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History Table of Contents
1999 Winter Conference
Winter Conference 1999
The New Europe and the Atlantic Relationship
Growth, change and opportunities...a comprehensive evaluation

The New Europe at a Crossroads

Presented by the Rt. Hon Michael Portillo

The so-called "New Europe" is actually backward-looking. Euroland aims to retain anachronistic economic policies in a Canute-like bid to keep at bay the forces of global competition. The economies of continental Europe are characterised by over-grown public sectors, high public spending and taxation, and inflexible labour markets. Unsurprisingly, unemployment is high. The European project is a conscious effort to sustain such policies, as an alternative to what is thought to be the rampant free-marketism of the USA.

Europe's ambitions are to create a new super nation state. Europe is to have its own flag, currency, borders, foreign and defence policies. Those policies will offer competition to the USA, being un-American and possibly anti-American. The single currency project is about politics, not economics.

Britons are being told the choice is between being little Englanders, or good Europeans. In fact, it's between being little Europeans, or globally competitive.

In an age when information technology means that geography matters less and less, Britain is being urged to abandon its currency and abolish its nation state in order to merge with its neighbours, just because they are its neighbours. Britain would be sensible to look for the best of all worlds: to participate in the European single market, but to maintain strong trading and political links with North America, the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world. The countries with which Britain shares values should be at least as important to it as the countries that sit next to it on the map.