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Sunday, 4 March, 2001, 15:05 GMT
Tories demand new EU treaty
Francis Maude, shadow foreign secretary
Maude: 'We won't give away Britain's veto
Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude has set the Conservatives on a collision course with the European Union in the event of a Tory victory in the general election.

It is absurd to require every member state in an EU of nearly 30 countries to sign up to every dot and comma of every EU law there is

Francis Maude

He told his party's spring conference in Harrogate that a Tory government would block the Nice Treaty - and demand its renegotiation at a European Union summit in June.

"We will not ratify a treaty that gives away Britain's veto," he said.

Flexibility clause

Mr Maude said the Conservatives would insist that a flexibility clause be introduced for European treaties, allowing each member state to opt out of EU regulations and laws.

"It is absurd to require every member state in an EU of nearly 30 countries to sign up to every dot and comma of every EU law there is," said Mr Maude

"Outside the single market and other core areas, countries should be able to decide for themselves whether EU laws make sense for them."

Defence co-operation

There would also be new measures to stop European judges from overriding UK law, he pledged.

The shadow foreign secretary insisted he would not let British forces take part in any operation of the European rapid reaction force that took place outside the Nato command structure.

There was nothing wrong with greater European co-operation on defence, he said, but the current plans threatened to undermine Nato.

"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."

Mr Maude reiterated Tory support for US plans to develop a missile defence system to protect it against attacks from so-called rogue states.

And his party would not allow Britain's armed forces to be "hamstrung by the faddish imposition of political correctness".

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | Nice summit glossary
Rapid reaction force
11 Dec 00 | Talking Politics
Election overshadows Nice treaty
17 Feb 01 | Main Issues
National Missile Defence
04 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hague: Last chance election for Britain
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