Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Brown under pressure over EU treaty

UK prime minister Gordon Brown could lose up to a quarter of voters from his own labour party if he does not put the new EU treaty to a popular vote, a new survey has suggested.

The ICM poll for the Daily Mail said that 24 percent of labour supporters may not support Mr Brown in general elections if he does not take the referendum path for the EU Reform Treaty, set to be finalised by the end of the year.

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  • The opposition Conservatives have mounted a strong campaign to get a referendum (Photo: Roger Helmer)

The poll also showed that 82 percent of voters as whole - and 80 percent of labour voters - want a referendum on whether to accept the treaty or not.

The EU treaty issue has barely left the news pages in the UK since its outline was agreed by EU leaders in June.

The outline maintains many of the features of the original EU constitution, rejected by the French and the Dutch in 2005.

The labour government under Tony Blair had promised to have a referendum on the old constitution but now argues that the revised treaty is sufficiently different and that Britain secured enough opt-outs - including in the justice areas and a human rights charter - to make this step unnecessary.

But the opposition Conservatives have mounted a strong campaign to get a referendum arguing the new treaty is very similar to the rejected constitution.

The ICM poll, which questioned 1,004 people in mid August, comes at crucial time for Mr Brown with British media speculating whether he will call early general elections to take advantage of his popularity ratings since taking over from Mr Blair in late June.

The rest of the EU is also carefully watching the UK on this issue. So far, only Ireland has said it will hold a referendum on the new European treaty.

But a British referendum – aside from the high chances of a No vote – would also put pressure on other countries to take a similar path.

This is exactly what politicians in other member states were hoping to avoid.

Informal talks in Portugal

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, who is representing the European Parliament in the current negotiations to finalise the EU treaty, warned Britain against a referendum.

"Gordon Brown's government has said there is no justification for a referendum and the UK should stick to this commitment," said Mr Brok, according to the Daily Telegraph.

"It would be very unfair of the UK if, having more or less got what it wanted in the new treaty, it would then turn round and put this to a popular vote," he added, saying it would "undermine" the talks on the treaty.

The talks, taking place at a technical level, will take off once again next week after the summer recess.

The experts are expecting to have made the first legal sweep of the text by the first week of September.

The treaty issue is set to move from the technical back to the political stage on 7 September when EU foreign ministers are expected to tackle the topic at informal talks in Portugal.

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