31st May 2020

Question raised about Europe's future, says Blair

The British prime minister has said that France's strong rejection of the EU constitution raises a profound question about the future of Europe and its economy.

Speaking from Tuscany where he is on holiday, the UK Press Agency (PA) reported Tony Blair as saying "underneath all this there is a more profound question, which is about the future of Europe, and, in particular, the future of the European economy and how we deal with the modern questions of globalisation and technological change".

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  • "What is important now is having a time for reflection", said Mr Blair (r) (Photo: Council of the European Union)

But Mr Blair did not indicate whether his country would hold a referendum, after much speculation in Brussels about whether France's Non has killed the constitution outright.

Instead, he called for a period of reflection.

UK referendum?

"What is important now is having a time for reflection with the Dutch referendum in a couple of days' time and the European Council in the middle of June", said the prime minister referring to a gathering of EU leaders on 16 June.

"If there is a constitutional treaty to vote upon, we will have a vote in Britain before ratifying it ...but we have to see what happens in the Dutch referendum".

The Netherlands is voting on the treaty on Wednesday (1 June), and polls are indicating that the No camp may also win.

A rejection of the treaty by two founding members of the EU is likely to leave it dead in the water.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he would address British parliament next Monday (6 June) indicating this may be when he pronounces on whether the country should have a referendum.

Some analysts have suggested that London is keeping quiet about its referendum as it does not want to be the first one to declare the treaty dead - particularly as there had always been a large question mark over whether the largely eurosceptic British public would ever have approved it.

Czech president against further ratification

Meanwhile, the Czech president has become the first prominent EU politician to call for the ratification process to stop after the French vote.

According to the Czech news agency CTK, Vaclav Klaus, a well-known eurosceptic, said that to carry on the ratification process would be useless, although the Czech prime minister has said he is in favour of continuing.

"The decision has been made and I hope everybody understands it", Mr Klaus is reported as saying.

He added the French No would not change Europe significantly.

"It has been proven what I've been claiming for some time now: there is an endless difference between the European politics and opinions of the normal European citizens. The French referendum has clearly showed this", said Mr Klaus.

The Czech Republic has still not decided the actual method of the ratification and the government has admitted it might consider the parliamentary vote after all, as the constitution change paving the way for the referendum has proved too difficult to agree on among the parliamentary parties.

However, Denmark and Ireland, countries that prior to the French poll had said they would have a referendum on the constitution, have since confirmed that they will go ahead with ratification in spite of the French result.

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