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Mr. Cook rose--

Mr. Mackinlay: Will my right hon. Friend also tell us what he is going to do about Gibraltar in the negotiations?

Mr. Cook: I should have anticipated that my hon. Friend would mention Gibraltar. We continue to pursue Gibraltar's interests in several different forums within the EU. In particular, we are seeking a way to implement the ruling that the people of Gibraltar should have a vote in European elections, but we are doing so through the common statute of the EU, not through the IGC.

I can reassure my hon. Friend on his other point. What is interesting about the Conservatives' demand for a pick-and-mix Europe is that that demand is not being made by any of the applicant countries. They all want to be full members of the EU, to play their full part in it and to accept their full obligations. Transitional periods may be required for some of the countries, but unlike the Conservative party, they know why they need to be full members and what benefits they will get from that.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe): Are there no circumstances in which the Government would veto the treaty of Nice?

Mr. Cook: If the treaty is produced by the time of Nice, it will be produced only because all member states, including Britain, have agreed to it.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a still a lack of clarity from Opposition Front-Bench Members about their attitude to

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enlargement? Does he agree that there are compelling political, social, environmental and trade reasons for enlargement and that western help and technology will be of great benefit to those countries, not least because of nuclear reactors such as the one at Koslodui in Bulgaria?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend makes an important point. One should remember that the improvements in nuclear safety in central Europe are improvements in our safety, so we stand to gain. I share my hon. Friends' disappointment at the comments that we have heard from Conservative Members. So far we have heard a lot of criticism of the Government's position at the IGC, and many new demands, but very little support for enlargement. I have to warn Opposition Members that what they have been saying in the House will sink like a lead balloon in a dozen capitals of countries in central and eastern which are trying hard to get into the EU.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): How many of the 12 applicant countries have said that it is their ambition eventually to have the euro as their currency? Will the principle of free movement of persons within the European Union apply to the applicant countries, and will the Foreign Secretary therefore welcome the free movement of Turks into Greece, Germany and Cyprus?

Mr. Cook: The principle of freedom of movement will certainly apply to all applicant countries when they succeed in becoming members. We have already said that negotiations with Turkey cannot commence until it conforms with the Copenhagen criteria on democracy, human rights and treatment of ethnic minorities. Turkey is therefore not one of the 12 that are currently in negotiations.

It is understood by most of the applicant countries that, realistically, they are unlikely to join the euro at the time of joining the EU, but many of them have their sights set on that eventual goal.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the countries that are applying will be very happy with Britain's approach to the number of commissioners and understand why there must be reweighting of voting in Council to ensure that smaller countries, which may be in the majority, will never be able to outvote the countries that have the majority in terms of population?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend touches on the very fair bargain that we are offering to smaller countries within the EU and those that are applying for membership; namely, that they may retain their commissioner, at any rate through the first wave of enlargement, but that we in turn need to have a fairer weighting of voting within the Council of Ministers. That is a reasonable bargain which has something in it for all the present members, and I hope that we can achieve that package in the negotiations.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon): Does the Foreign Secretary recall that the greatest motive for the advance of British interests in Europe has been qualified majority voting? If he intends to move towards a system in the Council of Ministers in which the votes are more

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proportional to population, will he contemplate a situation in which the big four members of the EU no longer enjoy the same number of votes?

Mr. Cook: At present, we would prefer that the existing broad banding be retained; that would mean that all four larger countries would remain in the same band. However, additional weight needs to be given to the votes of the four countries within that band. The right hon. Gentleman refers to votes being proportional to population: we seek an outcome that is more proportional, but we do not seek to disturb the principle that all member states are equal, so votes should not be strictly proportional to population. We do, however, require that fair recognition be given to the size of our population so that we do not find ourselves in the absurd position in which three of the four largest countries do not even constitute a blocking minority.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West): Does my right hon. Friend share my amazement at the false dichotomy proposed by the Opposition spokesman--that the choice is between a super-flexible Europe and a super-federalist Europe? Will he confirm that the Conservatives are the only advocates of those two models and that there is no way in which the IGC will bring either of those two models into being?

Mr. Cook: The limited remit for the IGC will certainly not create a European centralised integrated federal state. While travelling in Europe and meeting leaders of other European nations, I find no appetite for subordinating their nation to any grand federal European integrated state. President Chirac recently said that he believed not in a united states of Europe but in a united Europe of states, and Chancellor Schroder said that the nation state would continue to be at the centre of the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of Europe. We are very comfortable with those statements--we share that vision of the future of Europe.

Mr. John Townend (East Yorkshire): Is the right hon. Gentleman not at all worried that he is a leading member of a Government who are progressively turning the House of Commons into nothing more than a glorified county council? He failed to answer the question previously, so I shall repeat it: does he think that the IGC will result in more integration? If he does, is that in line with the Labour party's policy of creating a political union--a Europe of the regions? Finally, why did he not mention fishing? The fishing industry is on its knees because of the failure of the common fisheries policy. Why does the right hon. Gentleman not use the opportunity to negotiate a better deal for our fishing industry?

Mr. Cook: I did not mention fishing because it is not on the agenda of the intergovernmental conference. However, it is fair to say that successive Governments have had to wrestle with the extremely poor deal that the Conservative Government obtained on joining the common fisheries policy.

On the question of integration, I can only repeat the three main priorities that we have set out: more votes for Britain, a more sensible Commission, and a case-by-case

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approach to accept majority voting only when it is in our interests. If the hon. Gentleman chooses to describe that as integration, he is free to do so, but let us not try to frighten the public by dangling bogeymen in front of them.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Is it not true that, without some change in decision-making procedures, enlargement of the European Union will not be possible? Is it not also true that QMV currently serves our national interests well, given that we have lost only three of the last 393 votes carried out under QMV? Is it not true that changes in the rules of procedure of the European Court of Justice that could be achieved under QMV would be likely to bring about a speedier resolution to our dispute with France over the beef ban? Is it not about time that we in this country had a grown-up debate about such issues, instead of constantly trying to pretend that Britain loses out under any changes in voting procedure, which is far from the truth?

Mr. Cook: What is impressive about the Conservatives is their lack of confidence in Britain's ability to win a majority vote. In the past two years, we have been outvoted only five times; in the same period, Italy has been outvoted three times as often and Germany four times as often. If unanimity had applied on those occasions, Italy and Germany would have been able to veto decisions that were in our interests. The fact is that, on balance, majority voting has served Britain's interests.

Mr. William Cash (Stone): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), recently said of flexibility that the French would not stand for it? Now that they have changed their position, does he accept that flexibility will now not only be on the agenda but is likely to be accompanied by the removal of the veto in that respect, as the European Commission has proposed? Will he assure the House that the Government will insist on retaining the veto in respect of flexibility and that they will renegotiate those provisions?

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