PM rebuked by Brittan on Europe

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Indy Politics
Sir Leon Brittan will today challenge the Prime Minister's pledge to resist constitutional changes affecting the sovereignty of Parliament at next year's European inter-governmental conference (IGC).

Sir Leon, EU Commissioner for external trade and a supporter of closer European integration, will reject the negative approach to the conference John Major adopted in his New Year interview with David Frost. Although the Prime Minister's tone has helped to reconcile Euro-sceptic Tories, Sir Leon will tell Mr Major in a speech in Birmingham to be more positive.

"It is a fairly unveiled message to the Prime Minister that he should see the IGC as an opportunity, not a threat. It should not be all doom and gloom leading to a federalist superstate," said a source close to Sir Leon.

Sir Leon is likely to enrage Tory MPs who cheered Mr Major in the Commons on Tuesday for his Euro-sceptic approach. The Foreign Office is drawing up a position paper for the IGC to put forward an anti-federalist view. Bernard Jenkin, a leading Tory Euro-sceptic, said: "Each department will have to prepare a list of the areas where it feels vulnerable to further unwanted incursions by the European law and to propose amendments to block off these avenues, for example to forestall further loss of territorial fishing waters."

But Sir Leon made it clear yesterday he believed Britain should support constitutional changes at the IGC. He said: "It's so much in Britain's interests that there should be change . . . because we are interested in accommodating the countries of Easternand Central Europe and you have to change the institutions to do that," he said.He urged the Prime Minister not to block discussion of proposals to change the European Parliament, although he stopped short of advocating increasing its powers: "If you are greatly expanding the size of the European Union, you can't do nothing about Parliament."

MEPS approve Santer, page 14