Britain delays EU vote

Britain has put off a referendum on the European Union constitution, following its rejection in France and the Netherlands.

    Britain does not want to be seen to be killing off the treaty

    Prime Minister Tony Blair's office confirmed on Monday that the results of the French and Dutch referendums had to be discussed at the European Council summit later this month.
    "Given that, it does not make sense to proceed at this point," said Blair's official spokesman. "Let's have a pause, let's reflect," he said.

    He insisted that indefinitely shelving the referendum did not send a message that Britain thought the constitution was dead, and said a referendum may still be possible in the future.

    Blair's government had not set a date for a referendum, but had introduced legislation in parliament that would allow a vote to take place.

    "What we are doing is reflecting the fact that we are in uncertain times, and in uncertain times you should not just give a knee-jerk response. You should try to think your way through as to what the implications are," the spokesman said.

    Government confirmation

    Confirmation of the government's decision came hours ahead of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's statement to the House of Commons outlining the government's position.

    The union has to ask why people
    are saying no to the constitution

    Blair's spokesman said the European Union needed to reflect on why France and the Netherlands rejected the treaty.

    He suggested the "no" votes emphasised the need for economic reform of the bloc, a key goal of Britain's upcoming six-month-long EU presidency.

    The spokesman said Blair believes that "concerns about how the European economy responds to globalisation" were behind the "no" votes.

    "What we need is a proper, sensible rational debate about globalisation and how Europe meets that challenge," he added.

    Britain, which will take on the EU presidency on 1 July, does not want to be seen publicly to be killing off the treaty by scrapping plans for a referendum, and Straw's statement is likely to stress the need for a period of reflection.



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