French Referendum: Parkinson calls treaty a 'dead duck': Conservatives divided over future of Community

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The Independent Online
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THE MAASTRICHT treaty was a 'dead duck' no matter which way the French voted in their referendum, Lord Parkinson, the former chairman of the Conservative Party, said yesterday.

'As far as I'm concerned, whatever the French say, there's going to have to be some fundamental rethinking about Maastricht,' he told London Weekend Television's Walden programme. Lord Parkinson, who reflects Thatcherite opinion within the party, said: 'In my view, the prospect of Maastricht being implemented in the time scale, and in the form in which it was conceived is . . . a dead duck.'

But he also said that John Major had to be given credit for having resisted economic and monetary union and the social chapter in the treaty as accepted by the United Kingdom. 'He reserved our position on all those things which the rest endorsed with great enthusiasm,' Lord Parkinson said. 'So, to an extent, Britain has already said that the big Maastricht package is simply not on, and he had the wisdom to express his reservations about that.'

The Prime Minister had effectively told the other 11 EC members: 'Well, you think it will work. In my view, it won't. I will sign up to a certain amount of it, but the whole thing's going to collapse under the weight of its own absurdity.' But Lord Parkinson added: 'Other people are now developing their reservations and so I think the package won't actually ever be implemented.'

As for sterling's participation in the exchange rate mechanism (ERM), Lord Parkinson said that while it would be unfair to suggest that the ERM had created the country's economic difficulties, it had compounded them. 'The recession has been deeper and longer and will be more prolonged because our interest rates have been higher than our own economy would have needed.'

Sir Teddy Taylor, one of the Government's most forthright Conservative critics, said on BBC Radio's World this Weekend: 'Surely the right thing for Britain is to accept that currencies, like everything else, have a market value. If you pretend that the pound is worth what it's not worth, you're simply forced either to impose artificial prosperity, as we had with Mr Lawson, or artificial depression, as we have now. It's been a costly and humiliating shambles which has imposed terrible sadness, and hardship, and misery on so many people.'

But Peter Temple-Morris, a strong Conservative backbench supporter of the European Community, said on the same programme that the Government had now created a pause in which to consider future policy. The Conservative Party would have no difficulty backing the Government in next Thursday's emergency Commons debate, he said. 'We will unite behind the float, we will unite behind a cut in interest rates, we will unite behind the pause which we are now given.

'The difficulty is the policy for the future - whether, like Teddy, we float somewhere out in the Atlantic, not quite knowing where the wind will blow us, or whether we get in there at the heart of Europe, and help to dictate the direction in which it goes.'