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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Dutch cabinet to rule on EU vote
By Stephen Mulvey
EU reporter, BBC News

Dutch graffiti urging vote against European constitution in June 2005
The Dutch unambiguously rejected the constitution in 2005
The Dutch cabinet is due to decide whether or not to hold a referendum on the European Union's new Reform Treaty.

Two of the three parties in the ruling coalition are opposed to a referendum, but a third, the Labour Party, is split over the issue.

Dutch voters rejected the proposed European constitution in 2005, plunging the EU into a political crisis.

Reports suggest that the public could vote against the new treaty too, if given the chance.

Labour ministers are reported to be under intense pressure from their own members of parliament to demand a popular vote on the new treaty.

They say voters had a chance to vote on the constitution, so they should have a chance to vote on its successor.

The cabinet discussed the issue last Friday, but did not reach a decision.

Referendum 'tricky'

Michele de Waard, diplomatic correspondent of the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, told BBC News that a majority of voters appeared to be against to the treaty.

A second Dutch referendum now would put wind in the sails of those who want one in Britain
BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell

"The government has conducted secret opinion polls, which show that a referendum would be very tricky," she said.

"I hear from government sources that only 47% of people who took part were in favour of the new treaty."

Both the Labour Party and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats support the Reform Treaty.

A third party in the coalition government, the Christian Union, is against the treaty, but is also against referendums on principle.

Ms de Waard said it appeared that a majority in the lower house of the Dutch parliament were in favour of a popular vote, and may vote to organise a referendum regardless of the government's decision.

However, she added that the upper house of parliament was opposed to a referendum, and would probably block any such decision by the lower house.

Dutch MPs discuss an EU referendum

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