European Union facing internal 'battle' over vaccines says MEP
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At the end of December, Britain and the EU sealed a post-Brexit trade agreement after nine months of fraught negotiations. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen clinched the deal on Christmas Eve, haggling over fishing rights. The mood in Brussels was sober, with Ms von der Leyen saying one of her main feelings was “relief” that “we can finally put Brexit behind us”.
Back in Downing Street, Mr Johnson was upbeat as he declared Britain had secured its negotiating objectives.
While it was a huge triumph for the Prime Minister, who won a thumping majority in the 2019 general election with the promise “to get Brexit done”, Britain’s departure has without a doubt dealt a parting blow to the EU, which is experiencing a new rise in euroscepticism.
The current pandemic, lockdown measures and the EU’s sluggish start of its vaccine rollout programme seem to be exacerbating divisive trends in Europe.
Italy has the lowest support for the EU out of Europe’s four biggest economies.
A recent Euronews poll found that 45 percent of respondents were in favour of Italy leaving the EU if Brexit is successful.
France was next at 38 percent, followed by Spain at 37 percent and Germany at 30 percent.
As many wonder whether the bloc will be able to survive, unearthed reports reveal how former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing claimed that referendums on matters regarding the bloc should be ignored.
At the June 2004 European Council meeting, the governments of the then-25 EU member states signed a constitutional treaty for the bloc.
France and the Netherlands held a referendum on the issue in 2005, but it was widely rejected and the “EU Constitution” was never ratified.
However, in 2009, the EU agreed to the Lisbon Treaty which, according to analysis at the time by London think tank Open Europe, had 96 percent of the text included in the Constitutional Treaty.
The only country that put the Lisbon Treaty to a popular referendum was Ireland and, in June 2008, the Irish people rejected it.
In 2009, Mr Giscard d’Estaing, who drafted the old constitution, told the Irish Times that Ireland’s referendum rejection would have not killed the Treaty, despite a legal requirement of unanimity from all the EU’s 27 member states.
He said: “We are evolving towards majority voting because if we stay with unanimity, we will do nothing.
“It is impossible to function by unanimity with 27 members. This time it’s Ireland; the next time it will be somebody else.
“Ireland is one percent of the EU”.
Mr Giscard d’Estaing also admitted that, unlike his original Constitutional Treaty, the Lisbon EU Treaty had been carefully crafted to confuse the public.
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He said: “What was done in the [Lisbon] Treaty, and deliberately, was to mix everything up.
“If you look for the passages on institutions, they’re in different places, on different pages.
“Someone who wanted to understand how the thing worked could with the Constitutional Treaty, but not with this one.”
The former French politician, who served as President of France from 1974 to 1981, believed “there was no alternative” to a second Irish vote, a view shared by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President.
Václav Klaus, the former Czech President continued to insist that the Lisbon Treaty “could not come into force” after the Irish vote, instead.
He told El Pais newspaper at the time: “The EU cannot ignore its own rules. The Lisbon Treaty has been roundly and democratically rejected by Ireland, and it therefore cannot come into force.
“Any attempt to ignore this fact and make recourse to pressure and political manipulation to move the treaty forward would have disastrous consequences.”
Mark François, former Conservative spokesman on Europe, also insisted that it was time that European politicians started to respect the Irish No vote.
He said: “The Irish people gave an emphatic No to the Treaty of Lisbon on a record turnout and it would be good for politicians of all countries to respect this democratic decision.”
“The point is particularly clear to us here in Britain as the Irish were fortunate to be given a referendum which we were denied by our Government.”
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Despite some opposition, the majority of EU leaders, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, called for a “period of reflection,” and the Lisbon Treaty passed following another referendum in Ireland in October 2009.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Frexit campaigner Charles-Henri Gallois criticised Brussels for the way it deals with referendums and general elections.
He said: “Theresa May was a Remainer, so she was not negotiating to leave.
“What she came up with was a bad agreement and those were bad negotiations.
“The losers didn’t want to accept the fact they lost. Simple as that.”
Mr Gallois added: “We have seen in the EU how this is always the case.
“It was the same in France in 2005.
“We voted against the European Constitution but they ignored our vote.
“They simply rebranded it the Lisbon Treaty.
“The EU doesn’t accept the result of elections if they don’t go the way they want them to go.”
Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage famously claimed that was the moment he lost faith in the European Union and started to despise it.
Speaking on his LBC show, Mr Farage said: “In 2005, the European Union had produced its own constitution.
“The first proper blueprint – the first genuine admission that what they were building wasn’t a free trade zone, it was a state and they put it to referendums.
“The French rejected it, the Dutch rejected it and many other people, had they had the chance, would have rejected it.
“And what did the EU do? Did they learn the lesson? Did they say ‘Oh well obviously people don’t want a state with a flag, an anthem and an army.’ Did they row back? No, they rebranded it as the Lisbon Treaty.
“They forced it through without giving the French and Dutch another option. The Irish voted against it but were forced to vote again.
“From that moment, I have been an enemy of the entire project.”
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