Socialist Worker

Gordon Brown refuses to hold British referendum on Lisbon treaty

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2106

Gordon Brown’s government has pressed on with the parliamentary vote to ratify the Lisbon treaty on the European Union (EU), despite Irish voters rejecting it.

New Labour is adamant that there will be no referendum here. With the Liberal Democrats supporting the government, the treaty seems guaranteed to be endorsed by parliament.

This refusal to put the matter to a popular vote will only increase the deepening unpopularity of Brown’s government.

At the moment the dominant voices backing a referendum in Britain and calling for a rejection of the Lisbon treaty are coming from the Eurosceptic right.

Tory MPs reserve their special ire for European legislation on social and employment matters that they want Britain to be exempt from.

In contrast it is vital that the trade unions, the left and the anti-war movement explain that we reject the Lisbon treaty because it promotes a free market, militarised Europe.

The Lisbon treaty commits the EU member states to seek “uniformity in measures of liberalisation”. This is code for privatisation of water, health, education and other services.

The treaty also gives constitutional backing to the creation of an “open market” free from “distortions” – an attack on both the welfare state and trade union rights.

Meanwhile fresh attacks are stacking up at a European level. A recent EU directive seeks to promote privatisation of postal services across Europe.

And a trio of European court judgements allows employers to hire migrant workers on the pay and conditions of their home country – permitting Polish workers working in Germany to be paid Polish-level wages and to be covered by Polish health and safety laws.

An EU summit being held this week looks set to press ahead with the ratification of the treaty, avoiding further referendums and allowing the Irish government to opt out of certain parts of it.

Brown and his foreign minister David Miliband are backing the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the German chancellor Angela Merkel in this attempt to nullify the Irish vote and to prevent the people of Europe getting any further say on the future of the EU.

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