Letter: Way forward on Maastricht

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The Independent Online
Sir: Douglas Hurd was uncharacteristically clumsy in his pronouncements about Maastricht and the Social Chapter (report, 11 February). Can he really mean that, rather than accept the Social Chapter, Her Majesty's Government would refuse to ratify Maastricht and thus bring the whole treaty crashing down, not only for this country, but also for the rest of the Community?

How would that look to Europe? Would he not hear from every European government and read in every European newspaper that Britain was putting the dubious advantages of a low-paid, underprivileged work-force before honouring its signature to the treaty and its obligations to the rest of Europe? Britain's unpopularity in Europe, already massive, would rise to unprecedented heights, and our membership of the Community would be brought into question.

Actually, the Government has an easy way out of its dilemma. It could say that, much as it dislikes the Social Chapter, nevertheless if there should turn out to be a majority for it in the House of Commons, it would be obliged, as a loyal servant of the House, to accept the House's verdict, however reluctantly, and to try and negotiate with the rest of the Community a cancellation of the British opt-out from the Social Chapter.

In these circumstances it is hard to believe that any Conservative would vote for the Labour amendment, which would then (perhaps unfortunately) be defeated.

Yours,

WILLIAM HAYTER

Stanton St John, Oxfordshire

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