A quarter century on, who has reaped the benefits of the European dream?

'Our influence is at its lowest point ever': 25 years in Europe

It is 25 years since the signature of the British Treaty of Accession to the European Community, now called the EU.

As it happens, this was one of the rather rare moments in the chequered history of our relations with the EU when I was not physically present.

But I was very much there in spirit, having worked with Sir Pierson Dixon, the leader of the official delegation under Ted Heath in the first Brussels negotiations, and bitterly resented de Gaulle's veto in 1963.

During the 1960s I had become wholly convinced that British membership of the EC was essential for Britain and important for Europe.

So the signature of the Accession Treaty was a wonderful moment for me, followed within a couple of months by a call from the Foreign Office to tell me to return from Washington and become head of the (then only) European Integration Department in the Foreign Office. Since then the EU has been part of my life - Under-Secretary in charge of "re-negotiation of the terms of entry" under Jim Callaghan as Foreign Secretary; Deputy-Secretary in charge of Europe and Economic Affairs when the European Monetary System was created in 1978-79; Permanent Representative in Brussels under Margaret Thatcher (1979-85), when we solved the British budget problem after five years' negotiation and launched the campaign for the Single Market; Chairman of the City's European Committee (1988-93) and originator of the British government's "hard-ecu" plan in 1990; and now, finally, Labour's Special Envoy on Enlargement.

We have had our successful moments - the two-to-one vote in the 1975 referendum, the huge and permanent refund of our excessive net contribution to the EU budget agreed at Fontainebleau in 1984, and above all, the launching of the Single Market at Margaret Thatcher's initiative with the Treaty amendments agreed at Luxembourg in 1985 in the Single European Act.

But alas, ever since John Major declared in 1992 - no doubt he meant it - that Britain's place must be at the heart of Europe, we have been sliding steadily on to the periphery.

Here we find ourselves in 1997, after 25 years of membership, with less understanding of the issues than we had 20 years ago.

The people of this country have been told by the so-called Euro-sceptics for the last five years that Germany and France are about to create a "federation", a government of the United States of Europe, which will result in Britain being abolished. A majority of them seem to believe this nonsense. I can assure readers that there are no Frenchmen who want to abolish France!

The Maastricht treaty of 1992 is responsible for much of this. It is incomprehensible. It lays down a very high-risk and rushed route to Monetary Union - a route, incidentally, which it may yet prove impractical for the EU to follow.

Though I may be being a little unfair, I blame John Major to some extent even for Maastricht. If he had not been so intent on securing opt-outs from EMU and the Social Chapters he could have deployed his persuasive and negotiating skills to improving the substance.

Things have now got even worse. Having negligently allowed the BSE crisis to happen, the Cabinet, terrified by the Euro-sceptics, tried "non-cooperation" ie, vetoing things we were in favour of.

Not surprisingly, this did not work. We have also taken an ideological and negative line in the IGC designed to prepare for enlargement.

The consequence of thus appeasing our ill-informed Euro-sceptics has thus been to reduce our influence to the lowest point ever. It is time for a fresh start.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£25000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join...

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?