New British prime minister Gordon Brown has repeated his determination to avoid holding a referendum on the new European treaty. He has also reserved the right for his government to refuse to sign the treaty without a referendum should Britain’s EU partners try to break the four “red lines” won in negotiations.
These preserved British sovereignty and the right to “opt out” in the areas of foreign policy, the legal system, taxes, and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights. The Intergovernmental Conference is busy rewriting and tidying up the treaty, which experts say is 95 percent faithful to the old Constitution. It is hoped the EU can adopt the document at the Lisbon summit in October.
Britain’s Labour government had promised a referendum on a European Constitution in its 2005 election manifesto. It claims it can drop this political hot potato because the revised treaty does not engage radical constitutional change.