Howard on Europe

EURO VISION, NUL POINTS?
Michael Howard has pledged to freeze UK Civil Service recruitment.

But if his vision of Europe were to be put to the test, how much EU bureaucracy and regulation would we have to obey? Will we still be under the thumb of the interfering European Commission?

Above all, could we claim to be a sovereign country?

'A NEW DEAL FOR EUROPE?'

New Conservative leader Michael Howard lost no time in insisting that he wanted Britain to be "a positive member of the EU"1.

EPP. European People's Party. A Europe-wide political party of 'Christian Democrat' (federalist) origins. Firmly wants common electoral system, EU Constitution without national vetoes & EU income tax2.

EDU. European Democrat Union, centre-right alliance of parties, most of whom also joined the EPP. Leaders agreed to merge with EPP in 1998. The Conservative Party is a member, and represented in EDU-EPP 'joint working groups' to co-ordinate member parties.

EPP-ED. European Parliament group dominated by the EPP. About 1/3 of the 36 Conservative MEPs are 'Eurosceptic'. In countries about to join the EU, most of the 'observer' parties have already been cultivated - and signed up - by the EPP3

He was immediately congratulated for his "belief in mutual support and friendship" by Wilfried Martens, leader of the federalist EPP. His wish to "lead from the centre" - is also the EPP's preferred view of itself4.

Days later, on 4/5 December 2003, he attended the Paris Summit of the EPP, which made plans for the IGC and the proposed EU Constitution5.

Previously hailed as 'Eurosceptic', Howard then changed Iain Duncan Smith's decision for Tory MEPs to leave the federalist EPP-ED group in the European Parliament.

Although Conservative Central Office (CCO) justified this on the grounds of more EU money for the 'Conservative' wing ('ED') and more freedom to voice dissenting views6, EPP-ED Leader, Hans Gert Pottering has confirmed that "The Group will remain fully committed to European integration"7.

WHOSE INFLUENCE IN EUROPE?

This commitment is reflected in the 'Priorities of the EPP-ED for 2004-2009', which calls for:

Harmonised contract & company law

A common 'EU' company tax base

Road user taxes

EU control of justice & home affairs and definition of serious crimes

A European Public Prosecutor

Common equipment & training for all EU members' armies; co-ordination of defence procurement (threatening national defence industries?)

EU 'powers to raise funds' (i.e. tax)

Pottering singled out his Vice-President - Tory MEP James Elles - to thank for his guidance in preparing the document!

Ironically, the CCO website talks of 'maximising the influence of the centre-right' via the EPP-ED tie up!8 Tell that to the EPP-ED federalists, who already have a 'Schuman Group' (or 'Athens Group') dedicated to counteracting any 'conservative' influences!9

CCO claims that the Tory Party is a member of a 'parallel' EDU group, but that has now been so taken over by the EPP that you have to ask the EPP who is a member!10

Maybe not surprising that Howard gave his "New Deal" speech at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation11, which is committed to "consolidate close co-operation between Conservative and Christian Democratic Parties and the EPP, particularly in the light of European integration"12.

SAME OLD 'NEW EUROPE'?

In his speech, Howard called for "a Europe that is flexible", noting the "tremendous tensions" of everyone having to move forward together, with individual countries having to claw opt-outs in fraught inter-governmental discussions.

The solution? An existing procedure for "Enhanced Co-operation".

He also suggested adjustments to the EU 'acquis communautaire' rule to re-assert national control over some policies - Fisheries were mentioned.

Writing in the Scotsman, Bill Jamieson had previously taken issue with this concept after another Howard speech. Noting that the "'Acquis communautaire' meant 'we have now established this right as ours'... an assertion of irreversibility", he concluded: "To imagine the EU will voluntarily cede a key area of jurisdiction we granted it betrays an astonishing innocence".13

(Editorial note: Even if Britain miraculously reasserted national control of fisheries, it would be unable to stop, say, Spanish fishermen setting up a base in Scotland and fishing under a UK flag, under the rules of Howard's precious 'Single Market' ).

Howard is wrong on "Enhanced Co-operation" too. The Treaty of Nice holds this can only be used as a last resort after normal negotiations fail14. Some remedy for strained relations with our neighbours!

 

Tory federalists

CLANGER

The Conservatives are supposed to be against extending regional government in England. Howard initially appointed David Curry MP as shadow spokesman for local government and devolution. (Curry is Chairman of the Conservative Group for Europe - an official Conservative party group!).

Curry was embarrassed by John Prescott: "Back in 1998, you told this House: "The arguments for devolution are well made"15. He had criticised NewLab's (EU-inspired) plans for the English regions on technicalities. Curry had also made a speech in 2001, claiming that regional government was "the only way" to restore "representative government" and add "vigour" to local democracy!16.

In his speech, Howard gave a strange reason for opposing an EU Constitution: "For the first time the supremacy of EU law would derive not from Acts of Parliament, but from a 'supranational constitution".

As he is a key supporter of the "New Europe" cross-party Parliamentary group17, which exists to promote Britain's membership of the EU, how can he also claim: "Parliament does not own our liberties. It is meant to safeguard them". Like Ted Heath, he hints at his vision "not sacrificing essential national sovereignty".

Little wonder that the BBC's Andrew Marr & Nick Assinder judged that there was "nothing new" in the speech, just a different tone18. Or that the Guardian noted that Ken Clarke welcomed his position on Europe!19

Howard has said that the proposed Constitution is "unacceptable to me" and that he would "do what needs to be done 'to safeguard the vital interests of this country' - but has declined to say exactly how an incoming Tory government would abandon it if it was in place20.

This stance seems to be directly contradicted by his views on the Today programme recently; when asked about the Maastricht Treaty (which confirmed the 'acquis' ratchet), he said that he was happy signing up to it and wouldn't go back on it!21.

His confusion is mirrored on the CCO website, which claims that the EU is just "a partnership of independent states who pool their sovereignty in specified areas"22.

The same website quotes his chosen Deputy Leader and Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram at the March 2004 Spring Conference in Harrogate23:

"In Gibraltar we will disown this government's dishonourable agreement in principle to share sovereignty with Spain. Sovereignty shared is sovereignty surrendered.....

And then the European Union, that partnership of sovereign nations of which we are, and are determined to remain, an important part.
"

FOOTNOTE: HOWARD'S INTERESTING PAST

In 2002, Howard told a conference in Spain that: "The creation of a political union in Europe - whether you call it a single European state or a United states of Europe or anything else - is a noble ambition. It is an entirely legitimate ambition"24. He then noted that it was not something that Britons wanted. Yet recalling his views on the Maastricht Treaty (which set up political union), he said that he was happy signing up to it and wouldn't go back on it!21

(The Britain Appeals website alleges Howard was once a member of the European Movement's Executive Committee25. Any information welcomed...)

When the European Central Bank decided (1998) that Britain should not put the Queen's head on Euro notes, shadow Foreign Secretary Howard called on Blair to overturn this 'absurd decision'!!!26



|References|

|Cameron's dilemma|

|Earlier federalist connections|

|'Acquis' explained|

|'Renegotiation' tested|

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This page updated: 27 March 2004, link updated 1 January 2006