He barks but he doesn't bite

Teresa Gorman and Hugh Dykes agree about the Government's White Paper on Europe
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The Independent Online

The White Paper setting out the Government's stance on the EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) is a wish list; some old, such as the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; some new, such as the rejection of interference in our foreign affairs and defence. When the time comes, veto or no veto, these things will come to pass. The European Union has its own agenda and its own momentum.

It is not a partnership of nations as the White Paper hopes; it is a dictatorship. It only takes one man, the commission president, unelected and chosen behind closed doors, to decide policy direction. When Jacques Santer makes clear his determination that the single currency will go ahead, you may be sure it will happen.

How does this square with Malcolm Rifkind's assurance that Europe will only succeed if it respects the wishes of individual nations? Implicit in the White Paper is the admission that we got our fingers burnt at Maastricht. The extension of qualified majority voting, which our partners want but the Government rejects, will be on the IGC agenda. We have not learned the lesson of the collapse of our opt-out on the social chapter. The White Paper piously hopes that energy, civil protection and tourism will enjoy the same degree of protection!

The White Paper says the Union must be more relevant and acceptable to the people of Europe. But which people? Those who want a federation and a single currency, or those who want to retain some sovereignty?

It is crucial for the survival of our country that the Government enters these negotiations with a clear vision of the future relationship between us and the EU. All around us we see European dogma strangling European economies. Britain just manages to keep its head above water by opting out.

We need to dispel any ambiguity about our attitude to Europe. Alas, the White Paper does not say so. Not once does it say that up with this we will not put.

Teresa Gorman is MP for Billericay.


The Government's White Paper on the IGC to determine the future of the European Union is, like the curate's egg, good in parts; but, happily for parliamentary Euro-enthusiasts, it is good in most parts, significantly so.

Quite a few pro-EU MPs on the Conservative benches were originally very apprehensive as to how the Cabinet would handle this occasion. Would it be, yet again, a bout of timidity and irrational hesitation? Mercifully this did not happen, and we can heave a deep side of relief.

It is good, at long last, to see a strong affirmation from the Cabinet of just why we need to be at the heart of Europe. This commitment goes beyond mere psychology into specifics that Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine will find congenial. As, naturally, there has to be some genuflecting to the ever ominously-watchful, anti-EU right wingers, we can note with interest, rather than dismay, the strong words used in hinting at future resistance to demands for concessions from other member states. Hints that the Government will not yield on qualified majority voting and the use of the veto are enough to establish the right balance.

In foreign policy and defence co-ordination it would make sense for member states to move away from their fissiparous past to a harmonised future. Here the White Paper sounds a cautious note, for obvious reasons. This is tricky territory for the Euro-rebels to accept. So, to keep them quiet, there are a few other concessions made to them in such areas as subsidiarity, the role of national parliaments, fewer but better Brussels directives and some very minor reforms to the European Court.

In the main, the Cabinet has wisely opted for what the Europhiles have sought all along. And the choice of an adjournment debate next Thursday should remove the Strum und Drang of the grand clash; reduce the power of the xenophobic minority of our MPs to call the shots; and, if Labour shows statesmanship, produce a calm bipartisan approach to these crucial talks.

Hugh Dykes is MP for Harrow East.