Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
John Maples speech in full
This is the full text of the conference speech by shadow foreign secretary John Maples:
We_ve just heard some very powerful speeches.
It_s certainly clear to all of you that the government is leading us in the wrong direction in Europe.
For an entire generation, foreign policy was driven by the terrifying realities of the Cold War.
It was Conservative policy that brought it to an end - and we got precious little help from the nuclear disarmers of the Labour Party.
But those old certainties have gone. The Warsaw Pact is no longer a threat. Today there are new threats and new opportunities.
Conservative foreign policy will always be based on our values, of fairness and justice and democracy, and above all freedom.
But our foreign policy must also be based on a hard-headed assessment of Britain_s interests.
Democracy and human rights are important to us. But this must be balanced against other interests particularly stability.
The first duty of a British Government is to protect British interests - the security of our country and the prosperity of our people.
Our foreign policy will not be driven, like Labour_s, by the desire to make ourselves feel good. From Sierra Leone to China, Labour_s so-called _ethical foreign policy_ has been exposed for what it is - a hypocritical fraud.
New realities have also overtaken the EU.
The EU should be working to improve Europe_s economic performance, and to re-integrate the countries of central Europe into the family of western democracies.
Next month sees the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, yet those countries are still waiting for membership.
Nowhere is the gulf between Labour and Conservative as wide as it is on Europe.
The Prime Minister_s main interest in foreign relations seems to be in trying to find some - preferably with a villa in Tuscany. Hasn_t he become like some Medici prince with delusions of grandeur - Prince Tony of Tuscany perhaps.
At one level the whole holiday fiasco just shows how preposterous he has become, but at another - it is very serious. Our Prime Minister should not accept a gift worth many thousands of pounds from a foreign government, however friendly.
You know how he sometimes says really silly things, wrapped up in that phoney sincerity of his? Well he recently said that Robin Cook was one of the Century_s great Foreign Secretaries.
Sir Edward Grey, Sir Anthony Eden, Ernest Bevin, Alec Douglas-Hume - and Robin Cook! Just rolls off the tongue, doesn_t it.
Robin Cook has gone from being a cold war Soviet apologist, to an even more ridiculous figure, strutting his stuff on the international stage, without reticence, subtlety or tact.
Let_s take a look at Mr Blair_s record.
He surrendered our hard won Social Chapter opt-out - without gaining anything in return.
At Amsterdam he surrendered our veto in 15 new areas. Next year he will surrender more.
At the summit later this month he will make concessions designed to lead to a common criminal law.
Relations with both Spain and Gibraltar have deteriorated, while he does nothing about the appalling situation at the border.
What about relations with Chile - ruined by his dreadful mishandling of the Pinochet affair. To get Chile to reinstate the vital air service to the Falklands he had to make new concessions to Argentina. The Falklands, for which we fought a war, should not have their security put at risk by the student prejudices of Labour politicians
The British Presidency of the EU was a disaster, and that_s not just my opinion. The Austrian Chancellor said that a UK run summit was so badly managed that _we have learned how not to organise a summit_
In Kosovo he stumbled into an unplanned war with absolutely no idea how it would end.
And what about Robin Cook - has he done any better?
The Kosovo negotiations were characterised by his unique blend of arrogance and amateurism. If they had been better handled, there might not have been a war.
He refused to meet Wei Jinsheng, China_s most famous human rights activist, who described the Foreign Secretary as _two faced_ _ as if one was not enough!
The Sierra Leone affair led the Select Committee to say of his evidence _half truths are a dangerous commodity in which to trade_. He characteristically blamed his civil servants.
His posturing at a housing development in East Jerusalem led the prime minister of Israel to cancel a dinner for him.
As The Times said in a masterpiece of understatement, _Subtlety on matters of extreme diplomatic sensitivity_has not proved Robin Cook_s strongest point._
He of course famously said that it was not necessary to read all the papers to be a good Foreign Secretary - he certainly tested that theory to destruction. This is a man who likes his holidays long and his memos short.
NATO is being fundamentally reshaped - by Labour politicians - people who never believed in it in the first place.
The EU has been trying to get a defence role for some time. We resisted that strongly. Last October Mr Blair signed the St Malo agreement calling for military force to be available to the EU _inside or outside NATO._ Mr Prodi, the new president of the Commission, has called for a European Army.
This is all very dangerous. Labour tell us that the Americans have no problem with this. Not true. I was in Washington in July, talking to people in the Administration and in Congress. Not one of them is happy with what Mr Blair is doing
His proposals will lead to wasteful duplication. They will de-couple the USA from European defence - and they will discriminate against countries like Turkey and Norway that are in NATO but not in the EU.
We will reverse this ill-conceived policy, and while we are in power there will never be a European Union Army.
The EU is still pursuing an old agenda. It is our job to make our partners address the real issues facing Europe - of new post cold war reality. Of global business and new trading patterns.
Our vision is of a Europe of free trade and free markets. A Europe that promotes competitiveness and encourages competition. An enlarged Europe that takes in the countries of Central Europe.
Our partners are great nations and we have much in common with them. Their prosperity and security are part of our prosperity and security. Europe_s single market and free trade are vital to our future.
But we do not want a Europe that adds costs to business. We do not want tax harmonisation. Above all, we do not want a Federal European Superstate.
Don_t let anybody tell you that this is anti-European. We are the ones with a positive vision for Europe.
I give you these pledges:
We will root out corruption.
We will oppose further erosion of Britain_s veto.
We will oppose new burdens on business.
We will work for global free trade.
We will seek to reduce the powers of the Court.
We will keep the pound.
But that is not enough. The EU has to be more flexible or the compulsion to integrate will lead to protectionism.
Only decisions necessary to the core function of free markets and free trade should have to be made in Europe.
I make this announcement to this conference today.
One of our first acts in government will be to negotiate an amendment to the Treaty of Rome, to allow each country the freedom to decide for itself whether or not to apply new European legislation outside that core.
This will stop the slide to a superstate. No longer will Britain be bound by every anti-business, nanny state, interfering regulation dreamt up by the Commission.
My grandfather was in the Army in World War I. My father was in the Navy in World War II. I expect that this is true of many of you as well.
My generation has been fortunate_we have not been called upon to fight for our country as our parents and grandparents were.
We are twice blessed: we have enjoyed the security and prosperity of peace and we have been free of the scourge of war.
We inherited a free and independent Britain. What kind of a Britain are we going to leave to our children and grandchildren? We must honour our legacy, by passing on to them a country as free and independent as the one we inherited.
If the European Union develops into a Federal Superstate, then Britain will simply be a province of that superstate. The single currency could well lead to a single tax policy. The social chapter will lead to a single social policy. The common foreign and security policy will lead to a European Army
That is where Mr Blair is leading us. If he wins the next election, he will do it. How will we explain that to our grandchildren? Are we just going to sit back and watch a thousand years of history signed away? Is that the way to honour generations who gave so much for our freedom and independence?
It is our duty and I believe our destiny to stop that ever happening. When our grandchildren ask _What did you do to preserve Britain_s independence?_ let us make sure we can say, _We won the 2001 general election. We created an open, outward looking, free market Europe_.
We leave to you the same free and independent Britain that we inherited."
UK Politics Contents
A-Z of Parliament