Cook puts case against EU `super-state'

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Indy Politics
Firm limits to Labour's enthusiasm for further powers moving to Europe were fixed yesterday by Robin Cook, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, who said there was no case for the Commission acquiring new powers over foreign and security policy. On a day when Lord Howe, the former Conservative Foreign Secretary, said Labour had "a balanced case for Britain's place in Europe", Mr Cook said his party wanted "a community of free member states" not a "European super-state".

The union "must be based on a sharing of national interests and not on the surrender of national identity," he told a European Policy Institute conference in London. Politicians had to respect the people's wish "to retain control over the public policy of their nation".

In a speech which defined some common ground with the Government as well as underlining differences, such as Labour's determination to sign up for the Social Chapter, Mr Cook said: "Labour sees no case for merging the common foreign and security policy into the bureaucratic machinery of Brussels, or establishing a European army." Foreign and security policy was "a defining expression of national identity" and decisions should be made between governments rather than by the Commission.

Mr Cook's presentation was aimed at warding off charges that Labour would agree to anything Europe proposes. He said the veto over matters of vital national interest, including the budget and treaty revisions, would be retained. He also underlined his reservations about a single currency by emphasising the extent to which "real world" conditions would need to be met beyond the financial targets set in the Maastricht treaty before Britain joined.

Labour would need to be convinced that industry could survive and prosper before "abandoning for all time the lever of devaluation", he said. While he could see the practical attractions, a single currency "is not going to happen this year; I would be very surprised if it happens in 1997 in any part of the Continent". It would be "wonderful if we could do it by the end of the century".

Accusing the Tories of having "not a single positive proposal" for Europe and declaring they would veto all changes before they even knew what they were, Mr Cook said the European Parliament should have a wider scrutiny of the Commission, but national parliaments should have increased influence over the Council of Ministers.