Tebbit calls on Euro-sceptics to provoke crisis

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The former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit yesterday called on defenders of British parliamentary sovereignty to "save Europe from itself" by hitting back at advocates of a "United States of Europe".

In the Lords debate on the second reading of a Bill that would, in effect, lead to Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, the leading Euro- sceptic Lord Tebbit gave it his backing, saying that it would provoke the "crisis that is needed" to solve difficulties.

The European Communities (Amendment) Bill, introduced by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, would repeal crucial sections of the 1972 Act which followed the United Kingdom's accession to the then Common Market, thereby restoring the supremacy of British legislation over the EU's.

Lord Tebbit told peers the history of the EU was analogous to a game of rugby, but the federalists were pushing back those who were fighting for sovereignty. "Year by year, we who defend national sovereignty are being pushed back," he said.

"It's time that the ball was kicked very long and very hard back the other way, preferably back into touch for a while, in order that we can think how we can save Europe from itself."

The remarks of a senior figure such as Lord Tebbit, a former Conservative Party chairman and secretary of state for trade and industry in Baroness Thatcher's government, again exposed Tory divisions on Europe.

Lord Tebbit also took a swipe at the Toyota motor company, which earlier this week said that Britain's failure to join a single currency could affect the Japanese company's decision on whether to build a factory in the UK. He suggested that statement was a ploy designed to secure a subsidy from the EU to establish a new plant in Europe.

Lord Tebbit warned that the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and others were intent on creating a "United States of Europe", but Britain wanted to retain its sovereignty within a common market. He said it was open to the French and Germans to go ahead with closer union, provided it was outside the Treaty of Rome, the blueprint of the EU.

"It was, after all, not the European Union which we joined. It was the European Common Market which we joined. That is where our interest lies," he said. "There is an alternative way in which we can all achieve what we want within Europe - they their union, we our common market."

He added: "Sooner or later, decisions on these matters will have to be made. We cannot continue to procrastinate."

Lord Tebbit went on: "Nor do I think it proper that we should always be a brake on their [our partners] progress to what they want to do. Wisely or unwisely they have an agenda. If we can devise a means by which they can satisfy the needs of their agenda and we can satisfy the needs of ours, surely that is the right way to go.

"The Bill before us, if enacted, would create the crisis in Europe which is needed for the discussions to begin to make a serious effort to solve these problems. That is why I would commend it to the House."

He said: "It would be a great tragedy if forever relationships between members of the European Community were to be poisoned by the dispute in which others wish to drag us in one direction and we wish to restrain them from going in the direction which they wish to go."

Sooner or later a crisis would arise, he said, "because, above all, there is a headlong conflict over the shape, structure, purpose and the destination of the Union; because the existing institutions which were designed by six member states cannot work, in a management sense let alone a political sense, for a Europe of 20 or more states".

He said it was not European socialism that was the threat but "corporatism".

Responding to an attack by Liberal Democrat Lord Taverne on "Euro-septicaemia" among supporters of the Bill, Lord Tebbit said: "I think there is a sickness in our body politic.

"That septicaemia is a parliamentary septicaemia. It is Brussels which is in the blood of this Parliament and it is the EU which is threatening this Parliament."