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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
EU plans: Should there be a referendum?
Plans to give the European Union power to set workers' rights in the UK will be blocked, the government has promised.

The proposals are the latest published in a draft text for a new EU constitution.

The government has also insisted there won't be a referendum on the European Constitution.

Should the people decide, or elected politicians? Is there enough public interest to call a referendum? Would a vote be better now or later?

This debate is now closed. The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

If this constitution is signed without a referendum, no election will be able to reverse it
Peter, UK
Nobody under the age of 46 has ever had the opportunity to vote on any major European issue, not even on whether we should be in the EU at all. If this constitution is signed without a referendum, no election will be able to reverse it. Voting out the British government in the next election would have no effect on Brussels. This document represents the first in a long yet predictable chain of events which will inevitably lead to instability, and, potentially, war.
Peter, UK

Having seen the draft EU constitution and the mind breaking legalese its written in, plus the fact its somewhere over 2400 pages long. How about the EU adopting a version of the US constitution and using the words 'United States of Europe' instead of 'United States of America'? After all it's served the US pretty well for 220 years, plus it would save the EU millions in legal fees and years in time.
Boris, UK

The only time we have been given a chance to vote on Europe, "The Common MARKET" I voted "yes" believing, as I was told by the politicians of the day, that we were voting for a free trade area. They lied then, they (of all political parties) have lied ever since. That is why they are afraid to let us have our say now.
Annie, UK

Trust me with the truth Mr Blair
Andrew Hutchinson, England
What pains me isn't so much whether to have a referendum or not, or which side wins it but the fact we need to have this phoney media war to get our government to come clean and be honest with us. Who knows if people knew the truth they might want the euro and the constitution but we never get to hear the truth from our politicians. So in the meantime I'll continue to play at being a eurosceptic and continue to wave two fingers at the whole project. Trust me with the truth Mr Blair and be open, you might even win me over but like all governments you seem frightened that we can't work it out for ourselves.
Andrew Hutchinson, England

The whole issue stinks of posturing and grubbing for votes. Bland declarations by the anti side of "constitutions being overridden" and "loss of sovereignty" are once again wheeled out in a campaign to keep Britain ignorant of the REAL issues, which are that Europe is our biggest trade market and Britain could take the lead in many fields of its governance.
Roy E, UK

Has the UK ever looked weaker in the eyes of the world? On the one hand we are accused of being the 51st state of the USA, on the other, a disrupting influence and bad team player in Europe. Britain should start thinking about Britain for a change and let the rest of the world go rot.
Steve Bate, England

The blueprint for Europe is written in such extraordinary English - obviously a translation very close to the French original - that it is quite difficult to understand its implications. A plain English version would be much appreciated. I am not a sceptic but it's good to know what you're letting yourself in for!
Rosalind, Brit in Sweden

Britain cannot afford this upgrade to a modern society
Alex Kulla, German living in the UK
The British would be foolish to allow any more European intervention. Having the same laws (work laws, customer rights, social security) as any other country in mainland Europe brings the UK into direct competition and comparability. Playing by the same rules would result in a severe damage of the UK economy, because Britain cannot afford this upgrade to a modern society with good health care, social security, public transport and equality of chances. Being different is the economical and psychological strength of the UK. "Just" playing a role within Europe hits this island where it hurts most: being insignificant.
Alex Kulla, German living in the UK

Where is your sovereignty now? Bit by bit the EU moves ever closer to becoming the United States of Europe. An enlarging EU cannot (and should not) be managed as a confederation of independent states. Through successive governments Britain has shown time and again that it cannot accept those terms. That's why Britain has been nothing but obstructionist to the European ideal. After all, the EU is not what Britain signed up to back in the 1970s. If Britain exits the EU now and then immediately does a bilateral trade deal/customs union with it, Britain gets what it signed up to and the EU can get on with their evolution into nationhood.
Thomas Hrubecky, USA

Don't call a referendum. It would fail. When are we Europeans going to wake up and realise that all this silly dithering about the EU is causing us to fall further and further behind other united political entities, such as the USA, and soon, the People's Republic of China? We look like fools from their strong economic perspectives. Those places are not wasting precious public time and money quibbling about whether Florida and Minnesota have set worker's rights or whether Guangdong and Tianjian have tax harmony. They are getting on with the 21st century.
Nina, UK

We, and our politicians, need to decide our relationship to Europe once and for all
John Hayworth, United Kingdom
I am pro-Europe. But having expanded the use of referenda, and created a political environment where the electorate expect a referendum when fundamental changes are being made, it's inconsistent for the government to deny us a referendum over the new treaty. It is time the question of Europe was settled once and for all. We, and our politicians, need a referendum to decide our relationship to Europe once and for all.

