Some famous defeats for the EU in referendums

The EU can often be an unpopular cause on a ballot paper.

In 1997 and 2001 Switzerland voted against its government’s wishes to join the EU.
In 1972 Norway voted against its government’s advice to join.
In 1973 Greenland voted to leave the EU, and eventually did leave.
Denmark voted down the Maastricht Treaty favoured by its government. This led to major opt outs from the Treaty including from the Euro before the Danes would consent.
In 2001 Ireland voted against the Nice Treaty. The EU had to grant opt outs from the military union and other matters.
In 2000 Denmark voted against joining the Euro, confirming its earlier vote against Maastricht. Its government still hadn’t got the message.
In 2000 Sweden voted down joining the Euro, and to this day violates the Treaty by not joining.
In 2005 France and the Netherlands voted down the European Constitution. This was rebranded as Lisbon, despite the popular dissent.
In 2008 Ireland voted against Lisbon, but was persuaded to change the view following some changes to their text.
In 2015 Greece voted against the Euro austerity policies, but subsequently gave in
In 2016 The Netherlands, against its government wishes, voted against the EU/Ukraine Agreement, which the EU has ignored.

None of the dire economic predictions made at the time of some of these votes came true. Norway and Switzerland are the two richest countries in Europe per head, despite not being members or because they are not members. Nor did the rosy forecasts of the pro EU sides come true where they prevailed. Greece who did as she was told by the EU lives to this day with a deeply damaging long recession.


  1. Chris
    June 21, 2016

    Interesting article by PRZEMEK DE SKUBA SKWIRCZYNSKI of Poles for Britain. I don’t suppose may voters know that the Lisbon Treaty can be self amended. Most will think that there is a treaty referendum lock, something that is in fact virtually worthless/meaningless, but sounds convincing.
    “Lisbon Treaty turned the EU into a superstate that could become a ‘prison of nations’

    “SPEAKING from his own extensive experience, the last USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev famously proclaimed that “the EU was the old Soviet Union dressed in Western clothes”.

    “….What is however more sinister is that the Lisbon Treaty is open to further amendments, because the powers to change the EU’s competencies have been ceded by the member states to the Brussels Eurocrats. That prerogative is guaranteed by Article 48 of Lisbon Treaty, to which the constituent countries have signed up.

    “Therefore, the EU already has the legal personality of a state, its own citizens, increased judicial, security and foreign policy, and of course a guarantee to “self-amend” the legislation, which by now has a format of a constitution. That is exactly why certain countries such as Ireland and Czech Republic opposed signing this treaty whilst many others attempted to secure various opt-outs (all failed except for the UK who won justice and home affairs opt-outs).

    “….Post Lisbon Treaty the EU has a President, in fact five of them, and is further bound together as a military alliance. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, there now is a “Common Security and Defence Policy” and it is within the European Council’s power to wage war as the EU.

    “Lastly, just because the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which covers EU member states’ leave procedure, is there at the moment does not guarantee the exit clause will remain as an option forever. Remember, the EU constitution can now be “self-amended” without consultation with member states!

    “It no longer is an exaggeration to say that, as Western Europe, we might just be a step away from becoming a prison of nations akin to the USSR.”

  2. Know-Dice
    June 21, 2016

    And Cameron says vote Remain for your children:

    Why would anyone with any sense lumber their offspring with dealing with a failing organisation like the EU?

    1. Hope
      June 21, 2016

      He forgetfully leaves his at the pub! No wonder he needs a foreign nanny.

    2. Lifelogic
      June 22, 2016

      Vote remain and destroy you children and grandchildren’s rights to live in a democracy and elect a government. Perhaps all see them conscripted into an EU war too.

  3. DaveM
    June 21, 2016

    Should be published on every front page tomorrow.

  4. Denis Cooper
    June 21, 2016

    Yes, it can be done, and if you’re French then unlike the Irish and the Danes you won’t even be forced to vote again to try to get the required answer. But then nor will you be allowed to vote again when the same legal measures come back in a new wrapper, your politicians will make sure of that if they can possibly wangle it. Apart from the lucky old Swiss, who have a constitutional right to petition for, and get, a referendum on anything they fancy.

