The Irish Government must now decide whether it wants to read the “last rites” over the EU’s controversial Lisbon Treaty, UK foreign secretary David Miliband said today.
Miliband said that there could be no question of “bulldozing or bamboozling” the Irish into overturning the results of last week’s referendum decisively rejecting the treaty.
He said that Europe’s leaders, who meet later this week to decide how to deal with fall-out from the referendum result, may have to accept that the treaty cannot be implemented and that they will have to carry on under the existing rules.
“That is certainly one option,” he told BBC1’s 'The Andrew Marr Show'. “It is a bit messy at the moment, but let’s work our way through it.”
His comments are likely to be seen as a clear indication that Britain would be prepared to let the treaty – which he described as Europe’s “old agenda” - fall.
While the British government intends to push ahead with the Bill to ratify the treaty in Britain, Miliband emphasised that it could not be implemented unless it was ratified by all 27 member states.
“The rules are absolutely clear. If all 27 countries do not pass the Lisbon Treaty then it does not pass into law,” he said.
He said that the next step had to be for Taoiseach Brian Cowen to say how he wanted to proceed and – if he chose – to kill off the treaty.
“There can be no question of bulldozing or bamboozling or ignoring the Irish vote,” he said.
“In the end it is for the Irish prime minister to decide what his next moves are. He has got to decide whether or not to apply the last rites. That his prerogative.”
Mr Miliband flatly rejected the idea – promoted by some politicians in France and Germany – of a “two-speed Europe” with some nations pressing ahead with the treaty reforms leaving others, like Ireland, behind.
“I don’t think a two-speed Europe is on. It was a 1990s agenda, not a 21st Century agenda,” he said.
“The idea of a first division Europe, a second division Europe, a third division Europe doesn’t accord with the realities today.”
Mr Miliband pointedly referred to the institutional reforms of the Lisbon Treaty as Europe’s “old agenda”.
He said that Britain now wanted to concentrate on the “new agenda” tackling the new sources of insecurity – terrorism, climate change and economic insecurity.