Jenkins laments Euro-nihilists' Hitler neurosis; Inside Parliament

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A powerful appeal to the Government to move quickly to restore its deteriorating relations with Germany was made yesterday by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, the former Labour Cabinet minister.

Describing John Major, in his policy of non-co-operation with Europe, as showing the "rather pathetic signs of a weak man trying to use strong language", Lord Jenkins said good relations between Britain and Germany were crucial.

Opening a debate on the issue in the House of Lords, he lamented the "growing neurosis" in Britain's attitude to Germany and the attacks by Tory "Euro-nihilists" on Chancellor Kohl.

"It is a Europeanised Germany and not a German Europe that [Kohl] wants." Yet in parts of the press and by the Euro-nihilists he was seen as "at the worst almost a reincarnation of Hitler and at the best he is promoted to Jacques Delors' vacant place as Britain's necessary scapegoat at which those who might otherwise be subject to road rage can amuse themselves by throwing rotten eggs".

Lord Jenkins, leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, said that throughout the last two decades the Franco-German partnership had galloped ahead. Yet the sufferings of the French under the Germans was far greater than anything experienced by Britain. "The fact that we, nonetheless, should be the country in which wartime resentment appears most to linger is perverse. It is not only perverse, it is damaging, and damaging primarily to us."

This attitude had contributed to the Government's "weak and unsteady" handling of the issue. Its concern seemed not to be to eradicate BSE or restore confidence but to "whip up a quarrel with Europe as a smokescreen for their neglect of the problem over the past 10 years and another sop to the Euro-nihilists".

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, looked beyond beef. "I think that the future holds a lot more positive opportunities for Britain in Europe alongside Germany and France." She agreed with Lord Longford, the only person alive to have been Minister for Germany (1946-47), that the right approach was to hold out the hand of friendship, adding: "Some of us are continually seeking to ensure that handshake is firm and that relations are understanding ones."