Francis Maude – 2001 Speech to Conservative Spring Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Francis Maude to the Conservative Spring Forum held on 4 March 2001.

Thank you, Edward, for your introduction. As you say, we at Westminster and the MEPs have never worked so closely together. We’re part of one team. Working together for our high common purpose, under William’s leadership.

We must never again allow our party to disable itself by infighting and division. You, our party in the country, would never forgive us if we did. And I pay tribute to Edward’s leadership in Brussels. Never-resting, ever-working; you and your team of MEPs just don’t let up. Probing, questioning, amending; spearheading Conservative plans for real Brussels reform. And you’re a daily reminder to us all.

Back in 1999, before the European elections no one gave us a prayer. The pollsters and the pundits: they were all the same. But we never gave up. Calmly and relentlessly we carried our message out to the public. And we won a terrific victory. We confounded the pollsters then. We showed – all of us working together – that we can do it – and, yes, we can do it again.

By God we need to. Because this wretched Government has let the country down so badly. Remember Labour’s promises back in 1997? Robin Cook and his so-called ethical foreign policy. How Labour were going to stand up for Britain in Europe. Tony Blair’s love for the pound. His promise to slay the dragon of the European superstate. They failed to deliver.

Well, it didn’t last long, did it? It was – yes, it really was – all spin and no delivery. Ethical foreign policy. Take Robin Cook’s famous ethical foreign policy. I spent last weekend, in Zimbabwe. I met some of the bravest people it has ever been my privilege to meet. I met residents in Harare’s high density areas who see their freedoms and jobs disappearing. I met farmers who have been thrown casually thrown off their farms. I met their workers who have been dispossessed of their homes and livelihoods. I met lawyers, and let’s face it, Zimbabwe’s judges are the last redoubt of the rule of law. I met Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose offices have been bombed, whose activists are beaten up and murdered, who himself lives in daily threat of his life.

I saw a desperate Zimbabwe. Yet all we hear from this Labour Government is the sound of silence. Their silence is Britain’s shame. Ethical foreign policy? Labour have squandered Britain’s moral authority.

I tell you this: I think Britain should stand for something in the world. I think Britain should stand up for the rule of law, stand up for free speech, stand up against tyranny.

So we will speak out. We will lead international opinion, work with Zimbabwe’s neighbours. We will target those people who keep Mugabe in power. We will push for a travel ban on Mugabe’s associates and a freeze on their overseas assets. We will instigate international investigations into their history of murderous wrongdoing. The message will once again ring out across the world: Britain does not appease dictators.

No one who heard James Mawdsley earlier could have any doubt: the love of freedom and hatred of tyranny burns as strongly in British hearts as it ever has.

And we will revive that great global network of shared history and common values, the Commonwealth. Conservatives are proud of the Commonwealth. It covers a third of the globe; it unites people of different races, creeds and continents. Our Commonwealth Commission is examining ways in which it can be transformed into a modern and dynamic network organisation, promoting the values of the rule of law, the open economy and democracy.

We’ll support our American allies in developing a missile Defence system that will give us protection against the Saddam Husseins of this world. And we will ensure that Britain’s armed forces, among the best in the world, are not hamstrung by the faddish imposition of political correctness. Somehow, I just feel that anyone who suggests that to Iain Duncan Smith will get a pretty brisk response.

Labour: all spin, and no delivery. Tony Blair’s love for the pound? It was a love that didn’t even survive election day morning. Standing up for Britain? So far, at Amsterdam and more recently at Nice, Labour have scrapped Britain`s veto in no fewer than 54 areas. In a rare moment of honesty, Tony Blair admitted that the Working Time Directive was `over the top`. Now, thanks to him, there’s nothing we can do about it. Because Britain no longer has a veto. Because when it comes to it, Tony Blair and his colleagues simply don’t believe in Britain. They don’t understand how Britain can survive and thrive as an independent self-governing country. So they went along with a European Army entirely separate from NATO. Nothing wrong with greater European defence co-operation. We strongly favour it. But it should be within NATO, not outside it. As the Americans now realise, what is being constructed here threatens the future of NATO. We will never allow that.

And Labour say none of it matters. The European Army is not an army. No? With 60,000 soldiers on standby? Expected to operate as far away as Central Asia? It’s anchored in NATO, they claim. Absolutely untrue, as anyone who examines the documents will confirm. They’ve created an EU Military Committee, an EU Military Staff. Nothing to do with NATO. Indeed, the agreement makes crystal clear that Euro Army operations must remain under EU control at all times. Romano Prodi, as so often, let the cat out of the bag. The European Army, he said, is ‘a milestone in the creation of a united political Europe’.

