Judicial bombshell on Lisbon Treaty vote

GORDON Brown's troubles multiplied this morning when a High Court judge said he was prepared to direct the Government not to complete ratification of the Act approving the Treaty of Lisbon until after a judgement next week on a legal bid to force a referendum.

Graham Dines

GORDON Brown's troubles multiplied this morning when a High Court judge said he was prepared to direct the Government not to complete ratification of the Act approving the Treaty of Lisbon until after a judgement next week on a legal bid to force a referendum.

In the Commons, the Conservatives repeatedly pressed ministers for a statement and the party's Europe spokesman Mark Francois (MP for Rayleigh) demanded that junior Foreign Office minister Meg Munn to respond to the ruling before the Commons rises later this afternoon.

He said it would be “completely unacceptable” for business to finish without the Government giving its reaction and urged Ms Munn not to sit mute.


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Mr Francois's demand came after Lord Justice Richards said he was “very surprised” to receive a letter from lawyers for the Government yesterday saying that they were pressing ahead with ratification.

Together with Mr Justice Mackay, the judge is hearing a case brought by Eurosceptic millionaire Stuart Wheeler, who has sought judicial review of the decision to ratify the Treaty without a referendum. A ruling on the case is expected next week.

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Tony Blair promised a referendum on the EU Constitution, but when it was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005,the EU Treaty of Lisbon was drawn up to replace it.

Ministers say it is substantially different to the failed constitution and does not alter the UK's own, unwritten, constitution.

After the EU (Amendment) Act gained Royal Assent on Thursday, lawyers for the Treasury wrote to the High Court to say: “The government is now proceeding to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon.”

But in a direction published today, Lord Justice Richards said: “The court is very surprised that the government apparently proposes to ratify while the claimant's challenge to the decision not to hold a referendum on ratification is before the court.”

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