By Bruno Waterfield
Brussels lobbyists have organised a 500,00 euro (£445,000) whip-round in a last-ditch effort to boost Ireland’s ‘Yes’ campaign in an attempt to keep the European Union’s gravy train rolling.
The lobbyists have been accused of interfering in Ireland’s second Lisbon Treaty referendum in order to shore up the EU institutions they make profits from lobbying.
Concern is growing among pro-European groups after recent polling for the Irish Times showed that support for the EU treaty, rejected by Ireland in a referendum last June, has slipped to 46 per cent.
The emails sent by the Brussels-based “Europe for Ireland” group, and seen by The Daily Telegraph, reveal mounting fears that the Irish will vote No, for a second time, on October 2.
The email was sent on Sep 15 by Eamonn Bates, a Brussels lobbyist, to members of the European Public Affairs Consultancy Association.
“The future of Europe is at stake,” he said. “A second ‘No’ will lead to uncertainty that will undermine the European project and impact important decision-making in the future.
“If your company believes in a strong EU, then NOW is definitely the time to contribute financially. This is truly an emergency.”
Mr Bates moved from a job in the European Parliament to lobbying on behalf of industries concerned about EU environmental, health and safety and consumer protection legislation.
His company Eamonn Bates Europe is a well-known player in Brussels where an estimated 15-20,000 lobbyists are at work trying to influence the EU’s institutions.
If Ireland backs the treaty, then governments, officials, diplomats and lobbyists across the EU will breathe a huge sigh of relief.
The Lisbon Treaty extends EU powers in most policy areas meaning that lobbyists will kept busy, and profitable, shaping the expected flood of new legislation.
On the other hand, if Ireland votes No, the EU will be plunged into a fresh crisis that will see new legislation shelved or delayed.
The email appeal prompted an angry response from at least one of Mr Bates’ colleagues on the Brussels lobbying scene.
Chris Whitehouse, director of Whitehouse Consultancy, wrote: “The Irish electorate are likely to take a very dim view of commercial lobbyists entering the debate simply to protect their own profits, derived in part from lobbying the very institutions that would benefit most from a ‘Yes’ vote for the Treaty.”
But Jim Murray, the spokesman for Europe for Ireland, defended the appeal.
“Eamonn is an Irish man who has asked people to help support an Irish group working for a Yes vote. I don’t see anything wrong with that,” he said.
The Referendum Commission’s Failure to do its proper job on Lisbon *