Hurd looks to EC's post-Maastricht strategy

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The Independent Online
THE EUROPEAN Community could survive failure of the Maastricht treaty, Douglas Hurd said last night, though it would interfere with key British goals. The Foreign Secretary told the Independent that 'the tide is with us either way. The ideas are with us'.

A French 'no' rather than constituting an earthquake, would cause 'a disruption - it would probably postpone enlargement and progress towards the single market,' said Mr Hurd, looking beyond Sunday's French referendum on the treaty on European union.

But 'the EC would survive a French 'no',' he told a dinner held by Swiss Bank Corporation earlier. 'Yes or no, we have to take a very serious view that what has happened this year in Denmark and France is not an isolated aberration. There is strong anxiety about the way the Community is running its affairs and planning its future.'

European politicians are growing increasingly gloomy over the prospects for Sunday's referendum in France on European Union. No opinion polls may be published in the week before the poll. But on the Paris bourse yesterday, prices fell on rumours that a private poll commissioned by the Societe Generale bank put the 'no' vote ahead at 50.5 per cent.

A senior employee of a French state bank said many of his colleagues were working on the basis that the treaty would be rejected. Many politicians and bankers believe that whatever happens in France on Sunday, the treaty is effectively dead.

British politicians are starting to plan how they might recover, and believe that the tone of the French debate vindicates British misgivings about the EC. Mr Hurd underlined the importance of two 'pillars' of the treaty - common foreign and security policy, and common internal and justice policy, which covers immigration.

Both are conducted on an intergovernmental basis, and Britain would broadly favour resuscitating them in some form if the treaty dies. But even in these areas, Mr Hurd emphasised that 'events are propelling us in advance of legal obligation'. He did not mention Economic and Monetary Union.

By contrast, Theo Waigel, the German Finance Minister, emphasised that monetary union was not negotiable. 'We would have to start from scratch and would loose valuable time trying to achieve the same results after tense negotiations,' he told the European parliament. 'I see no point for example in rehashing all the elements of the EMU treaty when I don't think the results would be any different. I for one am not prepared to yield any of the result achieved.'

Focus on migration, page 10