[JURIST] UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband [official profile] Tuesday rejected calls for a general referendum on the proposed EU Reform Treaty [PDF text; EU materials], instead insisting [transcript] that the treaty is "different...in absolute essence" from the earlier draft European Constitution [JURIST news archive] that would have been put to a popular vote [JURIST report] and was in the best interest of the United Kingdom. During an interview with BBC Radio 4 [media website], Miliband sought to assuage worries that the treaty would infringe on British independence, saying that former Prime Minister Tony Blair's so-called four-non-negotiable "red lines" [JURIST report] had secured the United Kingdom's sovereignty in areas such as foreign policy and the judiciary. Blair himself rejected the referendum option [JURIST report] earlier this year before leaving office.
In recent weeks, members of both the opposition and the ruling Labour Party [party website] have urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown [BBC profile] to proceed with a general referendum [JURIST report] on the new pact. Critics contend the treaty is essentially the same as the failed EU charter and would erode British sovereignty without a democratic mandate. European diplomats are currently working to finalize details of the landmark agreement on the treaty [JURIST reports; press release] reached between EU members in June. Portugal, which took over the EU Presidency [official website] on July 1, is hoping to complete the negotiation process [JURIST report] by October so that member states can sign the treaty at a December summit and complete the ratification process before the June 2009 European parliamentary elections. The Financial Times has more.