Letter: Without Maastricht, Europe and the Tories will suffer

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was very saddened to read the article today by my old friend David Howell ('But we are good Europeans . . .'). To those of us who have to represent the British interest daily, it seems a complete misjudgement both of our own interests and of those of our European partners. It also seems a misjudgement of the strategy needed for the European election campaign in just over a year.

John Major signed the Maastricht treaty because it was in Britain's interests. That was the view of the House of Commons before he signed it, after he signed it and after the general election which he won shortly afterwards.

Things have changed since 1991. But, far from 'crumbling Maastricht', they strongly reinforce the need for the treaty. The European Parliament, the Committee of Bank Governors, the Inter-Governmental Conference and the European Council at Maastricht agreed to monetary union because it was clear that the European Monetary System was not strong enough and, to quote one of our own party pamphlets, 'a country could wake up to find that, at the touch of the electronic buttons, it had lost half its currency reserves before breakfast'.

The other fear was that, however benign the rule of the Bundesbank, the day might come when the interest of the Germans ran counter to those of the rest of us, and that the Community's monetary affairs should be run in the interests of all 12 member states. We did not realise quite how soon this would be.

If Maastricht is not ratified, these problems remain, especially for us. We lost nearly nine-tenths of the value of the pound between the end of the link with the dollar in 1972 and the fixing of the EMS in 1990 and unemployment went up from 1.5 million in good times to three million in bad. Who wants to fight elections without a cure for that?

And who will listen to a British government which takes the view that the Germans are uncertain, the French destroyed by an earthquake (which returned a centre-right government), Italy is in a black hole (from which, post-referendum, it hopes to emerge with strong governments after first-past-the-post elections) and that the Spaniards are disillusioned (with their Socialist government giving a chance at last to our own allies)?

And, as we run up to the European election, let us remember that we Conservatives lost the last one because we spoke with two different voices. There may be those in the party who have no stomach for defending clearly and plainly what we have done and explaining why, but that is what wins elections.

Yours faithfully,


MEP for Cambridge and

North Bedfordshire (Con)


19 April

The writer is Vice-President of the

EC Foreign Affairs and Security