UK press, opposition savage Brown over EU treaty

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LONDON, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Right-wing British newspapers and opposition Conservatives blasted Prime Minister Gordon Brown today for refusing to give Britons a referendum on a new European Union treaty.

Britain's biggest-selling tabloid, The Sun, lashed out at Brown for joining other EU leaders in agreeing to the new treaty at a meeting in Lisbon early today.

''Bottler Brown in Euro sell-out'', it said in a front-page headline.

Critics saddled Brown with the nickname ''bottler'' when they accused him of losing his ''bottle'', or nerve, in deciding this month not to go ahead with an early general election.

''Gordon Brown last night meekly gave away centuries of British power by accepting the new EU constitution. The prime minister surrendered our veto to Brussels in 61 areas of law-making ...,'' it said.

In a separate editorial, the Sun said Brown had joined other EU leaders in toasting a European ''superstate''.

''By raising his glass, the prime minister transformed the lavish banquet into a sordid Last Supper for Britain as an independent sovereign state,'' it said.

The newspaper accused Brown of breaking a promise made by former Prime Minister Tony Blair's government in 2005 to give Britons a vote on the now defunct EU constitution, calling it ''an act of betrayal which will haunt the prime minister for the rest of his political days.'' The Sun's views are important because its endorsement of Blair was seen as an important factor in his three election victories.

Brown's government argues that the new treaty is much less ambitious than the old constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters, and does not justify a referendum.

Political analysts say there is a strong chance that Britons would reject the treaty in a referendum, causing a crisis for Europe.

Britain said it had secured its negotiating demands by obtaining opt-outs from some areas of the treaty.

''The British national interest has been protected,'' Brown said in a statement.

''NAVEL-GAZING'' Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC the agreement marked an end to ''six years of institutional navel-gazing''.

Conservative leader David Cameron accused the government today of treating people ''like fools'' by not calling a referendum.

The Daily Express tabloid branded Brown ''the traitor'' in a headline, accusing the prime minister of turning his back on the British people who demand a vote. An accompanying editorial said: ''Brown has proved yet again that he can't be trusted.'' The Daily Mail newspaper attacked all the EU leaders who agreed to the treaty.

''They claim to be democrats, every one. But isn't it achingly obvious that members of the EU elite gathered in Lisbon are united in contempt for the voters who gave them power?'' it said.

''Those leaders share an implacable determination: that the people of Europe will have no say over the treaty that will have such a profound impact on their political future.'' It said an overwhelming majority of people in France, Germany, Spain and Italy -- as well as in Britain -- wanted to be consulted about the treaty.

The conservative Daily Telegraph said it had collected 100,000 signatures on a petition demanding a referendum.

REUTERS ARB VC1742

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