Benn demands vote on ‘undemocratic’ treaty

Public pressure will eventually force Gordon Brown to hold a referendum on the EU treaty, a veteran Labour figure said last night.

Tony Benn said the public are behind the referendum campaign and Mr Brown “cannot deny the public forever”.

The former Labour MP has flung his weight behind the pro-referendum campaign, arguing the European Union risks becoming increasingly bureaucratic and undemocratic.

Speaking at a Labour conference fringe event last night, Mr Benn said the prime minister would find himself mayor of Greater Britain Authority if the EU treaty is approved.

Mr Benn criticised Tony Blair and Mr Brown for justifying the treaty in the name of “tidying up” the EU.

He said: “If tidying up involves tearing up the British constitution, it’s a very interesting definition.”

The “absolutely undemocratic” EU did need reform, he said, but this should see power transferred back to nation states and elected politicians.

“Even if I believed in it, I think this system will end with the break-up of the European Union and I do not want that to happen either,” he said.

According to the BBC, Mr Benn continued: “It terrifies me that Germany did not allow its own people to have a referendum on whether Germany should enter the European Union and have a treaty.

“And, you know, before the war, Hitler wasn’t exactly a democrat. And that practice of everything being decided at the top has been carried on.

“France had a referendum, defeated it, and now Sarkozy is trying to bypass it. We live in a continent where increasingly power has gone to a group of people who are not elected, cannot be removed and don’t have to listen to us.”

The level of opposition to the treaty – or support for a referendum – within the Labour party is unclear, but reports suggest as many as 120 Labour MPs could push for either amendments or a public vote.

The Conservatives and UKIP have been vocally opposed to the treaty and have demanded a referendum.

Liberal Democrats are not demanding a specific vote on the EU treaty, but say Mr Brown should be bold and hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of Europe.

Two major newspapers are now demanding a referendum, with the Sun trying to tempt Mr Brown with the prospect of a 17 per cent poll lead if he agrees to a vote.