European Union officials, Euro-MPs and high-level diplomatic contacts are stepping up the pressure on an increasingly isolated Ireland to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Brian Cowen, Ireland’s Prime Minister, must explain to a summit of Europe’s leaders next Wednesday how he is planning to resuscitate the EU Treaty, which was rejected by Irish voters in June.
While the final decision will be taken in December, Mr Cowen will hear demands from France and Germany that a second referendum take place as early as March 2009, before European elections.
Brussels diplomats have warned Ireland that it is isolated after angering other EU countries, such as Britain, by taking controversial financial crisis measures that benefited Irish banks while “dumping on others”.
“The economy might be going into freefall and the Irish really did not help things. Sympathy for their difficulties is running out,” said a diplomat.
According to informal briefing notes circulating in Brussels, EU officials are already in the advanced planning stages for a second vote to be held in Ireland in either Spring or Autumn next year.
One document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, cites Irish sources predicting that Ireland will be offered an “opt-out” on EU defence and security cooperation alongside plans to ratify parts of the Treaty in the country’s parliament.
A second vote would then be held on “sensitive” aspects of the EU Treaty with “diverse declarations” presented as major concessions to Irish concerns.
Another text even suggests the slogan “if you don’t know, learn!” as the basis for a propaganda blitz targeting, what EU officials regard as, a “lack of understanding” among Irish voters.
“We need to change minds by dramatising how serious the consequences of another No will be for Ireland,” said one official.
Irish sources have said the campaign will be posed as “put up or shut up” with voters being given the stark choice between the Treaty and membership of the EU.
Margot Wallstrom, European Commission Vice-President responsible for “communicating” the EU, is planning to set up a “rebuttal function” to tackle “misinformation” from No campaigners.
“We cannot treat the Irish ‘no’ as merely a national issue or only a Treaty ratification problem,” she wrote in an internal memorandum.
“The difficulties encountered in explaining to citizens the rationale of the Lisbon Treaty and in clarifying that the EU needs to be equipped for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges are difficulties which we encounter across the Union.”