EU Lisbon Treaty to become law within weeks after Czech president concedes defeat
2009-10-18 0:00

By Melissa Kite and Robert Mendick |

The Lisbon Treaty has taken another step towards becoming law across Europe after the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, effectively abandoned his attempts to stall it.

Petition Support Vaclav Klaus! Stop the Lisbon treaty!

The controversial Lisbon Treaty is set to become law within weeks after the Czech Republic's eurosceptic president conceded his attempt to challenge it was futile.

Vaclav Klaus, the only European Union leader who has still not signed the document, said he could not wait for a British general election next year which could lead to a Tory government and a possible referendum to bury the Treaty.

Mr Klaus said: "The train carrying the treaty is going so fast and it's so far that it can't be stopped or returned, no matter how much some of us would want that."

His remarks devastated Conservative MPs and eurosceptic campaigners who have been clinging to the hope that he might be able to go on delaying ratification of the Treaty until the election next year.

Tory MPs last night called on David Cameron to urgently clarify the party's position on whether it would still offer the British people a referendum.

Mr Klaus, who angered EU partners when he further delayed the ratification process by asking for an opt-out on the treaty earlier this month, said he still did not see the document as a good thing for "freedom in Europe."

But in an interview with the "Lidove noviny" newspaper in the Czech Republic, he said: "I cannot and will not wait for British elections, unless they hold them in the next few days or weeks."

He will, however, have to wait for the verdict of the Czech Constitutional Court on the treaty's compliance with the Czech constitution, which is expected on 27 October.

The Treaty, which brings in closer EU co-operation and streamlines governance in the 27-nation bloc, must be ratified by all EU members to take effect. Ireland voted to ratify the Treaty earlier this month, despite having said No in a previous referendum.

Mr Cameron has repeatedly said that even if the Treaty is ratified he "won't let matters rest there". But he has so far refused to spell out what this would entail, and whether he would still offer a referendum on Lisbon or stage a different attempt to repatriate powers from Brussels.

Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering, said Mr Klaus's decision was "hugely disappointing." He said: "Every Conservative voter wanted him to wait 'til the election but the issue of Britain's relationship with Europe is not going to go away.

"If the Treaty completes its ratification process everyone will be expecting clarification of what the Conservative position will be."

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said there was now little point to a referendum on Lisbon and he called on Mr Cameron to stage a vote instead on repatriating powers from Brussels.

"If the Treaty is fully ratified I have never believed there is any point in having a referendum on it. It would be futile gesture politics. But I think the public do deserve a referendum on our relationship with Europe.

"From my perspective that would ideally be an "in or out" referendum. But what David Cameron could also do is set out clearly which powers he wants to return to Westminster and hold a referendum on that. If the British public supported that he could take that as a negotiating position to the EU."


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