The Myths of the "No Side"

I was out canvassing again on Friday after work and I again I am amazed at the number of people who are falling for the number of myths being propagated by the No side. I have also been approached a lot in social situations to what way I am voting and that as people know I am involved in politics, and again a lot of myths prop up in this and it is a lot easier to correct them in a social environment them when canvassing. Here are some I have come up against with the reality

1. The Treaty will Raise Taxes

Contrary to what some would have us believe, the Reform Treaty does not provide a mechanism that will force Ireland to abandon its unique tax regime. This Treaty does not bring tax policy within the competence of the EU. This Treaty clarifies what areas the EU can legislate on, and tax is not one of them. Ireland retains control of its own tax policy and its own tax rates.

Under the new Treaty we will retain our veto on an EU-wide tax. There is no reference in the Treaty to a common tax policy whatsoever. The No side are deliberately misleading the public, alleging that the Reform Treaty will undermine our corporate tax rate of 12.5%. This is simply untrue. Ireland’s veto on tax harmonisation is a sound legal instrument that cannot be lost unless our Government were to take a considered decision to do away with it. This is unlikely.

A Commission proposal for a “Common Co-ordinated Corporation Tax Base” is under discussion. The objective of this is to provide that, for the purposes of taxation, all Member States would use a common system of defining the tax base, but not the rates of tax. A number of Member States, including Ireland, have already made it clear that they will not agree to this. This proposal will not succeed.

2. A European Super-State is Planned

There is no evidence on reading this Treaty that a super-state is being created. Rather it is a sensible adjustment and improvement to how the current EU institutions work, aimed at making the EU function better now that it has 27 Member States, as opposed to the 15 Members which comprised the EU 5 years ago.

It has been stated by No campaigners that the Treaty is a grab for power by Brussels at the expense of Member States such as Ireland. They claim that the EU is taking control of more and more policy areas. In fact the opposite is the case. For the first time the Treaty sets out exactly what the EU has responsibility for and limits the EU to those areas. Where the EU has no responsibility, it cannot interfere. Thus for the first time ever, this Treaty sets out very clearly the areas where Member States such as Ireland are to share power with the EU and in all other areas the EU cannot interfere. This is a progressive step.

3. It’s the Last Time we Will be Consulted with a Referendum

This is a myth being propagated by the No side. Some opponents claim that this is a “self-amending Treaty”. This is utterly untrue. Ireland must, by virtue of its constitution, consult the people by means of a referendum when ratifying any Treaty. The Reform Treaty does not, in any way, fetter this obligation. The Treaty does provide for a simplified amending process for future Treaties but states categorically in the revised Article 33: “The amendments shall enter force after being ratified by all the member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.” In other words, no changes can take place unless there is a referendum in Ireland, which is the usual procedure. Thus the myth that there will be no further referenda can by exposed for what it is.

4. Immigration Will Be Rife

The myth is also being put out that this Referendum will lead to mass immigration to Ireland, putting huge pressure on our employment levels as well as on our social welfare system. Again this is nonsense. Ireland, when signing up to the Treaty of Rome in 1973 agreed to the Free Movement of Workers, a principle that is a cornerstone of the EU. It has allowed Irish people to live and work all over Europe and has provided us with Latvian, German, Polish, French and other workers in this country. This has been good for Irish people and good for our economy. Immigrants from other Member States come to Ireland because there are job opportunities. If there were none, they would not come. The Reform Treaty adds absolutely NOTHING new in relation to EU immigrants coming into this country. We can guarantee that NOT ONE additional immigrant will enter this country as a result of this Treaty. It is a phoney argument created by scaremongers.

5. The EU Will Start to Cost Us Money

We have received billions of euros from Brussels over the years, and thanks to our membership we enjoyed an astonishing rate of economic development. We will continue to receive EU funding, through CAP. We will in future receive less in terms of EU Cohesion Funds than we have up to now, simply because the aid we received up to now has been successfully used by Irish people to expand our economy: its purpose has been achieved and it is now our turn to support others as we have been supported.

Membership of the EU continues to provide us with huge financial benefits. It is not just about the direct payments or the contributions to the NDP. The biggest financial gains are the indirect ones – the markets and opportunities provided by the internal market have given us more and will continue to give us more than we ever received in direct grants.

6. This is Just an EU Constitution by Another Name

Yes, this is similar to the EU Constitution. But what have been removed are those elements that made that document a “constitution” rather than a Treaty, those elements that certain member-states were uncomfortable with, such as giving status to the EU flag. We should vote on the substantive issues, not on words such as Treaty and Constitution – the EU as a project is unprecedented, and so labels like Treaty and Constitution really don’t do justice to the unique institutional arrangements that these 27 countries have put in place.

Nothing is being foisted on anyone. We are debating this right now, which goes to show that there is a healthy open, public, democratic debate being held concerning the Treaty. It is ironic that spokespeople for the various “no” campaigns are all over the radio and other media telling us that there is no debate, that this Treaty is being sneaked through. In fact, it has been the subject of public debate and media comment since the Convention on the Future of Europe was first set up.