We need a wide ranging debate, which a referendum campaign would fuel, with both the pros and the cons laid on the table. And it clearly stated what the alternatives are, if there are any alternatives. For I do not believe our present half in/half out position is tenable in the long-run and I think it will be only a matter of time before we are "invited" to leave. You can only either be a member of a club or not a member, and members agree to the rules agreed by the majority.
John Hayworth, United Kingdom

I am surprised by some of the comments on the here. Britain has benefited through our EU membership. We are a major European power and it's largest military power. Engaging in the EU does nothing but strengthen our position within it. This constitution was written with our input. It wasn't just handed to us. We have to recognise the geopolitical realities for what they are. I agree there are objectionable clauses in the draft constitution but overall the power is moving in the direction of big states like Britain. This is good news and helps safeguard our position on the top table of world affairs.
Zak Hydari, Britain

I have nothing against closer trading ties with Europe... after all we voted for that in a referendum in the 1970s. What we didn't vote for was the EU, its currency or its constitution. Many powers have already been taken by Europe, the constitution shows that many more are about to go the same way. The time has come for the British people (NOT just a few politicians!) to decide whether this is what we really want. If we leave it any longer it'll be too late to change anything of any importance.
John Smith, UK

I agree with John Smith's comments. Let the British people decide. The UK/US et al, have just fought a war against a regime which denied its people the right to a "voice" - this enforced muting of the British people at this stage of the proceedings is just as oppressive, relatively speaking. When we are allowed to "speak" it will be too late. Hypocrisy Mr Blair.
Lynne , UK

We should be grabbing hold of the opportunity to lead this European super state
Tony Gallivan, UK
What's the deal about the EU? Is it just me who thinks we should be grabbing hold of the opportunity to lead this European super state with both hands? We have possibly the greatest history in the world and for some reason, unknown to me, we seem to be following America round like a puppet on a string. I think if we tried to lead the EU we would make a fantastic job of it and change the course of mankind. Any un-rhetoric filled replies would be appreciated. I look forward to lively responses.
Tony Gallivan, UK

The UK doesn't currently have a constitution, it never has and doesn't need one. Here, everything is allowed unless forbidden by law. In Europe everything is forbidden unless permitted by law. Why should we give away our historic freedoms to a bunch of unelected Eurocrats so they can tell us what we are now permitted to do? An immediate referendum is the only way... Let the people decide if they want this.
John Smith, UK

If you were to have a discussion with one of our continental friends the term federal has different connotations. To them federalism is about decentralised democratic institutions and not the centralised bureaucracy that some of the press would have it portrayed as. Do people think we are alone in having concerns about the constitution? So why are we portrayed as the odd man out when in reality many members and potential members have the same concerns as the UK?
Grant, UK

Tony Blair's claim of victory over the removal of the word "federal" has a very hollow ring about it
Edwin Thornber, UK/Romania
This constitution is unacceptable. The areas of competencies to be exercised by the EU Commission are far too wide reaching. There will be a foreign minister to which every member state must declare allegiance to, even if it disagrees with the adopted policy. There will be a permanent president and everything else required to bring a United States of Europe about in all but name. Tony Blair's claim of victory over the removal of the word "federal" has a very hollow ring about it. We still demand a referendum at the very least!
Edwin Thornber, UK/Romania

May I remind our European counterparts contributing to this forum that Britain pours a lot of funding into Europe and gets less back in return? So the next time you think that Europe will be better off without us, think again. Both my grandfathers fought and watched their friends die to give these people the free way of life they enjoy now. I think people too easily forget!
Chris, UK

Those who claim that we should let the government decide on such a far-reaching issue and then just use the next election to express our displeasure are deliberately blurring the issue: this treaty cannot be "reversed" once we sign up to it unless we leave the EU altogether - and even that could depend on the agreement of the other EU nations, according to the draft constitution. An irreversible decision clearly demands that the public get to voice their opinion BEFORE it is taken.
James, UK

A referendum wouldn't be appropriate right now because there is no yes or no question about it, rather a number of various policy proposals, each of which must be judged separately.
Tim, UK

At last we have some information about the draft EU constitution so that we can consider it. We also need to know which parts are the same as the existing rules and which parts represent changes and how those would work out in practice. The problem most English people have with the EU is that it is undemocratic in its construction and does not contain enough protection against sliding into a tyranny. I believe we should have a referendum when all information has been properly distributed because otherwise the British will probably never regard the constitution as legitimate.
K Budden, England

We are holding the other EU countries back with our ambivalence
Mike, Middlesbrough, UK
As a country we need to decide whether or not we want to be really part of Europe. It's ironic but the Eurovision song contest is typical of our attitude to Europe. We feel too superior to take it seriously so we mock it with a display of amateurism and sarcasm and get a bit upset when the Europeans don't see the joke. Either we should embrace Europe and do our best for ourselves and our European allies or we should get out and look to the US for our inspiration, but always with the knowledge that the US would drop us like a stone if it suited them. We are holding the other EU countries back with our ambivalence, if they want a federal solution then let them have it and we'll go it alone. Either way we are a strong country and we will survive no matter what.
Mike, Middlesbrough, UK

If it's nothing but a consolidation and simplification of the previous treaties then why can't we have a referendum? If it's simply a statement of the direction Europe is going to take in the next 20 years, why can't we have a referendum? If the government is convinced of its fundamental, obvious "rightness" for the nation then why can't we have a referendum? We entered the "common trade area" by referendum but we haven't been asked our opinion since. Nobody has asked us if we want our Parliament-drafted law to be subjugated by European law. Avoiding the word "federal" doesn't prevent the formation of a superstate any more than calling a car a sofa prevents you being run over by one.
Chris, UK

How can the people decide when we don't know what the constitution contains? Even if it was widely disseminated how many people read the small print on extended warranties, or EULAs on software products? If there was a referendum people would be voting with half truths and media bias to sway them, not proper thought. The government are the only people who can make this decision, but their decision making process should be transparent and publicly available so we know why they are making the decisions they do.

Given that's not happening maybe there should be a referendum after all, with a short multiple answer quiz at the beginning. Anyone who answers basic questions correctly gets their votes counted. Anyone who doesn't know the answers shouldn't be voting at all.

