Thursday, April 29, 2004

All in a spin

Times says Britain could be forced out of EU

In an online report of the Chirac press conference (see earlier Blog), Times reporter Charles Bremner (or his headline writer) claims that Britain could be forced to leave the European Union if its voters reject the proposed new constitution in a referendum – according to President Chirac.

However, the story does not immediately bear this out. Bremner goes on to write that Chirac actually stated “that if any state failed to ratify the constitutional treaty then none of the other members would be able legally to ratify it either - scuppering the whole project”.

Only then, apparently, did Chirac refer to “proposals aired in Brussels and Berlin that would require member nations to ratify the constitution or leave the EU”. On these, he commented that this could be a "positive solution". "I am not against the idea of using methods of friendly persuasion with countries that are refusing the constitution, because that blocks all the others," Bremner reports him as saying.

So that is the meat of the story: if the British vote "no", there could be “friendly persuasion” for Britain to stand aside and let other countries adopt the constitution. This is a far cry from what the headline claims, but I suppose it is headlines that sell papers. Expect a lot more of this – but as with treaties, when you see the headlines, it pays to read the small print before you jump to conclusions.

If you want to waste your time reading the full story, click here.

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