British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said planned legislation to set up a referendum would be delayed, saying the French and Dutch rejections had cast doubt over the future of the treaty.
“We reserve completely the right to bring back the bill providing for a UK referendum should circumstances change. But we see no point in proceeding at this moment,” he said.
He said any decisions should wait until an EU summit on June 16.
“It is not for the UK alone to decide the future of the treaty,” Mr Straw said. “It is now for European leaders to reach conclusions on how to deal with the situation.”
To come into effect, the charter must be approved by all 25 EU member states, but London does not want to unilaterally declare it dead before it takes the presidency of the bloc in July.
The decision puts Britain at odds with Germany and France who have called for the ratification process to continue.
“It’s not for one member of the EU to decide for the others, or to block the process of ratification of a treaty signed by 25 countries,” French European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna said.
Poland said it planned to go ahead with its referendum.
“The British have delayed the ratification process, not renounced the treaty. The constitutional treaty is not dead,” Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said.
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller echoed the call, saying all countries should be allowed to decide on the constitution, but added Britain’s decision could threaten the 2006 deadline for all EU members to ratify it.
Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, insisted the charter was not dead.
“The British government has today not said that it won’t hold a referendum, but that they have to wait for the summit next week to see what other European Union states think about the ratification,” he said.
“With that the Treaty is not dead. For that to be the case, the British would have to say they will not ratify, they did not do that.”
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso also downplayed Britain’s postponement saying no “definitive” decisions had been made.
Portugal has vowed to go ahead with its referendum in October.