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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
UK 'should hold EU treaty vote'
Jacques Santer, former European Commission President
Jacques Santer said other ways forward had to be found
The UK should go ahead with its EU constitution referendum despite the French and Dutch "No" votes, suggests an ex-European Commission president.

Jacques Santer told BBC Radio 4's World At One all 25 EU nations should honour their pledge to try to ratify the constitutional treaty.

All the people in Europe should have their say, he argued.

His comments come as UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is expected to put plans for a UK referendum on hold.

Mr Straw this week said the Dutch "No" vote raised "profound questions about the future direction of the European Union".

I think we have to continue the ratification procedure
Jacques Santer
Ex-European Commission President

He will make a House of Commons statement on the way forward on Monday.

Ministers are refusing to say publicly that the constitution is "dead" - saying no one EU member can kill the treaty.

Mr Straw has previously made clear the UK has a legal obligation to ratify the treaty unless European leaders decide otherwise.

Votes ignored?

The prime minister is understood to be contacting other EU leaders ahead of what government sources are calling a "pivotal" European summit later this month.

Mr Santer's views echo those of French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, as well as current EU president Luxembourg.

Mr Santer said: "I think we have to continue the ratification procedure. All 25 member states signed the treaty in Rome last October and agreed to seek ratification by 2006."

He said only two nations had rejected the treaty while 10 had already ratified it. Only Spanish voters have approved the move in a referendum. Other states have held parliamentary votes.

Other ways forward had to be found, he argued, but the votes of half of an EU population of 450 million people should be respected.


Mr Santer said the problems with the treaty should be discussed at the end of the process.

"In order to take the lessons from 'No' votes and other 'No' votes that come, we have to see in what direction we have to go in the future."

Downing Street reacted coolly to Mr Santer's intervention, saying any individual was entitled to express their views in a radio interview.

Conservative leader Michael Howard said the constitution should be "dead and buried" but UK voters should have a say if other nations' referendums go ahead.

Mr Howard argued the rejection of the constitution should be seen as a "tremendous opportunity" to rethink the shape of the EU and return powers from Brussels to the UK.

Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said there was no point in a referendum on a treaty which was "not going to fly".

He said "zealots" were being unrealistic in calling for a referendum so they could claim a "No" vote was a sign of the UK voting against Europe.

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