The decision of Danish voters in effect to kill the European Community's historic treaty on political and monetary union was greeted with complete dismay in Brussels on Tuesday.
"There is an insurmountable legal requirement that if any one of the 12 member states does not ratify it, Maastricht goes down the drain," said a senior EC official. "We have made no contingency planning for this whatsoever, because to do so would have further invited what has happened tonight."
Brussels officials had counted on history repeating itself in Denmark, which had shown itself initially hostile to the 1986 Single European Act but eventually approved it in a referendum by a fairly comfortable majority. They had also counted on the 80 per cent pro-Maastricht majority in the Danish parliament carrying the populace. Equally, however, they had rather discounted as constitutionally impossible hints from the Danish government that it might call a second referendum if the first went against the treaty.
But it is clear that several important EC governments will not take the rejection lying down, particularly as the margin of defeat is so small.
Maastricht's opponents may rejoice - among them, those Germans too wedded to the D-Mark ever to give it up, the far left and right in France, those Irish who saw their neutrality being lost in plans for a common foreign and security policy, and quite a broad spectrum in Britain's two main political parties who considered Community integration was going too far too fast.
However, President Francois Mitterrand and Chancellor Helmut Kohl signalled at their meeting last week that they would pursue the goals of Maastricht, no matter what the vicissitudes of ratification. If they choose to try to call another exhausting intergovernmental conference (IGC) to negotiate 'Son of Maastricht', then they are sure to be supported by the three Benelux countries, Italy, and probably Spain and Portugal.
It only needs a simple majority - seven of the 12 states - to set another constitutional revision rolling, although, as last night's Danish referendum dramatically underlines, it needs all 12 not only to agree to the final negotiating result but also to ratify it into law.
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