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Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) : May I briefly address the final comments of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) ? I certainly agree that the next great challenge and leap forward for the European Union is the possible accession of the Visegrad countries, perhaps in a decade's time, followed by others. There is a curious irony that those countries, as the right hon. Gentleman said, will show far greater enthusiasm for and sympathy towards the military alliance of the European Union than the four impending members which we are discussing. That is not necessarily altogether in their favour, but it shows the eagerness with which those countries in central and eastern Europe wish to join the European Union. Therefore, I share with the right hon. Gentleman the hope that it will not be too long--probably a decade--before we consider the impending accession of those countries.
Along with the vast majority of hon. Members, I welcome the accession of the four countries in question. I share all the sentiments expressed by my right hon. and hon. Friends and echo what has been said about the empathy that we have with those four countries and the way in which we are looking forward, as social democrats, to working with them if--hopefully--they all accede to the European Union from January 1995. Most of the speeches have concentrated primarily on one pillar of the European Union : the economic community. That is clearly an important pillar, but I do not feel that sufficient regard has been paid to one of the other pillars of the Union-- the common foreign and security policy which the Maastricht treaty established. I wish to address my remarks to the difficulties that we are likely to face after the accession of Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden to the European Union. Hon. Members do not need me to remind them that the Maastricht treaty established three pillars : first, the economic community ; secondly, the internal aspects of the Union ; and, thirdly, foreign and security policy. It also designated the Western European Union as the defence arm of common foreign and security policy. We have been struggling since then to get some kind of coherent common foreign and security policy which could be accepted by the present 12 members of the European Union. We have been struggling, but recent events, especially in the former Yugoslavia, show how little progress we have made in that regard. Inevitably, national interests have been paramount and have tended to hamper the search for a common foreign and security policy. In the case of Yugoslavia, we can cite Germany's natural tendency towards Croatia, and, more recently, Greek sympathy towards the Serbs. We have had that difficulty with the present 12 and such difficulties will probably increase with the accession of the four new countries.
If we consider the facts, three out of the four countries are traditionally neutral. I find it paradoxical that the Foreign Secretary of Sweden and the President of Finland have stated that they wish to enter the European Union. One of the reasons for that is that it will offer them greater security. They want greater security through membership of the European Union, but they are not prepared to be members of any of the military alliances which bind the core members. Clearly, that may well alter with the passage of time. Indeed, there have already been indications, especially from the Finnish, that their attitudes may alter, particularly after 1996. However, this Bill deals
Column 724with the here and now and the period up to the intergovernmental conference in 1996. As I have said, the situation may change, but it means that, in the enlarged European Union of 16 members, 11 only--that includes Norway--will be full members of the Western European Union, while four members of the European Union, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland, would not be members of any military alliance whatever.
Sir Russell Johnston : Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the recent visit by Western European Union representatives to Finland ? We were extremely warmly received and there was every indication that the Finns were radically reassessing their situation.
Mr. Marshall : As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am a member of the Western European Union, which is why I speak about it with such feeling. I have tried to express the view that the feelings of the four countries are the most likely to change in the near future, but the reality is that, at present, it is not their stated intention to become full members of the Western European Union. They have indicated their wish to be observers, which is in line with what I have already said to the House. The claim of the Western European Union to be the security and defence wing of the European Union is substantially weakened if one third of the membership of the Union are observers to it only. If we are to progress with a common foreign and security policy and a common defence policy, which will, one hopes, lead to common defence, to use the Maastricht phraseology, it clearly cannot be based on a military or defence strategy in which one third of the membership of the European Union are fully participating, fully paid-up members of the defence organisation and European pillar of NATO : the Western European Union.
May I remind the House that the accession of those four countries will bring a new set of problems ? I think that it was the Foreign Secretary himself who said that, for the first time, the European Union will now have a common border with Russia. The Scandinavian countries have a close interest in the Baltic states. I am not suggesting for one moment that the United Kingdom does not have an interest in them too, but the interest of the Scandinavian countries is much greater than that of the United Kingdom. That applies especially to Sweden, which has invested a great deal of time, energy, money and diplomatic effort in supporting the Baltic states. I remind the House that President Yeltsin referred to the three Baltic states as the "near abroad". In a parody of President Yeltsin, the Swedish Government referred to the three Baltic states as the Swedish "near abroad" to indicate their own interest in preserving the independence of the Baltic states.
