Mawhinney rules out referendum

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Brian Mawhinney, Tory party chairman, yesterday moved to pre-empt any electoral threat from Sir James Goldsmith by seeking to reassure Euro- sceptic voters that the Conservatives were now "the referendum party."

He went out of his way to promote Europe as a potential vote-winner for the Tories on the grounds that "a vote for any other party - whether it is serious about power or merely seeking protest votes - will put that European future at risk."

As Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, made a strongly pro-European speech to the German-British Chamber of Commerce Dr Mawhinney was insisting that "only a vote for the conservative Party will guarantee the defence of the nation state."

Dr Mawhinney was unequivocal in warning - in the wake of talks between John Redwood, the former Welsh Secretary and Sir James - that there was no question of a referendum on the wider issue of the UK's EU membership, adding: "I should make clear that there is no question of negotiating this position with any other party."

Mr Clarke went out of his way to stress that the EU was "to our national interests, both commercial and political." Mr Clarke's passionate defence of the political as well as merely economic importance of membership will be seen as a rebuke to those Euro-sceptics-including Mr Redwood-who have in effect argued that Britian signed up only for the single market."

Mr Clarke declared: "I simply do not believe that you can separate economics from politics. The economic and trading interests of a nation are at the heart of politics; politicial decisions affect a nation's economic and trading environment."

The Chancellor added: "We must have the self confidence and the determination to play our proper part in shaping Europe. In 10 or 20 years' time I want to see the UK at the heart of an outward-looking, free-trading, felxible and democratic union of nation states."

The Governor of the Bank of England threw his weight behind the Chancellor, saying that British business and a large majority of the British people were ''enthusiastically committed'' to the Single Market. But he cautioned Britain's European partners against pushing too hard or too fast towards the single currency.