- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

LONDON — An overwhelming majority of Britons want a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe and the possibility of a less confining relationship with the European Union.

A new poll has found that 69 percent of Britons would like to vote on a proposal that Britain have a looser relationship with Europe, maintaining free trade and cooperation on common policies, but opting out of political and economic integration.

Twenty-seven percent said they wanted Britain to stay a full EU member on current terms, participating in further integration, according to the ICM survey for the Center for Policy Studies.

Asked to chose their “ideal relationship,” 36 percent said that Britain should have a looser arrangement with Europe, and 29 percent said Britain should withdraw from the EU altogether.

Asked whether there should be a referendum on loosening ties, 69 percent said yes and 22 percent said no.

The poll comes amid mounting fears that Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing to propose a scaled-down European constitution by the “back door” before he leaves office this summer.

A summit in Brussels on June 21 will be Mr. Blair’s last appearance on the European stage and could tie the hands of future leaders on key European issues if he agrees to the basic outline of a new EU treaty.

Germany, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, has confirmed talks will go beyond setting a timetable for a new European constitution and has sent a questionnaire to all of Europe’s capitals asking for feedback on a 12-point checklist of debatable points from the last constitution, which was rejected by voters in the Netherlands and France.

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