Magazine article The Spectator

Put a Sock in It

Magazine article The Spectator

Put a Sock in It

Article excerpt

This is an appeal to all Tory grandees. It is directed particularly at John Major, Chris Patten and Douglas Hurd. You may say that your conscience instructs you to speak out. You may declare, as does Chris Patten, the former party chairman, that it is `neither sensible nor honourable' to keep silent about what is happening to your party. It may genuinely be your belief that Tory policy on Europe is now, as John Major puts it, `crazy and absurd'; or you may have a book to plug. Whatever the reasons for your allegedly painful decision to denounce William Hague, may we suggest, with all the respect that is owed to personages of stature and attainment, that you can it, shut up, belt up and put a sock in it. You are collaborating with Blair in a flagrant misrepresentation of Tory policy.

Will someone kindly inform us how. exactly, the current Tory policy towards Britain's membership of the European Union represents a `lurch to the Right'? It is said that the new 'hardline' policy involves a 'renegotiation', in the sense that Britain could opt out of large chunks of EU business. Perhaps there are some Tory Eurosceptics who are so deluded as to believe that is really the party's intention. A renegotiation of the EU's founding Treaty of Rome, with the object of abstracting this country from commitments to, say, a common agricultural policy, fisheries policy and foreign policy, would indeed be a sensational undertaking. It would throw the Community into turmoil, and cause such an outbreak of me-tooism that the whole federal project would be in jeopardy. But that is emphatically not what is being proposed by John Maples, the shadow foreign secretary, and William Hague. There is no plan to leave the EU, or abrogate even parts of the current treaties. In so far as the Tories are calling for renegotiation, their policy is identical to that of Tony Blair.

It is axiomatic that the treaties will have to be renegotiated if and when the East Europeans are finally admitted. There are, to be sure, some European politicians who oppose this renegotiation, in the sense that they continue, immorally, to oppose the expansion of the EU. But these are protectionists, Luddites and Little Europeans, and their views are not shared by any British political party. At this negotiation to admit Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, the Tories are now proposing that there should be inserted a `Flexibility Clause'. This would merely demand that all future - note that word 'future' - federalising measures would have to be agreed by unanimity. In other words, each state would have a veto over new moves to, say, a common legal system, a Euro-army, a Europolice force, or any other excitements in store. …

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