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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"A co-ordinated and concerted effort by the government to challenge the Euro-sceptics"
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UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook
"There is a very real danger that we will lose sight of the enormous strategic importance of... membership of the EU."
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Charles Moore, Editor, Daily Telegraph
"You simply can not argue that it does not take power away from Britain."
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Monday, 13 November, 2000, 12:27 GMT
Ministers step up war on Eurosceptics
Tony Blair
Tony Blair: "Active, constructive involvement"
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook have launched a fresh offensive against Eurosceptics in the press and the Conservative Party ahead of December's summit of EU leaders in Nice.

In his annual Mansion House address on Monday, Mr Blair was expected to claim it would be a "supreme act of folly" to cut Britain off from the rest of Europe.

You will be hearing the catchphrase 'facts, not myths' until that is the way the EU is reported

Robin Cook

And in a speech earlier the same day Mr Cook attacked the "myth" of a future European superstate, which he claimed was being peddled by most of the British press.

Mr Cook told the Centre for European Reform that in future the government would take great pains to challenge press reports it felt were inaccurate.

Vigorous rebuttals

"Euro-myths provide great fun for journalists. The media has a mission to entertain, and some of them rise magnificently to that goal," Mr Cook said.

"But they are failing in their other mission - to inform.

"From now on, the government will be rebutting all such stories vigorously and promptly.

"You will be hearing the catchphrase 'facts, not myths' until that is the way the EU is reported."

Nice summit

Mr Cook dismissed as "the biggest Euro-myth of all" claims that Europe was developing into a superstate, insisting that none of the EU member-states' peoples would allow it.

And he rejected claims that the upcoming inter-governmental conference in Nice would diminish the UK's powers because of proposals to reduce the number of vetoes over EU action held by Westminster.

Foreign secratary Robin Cook
Cook: "Nice summit is good news for Britain"
Proposed changes in the voting rules would increase Britain's voice in decision-making in the Council of Ministers for the first time since 1973 and would prevent other countries exercising a veto on UK initiatives, he said.

Mr Cook said: "The Nice summit is good news because it means we can go on building an EU which works for us.

"Some in Britain think we should have a veto on everything. But they forget that if we have a veto, so does everyone else.

"The Tories themselves traded the veto on a host of issues in return for building the single market."

Earlier Mr Cook told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there would be a "co-ordinated and concerted" effort to counter the Eurosceptics.

Britain is "pivotal power"

In his Mansion House speech Mr Blair will say that "active and constructive engagement" with the EU is essential to ensure the country's prosperity and international clout.

And he will define a constructive relationship with the EU as one of the fundamental choices facing voters at the next general election.

He is expected to insist that the UK cannot turn its back on European allies.

Britain has proved a pivotal power, able to turn the balance of international affairs in its favour, he will say.

But he will warn the country could be left behind if it cuts itself off from Europe.

Peace and stability

Mr Blair is expected to say: "If we want to stand up for Britain then we have to be in Europe, active, constructive involvement all the time.

"I am not prepared to stand aside and allow other European countries to make the decisions that matter to us."

Mr Blair will stress the role Europe plays in the British economy, saying it is "essential for British industry, British investment and British jobs".

He is also expected to emphasise the benefits that Britain's constructive involvement with Europe has brought in terms of peace and stability on the continent.

He will cite Kosovo as an example of the influence decisive British and European action can bring, comparing it with the "worst case scenario" that developed in Bosnia.

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Voters harden against euro
26 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Patten attacks UK's European debate
14 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Blair rules out 'European superstate'
13 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Blair ducks the euro
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