Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Conservatives for an Independent Britain - a proposal

The Conservative Party has reached a consensus on Europe, a healthy scepticism that stops short of contemplating withdrawal. Perhaps it's time to start contemplating.

The case for withdrawal is rarely made even with about a third of the population supporting it. This is a strange imbalance, and it is worrying for a number of reasons:

1) By taking out the whole range of options it unbalances debate. "Moderate" federalists like Gordon Brown can point to more extreme federalists like Tony Blair who in turn can point to the lunatic fringe Liberal Democrats. This makes the extreme and impractical Euro-federalism of Tony Blair look moderate, while Gordon Brown is seen as a Eurosceptic. The official position of the Conservative Party, meanwhile, is not seen as a via media between withdrawal and independence but as the outer limits of debate. Groups such as the European Foundation simply do not have room to breathe.

2) If the desire for withdrawal is not articulated within the mainstream, others will profit from doing so. As we have seen with the results from France, this is not something we should take lightly.

3) On a tactical level, the lack of a serious case for withdrawal could scupper any "No" campaign against the Euro. There are a number of scenarios being discussed to push the Euro through against the better judgement of the British people. One of these is to offer either withdrawal or Economic union. This presupposes that the Conservatives will not be able to face withdrawal and that the British people will be unfamiliar with the arguments. By organising now, this will not happen.

So what can we do about this? My proposal is to start a campaign within the Conservative Party which simply calls for withdrawal from European Union. At the moment the European debate has been shut down within the Conservative Party with the closure of groups such as Conservatives Against a Federal Europe and the Monday Club. It's time to reopen the debate.

With a masthead of a few influential grassroots activists, an energetic media campaign and a meeting at the next Conservative Party conference - a small group of people with a simple idea can have a disproportionate influence.

I am prepared to act as a clearing house for anyone interested in this venture (and prepared to quietly go into the night if nothing come of it). My e-mail address is , and confidentiality is assured.


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