I really have trouble understanding the British
J. Van Damme, Belgium
Sure, a referendum for the UK would be a good idea. That is, if the rest of Europe is then still allowed to move on. I really have trouble understanding the British. They accuse the EU of being corrupt bureaucrats (I guess they assume then that the UK is completely free of any corruption), but when the draft constitution proposes to set up a body to tackle this, again they refuse it. Actually, in an ever more globalised world even a country like the UK would GAIN sovereignty by playing a constructive role in a strengthened union that can have an impact on global changes that would otherwise be beyond the UK's control.
J. Van Damme, Belgium

There is no reason to draft an EU constitution until ALL the members of the EU wish to give up their independence. At the moment this is not the case. A big waste of time if you ask me. When I compared the EU draft to the US Constitution it became abundantly clear that the EU constitutional draft is filled with double speak and political correctness. At the moment it is a document that is intellectually dishonest and is degrading to the free spirit of the human experience. It is incredulous that a "free people" wrote such a document. The draft is a quagmire of human reductionism (minimalist point of view) and restrictions on freedoms. The daft is two steps back for mankind and should be burned.
Rita Ward, USA

It's clear from the mass hysteria over the draft constitution is that most of the electorate do not understand just how extensive the competence of the EU already is, nor how decisions are made within. The purpose of the convention is as much about defining and limiting the extent of European competence as it is about creating a 'superstate'. British sovereignty is largely an illusion, due to economic interdependence, the fact that British law has been subordinate to European law for decades and because there are simply good reasons for European-level policy making in many areas, notably the common market. It is frightening that a referendum could so easily be lost due to ignorance and xenophobia. That said, if a referendum would increase understanding of the EU and Britain's role, I'm all for it!
Dave Barker, United Kingdom

There isn't a single political party that clearly supports what I want
Dave Cusson, USA
I want Britain to remain an independent nation with its own culture law and currency. Politicians don't want this and will continue to lie and prevaricate to confuse the issue. There isn't a single political party that clearly supports what I want: there is a majority of people who do, I think, but no leader. Why not try another tack until a leader comes along? "Buy British but do not buy European." If we don't make it, buy from the Commonwealth, or from whoever else makes it. Aside from keeping your money out of the pockets of the European masters, there's some pretty good stuff out there.
Dave Cusson, USA

I would like a referendum, if only to get the facts out into the public domain. Too often it seems we are unable to trust the biased reporting of our press and the private agendas of our politicians. This is not a party political issue, it is a fundamental decision about whether we choose to be part of Europe or not. I agree with Seb from Denmark - we are either in it or out of it but we cannot simply keep putting off the decision and dithering. It is too important a decision for that. If we are too stupid to know the facts then the politicians should work together to educate us and generate a national debate on the subject. Politicians should stop petty squabbling, give us the facts and let us decide. Let's clear this up once and for all.
Sarah Williams, UK

After more than two years in this country, one thing that still strikes me is the general lack of understanding of the aim of Europe and the need of European institutions. The right-wing media is hammering people's minds with ludicrous clichés like the UK being swallowed by a European super state or Britain losing his sovereignty if they join the euro. The UK government should do its job and remind people that EU has been originally created to bring peace amongst our countries and prevent any disaster like the WWII to happen again. It's not only about the euro or the European Constitution, this is the moment for the British people to show that they want to be part of something bigger that will ensure long term peace and free trade in the region.
Giuseppe, Italy (in UK)

Whether you are pro or anti Europe it cannot be denied that reform of the EU is required
Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford, UK
Whether you are pro or anti Europe it cannot be denied that reform of the EU is required. There is a clearly a democratic deficit and people feel their voices are not being heard. However, I do feel that people who express fears of being overrun by Brussels and having no more control of their national affairs should inform themselves a little more thoroughly before repeating the untruths printed by certain newspapers. Britain has always, and will always have a say in the way Europe is run and despite its many failings has contributed a great deal to the improvement in our quality of life.
Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford, UK

It is marvellous the way politicians treat the general populace with such contempt. They make decisions about our lives that can never possibly detract from the quality of their lives with their good salaries and pension plans that we pay for. This is a materially important issue and we the people should be allowed to decide even if they respond with their emotions and not cold logic. We are human after all and deserve our say. No party can claim to be the voice of the people, just the lesser of a number of evils.
Gary Chue, England

I'd welcome the adoption of European employment laws here as your average person would benefit enormously from them. I'm definitely not sure though whether this would be a good price to pay for the rest of it. But I don't think there should be a referendum - I really don't think there are enough people bothered about this. The euro is a different matter though.
John Ellis, England

Why are the British so afraid of the European super state? The super state is already there, and has been for many years. The only problem is that we have never given it proper democratic controls (to some extent because that would scare off British voters). So let's get on with it!
John, UK

To John from the UK, I am afraid of the superstate. The problem is not just that it has not been given proper democratic controls, the problem is more about what it has control over. We must have a referendum as, whatever the outcome, Britain will still trade heavily with the rest of Europe and vice versa. The issue for most Britons is what is the best way to regulate this trade. The powers that this draft surrenders go far beyond what is needed and Britain needs to look hard at the EU to decide whether its current set-up works in Britain's interests. I did not vote Labour at the last election, but will fight to keep our national democracy against the deadly horseman of European bureaucracy.
Adam Savill, UK

This seems to contain foreign policy, law, employment conditions and security. With all of these issues we generally are not just differing in opinion to the rest of Europe but, as displayed recently, we usually take a completely opposing point of view. It's completely unworkable for the UK and the sooner we say no the better.
Phillip Holley, UK

No matter how strongly we voice our opinions there no one is there to listen
Nicola, UK
Our original reasons for going into Europe were to bring down trade barriers. No matter what anyone says the blueprint for Europe goes way beyond this and has the potential to impact our lives on a daily basis. For this reason the British people should be allowed to vote on this issue once the blueprint has been finalised.