  5. Denis Cooper
    June 21, 2016


    “German court capitulates to imperial ECJ in landmark ruling”

    Not entirely unexpected, it follows the established pattern of a noisy token resistance followed some time later by a quieter surrender.

  6. David
    June 21, 2016

    The age of empires is over. The eurocrats need to look to history; if they did, they would see that every empire in history has eventually failed.

    For me the vote on Thursday is about democracy. Only by leaving the EU can we reinvigorate democracy in Britain, and lead this country into a freer, more democractic, and prosperous age.

    If other join us – come on Sweden! – so much the better.

    1. Mark B
      June 21, 2016

      Hear, hear

  7. getahead
    June 21, 2016

    The count will be rigged. There is no way Leave will get a majority.
    But vote Out anyway.

    1. Scottspeig
      June 21, 2016

      What really concerns me, is that I wouldn’t put it past them to do so…

    2. Anonymous
      June 22, 2016

      A bag of postal votes turning up to pip it.

      Many I know want to take pens to the poll with them. They’ll probably end up spoiled papers.

      No mention of the Boris ovation on the Beeb. Only Khan’s claims of Boris lies.

      No mention of the migrant riots/murders in France on the Beeb either.

  8. acorn
    June 21, 2016

    I am pretty much convinced now, that an “out” majority vote, will turn into a “in” renegotiation saga. Because, we will still have the same neo-liberal, conservative government, next week-end. That is, unless the little people hit the streets, there is nothing else we can do about that. Direct democracy, we do not have!

    Alas, the Brits don’t do that sort of thing; too proud to admit they f***-up, vote wise. Most of them don’t give a toss anyway; they never understood this EU thing from day one. It was far too complicated compared with an EastEnders or Coronation Street story line.

    Pray; we don’t end up being forced to join the Euro currency system, as penance for doubting the God given majesty of the EU.

    1. formula57
      June 21, 2016

      But Mr Cameron himself has assured us that “out means out”: it is on that basis that we are voting, no ifs or buts.

      1. fedupsoutherner
        June 21, 2016

        Since when could we believe everything Cameron tells us?

        1. Leslie Singleton
          June 22, 2016

          Dear fedup–Formula57 is I suspect taking the you know what out of Cameron’s own use of “no ifs or buts”. Frankly I despair that Cameron is allowed to lie through his teeth, the way he does and at every turn, in particular with the preposterous Janus-faced drivel he unblushingly spouts on Turkey. I am with Farage all the way in not believing a word the man says. Pray God Cameron has put sufficient people off and we escape the simply awful EU. I doubt I’ll ever be able to vote Tory again after the Party’s idiocy in making and keeping him as leader. My own wet, in fact soaking, so-called Conservative MP clinches it.

          1. Leslie Singleton
            June 22, 2016

            Postscript–And he never stops–How can he possibly say, assuming words have any meaning at all, that a vote to remain is a vote for reform? Nothing could be further from the truth of course. He is transparently a con artist.

  9. Mark B
    June 21, 2016

    Good evening.

    Neither is Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, The Vatican City, Iceland , the Faroe Islands, Guernsey & Jersey.

    Small countries and principalities who trade with the EU and the world and so not need to surrender sovereignty or self rule in order to do so. And they don’t want to join either.

    The only countries that want to join the EU are countries that are neither that democratic and / or desperately poor and corrupt.

    1. turboterrier
      June 21, 2016

      Mark B

      The only countries that want to join the EU are countries that are neither that democratic and / or desperately poor and corrupt.

      Here in dictatorship Scotland the way things are going we are getting a good idea what you are implying.

      1. Mark B
        June 22, 2016

        Yes, but as the Tories, then Labour have discovered you can always vote them out. Although currently, and sadly, you do not seem to have much of a choice.

      2. stred
        June 22, 2016

        The Scottish woman on the debate last night seemed even more shrill and confused than Little Mz Leader of the SNIPs. Is it Scottish women who like them or do some men have a masochist tendency? Hopefully, many English and Welsh will have been put off enough to swing the vote.

  10. Chris S
    June 21, 2016

    When you look at this story of undemocratic behaviour by Brussels over so many years, it should be clear to anyone looking to vote for Remain that the EU is both undemocratic and determined to carry on down its path towards a United States Of Europe, however much dissent there is across the member states.

