chapter  3
The issues and debates: ‘head versus heart’
Pages 34

Since its conception, the idea of European integration has forced Conservatives to confront many of their core ideological values. The overarching issue has been the kind of Europe they wish to be involved with. Despite attempts by the leadership before 1988 to portray Europe within the narrow parameters of being a purely economic matter that was necessary to reverse Britain’s decline, the continuing and protracted debate has opened a Pandora’s box of issues which question Britain’s world role, peace and prosperity, national sovereignty and patriotism, the nation’s economic foundations, as well as its political and legal integrity. The saliency of these issues has ebbed and flowed over the decades. Each camp within the party has sought to undermine their internal opponents’ values whilst promoting their own positions and seeking to win the support of the party’s silent agnostic majority. The pro-Europeans succeeded best at this until the late 1980s. Thereafter a succession of events, the Single European Act, Maastricht, Black Wednesday and more recently the euro and the European Constitution, enabled the Eurosceptics to proclaim their values as once more legitimate concerns. Taken at face value the party’s core values would suggest an instinctive hostility towards Europe, yet party managers for much of the post-war era managed to convince the party otherwise, making it believe that a pro-European policy was not only advisable but necessary: the only option. Addressing each of the issues in turn will enable a greater appreciation of how, and why, the debates have evolved and help the reader understand why the current Conservative Party leadership largely supports a Eurosceptic position.