Okay, I was wrong

The Dead Parrot Treaty is back for a brief visit.

I did not think that Gordon Brown or Nicolas Sarkozy would want to provoke such a crisis so early in their respective terms of office, but I am just a blogger. It is easy to underestimate just how arrogant some polticians are. They might actually believe they can get away with this.

It is possible that Sarkozy can. He has a large majority in Parliament, and no need to face the electorate for five years. Nothing in French law compels him to hold a referendum. But France has held referenda before. The Maastricth Treaty went nothing like so far as this one, yet French people got to vote on it. The Constitutional Treaty was almost identical to this one, and France voted no. Does Sarkozy think he can ratify 95% of that treaty without a new vote?

Britain, of course, has never had a vote on a new European Treaty. But almost all Members of Parliament - Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem - were elected on a mandate of promising one. Blair promised a referendum in the run up to the 2004 European elections to cut away the Conservatives' best campaigning tactic. The Conservatives still won. The following year Labour was re-elected at Westminster on that promise.

Worse, the Conservatives and LibDems have a majority in the House of Lords. Even if Brown can keep all his MPs on side to ratify the Treaty without a referendum, the Lords will throw the legislation back to the Commons. He needs to win his vote in the Commons three times to get away with this.

And what about the Dutch, the Czechs and the Poles. Despite electoral setbacks after losing the referendum by big margins in 2005, the Dutch PM, Jan Pieter Balkenende, was able to form a new coaltion this year. The three parties hold 79 of the 150 members in the Dutch lower house. But could a coalition survive a decision to override the votes of 60% of the voters? And could they get the Dutch people to change their minds?

Poland and the Czech Republic could also defeat the treaty.

Frankly, Brown's best bet is to repeat the Blair tactic. Promise a referendum, but postpone it until all other countries have ratified. Probably, this will never happen. If it does, the fact of 26 previous yes votes would provide him with his best chance of winning.

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