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Column 712For some of us, 1995 is not far ahead but-- wait for it--action is starting earlier than that. The communique continued :
"The Institutions are invited to establish before the start of the work of the Reflection Group reports on the functioning of the Treaty of European Union, which will provide an input for the work of the Group."
Some ambitious proposals are being thought out and framed. I refer to only one set--which comes, of course, from Germany. Proposals from Herr Bitterlich, who I understand is Chancellor Kohl's personal foreign policy adviser, came out of a think tank associated with the Bertelsmann Foundation. The Financial Times had this to say about them :
"In a report which reflects widespread thinking at the highest levels of the German government, the group spelt out proposals for a bi-cameral system which would put the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on an equal footing."
A lower chamber and upper chamber of a legislature is how they see the future of the Council of Ministers.
A report in The Guardian added that the President of the Commission would be nominated and elected by Members of the European Parliament and would be empowered to appoint Commissioners to a reduced number of posts--a kind of Cabinet. The report added : "The commission would take on the hue of a European government." I am not saying that that is necessarily the sole or most strongly backed proposal that will come before us in 1996, but some powerful pro-federal forces remain unchecked in Europe. They have been buried in the institutions of the European Parliament, and they are embedded in the whole structure and ethos of the Commission, the European Court, and the hearts and minds of the ruling political classes of many countries of continental Europe. We must be ready for a prolonged and difficult struggle.
If the Foreign Secretary were right about the success of British ideas and how subsidiarity and all the other British
intergovernmental arrangements have carried the field in Europe, we could relax. It is simply because the Foreign Secretary has got it so wrong that we must be on our guard and prepare for a bitter fight between now and the end of 1996. That is the task ahead.
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North) : The speech of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) reminded us that the virus of scepticism is not confined to these Benches. What was particularly attractive was his exchange with the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), which authorised with the strength of Labour's Front Bench that Labour is hostile to a federal Europe, is in favour of a Europe of nation states and argues for the maintenance of our national veto. After a while, I began to wonder what, as time unfolds, Labour will supply to the European debate that is distinctive.
Mercifully, the right hon. Member for Copeland pre-empted my anxieties in that respect. Labour would take into the Union its time-honoured characteristic of proscription. Every party and every Government would be tested to see if they passed Labour's good housekeeping arrangements. The question was raised of the Italian Government. Let us not be delicate. The right hon. Member for Copeland did not mean that he would refuse to sit down and share spaghetti with Signor Berlusconi. It is Signor Fini about whom the right hon. Gentleman has great reservations.
Column 713I challenge the right hon. Member for Copeland to name the name that gives rise to the proposition that there are Ministers in the Italian Government with whom a Labour Government would have no contact. That is no way for a potential Government to behave towards European Union partners. If the Union cannot inspire some sense of tolerance, it will never have any chance of longer success. I do not regard the exchange earlier today as flippant July madness. The assertion that there are Ministers in the present Italian Government with whom members of a Labour Government would be unwilling to co-operate is an indication that Labour is taking into the Union a sectarian attitude to its functioning that would falsify all Labour's other ambitions.
Mr. Biffen : That is simply considered. I invite the hon. Gentleman to name one continental European Government containing members of the EPP who have said that they will not sit down and discuss matters with certain members of the Italian Government.
It is quite simple. As we go through political life, we often have reservations about those people with whom we have to have daily contact. Frankly, within this Chamber, calculated unease is an integral part of how we operate. I think that the hon. Gentleman will have problems enough, in the course of European co-operation, without the self-imposed and sanctimonious barriers that are being sought. Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) rose
Mr. Biffen : No, I shall not give way. I shall make a short speech, thus giving the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to address the House. As this is the first time that we have debated the subject since the European elections, I pay my respects and regards to the right hon. Sir Christopher Prout, who led the Conservatives at Strasbourg and was my European Member of Parliament--the Member for Staffordshire and Shropshire. He contributed significantly to Conservative fortunes in Europe, although in terms with which I often disagreed. It would be appropriate to place that tribute on the record, and I hope and believe that those on the Government Front Bench will endorse it. The European Union (Accessions) Bill has achieved a good draw for a non-voting occasion, which goes to show that the issue is at the heart of British politics, wherever else it is. Why ? Because Euro- scepticism, as advanced from the Conservative Benches, has made it into a major political issue. That is a tribute to this institution--the House of Commons--without which the exercise could not have been mounted in such a way.
