EU


Parliament not public will decide the fate of EU treaty, says Brown

Gordon Brown last night rebuffed growing pressure for a referendum on the new EU treaty and predicted that a threatened trade union rebellion on the issue would not succeed.

Speaking after talks at Downing Street with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, he said Parliament was the place to debate the the treaty agreed in Brussels in June.

His insistence came after the GMB union announced that it would table a motion at next month’s TUC conference, demanding a public vote.

The Prime Minister said he was confident that the Government would secure all its objectives for the new treaty, which critics say is almost identical to the abandoned EU constitution. He told reporters: “Let’s see what the TUC do. My own view is that the TUC when it meets will support the Government.

“We believe the proper way to discuss this is through detailed discussion in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and I believe Parliament will pass the legislation.”

The two leaders also talked about recent turmoil on the international money markets, with the Prime Minister insisting that “the fundamentals of our economies are strong”. After a brief press conference they rushed off to Wembley Stadium to watch the England vs Germany football friendly.

The two agreed plans to persuade the world’s richest nations to fund doctors and nurses in Africa and promised “urgent action” to tackle disease in the world’s poorest countries. They outlined an initiative to fight illnesses such as HIV/Aids and cut childhood and maternal mortality rates.

An international health partnership to target overseas aid will be officially launched on September 5. This will improve access to health services in poorer nations.

Tory calls for a referendum on the treaty have been echoed by the GMB and RMT trade unions. They say that the treaty is similar to the proposed EU constitution, which was abandoned after it was voted down in France and the Nether-lands.

Mark Francois, the Shadow Europe Minister, said Mr Brown should tell Mrs Merkel that public opinion was running so high that he felt he had to hold a referendum.

But Jim Murphy, the Europe Minister, said this was unnecessary because the Government had made it “very clear in the treaty that the UK will not give away important areas of sovereignty to the European Union”. He added: “Every member state has said that the constitutional approach has been abandoned. There will be no European constitution. That’s no longer on the table at all.”

Kathleen Walker Shaw, the GMB’s Europe officer, said that the union hoped to use the referendum row to focus on what they regard as an effective British “opt-out” from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which provides increased rights to industrial action in the other 26 member states.

Speaking on The World At One, she expressed concern that the Government was moving “away from a commitment to the social Europe that we wanted to see”.

She added: “We want to actually try to use the focus that is on the reform treaty as a time to influence our Government, to say to it ‘let’s see a little bit more of the trade union wish list for Europe and a bit less of kowtowing to the business agenda’.

(Published by Times Online, August 23, 2007)

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