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Anger at Blair's 'secret deal' to sign new EU constitution

UK Daily Mail | June 15, 2007

Tony Blair has been engulfed in a row over Europe after it became clear he is under huge pressure to sign a "son of constitution" treaty next week.

A leaked letter by current EU president Angela Merkel revealed that a deal is being drafted to revive almost all the controversial elements of the flopped European Constitution.

The disclosure sparked demands for a UK referendum on the new treaty - and angry claims that EU leaders were trying to smuggle in a massive new extension of Brussels power "by the back".

Today Downing Street, which has already made plain that Mr Blair will not sanction a referendum, played down the fears and insisted that the final shape of the deal was unclear.

But the Merkel letter, which was leaked in Brussels, made plain that there is already broad agreement that "much of the substance" of the defunct constitution should be resurrected.

Writing to fellow leaders as part of the pre-summit exchange of views, she said it had been agreed to drop the term " constitution" to appease those who thought the EU was taking on the trappings of a state. But that was seen as "a major concession" - and most countries wanted "as much of the substance of the Constitutional Treaty as possible" to be saved. The implication was that the constitution would be revived in all but name, but this time without voters getting a choice.

Tory Europe spokesman Mark Francois said: "This is all being done in secret behind the back of the British people and the Parliament. If any further powers are given away, there must, absolutely must, be a referendum".

The constitution was controversial because it proposed scrapping national vetoes in dozens of areas, including policing and justice; the creation of a permanent elected president and foreign minister, and a legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights that would increase trade union influence.

It was abandoned after being rejected in referendums in France and Holland. Britain had promised a referendum but Mr Blair says the new document will be just "an amending treaty" and need not be put to a vote.

He is expected to demand an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and No 10 insisted that nothing had been agreed yet. "This document is a private report and we should not read too much into it at this stage" said a spokesman.

However, German officials were yesterday boasting that the new deal would give the European Union a "single legal personality".

 

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