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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Head to head: EU constitution
Tony Benn and Chris Bryant
Britain looks set to get a referendum on the European constitution. Here Chris Bryant, chairman of the Labour Movement for Europe, and former cabinet minister Tony Benn give two very different viewpoints on the constitution.

CHRIS BRYANT TOLD THE TODAY PROGRAMME:

I do think we have come to a point in Britain where we need to take stock.

We have got the Conservative Party, which seems to be arguing for an associate membership of the European Union.

And since no other country in Europe is prepared to renegotiate along the lines that Michael Howard is talking about, that effectively means withdrawing from the European Union.

So perhaps, yes, we ought to have a vote, we ought to decide, we ought to sit down and say: do we want to play a role at the heart of Europe or do we want to be on the sidelines?

The issue is a constitutional treaty. It's a process of negotiation. We are negotiating, one country with 24 other countries.

I'm sure that at the end of the process of negotiation, which has some way to go, that all Britain's "red lines" on for instance taxation, defence, immigration and so on, will have been met.

If that is the case of course ... then presumably Michael Howard will be voting in favour as well.

TONY BENN TOLD BBC BREAKFAST:

Everybody wants to cooperate with Europe. We do not want any more world wars in Europe, we've had two in the last century.

But this constitution transfers 36 areas of policy - employment policy, agriculture, fisheries and a mass of other powers - from the Parliament which we elect to a European system which is not elected. I was in the Council of Ministers for four years, I know how it works.

This is about democracy, it's not about wanting to get out of Europe. We are all born Europeans...

If we get to a situation where people realise that whoever they vote for they cannot change the laws under which they are governed, the turnout will drop, democracy will be undermined.

It is a democratic issue and I think it is right that we should have a referendum.

There will be a very important debate.




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