Tuesday

17th Jan 2017

UK referendum bid defeated

  • The UK parliament and not British citizens will vote to ratify the new EU's Lisbon treaty (Photo: wikipedia)

The UK's parliament has rejected a call for referendum on the new EU's Lisbon treaty, a move representing a victory for Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown which has argued in the face of bitter opposition that there should not be a public poll.

The House of Commons on late Wednesday (5 March) voted against the proposal for a popular vote by 311 votes to 248, with a margin of 63, the BBC reported.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The Lisbon treaty was signed by EU leaders in December 2007 and it must be ratified by all the bloc's member states before taking into force. Most countries have opted for a parliamentary ratification, with only Ireland due to hold a referendum on the issue, probably in June.

The push for a popular vote in Britain was due to a manifesto pledge before the 2005 general elections by all three main political parties to ask citizens for their approval of the EU constitution.

The constitution was subsequently rejected by French and Dutch voters in mid-2005, but the current treaty contains most of its innovations.

While the UK's ruling Labour party as well as the Liberal Democrats claim the Lisbon treaty no longer has constitutional implications for Britain and so does require a referendum, the Conservatives insist the document is the constitution but with a different name.

"We have the courage of our convictions and are sticking to that promise - you have lost your courage," Conservative leader David Cameron told the prime minister in a passionate debate in parliament.

Mr Brown hit back by saying: "If this was a constitutional treaty, we would hold a referendum. But the constitutional concept was abandoned."

The Labour MPs also referred to several "opt-outs" from the Lisbon treaty that the government had negotiated, mainly on citizens rights, and justice and home affairs.

But Wednesday's vote showed some differences of opinion within the political parties over their own official lines on the treaty. Some 29 Labour MPs and 13 Liberal Democrats voted with the Conservatives in favour of a referendum, while three Conservatives voted against their party line.

Britain is now expected to ratify the treaty by the summer. So far, five countries have given the green light to the document: Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, France, and Romania.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey