The Maastricht Debate: Brussels looks on in dismay: European Reaction: Parliament & Policy Page Vote seen as potentially serious obstacle to ratification

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Indy Politics
IN Brussels officials reacted to John Major's failure with barely concealed dismay, confusion and anger. The decision will exacerbate Europe's existing economic and political crisis and could precipitate an explosion in the European Monetary System.

Spokesmen for the European Commission insisted that the EC did not interfere in member states' internal politics and would not comment publicly. There was deep concern among senior officials, since the vote puts another potentially serious obstacle to the ratification of the Treaty on European Union. Last night's bizarre events once again confirmed Mr Major's lack of domestic credibility and will further diminish his stature in Europe, officials said privately.

The British situation has been the source of puzzlement among other Europeans. Few in Brussels understood what was going on in Westminster. Many pointed out that there were graver, more immediate problems to the Community. Fear was building that prospects for European unity were at risk from two far more important threats than a handful of renegade Tories, but that the Westminster failure could exacerbate them.

The EMS, the core of economic co-operation, came under increasing pressure yesterday, with the possibility of a concerted assault today upon the French franc. The British vote will further weaken confidence in the EMS. This could lead to a realignment of the franc, the destruction of the EMS, or more rapid moves to form a 'mini-Europe' with tighter links between Germany and France.

The German constitutional court may well prevent Bonn from ratifying the treaty which would kill the document. There has been much more discussion of this than the British problem.

The prospects for the European Community, already in crisis, looked grim indeed last night.