Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Declan Ganley’

Oh No, Not Tony Blair, Please!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 1st October, 2009

Tony Blair 2The story was bruited in the British Press today that if the Irish vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty tomorrow, then Tony Blair’s chances of becoming the first ‘permanent’ President of the European Council will be enhanced. Is this some fiendish rumour propagated by Declan Ganley and others who want to encourage the good residents of Eire to vote No? Wherever the impetus is coming from, the pro-Blair movement must be resisted. A Blair presidency would hardly be likely to boost the EU’s international credibility or effectiveness. Just look at his record (or lack of it) when he was Prime Minister. He was swept to power in 1997 with a mandate that would have allowed him to do almost anything, including persuading the British people to vote in favour of adopting the euro and putting the United Kingdom right at the centre of the Union. But he flunked it. It’s not as if he doesn’t have enough to do already, as the (unfortunately rather unsuccessful) Quartet’s mediator in Israel/Palestine, head of his own faith foundation and money-spinner on the US lecture circuit. The last thing we want is a half-hearted, half-time Council President. It’s not as if there is any lack of competent and potentially inspiring people to choose from.

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Ireland Gets a Second Chance Referendum

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 29th September, 2009

Irish referendum posterWith just three days to go before Irish voters give their second verdict on the Lisbon Treaty in a national referendum, the polls are predicting a comfortable, if not landslide, victory for the Yes campaign. To the dismay of most of the political parties in Eire (though to the undisguised glee of UKIP and the Conservatives in Britain), the Irish voted No last year — a substantial proportion of them because they felt they didn’t know enough about the treaty. Some people, like millionaire Declan Ganley, were and still remain opposed in principle to the advancement of the European project. But many others were cajoled into voting No by being told (wrongly) that the Republic would have to allow abortion and a raft of other things which (rightly) in fact remain a matter of national, not European competence.

Irish referendum poster 2So why is a Yes vote much more likely this time? Partly it is because the other 26 member states have given Ireland a few concessions, notably guaranteeing that there will always be an Irish member of th European Commission. But mainly it is because people are better informed this time and they have been shaken by the economic and financial crisis that makes it perilous to be marginalised from the rest of Europe (a message that David Cameron and William Hague should take to heart). The Yes campaign has been much better this time, employing some strong, simple messages such as: the choice is between ruin and recovery; on October 2nd vote Yes — Put Ireland First. So despite the fact that Brian Cowen’s lacklustre government is currently deeply unpopular, and the bumptious Michael O’Leary of Ryanair has somewhat crassly offered one million free flights if there is a Yes vote, there is room for optimism that Ireland will now enable the European Union to make necessary reforms to move forward in confidence in a world in which greater European integration is needed more than ever.

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Return of the Tories’ Euro-nightmare

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 10th March, 2009

As Newsnight reported correctly tonight, it will soon be crunch time for David Cameron on Europe, as the deadline approaches for him deciding on whether to deliver on his promise to pull British Conservative MEPs out of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. Several prominent Tory MEPs, such as Christopher Beazley, are appalled by the prospect, but most of these reasonable men and women are standing down in June and will be replaced with Euro-sceptic candidates. As Cameron and William Hague both consider the EPP to be dangerously federalist, it is highly likely that the Tory Group (or most of it) will break away after the June 4 elections. But they would not be able to qualify to be a recognised group in the parliament, with all the benefits that that entails, unless they join up with colleagues from half a dozen other member states. Most of the possible partners are toe-curlingly right wing.

Meanwhile, at the election itself, the Tories will be fighting for Britain’s Euro-sceptic votes with the dwindling UKIP, the BNP and Declan Ganley’s fringe party Libertas. Will Kenneth Clarke and the few other remaining voices of reason on Europe within the Conservative party be able to stomach that? With Labour hobbled by its unwillingness to come clean on Europe, and the British Greens bizarrely isolationist, that will leave the Liberal Democrats as the only clear standard bearer for closer European co-operation in vital areas such as the economy, the environment and security/civil liberties.

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Ireland’s EU Referendum

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 4th June, 2008

A few thousand Irish voters could decide the short-term future of the European Union, when Ireland goes to the polls on 12 June in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. It is the only country in the 27-nation EU that is putting the issue to the public (because of a constitutional obligation), but a ‘no’ vote would scupper the whole EU reform process, as the Treaty has to be ratifed by all the member states. One would think that the result should be obvious, as Ireland has benefitted so much from being in the EU; from being one of Europe’s poorest countries, it is now the second richest (after Luxembourg). But things aren’t as simple as that.

At a breakfast seminar organised by Business for New Europe in the City of London this morning, Hugo Brady from the Centre for European Reform warned that the omens were worrying. Although opinion polls have shown a consistent ‘yes’ majority, that has been shrinking. The latest figures are Yes 41%, No 33%, Undecided 26%. Ominously, opinion polls ahead of the Irish referendum on the first Nice Treaty in June 2001 showed a ‘Yes’ majority, but in the event, the vote went the other way. That result was later overturned in a second referendum, but there would reportedly be no question of a second try this time if the result goes the wrong way.

As often with referenda, ‘No’ campaigners are focussing on issues which are completely irrelevant to the Lisbon Treaty, such as abortion, Ireland’s neutrality and Peter Mandelson’s performance in the WTO. The ‘No’ camp is a motley crew. The only serious political party on that side is Sinn Fein, but a mutli-millionaire businessman, Declan Ganley has organised a campaigning group called Libertas to fly the Eurosceptic flag. All the other manistream parties are in favour, as are most of the trade unions. But that doesn’t mean the ‘Yes’ side will automatically win. And with only an estimated 350,000 voters likely to go to the polls, that could mean that a few thousand people do indeed hold the EU’s short-term future in their hands.


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