    After Thursday, can there be any doubt that a vote to Leave will be ignored ?
    A new offer will follow very quickly but, inevitably it will not address the real concerns such as Sovereignty, FOM and over-regulation.

    There will be real pressure in the House of Commons to call another vote : after all 2/3 of MPs are in favour of Remain. This must be resisted, if necessary by us taking to the streets to remind them what democracy really means.

    1. Leslie Singleton
      June 22, 2016

      Dear Chris–I doubt you are right because (and this is of course one of the major problems with the EU) there is a huge range of opinion on the Continent; and lots of that opinion would prefer us Out so that they become free-er to go hell for leather towards the reform they think is necessary (and probably rightly from their point of view) to make the Eurozone work in the way they dream about.

  11. Peter Stroud
    June 21, 2016

    I am long retired and spent decades of my working life in the MOD, helping prepare for war with a foreign superstate. A state that had long since devalued democracy. A state that was run by a collection of unelected officials. Of course this state was the USSR. Eventually this collection of non democracies imploded. Now, however, we are lurching towards another growing superstate. Again it is the unelected bureaucrats that run the superstate, and like the USSR it expands and takes in more and more small underdeveloped countries. It is inherently unstable, and wifi eventually fall apart: yet the great and the good of all major British the political parties are insisting we stay in the union. Surely we are living in a mad, Alice in wonderland world.

  12. Margaret
    June 21, 2016

    The argument this evening is that the ‘leaves ‘ are anti immigrants. What a load of rot! We are full up to overflowing and have not got the resources to cope with any more : that is a numbers / spatial thing .Why are they so obtuse..

    1. James Matthews
      June 21, 2016

      Why are they so obtuse? They are not. Over the decades social liberal politicians (note lower case) have managed to produce a climate in which a large majority of the population have been persuaded either to believe, or to pretend to believe, that it is morally wrong, per se, to oppose immigration, for whatever reason.

      They have done this with the active and planned assistance of the education and legal systems and the state broadcasters.

      It was not ever thus. While it was remotely credible to claim that immigration was not on such a scale as to threaten the host culture they contented themselves with pretending that this was the case and that they would limit it so that it would remain so. By the nineteen eighties, however, this position was not sustainable, so they started to tell us that Britain was and (according to them had always been) multicultural and that this was such a good thing that we should all be eternally grateful.

      They now have to maintain this myth at all costs. They are terrified of the power of the post war immigrant communities at the ballot box (amplified by the first past the post electoral system) and, potentially, on the streets and in the workplace, and perhaps even more terrified of what might happen if a majority from the host culture ever fully recognises the extent to which their birth right has been given away (not even sold!).

      So they seek to stamp on anything that might undermine their dogma that immigration is good for us and that any contrary opinion is evil, because, were people to people reject future immigration without being vilified, they might start re-assessing the justification for past immigration and even seek to call those individuals and institutions who brought it about to account.

      This won’t happen of course. Cultural and “moral” re-education is too all pervading and ingrained, but woe betide anyone who dares to question (even accidentally and tangentially) their ideology of multiculturalism.

      If the questioner is a political opponent, the terms of debate which the social liberals have gulled people into accepting, make him or her a conveniently easy target.

    2. Anonymous
      June 22, 2016

      Margaret. They are not obtuse. They are liars.

  13. turboterrier
    June 21, 2016

    Whenever has Europe ever got everything right?

    For Europe just think Germany and France they are pulling all the strings and that is risky as a French Minister was reported as saying in reality his country is bankrupt. Neither side seems to have picked up on this at all.

    Tonight’s big debate just gave the perception that all the remain politicians are bricking it as they just might be losing the argument and more importantly possibly their careers.

    1. Chris S
      June 22, 2016

      It was France’s employment minister Michel Sapin who admitted the country was “totally bankrupt”. It was during a radio interview in 2013 and sent the country’s business leaders into a state of shock. It was reported here in the papers.

      What he actually said was :
      “There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state, that is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place, and nothing should make us turn away from that objective.”

