Britain is making "no assumptions" about the Lisbon Treaty coming into force on 1 January next year, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said on the eve of the Irish referendum which could determine the EU charter's fate.
He also sought to reassure MPs yesterday on the relationship between the Foreign Office and a new diplomatic corps in Brussels that would be created by the legislation.
Mr Miliband was appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Its chairman, Mike Gapes, asked whether he had a message for the 2.8 million Irish voters. To laughter, Mr Miliband said: "The history of British messages to the Irish is one that should imbue any foreign secretary with caution."
If the Irish vote against the treaty – a streamlined version of the draft constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters – it would be stopped in its tracks as it requires ratification in all of the EU's member states.
Opinion polls have shown that the referendum in Ireland is too close to call after gains by the no campaign.
Finnish and Estonian lawmakers overwhelmingly ratified the treaty yesterday, bringing to 17 the number of countries that have approved it.
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