Letter: Voting compromise for Brussels

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The Independent Online
Sir: I disagree with the thrust both of your leading article ('Tory obstinacy over Europe, 22 March) and Andrew Marr's analysis (23 March) of the European Union's voting-rights crisis. I do not think Britain's stance is chiefly about internal Tory politics, or playing the nationalist card in the coming European elections.

I believe that ministers do have some ideological convictions, and are genuine in their opposition to reducing Britain's blocking potential because they realise the policy consequences of being out-voted. All other EU governments, of the centre-right as much as the centre-left, agree that market capitalism must be tempered with extensive state intervention. Hence the Maastricht treaty, which, apart from the Social Chapter, enhanced the Union's capacity to act - by qualified majority vote - in areas such as the environment, transport and social cohesion. If Britain's experiences with the Single European Act's health and safety provisions are any guide, policy decisions in these fields will inevitably conflict with (even post-Thatcherite) British Conservatism.

The Government may have also belatedly realised that the accession of the Efta applicants, all with strong social democratic traditions, will reinforce the Union's interventionist character. Even Sweden's conservative Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, is much closer philosophically to Chancellor Kohl than John Major, never mind Mrs Thatcher.

Of course, in hitherto failing to discern the political nature of the Union, or how this would be amplified by both Maastricht and enlargement, the Government has shown remarkable short-sightedness. In that, at least, I agree with the tone of your leading article.

Yours faithfully


Holbeck, Leeds