30/05/2003

Blair rounds on 'superstate' sceptics

Prime minister Tony Blair has rounded on Eurosceptics who he claimed are promulgating “absurd” stories in order to heighten concern about a federal Europe.

Delivering a speech in Poland, Mr Blair said that the majority of Europe sees the European Union as a union of nations rather than a federal superstate.

Voters in Poland are to go to the polls on June 7 in a referendum on joining the European Union, and there are concerns that a low voter turnout could invalidate the referendum.

Standing beside Polish premier Leszek Miller, Mr Blair said that a “yes” vote would be vital to both Europe and Poland, in a visit that will be used to drum up support for the referendum, which requires a turnout of 66% to be valid.

Addressing issues closer to home, Mr Blair was adamant that a referendum on the outcome of the Convention for Europe was unnecessary, as he said it did not represent a fundamental change to British parliamentary democracy. He described the notion that British patriotism meant being anti-Europe as an "out of date delusion".

"I believe in Europe because I believe membership of the European strategic alliance is a crucial part of the British national interest," said Mr Blair.

"For Poland - as with Britain - our strategy should be: get in it, make the most of it, have the confidence to win the debate and not be frightened by it."

Countering criticism that proposals in the Convention to strengthen military ties within Europe would weaken the relationship with the US, Mr Blair said that he remained convinced of the vitality of the transatlantic alliance between the EU and the United States. "We regard the United States as our allies and partners," he said.

“Great nations are not stragglers at the back,” continued Mr Blair. “They lead. They win. They have the confidence that comes not from arrogance but from a true understanding of the modern world."

Following his visit to Poland, Mr Blair is now joining with other world leaders attending St Petersburg for the Russian city’s tercentenary celebrations.

The prime minister will then attend the forthcoming G8 summit in Evian, France.

(SP)

Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

09 September 2003
Blair backs draft EU constitution
Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed the controversial draft for a European Union constitution. In a White Paper foreword from Mr Blair, he advocated the draft treaty as the basis for a more effective European Union.
10 June 2005
Blair calls for review of EU funding
Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he will not accept a reduction in Britain’s annual £3bn rebate from the European Union unless there is a debate about all EU funding.
07 December 2011
Cabinet Minister Calls For Euro Referendum
A cabinet minister has further compromised the Government's position after saying that a UK referendum on Europe could be inevitable if EU leaders try to revise the treaties.
26 October 2009
Blair's Euro Bid Gains Support
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has voiced his support for Tony Blair's bid to take the reins of Europe. Mr Miliband said a Blair presidency would be "very good for Britain as well as very good for Europe".
23 October 2009
Miliband Denies Euro Aspirations
Senior cabinet minister David Miliband has denied newspaper reports he will jostle for a top ranking European job. Today's Times and Guardian both suggested Mr Miliband was touted to become EU Foreign Minister, a role created under the Lisbon Treaty.