French Referendum: Storms ahead for Twelve

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(First Edition)

THE European Community must now proceed with ratification of the treaty - if it believes this is possible. The Danish have rejected it and must be accommodated either by renegotiation of the document or a second referendum. Britain has yet to vote on the agreement and ratification is going to be an uphill struggle. There will be demands for a referendum in Britain and probably Germany too.

The problem is that a very small majority in France for Maastricht casts doubt on the legitimacy of the treaty. It will probably only intensify the bitter battle of words over how Europe should now proceed. With harsh words flying over the financial turmoil of last week, the political climate for proceeding with the treaty will be stormy.

Because the treaty has become so controversial across the EC, making it work - if it is ratified - will also be tough. It requires agreement amongst the Twelve for a wide variety of things, and getting consensus will be very difficult. Enforcing unpopular decisions, where national vetoes have been undermined, may also make sparks fly.

Britain believes that the wave of scepticism unleashed this year means that Europe will be run along lines more acceptable to Downing Street - with national governments taking the initiative. Some governments will still be keen to run faster with plans for integration. Everyone will be shaken by the narrowness of the French vote.

The EC has an ambitious programme of other business - agreeing a new system of financing the Community, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, and admitting new members. It is also involved in complex negotiations on international trade. All of these would be jeopardised by a row over Maastricht.