Francis Maude – 2000 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Francis Maude
Francis Maude

Below is the text of the speech made by Francis Maude on 4 October 2000.

Speakers today have all shown that they believe in Britain, they believe our country can be best in world. You all do; so do my team: Richard Spring and Cheryl Gillan in the Commons, who carve up the world between them. Stephen Day, our unsleeping Whip. Patricia Rawlings, who does terrific work in the Lords, and a special welcome, leading our Front Bench team in the Lords, to David Howell. It’s wonderful to have David back in the front line.

I’m a very lucky chap to have such an experienced and talented team. We’re all part of one team. William’s team. We’re ready to govern. And I tell you: we’re raring to go.

Ten years ago I served as one of Margaret Thatcher`s Foreign Office Ministers. Quite a year, that was: the Berlin Wall came down; the Cold War ended, and the shape of the world changed. I don`t want to take all the credit. But in the ten years since then the world has changed out of all recognition.

It’s actually less stable than it was; the Cold War lent a grim predictability to life. Ours is a swirling, tempestuous world; a world bursting with opportunity; a world of lightning information flows. Truly a network world.

People travel more; they know more about the world. Twenty or thirty years ago a trip round Europe was pretty exciting. Today it’s like a trip across town. Today young people in their gap years can span the world – and they do. And they want to make a difference in the world – themselves – they don’t think it’s all down to governments.

If we believe in ourselves, Britain can flourish in this new network world. Just look at the assets we have. The world’s fourth largest economy. The second biggest overseas investor. The greatest international financial centre. English, the language of the internet, and of global exchange. Armed Forces admired throughout the world. Membership of the EU. At the heart of NATO. The transatlantic relationship. At the centre of the Commonwealth – and our new Commonwealth Commission is mapping out a big new role for it in the network world.

In this new world, we aren’t on the edge of anything. Britain can be at the centre of it all. Our foreign policy must be for this new world. We have to look outwards, not inwards. And it shouldn’t be difficult. The British were globalists before the word was invented. We’re committed to global free trade by 2020. That’s the best hope for developing nations. Britain never has sought isolation. It never should. And under the Conservatives it never will.

So yes, Britain can be at the centre of the new network world. We will use that position to serve British interests. We’ll do so honourably and – yes – ethically.

Talking of ethics: did you hear Robin Cook last week, going on about ‘a miserable, shrivelled and shrunken thing’? Up and down the land, people were saying ‘there he goes, talking about himself again. For him, ethics might just as well be a county east of London. There’d be a big change, said Robin Cook. Britain’s foreign policy would have an ethical dimension. Who does this man think he is?

This country, that spread freedom, law and democracy across the globe. That twice last century fought for all Europe against tyranny. That most recently helped liberate millions of our fellow Europeans from the iron hand of Communism. Where was Robin Cook when we were fighting that battle? Posturing in his CND badge. While we never let up, he wanted Britain to slink, weaponless, from the world stage.

Foreign policy is about strength. Strength and honour. We`ll use Britain’s strength in the world. We’ll use it for peace and stability: whether in Kashmir, or Cyprus or the Middle East. We pray today that those caught up in conflagration in Gaza and the West Bank see that peace, not conflict, is the prize. We sincerely hope that the talks in Paris bring this violence to an end.

We’ll use our strength to promote democracy and the rule of law. The verdict of the ballot box must be respected. Mugabe and Milosevic: it’s over. You tried to rig it – and you failed. Give up – and get out.

And – yes – we`ll use British strength to promote the interests of Britain – and Britons.

For we believe in Britain. It isn’t obsolete. In the new network world, nations will matter more, not less. Globalisation means people need to be able to identify with their country more, not less.

Last week I was in the Caucasus. I was meeting people who only regained their nationhood eight years ago. They’re not about to give it up. Go to Kosovo, and talk to people, as I did: nationhood is their dream.

And it makes sense: in this fast-moving world, governments need to be flexible, and responsive. Countries, today more than ever, need the power to govern themselves.

And I just don’t understand why Tony Blair’s given up on it. He claims we either give up more and more powers. Or we condemn Britain to a lonely isolation. What a sad, outdated, defeatist view. Where’s the vision? Where’s the leadership? Where’s the conviction?

All round Europe, there is a really serious debate about its future. We agree with some bits, disagree with others, but it’s a real debate, with real convictions. There’s only one leader with nothing serious to say. Tony Blair. No leadership, no vision.

It’s different behind closed doors. He’d happily take Britain into a European superstate. He’d love to scrap the pound. But he wants to do it by stealth. It’s the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. He knows that most people, the mainstream majority, want no truck with it.

The mainstream majority want to be in Europe, not run by Europe. That’s why last year, against all expectations – perhaps even against our own – we won the European elections. The winners, under Edward’s leadership, have been hard at work. We work together – one team. In the last few days they’ve tabled the largest number of amendments to the European budget anyone can remember, aimed at cutting waste and eradicating Euro-propaganda.

