LETTERS : Diplomacy and negotiation win the day

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Government's incompetence over policy on Europe is deeply misunderstood: Ministers mention subsidiarity apparently thinking this means subsidiarity to London, yet it means power residing at the appropriate level, be it Brussels, Edinburgh or Westminster (or the local town hall). Those who argue for this kind of subsidiarity are labelled teenage madmen, Euro-fanatics, or whatever invective passes for rational debate in today's Conservative Party.

It is odd that the British once had a reputation for diplomatic subtlety. Going into the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference with a declared policy of vetoing every proposal that has constitutional significance is hardly a good preparation for bargaining and trading. Secondly, it will not work.

It is inconceivable that significant changes will not be proposed and adopted by the other 14 members. Some are essential if the candidate countries are to be ready for membership. We know that some of the proposals for structural change command wide support in the rest of the union. The others will move on, leaving Mr Major either to accept a deal to which the British made no positive contribution, or to come up with an alternative, such as withdrawal.

The tragedy is not what this will do to the Conservative Party but what it will do for the country.

Yours faithfully, TERRY BISHOP The Warden Commonwealth Hall London, WC1

31 January

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