by RAY FLEMING
HAVING listened to Mr Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, on the subject and also to Mr Douglas Alexander, Britain's new minister for Europe, and Mr Denis McShane, Britain's former minister for Europe, I can confidently state that I have not the slightest idea what will happen if the French or the Dutch people reject the treaty for an EU constitution in their referendums being held in a fortnight or so. Britain has a double interest in the outcome of these votes, either or both of which could result in a “No”. The local interest is in what would happen to the promised UK referendum on the subject, due to be held before the end of next year. The broader and more urgent issue would be a crisis facing Mr Blair as Britain takes over the presidency of the EU on July 1. In a BBC interview on Wednesday Mr Straw acknowledged that a French “No” vote on May 29 would represent “a problem for Britain”. However, in another interview yesterday Mr Alexander refused to be drawn on what the consequences for Britain would be, on two grounds: firstly because any British statement could be seen as an interference in the French campaign and secondly because no one knows what position the French government or other governments might take in the event of a negative vote. It certainly makes sense for British ministers to avoid any comment that might be misinterpreted in France where there is a surprising sensitivity to Britain's influence on the constitution. While its opponents in Britain think of it as a French plot to enable the EU to take even more powers from Westminster, much of the French public is deeply suspicious of the “liberalising” influence that the UK has had on the provisions of the constitution. In a recent speech the leader of the Socialist opposition to the constitution said: “Approving it means sentencing Europe to the ravages of liberalism, it means opening the door to everything the Anglo-Saxons want.” UKIP please note.