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Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): Just 10 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, 10 of the 13 countries recognised as applicants were members of either the Soviet empire or of the Soviet Union. Is that fact not a measure of the historic importance of the decisions that were taken at the Helsinki summit? To show that Europe recognises the importance of that, can my right hon. Friend give us an idea of the working assumptions or the target dates that he and his colleagues have set for the first batch of countries formally to join the European Union? If we do not grasp this historic opportunity, disillusion may well set in.

The Prime Minister: Of course, all the countries are treated the same and according to the same criteria. In a sense, it is up to them how ready they get. In the conclusions, we say that we would want to be ready ourselves to welcome them in by 2002 if they comply with the conditions of entry.

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire): In order to make progress on its application to join the European Union, has Turkey been required to undertake that it will withdraw its troops from northern Cyprus? Are we, Greece and Turkey going to continue as guarantors of the 1960 Cyprus constitution, or is that task going to be transferred to the European Union?

The Prime Minister: No, it is not a requirement or precondition for Turkey's accession, but general words in the conclusions of the communique make it clear that there is an obligation on people to do their best to resolve border disputes. We have also made it clear--this was welcomed by Cyprus and by Greece--that the resolution of the dispute in Cyprus cannot be a precondition to Cyprus's accession. The hon. Gentleman will find that

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most people recognise the importance of resolving the dispute, but do not want it to be a precondition on either the accession of Turkey or the accession of Cyprus.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Since the Prime Minister has confirmed to the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Sir D. Madel) that there is now no obstacle to Cyprus being admitted to the European Union--provided, of course, that it complies with the appropriate conditions--will my right hon. Friend further confirm that it would, to say the very least, be anomalous if one country in the European Union had a third of its territory occupied by a country that is a candidate for EU membership? Will he confirm that pressure ought, therefore, to be placed on Turkey to withdraw those forces as soon as possible, under appropriate arrangements, and that the best thing that Turkey can do to advance its candidature will be to urge Rauf Denktas to make an appropriate agreement with the lawful Government of Cyprus?

The Prime Minister: The most helpful thing that I can say is that of course we want the dispute in Cyprus to be resolved. As I said, there is a general obligation on countries to do their best to resolve such disputes. Under the auspices of the UN, talks are being conducted between the respective parties in Cyprus, and I hope that they will be successful. At this stage, that is probably the most helpful and diplomatic thing for me to say.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): What benefit does the City derive from the Prime Minister's refusal to say that, if necessary, the Government will veto the withholding tax?

The Prime Minister: I have just that I would do that, so the City is probably not in the same state of ignorance as the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this European summit, like all European summits, was difficult and that he had vigorously to fight our corner? Is not that logical and inevitable in a Europe of nation states? Is not the alternative, of Britain being outside the European Union, a position in which we would have no leverage, no influence and no allies? Whether the beef ban, the withholding tax or defence co-operation were under discussion, our voice would count for nothing. Is not that the harsh, cold reality--a reality that the Conservative party does not even begin to address?

The Prime Minister: Of course all countries fight their corner on issues that affect their vital national interest, and this country should be no different from any other. [Interruption.] Conservative Members shout that we have not done it very successfully, but I repeat that at the Berlin summit we got a better deal than any other country could possibly have got. We kept the rebate when everyone was saying that, on enlargement, we would have to give it up. The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues were saying that we would negotiate away the rebate, but we did not. We kept it, and we added to that a good deal for

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objective 1 status and structural funds, and we did so in a way that did not isolate Britain from anybody. That, in my view, is the proper way to negotiate.

As a result of our negotiations, there is a change in the balance of contributions between Britain, France and Italy. Although we shall still be big net contributors, our contributions will, in future years, be far more in line with those of comparably sized countries. That is safeguarding our interests.

