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Britain ratifies Maastricht Treaty

By GAVIN HAYCOCK

LONDON, Aug. 3, 1993 (UPI) -- Britain ratified the Maastricht Treaty on European union Monday within hours of overcoming the last legal hurdle to the controversial pact.

''It's been ratified -- we're delighted,'' said a Foreign Office spokesman who declined to give his name.

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The afternoon announcement came just three hours after Lord William Rees-Mogg decided not to appeal a High Court ruling dismissing his challenge of the treaty.

The Foreign Office spokesman said once Rees-Mogg decided not to appeal, the government sent a diplomatic pouch to Italy containing the necessary documents so Britain's signature could be added to the Treaty of Rome.

Patrick Fairweather, Britain's ambassador in Rome, handed the relevant papers over to officials at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Treaty of Rome sets out the European Community's legal framework. It was amended in 1986 by the Single European Act, and the Treaty of Maastricht incorporates further changes. The Maastricht Treaty seeks to forge closer economic, monetary and foreign policy links among the 12 EC members. Germany is the only country left to ratify the treaty.

Rees-Mogg, a former editor of The Times and a key Conservative ''Euro-rebel'' in the House of Lords, said in a statement released by his lawyers his decision not to appeal was influenced by the recent turmoil over the fate of European currencies within the Exchange Rate Mechanism. The ERM is a central pillar of the Maastricht treaty and the European Monetary System.

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''An appeal is not necessary,'' Rees-Mogg said. ''Indeed there is not much of the union treaty left standing.''

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Major said, ''We have always felt that the arguments supporting this case did not have real substance and we were always confident that the court would rule in the way they have.''

Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd welcomed ratification. Although ''we have never claimed it to be a perfect treaty,'' the strengths of the pact outweighed its shortcomings, he said.

''Building a stable, prosperous and peaceful Europe has never been easy. Recent turmoil on the currency markets shows that clearly,'' Hurd said. ''So does the range of international problems with which the (European) Community has to deal. All this shows that the need for cooperation in Europe is as strong as ever.''

Rees-Mogg went to court arguing the treaty was unconstitutional because government ministers were not authorized to delegate foreign policy and other powers to the European Community. A panel of three judges ruled that his arguments were without foundation.

The Maastricht Treaty has had a difficult passage through Parliament in Britain since it was signed Dec. 11, 1991, in the Dutch town of Maastricht.

On July 16 Major won parliamentary approval for the treaty during a divisive battle in the House of Commons. The prime minister pushed the treaty through Parliament by making it a confidence vote, gambling that opponents in his own party would not risk a general election by voting against him.

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