Jack Straw: Iran shows the benefits of a European foreign policy

From a speech by the Foreign Secretary to the North Wales Chamber of Commerce in Chester

I visited Tehran earlier this week with my counterparts from France and Germany, Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer. There, I believe that we were able to secure a significant change in Iran's approach to the International Atomic Energy Agency's concerns about that country's nuclear programme. I was present as Foreign Minister of a sovereign nation state, as were my colleagues. What we achieved together was far more than we could have achieved alone. We enhanced our sovereignty, and increased our influence, by working together.

Yet the manifest advantages of developing common positions with our European partners carry little weight with the anti-European lobby. In recent months, they have revived the old "one size fits all" description of Britain's relations with the EU - of a British Government "waving the white flag" and surrendering national sovereignty to Brussels.

This caricature is infused with a sense of defeatism and a profound lack of confidence. It assumes that co-operation with our neighbours comes at the price of dilution of our national character. It is based on the false premise that Britain is on the losing side of the arguments within the EU about its future direction. It largely ignores Europe's strengths, not least that the continent today is economically united in ways once unimaginable. In politics, the gap between rhetoric and reality is sometimes large. But in the case of those who constantly deride the European Union, the gap has become a chasm.

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