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Britain Postpones Vote on European Constitution Referendum

Britain has postponed its planned referendum on the European Union constitution after the treaty was soundly rejected by the people in France and the Netherlands. The move to postpone the vote here was widely anticipated.

Speaking in a noisy House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw conceded there would be no point in pursuing a referendum on the constitution at the present time, after the strong "no" results in France and the Netherlands.

Therefore, Mr. Straw said no legislation would be brought forward in the foreseeable future to hold such a vote in the country.

"Until the consequences of France and the Netherlands being unable to ratify the treaty are clarified, it would not in our judgment now be sensible to set a date for the second reading," he said. "There is Mr. Speaker, also there is Mr. Speaker also the need for further discussions with European Union partners and further decisions from EU governments."

European leaders will hold key talks to try and find some way out of the current impasse when they gather in Brussels on June 16 for a crisis summit.

Although it is difficult to see any quick fix solution to the problem, Mr. Straw did hold out the prospect, however that a constitutional referendum could still be held sometime in the future.

"We reserve completely the right to bring back for consideration the bill providing for a U.K. referendum should circumstances change but we see no point in doing so at this moment," he said.

But the foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Conservative party attacked the Labor party of not being decisive. Liam Fox called on the government to now completely abandon plans to ever hold any referendum.

"This Mr. Speaker is a dead constitution," he said. "And what is the response from our government? Is it to be bold and give a clear direction? No it is and I quote, 'We see no point in proceeding at this moment.' What does that mean? Do they want to proceed at another moment or soon or never? What are they waiting for, a lead from the people of Luxembourg? What it means, what I means Mr. Speaker is that the niceties of EU diplomatic etiquette are being put before sound reason."

Britain takes over the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1 and this issue will be among the most pressing matters Mr. Blair will have to deal with.