Blair says 'positive engagement' is patriotic when dealing with the EU

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair warned last night that it would be an "act of supreme folly" for Britain to cut itself off from the European Union, as he argued that full involvement would be "patriotic" and enhance Britain's clout in the world.

Tony Blair warned last night that it would be an "act of supreme folly" for Britain to cut itself off from the European Union, as he argued that full involvement would be "patriotic" and enhance Britain's clout in the world.

The Prime Minister defended his policy of "positive engagement" with the EU in his annual speech to the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Mansion House, which is traditionally devoted to foreign affairs.

Spelling out the choice facing Britain as "engagement not isolation", Mr Blair told his City audience that politics had become "global" as well as finance, technology and communications. "To maximise our national interest, therefore, Britain should be at the centre of the alliances and power structures of the international community, including the EU."

Too often, standing up for Britain had been measured in terms of standing up to foreigners, not least the EU. "Of course, we should defend British interests against anything, including misguided interventions by the EU. But in fact it is part of our interest to be a key partner in the world's major alliances."

He added: "It is I what I call 'enlightened patriotism' and it is the true way of standing up for Britain."

Mr Blair went on: "If we want to stand up for Britain, then we have to be in Europe, active, constructive, involved all the time. We have to negotiate toughly and get our way, not stand aside and let other European countries make the decisions that matter to us."

Where Britain believed other countries were wrong, such as on moves to harmonise taxes, it would say so. The Government's position on the euro - "in principle in favour, in practice provided the economic conditions are met" - had not changed and would not change, he said. "The point I am making is far wider than the euro. It is that Britain's interests demand we help shape Europe rather than, passively, be shaped by it."

Mr Blair said the Government believed Europe could be a superpower but should not be a superstate in which national identity was subsumed. "In a world of alliances, we must have allies. So let us not throw away our advantages, let us make the most of them; be at the centre of events, not a spectator; in particular be a leading partner ... not a bit player."

The Prime Minister said Britain could and should go far beyond being a bridge between the EU and the United States.

He said: "It is a pity that these arguments of isolationism continue to be so strong... To show that the patriot is not the person who pulls up the drawbridge and sits in his tower musing on the errors of the world; but the person who recognises that today no drawbridge makes a nation safe and that we are better out in the world, fighting for what we believe in."

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