I remind the House that the Conservatives have been accusing me of being isolated on the withholding tax. I am not isolated, but if I were, it would be precisely because I am prepared to stand up for this country's interests. The Conservatives want me to do what they, as a party, now urge, because they have given in to the Thatcherites who, I am afraid, now run the party. That is why I draw a distinction between the way Margaret Thatcher negotiated for the first six or seven years of her premiership andthe Conservatives' later negotiating position. Margaret Thatcher negotiated the single European market, and in the course of that she gave away the veto on more items than any Prime Minister before or since. She did so entirely justifiably because that was in Britain's interests. She took Britain into the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system.

All that tends to be forgotten, but it is true, and it was only in the later period of Conservative Government that Britain moved into a position of outright oppositionalism and obstructionism. It is a tragedy that the Conservative party forced the next Prime Minister--against his will, I believe--into a similar position, so that on BSE, the ban was imposed and we had a beef war, which is generally agreed to have been a rather humiliating spectacle for this country. I repeat: no matter how much parts of the media or of the Conservative party urge on me a similar course, I shall not pursue it. It is utterly bogus patriotism and it is pretending to stand up for this country's national interests when actually they would be undermined.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): When the Prime Minister reflects on Schroder's flouting of the single market on Mannesmann, and Jospin's flouting of European law on beef, as well as, indeed, his own isolation on the withholding tax, how does he assess progress towards the vision of Europe that he and Mr. Prodi share?

The Prime Minister: I am not aware that Chancellor Schroder has intervened in the single market. He is perfectly entitled to make his view clear. I have made it clear all the way through that I believe that the European market is right, and that that is how things should happen. It is curious that the right hon. Gentleman attacks me over these issues, because of course he would like to get out of the European Union altogether. He says to me that I should be doing better in the EU, but I am afraid that his mouth is not the one from which such sentiments should be uttered. That is the choice. It is the Conservative party's tragedy that, I am afraid, the right hon. Gentleman finds more support on the Opposition Benches today than I would ever have thought possible.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): The decision on Turkey will be greatly welcomed by most of the members of the Turkish Parliament, who are well aware of the concerns in western Europe over the future

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of Cyprus, and want to enter the European Union as soon as is humanly possible. Furthermore, it will be a spur to those in the Turkish Parliament who want to implement an agenda of modernising Parliament, including changing the way in which it operates.

The Prime Minister: I wholeheartedly agree with that. Managing to secure this step forward is a great tribute to the Finnish presidency, which performed magnificently throughout its six months; to Turkey, for having acknowledged that the rest of the EU wants to involve it in the candidate status; and to Costas Simitis and the Greek Government, who had the courage to grasp the opportunity. They deserve our congratulations. It has long been our desire to see Turkey more closely involved in the EU. Such involvement is of very big strategic interest to this country and the EU.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): Summits of this nature have their difficulties and successes and, in fairness, the Prime Minister has emerged quite well from a very difficult weekend. On the withholding tax, he has stood firm--contrary to the suggestions of some. On Turkey, he has taken a lead that many of us welcome. As one who has taken an interest in Turkey and Cyprus for the past 25 years, I welcome the decision in Helsinki. Will the Prime Minister commend the Finnish presidency for the way in which it handled the matter? I see the different nuances of statements on Cyprus; I can read between the lines and I welcome the change in our Government policy on Cyprus.

Coming from an agricultural constituency, I am obviously very disappointed at the French approach to the beef issue. However, one cannot stop people breaking the law--that is the problem--and they are breaking the law. Now that the matter is going into court and will probably take about 18 months to resolve, will the Prime Minister support the UK beef industry in any claim for damages that may arise following the Court's decision? The Prime Minister mentioned 13 countries, but we cannot really get into Italy because we would have to go through France. Therefore, a beef claim could be built, and will need support.

The summit commended the political process in Northern Ireland and asked for the implementation of the Good Friday agreement in its totality. Did all those present realise that that meant the complete disarmament of all illegal arms in Northern Ireland by May next year?

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