      Amazingly, despite the huge embarrassment caused to President Hollande by this stark admission, Sapin was promoted to Minister of Finance when Manuel Valls became Prime Minister ! He continues to hold the post today.

      Of course, he is the epitome of a French politician or senior civil servant being a product of the Grande École System :

      Paris-Sorbonne University
      École Normale Supérieure
      Institut d’études politiques de Paris
      École nationale d’administration

      Eton followed by PP and E at Oxford is like going to a comprehensive compared with this lot !

    June 21, 2016

    The Leave team were good tonight. The Remain team got into emotional problems early on then defaulted to chanting, which they had obviously practised together on a formula similar to:–
    ” the best thing we can do is lay eggs; the best thing we can do is peck at the ground; the best thing we can do is scratch and cluck…that’s what we want is to lay eggs, not not to lay eggs , that’s what we want is to peck at the ground, not not peck at the ground; that’s what we want is to scratch and cluck, not not scratch and cluck. Only by laying eggs,pecking, scratching and clucking can we sit at the table in Brussels and lead in making decisions, so we need to vote Remain and put eggs before Hate, eggs before Racism and even more eggs before bad photos. ( tumultuous applause and smiles by too many in the audience )

    The Green MP, took to a singing chant which I had only heard similar from the tone and almost singing of the previous President of the People’sRepublic of China Hu Jintao at the opening to Beijing Olympics. It sounded great then but not from a Green MP transposing Chinese tonal empahases into English. Silly

  15. brian
    June 21, 2016

    But none of the defeats entailed the separation of a country from an established market of 500 million.

    Reply Nor does this referendum. We will still trade with them! We were told staying out of the Euro would damage the City and the rest of our economy. How’s that prediction coming along?

    1. zorro
      June 22, 2016

      Reply to reply – John, clearly we must have missed all those CoL frms upping and moving to vibrant Frankfurt….. 😉


  16. Chris S
    June 21, 2016

    I see that the Guardian is reporting that Sturgeon has said that a rerun of the September 2014 vote “is definitely on the table” if the UK votes to Leave the EU tomorrow against the will of a majority of Scots.

    That’s not news but what is new is that she went on to say that it was a “statement of fact” that the pound “might not be as attractive a currency” after Brexit. She added: “It is not the SNP’s policy to seek entry to the euro now or at any time in the foreseeable future. But these are decisions and discussions that, yes, we will have if we are in the scenario of a Brexit.”

    Well, one consequence of joining the single currency would be a fresh bout of real austerity on a level Sturgeon won’t want to contemplate, given the strict rules about the level of deficits Eurozone Countries are allowed to run.

    Does anyone seriously think that Scots would vote to leave the UK if that meant adopting the Euro ?

  17. Edward2
    June 21, 2016

    Enjoyed the debates on TV tonight.
    Great to see passionate politics from both sides
    Great to see politicians speaking without notes and having to quickly responding to challenges.
    From the heart, exciting and different.
    Whatever way you vote on Thursday that debate must help you decide.
    But please go out and vote.

  18. Edward.
    June 22, 2016

    We are concerned, very concerned, already there are rumblings of and we hear rumours to the effect that, the Westminster club of EU supporters may choose to deny the wishes of the people – if Brexit is made manifest in tomorrows plebiscite.

    Notwithstanding, what ifs and buts – the Berlaymont crew could do, we may face a battle a little nearer to home with what is termed risibly as, our ‘Parliamentary representatives’.
    Most evidently, whatever is the result of tomorrows historic ballot, just about all MPs with some very notable exceptions – not least on here, need a reminder.
    I believe the UK public is stirring, awakened to the realization that, ‘our representatives’ need some constitutional lessons in just what it is and who it is that, they actually represent.
    Indeed, I’d go further and state that, the whole sorry ramshackle edifice of the ‘British democratic process’ is in very urgent need of the wrecking ball and a new fashioned replacement structure.

    The time for change is arriving, the time for change is now.

  19. Dennis
    June 22, 2016

    Had to turn off the debate after half an hour as it was all old stuff. There is plenty of serious new stuff to be brought into the open but it must be that the leave debaters are completely in ignorance of it. They really deserve to lose this vote with such an abysmal presentation. – so do the remainers too!

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