EU protesters scale London crane

LONDON (Reuters) - Protestors scaled a large crane in London’s parliament square early on Monday, calling for a referendum on the European Union Lisbon treaty.

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Police were called to Middlesex Guildhall at 2 a.m. after reports that protesters had unfurled banners at the top of a large industrial crane.

Days before members of parliament are due to vote on a Conservative amendment to the EU treaty bill calling for a referendum, two male protesters revealed banners stating “Referendum Now” and “Give us a vote”.

“We are talking to them,” a police spokeswoman said of the protesters. “Their safety is paramount but they are not causing traffic disruptions... so we will wait and see what happens.

“They could be up there for hours or they could come down any minute. We will keep an eye on it.”

She dismissed as “ludicrous” reports that officers could climb up to rescue them.

The protest was staged after a mini-ballot organised by the “I want a Referendum” campaign group, showed that almost 90 percent voters want a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, which aims to reform the EU’s institutions.

In one of the biggest public surveys yet on the issue, more than 133,000 of the 152,000 people in 10 constituencies surveyed by the group favoured a national referendum.

Brown has angered the Conservatives, Euro-sceptic newspapers and even some members of his own Labour Party by consistently refusing to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

The Labour party had promised a referendum on the constitutional treaty which preceded the Lisbon document, but those plans were dropped when the EU rewrote the constitutional treaty after it was rejected by national ballots in several member states.

Brown has dismissed critics’ claims that the country’s interests are threatened by the Lisbon treaty.

A spokesman for “I Want Referendum” told the BBC it was not responsible for the Parliament Square protest.

Reporting by Andrew Hough; Editing by Kate Kelland