Eurosceptics unite across continent to fight constitution

11 January 2005

Eurosceptics unite across continent to fight constitution

OPPONENTS of the European constitution across the continent are joining forces to begin a pan-European No campaign, marking the occasion with a letter in The Times and other European newspapers.

The European No Campaign, bankrolled by British businesses, is run by a German, Thomas Rupp, from the heart of Europe’s financial centre, the City of London. His office overlooking the Monument to the fire of London, is shared with Britain’s Vote No campaign, the best funded and most organised in Europe.

The aim is to pool expertise and tactics in the referendums to be held in 11 EU member states. Today’s letter, signed by 42 prominent campaigners from 14 countries, including a cross-party selection of British MPs, demands that "public funds are not misused to give ’yes’ campaigners an advantage". It also insists that governments "respect the fact that a national ’no’ vote means the proposed constitution must be rejected".
The letter coincides with a Euro 375,000 (£ 262,000) party hosted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg to promote the constitution, including travel for 100 journalists. The Parliament is expected overwhelmingly to endorse the constitution in a vote tomorrow.

The European No Campaign is an unlikely coalition of businesses, trade unionists, peace campaigners, democracy campaigners, socialists, conservatives and greens. UK businesses fear that the constitution will enhance trade union power. French socialists worry that it is too free-market. The Danes are worried that it undermines democracy, the Dutch are worried about their national identity, and Irish peace campaigners say that it turns the EU into a military power.

Herr Rupp, a business journalist and pro-democracy campaigner, said: "If you bring people together who are different, there’s a completely different dynamic. We will use our contacts all over Europe, which makes us much stronger."

Opinion polls suggest that Britain, which will hold its referendum in March 2006, is the most likely to reject the constitution, followed by Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark.

But as Euroscepticism rises, even the Netherlands and France could reject it. Other countries holding referendums -Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg -are almost certain to vote "yes".

The European No Campaign has held meetings in Brussels, and arranged for British Eurosceptics to appear on Dutch television. Spanish Eurosceptics have begun a legal challenge to public money being spent on promoting the constitution. National campaign groups have started sharing experiences.

The "no" campaigns in Denmark and Sweden, countries that rejected the euro in referendums, are advising Dutch Eurosceptics who are fighting their first national referendum.

This article was written by Anthony Browne and appeared in The Times on 11 January 2005

You are here