By Ian Drury
Last updated at 4:24 PM on 31st March 2009
Caroline Flint: Not read the EU treaty
The Government minister responsible for the revived EU constitution made an astonishing gaffe by admitting she had never read it.
Europe Minister Caroline Flint admitted she had only been ‘briefed’ on parts of a document that surrenders a raft of British powers to Brussels.
Labour has refused to give British voters a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that it is ‘substantially’ different to the dumped constitution.
But during a Commons debate, Ms Flint confessed she had not read all of the despised charter.
Critics said it was an ‘extraordinary admission’ to make.
Mark Francois, the Tory Europe spokesman, said: ”It is not every day that someone will admit they haven’t read the most important document for their job.
‘Her astonishing admission does leave some questions. How does she know if the Treaty is good for Britain if she hasn’t read it?
‘If she had taken the time to read the whole Treaty, as I have, she might then know it means a major transfer of power from Britain to the EU.
‘The right thing to do would be to let the British people have the chance to read it and decide for themselves.’
Lorraine Mullally, director of the anti-EU think-tank Open Europe, said: ‘This is an unbelievable admission. It is extremely worrying that the minister responsible for promoting the treaty in this country has no idea what it actually says.
‘Perhaps this explains why she is against giving the British people the vote on it they were promised – she simply has no idea how important it is.’
She branded Ms Flint a ‘hypocrite’ for telling Irish voters who threw out the treaty that they had ‘misunderstood’ it, despite never reading it herself.
Asked by MPs if she had read the elements of the treaty that related to defence, Ms Flint replied: ‘I have read some of it but not all of it.’
After an astonished response from politicians, she added: ‘I have been briefed on some of it.’
The Government has refused to honour an election pledge to hold a ballot by claiming the treaty – the biggest transfer of sovereign powers to Brussels – was different to the constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
Ministers said they had protected their crucial ‘red lines’ covering policing and courts, human and social rights, foreign policy and taxes.
Long read: Gordon Brown smiles as he signs the Lisbon Treaty last year
But their claims were blown out of the water by the Labour-dominated European Scrutiny Select Committee, which carried out a line-by-line study of the documents.
Only four countries have not yet fully ratified the Lisbon Treaty: the Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany and Poland.
Britain rubber-stamped the power-grab by a vote in Parliament, despite more than 90 per cent of people questioned wanting a referendum.
Ireland is holding a second referendum in October after a ‘no’ vote last year.
The future of the controversial constitution was thrown into further doubt following the collapse of the pro-Brussels Czech government.
It is almost certain to delay Czech ratification of the revived Lisbon Treaty, which can come into force only after it has been approved by all 27 European Union member states.
The Lisbon Treaty treaty comprises of nearly 300 pages, but it is written in complex legal language.