Irish people have already started casting their votes in the all important Referendum on the European Fiscal Compact this morning as the continent sways from crisis to crisis. The treaty is supposed to shore up the Union’s single currency by putting limits on the powers of fiscal policy among the member states. Many are skeptical of the efficacy of the treaty in its current form.
There are two main schools of argument against the legislation. The first is that the treaty saps sovereignty from the member states and enhances austerity that will lock the continent in economic depression for years. The second is that is doesn’t do enough to save the Union from its troubles.
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The treaty is offered by proponents in Ireland as a path on which to return to the stability and prosperity that was lost in the 2008 financial crisis.
Ireland is the only country that is required to vote on the legislation. The other member states can pass it through their legislatures, but Ireland, as past European treaties have shown, has a constitutional obligation to bring European treaties to the people before allowing it through. The treaty must be ratified by all member states before the 31st of December 2012.
Opinion polls in the country suggest that the treaty will pass the Irish vote. A poll by the Sunday Times found that 45% intend to vote Yes 30% intend to vote No and 30% were undecided as of the end of last week.
A separate poll from the Sunday Independent found that if undecided votes are excluded Yes is in a clear lead with 60% compared to No with 40%. Ireland is however famed for its protest votes on European treaties. More than once the country’s people have changed their consensus when offered the same treaty a second time.
The vote is the first real challenge faced by the Fiscal Compact since it was agreed upon. Other problems exist however. The new French President, Francois Hollande, promised during his campaign to renegotiate the text while Greece, which has already ratified the treaty, presents its own problems if a dissenting government is formed after next month’s elections.
Polls will close today at 10pm local time, 5 pm EST. There should be clear indication over the weekend about which way the vote has gone. A No will mean renewed crisis in Europe. A Yes will mean substantially very little outside of Ireland.