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Europe is in danger of challenging Nato
Lady Thatcher
 real 28k

It's right to share Lady Thatcher's concerns
Iain Duncan Smith
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 12:44 GMT
Rapid reaction to Thatcher attack
Europe relied on the US and Nato to intervene in Kosovo

Baroness Thatcher has launched a fresh attack on European integration, condemning government plans for closer EU co-operation on defence.

The former prime minister accused the government of harbouring "a doomed ambition" to lead Europe that could undermine the Nato alliance and relations with the United States.

The drive towards a separate European defence is the utopian venture of creating a single European superstate to rival America on the world stage
Baroness Thatcher
In a lecture to the English Speaking Union, the veteran Eurosceptic said: "The current attempt to create a new, autonomous European defence structure must, if taken much further, pose a threat to transatlantic defence co-operation."

Her comments are backed by the current Tory party leadership and come as Europe's leaders prepare to discuss the defence plans in Helsinki this weekend.

The old bird has finally gone completely dotty
Paddy Ashdown
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon criticised Baroness Thatcher's remarks and said the Conservatives had "lost all grip on reality" when it came to the subject of Europe.

He said: "No-one seriously believes that a European superstate or a single European army is on the agenda except the Conservatives."

(To send your questions to the shadow defence secretary click here)

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, backed the government's view.

He told the BBC: "I am a great admirer of Mrs Thatcher in many ways but the old bird has finally gone completely dotty.

"The fact is the Americans have been saying for 20 years, quite justifiably, 'For God's sake get your act together and stop relying on us coming into Europe to come and bail you out in your own backyard' - which is what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo."

At the weekend's summit EU leaders are expected to approve plans for an autonomous rapid reaction force of up to 60,000 troops by 2003 to tackle international crises.

Baroness Thatcher warning against a European army
Mr Blair has drawn up plans for the new force along with the French government.

But ministers have emphasised they have no plans for a European army, that national governments will retain control of their own armed forces and the plans are not designed as any sort of rival or replacement for Nato.

But Lady Thatcher disagrees and said that "superficially" it sounds "splendid that the Europeans are now willing to concern themselves more with the continent's defence".

She warned that European capabilities lagged "dangerously far behind" those of the US.

This was a problem she said as: "The impulse towards developing a new European defence and separate European armed forces has little to do with the fact that Europe is cutting its defences while America is increasing hers.

"It has even less to do with any serious European response to the global dangers of proliferation, which can only be properly met by ballistic missile defence.

"No. The real drive towards a separate European defence is the same as that towards a single European currency - namely the utopian venture of creating a single European superstate to rival America on the world stage."

She added: "This has been a long-standing French aspiration.

"The fact that the present British government, in pursuit of a doomed ambition to 'lead Europe', has reversed Britain's hostility towards such ideas should worry our American allies and indeed the wider English-speaking world."

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith backed Lady Thatcher's analysis saying that Europe should spend more on defence but not to create its own army but rather to enable it to better work with the US.

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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
EU defence force outlined
07 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Quiz the shadow defence secretary

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