It is looking as if Irish voters have rejected the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, according to the nation’s public service broadcaster. Counting is underway after yesterday’s referendum that has put the future of the project on the line. Opinion polls before the vote put the “No” and “Yes” camps neck and neck. RTE now says early indications show the treaty may be “in some difficulty.”
If this is the case, it will be a big blow to Prime Minister Brian Cowen and most of the main parties which have backed the treaty in a country that has prospered from its membership of the bloc. The reform plan aims to make the EU stronger and more effective. It replaces a constitution abandoned after it was turned down by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
This time round, all other EU countries have avoided holding popular votes but Ireland’s constitution requires a referendum. With the approval of all member states needed to ratify the treaty, Europe risks fresh crisis if Ireland says No. The final result is due later this afternoon.