MP Supports Unofficial Referendums on EU Treaty; POLITICS

The Birmingham Post (England), January 22, 2008 | Go to article overview

MP Supports Unofficial Referendums on EU Treaty; POLITICS


Byline: By Jonathan Walker Political Editor

A Birmingham MP is to hold a series of unofficial referendums on the European treaty across the country, in protest at Gordon Brown's refusal to allow a public vote.

Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) hopes to convince the Prime Minister to honour the pledge in Labour's election manifesto to let the people decide.

She has helped to organise unofficial ballots in ten marginal constituencies on the Lisbon Treaty, which will create an EU foreign affairs "representative" and a potentially powerful European president.

The House of Commons last night began a 20-day debate on whether to ratify the treaty.

Backbench Labour MPs, including Ms Stuart, Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak) and Mark Fisher (Lab Stoke Central) have defied the Government by proposing an amendment demanding a referendum.

They have been backed by Worcestershire MP Richard Taylor (Ind Wyre Forest).

The MPs claim the treaty is the same as the European Constitution, which Labour promised to hold a vote on in its 2005 manifesto.

The Government insists the Constitution has been scrapped and the Lisbon Treaty is a different document, which means its pledge no longer applies. But that argument was undermined when the Labour-dominated Commons Foreign Affair's Committee concluded there was "no material difference" between the two treaties.

Committee members included Ms Stuart and Wolverhampton MP Ken Purchase (Lab Wolverhampton North East), as well as Liberal Democrat Paul Keetch (Lib Dem Hereford).

Despite the committee's findings, ministers insisted they would not allow a ballot.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said: "I don't believe this treaty meets the bar of fundamental constitutional reform that should be the basis of having a referendum. …

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