How an Irish observer warned in 2013 how the pro-EU elite would seek to block Brexit

How an Irish observer warned in 2013 how the pro-EU elite would seek to block Brexit

In November 2013, Robert Oulds of the Bruges Group invited me to speak at a conference in London. He asked me because I had been for some years accredited as a journalist to the EU institutions in Brussels, writing in particular the Brussels Blog for the Mail Online.

More, being Irish, I had particular experience in the matter of EU referendums. Ireland had just finished some years which became known as “the never-endums.” I’d been in the middle of it all. I had some warnings for Britain. And Britain should have listened.

What is going on now, in the Commons and at the European Commission, is a movie I’ve sat through before, twice. I know how it ends.

The never-endums in Ireland began in June 2001, when the Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty – that’s the treaty which readied the EU for new member states from Eastern Europe. Ireland’s Constitution required a vote. The Irish voters recognised that the treaty marginalised the power of smaller states. They voted No.

The shock was fierce in Brussels, and Irish politicians, to their shame, went to the European Council to make apologies for their own people. The Irish were forced to vote again. The firepower and Project Fear of the political parties, and some gestures and garnishes from the EU, made sure this time the people gave the right answer.

Then, in June 2008, there was another referendum, this one on the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish were the only people in the EU to be allowed a vote, and they voted No by 53.4% to 46.6%. That was a larger margin than Leave won in the British 2016 referendum.

Brian Cowen was then the Irish Prime Minister. I had to watch him at the European Council, shivering like a whipped spaniel, promising he would reverse the vote if only the EU would give him something, anything, he could take home and present as a concession.

The EU finally promised to tack on a few paragraphs to a future accession treaty with Croatia that only repeated what was already in the European treaties – that Ireland could be neutral, that abortion was Ireland’s business and that powers of direct taxation remained with member states.

None of that had anything to do with what was in the Lisbon Treaty. But it was enough. In October 2009, in a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, held as the terrifying Irish property and bank crash was underway, the Irish voted Yes. The vote allowed the treaty to come into force across the EU.

My patriotism has never fully recovered from the humiliation.

And now I am out of the Press Corps and working as Head of Communications for Steven Woolfe, an independent Brexiteer member of the European Parliament. My life is soaked in all the Brexit manoeuvrings of May and the rest. I’m back at the movies. Spoiler alert.

In that speech I delivered in 2013, I gave details of how the Irish voters were betrayed by their own government. I had hoped that, since there were a handful of Tory political heavies in the audience, the warning might get through.

It didn’t. But to the Conservatives in particular I know, I say: don’t say you weren’t warned.

What follows is an edited version of that speech from 2013.

I have spent the past several years in Brussels, covering the EU institutions. I’m back in Britain now, which is where I ought to be, since this fight on the future of the EU is shifting to Britain. I understand most of you believe that, if you get an In/Out referendum, and the Out vote wins, then – hurrah! – free at last. You’ve won.

Don’t kid yourselves. This is where I stop speaking as someone from Brussels and start speaking as someone from Ireland. You need to remember that in the EU, a Yes vote is forever. A No vote is only ever temporary. Trust me on this one, I’m Irish. I know. The EU has forced the Irish through this more than once. Therefore, it is naïve for any of you to think that, if you get a vote in a referendum to leave the EU, then that is the battle won. It is not. It is just the end of the phony war.

What I am here to tell you today is that what was done to the Irish after they voted No to the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 will be done to the British if they vote No to the EU in 2016. I’m going to give you details of how the Irish government and the EU elite worked together to overturn the democratic Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. What they did to the Irish, a Conservative government and the EU elite will do to the British.

Here is what to expect. If you want to get your country out of the EU, you’d better come up with a strategy to overcome this. First, of course, to overturn a referendum result, there must be in place a national government willing to collaborate with the EU elite. I have seen no sign in Brussels that the elite are in any way worried over Cameron’s talk of a referendum. The EU elite know that Cameron is one of them. He is a collaborator. Ireland had the same sort of EU collaborator in the former Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who was leader of the Irish government at the time of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

I hope you will see from what I am about to tell you that for the sake of your country, you must work to make sure the Tories, if they are still led by Cameron, do not win the next election. A referendum under a Cameron majority government would be worse than no referendum at all. Here is why.

