Convention: the Tory view

By GEOFFREY VAN ORDEN MEPConservativeSELF-DELUSION is a dangerous enough vice for a Government. But deliberately misleading its own citizens about the future of their country is altogether more damning.



SELF-DELUSION is a dangerous enough vice for a Government. But deliberately misleading its own citizens about the future of their country is altogether more damning.

Cabinet Minister Peter Hain recently described the steps being taken in Brussels to draw up a Constitution for Europe as "more of a tidying up exercise of a tangled web of treaties." He was referring to proposals that will have the greatest impact on the destiny of our nation since the British people joined what they then thought was a Common Market in 1973. They would see Britain become part of a "federal United States of Europe" even if the Government's negotiators succeed in having such terminology removed.

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Brussels would have primacy over Westminster in just about every area - economic policy; asylum and immigration; foreign policy; defence policy; customs; commercial policy; agriculture and fisheries; energy; a European Public Prosecutor and a Charter of Fundamental Rights etc.

Government ministers will argue that many of these elements are already contained in EU treaties. True, but many are not, and the crucial difference is that a treaty is an agreement between sovereign states. A constitution creates a new legal order that does not rely on the member states for its powers – we would cease to exist as a fully independent nation and effectively become a province of the EU.

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 Today's Conservatives have an alternative vision of the future of Europe – a looser community of sovereign states, centred on the single market, co-operating in areas beyond the control of individual nations. Just as the Conservative Party is opposed to giving up the pound for the euro, so we are opposed to the proposals to give even more powers to the EU.

 Labour will lead us blindly into a European superstate. The Government will argue that it is not bound by the draft Constitution that Giscard d'Estaing's Convention will present to Ministers on 20 June. It will claim that it will remove elements that are "not in Britain's interest" before a final constitutional treaty is signed at Rome in December 2003.

But we cannot trust a Labour Government, committed to the euro, to act in Britain's true interest. Every EU treaty so far has seen us surrendering more powers to Brussels with little tangible gain for Britain. Yet again the UK will be fighting a political battle on ground of someone else's choosing and will come away the loser. The Rome Constitutional Treaty will have no other purpose than to massively empower the EU at the cost of our hard won liberties as a nation. Conservatives want the British people to have the opportunity to reject it in a referendum. This is our duty to our future generations.


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