The government uses the excuse that the issues are too complex for the British people to understand and for this reason are refusing to let us decide. What a sad indictment from a government to its people. Unfortunately it just seems to be a further indication that they are unwilling to listen to the people they are there to represent, no matter how strongly we voice our opinions there no one is there to listen.
Nicola, UK

The real problem is that the EU is undemocratic. We have the great and the good designing constitutions that we have no say in. No wonder we feel crushed by this juggernaut. We are told that we must be loyal to the EU foreign policy; I wonder what this would have meant for Blair on Iraq? On second thoughts is President Giscard d'Estaing worse than president Tony? Vive la Revolution!
Jim Dixon, England

No, no, no to a Federal Europe good grief what was WWII all for? Let's work together but let's keep who we are - a great bunch of people groups, cultures societies. So much fuss to make us all the same. We can never do that. Why do we need uniformity when the greater goal is unity. If this goes ahead Europe will tear itself apart again as it has done through out history. I fear for our children
Peter Costello, UK

Recent political developments make it imperative for an economical superpower to act as a counterweight to the US. This superpower has to be Europe. Only the US benefit from the situation as it is now. Europe is the only place where the UK can exercise genuine influence and power over, and act in, its own interest. It is time a decision is made, and it should be the people who make that decision.

As to the perennial question whether Washington or Brussels should rule the UK: it is possible to have UK delegates in Brussels. A Brit could be president of the EU. No Brit will ever have a real say in Washington. The perception that in joining the EU, the UK would lose it sovereignty to an unelected body conceals the fact that already an unelected body is making vital decisions that a large chunk of the UK's population does not agree with, and that isn't Europe.
Ed Karten, UK

Mr Hain tells us that the draft constitution is a tidying up operation. Would M. Giscard d'Estaing have needed 15 months merely to do a bit of tidying up? When politicians show such contempt for the common sense of the electorate they bring not only themselves but the whole political process into disrepute.
David Lester, United Kingdom

Maybe we should have a referendum, but not before we see the final package. No referendum was held on the single market (Thatcher) and the Maastricht Treaty (Major), both of which produced more substantive integration that the current proposals. I am a passionate believer in a strong, enlightened, federal, Europe as a force for good in the world. Sadly, I am coming to the conclusion that this will only be achieved if the British are not included. It seems to me that the British aim (if in the EU) is to wreck such an outcome.
Al, UK (in USA)

Britain cannot continue to have the best of both worlds by dithering when it comes to Europe
Daniel, UK
Britain cannot continue to have the best of both worlds by dithering when it comes to Europe. Forget referenda on the constitution or the euro. The choice is simple - act as a full participant or leave. The Conservatives have yet to explain why they aren't advocating this, the real question, as an issue for public debate.
Daniel, UK

The British electorate is not a mindless mob led by the calls of the tabloid and their cohorts. Let us have our say in what could be one of most important decisions in the history of our country. If the Government thinks that their case is strong enough then they should be able to use the facts to convince the people. If people are "too stupid" to comprehend these facts, as some seem to believe, then why bother having elections, as the decisions involved are just as complex.

The British empire belongs to the history books; how long will you need to understand that the UK is not a superpower anymore? Now you have to make a choice - either you become a fair player in the EU or leave it.
Seb, Denmark

Instead of a referendum, why don't people just vote in the European elections? They'll happen in May, just after the final version of the constitution is agreed - unanimously - by all the Member States. Turnout in the European elections is always woefully low in the UK, and then everyone starts whingeing about the EU in response to ludicrous tabloid stories. Why don't we make the connection and use our existing vote before we clamour for a referendum?
Jo, France

What would the long term outcome be if Tony Blair held a referendum and won? It could finally finish off the Tories and certainly dump the euro sceptic press at one stroke, the path to euro entry would be clear for Blair. Perhaps the megaphone politics on this issue should be reappraised, and those bellowing loudest should remember "getting what you wish for..."
Charles Bisset, Scotland

No referendum on the EU constitution is fine by me. It makes the eventual referendum on the Euro even less likely to go the Government's way.
Charles Gordon, Great Britain

Although it seems to be a goal of the US president and his administration to split the EU, I feel a strong and united EU, with Britain as a leading member, is essential for all of the countries in Europe. The EU, with unity of currency, foreign policy, economic policy, environmental policy, etc. will be a very effective, and critically needed counterbalance to the United States.
I am most pleased to see it proposing a strong EU president. I am also happy to see that they plan to stay away from the US presidential model which would most certainly lead to control of the office by special interests, and moneyed interests, as is the case in the US. As for the issue of whether or not to hold a referendum, I leave that decision to the honourable members of Commons and the very capable Mr. Blair.
Robert Furino, USA

Yes! Let's have a referendum now! The sooner the government wake up to the views of the British people the sooner we can start to extract ourselves from this crazy federal state of Europe. My father and others fought a war to prevent this glorious country becoming subsumed into the grandiose schemes of a vile dictator. I believe he was right and we should now put our shoulders to the political barricades to avoid the same fate through the gutless appeasement being shown by this government. Bring on the referendum and allow the British people to have their say!
Alex Allsopp, England

