The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand

Cookies are a technology which we use to provide you with tailored information on our website. A cookie is a piece of code that is sent to your internet browser and is stored on your system.

Please see below for a list of cookies this website uses:

Cookie name: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz

Purpose: Google Analytics cookies. Google Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. Please see Google's privacy policy for further information. To opt out of these cookies, please visit Google's website.

Cookie name: Sitecore

Purpose: Stores information, such as language and regional preferences, that our content management system (the system we use to update our website) relies on to function.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: ASP.net_session

Purpose: Allows the website to save your session state across different pages. For example, if you have completed a survey, the website will remember that you have done so and will not ask you to complete it again when you view another page on the website.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: website#sc_wede

Purpose: Indicates whether the user's browser supports inline editing of content. This indicates whether our content management system will work for our website administrators in their internet browsers.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: redirected

Purpose: Remembers when the site forwards you from one page to another, so you can return to the first page. For example, go back to the home page after viewing a special 'splash' page.

Function: This is a session cookie, which your browser will destroy when it shuts down. The website needs this cookie to function.

Cookie name: tccookiesprefs

Purpose: Remembers when you respond to the site cookie policy, so you do not see the cookie preferences notice on every page.

Function: If you choose to remember your preference with a temporary cookie, your browser will remove it when you shut it down, otherwise the cookie will be stored for about a year.

Cookie name: _ga

Purpose: Additional Google Analytics cookie. Google Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. Please see Google's privacy policy for further information.

Cookie name: SC_ANALYTICS_GLOBAL_COOKIE, SC_ANALYTICS_SESSION_COOKIE

Purpose: Sitecore Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. When you close your browser, it will delete the 'session' cookie; it will keep the 'global' cookie for about one year.

Facebook cookies

We use Facebook 'Like' buttons to share site feedback. For further information, see Facebook's cookie policy page.

Twitter cookies

We use Twitter 'Tweet' buttons to share site feedback. For further information, see Twitter's privacy statement.

YouTube cookies

We embed videos from our official YouTube channel. YouTube uses cookies to help maintain the integrity of video statistics, prevent fraud and to improve their site experience. If you view a video, YouTube may set cookies on your computer once you click on the video player.

Cookies pop-up

When you close the cookies pop-up box by clicking "OK", a permanent cookie will be set on your machine. This will remember your preference so that the pop-up doesn't display across any pages whenever you visit the website.

Opting out/removing cookies

To opt out of Google Analytics cookies, please visit Google’s website.

You can also control what cookies you accept through your internet browser. For details on how to do this, please visit aboutcookies.org. Please note that by deleting our cookies or disabling future cookies you may not be able to access certain areas or features of our website.

mailing list
donate now
join now
shop

The Euro: the most important issue

An attack on Tony Blair's Evasiveness on Europe

The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick

The issue of Europe, and Britain’s membership of the Euro are ones that William Hague is rightly fighting to see are fairly and squarely put before the British people, and at the centre of this Election. It is obvious that the Prime Minister is desperate to keep the issue of the Euro completely out of this Election. The Government should not be allowed to follow the cowardly example of their allies, the Liberal Democrats, who claim to be the most pro-European party except at General Elections when the evangelism curiously vanishes. The Prime Minister cannot be allowed to do the same.

To adopt an old remark about President Eisenhower, the Prime Minister has a straightforward way of dodging issues. No one who seriously considers the issue of the euro can possibly believe that it is anything other than a hugely important one. And yet the Prime Minister hardly mentions it. How often has the Prime Minister mentioned the euro in a press conference except in response to a journalist’s question? How many times has the Prime Minister made the Euro a subject of a speech? On which day has Europe been the main theme of Labour’s campaign?

The Referendum itself is an issue in this Election

Of course the Prime Minister will argue that the issue of the single currency will be decided later in a referendum. But separating the referendum and the General Election is facile.

If there is a Conservative Government there will be no Referendum – which, according to your viewpoint, is a reason for voting for or against the Conservative Party. If Labour win the Election not only will there be a Referendum, but it will also give momentum to the Government’s surreptitious campaign to get Britain into the Euro.

Labour are frightened to talk about the Euro for obvious reason: British entry into the euro is overwhelmingly unpopular. For all the Government’s blandishments, public opinion shows little sign of moving. Labour’s plan, which fits into the long history of the British public being misled over European issues, is to keep quiet, keep their heads down, and then after the Election to hold a rigged referendum. If this election has any meaning the Prime Minister owes it to the country to spell out his position on the Euro and to tell it as it is.

The Government’s Hidden Agenda

The Prime Minister maintains he believes Britain, in principle, should join the Euro but it is a question of whether the conditions are right. At Election time, of course, it is the conditions and the problems that are emphasised, and it is the principle that is played down. Away from General Elections it is the other way round, particularly at Summit meetings, when the Prime Minister tells other Heads of Government that he is keen to get Britain into the Euro as soon possible, but he needs to turn opinion around. For this reason the British Government reportedly asked the Belgian Government not to talk about its plans for tax harmonisation during its forthcoming Presidency, which he feared might influence the British General Election. For once Belgium has been keen to help a British Government.

