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EDITIONS
Thursday, 24 September, 1998, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Campbell invites Tories to defect
Keith Raffan
Ex-Tory MP Keith Raffan told the conference his old party were "narrow-minded little Englanders"
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell used his conference speech to appeal to pro-European Conservatives to defect to his party.

Mr Campbell said his message to Tories unhappy with their leader Willaim Hague's hard-line Euro-sceptic stance was: "Be not afraid."

He warned that Mr Hague's decision to call a ballot of Tory members to back his ruling out of joining a European single currency for this and the next parliament "is the first step on a road which is bypassing scepticism for the destination of outright opposition to Europe."

Menzies Campbell MP
Menzies Campbell: "Be not afraid"
"To those Tory supporters of Europe, I say: 'Be not afraid'. Come and support a party which wants a Europe, democratic, diverse and decentralised, which sees Europe as an opportunity, not a threat."

Mr Campbell highlighted his party's policy proposal for a written constitution for the EU, setting out the basis for relations between the Brussels Commission and member states.

This was "not a blueprint for centralisation but a guarantee of subsidiarity and decentralisation."

Former Tory MP Keith Raffan, who spoke in the debate, said the Conservatives had turned their back on Europe over the last 25 years.

His old party had "mutated from outward-looking, pro-Europeans to inward-looking, narrow-minded little Englanders", Mr Raffan told delegates.

Their brand of nationalism was just as "dangerous and destructive" as the Scottish version, he said.

Tories strike early

The Tories got their retaliation in first when, before the debate had even started, shadow foreign secretary Michael Howard launched an attack on polices he described as "a stark warning to Britain".

He insisted that if put into practice, Liberal Democrat foreign policy would mark the end of Britain as an independent nation.

He warned that their preference for early entry into the European single currency could lead to tax increases.

"Unlike Labour, the Liberal Democrats have been quite open about their belief in the declining importance of the nation state," said Mr Howard.

"And, unlike Labour, they have been honest about the higher taxes that could result from Britain's early entry into a single currency.

"The potential cost to Britain of the euro becomes clearer by the day. The Liberal Democrats see a substantial tax increase on British families as a price well worth paying for scrapping the pound."

Mr Howard also predicted the government would end up adopting the Lib Dems' "Eurofederalist approach", because "what the Liberal Democrats call for today, Labour sign up to tomorrow."


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