Imagine the Out side, your side, wins the referendum. Imagine what happens after the result is announced. Cameron will face the banks of cameras outside Number 10 and say that the people have spoken and now his government will respect them, will listen to them, will ‘understand’ the referendum result. A day later Cameron will face the journalists again and adjust his phrasing slightly. He will say that his government must learn what the British really meant by their Out vote. Not that his government must obey the vote, no, must understand the vote.

A few weeks ago, I was in the European Parliament and asked Nigel Farage about this danger. He is aware of it. He said that “what we need is a big No. To win, they need only a small Yes, we need a big No. Otherwise the government might choose to interpret the vote.” I think Farage is being too trusting if he imagines a government attempt to interpret the vote will only occur if the Out majority is narrow. I forecast it will happen no matter how large the margin. The Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty by a vote of 53.4% against, 46.6% in favour. The EU still told their collaborators in the Irish government it had to be overturned.

So, I’d say that even if your Out vote achieves a margin such as that, I’d forecast your Prime Minister, following the pattern the EU set for the Irish, will announce he must consider what the vote ‘really means.’ And you can stand outside Downing Street all you want and scream ‘What it means is that we want out of the EU!’ but a Cameron government will only say that they understand that this is ‘an emotional issue’ for you.

Meanwhile a statement will come from the President of the European Commission saying the Commission respects the democratic decision of the British people. And meanwhile the UK Permanent Representative, whoever he is in 2016, will be around at the Commission to explain just how the Foreign Office will get the colleagues – because in Brussels they are all colleagues – out of this one.

Then after careful consideration – what one Irish politician called “mature reflection” – Cameron will say he now understands what you, the British people, were saying by voting Out: he will say you are angry that the EU has not been reformed. He will say that the Out vote was really a protest vote, because – and here comes the cliché – referendum votes are rarely about the question on the ballot paper.

If you were Irish, you would know the rest. The Cameron government will commission an opinion poll to find out what the British people ‘really ’meant by their vote. Yes, the government will use taxpayers’ money to pay a polling company to find out what the taxpayers meant when they voted to get Out of the EU. Which is itself outrageous. But the Irish government did exactly that. The Government in effect said to their own electorate: ‘You are far too stupid or reckless to be trusted with a ballot paper.’ Which is of course the attitude of the EU elite to voters, why they are squeezing democracy out of every part of the EU. But that is another issue. 

The Irish government commissioned a poll after the Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty. The Cowen Government said they wanted to find out the “real reason” the Irish people voted No to Lisbon. It was all of course just a way to find an excuse to run the referendum again.

While this fraud, this collaboration between quislings in Dublin and the EU elite continued, the people, the voters, stood by powerless. As will you. The British people can expect the same kind of fraud if they succeed in voting to leave the EU. They will be patronised, and frightened, by government insistence that they did not know what they were doing.

They – you – will be told in effect that the British voters are too dense, too uneducated about the EU, too much under the influence of what the EU denounces as ‘dangerous nationalism’ to understand the implications of their own vote. Cameron will announce he understands your Out vote, understand what it really means.

The EU institutions will make assurances about this being a matter for the British alone, but will also make statements meant to frighten the British people about the danger of leaving the EU. Then the Cameron Government will identify – by way of a taxpayer-funded opinion poll – two or three allegedly key issues as the reasons Britain voted to get out.

Brussels will reply with some statement which Cameron will accept as an assurance that the worries on these two or three issues can be ‘addressed’ by an EU elite he will call ‘our European partners.’ ‘Addressed’, of course, is a word of no particular meaning.

But you will not go to the polling booths a second time as the Irish did.

Unlike in Ireland, a referendum here cannot override Parliament. To have a referendum vote ignored, all that is necessary is for Labour opposition, the Lib Dems or what’s left of them, and the euro-loving wing of the Tories to vote with the Cameron to overturn the referendum vote.

And there will be nothing the voters who delivered a majority Out vote will be able to do about it. Which is why it would be better for you to wait until the Conservative Party has a leader who is actually a Conservative, and go for a referendum then. At least then there will be a chance of Out meaning Out.

So that is what I have to say to you, drawing on the Irish experience of how a quisling government and an anti-democratic EU elite can overturn a referendum result.

What you can do about it – well, that is up to you. You can either be disgraced as a nation, or you can fight. Good luck.