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Mr. Campbell: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a possible logical consequence of his argument would be a constitution for Europe that laid down the very principles that he describes?

Mr. Cash: I also tabled a new clause on that subject, which I regret was not selected. I see the twinkle in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's eye. The irony is that, under the arrangements leading up to 2004, the constitution that would emerge by then would produce an epicentre—thanks to the acquis communautaire, the existing legal framework and the crazy idea that there will be enhanced co-operation in eight member states even if the total number of member states rises to 27. There will

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be a core or a centre of gravity that will take that European constitution along a line, together with QMV and enhanced co-operation and the so-called flexibility that goes with it. That, too, is a wood-for-the-trees point because the line will go in only one direction. I therefore dispute the right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition, because I take the contrary view about a constitution that would work properly and that I would consider safe or desirable for the EU. That is the key point.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): Hooray!

Mr. Cash: I shall try to deal briefly with the question of Britain's influence. Much has been made of that by Ministers and by the Secretary of State in his Second Reading speech. As I pointed out in the Select Committee during my cross-examination of the former Minister for Europe, Britain's influence is not only on the wane, it is being fundamentally reduced as more vetoes are abolished by the Council of Ministers.

At Nice, about 43 vetoes were lost—the exact number depends on how the tally is made. In the 1971 White Paper, when the House was so badly misled, such matters were described as imperilling the fabric of the Community. That is happening at present. The Community is in peril because of those mistakes. Only 19 vetoes were lost at Amsterdam. They were largely negotiated by the previous Conservative Government, although I was not enthusiastic about that, and inherited by the Labour Government. I wrote a blue paper—a 25-page hatchet job—on that.

Forty-one vetoes were lost at Maastricht. In conjunction with many of my hon. Friends, I opposed that. Many of those hon. Friends are on the Opposition Benches at present. Some hon. Members who have recently arrived on these Benches would most emphatically have been with us during those great and heady days when we held the Government to ransom, fighting for the interests not only of the United Kingdom but also of Europe as a whole.

Thirty-seven vetoes went in the Single European Act—I have dealt with that—and 38 went in the treaty of Rome.

Although those are demonstrations of the emasculation of our democracy, the standard justification for the proposed massive extension of QMV at the Nice intergovernmental conference is that the veto would

So the official line from the EU is that these 43 vetoes would somehow prevent enlargement or lead the Union to grind to a halt.

It is argued that the single market has come to be understood, quite conveniently from the Brussels perspective, as including virtually every aspect of European Union business. The removal of barriers to trade and obstacles to the free movement of people has become a convenient excuse to centralise more and more powers at the EU level. That is where the concept of subsidiarity is upturned.

As I said at the time of the Maastricht treaty in 1990, the first time that I heard the word "subsidiarity" I realised, having been brought up by the Jesuits and recognising it as a concept that comes from Catholic

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theology, that the concept of subsidiarity was a con trick. It is based on the assumption that there will be a hierarchy of norms—a hierarchy of government—and in jurisprudence that is perfectly well understood. The only problem is that one should not apply religious theological concepts to matters of politics. I think that that is all I need to say on that.

Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend and I agree entirely about the risible concept of subsidiarity, but would he care to recall the verdict of the celebrated Lord Mackenzie-Stuart on the subject of subsidiarity, for was it not that great man who described subsidiarity as

and said that those who regarded it as a constitutional safeguard were showing

Mr. Cash: Yes indeed, and after he had been challenged he had the good sense to repeat it—in one of the great Hamlyn lectures, I believe. I very much appreciate that intervention. It is a reminder that some very eminent jurists know what rubbish subsidiarity is. It is not just rubbish as a concept; its practical application causes changes in domestic law that are bad for the people who must live under it. That is the key point.

I return to the subject of the effects of the new voting system. I know that there are those who disagree with me in this respect, but I have made my case in very many publications and articles and no one has taken issue with me about it. It would be easy to try to do so and I wish that people would. However, I simply make my proposition, which is that the elite of Germany has increased its influence. It is the unspoken word; I cannot imagine why. One need not be at loggerheads with everyone to point out the truth or the facts. It is a fact and, to my mind, not standing up to it, not explaining it and not dealing with it is simply walking away from reality.

Mr. Hendrick: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cash: No; I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman did himself no good with his previous intervention, so I will not allow him this one.

The new voting system, which is called double majority voting, was introduced in the Nice treaty and it will especially benefit the German Government. First, it is useful to recall how the qualified majority voting system worked until Nice. A decision required a 71.26 per cent. share of the vote to be approved: 62 of 87 votes in the Council of Ministers. That meant that the votes of countries accounting for 58.16 per cent. of the EU's population would constitute a majority.

Following Nice, the new procedures for QMV are very much more complex. Whenever a decision goes to QMV in the Council of Ministers, a country can demand—the Minister knows it—that double majority voting be used. Double majority voting requires two conditions to be met for a decision to be adopted.

First, in a 27-member EU, a proposal must gather 258 of 345 votes, or 74.78 per cent. of the votes in the Council of Ministers. In other words, a significantly higher threshold is required, making it easier to block a proposal, although it would be harder for existing member states to block it as their share of the vote would be lower.

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Secondly, the proposal must be backed by countries representing 62 per cent. of the EU population—the so-called population safeguard. But thanks to that second clause, the so-called safeguard, Germany and two other large countries, such as France or Italy, will be able to block anything that they do not like, whereas Britain will need more than two other countries to vote with it to oppose undesirable decisions from its point of view.

The blocking minority is 88 votes in the Council, which means that Germany would not have been able to block decisions so easily in the absence of the population requirement. Therefore, many EU observers are calling Chancellor Schroeder the victor of Nice. It was all over the papers at the time and it was the German papers that were saying it. Following Nice, Germany will start to lose its traditional deference to the EU. As I pointed out on Second Reading, a fundamental geopolitical shift in the balance of power in Europe is taking place, but it is being done through lego-political power play.

Mr. Shepherd: I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. Many across the country—

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman should remember to address the Chair.

Mr. Shepherd: My hon. Friend is recognised as one of the greatest authorities, in the legal sense, of the understanding of these treaties and constitutions developed through the European Union—he probably has greater understanding than revealed in anything that the Foreign Office has produced. The burden of my hon. Friend's argument is that the transference by the proposed limitation on the veto is such that it changes the constitutional order within Europe. Therefore, many of my constituents are asking why the Danes do not require a referendum in this instance. They ask me whether it is because the corruption of the Danish constitution is now so great that this further transference of power to the Community or the European Union is such that the Danes no longer have the scope for a referendum on such important constitutional issues.

Mr. Cash: My hon. Friend raises an important point, again on the matter relating to a referendum and its impact on qualified majority voting, because the referendum is the safeguard for the electorate where the elite, through qualified majority voting, has been taking decisions that, as a result of the scrutiny processes throughout the European Union, are nothing less than a farce.

The bottom line is that the Irish, with their tremendous good sense, voted against the elite, as did the Danes in their referendum on the euro, when every single radio and television programme and newspaper was against them. The people know best, and if I may say so, as a Tory, it follows that great dictum of either Lord Randolph Churchill or Disraeli: "Trust the people." I put more trust in the people than I do in the House or the Council of Ministers. The plain fact is that it is for the people to take that decision, and they need to be properly informed about it.

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