Europe : The great debate : Do these men have a vision behind the party rhetoric?

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The Independent Online

We are a European state, on the western edge of a rapidly-changing European international system... Britain's national interests require us to play the fullest possible part in reshaping and extending this European system... This is the foundation on which Britain's future international role must be built.

It has become acceptable in Conservative circles to talk about Germany and Germans in the same tone which English politicians reserved for the Jews 80 years ago, and for the Irish a century ago... The idea that splendid isolation is preferable to European co-operation may play well before the Conservative Party conference. But the fruits of obstruction and cheap xenophobia are becoming more evident and more painful...

What is needed now is co-operation and leadership - that leadership will not come from "little Englander" nostalgia. It will not come from delusions about "special relationships". It will come by building new alliances with our European partners, and helping Europe to lead the way for more effective co-operation on the global stage...

Global politics in the new millennium will not revolve around the European region, even less around individual ex-imperial European powers. But Britain and its European neighbours have vital interests at stake in the promotion of global co-operation. We will most effectively pursue those interests if we combine our efforts, rather than attempt to maintain separate channels of influence... The alternative to the achievement of an effective institutional structure for a post-Cold War Europe is a fragmented and unstable Europe, prey to national rivalries and local conflicts.

Speaking to the Royal Institute for International Affairs, 6 March 1996


I grew up as part of a post-war generation. I voted for Britain to remain in the EEC in 1975. I fought to persuade my party to become a party of Europe, believing that to be in my country's interests. I support the European ideal of co-operation between nation states for mutual benefit. I have no doubt at all that the future of my country lies in being at the heart of Europe.

But to deny the changing circumstances of Europe or the altered nature of its challenges is to deny reality... At the time of Maastricht, political opinion got ahead of public opinion... It is the pro-European who must now take on the task of reform in Europe. There are six priorities for sensible people who support the EU:

First, to make the case for Europe from first principles, not taking public opinion for granted but reaching out to it.

Second, we must address enlargement to the East and how it is facilitated.

Third, we must take on, and make our own, the agenda of reform of the EU, defending what should be defended and changing what should not.

Fourth, we must make the European Union more democratic and open.

Fifth, we should take steps toward a stronger European foreign and defence policy in harmony with the Atlantic alliance.

Sixth, we must ensure that the European Union remains against protectionism and opens up its markets and becomes a stronger voice for free trade in the world.

We want a new, people's Europe - enlarged, reformed, relevant, more democratic, open to the rest of the world and with a robust foreign and defence policy. Britain can play a leading role in achieving those aims.

From a speech to the Friedrich-Ebert Stidtung, Bonn, 30 May 1995


The problems we are having with beef... could be magnified over a whole range of issues if we were outside the European Union or not playing a part in trying to determine the rules of the European Union but that doesn't mean we are going to go into a federal Europe.

I can tell you quite frankly I have no intention whatsoever of going down the route to a federal Europe... We will debate the case, we will win the case - in which case, all is well - or we will just say "No! You can go in that direction if you like but we are not!"

I have to say, I am pretty fed up with this absurd commentary which says you either have to be on one wing of the European argument or the other wing to have any views at all.

Speaking in Rugby, 26 April 1996

The idea that if we were outside the EU we could somehow become a trading haven on the edge of Europe with all the benefits of that vital market of 370 million [people] - while others fix the rules without any regard to our national self-interest - is cloud cuckoo land....

[But] The nation state lends security, comfort and familiarity - and people need that more than ever at a time of change and insecurity. You cannot legislate for a common nationality or a common sense of identity.

The nations of Europe have developed over centuries. Their cultural traditions cannot be eradicated by the a stroke of a pen...

If we ignore these realities, we would increase rather than reduce conflicts and tensions across Europe.

Speaking at the Institute of Directors, 24 April 1996