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Mr. Hendrick: Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how eight member states wishing to co-operate in dealing with, say, drugs and cross-border crime might affect the rest of the European Union if it did not wish to participate? The example is particularly pertinent. Clearly, if the case
Mr. Cash: I dealt with the single market in the context of enlargement in a previous debate and I do not think that you, Sir Michael, would want me to go back over that. The real point is that the potential for chaotic policy making, with 27 member states all having different ideas as to the direction in which to go but knowing that inner-core policy is being directed by eight member states, must be obvious to anyone. I do not need to repeat myself: the permutations are horrific.
Some say that they welcome the move because it will destroy the European Union. I want a renegotiated Union with reduced functions in all areas of European government, which can be achieved without withdrawal if the Government are prepared to listen. The corollary is that the movement in the other direction, which is embedded in the proposals for enhanced co-operation, will produce a completely unworkable situation. If the whole European Union implodes as a result of the mistakes that are being made, I will accuse the Governmentmuch as I like the Minister. The danger is that the move will cause serious damage and difficulty for the United Kingdom. We are embarked on a policy that is bound to cause chaos and damage to the British national interest.
It is outrageous that we should be faced with these proposals. I am fascinated to know what the practical arguments are on which the Government seem to depend. I would like to know the philosophy that lies behind their decision to go along this route, because they could have vetoed the arrangements. They could even have stuck with Amsterdam, for heaven's sake, although I would have rejected that, too. In the blue paper that I wrote in response to the then Government's White Paper on the subject, I cut at the roots of the arguments, as I have sought to do for many years. There are some distinguished but misguided colleagues on the Conservative Benches who believe that variable geometry is the right way to go.
As I pointed out in the pamphlet "Associated But Not Absorbed", it would be fine if flexibility were dissociated from the acquis communautaire, but once one assumes that the acquis communautaire will bite on the whole system, one is trapped. Indeed, that very White Paperproduced by the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and the Minister with responsibility for Europesaid that we must not be trapped into a two-speed Europe. That is exactly what this move has led to. The Government have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. I am deeply concerned about it for all those reasons.
If we think of the range of matters covered in the vast corpus of law that is being createdthe treaties, the European Union single institutional framework within which the British parliamentary system and the voters, the people who matter, are being subsumedit is enough to cause anyone sleepless nights. If the Government are going to say that they are going into a federal system, get on with it and say it. All the halfway-house proceeding by stealth is creating more and more uncertainty. For heaven's sake, let the Government come out of the closet
The Minister opposed such developments at the time; I am sure of it because of our discussions in the past. Indeed, I confess to having voted yes in 1975, but I did so on the basis of what was then on offer. The problem was and remains that each treaty is a separate, cumulative series of laws. Enactment of the treaties via Bills such as this one serves to implement the arrangements in our domestic law. One was entitled to say as the thing developed, "I think that this is acceptable." To the chagrin of many of my Eurosceptic friends, I did accept, on the balance of judgment but with warnings, the Single European Act and the qualified majority voting that went with it.
I know that the Minister will be good enough to respond to my amendment No. 233, which deals with child abduction. I may or may not press that to a Division in due course. It will depend on the response that he gives, but I am interested in the effect that all these arrangements will have on the voters: my constituents and the constituents whom we represent in the House. They should not be put in the position the arrangements will put them in.
Enhanced co-operation covers such a vast range. For example, it will lead to some difficult questions in the run-up to 2004. A White Paper will be published in the next couple of days. I dare say the Minister has a copy already. It will contain, no doubt, a lot of hogwash about European government and European governance. In the past 18 months, I have asked the Prime Minister three times on the Floor of the House to answer a simple question: will he give the British people, in this Parliament, a White Paper to explain the constitutional and political implications of the issues involved: not only the single currency, but the whole European issue. As a new clause in my name underlines, such a response should not be confined to the single currency alone.
There are serious questions that the Government have to grapple with. As we move towards European government, I would like a straight answer from the Minister. He has the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), his bag carrier, next to him at the moment, and I understand that he must have a little word with him, but at the same time, would he be kind enough to answer this question? I would like to engage the attention of the Minister for a brief second: will the arrangements for enhanced co-operation be employed, or could they be employedthat is the operative wordto move us towards a European constitution? There are many reasons why I object to enhanced co-operation, but if the centre of gravity, which is the European constitution, is to be obtained by movement through these provisions, and the Government say that they do not want a European constitution, I would like them to answer that question clearly.
Enhanced co-operation is said not to undermine the single market. I am not sure what that means. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to explain. Nor is it supposed to undermine economic and social cohesion. The arrangements for so-called social cohesion offer a blank cheque book. As the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) pointed out only yesterday, whether the Government run out of money for public
It is said that the policy on enhanced co-operation must not violate the obligations, rights and competencies of member states that are not participants in it. In the previous debate, we had a dissertation on the issue of the neutral countries. However, one can appreciate the chaos that the arrangements are bound to create. The arrangements also have to respect the acquis communautaire, particularly in relation to Schengen. Nevertheless, clause 1 is described as a "last resort" clause to be used only when it is not possible to achieve integration by using "traditional" methods. As those traditional methods are to try to get everyone to agree to arrangements that they do not want, the arrangements are, in fact, "don't want" arrangements.
The euro itself is not part of enhanced co-operation. As I said, however, that pass was sold by John Major and the previous Government, who said that they would not prevent other members from going ahead with it. It was thus just a bit of waffle by the previous Government.
Fundamentally, the problem with enhanced co-operation is similar to the one that we have with economic and monetary union. Although we have an opt-out, we are still subject to European economic government. The British Government wish to join economic and monetary union one day, despite the fact that, as I said in my general election address, that will take us into the exchange rate mechanism for two years.
I wish that the official Opposition had made that point during the general election campaign. However, for reasons that completely escape mesuch as the fact that we had signed up to EMU by accepting the Maastricht criteriawe did not do so. Some Opposition Members may therefore have felt that it was not advantageous to raise that issue. Some of them may also have discovered that that fact did not help them today.
In operating many macro-economic rules, the Chancellor of the Exchequer acts as if he were already a member of EMU. The same will happen with policies under enhanced co-operation. We would all be bound within that general legal framework. National Governments who are constrained by sceptical electoratesthose of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, not to mention all the others who are fed up with being driven by their elites and blackmailed into accepting money in return for the subordination of their democratic arrangementswill rue the day when the truth finally emerges.
One could say much more on the subject, but I shall conclude[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am delighted that Labour Members have been such an attentive audience. The matters that we are discussing are important, and they are set out in the treaties. They are extremely dangerous to the future of this country. They are also very dangerous to the European Union. I look forward with interest to hearing the Minister's reply.