On May 29th 2005, the French had a referendum on the European Constitution. For the constitution to come into force, all member states in the EU have to ratify it. In theory, the constitution in its current form will never come into force if just one member state rejects it. The first country to ‘ask’ its people was Spain and they voted in favour of the constitution.
France has for many years been seen as a nation that supports even greater European integration. President Jacques Chirac is associated with such a belief. He came out in very vocal support for the European Constitution and brought into his campaign the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder. Germany has already ratified the constitution via its parliament. However, in recent weeks it has been clear in the polls that support for the constitution is not universal in France. France as a nation is suffering from a weak economy. Unemployment is higher than anticipated (10%) and for many job prospects look bleak. Many blame cheap labour coming into France from EU states in Eastern Europe. Some have blamed the weak economy on the adoption of the Euro. Regardless of the cause, many polls did indicate that the French would reject the constitution.
The result of the referendum came on Monday May 30th. The French rejected the constitution by 55% to 45% with a turnout of 70% (considered reasonably high). On June 1st, the Dutch will also have a referendum on the constitution and they are also expected to vote ‘No’ to it*. Most British pundits believe that a referendum in Britain, if held, would lead to the same rejection. It is generally accepted by many in Britain that the French rejection of the European Constitution has all but killed it off in its current form. Any changes to the constitution could take years to complete before it is once again possibly put before the French people.
* = The Dutch did vote ‘No’ to the Constitution in their referendum.