I understand that the Prime Minister addressed the 1922 Committee last Thursday. I try to avoid too much emotion and excitement. I was not there, and I am dependent on a report in The Times , which stated that he said :
"As the membership"
of the European Union
"expands, it will be impossible for the centralist model to continue".
Mr. Biffen : My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) pertinently observes that one would like a little more definition of the interplay between widening and deepening, in the context of the assertion that
"it will be impossible for the centralist model to continue". That will be the subject of continuing debate for this Chamber in the coming months and years.
I shall consider the Bill in the context of three matters : European diversity, qualified majority voting, and the common agricultural policy. Out of deference to all the other hon. Members who wish to speak, I shall do so at breakneck speed and ask for tolerance for my brevity when considering those three major points. First, of course the Bill will add to the diversity of Europe. There is an extraordinary unwillingness to recognise that, from its very inception, the European Community had aspects that were by implication diverse--for example, the fact that the Federal German Republic had a relationship with the German Democratic Republic which made it unique within the Community, and powerfully unique. There is also the central paradox that the industrial aspects of the Community were dominated by liberal economics, whereas agriculture was dominated by the highest common factor of protectionism. We can expect that to increase with increased membership, as different social structures have to be adapted to the confines of the European Union, and as certain fashions are replaced or challenged by other fashions.
I know that some of my hon. Friends may not be too excited at that prospect, but I do not believe that anyone will persist with the same enthusiasm and decisiveness with the liberal economics that dominated the early phases of the Community, especially as the Union enlarges to the east. Hungary and Poland are already moving away from their original preoccupation and fascination with market forces. At this stage, no one can foresee what the balance of social and economic fashion will be as we proceed. However, we are fully entitled to judge that, if the Union is to be a successful partnership of nation states, it cannot be shackled to any economic ideology.
Secondly, qualified majority voting can be reconsidered in the light of the accession of these countries. That was made clear in the Ioannina statement, ahead of the 1996 renegotiation. I hope that my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will persist with the arguments on qualified majority voting that they advanced unsuccessfully last March. I do not regard my attitude as especially nationalistic--not that that does any harm--as the European Union is bedevilled by bureaucracy. I fully accept that the Single European Act was probably the most decisive development in that direction. My hands are as stained as anyone's. I am here not to apologise but to assert what I believe to be an observable political truth.
I cannot see any easy way out of the difficulty. That bureaucracy will destroy any idealism for the European Union that might exist. In as much as it gives slightly more chance of blocking the initiation of legislation, qualified majority voting should be welcomed--and welcomed as much by members of the Labour party as by Conservative Members. We have now got out of the way the tactical problems caused by persistence with the British stance on qualified majority voting and what it might do to affect the
Column 715successful applications of these countries. We can now consider such voting in a more relaxed atmosphere. I hope that Opposition Members will also see some virtues in trying to impede the flow of legislation and understand what that legislation is doing to general affection and support for the European Union.
Finally, most hon. Members who have spoken have mentioned the common agricultural policy. It is clear that we are taking on four national agricultures, each with remarkably distinctive characteristics. None of them is large, but all represent powerful political considerations for each of the nation states.
Surely we ought to begin to try to apply the principles of subsidiarity when relating those national agricultures to the existing common agricultural policy. If we cannot do so now, and cannot achieve some clear successes soon, it will be impossible to draw up a framework for the inclusion of the agricultures of applicant countries from central and eastern Europe. In every sense, we are on Euro-borrowed time as far as that matter is concerned. Once again, that issue ought not to be the cause of division across the Chamber. I do not believe that it is seriously at issue. In the reform of the CAP, supporting qualified majority voting and ensuring an inherent diversity in the European Union, we are all talking sceptic language. As the centre of the debate moves, the sceptics will march with it.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : I am no sceptic, and I do not speak sceptics' language. I should have loved to follow a good many of the points made by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen)--for instance, his delightfully throwaway, cavalier comment "What's wrong with nationalism anyway ?"--but time is pressing.
