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Sunday 19 November 2017

Q &A: All you need to know about the Treaty and the Referendum ...

THE debate is only starting and everyone agrees –both for and against – that this is a vital Treaty. Here’s all you need to know but didn’t have the time to ask ....

:: Why is it different?

Because on the last two occasions, when the Irish government put the Nice Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty to the will of the people, the resulting "No" votes stopped the EU in its tracks - until the Irish were offered concessions and voted "Yes" in repeat ballots.

:: And this time?

This time the referendum will not be on a Treaty change affecting the 27. It's about a separate "fiscal compact" between the 17 eurozone states. That means it doesn't need unanimous ratification in 27 countries, but only majority backing in 12 of the 17.

:: If Ireland can't block this "fiscal compact" thing, why try to hold the EU to ransom again?

It's more mundane than that: the Irish constitution more or less obliges Ireland to hold a referendum on things of this sort or face a potential legal challenge. But of course referenda have a habit of being hijacked by vested interests and delivering unwanted results.

:: Is Europe holding its breath?

Not really, because Ireland can't block this deal (please read the answer to your second question again). It should be the Irish government holding its breath, because a "No" vote would deny Ireland access to any of the increased bail-out funds enshrined in the "fiscal compact" they'd be turning down.

:: So why vote against it?

Please stop asking rational questions: this is a referendum on Europe - anything can happen and usually does. Euroscepticism stopped being just an English prerogative long ago, and the Irish, are not guaranteed to support the EU cause at the ballot box.

But, like I say, this time round, the political fall-out would more likely be in Dublin than Brussels if it's a "No".

:: That would embarrass the Taoiseach wouldn't it?

Just a bit. Enda Kenny needs this referendum like a hole in the head, but he's being brave and saying it's an opportunity for Ireland to reaffirm Ireland's commitment to eurozone membership.

:: Is he wrong?

No, he's right, but he'd also be right if he said the referendum is an opportunity for Ireland to stick two fingers up to Brussels once again, despite having done far better than most from the EU economically in the last couple of decade.

:: Will the Irish say "No"?

No, but don't quote me on that. It shouldn't be hard for the Irish government to convince voters that there's no mileage in a "No" vote this time but, as Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly put it, "it would be unhelpful if the debate was hijacked or if the issues were muddied and confused by inaccurate comments".

:: Isn't the EU debate always hijacked?

Yes, to the constant frustration of the Brussels mandarins. Because although an Irish "No" would not stop Europe in its tracks on this occasion, it would be more confirmation of flagging public support for the EU and what it stands for.

Press Association

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