Britain has been avoiding the subject to the point of being asked if they really belong in Europe or are they the 51st state of USA. There are many things to be solved on the EU constitution subject but it doesn't seem as if Britain really stands behind the ideals of united Europe which is very disappointing
Dainius, Lithuania

There should be a referendum and the only question should be, "Would you rather be ruled from Washington or Brussels?" I prefer Brussels.
Alcuin, UK

The people should start deciding rather than merely keeping things for the politicians. The EU is here for good and it is time that British nationals start feeling and thinking European for that is our future. Our future lies no where else. I am not sure if a vote is better now or later but it is only prudent that we start thinking and acting 'European' AND it is time our politicians start preparing us for that.
Susan Gunasekera, Sri Lanka (British national)

There's not much point in asking for a referendum until we have seen the final version
Ben, England, UK
The so-called Constitutional Treaty is just an incomplete draft at this stage. It will be changed during the coming months, in negotiations between the national governments of the member states. So there's not much point in asking for a referendum until we have seen the final version. But even then people should consider all the long-term political and economic consequences for Britain of turning our backs on an enlarged EU.
Ben, England, UK

If Mr Blair and his cabinet are so certain of the wishes of the electorate let him take the democratic path. Why bother with a referendum let him go to the country in a general election!
Susan Wood, England

I wonder why the government seems so reluctant to put the final EU constitution to a referendum. If parliament is required to ratify it, surely a referendum is the easiest and clearest way for our MPs (elected to represent our interests and opinions) to find out public opinion. It might actually lead the way for an informed and instructive debate on the European institutions this document is meant to define.
Ieuan Adams, UK

We should definitely get a vote on whether to give away most of our sovereign powers. All the countries in Europe are different and have different needs. How can decisions be made sensibly that benefit all of the countries? They just can't. Europe should be about trade links and not creating a single entity to take on the US. We are all too different and letting us have our voice on whether to try and work through the differences is the only way forward.
Mike, Scotland

How many people in the UK actually know what's going on in the EU parliament and commission?
Sam, UK
An elected president would be a good start, but how many people in the UK actually know what's going on in the EU parliament and commission? We generally just react to fait accompli when we it affects us adversely. Until people are actively involved in EU democracy there will be none.
Sam, UK

The EU is going to become a federal government as well as an economic convenience sooner or later, and when it happens it absolutely must elect its leaders directly. If an EU president is not directly answerable to the people, abuses will happen of the sort that a unified and friendly Europe is supposed to prevent. Yes, a referendum! Yes, democracy! I do not want to find in 25 years that my children are dying to liberate Europe from itself once again.
Nick, US (in UK)

We need a referendum on this important constitutional issue. There was no mention of it in Labour's manifesto, was there? If we vote against the constitution, our next step should be to hold a vote on getting ourselves free of the socialist police-state that the EU has become, before it is too late.
Andrew Howlett, England

Of course a referendum should be held
Chris, England/ Germany
The mere fact that a name change to the United States of Europe was originally in the new constitution shows the aims of the rest of Europe. So Blair got any reference to this removed. Does this mean that the rest of Europe don't want this anymore? I think not and if this is where it is ultimately going to lead then of course a referendum should be held.
Chris, England/ Germany

As we watch America growing in power and influence around the world we have two choices, either continue as a disunited impotent directionless community or put all our petty nationalisms behind us and forge a new way forward based on social values and co-operation. The bigger countries will have to focus on Europe's role in world affairs rather than competing with each other. Britain has lots to offer and should be leading in Europe rather than being dragged kicking and screaming!
Ray, Ireland

I am totally against a European constitution. I am satisfied with our way of life, parliament, our legal system and our sovereignty. I never voted for an EU state. When we joined it was about trade. All past changes have been done by stealth.
Stan Cooper, UK

There is no need for a referendum, we have already voted for the government, let them govern. Until the right wing media stop scaremongering people over Europe there cannot be a fair referendum anyway.
Harry, UK

Am I the only person in the country who thinks that strengthening the European Union by making it genuinely democratic is a good idea? Never mind prime ministers taking it in turns to play at being president for six months at a time - how about having a European executive that's appointed by a European parliament that we all elect - with powers to really deal with all the big issues that affect us all, wherever we live in Europe.
Jenny Lynn, UK

A clear decision is called for
David Kiltz, Germany
My feeling is that a referendum could be a watershed. Britons need to decide whether they want to belong to Europe or not. The EU doesn't need Britain but my guess is, that Britain will need the EU. The gut feeling of many "continentals" is such that, politically, Britain doesn't really belong to Europe anyway. A clear decision is called for. Continued wiggling and waggling will only lead to one thing: United Kingdom, zero points.
David Kiltz, Germany

Member states shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to undermine its effectiveness. Uh huh, "cough" France and Germany. Oh, sorry ....this doesn't apply to them...as they lead the EU.
Gary, UK

The only people against Europe and its new constitution are the royalists harking back to the empire days. Those days are over now, move forward, the US is the new empire and only uses Britain to divide Europe.
John, UK

The government is doing a disservice both to the British electorate and to the cause of European integration
Frazer Goodwin, Belgium/ England
I am strongly pro-EU, but bitterly disappointed at the rebuttal of calls for a referendum. The government is doing a disservice both to the British electorate and to the cause of European integration by not having referenda on changes to the EU Treaty. The EU will continue to be misrepresented, misunderstood and more importantly detached from the ordinary UK citizen if they do not have an opportunity to actively participate in such decisions.
Frazer Goodwin, Belgium/ England

