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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 18:13 GMT
Beckett's EU constitution doubts
Copy of European Constitution
EU leaders disagree on whether the constitution is dead or alive
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has said she believes there is little chance of the controversial European Constitutional Treaty being revived.

She told MPs the treaty, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, could not go ahead "in its present form".

Since those referendums the treaty has been on hold. Home Secretary John Reid has described it as a "dead parrot".

Germany has pledged to find a way forward when it takes over the EU presidency in January.

Speaking to the foreign affairs committee on Wednesday, Mrs Beckett was asked whether an inter-governmental conference might be held to take the constitution forward, towards the second half of 2007.

'Optimists'

"I don't myself detect at present, and this may change of course during in the New Year, sufficient of a clear consensus that I think they would really be in quite that position quite so soon," she said.

She said she expected further discussion, with states that had already ratified the constitution arguing for it to be resurrected in its current form.

It is clear that that treaty in its present form, that it can't be proceeded with
Margaret Beckett

And she thought some "optimists" might tell the French and Dutch governments to put the constitution to the vote again.

"I don't think that would go anywhere," she said.

She added: "It is clear that that treaty in exactly its present form, at least it seems to me, that it can't be proceeded with in its present form."

Asked why the UK was not "taking a lead" on the issue, Mrs Beckett said: "There are lots of different ways to negotiate in different circumstances and standing up and beating the drum and demanding X,Y and Z does not always bring success."

The EU constitution is a compromise between the demands of those who want more integration and those who want to preserve the rights of the nation states.

It would allow more joint action to be decided by majority voting, in areas like immigration and asylum policy. But in other areas, like foreign policy and tax, member states could still go their own way.

EU leaders decided on a "period of reflection" - effectively putting the constitution treaty on hold - since the Dutch and French voters rejected it in June 2005.

Of the 25 EU states, 16 have largely completed ratification - but it cannot come into force unless it is ratified by all 25.

Most countries that have ratified the constitution are still hoping it can be resuscitated in something like its original form.

Others, such as the UK, the Netherlands and Poland would prefer it not to reappear in any form.

If Germany comes up with a blueprint for a way forward, the hope is that treaty changes can be ratified - with or without referendums - in 2008.




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