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William Hague: The Conservative Agenda for Europe

In a speech to Policy Exchange today entitled: "The European project and democratic consent: disconnection or re-engagement?", William Hague said:

"Gordon Brown ran away from an election, he has run away from a referendum and now he is running away from the detailed parliamentary scrutiny he promised. Great chunks of this Treaty have missed any Parliamentary scrutiny at all. If Gordon Brown had set out to confirm every criticism made of him - that he is a politician of gesture and cynical calculation rather than sincerity and substance - he could not have done more to confirm it with his behaviour on the EU Treaty."

Exposing the fundamental weaknesses in the Government's case, William Hague said:

"Gordon Brown has put about one last myth in his desperation to find any credible justification for this Treaty, and that is that it will bring to an end a period of institutional wrangling and allow the EU to focus on real issues that matter to the peoples of Europe. Leaving aside the rather odd argument that handing over large swathes of power to the EU is a good thing because we hopefully won't have to hand over any more for a decade - a bit like seeing the upside of having one's house done over by a burglar as meaning that there's less left to burgle - Gordon Brown's case is severely flawed."

Setting out the Conservative agenda for EU, William Hague said:

"Because Conservatives are opposed to shifting power from the nation state to EU institutions and ever deeper integration some depict us as anti-European. In fact, we are the strongest advocates of a European Union where nations work together in a way that strengthens our economies, empowers our consumers and turns our common values into effective action on the great issues facing our world today: climate change and global poverty. It is a Conservative approach because we are above all concerned with turning our ideals into action. But the great opportunities before us can only be grasped if the EU's focus is not the ever deeper political integration of the Treaty."

Explaining the choice the Lisbon Treaty represents for the EU, William Hague said:

"The Conservative Party's deep scepticism about European integration for its own sake can be attacked for being typical earthbound British pragmatism. I think that is unfair.

Our profoundest concern is that a partly supranational institution must never lose sight of the need for democratic legitimacy. That is the great danger the EU faces if the EU Constitution under whatever name goes through without the people's democratic consent. At the least, the lively, far-ranging debate a referendum campaign would bring about would rekindle popular engagement with the European Union, restore some badly needed trust in British politics and re-empower voters. But a rejection of the outdated approach to Europe embodied in the Treaty, more redolent of Delors than Google, would give us the great opportunity to move towards the nimble, flexible structure that would ensure the EU's success in the twenty first century. It would free Europe's leaders from the prospect of Eurocratic turf wars to deal with the real challenges Europe faces today."

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