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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 11:02 GMT
Thatcher's Bruges speech





In outlining his vision of Europe in Ghent, Belgium, Prime Minister Tony Blair is following in the footsteps of his predecessor Margaret Thatcher who used a visit to the continent to reveal her vision of Europe in a speech in Bruges on 20 September 1988.

Here are the key extracts of what has become a seminal text for the UK's Euro-sceptics over the past decade.





My first guiding principle is this: willing and active co-operation between independent sovereign states is the best way to build a successful European Community.

To try to suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the centre of a European conglomerate would be highly damaging and would jeopardise the objectives we seek to achieve.

Europe will be stronger precisely because it has France as France, Spain as Spain, Britain as Britain, each with its own customs, traditions and identity. It would be folly to try to fit them into some sort of identikit European personality.

Founding fathers

Some of the founding fathers of the Community thought that the United States of America might be its model. But the whole history of America is quite different from Europe.

People went there to get away from the intolerance and constraints of life in Europe.

They sought liberty and opportunity; and their strong sense of purpose has over two centuries, helped create a new unity and pride in being American - just as our pride lies in being British or Belgian or Dutch or German.

I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice. I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence, or in our relations with the rest of the world.

A European super-state

But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.

We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European super­state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.

Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose. But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one's own country; for these have been the source of Europe's vitality through the centuries.

Utopia never comes

If we cannot reform those Community policies which are patently wrong or ineffective and which are rightly causing public disquiet, then we shall not get the public's support for the Community's future development.

What we need now is to take decisions on the next steps forward rather than let ourselves be distracted by Utopian goals. Utopia never comes, because we know we should not like it if it did.

Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour.

Let us have a Europe which plays its full part in the wider world, which looks outward not inward, and which preserves that Atlantic Community - that Europe on both sides of the Atlantic - which is our noblest inheritance and our greatest strength.

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See also:
23 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Seize Europe's opportunities - Blair

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