[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 17 June 2007, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Brown 'could hold EU referendum'
Chancellor Gordon Brown
Chancellor Gordon Brown becomes PM on 27 June
Prime Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown could still hold a referendum on the future of the EU, Europe Minister Geoff Hoon has said.

"Clearly a judgement has got to be made in terms of what is in the final package," Mr Hoon told the BBC.

But the revised EU treaty would have to be in Britain's national interests for the government to accept it, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said.

Germany is pushing for a deal at a leaders' summit this week.

Their planned changes would preserve the substance of the original constitution document.

'Strong differences'

The UK will not accept "cosmetic change" to the treaty, which was rejected in 2005.

Mrs Beckett added that member states still had "strong differences" over the treaty.

She told the BBC's Sunday AM programme: "We do not want to see a constitutional treaty or a treaty that has the characteristics of a constitution.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett
We're not interested in doing things for the sake of cosmetic change
Margaret Beckett
Foreign Secretary

"We will look at anything that will tidy up the rule book of the EU now that we are 27 and not 12 or 15 [member states].

"But we will look at it on the basis of does this work for Britain, is this in our national interests and will it make the European Union more effective as an operation."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to steer EU leaders towards a new treaty which will give the EU a "single legal personality" and a legally-binding Charter of Fundamental Rights.

This could give British workers new rights to go on strike.

There is also the prospect of more majority voting including in criminal law and foreign policy - both areas where Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to preserve British sovereignty.

Margaret Beckett told her colleagues a referendum would be extremely hard to win in Britain
BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell

The constitution was signed by EU member states in 2004, but was rejected by French and Dutch voters in referendums in 2005.

Prime Minister Tony Blair promised a public vote on the EU constitution in 2004 - before it was rejected by France and Holland, but Downing St has indicated that that has now been dropped.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague welcomed the news that there could now be a referendum.

"If this is a U-turn by ministers it will be a very welcome one. Labour promised a referendum on the EU constitution and it would be utterly unacceptable for them to break their word," he said.




FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific