British government unveils referendum on EU Constitution

British government unveils referendum on EU Constitution

[JURIST] British Foreign Minister Jack Straw [official profile] Wednesday unveiled the question voters will be asked in an upcoming referendum on the EU Constitution [official website]: Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty establishing a Constitution for the European Union?" Presenting the referendum text to Parliament, Straw said:

The choice before the British people, when the referendum comes, will be fundamental to our national interests. If we reject this treaty, Britain will be isolated and weak in Europe – going cap in hand to our partners, and maybe forced, in time, to accept some kind of second-class status in Europe as others go ahead without us.

But if we endorse the new treaty, we fix the framework for our kind of Europe, one in which Britain is more prosperous and more powerful.

That is the patriotic case – for a Britain which takes its opportunities, builds on what we have achieved in Europe, and uses our alliances to make us more powerful and more influential in the world.

For too long, those who seek to isolate Britain from the rest of Europe have laid claim to all the best patriotic tunes. But the consequences of what they advocate should be every patriot's nightmare: a weaker and isolated Britain whose future prosperity and security is put at risk. Pro-Europeans should reclaim the flag and put the patriotic case for the Constitutional Treaty. British power depends on it.

Read Straw's statement, his brief on The Patriotic Case for the EU Constitution, and the European Union Bill [PDF text; additional background from the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office]. The bill and referendum have received mixed reaction in Britain. The Conservative Party [party website] opposes the Constitution and warns that it will lead to a European superstate. Other parties in favor of the Constitution echo Straw's sentiments that rejecting the EU Constitution will isolate Britain and could lead to the UK being forced to leave the EU. An exact date for the referendum has not yet been set. In an interview [Financial Times report, subscription required] Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the referendum would be held "some time in 2006 but when, I don't know." has more.