Monday, February 16, 2004

How about another variable relationship?

Philip Chaston rightly lauds Michael Howard's speech on the European Union. I do not believe that the speech is as radical as Philip sees it - it is a clearer exposition of present Tory policy.

Eurosceptics will see two problems with this speech. Firstly there is the reminder that it was Conservative governments who managed the ascession into the EEC, brought us the Single European Act and signed the Maastricht treaty. Of course he could have pointed out that it was Cold War priorities that dictated the first two, but the uncomfortable fact that our engagement in the European project is largely at American insistence is perhaps not the greatest idea for a pro-American and Eurosceptic party.

The second problem is that the variable relationship is simply not on offer. That is the whole point of the European Union. However the only way that a reluctant British electorate (and Establishment) will be persuaded of the need for withdrawal is by showing the absence of any satisfying middle way. And what better way of doing that than by genuinely striving for this middle way?

If all of us Eurocynics are proved wrong and a via media is available then this can be lived with and our relationship with Europe can be degraded from sovereignty enemy number one.

However this idea for a flexible relationship with Europe is perfectly admirable, but what Howard neglects to explain is why he is so much in favour of another inflexible relationship that degrades our sovereignty and in its very rigidity acts against our national interest. I am speaking, of course, about our relationship with America. Is Howard really talking about a welcome flexibility in our relationships with the outside world or does he wish to replace one rigid relationship with another?


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