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5th Mar 2024

UK rebels face sanctions for backing referendum on EU treaty

  • The Labour party is threatening sanctions against its parliamentary rebels (Photo: Wikipedia)

Four UK Labour MPs are facing disciplinary action for taking part in a campaign for a referendum on the EU's Lisbon treaty against the Labour-led government's wishes.

Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Gisela Stuart and Graham Stringer were criticised at a closed-door parliamentary meeting of the Labour party on Monday (4 January) and referred to the party's committee of senior MPs for possible sanctions against them, UK media report.

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The move comes ahead of unofficial referendums on the EU's new document, set to be organised by the I Want A Referendum (IWAR) Campaign in ten marginal constituencies, including in East Renfrewshire, the seat of the UK's Europe minister, Jim Murphy.

The mock popular votes are aimed at putting pressure on the country's prime minister, Gordon Brown, who has opted for parliamentary ratification of the EU treaty.

The Labour party had previously promised to organise a referendum on the original European Constitution in its pre-election manifesto, but it now argues that the current Lisbon treaty - which contains most of the constitution's innovations - is a different document.

"We are in the absurd position where we may actually be punished for trying to maintain a manifesto pledge," Frank Field told Reuters. He said he did not know what sanction the Labour committee might recommend but suggested it could be suspension.

The IWAR campaign is a cross-party initiative which plans to send out ballots to half a million British citizens, asking them if the UK should hold a national referendum on the EU's Lisbon treaty and whether it should adopt it.

Results of the vote – which have no legal value - will be announced by late February.

Strong backing by Romania

Meanwhile, Romania became the fourth country to ratify the EU treaty.

The country's parliament adopted the document late Monday (4 February) by an overwhelming majority of 387 votes in favour, one vote against and one abstention.

The green light from Bucharest means a continuation of the new EU member states' lead in the ratification marathon, with Hungary, Slovenia and Malta preceding the Black Sea country with the move.

"This is another important step towards our objective of a new treaty in force by 1 January 2009," European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

"I hope that other member states will quickly follow the lead given by the four countries that have now approved the Treaty," he added.

The treaty, formally agreed by EU leaders in December, must be ratified by all 27 member states before it can come into force.

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