The Prime Minister cannot be trusted on the Euro, particularly at Election time. At the last Election he proclaimed that he “loves the pound sterling”. After the Election he emphasised he favoured the Euro in principle. At the 1997 Election he told the readers of The Sun the Euro was an issue of huge constitutional significance. After the Election the PM declared “there was no overriding constitutional bar to membership of the Euro”. On the Euro apparently the PM stands for whatever he thinks readers of The Sun will fall for.

A Rigged Referendum

The arrangements for the Referendum that have been voted through Parliament ironically illustrate exactly why the issue of the Euro cannot be divorced from this Election. The arrangements are also so clearly and deliberately unfair, they make the Government’s intentions obvious. According to the legislation forced through both Houses of Parliament, state funding for the “Yes” and “No” campaigns in any Referendum will be calculated by the number of votes in this General Election. Each pro-Euro party, however small, gets a certain minimum, which increases, according to the number of votes in this Election. The more votes for pro-Euro parties, and the more pro-Euro parties there are, the bigger the total amount of state funding for the pro-Euro campaign. So Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and the Labour Party will all qualify for grants for the pro-Euro campaign, and only the Conservative Party, and the tiny U.K.I.P. will qualify for funding on the anti-Euro side.

I still believe that there is a good chance that Britain, if it has a Referendum, will reject the single currency. But there is no doubt that the arrangements have been biased in favour of the “Yes” campaign. If there is to be state funding for a Euro referendum there should be equal funding for both sides. The whole reason for having a Referendum on the Euro is that the issue cuts across parties. So it is completely illogical to determine the money to be spent on either side by reference to votes for parties.

The Five Bogus Tests

Relating funding to the votes at the General Election gives the lie to the Prime Minister’s unconvincing attempt to separate the Euro from the Election. Every time a Labour Eurosceptic votes Labour he increases the funding for a “Yes” campaign. And every time someone votes Plaid Cymru, SNP or Liberal Democrat they are increasing the funding for a “Yes” campaign.

The Government’s talk about not joining the Euro before “the conditions are right” is mere pretence. The Chancellor’s much vaunted five tests, relating to employment, investment, the City and convergence are so vague that they can be declared met, or not met, according to the Chancellor’s whim. Some commentators have suggested the Chancellor will agree the tests have been met in exchange for a deal on the Labour leadership. Who knows by what crazy logic the decision will be made?

The so-called “convergence test” can only be judged seriously, over a long period of time, and even then the evidence would be inconclusive. The likelihood is that at some point in the next few years Bank of England and ECB interest rates will temporarily coincide, even if they are moving in opposite directions. When this happens the Government will no doubt declare convergence has been achieved even though it may be a passing phenomenon.

The last years of Britain?

This is the most vital election this country has faced in decades, and the result could determine whether this country remains a self-governing one. The years after this Election could be the last final years of Britain.

Some will consider that exaggerated. But consider how rapidly in the last few years the whole idea of Britishness has been diluted, and continues under threat after Labour’s foolish creation of devolved assemblies. How strong will it be after a few years of Euro membership? The idea of Britain as a country will, no doubt, live on in the memory as a historical relic, but Britain as a self-governing country will increasingly be under threat in the Euro. The Euro will mean harmonisation of taxation, interference from Brussels into Government spending, and ultimately the creation of a European Ministry of Finance as part of a European Government.

German Plans for a Federal Europe

As recently as last Wednesday the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, prophesied a Federal Europe. To make the point clear he added: “I am a convinced believer in the Federal State”. Note the use of the word “State”. We don’t need to add any alarming prefixes such as the word “super”. It is clear that in Mr. Fischer’s mind Euroland intends to become a state.

Mr Fischer, of course, no doubt warned by Mr. Blair, tried to tailor his remarks to any possible British readers by referring to Winston Churchill’s speech in 1946 about a United States of Europe. Mr Fischer, like most Euro zealots, forgot that Churchill made it clear that he did not believe that Britain should be part of a United States of Europe.

No one should be surprised by Mr. Fischer’s remarks. He has said it before, notably in his speech a year ago at Humboldt University. At that time the Foreign Office told us that Mr Fischer’s remarks were “his personal opinions”, and should not be taken too seriously. Today’s personal opinions have a nasty habit of becoming tomorrow’s European treaty. And the next European Treaty, let me remind you, is scheduled for 2004.

What Mr Fischer said closely follows the thinking of Chancellor Schroder who has outlined his own plan for a federal constitution for Europe, unsurprisingly closely modelled on the German constitution. The Chancellor has called for an elected President for Europe, more powers for the European Parliament, and most significantly of all for the Council of Ministers to be downgraded to become the Second Chamber of a European Parliament. The Council of Ministers would thus become like the Bundesrat in which the Lander of Germany are represented.

To make the Council of Ministers into a mere second chamber of the European Parliament would, of course, make it much more difficult for individual countries to block European decisions. Many British voters, like myself, will feel that states cannot simply become the second chamber of the European Parliament. The Council of Ministers already has much more legitimacy than the European Parliament made up as it is of representatives of national governments. It is with national governments that most ordinary people still strongly identify.

The British people should be profoundly grateful to the German Chancellor for speaking out so frankly about the future of Europe, and helping us in this Election. If only our own Government would speak so openly. It is now three weeks since Mr. Schroder put forward his proposals for a European Government. At no point in this Election has Tony Blair given us any hint of his Government’s views on these vital issues. It’s time that he stopped ducking and answered a few questions.