Richard North, 13/05/2004  


More on that story about France and Germany seeking to go ahead with the constitution with only the support of twenty out of twenty five EU member states: asked by journalists for a reaction, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said that he never commented on hypothetical scenarios. "That said", he added, "it is not an idea that we would look upon with any particular favour".

The EU’s Commission has also weighed into the argument, pouring cold water on the idea. An official spokesman stressed that changes to the existing ratification rule must supported by all national capitals. “The rules stand as they stand and need to be applied as they are,” he said..

The Commission is backed by Ahern, who has stressed that there were no plans to propose change. "Unanimous ratification should continue to be required for treaty change," he said. "The presidency agrees with this approach and does not propose to bring forward any new initiative in this area. The key objective of the presidency is to achieve agreement on the new constitutional treaty."

There is some speculation, however, that Chirac – in particular – is speaking to a domestic audience. By raising the spectre of UK marginalisation or expulsion from the EU, Chirac is reminding his own colleagues of what could happen if Paris held and lost a referendum. He may be attempting to counter pressure for a referendum, after his own senior government ministers and political party backed a vote.

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