Sir Geoffrey Howe: ‘resignation speech’ (2)
What kind of vision is that for our business people who trade there each day, for our financiers who seek to make London the money capital of Europe, or for all the young people of today? These concerns are especially important as we approach the crucially important topic of EMU. We must be positively and centrally involved in this debate and not fearfully and negatively detached. The cost of disengagement here could be very serious indeed… The tragedy is – and it is for me personally, for my party, for our whole people, for the prime minister herself a very real tragedy – that the prime minister’s perceived attitude towards Europe is running increasingly serious risks for the future of our nation. It risks minimizing our influence and maximizing our chances of being once again shut out.
We have paid heavily in the past for late stars and squandered opportunities in Europe. We dare not let that happen again. If we detach ourselves completely as a party or as a nation from the middle ground of Europe, the effects will be incalculable and very hard ever to correct. In my letter of resignation, which I tendered with the utmost sadness and dismay, I said that cabinet government is about trying to persuade one another from within. That was my commitment to government by persuasion, persuading colleagues and nation.
I have tried to do that as foreign secretary and since, but realize now that the task has become futile, of trying to stretch the meaning of words beyond what was credible, of trying to pretend there was a common policy when every step forward risked being subverted by some casual comment or impulsive answer. The conflict of loyalty is loyalty to the prime minister – and after more than two decades together that instinct of loyalty is still very real – and the loyalty to what I perceive to be the true interests of this nation.
That conflict of loyalty has become all too great. I no longer believe it is possible to resolve that conflict from within this government. That is why I have resigned. In doing so I have done what I believe to be right for my party and my country. The time has come for others to consider their response to the tragic conflict of loyalty with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long.