Letter: Blair can save Europe from nationalists

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Blair can save Europe from nationalists

Sir: The leader of the Labour Party has intoned the mantra of "standing up for British interests" in the European Union ("I'll use the Euro veto, says Blair", 16 December). This implies that our interests are different from those of Europe. They are not.

The EU faces acute dangers on several fronts. First, the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, which is shamelessly encouraged by the majority of the press in the UK, by much of the Conservative Party and by far-right groups throughout Europe.

Secondly, the threat of stagnation and decline in Eastern Europe, where the EU must encourage trade and the continued political and economic development which will facilitate the eastern enlargement of the Union.

Thirdly, unemployment, currently at 22.5 per cent across the Union. A co-ordinated European initiative, encompassing a well-constructed Economic and Monetary Union, is the only sensible suggestion on offer for creating jobs. Employment deregulation would not be enough.

The United Kingdom has much to offer in all these areas and much to gain. A future British government must fully engage in ensuring the sound construction of EMU. Monetary Union and an effective European Central Bank might even succeed in breaking the hegemony of the City and banking interests in the United Kingdom, for so long short-termist and anti-industry.

Furthermore, the next government should assist in improving the democratic accountability and effectiveness of decision-making in the Union. Hitherto the British government has been uniquely obstructionist, which is hardly surprising from the most centralised state in the industrialised world.

The Labour Party must not make the same mistakes as the Conservatives in perpetuating an "us and them" view of Europe. A huge effort is required to win back the initiative from the nationalist right and the anti-Europeans. If Blair is afraid to take up the challenge, then at best Britain is heading for marginalisation, a further decline in our international role and no say whatsoever in the development of the European Union. At worst, we may act as midwife to a process of European disintegration. Only those with an Alice in Wonderland view of the world and a total blind spot for European history can welcome the prospect.

SIMON SWEENEY

Senior Lecturer in European Integration Studies,

University College of Ripon and York St John

York

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