Friday, July 18, 2003
Nary a Hint... - 18th July 2003, 22.48

Perhaps it was the nature of the forum, but Denis MacShane, (one of the) Ministers for Europe, may have hinted that the government has not ruled out holding a referendum on the European constitution.

Mr MacShane told the EUobserver that a public debate is needed before any decision to hold a referendum is made, hinting that the government may not have completely made up its mind.

"It is simply too early to call for a referendum", he said. "We should concentrate on having an open debate on the text before we consider putting it to the vote."

The unwillingness to understand or take part in an open debate was on show but what our masters giveth with one hand, they take away with another.

Mr MacShane sought to play these fears down. "It is important to remember that the Charter only binds the EU institutions, and not the Member States", he said. "It will not replace our system of common law, and cannot impinge on national competence."

Mr MacShane added that it is wrong to suggest that, by signing up to the constitution, the UK is handing over its national sovereignty. "This is part of the endless propaganda", he said.

Since our system of common law will no longer be an area of national competence, a term unrecognised in the constitutional debate over "what's left", this passage would indicate that the government is, to put it very politely, downplaying the impact of the Constitution on British national life.


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