Tories pledge to keep Brussels out of Britain

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William Hague's Conservative party will fight the next election on a pledge to prevent Brussels from interfering with British schools, hospitals and armed forces.

William Hague's Conservative party will fight the next election on a pledge to prevent Brussels from interfering with British schools, hospitals and armed forces.

The Tories will promise new laws to "ring fence" powers that a Tory government would never hand over to the European Union.

A party document entitled "Believing in Britain" says: "We will write into the law of the land that some powers - for example our defence and our armed forces, or education, or health, or direct tax, or the role of our intelligence services - are ours and that we are not going to give away more and more of the rights and powers of Britain by Brussels interpreting agreements that we signed in a way we never intended."

Though the French and Germans have similar protections built into their constitutions, the strong Tory line is certain to lead to renewed Labour claims that the party is ultimately committed to withdrawal from the EU. The Tories' pre-manifesto policy document, however, insists that the new policy does not call into question the UK's membership.

"It puts the UK back in the driving seat by defining the EU's ability to make laws for the UK. It is the embodiment of our commitment to be in Europe but not run by Europe," the document will say.

At the launch on Tuesday, Mr Hague is expected to say: "Extraordinarily, at the next election the Conservatives will be fighting opponents who are prepared to surrender our most precious right as a country: the right to govern ourselves. By a combination of deliberate act and complacent failure to act, within a decade many of the things that make our country a country, that make our nation a nation, that make Britain, Britain could have disappeared."

It adds: "Say what you like about a Conservative Britain, at least a Conservative Britain will still be Britain."

This week's Conservative policy announcement will undoubtedly heighten Tory tensions over Europe. Mr Hague has already angered Lord Brittan, the British European Commissioner, by sanctioning Tory MPs' involvement in the "no" campaign against Denmark signing up to the single currency. In a letter to Lord Brittan, Mr Hague said: "There is no question of Conservative MPs telling the Danes which way to vote in their referendum. However, I do consider it legitimate to remind the Danes that if they choose not to join the single currency, they will not be alone."

Tomorrow, anti-euro campaign group Business for Sterling will launch a major national press, poster and direct-mail campaign. The group hopes to advance its campaign before financial restrictions on spending for a "no" campaign in a euro referendum are introduced.

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