24th Feb 2018

Referendum on new EU treaty not needed, says Gordon Brown

UK prime minister Gordon Brown on Monday said that holding a referendum on the new EU treaty is not needed, despite increasing pressure - notably from the UK's national media.

British daily tabloid The Sun on Monday (24 September) qualified the so-called reform treaty as "the greatest threat to our [the British] nation since World War Two" and accused the British prime minister of not keeping a promise to hold a popular vote on the matter.

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But Mr Brown the same day dismissed the calls for a poll at an annual conference of his party – the Labour party.

"If we needed a referendum we would have one. But I think most people recognise that there is not a fundamental change taking place as a result of this amended treaty", Mr Brown told BBC television.

"The first words of the Brussels declaration are, 'the constitutional concept has been abandoned'. So what was proposed originally has been abandoned", he added.

But the widely read British tabloid claims exactly the opposite.

"Gordon Brown is about to sign an EU constitution that would change forever the way we are governed (…).We will lose control over our courts, police and welfare policy", the Sun claims in its three-page editorial.

It adds that the treaty would be a "blueprint for a United States of Europe" and promises to keep pressure on the prime minister.

After London secured opt-outs in key areas such as justice and home affairs and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Mr Brown judged the treaty sufficiently different from the original constitution that it could be ratified by parliament.

The government had previously indicated its intention to have a referendum on the constitution, which was then rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

But the official stance has met opposition both within the prime minister's own party and the opposition.

The EU is following closely the British referendum debate, as the UK public is generally seen as among the most eurosceptic in Europe.

According to a poll carried out for The Sun, if a referendum on the new EU treaty were to be held, 38% of the British would vote against it and 32% in favour.

Brussels is still hoping that the document's text will be finalised during an EU meeting on 18-19 October and officially introduced in 2009.

So far, only Ireland has definitely said it will have a referendum on the treaty.

The Dutch government last week decided against holding one – although Dutch MPs may try and push an own-initiative poll – while Denmark, whose constitution requires a referendum if the county's sovereignty is affected, has said it will not decide on the question until the EU treaty is finally agreed.

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While the dialogue between Warsaw and the Commission has improved since new prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki entered office, there is no sign of compromise over rule of law concerns - as the clock ticks towards a March deadline.

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