Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Miliband: Britain needs strong EU

David Miliband: "A European policy is not something to be frightened of"

Britain's influence on the world will "wane" unless it takes a lead in developing European Union foreign policy, David Miliband has warned.

The foreign secretary said a strong EU should not be opposed on the grounds of "hubris, nostalgia or xenophobia".

In a speech in London, Mr Miliband said the alternative was to become an "irrelevance" in a world dominated by China and the United States.

Tory opposition to the Lisbon Treaty was a "deception", he added.

Only the Czech Republic still has to ratify the agreement, which supporters say is designed to streamline EU decision-making but opponents argue will undermine the national sovereignty of member states.

'Blinkered'

Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr Miliband said: "It is very strongly in the British national interest for the European Union to develop a strong foreign policy.

We can lead a strong European foreign policy or, lost in hubris nostalgia or xenophobia, watch our influence in the world wane.
David Miliband, Foreign Secretary

"To be frightened of European foreign policy is blinkered, fatalistic and wrong. Britain should embrace it, shape it and lead European foreign policy."

He added: "The choice for Europe is simple - get our act together and make the European Union a leader on the world stage or become spectators in a G2 world shaped by the United States and China.

"I think the choice for Britain is also simply stated. We can lead a strong European foreign policy or, lost in hubris nostalgia or xenophobia, watch our influence in the world wane."

Mr Miliband warned that an unsuccessful attempt by a Conservative government to renegotiate elements of the EU in the wake of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty could simply lead to demands for Britain to leave Europe altogether.

"The truth is that there is a deception here at the heart of policy - a deception of the country that you can hate Europe as it exists today and remain central to European policy making," he said.

"In fact a failed attempt to renegotiate aspects of the EU that the Conservative party does not like would inevitably lead to more calls for Britain to leave the EU."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, Mr Miliband repeated the government's support for former Prime Minister Tony Blair becoming the first president of the EU, saying it was "hugely" in Britain's national interest.



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