A growing number of people on the continent think the British should rather have a referendum on whether or not they want to stay in the EU, than on the EU constitution. They see the UK as a bad team player, holding back 'further unification' (or a more confederalist system, as you wish). I've discussed this with some people of all sorts of nationalities working at the Commission here in Brussels, and quite a lot of them were supporting this idea.
J J Nijs, Belgium

The EU can work successfully ONLY without the UK. Let them couple with the US, and we'll mind our business without them.
Milos, Slovakia

Of course the British people should decide on the European constitution. What are the government so worried about? If as they say it will benefit us I'm sure they will get the vote they want. If on the other hand they want a United States of Europe by stealth, then the British people will never forgive the Labour party and at the next election they will be swept out of power, hopefully never to be seen again!!!
Janet, Britain

Of course we should. If the government deems it important to give us referendums on the Mayor of London, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly then surely we deserve one on this issue. Peter Hain's comments recently have been arrogant beyond belief and he has seriously misjudged the attitude of the British people on this issue.
Simon, UK

I can appreciate what they have to offer without necessarily wanting to adopt it at home
Jason Thacker, UK
Personally, I don't wish to be an EU citizen, I am quite happy being a UK citizen. I do believe that the UK has a place in Europe, as a trading partner. My personal belief is that the basic differences in political systems, attitude, lifestyle etc between European countries are just too diverse (not bad) to be accommodated under a single system. Having lived in other European countries I can appreciate what they have to offer without necessarily wanting to adopt it at home.
Jason Thacker, UK

Whilst I support closer ties with Europe in principal, I have to admit that the appearance of 'federalism by stealth' causes a lot of suspicion. Yes, I would support a healthy public debate and referendum on such an important issue, and if supporters of the constitutional change cannot convince the voting public, then it shouldn't happen. We shouldn't get carried away with the idea of referenda, however. Switzerland has them for all sorts of issues, and this is precisely why Swiss women didn't get the vote until 1961!
Tim Hiscock, UK

We need to move into a new era
Sam Whitesides, England
All of these people whining about 'sovereignty' seem to have forgotten where it got us...centuries of war. We need to move into a new era where we all work for the common good, not just our small 'tribes'.
Sam Whitesides, England

I'd love a vote, but a proper one. Not an EU style referendum where they make you keep having it until you get the "right" answer.
Roger, UK

The details of the European Constitution should be made public and broadcast on radio and TV and the address of the internet web pages made available. We the people should be able to listen, or read, or watch unbiased discussions and comment. The decision whether to accept the European Constitution should be made by the people on such an important decision. We have been told lies by politicians of both political parties since the birth of the Common Market. They are like "ships that pass in the night" and as the polls regularly reveal, we the people, do not trust them.
Mel, England

Of course we should have a vote. You cannot impose a constitution on someone without their consent, and it's not as if this is a manifesto commitment by Tony Blair. There's no mention of an EU constitution in the 2001 manifesto.
Chris, Liverpool, UK

Of course I'd like a vote. We haven't voted on any of the major constitutional changes that have come about since 1975 and our agreement to join a free trade area that has become a republican political project. In the UK we vote every four or five years to ensure that progress is in line with our wishes. It's 28 years since we voted on our involvement in Europe and oh my how it has changed from son of EFTA to a bossy unelected Franco-German led republic. It's time to revisit the project and ask a new generation if this is the type of world in which they wish to raise their children.
Robin, UK

The UK should consider closer economic ties with North America
Jerry Busbee, United States
I believe that the current instability of the euro and of the EU economy as well as the rift between London and the Paris-Berlin axis is nothing but further evidence that the UK should consider closer economic ties with North America and a more cautioned approach to Europe. Despite geographical proximity, Britain has little in common with the continent while Britons share vast cultural and historic ties with Canada and the United States. Also, the US Dollar has a long history as being the most stable and respected world currency. The North American economic zone is by far the most successful the world has ever seen and the civil liberties enjoyed in North America are similar to those in Britain largely because US and Canadian law is based on British Common Law. I hope that when push comes to shove, Whitehall and the British public overall remember that their true friends are in Washington and Ottawa and not Paris and Berlin.
Jerry Busbee, United States

I have read this proposed constitution, its available on the Internet, and it does have major implications for the governance of this country (for ever). Despite what Peter Hain may say there MUST be a clear mandate from the people for such a huge step. It's high time our politicians studied some history to see what happens to the ones who try to disregard their electorate! Even if you are in favour of ratification of the new proposals, you cannot be against a fair referendum on it and still claim to be a democrat.
Malcolm, UK

What a stupid question - of course I would. It would then be my prerogative to NOT use it if I so wished. I cannot stand the government treating the general public as if they were morons. Politicians used to be members of the public too, you know. Most of us have a handle on the issues at hand and we are more than intelligent enough to cast a vote on the subject.
Duncan, England.

We should have a referendum on any transfer of our sovereignty to another body
Arron, UK
We should have a referendum on any transfer of our sovereignty to another body. The reason we won't get one is because the government know that the majority of people in this country do not want to be in the EU. The Pro-Europeans will say that's not the case, but if you ask them, the common man on the street will tell you that they do not want to be in an undemocratic super state. People may say that we elect a European parliament but this is just a body that rubber stamps the decisions from the counsel of ministers. Let the other European countries join this highly dangerous and frightening un-elected dictatorship if they want to, I prefer freedom. If the whole authority within the whole of the EU structure was accountable to the electorate via democratic elections then I would then have no problem with the EU.
Arron, UK

Some people clearly do not understand democracy. Our MPs work for us - we are their employers and we can sack them if they are no good. Let them get on with their job and make decisions on our behalf. If we don't like the results we can elect someone to reverse them later. None of this is cast in stone. Referendums are a complete red-herring and anti-democratic. All they do is demonstrate that the electorate lacks confidence - not in its MPs but in itself.
Tom, UK

In case no-one has noticed, we do live in a democracy. I supported Blair throughout this war, and I would be appalled to hear he had given over our sovereignty to Europe without letting us decide.
Richard Murray, UK

Time we left this corrupt undemocratic organisation once and for all
Michael, London, UK
I'm amazed by the responses of some here who do not seem to trust the electorate to make the "right" decision. Where have I heard this before? Ah, yes that'd be the Soviet Union. It seems that the lefties can't get the people of the UK to vote for a socialist government so they want to impose one on us through the EU. Time we left this corrupt undemocratic organisation once and for all.
Michael, London, UK

Until we have a more responsible press and until people are prepared to find out the facts about what they may or may not be voting for I see no point in having a referendum in this country on any subject.
Amy, UK

Yes the people should have the final say with a referendum. Our politicians have shown us time and time again that they cannot be trusted to tell us the truth about Europe. I am not anti European, but want no part of a "United Europe" or a single currency. Until someone can convince me that it would be in our best interest and I believe that to be impossible, then the answer will be NO, NO, NO.
Mike, England

A referendum should only be attempted after at least two months during which all media are banned from expressing biased opinions on the issue. If the tabloids were forced to publish nothing but facts for once, we might get some sense out of the British public.
Sarah B, UK

No-one turns up to vote anyway so we might as well join it and stop moaning.
James Clarke, UK

Several contributors make the point that it's not worth giving people a chance to vote because it's too complicated for us to understand. That's the first step back towards the bad old days when the local squire decided what should happen because the poor villagers were too stupid to decide for themselves. Sorry guys, no way. I DEMAND my right to decide what happens to me. If the politicians want me to understand all this "complexity", then maybe they should get out of their ivory towers and come and explain it to me and stop hiding in Whitehall and Brussels.
John Smith, UK

Nick Fraser in Germany says "On this occasion we must have faith in our elected representatives". Why on earth should we? All along they have tried to hoodwink the public about the real "European Project", and it is about time we told them that we want no part of it.
Graham Auty, UK

On this occasion we must have faith in our elected representatives
Nick Fraser, Berlin, Germany
I would normally be a supporter of a referendum for a major constitutional change such as this. However, this debate is extremely complex and not one that can be resolved on a black and white, yes and no basis. A referendum cannot fully capture the complexity and subtlety of the various positions that the numerous parties are bringing to the table. On this occasion we must have faith in our elected representatives and our civil servants to negotiate the best deal for the people of Europe.
Nick Fraser, Berlin, Germany

I'm with Frank Field on this one - we must be presented with the facts and have a referendum. Incidentally - if we are getting a permanent EU president why isn't he/she going to be elected?
Fabian Breckels, England

When most people get their European views from tabloids, the majority are hardly likely to know much about the facts. Let the politicians decide.
John Montgomery, Scotland

We had referendums for devolution in Wales, Scotland and London. If the same doesn't happen for evolution in Europe, this government is hypocritical. That I'd vote YES is irrelevant - that's democracy, and it's the government's job to engage people in politics, not to pathetically bemoan apathy and ignorance as reasons for elective dictatorship.
Phillip Souta, London, UK

I would like to know what the benefits of being in Europe are. I understand that it costs us £43M per day to be in! With all these eastern European countries clamouring to join, it frightens me that we will be in the position of West Germany after unification. Of course the people should decide and decide NOW. It's called a democracy!
Garry Speight, UK

No referendum is therefore needed on the EU constitution
Raj Basi, London, UK
The politicians are elected by us and so act in our interests. No referendum is therefore needed on the EU constitution as those who would vote in any such referendum generally do not understand the true importance for a constitution for Europe and will be acting only to assert this mysterious concept of British sovereignty over a free and democratic EU.
Raj Basi, London, UK

The new EU proposed constitution calls for changes of such magnitude that only a referendum can be the honest way to accept or reject it. Governments come and go but the Brits will have to live with it for ever.
Donald B, UK

There is plenty of public interest in this matter. If there is a poor turnout in normal elections it is because people do not see a point in voting for parties which are fundamentally the same. However, this is an important issue on which people would like to raise their voice. People do not trust politicians enough to entrust the future of the country to them in this instance.
Tracey, UK

It seems that this whole issue has been blown out of proportion by the Conservative party and the right-wing tabloids. The EU needs a constitution which clarifies it. What happens if we reject it? We leave the EU, which provides us with the majority of our trade! It is saddening to see the amount of anti-Europeanism in Britain. What do people want next, a vote to leave the continent of Europe and join North America?
Michael Vaughan, UK

This new constitution will be far-reaching in its long term importance
James Wild, UK
It goes without saying that there should be a referendum on the new EU constitution. Many other European countries will be doing so, so why can't the UK? So far we've had referendums on far more trivial subjects such as a mayor for London and other towns and cities. This new constitution will be far-reaching in its long term importance and it is dishonest of Blair to claim that it is a mere 'tidying up' exercise.
James Wild, UK

I am appalled at the continuing arrogance of this government and by their apparent disregard for the concerns of the British people. A change in our constitution should involve and inform all concerned - that Mr Blair means US the voters!!! Let the people decide or are we no longer a democracy?
Julie Finch, UK

