UK opposition leader backs Klaus on Lisbon Treaty delay
In a show of support for Czech President Vaclav Klaus's continued refusal to complete ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the leader of the British Conservative Party has sent Mr Klaus a letter noting that the party intends to hold a referendum on the document if they are elected into government next year.
The move, reported on Wednesday (23 September) in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, would appear to support the theory that Mr Klaus is delaying signature of the treaty, already ratified by the Czech parliament, for as long as it takes for the Conservatives, currently on the opposition benches, to come into power.
David Cameron (Who Married into the Astor Family), the leader of the eurosceptic party, has repeatedly promised to hold a referendum on the treaty if he becomes prime minister and if ratification has not been fully completed in the rest of Europe.
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A general election must be called in Britain by the middle of next year and the Conservatives are widely expected to win.
A spokesperson for the Conservatives said he had not seen the letter but confirmed that one had been sent to the Czech president "some weeks ago."
"There certainly wouldn't have been any pressure on Mr Klaus," said the spokesperson. "It was just basically restating our position and underlining the point, our stance on the Lisbon Treaty."
"If the treaty is not in force at the time of the next general election and a Conservative government is elected we would suspend Britain's ratification of the treaty and hold a referendum urging its rejection," he said.
A referendum on the treaty in Britain, known for its largely eurosceptic population, is likely to result in a No vote, which would kill off the treaty.
However, if all other member states have ratified the treaty, it is not clear what, if any, moves Mr Cameron can make. To date, he has only said the Conservatives "will not let matters rest."
Mr Cameron's move is set to infuriate other EU leaders, particularly France and Germany, who have thrown their weight behind the treaty.
Both countries were already riled by the fact that Mr Cameron teamed up with Mr Klaus' eurosceptic Civic Democrats and left the federalist European People's Party in the European Parliament to form their own anti-federalist outfit after the June EU elections.
Last week, Nicolas Sarkozy said there would be "consequences" for the Czech Republic if Mr Klaus kept postponing signature of the document.
The pressure from other capitals is likely to intensify if Ireland votes Yes in its referendum on the treaty next week (2 October).
"Cameron is going to destroy Britain's credibility as a European Union player," UK liberal MEP Andrew Duff told this website after news of the letter came out.
The treaty creates an EU foreign minister and president of the council post and greatly extends the powers of the European parliament to co-legislate with member states. It must be ratified by all member states if it is to come into force.