After calling a referendum, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair will set about to toughen his government’s stance on the Constitutional treaty, with just over a month of talks remaining.
After calling for a referendum on the EU Constitution, Prime Minister Tony Blair will toughen his government’s stance on the document ahead of final talks next month. Reports in the British press say Blair will use the launch of the Labour Party’s campaign for the European elections in June to firm up his negotiating position. The threat of a ‘no’ vote and the ensuing crisis it would provoke has strengthened Blair’s hand. According to the Guardian, Finance Minister Gordon Brown will use Tuesday's meeting with his EU counterparts to ask for at least 25 amendments to the draft treaty in the areas of taxation and budget. Tax had been one of the UK government’s so-called "red lines" – no-go areas for the EU’s powers to expand into. Other red lines include the abolition of the veto over defense, foreign policy and social security.
Last year, during the French election campaign, President Jacques Chirac pledged to hold a referendum on the Constitution. This promise has now come home to roost with Chirac, who is being called upon to hold the vote. Both the French and British public are largely unaware of the detail of the text and many in both countries are skeptical of the document. Blair now appears to be ready to use this euro-skepticism to retain influence next month when foreign ministers meet to discuss the draft text. The Irish government, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will chair the talks. (EUobserver.com)