EC views British vote with disquiet

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Indy Politics
THE Government's defeat on Monday has baffled Britain's European partners and heightened concern that prolonging the uncertainty as to whether Maastricht can be ratified serves only to erode public support for European unity.

Political leaders stressed that it was a matter of internal politics but privately hopes are pinned on the second Danish referendum on 18 May, where a 'yes' vote will help restore confidence in EC unity.

There is an increasing sense of impatience that it is not Denmark but Britain - whose problems the Community believed it had accommodated in granting the treaty opt-outs - that has hobbled progress.

The most vociferious criticism came yesterday from Jean-Pierre Cot, leader of the European Socialist group. 'I am dismayed at John Major's mismanagement of ratification, it is very disquieting,' he said, adding that he could not see how 'any democrat' could have objected to the Labour amendment.

'Mr Major is in the driving seat, he has to take into account that he has to have either his own majority or a European majority, at the moment he has neither,' he said.

Conservative MEPs sought to reassure their colleagues. Their leader, Sir Christopher Prout, called Monday's vote a 'flesh-wound' that 'plainly does not damage the treaty itself'.

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