BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Interviews 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Patten attacks UK's European debate
Chris Patten
Chris Patten is calling for more focus on EU democracy
The British debate on Europe focuses too much on sovereignty and not enough on democracy, European Commissioner Chris Patten has said.

The former chairman of the Conservative party warned that people were now alienated from the European Union because its lack of democracy was not being addressed.


Sovereignty, in the sense of unfettered freedom of action, is a nonsense

Chris Patten
During a speech in Oxford Mr Patten also said that those opposed to the EU should realise being outside it would mean a loss of sovereignty for the UK.

And he called for the creation of an elected second chamber, or senate, for the European parliament.

His call is in contrast to the UK government's stance, which supports the creation of a new second chamber but only as an unelected forum for representatives of national forums.

Mr Patten told his audience: "Sovereignty, in the sense of unfettered freedom of action, is a nonsense.

"A man, naked, hungry and alone in the middle of the Sahara desert is free in the sense that no one can tell him what to do. He is sovereign, then. But he is also doomed.

"It is often preferable to accept constraints on freedom of action in order to achieve some other benefit."

'People sullen'

Mr Patten told his audience that opponents of the EU claimed Britain could be economically successful outside it.


I suspect that the economic and competitive pressures upon Britain to come into line, in her own interest, could become very great

Chris Patten
"They are not wholly wrong. I have no doubt we would be less well off outside than in. But there would be no catastrophe; no Biblical plagues.

"The more important point is that far from gaining sovereignty, in the de facto sense, Britain would actually lose it.

"In international trade we would have to follow World Trade Organisation rules with little opportunity of shaping them."

Mr Patten, in charge of external relations for the European Commission, said people were feeling "sullen and alienated from the EU".

Democratic solutions

Among the solutions he suggested were including a proportion of delegates from national parliaments in the European Parliament - holding elections to both on the same day - and creating a European senate.

The comments follow Tony Blair's call earlier this month for an unelected chamber of national parliamentarians to police a new EU charter of competencies outlining the extent of Brussels' power.

Also in his speech Mr Patten warned that Britain would come under growing pressure to "come into line" on the euro.

He said Britain was already "no longer part of the inner circle of economic policy-making in the EU" and there would soon be more economic co-operation within the so-called Eurogroup.

The UK could continue resisting the extension of majority voting to new areas and thereby maintain her veto on sensitive issues like tax.

But, he went on, "as greater consensus begins to develop in the Eurogroup on economic, monetary and even fiscal issues, I suspect that the economic and competitive pressures upon Britain to come into line, in her own interest, could become very great."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE


See also:

26 Oct 00 | Europe
Enthusiasm cools for EU growth
20 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Euro: Blair says not yet
14 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Blair rules out 'European superstate'
13 Oct 00 | Europe
High stakes for EU
09 Jun 00 | Europe
Patten 'frustrated' by EU job
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories