British plan to put EU treaty on ice gathers more support

Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, is expected to announce to the House of Commons on Monday that the Bill to authorise a referendum on the EU constitution will be put on ice.

Mr Straw will tell MPs in a statement to Parliament that the 'no' votes by France and the Netherlands have thrown the treaty into such uncertainty that no further progress can be made on the Bill.

Theexpected initiative would avoid pronouncing the constitution dead but delay any referendum in the UK until after France and the Netherlands have reversed their emphatic "no" votes on the constitution.

British-inspired plans to put the constitution on ice gained ground yesterday when the the European Commission changed its position. To become law, the constitution needs to be ratified by all 25 nations but Germany, France, and Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, have called for the ratification of the treaty to continue. That raises the prospect of a clash at an EU summit in Brussels in two weeks.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, said he had not "formed his view" on the idea of a delay. In a statement Mr Barroso added only that all countries "must be able to express themselves on the project" rather than calling for the ratification process to continue.

One source argued: "We have to be realistic, we have to recognise realities. A pause is very realistic." Mr Blair already has the backing of the Czech government and is courting the Danish premier, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Meanwhile the Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, did not refer directly to the ratification process in a speech.

Mr Blair believes countries that face referendums on the constitution know they could not hope to persuade voters to back a treaty which could not, as things stand, come into effect. However, the UK is determined not to accept the blame for declaring the treaty dead.

The looming clash over the future of the constitution came as the consequences of the votes in the Netherlands and France became clear. The French and Dutch rejections of the constitution are being blamed in part on a reaction against the admission to the EU of 10 new nations last year.

Also, many voters in France staged a rebellion against the "Anglo-Saxon" free market liberalism they see behind many EU policies. The malaise gripping the EU will become Mr Blair's personal problem next month when Britain takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU.

Diplomats are bracing themselves for new obstacles to plans to open membership talks with Turkey on 3 October, and over moves to start similar discussions with Croatia. EU member states have agreed to admit Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, but that could be put back by a year.

Meanwhile, EU leaders are preparing for a battle over a proposed law designed to open up the EU market in services. The so-called "Bolkestein directive" proved to be a controversial issue in the French referendum.

France may now move to kill the directive, which is backed by the UK, even though it has already been watered down.

That would deal a blow to the so-called Lisbon agenda, championed by Mr Blair, which aims to boost growth within the stagnating economy of the EU.

Meanwhile, hopes of pushing for more reform of the Common Agricultural Policy during trade talks this year seem doomed.

Amid the fallout from the twin "no" votes, the EU commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn, promised that the enlargement of the EU would continue, but accepted that the referendum results had raised fundamental questions about popular support for continuing expansion.

Krisztina Nagy, Mr Rehn's spokeswoman, said the Commission was preparing to write to the Bulgarian and Romanian governments to list the areas in which it still had concerns about their internal reforms. If those are not fulfilled, the two nations' membership dates could be delayed for a year. EU countries could, in theory, still block their membership by refusing to ratify their accession treaties ­ though that is regarded as the "nuclear option".

More problematic for the UK is its drive to start membership talks with Turkey on 3 October. Not only is France, and now the Netherlands, likely to be wary, but the main German opposition party is opposed to Turkish membership of the EU, and it could come to power in elections scheduled for September. EU heads of government have agreed to open the talks but all member countries will have to agree a negotiating mandate with Turkey at the end of this month.

Even before the "no" votes in France and the Netherlands, Austria had threatened to block EU membership talks with Turkey if there were no prior agreement to start talks with Croatia. They have been held up in a row about co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal over the handover of a wanted former general, Ante Gotovina.

The Balkan countries know that their chances of membership are receding. Bosnia's Foreign Minister, Mladen Ivanic, said: "It is obvious the EU's problems will push the expansion issue down the agenda."There is alarm in London at reports the Germans have floated again the idea of creating an inner core in the EU which could go ahead with ratification of the treaty in spite of the "no" votes. The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, and Jacques Chirac, the French President, will hold bilateral talks tomorrow to prepare their strategy for the EU council.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments