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Battered Brown facing new EU referendum challenge

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Battered Brown facing new EU referendum challenge

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With Labour licking its wounds after a thrashing in local elections in Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has another prospective nightmare to look forward to: Britons might yet have a crack at ratifying the EU’s Lisbon reform Treaty by referendum. Conservative businessman Stuart Wheeler has been cleared to challenge the government’s refusal to hold a direct public vote on the issue. A High Court judge ruled the case is “arguable”.

This is based on Wheeler’s expectation that promises by all major parties campaigning in 2005 elections would be kept. A spokeswoman said the government was confident it would defeat the challenge. Last month, Brown overcame a parliamentary bid to force him to call a referendum on the treaty.

Eurosceptics seeking a second wind take note: Wheeler’s two-day court hearing is scheduled for June. He is represented by international and human rights barrister Rabinder Singh, one of the co-founders of the law firm of Cherie Blair.