‘favourable’ to the EU and numerous apocalyptic predictions of harm from rejecting Lisbon. The press will be flooded with ’eminent persons’ offering opinion pieces at next to zero cost extolling the EU and offering veiled warnings of ‘adverse consequences’ if the vote ‘did not go the way of the EU this time round.

    The Irish government engaged intensively with its EU partners. Neither side wanted to lose the Lisbon treaty. By December 2008, the broad outline of a deal was emerging which included the retention of one commissioner per state and legal guarantees on issues such as taxation, security and abortion.

    So in effect historically speaking,The then government in Ireland was bought off with a series of short term guarantees which could easily be abandoned by the EU at a future point when the circumstances were propitious for doing so. Two ‘pro EU’ organisations managed to reach an agreement and agree to withhold hostile comments on the situation (This is one area it would be hard to replicate in Britain without a Libdem government in fairness – given the level of mistrust between the Conservatives and the EU I don’t see how this would work – maybe under a Corbyn government?)

    ‘First, the yes campaign mobilised in a different way: political parties and civil society organisations ran an intensive campaign across all media and on the ground. The active involvement of civil society was important, given the government’s unpopularity. A number of highly influential people, including Seamus Heaney, agreed to act as patrons of Ireland for Europe, the largest civil society organisation. Before reciting one of his poems at the launch of the campaign, Seamus said, “There are many reasons for ratifying the Lisbon treaty, reasons to do with our political and economic wellbeing, but the poem speaks mainly for our honour and identity as Europeans.”’

    Huge resources, and untold numbers of ‘celebrities’ will be drafted into the second vote campaign and massive propaganda will be put into the pro EU press. Free copies of ‘The New European’ will be on stands across the country in Brexit voting areas. Twitter will be festooned with hashtags advocating another vote.

    Third, the coverage of the campaign, particularly by RTE, the national broadcaster, was very different. For the first Lisbon referendum, RTE deployed a conflict frame akin to a Punch-and-Judy contest between yes and no, with little or no editorial intervention to challenge or correct inaccurate claims. Second time around, the conflict frame was accompanied by a responsibility frame, ie that the issue was salient and had to be taken seriously. The broadcaster took to heart its duty to accurately inform and educate.

    Hardly likely to need to do much to the BBC, which is distinguished from the KCNA only by the latter’s superior English language coverage. I would imagine Sky and ITV will also be dragooned into ensuring a pro EU ‘dragnet’ exists around ‘anti – EU’ voices. The letter published by Richard Murphy and the like refusing to debate with Climate Change deniers might well be extended to prominent Leave campaigners. They will stop at nothing.

    It’s a long game these people are playing – they know they only need to wear a small number of people down and then the surrender will follow. The diabolical genius is almost admirable.

  6. Did Ireland actually benefit from its change of mind?

    Yes, kinda. The Irish had specific issues going into the first referendum which the “No” side used to great advantage. In response to this, the EU issued specific guarantees to the Irish which they were unlikely to have obtained at any other time or through any other mechanism. This speaks volumes about the way the EU ignores criticism from its member countries.

    The specific Irish guarantees were on:
    – Military neutrality (the Seville Declaration)
    – Irish EU commissioner
    – Non-interference in Irish internal tax affairs (12.5% corp tax)
    – Non-interference over the matter of Irish abortion laws
    – Opt-outs from aspects of workers rights

    The fact that the above highlights the absolute loss of Irish sovereignty over their own domestic affairs is conveniently ignored.

  7. Dave C – it could.
    So could a 3rd referendum and a 4th and so on.
    What happens if two referendums have the same end result? Should that be implemented?
    What happens if 2 referendums have different results? Call an additional one to make sure?

    How many tries do you want to make to get the ‘right’ answer, the answer you are hoping for?

  8. As I have said before, the question in a second referendum would have to be: do you accept the deal negotiated between Her Majesty’s Government and the filthy foreigners? No would mean a no deal Brexit, not that we remain.

    To remain would require all other EU countries to agree to rescind our triggering of Article 50, if we came begging them to do so. Can’t see them doing that without insisting the rebate gets scrapped and that we join the Euro.

  9. almost what docbud says: the cost of Remain would be too high not because they’d want us in the euro – I don’t think they would – but they would want our opt-outs scrapped along with the rebates. And who knows what special nibbles might also be ordered, regarding banking, say, or Gibraltar?

  10. “To remain would require all other EU countries to agree to rescind our triggering of Article 50, if we came begging them to do so. ”

    This is arguable though. This is certainly my reading of it but friends far more m’learned than I have contrary opinions on the issue. The mere hint of a suggestion that said reaching of contrary opinions is driven by both sides having even more lucrative work to do is, of course, entirely scurrilous.

    Dave, of course a second referendum would reveal “the will of the people”, but in addition to the points made, running a three-way bet (out with negotiated deal, out with no deal, stay on current deal), probably needing some form of transferable vote along with all the arguments for thresholds for accepting or not some outcome without the transferred votes, is likely to generate far more heat than light.