My two examples show that the European Union will be faced with new and different problems. As a consequence, it will have to take a much closer interest than it has in the past in the political and economic development of Russia. I hope that we are prepared to be more proactive in assisting the Russians in the development of their economy than we have been hitherto. We must also take a closer interest in the foreign policy developments of Russia.
Having been pessimistic and probably having presented a far too negative case, I shall end on a positive note. Clearly the four applicant countries have great experience in international affairs. They have all played their full part in the development of the United Nations and in carrying
Column 725out the United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts throughout the world. They have also assisted in the promotion of the welfare and interests of the third world. I hope that when they accede to the European Union and begin to play their full part in the development of the foreign policy of the Union, if not its security and defence policy, they will be able to push the EU towards a more imaginative approach to third world problems and to global environmental problems. If they are able to do that, their accession will more than outweigh the negative features that I have outlined and the pessimistic case that I presented about the four countries' participation in the security and defence organ of the European Union.
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : I suppose that the first question that we must ask is whether it is necessary for the four applicant countries to accede to the European Union if we are to give them some of the advantages that many in this country would wish to extend to them. Surely it is not necessary to invite them to join the Union if we are to enter into some form of military alliance with them. Equally, it is not necessary to invite them into the Union if we wish to extend to them the advantages of free trade and to gain the advantage for our manufacturers of free trade with them. It must surely be that we principally advocate their entry into the Union because we believe that it will have some beneficial effect upon the Union itself.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) is in the Chamber. He has a long and distinguised career in his criticism of the Union, or the Common Market as it used to be. When talking to me he always said, "Extend the Common Market ; bring in more members. That will loosen it up." He used to use a different verb, but that was the effect of his remarks. He always argued that when the southern European countries came in the common agricultural policy would be loosened.
My right hon. Friend reminded us of the imaginative attitude that many of the people of southern Europe have towards the question of public finance. He felt that it would be unlikely that the Germans would wish to finance, say, a tobacco-support mechanism or the growing of notional olives on every piece of concrete in southern Italy. That has not happened yet. Equally, the loosening up of the CAP has not yet happened.
We are about to find that the cost of financing the CAP and the European Union has grown enormously, partly as a result of the entry of southern European countries and partly because of our great vision--all this vision- -of convergence and industrial support. We would be opposed to it if we saw it emerging in the United Kingdom, but we manage to describe it with great enthusiasm when we see it elsewhere in Europe.
Is it proven that the entry of the four applicant countries will loosen up the Community ? I have tried to ascertain what people mean when they talk about deepening the Union. To some, deepening is a term of abuse. To others, it is a sign of the Union developing in ways of which they approve.
It seems highly likely that the entry of the four countries will be to the Labour party's advantage in the sense that
Column 726their entry will lead to the shaping of the Union in a manner of which it tends to approve. Each of the four countries will be in favour of the social chapter. I note that the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) is nodding firmly. He has been one of my tutors in these matters over the years.
The four countries will be strongly in favour of the social chapter and will be more than likely to disapprove of our opt out. They will say that our opt out gives us an unfair advantage in competing in Europe. They will use the Community's institutions to impose the social chapter on us by various indirect methods connected mainly with the Single European Act. They will further impose it by the use of the federalist mechanism of law- making and law-enforcement within the Community. To that extent, their entry will surely lead to the further deepening of the Community.
The argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North about the southern European countries and the CAP can again be used. We are to see the entry into the Union of four more agricultural economies with slightly different agricultures. That will again distort and make more expensive the CAP. By any rational standard, one would expect the Germans to say, "We have had enough. We do not want to support any more of these distortions. If these distortions are to be later extended to the traditional bread basket of Europe--Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, as it used to be--the cost will be enormous."
The loosening up process has been anticipated on so many occasions but it has not come yet. When most people talk about deepening, it is a term of art for what happens to be their particular concern about the Community as matters stand. There is much talk about our vision of Europe.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) will forgive me for being offensive, but he offers the House a lot of stuff about our vision of Europe being accepted by the rest of Europe. If a gentleman in the south of Italy is completing his application for some form of industrial or agricultural support, I do not suppose that he has in mind much of what my right hon. Friend said about his vision of Europe as a place where honesty, democracy and gentlemanly behaviour will overcome all national characteristics.