Liberal Democrats warmly welcome the impending accession of Austria and-- conditional on their referendums--Finland, Sweden and Norway. The addition of four prosperous and stable democracies can only strengthen the Union in all spheres of its activity. However--as a number of hon. Members have pointed out--that enlargement will place great strains on the existing institutional framework, and its reform must be addressed urgently in advance of the 1996 intergovernmental conference. As the Foreign Secretary said, we also need to look forward to the adhesion of the central and eastern European countries, and in time--almost certainly--that of Malta and Cyprus ; Switzerland will probably change its position as well.
First, we must consider the size of the Commission, the way in which its members are appointed--not least the President--and the extent of the European Parliament's involvement. Let me digress for a moment, and comment on the Corfu affair. Jean-Luc Dehaene, a Belgian, was the Franco-German nominee for the presidency. Why did all that happen ? On 26 June, The Observer commented--in an editorial, not a news item
"The idea, promulgated by John Major and Douglas Hurd yesterday that Britain was opposing the Franco-German candidate, Jean-Luc Dehaene, because of the manner of the choosing--rather than the man who would have been chosen--is so much hogwash.
The President of the Commission has always been chosen behind the scenes by the leaders of the European states."
The "white smoke" system may be wrong, incidentally,
Column 716but hon. Members should note that there is no record of the United Kingdom's having opposed it in the past, and no record of our having sought to change it.
The editorial continues :
"Helmut Kohl raised the name of Dehaene to John Major a couple of months ago and received no objection. Indeed, the Prime Minister had none at that time."
I should like to know whether that is true, because, if it is, the Prime Minister must have been consulted in April. An Observer editorial would normally be regarded as a reasonably authoritative and reliable piece of paper.
The article goes on :
"What has happened since is that the presidency has become an issue in the Conservative Party, a litmus test of Major's willingness to stand up against the Continentals. The Prime Minister has chosen to take his stand for reasons wholly of domestic politics." I think that that is true, and that it reflects badly on the Government.
I do not know how many hon. Members saw The Independent's Saturday magazine the day before yesterday. I thought that one of its cartoons summed up the position beautifully. It showed a man looking gloomily at a poster on a wall, apparently advertising either aftershave or deodorant, and an extremely pugnacious, lantern-jawed Prime Minister holding the valuable elixir ; the slogan read "Veto--for Men!"
Mr. Cash : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Jean-Luc Dehaene was responsible for delivering to Chancellor Kohl the siting of the central bank in Frankfurt ? Does the hon. Gentleman not think that that might have had something to do with--quite apart from Mr. Dehaene's federal inclinations--his determination to ensure that he was repaid for the good services that he had rendered ?
Sir Russell Johnston : Does the hon. Gentleman not think--as we are in the business of "thinking", which of course is a good thing--that the siting of the central bank in Frankfurt had a good deal to do with the United Kingdom's failure to accept any commitment to economic and monetary union or a single currency ? Of course it did. I believe that the whole question reverts to the continuing inability of the British political establishment to understand consensus decision-making, and its tendency to favour sporadic macho-dramatics instead. Another recent example of that was the qualified-majority adjustment to take account of enlargement ; I know that it has already been discussed, but I think that our position was silly.
Reducing the number of Commissioners--if that is the favoured route--would not be easy, and I would be foolish to try to present a scheme now. I find two ideas particularly interesting, however. First, there is the possibility of retaining the same pattern rather than reducing the number, while increasing the number of vice-presidents and giving them the core responsibilities for policy. Secondly, there is the possibility of acting on a regional basis--Iberian, Benelux, Nordic and so forth. Either way, something must be done.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but I have only just taken the Chair and I must admit to being slightly confused. I thought that the House was debating the Second Reading
Column 717of a Bill enabling other countries to accede to the European Union, but so far I have not heard much on that subject. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to relate his remarks to the main subject under consideration.
Sir Russell Johnston : If we are dealing with enlargement, Madam Deputy Speaker, must we not inevitably deal with its consequences--its effects on the European institutions, and on the Union as a whole ? The second point that I am anxious to make
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. May I clarify what I said ? If the hon. Member can make an adequate and convincing connection, I shall have no objection ; my point was simply that, at the time when I was listening to his speech, he seemed to be making no such connection.
In the event of accession, the European Parliament will at some point have to be revamped. It is impossible to contemplate the possibility of a continuing and unlimited increase in size. That will mean that it must also be made more proportional to population. The Foreign Secretary raised the point earlier in relation to qualified majority voting, but he did not mention the fact that the Germans, for instance, are undoubtedly severely under-represented in the European Parliament. Problems such as that will have to be corrected at the same time.
The Nordic countries--three of which are to join the Union--have a particularly open form of democracy which, in my view, is far superior to ours. They will certainly be allies to those of us who wish the Parliament's co-decision-making powers to be increased, and want its involvement in the individual approval of Commissioners.
Mr. Dalyell : The hon. Gentleman and I were colleagues in the European Parliament when it was much smaller in terms of countries. He may recollect that, even then, there were great difficulties of translation. How will those difficulties be overcome if the Nordic countries take up their right to use their own language ? There will be a great demand for tranlations of Swedish into Greek and Portuguese into Norwegian. Will there not be real physical problems ?
Column 718English. For the Finns, the Norwegians and the Swedes, language is a touchstone. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that fact.
Mr. Spearing : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He remarked, I think to general agreement, that the form of democracy enjoyed by some of our Nordic friends may be superior to our own. If decisions are taken away from their Parliaments, will not that risk the atrophy of their democracies, and therefore diminish their quality, on which we all agree ?
Sir Russell Johnston : Let me think about that--I know that that is unusual in the House. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, who has had views on this matter for a long time, it is a question not of taking all powers away from the old Parliaments, but of taking certain direct responsibilities away from them and transferring them to the Council and to the European Parliament. That will not necessarily lead to the atrophy of what is left.
The Nordic countries will be particularly supportive of opening up the Council of Ministers and of seeking to end the excessive secrecy through which it makes decisions, which often even denies us information on who took up what position and why. With regard to the Council, the other main question relates to the scope of qualified majority voting, whether there will be a case for greater weighting for some decisions, and if so, what decisions. I do not think that opting out is a solution.
The Bill's explanatory memorandum states :
"Austria, Norway and Sweden are expected to be net contributors to the Community budget. They will contribute more than enough resources to cover the increase in Community spending resulting from enlargement. The balance will reduce the financial contributions of the existing Member States, including that of the United Kingdom, compared with what would otherwise have been the case."
That is a funny way of putting it. The reference to the UK suggests that it is not one of the existing member states. That may be legally necessary, but it is odd.
Not only as a result of accession but for other reasons, a review of the budgetary position will be required. That particularly affects us because of the United Kingdom rebate. We have concentrated too much on saying that we must keep the rebate. We should take a lead in trying to devise a system that relates gross national product to contribution--an outcome that would be fair to ourselves and to others.
I have not so far used the word "federal", which has often been bandied about, but the future European Union will be a federal Europe not a unitary Europe, and the accession of the four countries increases that likelihood. In those matters that we undertake together--political policy, which includes foreign policy, security and defence, economic and environmental policy--we must devise systems that give not only Governments--this is where I part company with the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North--but our citizens a direct opportunity to play a part in decision making at European Union level. The Liberal Democrat view of tomorrow's Europe is of a citizens' Europe, not an intergovernmental Europe.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the central and eastern European countries, which are still out in the cold, but which we all agree should ultimately accede. We need more than generalities of intent, even if they are well expressed. We need more open trade arrangements and to
Column 719be more specific in establishing a clearly defined time scale on membership of the Visegrad and Baltic countries, Slovenia and others.
I should like to continue, but time is short and many hon. Members wish to speak. The accession of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden is greatly welcomed by Liberal Democrats, and I very much hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading without a Division.
Mr. David Howell (Guildford) : I do not want to be accused of the crime of optimism, but I welcome the accession of the four new members, assuming that it takes place in all four cases, because the changes greatly reinforce the opening up of a range of issues about the direction of Europe which have hitherto been closed. The institutional structure must be revamped. The institutional discussion will involve the size of the European Commission and its powers.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), has rightly said that reviewing those powers in 1996 is an objective of British policy. Accession will change the entire style in which the Community is run and take us aeons away from the old Common Market, the old European Economic Community and even the European Community, which we joined some years ago and which many of us thought was the right way towards the great single market of 1992.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) said, with his usual insight and shrewdness, accession will change and challenge the common agricultural policy, the root foundation block of the old EEC, the deal between France and Germany secured by the great European statesmen, which would keep the whole thing together. There is no conceivable way in which the CAP as presently structured can even accommodate the Eftans. Finnish agriculture is a mix of earth and forest ; Swedish agriculture is also different ; Austrian agriculture is not that different from German or Swiss agriculture, but it is different from that in other countries. Norwegian agriculture is different again.
