The Government in Crisis: Tebbit urges party to examine treaty

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The Independent Online
LORD TEBBIT, the Thatcherite elder statesman, yesterday urged his party to grapple with the meaning of Maastricht before it was too late. It was a treaty of union that would bind Britain to repeating the 'folly' of ERM membership and set it on the road towards a European state, he said.

Demanding that Britain, not just the Danes, should extract exemptions from its central provisions - including the 'extended recession mechanism' - he told Young Conservatives in Michael Heseltine's Henley constituency: 'This union will have an economic policy like a state, a foreign policy like a state, monopoly power to issue money like a state, a defence policy like a state, justice and home affairs policy like a state, citizens like a state.'

Many of those who believed nations should merge into a European state read the treaty in the same way, Lord Tebbit said.

While pledging loyalty to the Prime Minister, who had no reason to resign whatever the outcome of the Maastricht debates, he equally emphasised that Mr Major would do no-one any favours if defeat was made a reason to go to the country. That would risk an Edward Heath-style defeat of an unpopular government, opening the way for Labour to claim a mandate for Maastricht.

If the truth were known about the treaty it would unite the Conservative Party in opposition, he said. But ministers had entirely given up discussion of its merits.

Kenneth Clarke (Home Secretary), the 'real shadow Chancellor' did not think ministers should or needed to read it. Mr Heseltine, who had openly opposed the poll tax and resigned over Westland, had refused to share a platform to debate it, saying: 'It is not my practice to engage in matters of political controversy with fellow members of the Conservative Party.'

Tristan Garel-Jones, the foreign office minister, invoked past support for the increased powers in the Single European Act. 'That is to say,' Lord Tebbit said, 'if you consent to approach the cliff you must be in favour of stepping over the edge.'