Letter: Europe and the Naughty Nine

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Sir: Teresa Gorman (Another View, 23 January) would make another "Tudor barn" out of Europe were she and her rebel colleagues to be taken seriously. She claims to sound like a good vote-seeker, having, in the words of the paper's leader column, "blended nostalgia with opportunism". She claims that she wants "our markets open to the world" despite the fact that 60 per cent of our manufactures are sold in Europe. If, as she claims, she is a free trader, an heir to Cobden and Bright, what on earth is she doing in the Tory Party? Her column was filled with assertion all of which should be challenged. For example, "the UK's membership of the Common Market was sold to us all as a trade alliance. Now we can see it plainly as a nascent federal state." Efta was a "trade alliance", theEEC was always seen by the far-seeing Tory, such as Harold Macmillan, Heath and even, for a time, Thatcher, as something much more than a Grocer's State. "Europe", whether "federal or "des patries", was seen as a counter-weight to Soviet power, a more powerful ally of America, and an alliance of the like-minded, strong enough to secure its (and our) independence, both from America and the countries of the Pacific rim. It has also buried for all time the hostility between France and Germany, the cause of two world wars.

Europe is not about fish or the length of bananas; to withdraw from it now, as Mrs Gorman demands, would leave Britain isolated, a spectator and not a participant in events that must affect our freedom and prosperity. No one denies that reform is needed, particularly in the Common Agricultural Policy, and that the dispersion of so much money has led to corruption, but these are matters of detail, not of substance.

It has been a sad fact that there has been since the Fifties a rump of so-called Conservatives - first Imperialists, then Liberals - who have opposed strongly Britain's entry into Europe. From Sir Derek Walker-Smith to Sir Richard Body, they have strivenmightily to turn back the clock.

The Naughty Nine (I include Bill Cash) now pose as patriots, claiming without evidence the support of their constituency associations and of the country at large, putting John Major's government at risk, while soaking up a degree of publicity that few, if any of them, deserve. The Gormans, Marlows, Bodys and Gills have never amounted to a row of beans; it is their good fortune that the mathematics of Parliament have given the awkward squad leverage they do not deserve.

Yours faithfully, JULIAN CRITCHLEY MP for Aldershot (Con)

House of Commons London, SW1

23 January