I dare say that the gentleman who is pulling down the ramp of a cattle wagon to unload a cow which is about to be walked across the border between the Republic of Ireland and the north in order to collect subsidies on each side of the border does not have much in mind talk about a vision of a democratic, honest and forward-thinking Europe. I doubt whether he will be completely overwhelmed and burst into tears of contrition as a result of the vision of Europe held by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford.
Sir Russell Johnston : One could say, so what ?
Mr. Budgen : I was just going to say what.
Instead of telling Europe how it should proceed, we should recognise that there are many individuals, parties and states in Europe who genuinely believe in a federal structure. No doubt, if we were Belgians, we would have a very different view about how our country might be united. If we were Italians, we might well say that we did
Column 727not trust our domestic institutions and that we would be happier to be ruled by European statesmen. Those are perfectly reasonable points of view.
My contention is that it is not much good making airy speeches about how our vision will conquer Europe. In the present circumstances, the best we can do is to decide what our view of Europe should be. We should try to assess domestic opinion and try to offer a little leadership in that regard.
Instead of going on about a vision for Europe, we should recognise that the most important misfortune that we have suffered as a nation in recent history was the mismanagement of our economy through our membership of the exchange rate mechanism, the failure of the Conservative party to understand that that membership was only the necessary preliminary to a single currency and the need for us, in our party and in our country, to argue with those who are still unprepared to accept the lesson of that humiliation.
It is no good saying that allowing the accession of these four countries is irrelevant to that point. When I said that to the Foreign Secretary, he replied that the accession of these countries has nothing to do with a single currency. However, my right hon. Friend should read some of the speeches which his fellow members of the Cabinet make from time to time.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer made an extremely important speech in Bonn on 29 June. When expressing his support for Sir Leon Brittan and for Mr. Lubbers, he said :
"These men are all men with a vision of European Union. They support the deepening as well as the widening of the Union." The Chancellor of the Exchequer then very helpfully explained his views further on television the following Sunday. According to The Daily Telegraph , the Chancellor said :
"However with the prospect of a further enlargement of the European Union he indicated that a common currency would soon be inevitable.
'The idea that they will all be trading in 20 freely floating currencies based on 20 monetary authorities I would find highly unlikely.'
'It is possible that they would all trade in Deutschmarks.'" No one can accuse my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer of being overwhelmed by an interest in detail. It is possible that he did not draw the distinction between a common currency and a single currency. However, he has been the most vigorous advocate of a single currency.
When he appeared before the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee recently, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he had not had time to read the book which his old friend Sir Leon Brittan had written about Europe. I recommend that book. It is a very important and interesting summary of the present views of many people in the Tory party. On page 54 of his book, Sir Leon writes about the membership of the club :
"This is crucial, for the government leaders who signed the Treaty are fundamentally aware of two factors : first, that some of them may be ready and willing to form a single currency before others, and must not be stopped from doing so ; and secondly that, in the long term, a single currency will work more effectively the more European nations join."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Sir Leon Brittan believe that the accession of these four countries, far from loosening the organisation in the European Union, will actually deepen it, make it more integrated and lead inexorably--they argue--towards a single currency.
Column 728I have spoken at some length and I am sure that my colleagues would like to contribute to the debate. Let us not in this House make vague, vacuous assertions about the way in which our European neighbours will change their view. They, like us, formed their view perhaps in childhood or in late adolescence, but owing to the deep experiences of their countries, families, towns and villages, they will not be influenced by foreign words, no matter how grand or eloquent.
All we can do in this House is to try to see how such policies work for our country and offer some element of leadership and choice. At least we can now say that the Labour party is moving clearly and firmly towards the advocacy of a federal European state. It will soon be the duty and honour of the Tory party to offer choice to the country.
Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool) : Before the contribution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), I was going to say that the one thing that has tended to unite those of us who are habitue s of these European debates is our support for enlargement. The hon. Gentleman fractured, or at least splintered, that fragile unity among us. That is a shame because, like hon. Members who have already spoken in the debate, I strongly welcome the accession of Austria, Norway, Finland and Sweden to membership of the European Union.
