`No' pushes UK to edge says Giscard

VALERY Giscard d'Estaing, architect of the European Constitution, jumped in with both feet yesterday into the British debate, when he implied the UK would be on the margins of Europe if there is a "no vote" in a referendum.

VALERY Giscard d'Estaing, architect of the European Constitution, jumped in with both feet yesterday into the British debate, when he implied the UK would be on the margins of Europe if there is a "no vote" in a referendum.

The former French President was laying the ground for a two-tier Europe, with those countries voting for the Constitution driving into a brave new world of economic stability and peaceful co-existence.

Although enthusiastic pro-European campaigners in Britain have suggested that a `no' vote to the constitution would mean a `no' to Europe, Mr Giscard d'Estaing insisted in a radio interview: "It is not a question of saying `yes' or `no' to Europe. It is a question of making Europe function.

"Of course, if someone says `we do not accept the way that Europe functions,' it will have to assume the consequences of its own choice.'

"It is up to them then, if this happens in Britain or elsewhere, what will happen in the other countries will matter also."

Initially, he seemed to suggest that if the majority of EU nations ratify the Constitution, it could be imposed on those which say `no.' Citing how the United States amended its constitution, Mr Giscard d'Estaing said: "When two-thirds of the people of the US decide it must be adopted, it is adopted."

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But he changed tack immediately to indicate that rejection by one or more countries would see the majority agreeing to adopt the Constitution, with the rest on the slow train to nowhere, similar to the current situation on the single currency.

Britain, or any other country that rejected the constitution, would be left "on the edge, not outside," he said, adding: "It is true that in that case Britain will not be in the core of the system but at the margin of the system."

Enter Tory leader Michael Howard, who claimed Mr Giscard d'Estaing had given the lie to suggestions that a `no' vote would take Britain out of the EU. "He specifically said it is not a `yes' or `no' to Europe."

Mr Howard - who was in Manchester to launch the Tories' European Parliament election campaign - also seized on the comparison with the United States. "I do not want to sign up to a constitution which would create a country called Europe because I don't believe that is a sensible or realistic ambition."

LABOUR got very cocky this week over its victory in the Wivenhoe Quay by-election to Colchester borough council, where its candidate leapfrogged the Conservatives to gain a seat previously held by an Independent. The swing from the Tories to Labour was 2.5%

The party won by 12 votes after a recount, leaving egg on the face of Wivenhoe's Tory MP Bernard Jenkin who wants to know what went wrong. But the reality is that the ward was always Labour territory and the party should never have lost it to an Independent in the first place,

Analysis of all five council contests held that day suggests a projected nationwide 13.8% Tory lead over Labour. In Suffolk Coastal, Labour were a poor fourth in the Felixstowe South ward, a seat it holds on Suffolk County Council.

The crop of by-elections was nothing but disastrous for the Liberal Democrats, who've been telling me for months they will cause the most spectacular election shock for four decades when they defeat Michael Howard in Folkestone and Hythe.

Perhaps they should think again. The Tories stormed home in the Folkestone East division of Shepway district council on a 32.7% swing - it may be mathematically possible to achieve a higher switch, but it rarely happens.

In a contest in South Gloucestershire district, there was an 11.4% swing from Lib Dem to Tory and in Waverley > district in Surrey, the Lib Dems were trounced on a 13.6% swing to the Tories.

Even in a by-election to the humble Bury St Edmunds town council - what a disgrace that authorities with powers the same as a parish council are political - the Tories hammered the Lib Dems, gaining the seat with a 60% share of the vote.

Worryingly for the Lib Dems and the UK Independence Party, their candidates were marginalised by the far right British National Party up in Shropshire's Telford and Wrekin borough. The BNP finished fourth behind Labour, an Independent and the Tories, with UKIP polling a derisory 36 votes. The swing was 4.6% from Labour to the Tories.


"There's only one party leader at this despatch box who has stood on a manifesto of taking this country out of the European Union and it isn't me" - Michael Howard in the Commons on Wednesday, taunting the Prime Minister that Labour's 1983 General Election manifesto called for the UK to quit the EU.

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