  11. running a three-way bet (out with negotiated deal, out with no deal, stay on current deal)

    I can’t think of an easier way of splitting / manipulating the vote to ensure that we don’t leave the EU.

    I’m still praying that the clock runs out without a deal and that the perfidious French give us our freedom by refusing to endorse any extension or transitional arrangements beyond the end of March.

    It speaks volumes when you trust the contemptible nature of the enemy more than your own government.

  12. BiG, do your learned friends cite anything? I’d love to learn their arguments better, just to double check I didn’t miss anything. As far as i can tell “the EU” has to agree to rescinding Article 50, and “the EU” is all of them plus the Parliament and odds and sods like Wallonia.

    John, you could as easily look at it as Brexit in name only/no Brexit/no-deal Brexit, so splitting the Remain vote in two. Either way you look, a silly idea.

  13. @wat dabney
    ‘Centre for Advanced Studies’

    Clearly copied from Princeton’s ‘Institute for Advanced Study’. But that had Einstein, Weyl, von Neumann, Gödel, Freeman Dyson and umpteen Nobel laureates. Whereas the CAS is home to a bunch of otherwise unemployable B-Arkers.

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    Dave C,

    You could have a vote in the morning and a second one in the afternoon and get different results. Everyone accepted that there wouldn’t be a second vote, indeed Remain made a point of it during Project Fear.

    We didn’t have a second vote after ’75 either, most No voters just shrugged and got on with their lives. It wasn’t until Parliament ignored what we were promised then, no move towards an EU, that anti EU Tories started to kick off and UKIP really got going. A large number of those were like me and had voted Yes in ’75 based on the promise of no EU. (BTW, Parliament had that right, their hands could never have been bound, but they ignored those promises and didn’t sell the story)

    Perhaps if we’d had a referendum on Lisbon with a real debate we might still be in, but instead we were lied to again about a promised referendum. Pro EU types really don’t trust the British people and paid the penalty.


    Here’s an interesting take on how a 2nd referendum will be fought: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/09/why-an-insurgent-remain-could-win-a-second-vote/

  15. Bloke in North Dorset


    The government is “misleading” the public by suggesting Britain cannot change its mind on Brexit, the man who wrote Article 50 has said.

    Lord Kerr, who authored the document allowing EU member states to withdraw, said the facts were being “inadequately represented, or indeed misrepresented” in the current debate.

    During a speech in London for the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, the former UK ambassador to the European Union insisted that the Prime Minister’s decision to trigger the withdrawal process did not mean departure was inevitable.

    While we’re in, we’re in. While the divorce talks proceed, the parties are still married. Reconciliation is still possible. The Article requires the parties to negotiate the arrangements for our withdrawal, but we are not required to withdraw just because Mrs May sent her letter.

    We can change our minds at any stage in the process.



    Although I’m sure our learned friends, on both sides, will no doubt be able to conjure up if enough arguments to justify a tidy retainer to argue the point all the way up the appeals process.

  16. Thanks, BiND. I think I’d seen that letter. “Reconciliation is still possible” has to mean that the other side has to agree – or can refuse to agree. You can’t reconcile on your own.

    DocBud, fun. Looks like unless all the member states agree, there are plenty of ways for someone to challenge a revocation – in which case, you’d have to wait five years for the appeals to sort themselves out. Not a good basis for action.

    And get this: “It may also be possible for a UK national, or indeed a citizen of any Member State, to
    challenge the revocation of the notification before their own domestic courts, subject to the
    domestic standing requirements, which could then request a preliminary ruling on the
    interpretation of Article 50 TEU from the CJEU under Article 267 TFEU.” Any Tom, Dick or Heinrich (or Nigel) – indeed any number of them – could challenge in local courts, and no doubt would.

    So I read Kerr as saying everyone has to agree, and the European Parliament’s report as saying even if everyone agrees, it won’t be clear for years. You’ve only uncertainty either way. No chance of putting a question to a referendum.

  17. No doubt the non-partisan Gina Miller would step up to be that UK national who challenges the revocation before the domestic courts.

  18. No doubt the non-partisan Gina Miller would step up to be that UK national who challenges the revocation before the domestic courts.

    Where would we be without the selfless efforts of Ms. Miller?


  19. The patriotic and public spirited Jolyon Moan QC might just be persuaded at (allegedly) reduced rates to run any litigation to keep the UK in the EU provided it was behind the skirts of a suitably impoverished litigant to protect the learned dickhead from personal liability for punitive costs awarded against persistently vexatious litigants.

    Interested persons might however wish to examine the track record of Mr Moan QC in his anti-Brexit legal actions.

    Unkind comment paints him as an insufferable arrogant and incompetent tilter at windmills (although not his own publicly funded one). In fact he’s very competent – at extracting cash from the gullible. He is however, a massive, massive cvnt.

  20. Van_Patten,

    It’s a different game now. There’s no longer half a dozen media outlets. Crap “experts” have been debunked.

