31st Oct 2020

EU public wants referendums on new treaty, survey says

An opinion survey in five big EU states show most people want referendums on the new EU treaty in opposition to the current trend to agree a document that will be put only to national parliaments for ratification.

According to an FT/Harris Poll published on Monday (18 June), 75 percent of Spaniards, 71 percent of Germans, 69 percent of Britons, 68 percent of Italians and 64 percent of French people consider the post-constitution treaty important enough to warrant a referendum.

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The suggestion is against the basic line pushed by several member states and the German EU presidency - the chief moderator of the talks on the bloc's institutional settlement following its rejection in France and the Netherlands.

The idea is to agree on key reforms in the decision-making of the 27-strong club in the form of an "amending treaty" rather than a "constitution" and see the document passed by national parliaments, except in Ireland and Denmark which have constitutional referendum obligations.

This scenario has sparked a furious debate in the UK where outgoing prime minister Tony Blair had in the past promised to organise a popular poll but has since gone back on the plan, with the opposition Conservative party making political capital from the u-turn.

Calls for referendums have intensified after it emerged over past weeks that the new version of the treaty might in essence be the same as the original draft constitution, but renamed and repackaged to stir less emotion.

British minister for Europe Geoff Hoon has suggested that Gordon Brown - who is set to succeed Mr Blair shortly after this week's summit - is still ready to stage a referendum on the revised text.

"I have not said that he has refused [a referendum]. I said it's important to await the outcome of the negotiations. Clearly a judgment has to be made in terms of what is in the final package," Mr Hoon told the BBC over the weekend.

Asked if that meant Mr Brown was prepared to hold a popular poll if EU leaders tried to force through a deal opposed by Britain, he replied "I think that is absolutely the case."

According to UK daily The Telegraph, sources close to Mr Brown confirmed he is prepared to go for a referendum if the summit deal crosses London's red lines on foreign policy, social and labour laws.

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