When Michael Howard appointed the arch-eurosceptic John Redwood to the opposition front-bench team this month, the move was widely seen as a lurch to the right for the Conservatives, and more open hostility towards the European Union.
Mr Redwood, who is charged with drawing up Tory policy on deregulation, has now confirmed those fears. In an interview in yesterday's Financial Times, he made clear that a future Conservative government would make rolling back excessive regulation part of a "renegotiation package" with the EU aimed at reversing more than 30 years of integration.
However, the biggest objection to Mr Redwood's idea is that there would be no takers for it among the UK's European partners. Why should the other 24 member states engage with Britain to pick apart elaborately constructed compromises that have emerged in negotiations among sovereign nations, or - in the case of newer EU members - have been accepted during entry negotiations and thereafter ratified?
Seen thus, Mr Redwood's idea amounts to no more than base populism, designed, no doubt, to halt the defection of anti-EU voters from the Tories to the United Kingdom Independence party (Ukip). Rather than threaten the single market, a more honest approach would be for Mr Redwood and his party to announce their intention to quit the EU when in government and explain in detail how Britain could maintain its prosperity.
Margit Gennser i Riksdagen om Schengen 2000-05-18: