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Iain Duncan Smith: Why won't Blair let the people decide?

Responding to the Prime Minister's statement on the Thessalonica Summit, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Leader of the Conservative party, said:

"I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I congratulate the Greek Government for their hard work and welcome the recent signing of the accession treaty in Athens. I also welcome the statement of support for the Middle East roadmap for peace.

"There were, however, three failures arising out of Thessalonica.

"First, yet another European summit has passed without any commitment to -- or even discussion of -- real reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"Second, the Prime Minister failed to obtain EU backing for his offshore asylum centres.

"And third, we got the European Constitution.

"Mr Speaker, the Government has claimed that this proposed European Constitution is just a 'tidying up exercise'.

"Yet isn't it the case that the Constitution will

- Set up a European president…?

- Transfer asylum and immigration policy to Brussels…?

- Establish a binding Charter of Fundamental Rights...?

- And create an overarching Constitutional settlement through which the EU can expand its powers without the approval of national parliaments?

"The Government has completely understated the all-embracing nature of this Constitution. The German foreign minister says that the proposed Constitution is, and I quote, 'the most important treaty since the formation of the European Economic Community'. But our Prime Minister says that the European Constitution 'does not involve a fundamental change to the British constitution'. The fact is that it will fundamentally change the way every country in Europe is governed.

"Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister always talks about his 'red lines' in the Constitution.

"So can he tell us why they keep on moving?

- Why he opposed a binding Charter of Fundamental Rights -- but now accepts it?

- Why he opposed an EU foreign minister -- but now supports it?

- Why he wanted to limit qualified majority voting -- but now wants more of it?

- And why he rejected the need for a written EU constitution - but now embraces it?

"The Laeken Declaration rightly stated that, and I quote, 'the European institutions must be brought closer to its citizens'.

"But isn't it the case that this Constitution is top down and centralising?

"Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister wants to hide his Government's failure by setting up a false debate about staying in the European Union or leaving it.

"The real debate is not about staying or leaving.

"The Conservative Party does not want Britain to leave the European Union.

"We want to make it work…

…unlike the Prime Minister…

…who wants to make it a superpower.

"That's the real debate. And he'll do anything to avoid it.

"The President of the Convention says, and I quote, '…constitutions are created by citizens and adopted by them in referendums'.

"A growing number of European countries are committing to a referendum. And 88 per cent of the British people say they want a referendum.

"So, if the Prime Minister believes that he is doing the right thing, why won't he have a referendum - and let the British people decide?"

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