Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Irish EU vote plan 'undemocratic'

William Hague
Mr Hague warned against pushing the treaty "down people's throats"

The Irish government's aim of holding a second referendum on the EU treaty - which the country has already rejected - is undemocratic, the Tories said.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the EU was in danger of seeming "unaccountable" and "out of touch".

An Irish government spokesman earlier said a second referendum could happen if there were legally binding guarantees about people's concerns.

The Tories say UK voters should also get a vote on the EU treaty.

The document, which needs the backing of all 27 EU members, was ratified by the UK Parliament earlier this year.

But its future was thrown into doubt when Irish voters rejected it in June.

'Dangerous distraction'

On Thursday, an Irish government spokesman said there would be negotiations at the current EU summit in Brussels.

He added that there had to be guarantees over the country's law on abortion, its military neutrality and the independence of its taxation policy.


Sarkozy looks like a man who likes nothing better than being at the centre of a crisis, unless it's being at the centre of four of them at once
BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell

Mr Hague said EU leaders should instead use the summit to focus on the economy, climate change and energy.

He added: "Trying to force the Lisbon Treaty down the Irish people's throats again is not only a dangerous distraction from that agenda; it is profoundly undemocratic."

The EU was in danger of being seen as "increasingly unaccountable and out of touch".

Mr Hague said: "If our unelected prime minister insists on forcing the Irish people to vote twice, the case for letting the British people vote once will be morally unanswerable."

The mechanism for a second referendum is included in draft conclusions which are being presented by the current holders of the EU presidency, France, and which have been seen by the BBC.

According to the draft, the Irish government says "it is committed to seeking ratification" of the Lisbon Treaty by next October.

The treaty is aimed at streamlining decision-making in the enlarged 27-nation EU.

HAVE YOUR SAY
This whole episode makes a mockery of the political process. With 27 member states there cannot be a one size fits all approach to everything.
Bert Trautmann, UK

Its rejection by Irish voters has held up its ratification in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Critics see the treaty as further evidence of a federalist, pro-integration agenda at work in the EU.

Even some of its architects say it is just a modified version of the defunct EU constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005 and on which all three main UK parties had offered a referendum.

'Reactionary'

Meanwhile, Declan Ganley, who oversaw the successful "no" campaign against the treaty in Ireland, has set up a party called Libertas, which will compete for seats in all EU states in next year's European Parliament elections.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One he was campaigning against an "undemocratic Brussels" model.

But Mr Ganley added that he did not want an end to the EU, accusing the UK Independence Party and others pushing for withdrawal as "reactionary".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "I'm a little surprised that Libertas want to stand in the UK as their policy seems almost the same as David Cameron's Conservatives'.

"They [Libertas] just want some change and reform within the union. I cannot see, given that UKIP is committed to the UK being an independent country, that we have anything in common at all."

The conclusions of the EU summit are expected to be published on Friday.

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