Briton attempts to cool tempers on European role

November 06, 1990|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd sought yesterday to cool down the political temperature here over European unity and bolster Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's hold on power.

With Mrs. Thatcher reeling from the sudden resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe last week and with a series of crucial European Community meetings on the calendar, Mr. Hurd, who was a diplomat before he became a politician, sought to pour oil on the troubled waters.

"We have to make a success of Britain in Europe. Our younger generation requires this, the best of our business community requires it, and some of us have spent too long on this cause to let it founder," he said.

Mr. Hurd acknowledged an "argument" within the Conservative Party over Britain's role within Europe but said there was no reason to "be scared or defeatist."

"There is no dread conspiracy against us," he said, appearing to see plans for a united Europe as less of a threat to British sovereignty than Mrs. Thatcher does. Britain, he pointed out, had already yielded some of its sovereignty to a united European power and would give up more.

But, carefully backing Mrs. Thatcher's insistence that there are limits to Britain's involvement in Europe, he said, "We must continue to fight . . . for British interests, but we can do that without frightening ourselves with ogres."

Mr. Hurd was addressing the Confederation of British Industries annual conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The federation has urged the government to commit itself fully to European economic and monetary union.

Mrs. Thatcher refuses to accept creation of either a single European currency or a European central bank.

It was her negative attitude toward development of a united Europe that persuaded Sir Geoffrey to resign last week as her deputy and the leader of the House of Commons.

A majority of the Thatcher Cabinet now seems prepared to go further toward continental union than Mrs. Thatcher.

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