Page last updated at 19:55 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 20:55 UK

UK parliament approves EU treaty

Hecklers make their voices heard in the Lords

The UK has effectively ratified the EU's reform treaty - despite the decision by Irish voters to reject it.

A last-ditch Tory bid to delay the process for four months was defeated by a margin of 93, and peers later gave the EU Amendment Bill a third reading.

Royal Assent is expected within 24 hours, as EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels to discuss the crisis caused by the Irish "No" vote.

The PM says the treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU states to be accepted.

During the Lords debate four protesters were removed from the public gallery after voicing their demands for a referendum.

'Respect for the Irish'

A woman was taken away shouting: "It's a democracy." She was followed by three more protesters, at intervals, demanding a referendum.

Earlier, Gordon Brown dismissed a call by Conservative leader David Cameron to declare the Lisbon Treaty "dead" after the Irish rejection of it.

This is not a treaty that Britain wanted or needed - it's a treaty you were so ashamed of you had to sign it in a room all on your own
David Cameron to Gordon Brown

The prime minister said he respected the Irish people's referendum vote, but the Irish government had asked for more time to discuss what to do in the wake of its outcome.

"Just as we have respect for the Irish, we should have respect for the other countries that are processing the treaty and ratifying the treaty as well," he said.

"And perhaps we should also have respect for this House, which has also voted for ratification of the treaty."

Mr Cameron hit back that he did not understand why Mr Brown could not bring himself to say the treaty was "dead".

"This is not a treaty that Britain wanted or needed," he said. "It's a treaty you were so ashamed of you had to sign it in a room all on your own."

'Limbo'

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso thanked the British government for its "constant support" for the new treaty - and he urged all other EU states who have yet to approve the document to continue the process despite Ireland's no-vote.

"I believe the new treaty will make the EU more effective, democratic and stronger on the global stage," he said. "The treaty of Lisbon has now been approved by 19 member states.

"I call on all of those that have not ratified the Treaty to continue the ratification process."

The bill finally cleared the Commons in March after 14 days of debate in which 29 Labour rebels backed a Tory referendum bid.

That was rejected by a majority of 63 after Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg ordered his MPs to abstain - an order ignored by 13 of his number who voted in support of the Tory measure.

A second Tory attempt by peers to force the government to hold a referendum was defeated by 280 votes to 218.

But the issue was reignited when the Irish voted against the treaty in a referendum last week.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned that failure to ratify the Lisbon Treaty would leave the UK in "limbo" and would be a "crazy" way to seek influence in Europe.

'Changed circumstances'

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said there was "no democratic mandate" to press ahead with ratification and urged ministers against doing so.

In the Lords, the Tories insisted a delay would allow time to consider the "changed circumstances" caused by the Irish rejection of the treaty.

Lord Howell said it was "crystal clear" that Parliament would have to take account of any changes to the legislation that might be required as a result of the Irish "No".

But ex-European commissioner Lord Richard argued: "If we pass this bill, our position becomes clear. If we don't, it will remain imprecise. It would be ludicrous now to refrain from completing our job."

Lords leader Baroness Ashton of Upholland said a four month delay made no sense and would send the wrong signals, putting pressure on the Irish.


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