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Kirkhope: Conservative MEPs fight for Britain in Brussels, not for Brussels in Britain

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2005

"Chairman, Conference,

I am delighted to address you today for the first time as Leader of our MEPs.

And I am proud to lead the largest British political party in the European Parliament.

And our MEPs are there for one reason more than any other. We are there for Britain - because we Conservatives are in politics to fight for Britain's national interests.

Our Party has now won two European elections in a row. So my first task today is to thank you, all of you, - on behalf of our MEPs - for all the work you do to help ensure our success.

I lead a team of Conservative MEPs that represents the whole of our country, not just part of it. A team that puts Britain first, and a team that fights the scourge of Euro socialism.

Conservative MEPs fight for Britain in Brussels, not for Brussels in Britain, and I promise you that when we do, we pack a punch.

Our successes sometimes go unreported at home, so let me tell you just a few of them.

Thanks to us, there was a powerful Conservative voice leading the fight against the European Constitution.

We fought to defeat the Working Time Directive. And, thanks to us, British workers will work the hours they want - not the hours the European Commission tells them to work.

And, thanks to us, we stopped in its tracks one of the craziest laws yet to come out of Brussels. The law that told British builders to keep their shirts on when the sun was out! The so-called sunshine directive. So, conference will welcome the news that British builders, thanks to your Conservative MEPs, can strip off any time they like.

Interference. Interference. And more interference.

There's a reason why the EU makes itself so unpopular. It just can't stop interfering. So, it's time for an assault on Brussels red tape - and be in no doubt our MEPs will lead that fight.

Pity I can't say the same when it comes to our opponents. Let me start with Labour. Here's what their MEPs have been signing up to.

Yes to the European Constitution.

Yes to the euro.

Yes to our immigration policy being decided in Brussels.

Yes to Brussels deciding our foreign policy.

And yes to the Social Chapter that so damages British business.

But with Labour MEPs, it's yes to everything from Europe.

And so, with a track record like that, let me give some advice to Mr Blair.

It's all very well you lecturing the rest of Europe that they need to change their ways. It's time you started lecturing your own MEPs to change their ways.

Not only are they a menace to themselves, they are a menace to Britain as well. And I promise you - we will spare no effort in exposing them for what they are.

But, conference, let us not forget the Liberal Democrats. It's tempting, I know. At their own conference recently, Liberal Democrat MEPs forced through a motion to give the EU more money to spend. Yes - they actually wanted Europe to spend more. Well, they're Liberals - they always want to spend more.

And I say to them. The EU doesn't need more of our money to spend. Instead, it should start cutting out the waste in what it already spends. And then - it should start spending that money better.

One more word on our opponents. UKIP. Do you remember those heady days last year when Robert Kilroy-Silk swaggered back into British politics?

Didn't last long, did he?

Where is he now?

Well, he's certainly not in Brussels much - that's for sure.

All we remember now is that amazing sun tan.

Come to think of it. Defeating that sunshine directive is probably the best news Kilroy has had in years.

But Kilroy did perform one useful service. He exposed UKIP for what it really is. His judgment on them is damning, but oh so true. He said UKIP were a joke and a party going nowhere. And when we see UKIP MEPs in Brussels they don't disappoint. They strut, they posture and they make a noise. But none of it adds one jot to the cause of British interests in Europe.

So I say. If the British people want a party that stands up for Britain in Europe and fights for our country - then only one party - the Conservative Party - can be trusted to do so.

Now, you would expect me to say something about the European Constitution. There's a lot I could say about the European Constitution.

But earlier this year, the people of two of our European partners did something that no words can match. The voters of France and Holland said 'no' to the Constitution in overwhelming numbers. And let me say to the French and Dutch people.

Thank you. Thank you for giving Europe that wake-up call. This conference salutes you for having the courage to say no - and for reasserting your own national sovereignty.

Yet, despite this success, we can't rest on our laurels. Some will try to sneak in parts of this Constitution hoping no-one will notice. I say, there must be no Constitution - either through the front door, the back door or even the French windows. When the people say no, they mean no.

Britain currently holds the presidency of the EU. This means that it can set the agenda and give a lead. So, right on cue, Mr Blair gives a speech. Here's what he said about Europe in Brussels last June.

"It is time to give ourselves a reality check. To receive the wake-up call. The people are blowing the trumpets round the city walls".

Trumpets round the city walls? This could only be a Tony Blair speech!

But after eight long years in power, what has he got to show for all this rhetoric?

I'll tell you. A European policy in tatters. And all because he's spent the past eight years playing two tunes on the same fiddle.

The arch sceptic at home, the passionate European in Brussels.

For the euro when he's in Brussels. Defender of the pound when he's in Britain.

For the Constitution one minute. Happy to abandon it the next.

If the British people want real change in Europe - real reform, less waste and more accountability - then it is only our party and a Conservative Government that can deliver.

So much for Mr Blair, but there is someone else representing Britain in Brussels right now. Someone who is stalking the corridors of the European Commission even as we speak. The man in charge of Europe's trade policy - yes - you've guessed it - it's our old friend Peter Mandelson.

Well, I have to report to this conference that Peter's been having a spot of bother lately. A little local difficulty you might say. Thanks to him, we ended up with 80 million pairs of Chinese underpants and bras piled up in warehouses the length and breadth of Europe. Poor old Peter.

I thought Peter could be responsible for many things, but who'd have thought he could single-handedly decimate the autumn lingerie collection at Marks and Sparks.

But, you know, there is a serious point in all this. Europe has to wake up to China. It has to wake up to India. In short, it needs to wake up to the globalised economy.

The debate rages on what kind of Europe there must be in the years ahead - and Europe is changing. The new member states like Poland and the Czech Republic are already showing the way.

They are enterprising, dynamic and outward-looking.

Their economies are growing fast.

They have a thirst for prosperity.

This is the path the rest of Europe must follow.

And we Conservatives, working with more like-minded parties across the continent, will be in the vanguard.

We know what kind of Europe we want. William Hague summed it up brilliantly in six short words.

'In Europe, not run by Europe'.

But, to achieve this, we need a Conservative Government.

And to win again, we must be disciplined, united and confident.

And - together - we will deliver for Britain."

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