And Labour have agreed a Charter of Fundamental Rights, binding in law, which will enable the Luxembourg Court to impose changes in British law without our consent. The Charter of Rights is no more important than the Beano, says the egregious Mr Vaz. Yes, Mr Vaz, we’re really going to take your word for it. Happily the European Commission have been a bit more honest. They say, and they’re right, that it will be mandatory.

So don`t believe a word Labour says. It’s all spin. They don’t deliver. And they’ll never deliver. Because they simply don`t believe in Britain.

And no-one should have any illusions about what Labour would do if they won a second term. First, they’ll scrap the pound as soon as they think they can get away with it. And let no-one be taken in with the promise of a referendum. There is as much chance of this being a even-handed referendum as there is of Robin Cook winning an award for humility. With the rules rigged to ensure that the campaign to scrap the pound is allowed to spend millions more than the campaign to keep the pound; with the watchdog Commission being prevented from insisting that the question is fair? Forget it.

There’s only one way to be sure of keeping the pound. It’s by voting Conservative.

And that’s not all. Another Labour Government, eagerly backed up by their LibDem lapdogs, would take Britain ever further down the one way street towards the European superstate.

Here’s an early indication of what’s in store. On 8 May, the Party of European Socialists, of which the Labour Party forms part, will launch a new group. Its name? The New Federalists. Its aim? The Political Union of Europe, and a federation of its states and peoples. Lucky we spotted that one, because something tells me that we wouldn’t have heard about it from Robin Cook or Tony Blair.

So it’s clear what Labour would do. And it’s not what the British public want. The mainstream majority agree with us. The mainstream majority believe in Britain. They want to be in Europe, not run by Europe. But they think we’re already run by Europe more than they like. There are people who think it’s somehow inevitable that Britain will lose more and more of her powers. That we can only go further and faster down the road to the European superstate. It doesn’t have to be like that. It is only inevitable if Britain lets it happen.

A Conservative Government will stop the slide to the superstate. And we’ll make sure that in future Britain is run by Europe less than we are today. After all, what other organisation in today’s world is centralising more and more? What business, what international organisation today thinks that the answer is to force more and more decision through the same central meatgrinder?

We have to move away from the old outdated one size fits all dogma. That belongs to the era of the Cold War, the bloc era. This is the age of the network. We have to reform the EU to make it a modern network organisation. We need a modern multi-system European Union, with different countries working together in different combinations for different purposes.

So at the first European summit after the election, William and I are going to have a pretty full agenda. Working to bring the European army back within NATO. We will not undermine the military alliance that has kept our world safe and free for fifty years. We make you this pledge. The next Conservative Government will only allow British troops to serve in a European Rapid Reaction Force if it operates within NATO’s command structure.

Then starting to renegotiate the Common Agricultural Policy. It is absurd that everything still gets decided at EU level. There is growing support in Europe for our policy that much more should be decided at national level. The same with the Common Fisheries Policy. This outdated failure of a policy has got to change. Why should the management of the North Sea fisheries be decided by Greece and Italy, when the Mediterranean isn’t even part of the CFP?

And, yes, we’ll renegotiate the Nice Treaty. We will not ratify a treaty that gives away Britain’s veto. We want enlargement of the EU, and we want it more quickly. The first wave should be admitted by 2004. It’s a scandal that more than 11 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall it hasn’t even started.

And we’ll insist on a common sense Flexibility Clause that will make the EU function better. That’ll speed up enlargement, too. It is absurd to require every member state in an EU of nearly thirty countries to sign up to every dot and comma of every EU law there is. Outside the single market and other core areas, countries should be able to decide for themselves whether EU laws make sense for them.

And there’ll be an end to the continual intrusion of the EU into areas beyond what Parliament agreed. In the first Parliamentary Session after the election, we will enact a Reserved Powers Bill that will guarantee that beyond the powers we intended to transfer, EU law will not override the will of Parliament.

We don’t have to go ever further down the one-way street towards the superstate. Britain can choose. We can choose to keep the pound. We can choose that Britain will be in Europe. And really will be run by Europe less than we are today.

This has been a tremendous gathering. A great party has met, knowing that on its shoulders rests the destiny of a great nation. A great nation, and a great people. A people sickened by a government that has abused their trust. A people who are crying out for leaders who deal fairly, who speak the truth. A great English poet once wrote ‘Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget. For we are the people of England, and we have not spoken yet.’

Before long the people of Britain will speak. We will be their champions. We will be their voice. With William as our leader, we will be a government of which Britain can again be proud.