29 Feb 2008 : Column 25P

29 Feb 2008 : Column 25P


Friday 29 February 2008


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

European Treaty Referendum

The Petition of residents of Kent,

Declares that the proposed draft European reform treaty is similar in all but insignificant detail to the withdrawn European Constitution; and notes that this fact has been confirmed in the 35th Report of Session 2006-07 of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, and notes that the Committee has found that the timetable for the adoption of the reform treaty now proposed “having regard to the sitting terms of national Parliaments could not have been better designed to marginalise their role”.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons calls upon the Government of the United Kingdom to put the proposals, in coherent form, for consideration by the British electorate in a binding referendum before ratifying any further proposed Reform Treaty or constitution by another name.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mr. Roger Gale , Official Report, 21 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 1324 .] [P000107]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affair s:

29 Feb 2008 : Column 26P

There is a great deal of confusion about the Lisbon treaty. First and foremost, it is not a constitution— the 27 EU member states have agreed that the constitutional concept has been abandoned. Instead, the Lisbon treaty follows the precedents of previous amending EU treaties such as Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. Furthermore, the UK has moved further away from the old constitution than anyone else because of the unique set of arrangements—or red lines—which have been secured by the UK to protect our sovereignty.

No Government, Conservative or Labour, has ever held a referendum on an amending treaty. Both the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty were more significant than the Lisbon treaty, but no referendum was held then. The UK Parliament is the proper place for debate and decision on the Lisbon treaty. As with all treaties, Parliament must be satisfied that it is in the national interest, before it can be implemented in national law.

Our membership of the EU has brought real benefits in jobs, peace and security. Through it, we belong to the world’s biggest trading bloc. Half the UK’s trade is now within the EU, with an estimated 3.5 million British jobs linked to our membership. The Union allows member states to co-operate effectively in tackling issues like organised crime and climate change which do not stop at national borders.

But Europe could achieve more if it was not operating under outdated rules drawn up for a different world and an organisation with less than half the members it has now. The Lisbon treaty updates the framework for co-operation and aims to help the European Union work more effectively for the people of this country and other member states.

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