Conservatives Meet In Scotland: Hurd gives hint of greater EC flexibility

THE CHANCE of greater EC flexibility, with individual members by-passing Brussels, was offered by Douglas Hurd yesterday.

Replying to an EC debate at the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Edinburgh, the Foreign Secretary urged the diehard opponents of Maastricht to halt the wrangling over the past and unite for the future.

But his appeal had been anticipated by Bill Walker, the colourful MP for North Tayside, who warned of the unstoppable process of economic and monetary union.

Warmly applauded, Mr Walker said: 'I am concerned because the calls for loyalty come to me and to others following the misinformation and the propaganda that has gone out about this treaty. Goebbels would have been proud of some of it. Equally, I am very upset by some of the tactics used by the party machine. Some of them could have been invented by Himmler.

'The party is split from top to bottom on Maastricht - we may as well recognise it. We should stop trying to sweep it under the carpet; it's there. The country is split as well, and it's time we had a referendum so that the people could tell us what they really want.'

But if the Danes reverse last year's no-vote on Maastricht in their rerun referendum next Tuesday, the Commons will give the European Communities (Amendment) Bill its Third Reading by a resounding majority next Thursday. That vote, in which Labour will abstain, will be taken by the Government as Commons approval for ratification of the treaty, probably this summer.

Nevertheless, Mr Hurd went out of his way to offer reassurance to the Conservative opponents in his reply to the debate. He said that those who had called for the creation of a super-state had been blocked at Maastricht, and in the principle of subsidiarity the Prime Minister had planted a signpost away from centralisation and towards national precedence.

Mr Hurd then offered the prospect of further changes ahead, flowing from the expansion of membership to take in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Austria in 1995 - ahead of the next scheduled review of the treaties, in 1996. By the turn of the century, he said, others like Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics would be ready for membership, too.

'We are looking at an increasingly diverse Community of 20, even more, and that can't work on the basis of a Community of twelve,' he said. 'We don't want to weaken the existing core policies and achievements. But it's clear to me that we will need to be more flexible.'

That flexibility could mean greater use of inter-governmental agreements on a variety of issues, and the Foreign Secretary cited the examples of the Schengen Agreement on frontiers, in which the UK was not a participant, and the Western European Union, of which Ireland and Denmark were not full members.

That hint of a Brussels by-pass was reinforced by a direct appeal to the Tory rebels. Mr Hurd said: 'Those who challenge the treaty, as Bill Walker did, do so out of honourable beliefs. I do not in any way challenge his or their right to do so. Their beliefs are honourable. The nightmares by which they are haunted are genuine. They are nightmares.

'But in the light of morning, things look different. If we can all of us get it right, the recent wrangles within the party will themselves be remembered as a bad dream.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue