Former EU commissioner says constitution dead after French "no" vote

A former high-ranking member of the European Union's head office said Tuesday that France had killed the EU constitution in its referendum.

Asked if the constitution was dead as a result of Sunday's vote, former EU Commission Vice President Lord Kinnock replied: "I have no doubt at all about that.

"Referendums produce results and results have got to be lived with and any impression given that somehow the result of the referendum in France or maybe tomorrow in the Netherlands can be set aside ... is mistaken," Kinnock told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday it was too early to tell whether France's rejection of a proposed EU constitution would spare Britain from having a similar vote. Previous polls have indicated the majority of Britons, considered the most Euroskeptic of European citizens, would vote "no" to the treaty.

Calling for a "time of reflection," Blair spoke to reporters in Italy a day after France rejected the treaty.

"What emerges so strongly from the French referendum campaign is this deep profound underlying anxiety that people in Europe have about how the economy in Europe faces up to the challenges of the modern world," Blair said.

Blair had not returned to Britain by Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the prime minister's Downing Street office said. He refused to give further details.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated Britain would wait a week - after the Netherlands holds its referendum Wednesday - to announce plans on its vote.

Nine countries have approved the text, which needs to be unanimously adopted by all 25 EU member states for it to go into effect.

Blair, who was expected to call for a referendum on the constitution next year, may now be spared the hard pressed battle to win a "yes" vote in Britain.

The prime minister will likely wait until after the Dutch referendum to formally cancel the British plebiscite, said Alasdair Murray, an analyst with the Center for European Reform, a privately funded think tank in London.

"The current constitution is dead," Murray said. "It's going to fall on the United Kingdom to do quite a lot of organization and set up periods of reflection on what happens next." Britain will hold the rotating EU presidency from July 1.

Murray said EU countries would have to reflect on what he called the "disconnect between voters and the European project."

"The EU has catastrophically failed over the last 10 years to communicate its purpose effectively," he added.

MICHAEL McDONOUGH, Associated Press Writer

Photo by Solidaire, Marc Botenga

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