Letter: Michael Portillo's virtual reality leaves no room for the facts

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The Independent Online
Michael Portillo's virtual reality leaves no room for the facts

From Mr A. L. Teasdale

Sir: Am I alone in having difficulty in recognising various statements in Michael Portillo's speech to the Conservative Party conference as accurate or real?

For example, the Defence Secretary says that qualified majority voting (QMV) will never be extended to foreign policy in Europe so long as the Conservatives are in power. Why, then, did John Major agree at Maastricht that QMV can be used for "implementing measures" in the foreign policy field?

Mr Portillo says Britain will not join a "single European army" under the Conservatives. Has he not read the interim report of the so-called Reflection Group preparing next year's Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)? This readily accepts that "national sovereignty remains the basic point of reference" in defence, where "consensus has to be the rule". Where is the threat from Brussels here?

Mr Portillo says Britain could never "merge our defence co-operation into the EU" under the Conservatives. Perhaps not, but is it not this Government which has proposed that the Western European Union (WEU) should hold defence summits dove-tailing with those of the EU? And was it not Mr Major who agreed at Maastricht that the WEU should develop "as the defence component of the EU"?

At Blackpool, Mr Portillo and others reportedly denounced concepts such as "ever-closer union" and continued European "integration". The first commitment is set down in the opening lines of the Rome and Maastricht treaties. The second concept was endorsed by the Government as recently as last month, when David Davis, Foreign Office Minister for Europe, was among those to "unanimously emphasise the need to continue and strengthen European integration", as reported in the IGC Reflection Group's interim report.

The virtual reality politics of Mr Portillo has no place for these facts. Just as he systematically accuses opponents in other parties of policies they do not support, so he forces pro-Europeans within the Conservative Party to conclude that his real agenda is, through wilful misrepresentation, to make Britain's continued membership of the EU unworkable.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Teasdale

London, SW3

11 October