In the past, we have tended to differ, and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West referred to those differences, on whether deepening should accompany widening, whether widening means diluting, as some hope, and therefore whether widening means more or less integration within the European Union. I can say unambiguously that I entirely share the analysis of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He got it absolutely right. He was spot on. To those who see widening as an alternative to deepening, I say that, in the history of the European Community, enlargement has always led to greater integration.
The economic and political forces that drive the process of European integration are invariably strengthened, not weakened, as more nations gain membership. The greater the number of members, the clearer and tighter--not the vaguer and looser--the institutional arrangements have to become to accommodate the decision-making among the increased number of member states. That, of course, means more complexity, more tough bargaining, more compromise and more give and take between that greater number of member states. It also means, inevitably, more majority voting within the European Union. We must face up to that. That has been the lesson of enlargement in the past and it will be the case as we move from a 12-member to a 16-member Union. It will certainly be true in spades with the coming challenge as the Union is enlarged through membership of east European countries.
Given the complexities and the difficult currents within the Union through which we must navigate, it is all the more important to have a clear and agreed vision of where we want to end up. We also need a good route map to enable us to get there. It is lamentable and unfortunate, and a great loss for our country as well as for the entire European Union, that that vision and end goal, as well as the route map, are notably absent from the Government's
Column 729approach. On its current performance and in the light of its current divisions, the Tory party seems incapable of providing them. I shall discuss where the European Union is going and some of the problems that it must face on the way. I shall be as blunt as some hon. Members who have already spoken, including the right hon. Members for Guildford (Mr. Howell) and for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). On the subject of further enlargement, I believe that a continent like Europe, which is so strongly linked by its geography, its history and its culture, and whose political stability and security is so dependent on close work and co-operation, should not in principle exclude any applicant country which wishes to join its union. That is an important observation and an important principle to establish.
We want to extend Europe's influence in the world and therefore we want the European Union to grow. We want to extend current European stability and security throughout the continent. Whether the impetus is to safeguard Europe from continental war, to expand trade and develop markets, to build up a third economic force to rival the might of the United States, Japan and the Pacific rim or to extend social benefits and environmental protection to all European citizens, the case for stronger co-operation and integration in an enlarged European Union is overwhelming.
Membership of the Union must depend on each new country's compatibility-- membership is neither a foregone conclusion, nor automatic. Given the different stages of economic, political and social development achieved in the Visegrad countries, their membership of the Union will not be gained speedily and smoothly. It will not happen overnight.
The challenge from east Europe is clear to us. Those countries are striving to become successful, stable and socially united market economies. The help that they need to restructure, to gain reassurance as well as security and access to markets can be provided only by the west. In the years to come, therefore, the central task for the European Union will not simply be to forge even closer integration among its existing members. That was the Maastricht agenda. It was an appropriate and relevant agenda, but we have moved on from it as events and changes throughout Europe have overtaken the thinking that underpinned it. We must reach out much further and concentrate increasingly on adapting the workings and institutions of the European Union to meet the needs of a larger and more diverse membership of nations.
That will involve a gradual process of association leading to stronger links, perhaps with the various pillars of the Union. The right hon. Member for Guildford made an apposite observation about that. I see no reason why the Visegrad four should not increasingly become associated with, or linked to, some of the political mechanisms and pillars of the Maastricht Union without necessarily becoming fully drawn into the economics of the Union, and far less becoming full members of it. The right hon. Member's observation about that was extremely important and valid. We want such membership to be gained finally, but it must be organised. The process of change and adaptation will be slow. It must come at a time when it can be afforded--when the costs can be borne by the member countries and, not least, by the European Union.
Column 730Whatever path the enlargement follows and whatever applicant countries are involved, some daunting issues, apart from cost, must be faced. I do not discount the need to overhaul radically the common agricultural policy or the complexities posed by the creation of economic and monetary union. However, without any question, as the Union grows, the biggest issue that will confront us will be the necessary rethink of the ways in which it makes its law, enforces its decisions and regulates its markets. Those issues represent the most daunting challenge to those of us who are committed to the development of the European Union.
We know what is wrong. A lurid picture of those problems was painted by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North and I do not mind saying that I accept a number of his criticisms, but I do so from a different standpoint. I acknowledge those problems through a desire to overcome them rather than in the hope that they should continue and possibly weaken the European Union.