If the EFTA countries join, all those matters will have to be rejigged. If we move on, as I hope we shall, and bring in the Visegrad four and Slovenia, which has not applied but which, like the Visegrad countries, is anxious to come in on the coat tails of Austria, the concept of the CAP will be dissolved. There is no conceivable way in which the agricultural sectors in Poland or Hungary, which have a huge capacity and which could feed almost the whole of Europe, can be opened up and allowed to market their products, raise living standards and ensure that they achieve a democratic process and progress. That cannot be done without a fundamental reform of the centralised agricultural system on which the Community has been based.
That is one practical example of a much larger picture that is opening up as a result of the proposed accession of the new members. I welcome that even more because it gives us a chance to begin to develop our vision of the direction in which Europe will go in and after 1996. I agree that we should get on with that. We cannot wait for this funny reflection group, the prepatory committee, which is
Column 720to be chaired by a Spanish gentleman and which is to be intergovernmental but, oddly, will include two Members of the European Parliament.
The matter should be triggered by the Bill, the act of accession of the three and the clamour of the Visegrad four to join the European Union, or at least to join in the political process of the Union, in the pillars of interior and justice matters and in a common foreign and security policy, if not the single market. We cannot wait around for the reflection group to reflect.
Nor can we wait for certain cliques in Bonn, Paris and Madrid to hijack the presidency for a whole series of six-month periods from now until 1996 and to impose through that device a totally federalist, out-dated and old- fashioned agenda. We cannot wait for any of those things.
Instead, we must get on and seize the opportunity, which I believe is presented in ever greater openness to us, to develop the alternative vision of Europe. We have now a golden opportunity to fill out in detail what we mean by a multi-track and multi-layered Europe, and to explain how we intend to set out an agenda that will challenge the old idea, which is still, I am afraid, enshrined in Maastricht, that all European affairs should be wrapped in a single hierarchical structure, and that a single institutional system should embrace everything.
We must challenge the idea that eventually the pillar of the single market should, by magnetism, pull the other pillars into a gigantic single trunk. We must show how we intend to go in another direction, how we have allies in the rest of Europe who will also move in that other direction, and how we intend to reinforce, and in some cases actually give, the intellectual lead so that that can be achieved. Right hon. and hon. Members may say that my view is all optimism. The cry from Opposition Front-Bench Members has been that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is indulging in self- delusion, and that these changes are not happening. I tell the doubters what the new countries, such as Finland, are saying. Of course, for the moment, they are saying, "Let us just sign up. We want to get into the Union. Don't bother us with the details and the arguments ; that will come later. We shall accept the acquis. Everything else will fall into place later."
Those countries are also saying to themselves that they cannot go on with the much-vaunted social policies and the much-vaunted economic policies that they have adopted in the past. We have heard a great deal about the glories of Scandinavian social policy. The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) seems to have forgotten that, in Finland, there is 20 per cent. unemployment and that the Finns are crippled by the most enormous social budget.
The whole level of debate in Finland is about how to introduce deregulation, how to unscramble the overwhelming social burden, and how to move into an entirely modern stance, which would fit not with the Brussels of the social chapter and not with the Brussels of high Maastricht, but with a looser and much more competitive Europe. That is the debate going on in Finland. If the hon. Member for Rhondda thinks that that is not going on, he is ill informed and out of date.
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda) : Is the right hon. Gentleman contending that unemployment in Scandinavian countries and in other countries is due to decent living and working conditions ? If unemployment exists, as the Government say, because of factors outside
Column 721their control, surely that argument applies to Scandinavia as well. Surely unemployment is not directly related to the fact that the Scandinavian countries believe in decent conditions for workers.
Mr. Howell : What I am saying--I point to the facts--is that the much-vaunted social policies which Opposition Members believe to be so important--indeed, they act for the reinforcement of more centralised social policy in Brussels--have not brought the high standard of living, the glowing harmony and the high employment that we all want to see.
Mr. Duncan Smith : I take up my right hon. Friend's earlier point about this enlargement being only stage one of two stages of enlargement. The reality may be that the Germans and others will say, "We have given the British their prize of enlargement, so we can now get on with our other agenda. Let us push these others, who would really lead to reform of the institutions, to one side." We must leap into this now, and not hold back.
