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UK

New EU treaty seen same as Constitution

European Union flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels April 12, 2006. MPs gave ammunition to campaigners for a referendum on a new European Union treaty on Tuesday by saying the treaty was substantially the same as the defunct EU Constitution. REUTERS/Yves Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - MPs gave ammunition to campaigners for a referendum on a new European Union treaty on Tuesday by saying the treaty was substantially the same as the defunct EU Constitution.

The government promised a referendum on the Constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. But it has resisted calls for a referendum on the new treaty on the grounds that it is far less ambitious.

Parliament’s all-party European Scrutiny Committee concluded in a report that the effect of the entire new treaty was “substantially equivalent” to that of the Constitution.

The country, however, has won an exemption from the legal force of a Charter of Fundamental Rights, which enshrines broad labour rights that London fears could undermine its trade union laws.

It also won the right not to join police and judicial cooperation.

The Conservatives’ Europe spokesman Mark Francois said in view of the committee’s conclusions, Brown was “morally bound” to offer Britons a referendum.

But Europe Minister Jim Murphy insisted that the new treaty was “significantly different to the old constitutional treaty in intent, form and substance” and that the version the country would sign up to was even further from the old Constitution.

The treaty provides for a long-term EU president, a stronger foreign policy chief and a more democratic voting system.

The committee also complained that the new treaty had been drawn up in a “secretive” way.

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