The Irish vote 'Yes'
The Irish have voted "Yes" to the Lisbon Treaty at the second attempt. The Irish government has said it looks like a convincing win. It was a view echoed by the leading campaigner for a "No" vote, Declan Ganley. He said "of course I am disappointed but this is a convincing win".
The scale of the expected victory is important to Brussels. If the win had been "narrow" it would have allowed those who are against the treaty to say that once again a significant number of voters had indicated a lack of faith in where the EU was heading. There will be huge relief in Brussels and most European capitals. A significant hurdle on the road to adopting new rules to run the EU has been crossed.
Attention immediately will switch to the two remaining countries that have not signed the treaty. Poland is expected to move very quickly and could even ratify it over the next few days. The remaining stumbling block is the Czech Republic. A complaint has been filed with the Czech Constitutional Court that the treaty violates their constitution because it lays the foundation for a superstate. Some say the court will rule on the complaint within three weeks. If it does, then perhaps as soon as the end of the month the EU will begin filling the new key posts, like the President of the European Council and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. A senior Czech official has warned, however, that it would be counter-productive to bully Prague into moving quickly.
Attention now will also move to Britain. With the Irish having voted "Yes" David Cameron is sure to be asked once again what would be his policy if the Lisbon Treaty had been ratified by the time he took power next May, if he won the election. At present all he has said is that he would hold a referendum if any of the EU countries still hadn't ratified it. What he has not made clear is precisely what will happen if the treay is a done deal. Many both inside and outside the party will be keen to know his plans. In the short term I would expect him to play for time by saying he will wait to see what the Czech court decides.
The other decision relates to the post of President of the European Council. As I wrote yesterday, Tony Blair has emerged as favourite for this role. Already the Tories are making clear their unease at having Tony Blair as the most important face of the EU. These objections could, potentially, derail his chances if he becomes too controversial a figure.