Hague rejects “strategic shrinkage” but EU policy may prove otherwise

In his speech to Conservative party conference, William Hague said:

“When it comes to dealing with Iran over nuclear policy, Russia over energy security, or the Balkans to prevent new conflict or disorder, we need Europe to use its collective weight in the world and indeed to do so more often … And in the face of the two greatest threats to human welfare and peace in our generation – nuclear proliferation and climate change – it means we reject the ‘strategic shrinkage’ of Britain’s role: we will renew and reinforce our engagement with the rest of the world.”

But the Conservative party’s policy has come under attack from a former Foreign and Commonwealth Office official. Writing for the Real Instituto Elcano, an independent Spanish research institute, David Mathieson, says:

“Cameron has not committed himself either for or against the idea [of a retrospective referendum] but pressure is building: some 50 Conservative MPs (some 25% of the current parliamentary party) have called for a referendum in the UK even after ratification, and Lord Tebbit, a former Party Chairman, has recently said that Cameron ‘must make his position clear sooner rather than later’.

“Yet the unilateral revocation of an EU Treaty by a member state which had previously agreed would be an unprecedented move: in any scenario the consequences would be very serious indeed and might ultimately entail Britain being forced to entirely renegotiate its relationship with the EU. But as the Conservative Home survey of Conservative PPCs demonstrates, for almost half the new Conservative Party this would not be an unwelcome conclusion …

“As Sir Stephen Wall, a former British Ambassador to the EU, has pointed out, the other EU members are unlikely to let Britain renounce the provisions of the Social Chapter unless they receive something in return –for example, Britain giving up its budget rebate of some £3 billion–.”

The Conservative party’s ability to retain influence in Europe is already under threat. Earlier this week two Green MEPs rounded on Cameron, one saying “we will do everything to isolate him in Europe.”

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