We know about the strains and shortcomings in Europe's methods of work, the lack of transparency in its decision making, the poverty of national debate and scrutiny of its laws and decisions and the limited accountability of its officials. That democratic and administrative malaise within the Union is seriously undermining it. It is impeding its development, undermining its legitimacy and its public appeal. It is important to address those problems, because they are the cause of a growing public revolt. I do not exaggerate that, and I do not support the course that others would like us to follow in our denunciation, but we have witnessed the emergence of a public revolt against what is perceived to be a remote, out-of-touch and uncontrollable bureaucracy in the European Union. That must be dealt with if, as the Labour party and those of us who are strongly committed to Europe and approach the matter not as Euro-sceptics but as convinced Europeans want, the European Union is to be strengthened, its sense of purpose restored, and Britain's place in it reaffirmed.
Without stronger democratic development, hand in hand with greater economic integration and enlargement of the Union, public acceptance of both that integration and enlargement will be fragile and may even be placed in jeopardy. That is the key lesson to be learnt from the experience of the ratification of the Maastricht treaty and the negotiation of the entry of the four new member states whose accession we are debating tonight.
Important questions must be asked in closing the democratic deficit that has become such an issue in relation to the Union--how European legislation is initiated in the Commission ; how the Commission is formed, and who forms and approves it ; which decisions are taken and on what basis in the Council of Ministers ; what involvement the European Parliament has ; what scrutiny national Parliaments undertake ; whether an entirely new hierarchy of decision making should be instituted, with heavier procedures attached to the European Union's weightier acts ; and, above all, how we shall open all that to greater democratic scrutiny and accountability within our own nations and among our publics at home. Those and other issues need to be seriously addressed and debated as further enlargement is pursued. I do not for a moment describe that as a Euro-sceptic agenda. On the contrary, it is a positive, thinking, pro-European agenda, on which
Column 731those of us who are convinced Europeans should not for one moment cede to those who are hostile to the whole project.
It has been a recent orthodoxy, at least in the Foreign Office, to regard the intergovernmental conference in 1996 as an essentially limited and unambitious exercise--more a 3,000 mile service than a radical overhaul. I understand the nervousness of those who went through the whole Maastricht experience, whether they were officials, Ministers or those who participated in so many debates. I understand the reluctance of all those concerned to embark on anything that remotely resembles that Maastricht process. None the less, that attitude is wrong.
Even if the outcome is smaller than anticipated, our sights should be lifted and our horizons should be wider than that suggested by a mere 3,000 mile service. Our aims should be to put a lot into 1996, play a constructive part in the IGC, help shape the decisions and, most importantly, loudly proclaim and stand up for the IGC's results rather than gloss over its conclusions or run away from public debate about them. We should not refuse to stand up and give an account of what has been agreed at that conference for fear that public debate may re-open internal party divisions. That has bedevilled our approach to date and it has been very weakening as a result. We must give a lead. That may be hoping for more than the Government can give, hobbled as they are by the terrible internal tensions and divisions within their party, but that positive, creative approach to the IGC is extremely badly needed.
If Britain is to be remotely successful at the IGC, the Government, in their contributions to the debate, whether in Britain or among our European partners on the continent, must stop posing the choice for Europe's future- -whether it is enlarged or not--as between a minimalist, free-trade area with weak, shackled institutions and loose-knit intergovernmental working versus a centralised, federalist organisation, robbing its member states of their sovereignty and riding roughshod over their traditions and national Parliaments. Both options are equally unrealistic, irrelevant and undesirable. It is hardly surprising that, given that choice between almost nothing and rampant federalism-centralism, many of our constituents have become a little sceptical. It is a false, wrong-headed and thoroughly misleading choice to put to the British people.
A third option gives a different vision of a larger, more integrated Europe that is wider and deeper in its economic, political and defence integration, but whose institutions and working practices are radically reformed to make it more democratic, more accountable, more responsive, less wasteful and more efficient, with proper devolution of power outwards and downwards from the centre. That is the Europe that we need for the future. We must work for that and, above all, we must argue for it. If the present Government will not do so, the rest of us must.
