Letter: Our national interest lies in EU destiny

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The Independent Online
Sir: Fifty years ago today in Zurich, Winston Churchill set out a positive, internationalist vision of Europe's future - a British Conservative vision - which had a powerful impact in bringing together a shattered continent. Destructive nationalism was to be replaced by a new politics of co-operation, guided by a confident, victorious Britain.

That message holds as good today as it did half a century ago. We believe that active British involvement in a strong European Union offers our country its surest guarantee of continued influence and prosperity in the world. From Washington to Tokyo, Britain's political voice counts because we are central to, not detached from, the interests of our continent. Economically, our aspiration to be the enterprise centre of Europe depends on the existence of an integrated single market in which we play a full and active part.

Britain's future lies as a committed member of an interdependent Europe, as a country which sees the European Union as an opportunity not a threat. We have to find the confidence, as a nation and as a people, to make a success of our European destiny. The British instinct is to lead, not walk away. Our greatest patriots have never been little Englanders.

The tragedy of Churchill's Zurich speech was that, for too long, it did not inform Britain's postwar policy. We sought to distance ourselves from Europe, rather than decisively to shape it, as we could and should have done. Our caution cost us dear in the design of the new Europe. We eventually joined the European Community 15 years too late. We have been working to catch up ever since.

That is a mistake we must not make again. For us now to rule out British membership of a single currency would be to betray our national interest. To countenance withdrawal from the European Union would be to court disaster. To commit ourselves, by contrast, to a positive role in the leadership of Europe is the most fitting tribute we can pay to Churchill's Zurich vision.

Sir LEON BRITTAN

PETER CARRINGTON

(Lord Carrington)

Sir EDWARD HEATH

GEOFFREY HOWE

(Lord Howe of Aberavon)

DOUGLAS HURD

WILLIAM WHITELAW

(Viscount Whitelaw)

London SW1

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