An article by Bill Cash published in The Times on 21 March 1996
Today the Commons debates the White Paper on Europe, to which I replied yesterday in my own Blue Paper. This debate is so fundamental to the future of Britain that both Government and Opposition thought it wise to bury the issue with a one-line whip. This shows how far the Europeanisation of Britain has undermined the vitality and integrity of British politics.
The essence of British conservatism is that we retain through our Parliament the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances while insisting on the fixed and immutable principles of democracy, accountability and self-government. No British Government has the right to give this inheritance away.
The process of European integration contradicts these principles. The White Paper, high on rhetoric, is low on principle and silent on renegotiation of Britain's position. When I proposed putting monetary union on the agenda of the inter-governmental conference (IGC), so that this matter could be discussed as a question of principle, the Foreign Secretary replied: ``I do not follow your suggestion that it is a matter of principle.''
The White Paper speaks of our need to be ``realistic about the sort of changes we can hope to achieve at the IGC . . . If we were to press ideas which stand no chance of general acceptance, some others would seek to impose an integrationist agenda which would be equally unacceptable''. This is not realism; it is defeatism, even appeasement. It betrays a deeper problem, which the White Paper avoids, a stubborn refusal to renegotiate the Maastricht treaty despite all the evidence of its failure in the areas of jobs, the exchange-rate mechanism, monetary union, Bosnia and fishing. We must reduce the powers of the Court of Justice by reducing the competences already granted. Maastricht entails an integrationist programme for European government, which must be repealed.
Speaking last month in Louvain, Chancellor Kohl failed to distinguish between nationalism and the democratic nation-state, when he threatened that the failure of European integration would lead to war. The truth is that we run this risk if we undermine the democratic nation-state. Chancellor Kohl insisted that ``German unity and European integration are two sides of . . . the same coin''. The Treaty on European Union is the acquisition of power by other means.
This issue should not be seen as a matter of left or right, but as a matter of national interest, on which the British people have a right to a referendum. There is yet time to resolve these questions, for the IGC does not begin until March 29, and will continue until after the general election. This raises the question of the Conservative Party manifesto and the Labour Party.
The failure of the exchange-rate mechanism before our exit on September 16, 1992, severely damaged the Conservatives' credibility in government, but we are steadily recovering it. The party must show the British people that this debacle could not happen again, by ruling out the exchange-rate mechanism and monetary union in our manifesto and during the inter-governmental conference. The Labour Party is trapped. Gordon Brown says he wants managed exchange rates and monetary union. But if we Conservatives rule this out in our manifesto, we can demonstrate that Labour will be unable to fulfil its promises about jobs, health, education, public expenditure and a host of other issues. To fail to do so would be to throw away our best weapon in the general election. This involves renegotiating Maastricht, and perhaps telling the other EU members that otherwise we will veto the IGC.
Our British identity and independence have been withering in the face of attacks by Brussels, power-play in Germany and France, and the activities of Euro-fanatics at home. Conservatives must now match the rhetoric of the White Paper by putting British interests first when it comes to policy. We have been treated with too much contempt for too long by those with whom we have tried to co-operate. We can and will work with our partners in Europe, but only on mutual terms, not simply on theirs. We will not be trampled on. We will not watch as our laws are overturned by the Court of Justice and our institutions, which have stood the test of time, are derided and treated as hollow. We have saved Britain and Europe twice in a century, and we are now called upon to do so again.
If we do not regain for ourselves the only sovereignty which really counts, which is the political will and authority of a democratic nation, we shall deserve to fail. Then we shall enter a dark age of subordination to the will of others, and the Conservative Party will lose its raison d'etre. As Disraeli said, ``the Tory Party is a national party or it is nothing''.
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