PositionEuropean Constitution - Brief Article

Creating a new Constitution for the European Union has just got more complex. Tony Blair's April 20 announcement of a UK referendum on a new Treaty sets the debate in a new context - in the UK, and in Europe too.

Because he has until now vigorously maintained that the new Treaty would not be dramatic in its impact, his volte-face elevates the status of the new constitution to a significant modifier of relations between the EU and its Member States.

And it throws a shadow of risk over the entire project, since the UK is the only large EU country to envisage a referendum. If smaller states that will hold referendums vote "No", the EU will probably be able to find a way round (as it did for the Danish and Irish "No" votes in the past). But if this happens in one of the major members, a solution cannot so easily be finessed.

The UK decision could also have a domino effect: in France, where recollections are still vivid of the 51% vote in 1992 referendum that just squeezed the Maastricht Treaty into being, President Chirac has until now resisted calls for a...

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