Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Brown holds spectre of referendum over EU

  • A referendum in the UK would probably cause other countries to follow suit (Photo: wikipedia)

UK prime minister Gordon Brown has indicated that if other EU member states do not fall into line with London's demands on the bloc's new treaty, he would put the issue to a national vote, letting the generally EU-sceptic British public have their say.

"I have already made it clear to Chancellor Merkel, who was chair of the discussions, to [French] President Sarkozy and others that our red lines have got to be adhered to in the detail of the intergovernmental conference," Mr Brown told a monthly press conference on Tuesday (4 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"If I were to come to the conclusion that we were not having the detail of what was decided reflected in the final outcome of the declaration then of course I would come back to the British people and say, look, we have to do things differently."

The London threat comes as EU foreign ministers gather at the end of the week for the first political discussion on the treaty since its broad outline was agreed by EU leaders in June.

The June agreement, reached after hours of bitter negotiation, saw London secure key opt-outs from the treaty, including from a citizens rights charter and justice and home affairs policy.

Now that the political dust has settled, technical and legal experts are wondering at the full implications of these opt-outs and how it will affect other member states down the line.

However, Mr Brown cannot be seen to soften on any of these issues. He is being closely watched by opposition conservatives and members of his own labour party who are demanding a referendum, arguing that the new treaty is very similar to the original EU constitution.

The government had previously said it would have a referendum on the constitution.

Mr Brown's case rests on saying that the opt-outs secured by Britain make the treaty sufficiently different.

In the coming days, he will face two big challenges to this position. On Monday (10 September) trade unions will meet for an annual congress. They are pushing for a poll, angry at Britain's opt out from the rights charter, which among other things, secures the right to strike.

Meanwhile, the Labour conference on 23 September will provide a platform for Labour rebels to make their case for a referendum.

Not just the British

But Britain is not alone in causing the EU presidency Portugal - which wants a quick and painless agreement on the treaty - some headaches.

Poland, a similarly tough negotiator, plans to have early elections in October. This may also affect Lisbon's plans to get the whole treaty politically agreed at a meeting of EU leaders next month.

Polish daily Rzeczpospolita reports that Portuguese diplomats are wondering whether to delay the summit because of the elections.

However, a Portuguese spokesman flatly denied the rumour. "I can tell you 'no'. No, that is not true," he told EUobserver, adding that it was something that was not even being considered.

Agenda

Europe goes to New York This WEEK

Iran and climate change likely to dominate as French president Emmanuel Macron speaks for Europe at the UN general assembly in New York this week.

Opinion

Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril

Matteo Salvini's recent gambit may have failed, but, in his own words: "From today you will find me even more pissed off and determined. I will go from town to town and we will take this country back."

Opinion

Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration

Brussels' current vision for cooperation on defence, where third countries can contribute but have no say in decision-making and in the guidance of operations, is unlikely to be attractive to the UK.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Podcast

Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us