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : I am grateful to be called to speak in this debate, especially following the characteristically thoughtful and profound contribution about Europe's future direction from the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson). I hope that I shall not embarrass him or his colleagues if I say that I agreed with a substantial amount of what he said.
I have never considered it a weakness if hon. Members substantially agree across the Floor of the House on
Column 732European matters. On major votes of principle on European matters and at all the developmental stages since we joined the European Community in 1973, the House has a strong tradition of big, built-in, natural majorities for the next significant stage of development. That may not have applied to specific legislation, in respect of which the whipping system and the Government majority system in whatever form were in play and where the majority was commensurate with the party reflection. But on the big issues of future European development, a great meeting of minds in the House has impinged on public opinion outside.
The European Movement, an all-party European movement of which the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) is an active member, holds its ordinary meetings in various places throughout the country. The reaction of the audiences, of all political affiliations and none--some people adhere to no party whatever--are encouraging and enthusiastic. Basically, subject to details and differences of opinion on individual items, people are keen on these developments. It always encourages but depresses us when audiences ask, "Why haven't the politicians told us that before ?" People want to know why they have had such a distorted account of the development of the European Community and Union from the press--and particularly from a number of malevolent broadsheet newspapers owned by non-British people who are pursuing a campaign of hatred towards the European Union. I use that strong word deliberately. The campaign is even more stark in the tabloids and it leads to a great deal of scepticism among the public because it creates a vacuum.
I am a keen Conservative and enthusiastic supporter of nearly all the Government's policies but am nevertheless of the view that, tragically, the problem was added to in our European election campaign. As has already been said, this is our first debate on the European accession treaty since the European elections. The Conservative stance in those elections was unnecessarily negative, which was a great shame ; ultimately, it sought merely to cover our internal divisions in the parliamentary party. We were so busy campaigning and trying to keep the party together that we ended up simply appeasing some of the more active--and, indeed,
geriatric--members of the local associations. One Sunday newspaper found in a survey that the average age of the most active members in our local Conservative associations was about 62, which is fairly disturbing in its own right.
I do not believe that that scepticism is other than simply the result of a vacuum--unfortunately, as I have said, a distorted account of these developments is given both in the House and in the British press. I do not believe that we are talking about the genuinely sceptical people who want to see a recrudescence of nationalism or a strong nation-statism of one sort or another, whatever the future structures. If we take the youngest generation, it is axiomatic that they are extremely keen and natural Europeans, and want politicians to take the lead.
In the German European elections, even though they were somewhat jolted by the lower-than-ever turnout--and others will remind me of the percentage if it is relevant to the debate--there was literally no difference of any sort in the European policy stance of the major parties. In Britain, that would be regarded as eccentric and bizarre. Basically, if the development of the European Union is a good thing
Column 733and is in the interests of this country and other member states, there does not have to be a huge difference of opinion.
If a Government succumb to the temptation--and I say this with great sadness--to create official state policy on the basis of appeasing a small number of my reactionary old-fashioned colleagues here who want to put the clock back not 20 or 50 years but to 1850--or probably earlier than that, and probably to before the Reform Act of 1832--rather than constructing a positive and enthusiastic policy in the literal, intrinsic and good interests of this country, they will inevitably get into increasing difficulties. I deeply regret that. The reality is that, if all Governments and parties go too far down the un-European path, that brings rather sad conclusions to those who seek to perpetrate those policies. We have seen that in the past, and I hope that it will not be repeated in the future because the public are crying out for strong leadership on these matters. That is why I think that there will be a strong welcome among the British people for the accession of these four members if the subsequent referendums in three of them also prove to be positive--despite the fact that there is inevitably a question mark over Norway.
If Norway votes no, membership is not compulsory ; it can go away. It does not have to join, but I would be sad if that happened. All the way through the strands of debate and argument in those countries, from the official Government statements to the debates in their own Parliaments, we have seen the enthusiasm for accepting the acquis communautaire. There is no question but that the people in those countries, and particularly their Governments and governing parties, feel that to be so.
