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Brussels wary of Danish vote

BRUSSELS - The city is hot and sticky not just because of the weather: there is only a week to go until the Danish referendum. Once bitten, when 50.7 per cent of Danish voters said 'no' to the Maastricht treaty in June, the European political class is now twice shy. Although the opinion polls show a clear lead for a 'yes' vote, EC officials remain wary, writes Sarah Lambert. But Denmark's EC partners are, in private, prepared to consider what would happen if the Danes voted 'no'. The possible scenarios, including whether or not Britain would find it politically impossible to ratify the treaty were the Danes to vote 'no', are so hypothetical as to be largely meaningless. But it is clear that there is no question of rolling back the process of integration initiated with the Maastricht treaty. At worst, it would probably go ahead with 10 signatories.

Such a decision would not necessarily be driven by conviction: the argument that the treaty's usefulness has been overtaken by events is gaining currency in certain powerful states. But the treaty is now vital to the EC's largest members. Germany, Spain, and Italy will all go to the polls this year, France is already preparing for the 1995 presidential race and leaders of those countries have pinned their colours to Maastricht.