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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 20:39 GMT
Tories press new US-Europe alliance
Tony Blair, George Bush and Jacque Chirac
Blair is urged to help form a US-Europe partnership
Britain could forge a new partnership between Europe and America but instead Tony Blair is trying to create a European superpower, the Conservative shadow foreign secretary has said.

In a keynote foreign affairs speech on Wednesday, Michael Ancram argued Britain did not need to choose between Europe and America but could help unite both.

Europe and America is an opportunity we should grasp

Michael Ancram
Shadow foreign secretary
He accused European leaders, including Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, of fanning the "embers of anti-Americanism".

Mr Ancram also portrayed his party as "constructive Europeans" who believed in the sovereignty of the nation state.

The Conservatives were neither "centralists" who wanted more powers pooled between states, nor anti-Europeans who wanted a "straight-forward divorce" from Europe, he said.

Many Tory figures believe the party's general election campaign last year focused too much on Europe, especially opposing the adoption of the euro.

Since then the Conservatives had appeared to steer away from the issue and this was Mr Ancram's first speech as shadow foreign secretary about the European Union.

Envy danger

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith says he will never sign up to the euro but will allow party members for campaign for entry if there is a referendum.

In a speech to the Conservative Foreign Affairs Forum, Mr Ancram argued there was a danger of European envy of the United States.

Michael Ancram
Michael Ancram says his party is not anti-European
That had been shown, he said, when Mr Straw suggested President George Bush's talk of an "axis of evil" had been motivated more by domestic politics.

"References by senior Europeans to American foreign policy as simplistic and absolutist ... only serve further to fan the embers of anti-Americanism and to set Europe against America," Mr Ancram said.

Choosing between America and Europe was dangerous.

"It is a false choice because there is another. The nations of Europe and America; the one I strongly support."

UK's key role

That would mean a partnership of shared interests and objectives rather than superpowers, believed Mr Ancram.

"With our close relationships with both, we are ideally placed to help build this proposition," he told the Tory forum.

To do that, the purpose and nature of the EU would need to be redirected so it was less centralised and introverted.

"It is an opportunity that our current government cannot grasp," Mr Ancram said, claiming the prime minister wanted to build a superpower Europe.

Any such superpower Europe would be designed to compete with America and would come off the loser, he said.

'No withdrawal policy'

Mr Ancram renewed Conservative opposition to a common European defence and foreign policy, as well as to joining the single currency.

The Tories would be prepared to renegotiate European treaties - something that has previously led to accusations the party is ready for Britain to leave the EU.

Instead, Mr Ancram insisted the Conservatives were not anti-Europeans wanting to split from the EU and predicted such a rethink of treaties would win the UK surprising allies.

"We are constructive Europeans working within a Europe of sovereign nation states," he added.

Labour ministers have denied their European vision means a new superstate.

Tony Blair, who is under pressure from some Labour MPs over his close links with Washington, has also accused the Conservatives of having an "isolationist" approach to foreign policy.

See also:

28 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Hain denies superstate move
06 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Hewitt issues protectionism warning
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