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Mr. Hendrick: I thank the right hon. Gentleman. In the light of his earlier remarks about timetables for enlargement, does he agree that timetables for enlargement would have been folly, given that the Irish have not yet given their consent in a referendum? Furthermore, is it not true that, as in the case of Denmark, there can be as many referendums as the Irish Government want?
There was an active debate in Ireland about the merits of the Nice treaty and the Irish people said no. Which part of that answer did the Government not understand? It is a pretty simple, straightforward answer.
On the point made by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick), by agreeing a rigidly integrationist treaty, which the Nice treaty is, weI mean we collectively, we the European Unionhave set enlargement back, for two reasons. One is that more integration sets up more hurdles for the applicant countries to jump. The second is that, as the Irish referendum result itself confirms, proceeding further with the process of integration generates a degree of political controversy which slows the enlargement process.
There is plenty of evidence that enthusiasm in some of the eastern and central European countries for accession to the EU is dwindling. The central European correspondent of The Times recently observed:
We cannot accept the Bill or the treaty in its current form and we will oppose it. We will ask the House to vote for our reasoned amendment. As I said earlier, it would be wrong to proceed with the Bill at present. The Foreign Secretary has clarified for the House that the treaty will fall unless all member states have ratified it.
There seems to be some reluctance through much of the rest of the EU to give voice to concerns about the treaty. Ex-President Giscard d'Estaing said in the French Parliament's debate on the treaty that, if the French people were offered a referendum,
There will be a real problem if we in the EU give the impression that we treat the views of the public on these issues with disdain. A modern Europe cannot treat the views of its citizens as an awkward impediment that has to be overcome. We should be listening to the concerns of our people, particularly those raised in the Irish referendum.
The EU and its leaders have failed to dispel the impression that they propose to bash on regardless of public opinion, and nothing that the Foreign Secretary said today in any way draws back from that. It is sad to see that that is the case.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that nothing could be more dangerous for public support for the EU, which I agree it is important to promote and sustain, than to treat the referendum result with the kind of contempt that we are hearing from him and from others.
To those who dissent from that, I have to say that the Government's determination to press ahead at full speed with the Bill at this time gives the impression that the views of the Irish public are set at nought. It shows no respect at all for the concerns that have been raised there. It is in that sense that EU leaders are treating the views of the public with contempt.
It is accepted that Giscard d'Estaing said that the French public may well not support this, and I should not be at all surprised. I suspect that the British public would not support the treaty if they were offered the opportunity in a referendum.
Mr. Cash: Having taken some part in the French and Danish referendums, as well as the recent Irish referendum, may I ask my right hon. Friend why we on this side of the House are not prepared at this juncture to have a referendum on the whole European issue, given that the single currency is certainly not the only issue at stake? There was no referendum when our referendum campaign managed to get 500,000 votes in favour of a
Mr. Maude: In the broad-ranging policy review upon which I feel the party is about to embark, I am confident that my hon. Friend will want to make that point. I am sure that he will be very active in that respect.
Mr. Maude: Since the Maastricht treaty was decided upon, we have gone considerably further down the path towards full-scale political integration. There is now a growing gap between what the public and the politicians think about these matters. Unless we make a connection by allowing the public to have a direct say on this specific issue, we will be in danger of allowing a big gulf to develop, which will undermine the very democracy upon which we depend.
In such a referendum, we would be very clear about what we favour. We will support parts of the Nice treaty that may be genuinely useful in enabling enlargement to occur. Protocol A of the treaty, to which the Foreign Secretary referred, deals with the reallocation of seats in the European Parliament and the reweighting of votes in the Council. I do not take as much pleasure as him in the fact that we can now override the wishes of smaller EU countriesa point upon which he dwelt rather gloatingly. His attitude did not seem quite in accord with the spirit of harmonious friendship in which we should be approaching the enterprise. The amendment to the size of the European Commission is also a welcome step and we support it.
