Reject Maastricht at your peril, voters told

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EUROPE'S prosperity and political stability is at risk if voters reject the Maastricht treaty, senior politicians warned yesterday.

In interventions in the French referendum campaign, both Sir Leon Brittan, Vice- President of the European Commission, and Pierre Beregovoy, the French Prime Minister, said that it would be impossible to return to the status quo if the treaty on European union is ditched.

The public warnings, after opinion polls showing a majority of French voters are opposed to the treaty, are a sign of failing nerves in Brussels and Paris.

Sir Leon said the treaty's collapse could threaten Europe's political and economic stability. He feared its demise could diminish the single European market's impact, saying: 'We have been able to move forward towards the creation of the single market, which is going to come into effect on

1 January, because of a certain dynamism. That dynamism is a matter of momentum.

'If you have the kind of check that the failure of Maastricht would involve the risk is not that you go back to where you were, but that you go back backwards beyond that point,' he told the BBC's The World this Weekend. 'That's something which would obviously be very damaging both in economic terms and in political terms in so far as the stability of Europe is concerned.'

But such scare tactics could easily backfire, causing financial markets to panic while making voters no more likely to vote 'yes'.

Mr Beregovoy, in an interview on French television, said: 'There is a risk of a crisis, a risk for the European Monetary System. Those who say 'no' to Maastricht are saying 'no' to the single currency . . . Do they want us to get out of the EMS?' He blamed US economic policy for the crisis in Europe's financial markets, the subject of a meeting of finance ministers in Bath next weekend.

Gordon Brown, Labour's shadow Chancellor, said that Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, as chairman of the Economic and Finance Council of Ministers, had a responsibility to make proposals at the meeting. He should urge European-wide employment creation measures, consider common approaches to stimulate business investment and confidence and put pressure on the Bundesbank to signal a cut in interest rates, Mr Brown said.

The French Prime Minister also raised the spectre of unchained German power if Maastricht collapses. 'The Germans are going to say 'You don't want Europe, we're going to take care of ourselves',' he said.

Mr Beregovoy said renegotiation of the treaty was unrealistic. 'Britain had doubts, Germany had doubts. There will, therefore, be no renegotiation.'

The intervention of Mr Beregovoy, and that of President Francois Mitterrand, could backfire. An opinion poll on Saturday showed just 26 per cent satisfied with Mr Mitterrand and 32 per cent with Mr Beregovoy.

William Rees-Mogg, page 17