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Smith Rejects Misleading Claims and Calls for Yes to Lisbon

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today said farmers should vote strongly for the Lisbon treaty in order to defend the interest of Irish agriculture in Europe. "Irish farmers have gained significantly from Ireland's participation in the EU", the Minister said, "and by the same token they have much to lose if we were to isolate ourselves on referendum day."

"I believe that Irish farmers know where their own interests lie and are not likely to be taken in by small unrepresentative groups who distort issues to call for a no vote" said the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.  He rejected the recent claims by those opposing the treaty that Ireland's voting strength in the Council of Ministers would be reduced by the Lisbon Treaty as entirely erroneous and misleading.  "The new qualified voting system will require a proposal to be agreed by 55% of Member States and 65% of the EU population.  The suggestion that our voting strength will be reduced takes account only of the population element of this double-majority system.  It completely ignores the fact that Ireland will have one vote out of 27 in the count of Members State, equal with the UK, Germany, France or any other country, and much greater than our current voting strength".  Minister Smith said that the new qualified majority voting system was simpler for citizens to understand than the current system.  "It is both fair and favourable to Ireland".

The Minister also pointed out that is was a complete distraction for opponents of the Treaty to raise the issue of Turkey joining the EU. "Turkey has sought membership of the EU for a very long time and negotiations have now been going on for some years and have a very long way to go.  However, they will continue whether or not Lisbon is passed" the Minister said. "The crucial point of course is that the issue of Turkish membership of the EU will ultimately be decided on its own merits and can only be agreed with the consent of all current Member States. Lisbon will have no impact on that one way or the other".

Minister Smith said that in the referendum last year many issues had been raised which had no bearing whatever on the Treaty.  He said it was disturbing to see the same pattern being repeated, but he was confident that all of those with an interest in the future of Irish farming, and in the food and drinks industry, would see through these distractions and recognise the huge importance of keeping Ireland at the centre of EU decision making. "This is especially important for us at the present time as we strive for economic recovery.  We are making many difficult sacrifices in this process and it is crucial that we underpin that effort by sending a strong, positive signal about our role in the EU to our European partners, and to international investors and markets, in the upcoming referendum."

Note for Editors

This response is to counter the claims on Morning Ireland this morning (20th August) by Mr James Reynolds "Farmers for No to Lisbon Group".

Date Released: 20 August 2009