Parliament approves Bill ratifying EU reform treaty

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Indy Politics

The Bill to implement the EU's Lisbon reform treaty cleared its final hurdle last night when the House of Lords rejected calls to delay it following last week's "no" vote in Ireland.

The European Union (Amendment) Bill will receive royal assent, enabling Gordon Brown to tell a summit of EU leaders in Brussels today that Britain has ratified the treaty. But divisions over how to respond to the crisis provoked by Ireland surfaced when the Czech Republic suspended its ratification process.

An attempt by the Tories to delay parliamentary approval of the treaty until the autumn was defeated in the House of Lords by 277 votes to 184 after Liberal Democrat peers voted with the Government. Several pro-referendum protesters were thrown out of the public gallery.

Earlier, Gordon Brown rejected a call from the Conservative leader, David Cameron, to accept the treaty was "dead" after the Irish vote because it must be approved by all 27 EU members. Britain is the 19th EU country to ratify it and Mr Brown said: "Just as we have respect for the Irish, we should have respect for the other countries that are processing the treaty and ratifying the treaty as well."

Mr Cameron accused the Government of bullying the Irish into a rethink and ignoring the referendum result. He told Mr Brown: "This is not a treaty that Britain wanted or needed. It is a treaty you were so ashamed of you had to sign it in a room all on your own!"

At today's summit, most EU leaders will press Ireland to explain why the only referendum on the treaty was lost and what it now proposes to do. There is irritation in some EU capitals and at the European Commission about Ireland's response since the result was announced last Friday.

EU leaders will refuse to kill off the treaty and want a plan to revive it agreed by the autumn. This could involve a second Irish referendum next year.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the commission president, said that EU member states should act quickly to resolve the crisis. Although governments needed time to regroup, he added, "equally we should not take too long."

But Brian Cowen, the Irish Prime Minister, said his country must be allowed ample time to analyse the referendum result and chart a road map.

"We will continue to engage very closely with the EU," he added. "I want to emphasise the need for the domestic and EU processes to proceed in tandem."