Leaders urged to abandon EU reform treaty
EUROPE'S political leaders were facing calls to abandon the controversial Lisbon reform treaty last night, after it was comprehensively rejected by Irish voters.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband joined other EU leaders to declare he would carry on with the process of implementing the treaty – the successor to the abandoned constitution – despite the Irish vote.
But with the treaty requiring the ratification of all 27 member states, there was no clear idea how they could move forward. Attention will now turn to an EU summit in Brussels this week when the continent's leaders will attempt to pick over the mess.
Irish prime minister Brian Cowen, who led the Yes campaign, made it clear there would be no second referendum – as has happened in Ireland in the past – to try to reverse the result. "That doesn't arise today because the people have just spoken," he said.
"My focus is on respecting the decision they have made. It is now my job to discuss with my European colleagues how we will proceed in the light of this decision."
Conservative leader David Cameron said it was time to ditch the treaty. It should now be "declared dead".
But there were signs of defiance last night from Brussels, with the European Commission president, Jos Manuel Barroso, insisting that the treaty was not dead.
"I believe that we should not rush to conclusions," he said. "I believe that the treaty is alive and we should now try to find a solution."
Yesterday, Miliband said the Irish government needed time to consider its next step.
"It is a result that needs to be respected and digested," he said.
However, he said the Government would push on with the treaty ratification bill currently going through its final parliamentary stages.
"I think it is right that we follow the view that each country must see the ratification process to a conclusion," he said.
Cameron said it was time to accept that the reform plan was over.
It would be the "height of arrogance" for Gordon Brown to continue the ratification process in Britain.
"By all rights now it should be declared dead," he said. "The French said no to it, the Dutch said no to it, then it was brought back and the only people who have been given a chance to pass judgment on it, the Irish, have now said no to it.
"The elites in Brussels have got to listen to people in Europe who do not want endless powers being passed from nation states to Brussels. They do not want these endless constitutions and treaties."
Across the EU, the result was seen as a huge setback for the long-running attempts to reform the organisation's unwieldy decision-making processes.
Critics said that the treaty – which would have created an elected EU president and an EU foreign minister while cutting back the number of national vetoes – gave too much power to Brussels.
EU leaders had hoped to avoid a repeat of the 2005 referendums in France and the Netherlands which scuppered the original constitution.
What happens to the treaty now?
So far 18 member states have approved it and European Commission president Jos Manuel Barroso wants the remainder to do so.
What happens if the treaty is not ratified by all 27 states?
A delay would mean the Nice Treaty remaining in force. Eurosceptics are likely to intensify the pressure on the EU to scrap the treaty.
What did the Yes camp say about the treaty?
Supporters pointed to the economic benefits Ireland has enjoyed from its EU membership, including Brussels subsidies and immigration from new member states.
What was the No camp's argument?
Opponents argued that it would weaken Ireland's voice in Europe.
Why is Ireland the only EU member to hold a referendum?
Under Irish law, any amendment to EU treaties requires an amendment to the Irish constitution – and all constitutional amendments require approval by referendum.
Leader: Time for European rethink
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