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Heathcoat-Amory: A Free and Democratic Europe

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2002

This debate is about securing freedom and democracy. This must be our central mission as Conservatives. We don't need to look far to see a lack of democracy: yesterday I got back from my weekly meeting in Brussels. I am the Conservative parliamentary representative, one of your representatives on the Convention on the Future of Europe due to report next year. My aim is simple: a democratic Europe, or better a Europe of Democracies.

The EU is to enlarge and the candidate countries look for security, but they will join an EU which has become dangerously separated from the people it should serve. The EU is remote, centralised, interfering and wasteful.

But Labour has invented a weird form of reverse devolution. Instead of bringing government downwards, it is sending more and decisions upwards to the most remote tier of all - the EU. In the Convention they have agreed that the EU should have a written constitution and that the intergovernmental pillars should be abolished. And last week they signalled that the EU charter of Fundamental Rights will be legally binding despite all the assurances given. One retreat after another and we're only half way through. If the Convention produces a treaty which reflects this. I will not sign it, and I will work to produce an alternative.

And the Liberal Democrats ? You can take out 'democrat' Their member wants an exit clause to show it's a voluntary union. Good Idea. But if a country decides and votes to leave, it would need the agreement of three quarters of other member states. That's not an exit clause that's a slavery clause - the final extinction of national sovereignty

Only this party can fight for a truly Democratic Europe, which co-operates and combines to tackle issues of common concern, but is made up a free and self governing nation states. Whatever changes we make let us never compromise our belief that self-government is a precious right, never to be given away.

We will fight for this for our own sake and for the good of Europe.

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