We would like the reforms to go further. We would like the Commission to revert to an institution whose nature resembles much more that of an impartial civil service. That was very much the conception of its founding fathers. We would like the balance of power to shift from the European Commission to the Council of Ministers. We would also like moves to be made to strengthen democratic accountability. Each country could place a national Minister at the head of its Brussels delegation, to be directly accountable to national Parliaments. That seems to us the right approach to filling the democratic deficit. I hope that the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues will respond positively to such approaches, which are the right direction for reform of the European Union as an institution and will become more necessary as time passes.
Institutional reform is only a fraction of the final agreement at Nice, whose focus clearly lies elsewhere. Tighter integration is the defining characteristic of the treaty, and qualified majority voting is extended in 31 articles. We believe that this one-way process, in
We understand absolutely the desire of our partners in Europe to build structures that make unthinkable the sort of deadly and protracted conflicts that have devastated Europe all too often, but today, surely we could and should be seeking more modern and sophisticated ways of bringing Europe together. If one cares about European harmony, as we do, the very last thing to do is to extend the areas in which the majority can ride roughshod over the wishes of a minority. That is a recipe for discord, not harmony. It is a recipe for division, not unity.
The view from outside the European Union beltway is revealing. The Foreign Secretary referred to the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic; I shall quote the Speaker of the Czech Parliament, Mr. Václav Klaus. [Interruption.] It is worth listening to the quote because hon. Members may learn something from it. Mr. Klaus said:
A brief look back at the words of the Government and the previous Foreign Secretary before departing for Nice confirms the accuracy of Mr. Klaus's view of the treaty's emphasis. The previous Foreign Secretary made several statements about what he would do at Nice. He leaves a difficult legacy for his successor. He said that he would not regard a change to qualified majority voting on most of the items on the list of 50 aspects proposed by the French presidency as acceptable. He believed that only a minority would be acceptable. However, he had a change of heart at the negotiating table and agreed to QMV for more than half of them.
The right hon. Gentleman said that extending QMV to anti-discrimination measures would be unacceptable. He had a change of heart at Nice. He said that he was not wildly enthusiastic about the move on European political parties. Again, he had a sudden change of heart in the sunshine of Nice. Perhaps it was not unconnected with the proposal that he would take on the presidency of the European party of socialists. From his first days in office, the current Foreign Secretary knows that agreeing to extend QMV means that we lose influence and power.
The Government agreed to the social chapter in the early days of the previous Parliament. They claimed that it would have no bad effects, and that there was nothing to worry about. However, they had to spend the election
There is clear evidence of the loss of the influence of the House and the British Government through giving up the veto. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary can explain the benefits that accrue from extending QMV to article 13, which applies to anti-discrimination measures. How will it benefit the British public? What are the implications of extending QMV to articles 100(1) and 100(2)? In terms of the article, what does a shortage in the supply of specific products mean? To which products does it apply? What measures can we deploy since the previous Foreign Secretary signed us up to QMV? What great benefits flow to Britain from that?
What would the Government's response be if the Foreign Secretary were outvoted on the choice of a common foreign policy representative? That could arise through a change that his predecessor agreed at Nice. Are the Government happy that, in principle, it is possible for European foreign policy to be run in the name of the British Government, represented by a person whose candidature they did not support?
I have outlined only a handful of the commitments that the Government have signed. It is right to scrutinise them, and we shall do that in Committee. However, surely it is sensible to call a halt to the Bill and broaden the debate on the treaty's implications through a referendum. The public could then participate and express their views on it.
Let us revert to enlargement and the idea that the necessary and desirablein our viewreopening of the Nice treaty would delay enlargement. I have the direct quote to which I referred from the Foreign Secretary's predecessor, which comes from the debates after the Amsterdam treaty. He said:
We had earlier warned that further integration and further treaty changes that take us further down the path to political, old-fashioned, one-size-fits-all political integration will not expedite enlargement but delay it, as it is doing, by adding to the burden that applicants have to absorb. By generating political controversy, as evidenced in the Irish referendum, enlargement will be delayed.
When the Minister for Europe was a Back-Bench Member and a strong europe sceptic, he used to make the case for a decentralised EU. As time has passed and the process of globalisation has accelerated, the case for decentralising the EU becomes stronger and stronger. Let us be clear that the Bill is not about enlargement. If anything, it is an impediment to enlargement. That which is necessary for enlargement has not been addressed.