How can the United Kingdom continue to refer to itself as a 'democratic' country unless the people get the chance to voice their opinion on something so far-reaching? The government must call a referendum without further delay.
Nicholas Bugden, England

I think we all have a right to know how we will be governed
Shona, UK
I am saddened by many of the people who have suggested that the British could not possibly hold an informed opinion on the question of a European referendum. Presumably on this basis, these people wouldn't have supported franchisement for the masses either? If people do not know enough about the issue, it is because politicians are not doing their job - I think we all have a right to know how we will be governed and a referendum should follow a series of public debates and clear information mailings.
Shona, UK

It has to happen sometime so why don't we just get on with it.
Pat Hutchinson, UK

If the current press hysteria surrounding this issue is anything to go by it would be impossible to have a well informed referendum on the issue. Don't criticise the government for blocking democracy, the press use their non-elected power to sway public opinion for their own purposes.

I think the Government should inform and educate the people regarding the euro - the pro's and con's - then they should hold a referendum. As an Englishman living in Spain and having used the euro from its inception, I would vote NO for the euro in Britain. The reason being "the cost of living" has risen dramatically because everything was rounded up to the nearest euro despite what they said, that's what happened!
Stan Laundon, Spain

We already voted to join the EU in 1972. Very few people will have either the time or the inclination to delve into every constitutional EU document. The issues rarely have straightforward yes/no options. We don't have referenda on every Parliamentary Bill: why should we have them on EU Bills?
John M, Lyne Meads, UK

Yes the European constitution should be put to a referendum
Derrek Green, Oxford, UK
Yes the European constitution should be put to a referendum. Should the referendum result in a Yes - the Eurosceptics should shut up their xenophobic banter for a while. If No - the constitution should perhaps be rewritten in consultation with the others or if the other European nations have adopted it are unwilling to change the constitution the UK must either accept it or leave the EU.
Derrek Green, Oxford, UK

What is the point of having a vote on the proposed constitution because a majority of the public would not know what they are voting for? In addition, the electorate are likely to vote along party lines because it is clear that the Conservatives' would be against it and the result would be based on who is able to persuade the public either way.
Greg, Birmingham, West Midlands

Most certainly yes. We saw Blair enter a war against the wishes of the people. Let the people have the final say on critical issues; we do here in Switzerland and it is the best form of government in the world, and I'm a Brit.
Ray Owen, Switzerland

A referendum would be a pointless waste of money; Blair and co will repeat it until the correct answer was given. I would rather have a strong, sensible government who listens to its people. Sadly, there's no chance of that for the foreseeable future.
Tom G, UK

It does seem a delicious irony: Being forced to have a new constitution without the people the constitution governs having a say on it. So much for "written by the people for the people". Much more "written by the politicians for the politicians".
Michael, Nottingham, UK

I wouldn't just like it, I demand it
Toby, UK
I wouldn't just like it, I demand it. I do not wish to be a part of a Europe that is so tainted with corruption and incompetence. Also, the way the French, German and Belgian Governments have acted in recent months has made me angry, to say the least. If this constitution is forced through the back door, I will feel utterly disenfranchised.
Toby, UK

I can't wait to see a UK politician in favour of this proposed constitution stand up and advocate it to an audience of the British public. There has not been a single substantive benefit floated for taking this path. We have plenty to lose and d not very much to gain. I do not want to be governed by a corrupt, wasteful, unaccountable and self serving group of Eurocrats. If you think the lot in Westminster are bad take a look at the lot in Brussels.
Tony, UK

A recent poll on this issue showed that more than 80% of people wanted a referendum and more than 80% knew nothing about the convention! What's the point in giving people a vote on something they know nothing about?
Stuart, UK

We must have a referendum. This is such a hugely important issue, one that will profoundly affect the foreseeable future of this country, and it must be given to the British people as a whole to make.
Wayland, UK

We didn't have a referendum when we joined the Common Market, ERM, Maastricht treaty and a whole host of other treaties that surrendered far more sovereignty than the new European Convention will. Why should we suddenly have one now? Just spin from politicians with vested interests. Hopefully we'll get to elect some of our EU officials soon and British politicians will realise it's time to shape up or ship out.
James, NL

The fact that we haven't had votes on similar issues in the past is no reason not to have we now. Of course we should have a vote. Or don't our Lords and masters trust us to produce the "right" answer?
Alex Swanson, UK

I do not think Tony Blair would put us in a dead end situation
Gareth, UK
Although I have very little faith in this government on a number of issues, I trust that the right decision will be made, and as this affects us all I do not think Tony Blair would put us in a dead end situation with no way back.
Gareth, UK

Yes we should get a vote. Peter Hain may say arrogantly that it's a matter purely for the politicians but people just don't trust them, and after having been comprehensively lied to by our elected leaders on Iraq (the WMD threat etc), who can blame us? I no longer trust Blair and co, it's as simple as that.
John, UK

The only reason that the likes of Mr Field and other euro sceptics want a referendum is because they know what the outcome will be. Joe Bloggs who has been brainwashed by the tabloids (did I see The Sun compare Blair to Hitler last week?!) is hardly the right candidate to decide about very important matters like these.
John, UK

It's a major constitutional change, therefore a referendum is both appropriate and necessary. Contemptuously to dismiss "Joe Bloggs" as unqualified to judge such weighty and complex matters is to show contempt for democracy. On that basis, why hold elections?
Mike Bell, UK

A more suitable vote would be to ask the population whether continued membership of the EU should be supported.
Martin Lowe, England

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19 May 03  |  Politics
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