I will not prolong the debate unnecessarily by quoting in detail. It just so happens, however, that I have the official negotiating statements made by those Governments recommending membership to their people. I shall quote the statement from a country which had a spectacular referendum result. The British press, by the way, said that the result would be either a no or a tiny yes margin--and look what happened. I did not see much exegesis and interpretation in the British press afterwards : there was no questioning of the sensible Austrian population about why they were so wise as to make this decision. I shall quote from the official Austrian Government's statement from the publication "On the Threshold to a New Europe" : "the European Union enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty stands for much more than the Single Market. The process of European integration was designed by the political vision of a Europe undivided and prosperous. So far, this work of peaceful cooperation has yielded in European history four decades of what we hope will remain a lasting peace. European integration"
that is what they want officially and that is what they voted for
"has also been an answer to hatred, nationalism and
genocide--phenomena that we believed to be a thing of the past." There is the answer. There is no question but that some of the young fogies in the Conservative party and elsewhere--there are one or two elsewhere, and I imagine that there are also old fogies in the Labour party--would like to put the clock back as well. There is no question but that, a few years ago, enlargement would have been the original idea for stopping the integration process. But they all accept the acquis communautaire.
Column 734I shall quote from the equivalent official statement from Corfu of the Finnish Government :
"The European Union is a key factor in strengthening the security of our continent. Security grows out of social responsibility, interaction, respect for human life and economic prosperity. In such a Europe there are no economic or social lines of division and all states are able to participate equally in the integration process. Enlargement of the Union promotes the enhancement of stability throughout the continent.
Finland supports the Union's economic and political objectives." To move on briefly and quickly, I shall quote from the Swedish press release which was issued in March when the negotiations were concluded :
"Swedish membership also means enlargement in a number of other crucial areas of cooperation : environmental issues, international efforts to combat crime, narcotics questions and refugee matters. All these areas are examples of problems which can only be solved by means of broad European and international cooperation.
Membership is the only option which will enable Sweden to participate in this cooperation."
Finally, Norway : once again, the British newspapers have attempted to say that hesitations will turn out to be no votes. I am not sure about that ; we will have to wait to see how one interacts with and impinges on the other. I quote from the official statement issued by the Norwegian Government at the same time as the Swedish one : "Our national interests are best served if Norway participates fully in the further development of Europe, on an equal footing with our Nordic neighbours and European allies.
All the countries of Europe have a great need for close cooperation on employment, economic stability, welfare, social security and environmental issues. Binding cooperation in these areas is especially important for a country with such an open economy as Norway."
Can we also get away from the phantasmagoric mythology which has been repeated time and time again by certain foolish people in this country ? It is suggested that, for some reason, there is a huge change of opinion among the other existing members--or, indeed, among the four new members, if the other three countries follow Austria's lead in joining the Union soon, which I expect them to do--and that there must be major hesitations and fundamental second thoughts about the development of the Union and a resiling from the Maastricht treaty and the Single European Act. There is no evidence at all that that is so--other than the harsh reality of the recession and the fact that that and mass unemployment produce crude political movements arising in various member states which may have a nationalistic impetus which is stronger than the more traditional and conventional parties in different countries, and other than the vacuum created by the gaps in the traditional enthusiasm for European matters which has always been a feature of the Conservative party and the Conservative Government. That is the solemn and dangerous thing which we in our party and in the whole of this Parliament must accept.
Again, that is illustrated by the idea that suddenly in the campaign it was suggested that there would be different speeds for different member states, and the total misrepresentation of what the Commission is about and what it has been doing. I do not disagree with the assertion by the hon. Member for Hartlepool that we need another searching look at all these matters, particularly because of enlargement. As the Union gets larger, we must have a more tightly drawn up, integrated structure. This is not an irony ; it is a reality if we are to make progress to the next stage--the greater use of qualified majority voting. To my mind, that is the quintessence of a democratic mechanism,
Column 735but it is regarded by some of our colleagues with scorn, derision, contempt and hatred. How can they describe that as being other than totally democratic and for the most part in the deep interests of this country rather than detrimental to it in future ?
We see the multi-speed idea suddenly arising. I hope that it will disappear as quickly as it has arisen because of its intrinsic superficiality. Some people use a different phrase--"variable geometry". I shall quote what Mr. Andriessen said several years ago about the matter of variable geometry and what I believe it means to those who are involved, whatever their domestic political party adherence. By the way, that is often much less relevant in the European Councils and discussions than we think here. There is no obsession with someone being a Conservative, a Christian Democrat, a socialist or of the far left. There is a working together with people from all sorts of different political disciplines.
