As the most (self-proclaimed) Eurosceptic of the four, the "Europe" component of his speech, therefore, was of more than usual interest. And it did not fail to disappoint.
Said Fox, "…we must not allow an obsession with the European Union to blind us to the challenges and opportunities in an ever more dynamic world." Europe, he said:
…is becoming economically stagnant, its share of world trade falling. That is bad news for Britain because it will damage our prosperity. That is why we need to have a bold new vision for Europe. The EU is locked in the past. We need an agenda for the 21st century.Warming to his theme, he then told delegates that we needed to break away from the whole outdated concept of "ever closer union". "The inevitable destination of 'ever closer union' is union." He said.
The Conservative Party should never accept that Britain's destiny lies in a United States of Europe. We need to lead a Europe that is decentralised, outward looking, and competitive. We need fewer regulations and powers brought back to the nation states. We should be leading New Europe where the Czechs,the Poles, the Baltic states share our view of the world. Many have just shaken off one oppressive foreign regime - why would they want another based in Brussels.With that he referred to his determination to end the current relationship with the European People's Party in the EU parliament, saying that: "We should form a new, forward thinking and outward looking group in the European Parliament that is pro-market, non-integrationist and Atlanticist."
"We must work in tandem with the United States," he added, "Seeing America as a rival rather than a partner is a French view of the world, not a British one. It is not a question we can duck. It is a test of our sincerity."
With that, he then told the delegates, "we must look beyond Europe much more than at present. We must be good global citizens - for today's world and for future generations."
And that was it. Plenty of fudge but, to borrow an American phrase: where's the beef?