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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
'No UK referendum' on EU changes
Blair and Balkenende
Mr Blair and the Dutch PM agree no new constitution is needed
The UK prime minister does not intend to hold a referendum on the rules that govern the way in which the EU operates, Downing Street has confirmed.

Tony Blair had promised a referendum on a new EU constitution, but the British government and the Netherlands are now pushing for a less ambitious treaty.

There was no tradition of holding votes on treaties, said Mr Blair.

The Conservatives have accused him of trying to introduce elements of the constitution "by the back door".

The constitution has been effectively on hold since it was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

'Move forward'

Germany, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, has been trying to find a way to move it forward.

Asked if the treaty he favoured would require a referendum, Mr Blair told the Financial Times: "No. If it's not a constitutional treaty, so that it alters the basic relationship between Europe and the member states, then there isn't the same case for a referendum."

What he is saying now sounds suspiciously like an attempt to introduce elements of it by the back door
William Hague

He added that the British government is "going to get attacked whatever we do, but Europe needs to do it to move forward".

Mr Blair also said that his likely successor, Chancellor Gordon Brown, agreed with his view.

The prime minister has already backed a Dutch proposal for the EU to push for changes to existing treaties with the aim of easing some fears of a European super-state.

EU roadmap

Earlier this week Mr Blair and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the focus should be on changes that made the EU work better.

In June Germany will present EU leaders with a roadmap for the adoption of a new constitutional treaty.

It has said it wants to preserve as much of the old constitution as possible, and has support from 17 other states which have all ratified, or nearly ratified, the text.

After talks in London this week Mr Blair said it was important to recognise that the UK and the Netherlands were not the only countries that "really will have a difficulty with a constitutional treaty."

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said there should be a referendum on any new treaty transferring power from Britain to the EU.

He added: "What he (Mr Blair) is saying now sounds suspiciously like an attempt to introduce elements of it by the back door, despite its decisive rejection by the voters of France and Holland.

"This would go against the government's previous assurances and be totally unacceptable to the people of Britain."

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