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UK rebel lawmakers beaten on EU vote

  • Story Highlights
  • EU treaty ratification will not go to referendum in UK
  • 27 members of ruling Labour Party voted against the government
  • Major parties had previously agreed to allow vote on a EU constitution
  • Some say treaty is light version of constitution; others say it is new document
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LONDON, England (AP) -- British lawmakers rejected calls Wednesday to give the public a vote on adopting the new European Union reform treaty.

Demonstrators for a referendum get their message across from a crane near the UK Parliament.

The bitter debate on the issue led to a rebellion by members of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party and resignations from an opposition party.

Legislators dismissed two separate motions requesting a referendum on the document, which replaced the failed 2005 attempt to agree on a European constitution. That charter was rejected by voters in the Netherlands and France.

Brown's Labour and Britain's two other major parties made election promises to allow a referendum on the constitution. But Brown, and the third party Liberal Democrats, insist no vote is needed on this document.

The slimmed-down treaty creates a long-term president and streamlines decision-making in the 27-member bloc.

Lawmakers voted 311-248 to reject a referendum call by the main opposition Conservatives and 311-247 to quash a rebel Labour Party motion also requesting a public ballot.

Three Liberal Democrats resigned senior party posts after they defied their leader's request that they abstain in the votes.

Voting records showed 29 members of Brown's party rebelled and backed a referendum.

Legislation to ratify the EU treaty will now be debated in the House of Lords, before it receives final approval from legislators in the House of Commons.

Opponents accuse European leaders of using the new treaty to erode key national vetoes across a range of policy. Those in favor say the document -- a third of the size of the failed constitution -- simply cleans up voting procedures.

But debates over Europe have long stirred up tensions in Britain and some lawmakers now suggest a wider vote should be held on Britain's whole membership in the EU.

Attempts to deny Britain a vote go "to the heart of trust in politics and faith in political institutions," said William Hague, foreign affairs spokesman for the Conservatives.

Pro-referendum campaigners say 89 percent of 152,520 adults questioned responded that Britain should reject the treaty.

"Many people in Britain regard the European Union as a bureaucratic monolithic monstrosity that duly interferes in the economic, social and political issues facing our nation," Labour lawmaker Geraldine Smith said.

France is among five countries that have already ratified the treaty. The EU hopes all 27 members will approve the document by 2009 -- when a new round of wrangling will begin over who is picked as the bloc's first permanent president. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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