Sunday, August 03, 2003
Another Hint - 3rd August 2003, 17.53

The weakening of public support for the Blair administration has added an additional complication to their support for European integration. In the past, Blair's public status was deployed as an asset that would be used at an indeterminate point to swing a wavering public towards voting 'Yes' in a referendum for the Euro. However, the Euro vote has been rendered less significant by the implications for European integration that the Constitution represents. Blair is now in the curious position of considering public opinion in this important of debates, since a strategy of deferral is unavailable. The European Constitution cannot be postponed until 2010.

Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe, has again decided not to rule out a possible referendum on the Constitution. The debate was handicapped by the 'public referendum' organised by the Daily Mail since ratification is still months away. The results showed the level of opposition within the country and reinforced the internal debates within the government. The issue is not divisive at this point in time but two positions can be discerned: those who oppose a referendum and those who are toying with the concept.

If the Labour Party's position weakens further, we may expect the latter strategy to gain strength, given its importance in the domestic political scene. Instead of choosing between the US and the EU, Blair may end up deciding between political support for a third election and the merits of European integration.


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