Pat Cox: Britain must reject the politics of chauvinism

From a speech by the President of the European Parliament, given at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham
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The Independent Online

I want to appeal to political leaders who are broadly sympathetic to the European idea to be true to their beliefs. Anyone who regards themselves as pro-European should refrain from encouraging fantasies and misconceptions about Europe for short-term tactical reasons.

Britain has, of course, a large and vocal Eurosceptic press, so there is always a temptation for politicians, who in their heart understand that Europe is vital to Britain's interests, to make common cause with the Eurosceptics. Chauvinistic debate is a form of propaganda, and for those who want to do propaganda within national borders, chauvinism counts. But Britain's influence in the world depends on its influence in Europe.

Let me deal with one of the fantasies. How can it be argued that there is a danger of an inexorable slide towards tax harmonisation when Britain and indeed many other countries have clearly stated that they would use their veto if it were proposed? Nor is it correct to portray Britain as being isolated either in its desire for reform or its capacity to deliver. As a politician who has the privilege of doing politics across borders in Europe, in recent weeks I have been standing together with political leaders promoting reform in Germany, France and Italy -- three countries representing some 70 per cent of the GDP of the Eurozone.

And I would point to other countries such as Ireland, Sweden Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands who, along with the UK, have achieved reform but who have not felt the need to indulge in domestic chauvinism. I congratulate Britain for its economic success, but it does not have a monopoly on the economics of reform.

The challenge facing political leaders across Europe is to engage with their peoples and explain the value of the European Union, and to overcome the widespread ignorance about what Europe does and what it has achieved.

I would urge British political leaders to rise above the daily diet of scary kites flown about EU superstates, tax harmonisation and floods of immigrants. They will show real statesmanship if they engage in a rational and fact-based debate on Europe's future in clear language that people can understand.