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The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Mr Blair was making the case for a foreign policy in a world that has changed radically"
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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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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 05:26 GMT
Blair's 'patriotic' European vision

Tony Blair: "Active, constructive involvement"
The benefits of the UK's membership of the European Union have been trumpeted by both the prime minister and the foreign secretary.

In a concerted attempt to put the case for a strong UK commitment to the EU, Tony Blair used his foreign policy speech at the lord mayor's banquet in London to insist that anything other than a constructive approach to the European Union was "ludicrous".

If we want to stand up for Britain then we have to be in Europe

Tony Blair
He said that his brand of "enlightened patriotism" was the only true way of standing up for the UK's interests on the international stage.

But the Conservatives have responded saying that Mr Blair's pronouncements on the EU are "misleading". And they warn the EU is heading towards becoming a federal superstate.

Earlier on Monday, foreign secretary Robin Cook said the government would be more assertive in rebutting what he called the myths about the EU reported in the media.

UK has 'pivotal' role

In his speech Mr Blair also said that the UK has a "pivotal" role as a bridge between the USA and Europe.

He went on, saying: "If we want to stand up for Britain then we have to be in Europe, active, constructive, involved all the time."

But he added: "Where we believe other countries are wrong, for example on tax harmonisation, we will say so."

'Enlightened patriotism'

Mr Blair touched on the single currency only to say that the government's policy of 'prepare and decide' had not changed.

The superstate agenda is alive and well

Francis Maude
Describing his vision of patriotism Mr Blair said his job was "to show that the patriot is not the person who pulls up the drawbridge and sits in his tower musing on the errors of the world but the person who recognises that today no drawbridge makes a nation safe.

"So my choice, whatever the criticism, is for engagement. That is where I stand.

"It is what I call enlightened patriotism and it is the true way of standing up for Britain," the premier added.

EU 'superstate'

But shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude replied: "Tony Blair and Robin Cook are misleading the British people.

"They say there are no plans for an EU superstate. But just look at the EU agenda over the next four weeks.

"It's clear: the superstate agenda is alive and well."

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

Robin Cook

The speech comes ahead of the next EU summit in Nice.

Decisions are expected to be made at the conference that will reduce the number of areas where nations can use their vetoes as the EU prepares for massive enlargement.

In a wide-ranging foreign policy speech Mr Blair also said the case for engagement in the wider world was made all the more vital as issues such as the spread of nuclear weapons, missiles, biological and chemical weapons and global warming could not be tackled by individual states acting alone.

He added: "If we approach foreign policy in this way, anything other than a constructive approach to Europe becomes frankly ludicrous."

Vigorous rebuttals

Earlier in the day 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.

"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."

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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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