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European Integration: Scope and Limits by Martin Holmes (auth.)

By Martin Holmes (auth.)

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Beyond Maastricht: the Conservative choice What then of the future? How can we assess the Conservative Party’s European experience? It is clear that Conservatives, in the near future, have to make some fundamental choices. It is no longer sufficient for a Conservative leader simply to paint a picture of the type of Europe that Britain would like to lead. This approach has been tested to destruction and the Continentals are mightily unimpressed by it. The Maastricht Treaty has been ratified but it has not yet been fully implemented.

The Maastricht Treaty strained the limits of acceptability to Europe’s electors. Europe’s peoples in general retain their favour and confidence in the nation-state. I believe that the nationstate will remain the basic political unit for Europe . . I see real danger, in talk of a ‘hard core’, inner and outer circles, a two-tier Europe. I recoil from ideas for a Union in which some would be more equal than others. There is not, and should never be, an exclusive hard core of countries or of policies .

Of course not. What it does mean is that we are in a better position to influence the way in which Europe goes. While contradictory in terms of a consistent approach to European policy, this strategy of compromise was successful. Major held his party together. Although, as his sympathetic biographer Bruce Anderson admits, there was some confusion as to where exactly John Major stood on Europe, 5 this was still regarded by the Continentals as an improvement on Mrs Thatcher’s open hostility. On the question of the ERM, Mr Major emphasised that although he strongly supported the Pound’s membership this did not necessarily imply an endorsement of a single European currency.

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