Letter: Britain should agree on EC role

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Major cannot allow himself the luxury of being able to avoid any future controversy inside the Tory party over Europe for the rest of this century, as suggested by Andrew Marr (4 July). Indeed he may have to do so within the life of this Parliament, as an intergovernmental conference (IGC) will be convened in 1996 to review the institutions and the future of European unity.

Britain must play its full part in this IGC, as it is not conceivable that our future in Europe can be held hostage by perhaps 20-30 Conservative MPs who are unreconciled with the strategic decision that Britain's interests and influence can best be maximised from within the Community. They may be enough in numbers to eliminate the Conservative majority in the House of Commons, but this cannot be used as a reason by the Government to accept a diminished role for Britain in Europe. It is not tolerable that a small minority - trapped by what the Prime Minister himself described as the 'despotism of nostalgia' - can dictate Britain's European policy when perhaps 500 out of 651 MPs support the objective of Britain being at the heart of Europe.

Instead, on the European question, Mr Major must act more as a national leader than a party manager. He must seek to build a national consensus on the future of Europe and Britain's part in it. There are several 'big ideas' around which this can happen: a more democratic Community with an enhanced role for the European Parliament, a Community that takes a greater role for its own defence; full British participation in European monetary union; and a widened Community that includes all those European countries that wish to join. This is the European agenda for the 1990s and these will be the themes of the 1996 IGC. The Prime Minister should start immediately uniting the country behind a national consensus on this agenda to secure Britain's European future.

Yours faithfully,



European Movement, United Kingdom

London, SW1

26 July