No vote shocks Europe

Independent Digital staff and wires

Ireland has voted ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty with Taoiseach Brian Cowen likely to have some explaining to do when he meets his European counterparts in Brussels next week.

With almost 12% of results declared, the 'no' side is ahead by around 54% to 46%, despite all the main political parties campaigning for a 'yes'.

The 'no' vote is in the majority in eight of the 10 constituencies to have so far reported their results.Tallies from the rest of the country also indicate that the 'no' side is ahead in most areas.

The swing towards the ‘No’ vote has taken many pundits by surprise with the euro falling to its lowest price against the dollar in over a month.

The failure of the treaty to pass a popular vote will throw the EU into doubt as the document needs to be ratified by all 27 member states in order to become law.

The people of Waterford are the latest to officially declare that they had rejected the treaty with 54 percent voting ‘No’ and 46 percent voting ‘Yes’.

Dermot Ahern has already officially conceded that the treaty has failed to impress Irish people. “It looks like this will be a 'no' vote,” he said. “At the end of the day, for a myriad of reasons, the people have spoken.”

The official result is expected later this afternoon though the current strength of the ‘No’ vote is unlikely to change the final outcome.

The unofficial result is bad news for the EU as politicians across the continent admitted there was no ‘plan B’.

“If the Irish people decide to reject the treaty of Lisbon, naturally, there will be no treaty of Lisbon,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said yesterday

Ireland is the only country to put the treaty to a popular vote. The document includes many of the reforms rejected by Dutch and French voters in 2005.

Despite the many economic benefits which Ireland has enjoyed as a result of its membership to the EU, some politicians say the recent economic downturn is to blame.

“We believe people are upset are rising costs of food, mortgages and clothing. That we believe is as much a reason for today’s result as any public apathy towards Europe,” said one government minister.

The treaty, intended to make the EU stronger and more effective, according to its supporters which included all the main political parties in Ireland.

But while Ireland ranks in surveys as one of the EU's most pro-European states, opponents have argued strongly that the treaty reduces small countries' clout and gives Brussels new foreign and defence policy powers that undermine Ireland's historic neutrality.

The treaty envisages a long-term president of the European Council of EU leaders, a stronger foreign policy chief and a mutual defence pact, and changes the rules for decision making.