Richard North, 23/11/2004  

Well, sort of. The EU constitution referendum has got the green light, with the inclusion in the Queen’s speech of the government’s intention to place a Bill before the House incorporating the constitutional treaty into British law, subject to a referendum.

No date has been set aside by the referendum but, as consistently predicted by this Blog, the vote is not expected until 2006, after the next general election.

A government spokesman said the bill paving the way for a referendum is "central to the government's belief that the UK should remain a strong and influential power in a peaceful, effective and flexible Europe". The Foreign Office added: "Once Parliament has debated the major issues and after an extensive public debate, the British people would have their say on the Treaty in a referendum."

In its view, "The referendum would allow for the issues to be fully debated by the public, and would provide an opportunity for the government to put across its case and dispel the myths surrounding the EU Commission."

As before – with the NE referendum - the lame-brained Electoral Commission will rule on the "intelligibility of the referendum question" and "ensure rules on campaign funding are adhered to". By past experience, this mean it will pick on the minor players and ignore any transgressions by the government.

Meanwhile, The Sun is claiming that Blair intends to allow all EU citizens resident in Britain to vote in the referendum, despite the draft Bill published in December 2003 explicitly ruling out this option.

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