BRITISH Euro-sceptics are “hoping and praying” for a rejection of the Lisbon Treaty which would allow them to push Ireland to the margins of the EU, it was claimed yesterday.
The North’s SDLP party said the combination of a No vote by the Irish public and the Tories getting into power in Britain after next year’s election, would be “an absolute disaster for the North” and “cost Ireland dearly”.
Party leader Mark Durkan travelled to Dublin yesterday to support the campaign for a Yes vote.
“An Irish red light to Lisbon now could turn into a green light for a Tory wrecking ball in Europe,” he told a press conference.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern added that it “defies logic” that anyone claiming to be a nationalist, or espousing a 32-county Ireland, would want a No vote, making reference to the Sinn Féin campaign for a rejection of Lisbon.
“The one thing that the EU has done for this island is that it has made us sit as an equal partner with the British government and it has solved a lot of issues on this island,” he said.
Mr Durkan said that in the House of Commons, where he holds a seat, “we saw the Tory Euro-sceptics — no friends of Ireland or Irish interests — grinning like horses chewing thistles after the last referendum result.”
He added: “They are just hoping and praying for the same this time.”
The stakes are much higher in next Friday’s referendum than the one held last year because, he claimed, “the big danger of a second No vote is that these people might be in government in England soon”.
Mr Durkan said: “Lisbon, if it is thwarted by Irish votes, could play onside the most aggressively Euro-sceptic government in living memory.”
He said it was a “dangerous delusion” for No campaigners to think that a second rejection would be followed by a re-negotiation to secure improvements for Ireland.
“The danger of a Tory government in London could mean that very soon, any negotiations that there might be, will not be about improving anything, and will have nothing to do with any Irish concerns.”
“They would use the impasse created by another No vote, not just to resist further advances in Europe, but to roll things back.”
The Tory’s “destructive approach” would mean a number of changes in how the EU does its business, including the handling of its budget, which would not be to Ireland’s advantage.
“A No vote is not a vote for the status quo,” said Mr Durkan.
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