There’s still a lot to sort out. The Commission needed a man of sharp intellect, decisive action and few words to put their house in order. They chose Neil Kinnock. Why do I think there’s still some distance to go?

Well. Here’s a pointer. The day I was in Brussels last month, Labour MEPs drove through a directive on…how to climb a ladder. That’s right – there really is an EU way to climb a ladder. It says this: ‘Ladders shall be so positioned as to ensure their stability during use.’ ‘Mobile ladders shall be immobilised before any person steps onto them.’ Well, thank you.

Then they agonised over whether to permit ‘The holding of a ladder by another person as a safety measure.’ And there let us leave them, these Labour MEPs: up their ladders; off their trolleys.

You really couldn’t make it up, could you? Tony Blair says we do make it up. He says it’s all fantasy. ‘No one I know wants some overblown United States of Europe’, he says.

Really? You know the German foreign minister, don’t you, Mr Blair? He wants ‘the transition … to … a European Federation.’ ‘We must put into place the last brick in the building of European integration, namely political integration’, he said.

You know Mr Prodi too, don’t you? Didn’t you appoint him? ‘Step by step … the European Commission … behaves like a growing government’, he says – and he means it, too – he approves of it.

And you must have met the French Prime Minister? He claims he’s met you, anyway. He talks of the EU crossing ‘a milestone towards the creation of a united political Europe’.

We may not like what they’re saying. But at least they’re honest. Why can’t Tony Blair tell the truth? Why can’t he be honest?

So let me be clear. If some others decide to integrate more, we won’t stand in their way. That’s their sovereign right. But a Conservative government will not – not – do the same.

And no, we won’t be ‘left behind’, or ‘isolated’; we’re not missing any boats. Two simple things came out of last Thursday’s Danish pasting. No more one size fits all. And nothing inevitable about scrapping the pound. People want to be in Europe but keep the pound. They know they can. And with a Conservative government, they will.

For the mainstream majority agrees with us. They’re not anti-European – and nor are we. If we weren’t committed to stay in Europe, why bother trying to change it? And the first change is that for Britain, integration has gone far enough. We will oppose any further loss of the British veto over EU laws. We will oppose the job-destroying Charter of Rights. And we will oppose the creation of an EU defence force outside NATO.

It’s so clear now that the public agree with us that I suspect Tony Blair may be getting a bit fussed. So don’t be deceived if he tries to water down the Nice Treaty this December. He hasn’t suddenly seen the light. He knows there’s another treaty in the pipeline. A treaty to create a European constitution for a European superstate. A treaty planned for – yes, after the next election. That’s why the stakes are so high: that’s why we’ve really just got to win.

Today I make two commitments. We will legislate so that further transfers of power can only take place after a referendum. Yes, Mr Blair: the people. Remember them?

And we are all fed up with seeing the European Court extending the EU into areas of national government well beyond those that Parliament intended to transfer. So we will legislate to create ‘reserved powers’. Beyond the powers we intended to transfer, EU law will not override the will of Parliament. Never again will the Treaties be extended by un-elected EU judges.

We’re not going to break our treaty obligations. There is no question of that. We honour Britain’s obligations. But why shouldn’t Britain enjoy the same constitutional protection as France, Germany and Italy already do? If it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for us.

Next, we’ll insist on a flexibility clause; outside the single market and core areas, let countries be free to accept only those new Euro-laws which meet their needs.

And let’s be blunt: some Brussels policies just aren’t working. The aid programme. The Common Agricultural Policy. The Common Fisheries Policy. They all waste money – they’re failing relics. They don’t need to be run from the centre. More can, and more should, be run by the nation states.

It’s eleven years since that momentous November night when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and the Iron Curtain was shattered. The EU has a historic duty to embrace the whole family of European nations. It’s taking far too long. If we want enlargement – and we do – we need a flexible Europe, a network Europe. We not going to take lectures from those who were nowhere to be seen while the West won the Cold War and made enlargement possible.

Mr Chairman, Europe’s strength is the diversity of its nation states. It’s their very sense of nationhood. This is the basis for our vision of Europe, a flexible and enlarged European Union. It’s the vision for which Conservatives have long argued, under Margaret Thatcher and John Major and William Hague.

For us believing in Britain isn’t just a phrase. It’s what we’re about. Yes, we believe in this United Kingdom – we believe it really can be the best place in the world. Yes, we believe in Britain, because we believe in the British people. Today people know more; they want to do more – themselves – not just for themselves, or by themselves; but together, and for others.

For others not just here at home, but abroad too. You see, like us they don’t think it’s all down to Governments. They’re sceptical about politicians, even suspicious; they just don’t believe today that the answer is ever higher taxes and an ever bigger state.

They long for leaders who are honest with them, who respect their intelligence. They long for a party that is in tune with their hopes and fears, for themselves and for their country. They long for a Government that earns their respect by speaking the truth.

We are such a party and, under William Hague, we will be such a Government. And if we hold fast to our beliefs and fight for them with every sinew, we will not just win the chance to serve. We will be worthy of it.