Mr. Howell : I totally agree. However, I do not fear that there will be resistance from Germany to bringing in the Visegrad four, as my hon. Friend suspects. On the contrary, the Germans, as they have been almost since the creation of modern Germany, are in the usual dilemma.
Germany is a huge country dominating the middle of Europe, but the Germans do not know whether to follow their powerful instinct to bring the states of eastern Europe as fast as they can into the European Union and into the security system, whether to put that second to binding themselves with France, or whether somehow to avoid the choice. Of course there is a choice, and it creates turbulence and a lack of clarity in German politics. That is interesting for the analyst outside, but it is a little disturbing.
However, I believe that the Germans will try to do both at once. They will seek to ensure that the Visegrad four come in, for a good reason. In a sense, they want countries with western values on their eastern border, as they have on their western border. They want a westernised eastern and central Europe, and that is why, for political reasons, they are already backing the entry of the Visegrad four in a way that makes the French extremely uncomfortable. That point leads me to the view, which has not been mentioned today, that the Franco-German federalist axis, which is alleged to be so unstoppable and which, it is believed, will roll forward and impose a federalist agenda, is not as strong in its content and its inner meaning as it has been in the past. Major differences are emerging between the French and the Germans which should be understood, although not necessarily welcomed all the way, because we do not want the French and Germans to get into a state of hostility, as has been the case in the past 100 years. There are major questions, however, which take the French and the Germans in distinctly different ways. It is essential that we back the German aim of bringing the eastern European countries into the European Union as fast as possible. I hope that the House sees the point that they cannot join the great single market tomorrow, but that they should be given the opportunity to join in any political developments outside the single market as soon as possible, and that they should be involved politically in every conceivable way.
Column 722I want to see those countries involved in security terms which means going further than "Partnership for Peace". I have never been very comfortable with the "Partnership for Peace" idea. It may suit Finland, one of the new accession countries, because of its position vis-a-vis Russia. It may suit some of the Baltic states, and it may suit Russia, which is signed up to it. However, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are ready to move into a full, proper European security system and would like to do so as soon as possible. I hope that the enlargement of NATO can embrace the eastern and central European countries, including any of the new countries joining the European Union, as soon as possible. I hope that we do not wait for Russia to struggle through all its own agonies and to work out its democratic problems. That could take decades, and it is on a completely different time scale from the needs of eastern Europe and the Visegrad four, which, as I said, I hope will follow the accession four with which we are now dealing.
This is a crucial moment, when we can, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) said, begin to pile on the pace. We can begin to say that, now that we have the 15 or 16 and now that we have opened up the institutional and constitutional issues of how Europe should be organised, how we entrench subsidiarity, how we limit the powers of the Commission, how we build a Europe that is constitutionally of nation states, and how we halt the tendency for the whole thing to drift in a centralised direction, now is the opportunity to achieve the real objective of European union, which is to recapture for the democratic camp the lost states of eastern and central Europe which we thought we had won back at the end of the second world war but which were taken from us.
That movement is the greatest opportunity and the great leap forward of 1996. It is not a great leap forward towards an unattainable monetary union based on an unattainable single currency. It is not a great leap forward towards more federal institutions and a tighter, inward-looking western Europe. We do not want that kind of great leap forward. We want the great leap forward towards bringing these countries into the democratic system. That is a vision which I hope all hon. Members will articulate with more confidence than we have in the past.
We have a great confederation and a gigantic single market which runs from Finland and Lapland in the east to Lisbon in the west, and from the toe of Italy up to John O'Groats and to the northernmost point of Europe. It is a huge single market for which we should work. I must tell my right hon. and hon. Friends that it will include some qualified majority voting, perhaps in areas which we have not yet covered, and perhaps not in areas which are covered at present. Outside that, we may employ the multi-track and multi- speed approach to all the additional political, defence and foreign-policy ambitions, as well as to the ambitions for intrusion into the nooks and crannies of social and national life in every conceivable and unnecessary way, and we need not insist on a single hierarchy and a single institutional system.
There is a vision out there which is receiving greater and greater support from people in all parts of Europe. Luckily, it unites--or should unite-- the party of which I am a member. It should unite this Parliament, and it will unite Europe in taking itself forward to become a larger organisation, which will ensure peace and stability, and postpone for ever the return of the war which destroyed Europe in the past.