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Mr. Leigh: We are constantly told that we need qualified majority voting to be extended if an enlarged EU of up to 25 nation states is to make any progress at all, but what great queue of directives that are in Britain's national interest will come about only because of such an extension? Will my hon. Friend confirm that our policy remains what it was at the European elections--no extension of qualified majority voting?

Mr. Maples: I agree with my hon. Friend; that remains our policy. I believe that the objectives of enlargement and institutional reform can be achieved without the extension of qualified majority voting.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Maples: May I make a little progress?

I am concerned about the call for new powers forthe President in the nomination and selection of Commissioners. Mr. Prodi has made it clear that there is no doubt in his mind, or anybody else's, that he wants the Commission to be the Government of Europe and himself to be its President. I do not believe that we should cede those powers to the President of the Commission; they should remain with the Council of Ministers, which is properly and democratically accountable.

What really worries me about the IGC is that the agenda outlined by the Foreign Secretary is not the one that the President of the Commission has. When he was appointed President, he formed a committee--the so-called wise men's committee--of Simon, Dehaene and von Weizsacker to look at degrees of institutional reform that would be necessary to make a much larger Community work. Its report is just what he wanted because it gives him the agenda that he wants, which is very dangerous and one that many others share.

The report calls for a massive extension of qualified majority voting to almost everything else: justice, home affairs, common foreign and security policy and some taxation issues. It calls for the EU to be given legal capacity--effectively, to be made a state--for the purposes of international negotiations and making treaties and for the division of treaties into two texts, one of which could be amended by qualified majority voting. We are now talking about surrendering the veto not only over tax, home affairs and justice, but over future treaty amendments. The Prodi agenda talks about integrating into treaties a charter of fundamental citizens rights, although the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leicester, East, has said that the provision is not intended to be enforceable. I hope that he is right, but his intention is not shared by Mr. Prodi and others--they want it to be enforceable.

As we have seen before, such things start small--as a good intention and good words--and I have referred to the example of the social charter. It was never intended to be a basis for legislation but, within five years, it had become the social chapter. Ministers should be careful because things that start as sentiments and expressions of

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good intention wind up in the law of the European Union. Mr. Prodi makes no bones about his agenda; that is what he wants and many other European politicians share that aim. However it is wrapped up, it is an agenda for a European super-state and the Commission would become the Government of Europe, which is totally unacceptable to us and, I believe, to most British people. That is the ultimate dividing line and, if the Government allow it to be crossed, we shall inevitably be on a one-way street to a single European state.

Mr. Bercow: Does my hon. Friend agree that, instead of simply saying that he intends to keep the veto in relation to defence, border controls and tax, it is time that the Foreign Secretary declared categorically that he will vote to stop in its tracks any treaty that removes or diminishes our national veto in any of those three areas?

Mr. Maples: My hon. Friend has made a good point. I raised that very question with the Foreign Secretary three and a half weeks ago, during Foreign Office questions. One of the reasons for my doubts about whether the Foreign Secretary really means what he says about going to the intergovernmental conference at Helsinki and maintaining our veto is the fact that, on that occasion, he refused to give the commitment that I sought--the commitment that my hon. Friend seeks now.

Mr. Robin Cook rose--

Mr. Maples: Before I give way to the Foreign Secretary, let me make clear what the question is. [Interruption.] It is not possible to answer a question without knowing what that question is.

If the treaty contains provisions that erode the veto in regard to any of the issues that we are discussing, will the Government refuse to sign it?

Mr. Cook: If the Government go to Helsinki, as we are committed to doing, and oppose qualified majority voting on those issues, there will be no treaty making such a proposal for us to sign. The hon. Gentleman seems not to understand what actually happens during negotiations of this kind. Let me explain our position, for the avoidance of doubt. Our position is that unanimity will remain on all those issues and, if we do not agree to what is proposed during the negotiations, there will be no such treaty.

I am delighted to discover that the hon. Gentleman apparently shares my view of what the agenda for the intergovernmental conference should be. Will he now explain what his leader meant when he said, "The next treaty will contain a flexibility clause, or there will be no treaty."? Does the exchange that took place at the Dispatch Box mean that the Conservatives have dropped their commitment to a flexibility clause, or have they recognised that they cannot in all conscience ask for enlargement in such circumstances?

Mr. Maples: I dealt with this matter at length in last week's foreign affairs debate. [Interruption.] I did. I spoke at length about what we wanted in terms of a flexibility clause, and our policy remains the same. If the treaty has been negotiated but not ratified at the time of the next general election and if we form the next Government, we shall negotiate the inclusion of a

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flexibility clause along the lines that we have described, and we shall not accept a treaty that does not contain such a clause.

Mr. Cook rose--

Mr. Maples: I have already given way to the Foreign Secretary. [Interruption.] I have already given way to him.

What I said to the Foreign Secretary was exactly the same as his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). The Foreign Secretary said that he would not sign a treaty in those circumstances; indeed, he said that there would be no such treaty. Effectively, the right hon. Gentleman has said that there is no way that the British Government, represented by him, would put their name to such a treaty. We are saying exactly the same: that is what we would do if we could not get what we wanted.

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman and I are not saying the same thing at all. I can stop any qualified majority voting on those issues, because unanimity would be required for a change to be made. The hon. Gentleman's problem is that inserting a flexibility clause would require unanimity, and no one else in Europe supports him. I repeat my question. Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that a Conservative Government would block the treaty, and block enlargement of the European Union?

Mr. Maples: I have made it clear that the answer to the question, "Would we refuse to sign the treaty in such circumstances?" is yes. Enlargement is proceeding separately--[Interruption.] It is. The enlargement negotiations are taking place with each--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. I cannot allow hon. Members--or right hon. Members, for that matter--to shout at each other across the Floor.

Mr. Maples: The enlargement negotiations are proceeding separately, and the timetable relating to them will come into effect considerably later than the Helsinki treaty, or the Lisbon treaty, or whatever it will be called. I think that the earliest new accession will be in 2004. There is plenty of time in which to sort this out. I must say that I have rather more faith in my party's negotiating abilities in those circumstances than I have in the right hon. Gentleman's.

Flexibility is one of the issues on the Helsinki agenda, and it is one of the issues that a fair number of other people want to discuss. They want to talk about flexibility--about some countries proceeding with further integration at a faster rate than others. What we want is flexibility in both directions, as I explained in some detail last week. We must not just allow deeper integration on the part of some countries; we must allow others to integrate at a slower pace.

The final item on the agenda that I want to mention is the millennium declaration, which is supposed to be a statement of vision of the European Union into the next millennium. Given the Foreign Secretary's speech,there is not much chance that the Government will

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contribute much, as they have to wait to be told by others what their vision is. I suspect that they will just carry on as usual.

What really worries me is that the Prodi vision will be the vision that is outlined as the "aspiration" in that declaration: massive extension of qualified majority voting, more power for the Commission--in short, an integrated Europe. The vision is of a European super-state, in which business will become increasingly uncompetitive, in which calls for protectionism will be heard, in which NATO will be fatally undermined, and in which the voice of the nation state will inevitably be subsumed.

That is one vision of Europe. It is widely held. It is the vision that the Government dare not challenge, but we have a different vision. It is of an outward-looking, free market, free trade, competitive Europe, whose security is founded on the Atlantic alliance. Above all, it is of a Europe of independent nation states.

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