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What Ireland’s rejection means for Europe
Ireland and Europe should brace for fallout.
W

hat happened
Irish voters rejected the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, the follow-up to the defeated 2005 European constitution and a big step toward a more powerful and streamlined EU government. The treaty has to be approved by all 27 EU members for it to take effect—the 26 other nations will decide the matter in their legislatures, and 18 of them have already approved it. (The New York Times, free registration) “A few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans,” said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. (International Herald Tribune)

What the commentators said
After this defeat, “the dismissive, elitist European rulers truly need to look themselves in the mirror,” said Steve Goldstein in MarketWatch. The Irish are not “Europhobes” like the British—and neither are the French or Dutch, who rejected the 2005 constitution. Some of the Lisbon Treaty’s goals are good, but the Irish rightly saw the whole unwieldy pact as a move by “unelected, out-of-touch elitists” in Brussels “to snatch power from them.”

This says more about the self-defeating Irish than it does about the treaty, said Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times. Ireland is “one of the EU’s great success stories,” but now its “shocking” no vote could send it “back to the economic Dark Ages.” See, Europe’s leaders have a Plan B: “hardball.” If Ireland doesn’t hold, and pass, a second referendum on the treaty, France and Germany will find a way to freeze it, and its foreign investment, out of the EU.

The consequences of the vote “will not be pretty,” said The Irish Independent in an editorial, but it’s foolish to say the misgivings are specific to Ireland. The treaty is “hideously long” and complex, and no one bothered to explain it to the electorate. At the base of it, the Irish, like many other European populations, “do not wish to confer power, whose extent they do not know, on institutions they do not trust.”

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