Friday, April 22, 2005

Splits on response to French "non"

According to The Financial Times, splits are emerging amongst key EU players as to how to respond to a French "non".

Despite Blair maintaining that referendum will go ahead, the British picture, we are told, is that the treaty would be dead if rejected. The private view is that the UK will cancel its referendum. French officials also believe the treaty could not be revived and that the best hope would be to try to salvage some parts of the text at a later date.

However, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg prime minister, believes a French "non" or a rejection by the Dutch in their referendum on 1 June should not stop the ratification of the treaty. "The process will continue," says one of his officials. "Just because the French have said 'non' does that mean that they decide for the whole of Europe? That would be undemocratic."

Juncker argues that the EU constitution envisages all countries trying to ratify the treaty, with a decision taken at the end of the process on how to deal with "one or more member states" which failed.

European diplomats now fear paralysis in the EU, possibly disrupting the start of accession talks with Turkey scheduled for October 3. Marek Belka, Polish prime minister, said on Monday that rejection of the constitution would "completely change the way the EU negotiates with Turkey".

A decision on how to proceed in the event of a "non" in France or the Netherlands would be taken at an EU summit on 16-17 June.

Meanwhile, a poll in the Brittany and the Pays de la Loire areas has produced a "yes" vote by 52 percent compared to 48 percent for "non". This is according to a survey carried out between 14-16 April by TMO Régions pour France 3 Ouest, for Ouest France et Le Télégramme. What is significant about this is that, in 1992, the Breton vote had been decisively in favour of the Maastricht treaty and the "yes" vote was 62 percent in March.

A national internet survey also gives a buoyant picture, delivering a prediction for the "no" campaign which for the first time passes the 60 percent mark, with 62.3 percent of the vote firmly for the "nons". This poll was carried out by Market-Tools Survey on 20 April and published today by le Metro, the daily free newspaper.

All together, the picture is firming up quite strongly and it does not look as if such a huge "non" movement can be reversed. But you never know.

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