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The new EU Treaty: the case for a referendum

Conservatives have stepped up pressure on the Government to grant a referendum on the new EU Treaty, which William Hague has warned will transfer power from Britain to Brussels "in spades".

Just hours after the draft text was published - with the aim of securing agreement of EU member states within 12 weeks - the Shadow Foreign Secretary accused Gordon Brown of cynically flouting his party's own solemn election promise to let the British people decide.

And in a speech to Policy Exchange in London, he declared: "The Government have absolutely no democratic mandate to agree to this Treaty without the British people's express permission. The 2005 Labour Party manifesto did not say that the Government would bring in ninety per cent of the EU Constitution under another guise if another country rejected it before the British people had had the chance to have their say. Yet, in an act of extraordinary cynicism, Gordon Brown's Government is proposing to do exactly that."

Mr Hague stated: "We have heard a lot this month about trust and consultation. But how can the British people trust Gordon Brown if he begins his time as Prime Minister with a flagrant breach of a solemn manifesto promise? How can they trust him if he won't trust them to let them have their say?"

He went on to point out that not only Jack Straw and the new Trade Minister Sir - soon to be Lord - Digby Jones, but also Mr Brown himself, have admitted that the Treaty is the revived constitution, and insisted: "What does Gordon Brown think people will make of his talk of consultation if he won't consult them on a question of fundamental importance to this country's future, on which the overwhelming majority of the British people want to have their promised say?"

And making it clear that an incoming Conservative government would hold a referendum on the treaty, Mr Hague added: "The answer is simple: trust the people and let them decide."

In his speech Mr Hague said the new treaty would fundamentally change the European Union and Britain's place in it. He said: "It is our belief that this Treaty should not be ratified without the British people's agreement in a referendum for two reasons. First, because the referendum question goes to the heart of the issue of trust in politics. And, secondly, because such a fundamental change to powers and role of nation states such as ours vis--vis the European Union should require the British people's explicit consent in a national vote."

Mr Hague added: "Those promises could not be clearer. And they touch directly on a crucial issue in today's politics - this issue of trust. After ten years of New Labour's style of Government trust in politics is at an all time low, not least because under Labour ministers' promises and actions can seem wholly unrelated. With power transferred from Britain to Brussels in spades, and the EU fundamentally changed, there is no question but that the Constitution by another name merits a referendum."

Hague, William

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Promoted by Mark Slater on behalf of Torridge & West Devon Conservatives both at Bridge House Fore Street Okehampton Devon EX20 1DL