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Rivals in Europe

May 22nd, 1991

A letter to the Times which was published on 22nd May 1991.

To speak, as Derek Prag does (May 15th) of foreign policy as an example of things which European states can do better jointly is plainly absurd.  Even more than within Europe, Germany, France and Italy are our bitter rivals for trade and influence in that 95 per cent of the world which lies outside the European Community, as anyone who has travelled in the Americas, Asia and Africa can testify.

It is no more sensible to talk (as the media do incessantly) of our European “partners” than to talk of ICI and duPont as “partners” in the Chemical industry, or Everton and Liverpool as “partners” in the FA Cup.  “Competition” is the word, not “partners”.

Britain has a much greater stake in the countries of the non-EC world than any other member of the EC through the spread of the English language and culture and our seminal role in founding about half of those countries.  We have in fact (1988-9) a substantial positive balance of trade with the non-EC countries which goes some way to offsetting the huge £15 billion) negative balance with the EC.

Any joint EC foreign policy, like the joint agricultural policy, like the joint fisheries policy and so on, is therefore bound to be at our expense, as other EC countries manoeuvre to enjoy our advantage.

Mr Prag’s fantastic claim that “on balance, the existence of the EC has probably been the greatest bulwark of free trade” is made at a time when the EC is on the verge of provoking by the greakdown in the Gatt negotiations the most destructive trade war in history, conscripting Britain to fight our natural friends and allies in the English-speaking world, tarring us in fact with the EC protectionist brush.