Anti-Maastricht campaign rallies for referendum

Click to follow
Indy Politics
ANTI-MAASTRICHT campaigners will tomorrow consolidate this week's tactical Commons victory, when a referendum amendment to the ratification Bill was selected for debate, with a mass rally in central London.

The Campaign for a British Referendum has sent out 10,000 invitations to join its 'Day for Democracy' demonstration, convening at Hyde Park Corner followed by a march to Trafalgar Square.

Rodney Bennett, the campaign's membership and media secretary, said: 'Maastricht will take away from Parliament a considerable amount of its authority. It will therefore have considerable impact on future parliaments and their rights.

'In these circumstances, we believe the matter should be put to the whole British people and not just be decided by a transient parliament,' he said.

Mr Bennett, a Tory party member for 30 years and a former Conservative councillor, said the sole aim of the campaign, founded after last year's Danish rejection of the treaty, was to secure a referendum of British people.

Most of its 2,000 supporters are opposed to the treaty, though exceptions include Liberal Democrat Euro-enthusiasts such as Paul Tyler, the economics spokesman and the MP for Cornwall North.

Tomorrow's speakers include rebel Tory MPs Sir Teddy Taylor, Bill Cash and Richard Shepherd. They will share a platform with ardent Labour rebels including Peter Shore and Tony Benn, and Nick Harvey, the sole Liberal Democrat MP opposed to the treaty on grounds of content.

A hard core of about 100 people will later hold a candlelight vigil outside the gates of Downing Street, possibly singing excerpts from the treaty.

The campaign has collected cash and pledges of up to pounds 4,000 to defray the expenses of organising tomorrow's event, which may be repeated.

The referendum amendment to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill selected by Michael Morris, the Deputy Speaker, this week will not be debated until dozens of others have been discussed, which will take weeks. The campaign is conscious of the need to keep up the pressure in the meantime.

But despite the promise of constant harrying tactics by anti- treaty MPs throughout that period, because the Labour high command is opposed to a poll the battle is likely to end as it has begun - a victory of embarrassment rather than substance.