EU leaders move to keep treaty alive amid fears of permanent rift

Deep cracks appeared yesterday in the efforts of European governments to put a brave face on Ireland's rejection of the European Union reform treaty.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg today – and heads of government meeting in Brussels from Thursday – will gauge whether there is any chance of keeping the treaty alive by bouncing Ireland into holding a second referendum.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who takes over the EU's presidency next month, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, nominally supported by Britain's Gordon Brown, plan to push for the ratification of the treaty by the other 26 EU nations. They hope that Ireland will then buckle under pressure and fall into line next year.

The Prime Minister has made it clear he will not postpone the approval of the treaty by the House of Lords on Wednesday although that will lead to angry protests in the Commons by Tories today. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, is calling for Parliament's approval of the treaty to be halted. But there were also signals that Mr Brown will tell EU leaders at the Brussels summit that he is prepared to see the treaty ditched rather than have a two-tier Europe.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, suggested at the weekend that the EU may have to write off its seven years' work on streamlining and strengthening European institutions. Mr Miliband described the Lisbon treaty as "an old agenda". He suggested that Britain wanted to move on to a "new agenda": tackling terrorism, climate change and economic insecurity. This implies that, despite assurances that the ratification process will continue in Britain, the Government is content to let the Lisbon treaty die. "The rules are absolutely clear," Mr Miliband said. "If all 27 countries do not pass the Lisbon Treaty then it does not pass into law."

Mr Miliband said it was up to the Irish Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, to advise other EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday if the treaty could be saved by a second referendum. "There can be no question of bulldozing or bamboozling or ignoring the Irish vote." The idea of a two-speed Europe, or a Europe of different divisions "doesn't accord with the realities today," he said.

Can the Treaty of Lisbon, formerly known as the draft European constitution, be rescued? Or will the ingenuity of all Europe's politicians and bureaucrats be unable to put the "Humpty" treaty together again?

The most immediate threat comes from the Czech Republic. The country's supreme court is to rule in the autumn whether EU reform treaty is compatible with the Czech constitution. The President, Vaclav Klaus – a Eurosceptic with no direct executive power – has called for the entire ratification process to be abandoned following the Irish vote. If the Czech Republic refuses to ratify, there could be no "gang of 26" to cajole Ireland into holding a second referendum.

Rumblings have also started about a permanent split in the EU. Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, said those countries which still believe in greater European integration should heed the message of the Irish "no" and the French and Dutch rejections of the European constitution in 2005. "Given that it is increasingly hard to get all states moving together, then probably the only thing that is left to us is a Club of the Few," Mr Juncker said. The French newspaper Le Monde also called for an "avant garde" of EU nations to push ahead alone.

The prospect of an EU "premier league" would alarm the British Government but would be hard, if not impossible, to arrange in practice. The three nations which have rejected the EU reform process are already members of the single currency "hard core". Two of them, France and the Netherlands, are founder members from 1958 and natural candidates for any "avant-garde".

In Britain, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said it was now "highly unlikely" that the treaty would be ratified in its current form. "Tactically, I can see other European leaders saying we want a multi-speed Europe and ripping it to bits. That is a bad thing. It would be better for us to complete our parliamentary homework next week". But Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, one of his predecessors, said it was a "depressing moment" that could "be the beginning of the end of the European Union as we know it".

The Lisbon Treaty was an attempt to rescue the draft constitution destroyed in 2005 by the French and the Dutch. Its supporters say it is a limited and sensible attempt to allow the EU to operate with 27, and shortly – when Croatia joins – 28 member states. National vetoes would disappear in 50, mostly technical, policy areas. A new semi-permanent European Council president would become the visible "face" of the EU and co-ordinate the thrice-yearly summits.

Opponents claim that the treaty would be a lurch towards federalism. In theory, the new rules were to take effect next year. At the very least, they have been suspended for 12 months. European commission officials say that they can limp on with the old rules but the EU would, inevitably, become weaker and less responsive to new problems, such as those listed by Mr Miliband.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research and Insight Analyst (Mathematics Graduate)

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone