1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Mr Major’s article in the Conference Magazine -
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are at odds over Europe. There are Cabinet splits about the offer of a referendum. Dissent lurks on the backbenches. An anti-
There are essentially three contrasting points of view upon Europe:
(i) It can do no right -
(ii) It can do no wrong -
(iii) That it is, on balance, favourable to the UK but that elements of policy frustrate and irritate. Like most of the British nation, I belong to the third -
Nothing, I suspect, will change the views of the Ultras -
What can be done to achieve this? It would be beneficial to have an honest debate among adversaries, but that is unlikely.
It would be desirable to have a fair and balanced media, but that is unobtainable. The written Press especially, is as deeply entrenched in the dispute as the political adversaries. The pro-
If reason and commonsense could heal the rifts over Europe they would have been mended long ago. But words alone cannot do it; suspicion and unease have grown continually since the Single European Act in 1986 and nothing has assuaged it. Indeed, it has worsened since most European Treaties are the natural father of the successor Treaty.
I recall that, throughout the negotiations on the Maastricht Treaty, I was constantly reminded that Margaret Thatcher had signed up to “ever closer Union” and a large extension of qualified majority voting (thus reducing the British veto). So why, I was asked, was I so obstinate over the Euro, the Social Chapter and a further extension of QMV?
As a result of the growing collective influence of successive Treaties, the public tend to see European policy as a juggernaut that cannot be stopped and which tramples over every sensitivity. This is the most damaging perception of all and the root of much suspicion over Europe.
Europe has now enlarged its membership to 25 Nation States, and when Giscard D’Estaing’s Committee was established to make recommendations that would update the practices and administration of the EU, I welcomed it. Europe needed reform to accommodate enlargement and many prizes loomed: consolidation of existing complex treaties; a more effective form of European administration and -
What is the case for Europe for those prepared to be persuaded? It remains powerful. The EU is the largest, richest free trade area in history and spreads from Ireland in the West to the very borders of Russia in the East. In years to come, one can see those borders increasing ever further -
But it is not just valuable for free trade. It has made a major European war inconceivable as the entangling of trade and investment build up common interests. It can provide an economic counter-
The fundamental problem, it seems to me -
The wise European would be cautious about entering the Euro zone (which is plainly not in our short-
Much is going our way in Europe and we need to rebuild domestic confidence in our membership of the European Union. To do so, we must neither fear to build upon developments in tune with our British instincts nor to resist those that go too far.