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Denmark 'no' group rallies as rivals split

THE campaign against the Maastricht treaty in Denmark sought to regain the initiative yesterday, as polls registered rising support for the treaty but the 'yes' camp showed signs of splitting.

Seizing on a letter from a senior EC lawyer, which backs their contention that the second referendum is being held on false pretences, the 'no' group asked the government to obtain a fresh legal judgment from the European Commission in Brussels. A leaked letter from Donald Allen, one of the Commission's principal legal advisers, was published in the Independent on Sunday. It backed a report by three British 'Eurosceptic' lawyers that said the 'opt-outs' won by Denmark at last year's Edinburgh summit were worthless.

'Edinburgh has bought us nothing new,' said Kai Lemberg, a leading 'no' campaigner yesterday. This has long been the contention of the 'no' camp. Jens Peter Bonde, an MEP and another leading anti-Maastricht campaigner, says the package of decisions and declarations had no real content.

Mr Allen, in a statement on Sunday, said he did not dispute the validity of the Edinburgh deal. 'I fully concur with the Commission's view . . . that the Edinburgh agreements are fully binding under international law,' he said. The 'no' campaign says the real point is that the agreements have no effect on the treaty.

The 'no' camp also capitalised on a statement from Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, the former foreign minister, that the country should be part of any future European defence arrangements, despite its exemption. This brought him a rebuke from Neils Holveg Petersen, the country's Foreign Minister, who opposes military involvement. 'The yes-parties had previously been in agreement as to which line was best, and that is how we are going to continue,' he said.

But Mr Petersen presided at a meeting of EC foreign ministers only days ago at which military action in Bosnia was on the agenda. The 'no' camp said it wanted a clarification from the government of its position.

Danish analysts have long expected fissures to appear among the 'yes' campaigners, and there have been signs of friction over tactics. Referring to the deal struck last year, which tied the 'yes' camp together, Mr Lemberg said: 'This weekend, the national compromise broke down.'

All of this may not be in time to save the 'no' campaign. The latest opinion poll, published in the national daily Berlingske Tidende, shows support for the treaty has reached 51 per cent of those who will vote, reversing a decline. The 'no' vote has also increased, but only to 30 per cent. The undecideds have fallen to 19 per cent.