In a letter published by The Times today, Sir Stuart Bell, MP for Middlesbrough (Labour) states that the "no" vote in France in the referendum on ratification of the constitution "need give no one a nervous breakdown."
He cites Declaration 30 of the treaty, which states that:
If two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four-fifths of the Member states have ratified it and one or more Member states have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council.According to Bell, this means that a European Council to review the ratification process must take place in November, 2006. Thus, he argues, our own referendum must go ahead. "We can then have our first public debate on Europe in 30 years," he adds.
Bell repeated his assertions on the World at One on BBC Radio 4 today, reaffirming that the ratification process cannot be stopped.
This contrasts with an article in The Sun today, which suggests that the expected Dutch rejection will "kill off the treaty".
However, in a, further development, Chirac has written to fellow EU leaders, calling on them to continue the ratification process. "While nine countries have already approved it, all the other member states should now state their views on this treaty," he writes.
For this and other obvious reasons, we believe The Sun and its fellow travellers are wrong. Bell has got it right and Chirac will prevail – we will see a British referendum.