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British High Court to rule on EU Lisbon treaty

Latest update : 2008-06-25

London's High Court is due to rule on a businessman's legal challenge that threatens to delay the country's ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, according to British officials.

  
London's High Court is due to rule Wednesday on a legal challenge that threatens to delay the country's ratification of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, officials said.
   
In an unexpected turn of events, a judge last week asked the government to delay its almost-complete ratification until he has ruled on a bid by a businessman, Stuart Wheeler, to force the government to hold a referendum.
   
Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed not to take the last step in ratifying the treaty, whose future has been thrown into doubt by the "no" vote in an Irish referendum earlier this month.
   
Wheeler -- a financial contributor to the opposition Conservative Party, launched the legal action on the basis that the governing Labour Party promised a referendum on the EU draft constitution in its last election manifesto.
   
Eurosceptics claim that the Lisbon Treaty, which replaced the draft constitution after its rejection by French and Dutch voters in 2005, is virtually the same document, and therefore requires a public vote.
   
The Lisbon Treaty Bill was given Royal Assent last week after being approved by both houses of Parliament, despite protests led by the main opposition Conservative Party which called for a referendum.
   
But the ultimate step in the ratification process would come when Britain deposits its "instruments of ratification" in Rome -- home of the Rome Treaty of 1957 which set the cornerstone of what is today the European Union.
   
Wheeler added that he could take the case to the higher Court of Appeal if his legal bid is rejected.
   
"I hope to win. If I do lose, I will have to see how strong the judgment is, consult my QC (queen's counsel, lawyer) and take my decision at that point," he told BBC radio.

Date created : 2008-06-25

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