Letter: False alarm over Portillo's Euro-warning

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report of Michael Portillo's weekend remarks about the 1994 European Elections Manifesto (11 October) misinterprets what the Chief Secretary actually said. Speaking on Frost on Sunday, Mr Portillo did not say that Conservative candidates supporting 'Euro-federalism' should or would be deselected. Rather, he noted that any conflict between the manifesto and the views of particular candidates would be a matter for the candidates themselves, their local associations and the party chairman.

It is difficult to see how the Chief Secretary could have gone beyond this general and unexceptionable proposition, since the Conservative manifesto for the European elections next year has not been written. There is every reason to believe that it will be a positive, balanced and constructive document which is acceptable to a wide span of opinion within the party.

This is perhaps an appropriate occasion to offer a general comment on the vexed question of 'federalism'. I am, of course, aware that to some politicians and commentators in this country this word means no more and no less than 'excessive centralism'. If we are clear that this is what we are talking about - as the Prime Minister has been on many occasions in the House of Commons - then, of course, the Conservative Party, unlike its opponents, is an anti- federalist party.

But it should not be forgotten that the European Community, of which Britain has been a member since 1973 - with its exclusive competences, decision-making by majority vote and supranational laws - is an essentially federal structure. Such arrangements are crucial to both the establishment and success of the Single Market.

In consequence, we should beware of using anti-federalist rhetoric that might cast doubt on our party's commitment to the European Community of the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and those parts of the Maastricht treaty to which we have already committed ourselves.

Yours faithfully,

CHRISTOPHER PROUT

Leader, Conservatives in the

European Parliament

London, SW1

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