7. Other Countries are not having Referenda, so we should Vote No

We do not get to tell other countries, other nations, how they go about ratifying Treaties, whether they are EU Treaties or any other international Treaty. Even the most committed federalist would agree that how other countries decide on whether they sign up or not cannot be dictated by Brussels or by any other member state. No member state gets to tell any other member state what means they should use for ratification. That is basic international law, and basic common sense.

All of these other Member States are fully functioning democracies – the governments are accountable through the parliament. Just because they don’t have a referendum doesn’t make them undemocratic. Their governments are elected by the people and accountable to the people. The notion that our process of ratification is somehow more democratic than parliamentary ratification in a representative democracy is misguided arrogance. Referenda themselves are even unconstitutional in some other EU countries.

If you really have the interests of other Europeans at heart, you should support this Treaty.

8. The Treaty is Bad for Farmers

One point that is being mischievously propagated by the NO Campaigners is that this Treaty will cause hardship for farmers and will diminish the role of rural communities. Again this is a non-issue. This Treaty has absolutely NO impact on the Common Agricultural Policy, other than in one way, which we believe to be a positive one. Article 36 of the Reform Treaty, amending the Treaty of Rome, will change the way in which voting takes place in relation to agriculture and the fisheries.
For the first time, the directly elected European Parliament, as well as the Council of Agriculture Ministers, will vote on issues relating to agriculture. This will be of huge benefit to Irish farmers, as their MEPs will have a direct say. For the first time you will be in a position to lobby and influence your MEPs on matters of agricultural policy, not simply the Minister for Agriculture. In Irish terms, rather than depending on Minister Mary Coughlan to argue your corner, you will now have Mairead McGuinness and Avril Doyle, both members of the European Parliament’s agricultural committee, influencing the direction of EU agricultural policy. We believe this is a step forward. Both the ICMSA and the IFA are supporting the treaty so it cannot be bad for farmers.

9. It will lead to the Introduction of Abortion and Stem Cell Research

The opposite is the case. For the first time, the competences of the Union are set out in the Treaty. Health policy is strictly deemed to be a competence of each Member State and not a competence of the Union. Therefore abortion and such issues are clearly recognised as issues not within the scope of the EU.

Anti-European campaigners try to terrify us by claiming that abortion and stem cell research will be foisted upon us. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can say clearly, that for the first time EVER, the Treaty sets out, and defines exactly the areas in which the EU can have a say. These areas include competition regulation, commercial policy, transport, agriculture and so on. Nowhere in this or any other Treaty does the EU claim any right to legislate on domestic social issues. This Treaty sets this out in a clearer fashion than any other Treaty. Therefore our own social and moral issues are afforded greater protection by this Treaty than any other. We should be glad of this.

10. We will be Forced to join a European Army

This is untrue. The new arrangements for cooperation in the areas of security and defence fully respect the neutral position of Ireland and other Member States. Ireland will not be subject to a mutual defence clause. European military activity is directed at peacekeeping and crisis intervention. Participation is at the option of each Member State, not obligatory. While we have and will continue to participate in peace keeping missions we do so on a case by case basis and subject to our Triple Lock principle – requiring the support of Government, Parliament and a United Nations mandate.

“NO” campaigners have been forecasting the end of Irish neutrality for 36 years: they have always been wrong and still are.

I remember the posters for the referendum on Amsterdam claiming the “End of Neutrality”. the posters are still there.

11. Vote No to Punish the Government

Many people want to vote No to punish the Government. We are all fed up with our creaking health service, our inadequate education system and the gross mismanagement of the economy. However, we must hold fire. Your chance will come to punish the FF cowboys in the Local and European elections in 2009. Punish them where it hurts – in an election that judges their public representatives and their policies on their diabolical record in Government. Punish the Government in the elections in 2009. Don’t punish yourselves and our country in the Referendum. Hold your fire and do the right thing in the Referendum on the Reform Treaty – Vote Yes.

12. Privatisation of Health and Education
This one is thanks to Cork City Councillor, Mick Barry of the Socialist Party

The Treaty sets out the competences of the and states in what way it can act. “education, youth, sport and vocational training” come under the heading of a “Supporting competence” which means the “Union can carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement Member States’ actions.” which means it cannot lead to privatisation.

Health remains a national competence and so anything in relation to privatisation of Health Services remains with our nationally elected Government.

13. The State can take away your Children.
My sister was told this one at our door! She of course did not believe the No Campaigner

This one is beyond belief, Social Policy is only a shared competence as defined by the treaty which are not substantial changed by the Treaty of Lisbon which will add the following to the definition

“In defining and implementing its policies and actions, the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health.” and “In defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall aim to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”. Nothing there about taking children away. Again that remains a national competence and if it comes in, it will be by our National Government and not the EU.

Some of these are taken from Heart-Of-Europe, but I have come up against them all and more!

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

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