Lady Thatcher last night reignited the Conservative debate on Europe by calling for Britain to start the process of withdrawing from the European Union , saying the institution was “fundamentally unreformable”.
In an astonishing attack on the European continent, she claimed most of the problems the world has faced, including Nazism and Marxism, have come from mainland Europe. She also sided with the former Conservative Enoch Powell by claiming he had been right to warn in the 1970s that entry to the Common Market involved an unacceptable loss of sovereignty.
The former prime minister’s remarks in her new book, Statecraft, will embarrass the Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, who has been trying to take the party away from its obsession with Europe towards mainstream public service issues.
He will face a difficult time in the Commons today during a government statement on the EU summit in Barcelona.
Tony Blair is bound to seize on Lady Thatcher’s remarks to claim the true Tory agenda is withdrawal from Europe rather than any renegotiation.
In her book Lady Thatcher calls for Britain to join the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), a decision that would be seen by the EU as incompatible with membership of the 15-strong European single market.
Lady Thatcher calls for renegotiation of Britain’s relations with the EU, including leaving the common agricultural policy (CAP), the common fisheries policy and the common foreign and security policy.
She also demands that Britain reassert its control over trade policy. None of these demands could be met – except by unanimity on the European council, an impossible prospect. It would mean Conservative demands could only be met by withdrawal from the EU altogether.
“We should have every confidence we can achieve a sensible framework within which to defend and pursue our interests while having cooperative relations with the European countries,” Lady Thatcher says in her book.
“The preliminary step I believe should be for an incoming Conservative government to declare publicly that it seeks fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s terms of EU membership. The objectives would be a with drawal from the CAP, an end to our adherence to the common fisheries policy, withdrawal from all the entanglements of a common foreign and security policy and a reassertion of control of our trade policy.”
In an extraordinary passage she adds: “During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or another, from mainland Europe and the solution from outside it.
“That generalisation is clearly true of the second world war. Nazism was, after all, a European ideology, the Third Reich an attempt at European domination. Against both the resolve of Britain, of the Commonwealth, and decisively of America were successfully brought to bear. A great victory for liberty was the result.”
The Conservatives at the last election did call for renegotiation of the fisheries policy and a referendum on any further extension of substantial EU powers.
It also suggested a two-speed Europe could be created in which some integrationist countries could move together at a faster pace, leaving an outer circle moving more slowly.
Since the disastrous electoral showing, the Conservatives have remained largely silent on Europe, preparing instead for a battle on the single currency in a possible referendum next year.
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