I was struck by what Mr. Andriessen said in April 1991 : "Creative thinking is now required to define arrangements whereby the Community could offer the benefits of membership, and the accompanying gains for stability, without weakening its drive towards further integration and without subjecting the fragile structures of new market economies to excessive pressure. This could be achieved through affiliate membership, a new concept not provided for by the Community treaties or by the Europe Agreements, and at present not on the agenda of the inter-governmental conference. Affiliate membership would provide membership rights and obligations in some areas, while excluding others, at least for a transitional period."
No one is suggesting that notion now, because there is no suggestion of anyone applying for membership on that basis. To be sure, some non-member countries still have association agreements, as they have had for a long time. Nevertheless, the quotation provides an insight into the thinking of those who assumed that there might be an alternative way of applying for membership, with endless opt-outs and hesitations, and with strident demands for instant second thoughts, should countries wish to press ahead with certain developments in the Union. I hope that that puts the record straight.
The same idea lies behind the discussions that can be heard going on in the newly elected Strasbourg Parliament. No one is having second thoughts on these matters--none that I can detect--although there are inevitable differences about details of policy. That is only natural ; we would not expect there to be automatic consensus on all areas of policy. It would be very silly to suppose that there could be.
There are still internal party divisions in the House, although for the moment they may be papered over in the Labour party by a soi-disant unity. It will be intriguing to see how long that lasts. I would expect it to last at least until the next general election. There are some who believe that, if there were ever a Labour Government--which I hope there will not be--the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) would act as the leading old fogey in his party in a campaign against greater European integration.
If we go along with such ideas, this country will be in mortal danger of losing its way once again. The national sovereignty of member states is not under attack in any of these plans--if it were, I would not be in favour of them. I have never detected a single instance of loss of sovereignty ; those who think that it has been lost are suffering from fantasies of old parliamentary doctrine--ideas that are no longer part of the real world. Sovereign countries can work together in more and more closely
Column 736integrated structures and with qualified majority voting. That serves only to enhance their intrinsic national sovereignty. The more axiomatically desirable something is, the less we tend to discuss it. That was certainly true of NATO, which in the cold-war period was axiomatically considered a good idea. Of course there was an external threat, so the parallel is not exact, but because it was regarded as good it was felt that there was no real need to discuss it at length. That is how other member states often regard membership of the EU. They believe that it is axiomatically good for their national strengths and their future prosperity.
Why cannot we come up to date ? Why cannot the House of Commons be more mature about these matters and devise a cross-party consensus without the fear of being dull ? I am sure that the Minister would agree that we need a properly constructed policy and that we should not worry unduly about a small minority in our party, which should not be allowed to dictate terms and to demand that we agree to more of the items on its agenda : "You gave way to our hesitations over Maastricht. Sorry, but we forgot to mention another 11 items on our agenda."
It would be a most unwelcome development if the Conservative Government acceded to such demands. The Government will gain support if they succeed in recreating our traditional enthusiasm for membership of a growing and enlarged European Union.
Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North) : I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), who made a characteristically positive speech about the European Union. He criticised his own party's campaign in the European election. Whatever else may be said about that campaign, it was a resounding failure, in that it produced the Conservatives' worst result this century.
I want to refer later to what the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said about widening and deepening, but he claimed that I was one of his tutors on the subject of the EU. If so, he must have been an extremely inattentive student.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) on his thoughtful speech about the European Union and its direction. I also intend to take up several of his points. Like every other hon. Member who has spoken, I welcome the treaty of accession, signed in June of this year in Corfu and admitting Norway, Austria, Finland and Sweden. It is good news that the Austrian referendum gave a resounding yes to entry. I hope that that will prove a good augury for the referendums to be held later this year in Norway, Finland and Sweden.
In some ways, the four former EFTA countries are natural members of the EU. For many years, the Austrian economy has been closely tied to the German. The three Scandinavian countries are prosperous welfare democracies, which will strengthen the EU and which should have little difficulty adapting to membership. They will certainly have little difficulty supporting the social chapter. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West rightly pointed out that the Government are gaining no allies in that respect. On the contrary, Labour will gain allies when those countries join, as I hope they will.
From a purely economic perspective, the surprising thing is how long it took after Britain had joined the EC for