Tory fears over EC policies rejected: Foreign Secretary repudiates Thatcher warning on Balkans

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Indy Politics
DOUGLAS HURD yesterday repudiated Baroness Thatcher and rejected warnings from his backbenchers that the war in the former Yugoslavia showed the dangers of closer co-operation on foreign and security policy under the Maastricht treaty.

The Foreign Secretary said Lady Thatcher had warned that the European Community had been too late in recognising the independent states, while others, including Lord Carrington, the former Foreign Secretary, believed it was too early.

'I don't believe that the timing was decisive in what followed,' Mr Hurd told MPs during the continued Committee Stage of the Bill to ratify the treaty. The alternative would have been for the Germans and others to have recognised the independent states earlier than Britain and France. 'I cannot believe that the disintegration of decision-making would have had anything other than an unhealthy effect.'

The Foreign Secretary clashed with his backbenchers over the treaty's proposals for co-operation on foreign and security issues. He said Britain had successfully fought to include a 'double lock' requiring unanimity of consent before any issues could be agreed by single majority voting.

Tory critics were alarmed at the possibility that Britain could be outvoted on a common foreign policy, but Mr Hurd insisted that it could not happen.

Meanwhile, Labour leaders are resisting mounting pressure for a referendum, which will be voted on at the end of the Committee Stage, after Easter. Lord Tebbit will add his weight to the campaign, but Labour's opposition will kill any hopes of the rebels defeating the Government to force a referendum.