    Trump won with none of the Right Sort of People backing him. It was almost entirely viral. Without the internet, we’d not have left the EU. The dissemination of pro-leave knowledge wouldn’t have happened.

  21. Wonder how the current fuss over Hungary is going to impact the EU ‘solidarity’ over Brexit? Or maybe that’s why they are pushing the current action now to remove Hungary voting rights.

  22. Trump won with none of the Right Sort of People backing him.

    Yarp. Remember, even the left’s favourite bogeyman FAUX NEWS was hostile to Trump (they were variously pulling for the uncanny Ted Cruz, 45-year-old boy Marco Rubio, and sleepy Ben Carson for much of the Republican primaries) until Rupert Murdoch realised his viewers wanted Trump.

    I don’t think a single major newspaper backed him, unless the National Enquirer counts as a newspaper.

    Contra BiND’s Speccy link, I don’t think Leave “could” win a second referendum, I think Leave would probably win by a greater margin than last time – barring fraud (no longer impossible to imagine in our system). Further, the metropolitan onanocracy is playing a very dangerous game without realising the stakes.

    For what would happen if they “won” a rematch referendum? Or, what happens when peaceful political change – coupled with collapsing public support for the police, etc. – becomes impossible? Wouldn’t matter how they spun the result – about half the population (and the most traditionally patriotic half at that) would get the message that they have no stake in allegedly democratic institutions.

    We like to think political violence is something that only happens in Foreign. But 20 years ago we thought the same thing about suicide bombers.

    It’s not like a gang of enraged Kippers would show up at Parliament in Guy Fawkes masks the day after, but if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that slippery slopes really are slippery and slopey.

  23. I don’t think Leave “could” win a second referendum, I think Leave would probably win by a greater margin than last time – barring fraud (no longer impossible to imagine in our system). Further, the metropolitan onanocracy is playing a very dangerous game without realising the stakes.

    I campaigned for “Vote Leave” on the high street every weekend and mailing out leaflets for about 6 weeks in May and early June 2016.

    I knew full well that the only reasons for Cameron put the referendum on the table were (a) to ensure re-election in 2015 and (b) to try and silence the Eurosceptics within his own party.

    I don’t believe that any senior politician, Boris included, thought that “Leave” would win. In a weird sense, the referendum was about everything EXCEPT leaving the EU.

    Which is why we are where we are, with a government trying (and failing) over a policy that it has never believed in and never supported.

    The state of BRExit says everything you need to know about the political establishment.

  24. Bloke in North Dorset

    I can’t see either main party going for a second referendum, even if there’s time, and risking a Remain vote. They will be considering what would happen to 14m+ people who feel betrayed.

    The Tories have just had 25 years of internecine warfare, most of their vote will disappear to UKIP before the result has been printed in the morning papers.

    For the current Labour leadership they know that their economic policies will be severely hampered by staying in the EU. They’re playing lip service to the issue to keep their Remainiacs on side, but their only interest is an early general election, so they’ll say and do just about anything to discomfit May and her plans. They also fear an exodus to UKIP in their own heartlands.

  25. Bloke on ME/ in ND and of course the great Steve

    I sincerely hope you are right – although I suspect it might be extremely close – don’t forget they will stop at nothing. I would not be surprised to see expat votes allowed, Corbinite voters in university constituencies given additional votes – it will be a dirty affair certainly. We are not dealing with an organisation renowned for its integrity or sense of fair play.

  26. Not much to add, however;

    “and (b) to try and silence the Eurosceptics within his own party.”

    Sorry, but people need to be really careful with this little factoid.

    Take a look at the regional reporting of the Brexit vote; 12 regions, 3 (London, Scotland and Northern Ireland) voted to Remain. The South East voted to Leave by 48-52, near as damnit bang on the national result.

    The large majorities to Leave, getting towards at 33-66, are all Oop North, traditionally the industrialised, unionised, Labour heartlands.

    UKIP election performance, from 2007 to 2010, shows the largest gains in those heartland constituencies. In some, by 2010, the party was able to beat the Conservatives into second place, and narrowed the Labour majority.

    In at least two TV interviews/panels, Farage had noted UKIP support in those heartlands, and was basically ignored or laughed at.

    Whatever Cameron might be, it’s not a given that the Conservative party strategists are also as thick as shit.

    Finally, where exactly do you hear this myth bandied around the most?

  27. VP,

    Anyone who had been out of the UK for 15 years or less could vote in the referendum, including myself. I think you’ll find a lot of us living in the colonies are not fans of the EU.

  28. @Martin @North Dorset

    But we would be voting for a specific alternative second time. First time round we were voting for “this or something that’s not this”. Once we’ve successfully negotiated with Europe, we can vote “this or that”

    Remember how many of the predictions before the last vote have turned out to be wrong? Might be best to have another vouge with a better informed electorate.

  29. Quite, Dave C, we would vote for deal or no deal Brexit, either way we leave the EU as we have already had a referendum establishing that we are leaving the EU.

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