1. Nice is about shifting power in the EU from the Small States to the Big States. 2. Nice divides Europe into first-class and second-class Members, breaking up the EU partnership of legal equals. It provides the necessary legal path to making possible German Chancellor Schroder's plan to turn the EU Commission into a European Government, with harmonised company taxes . . . ".
Mr. Cash: The right hon. and learned Gentleman should cast his mind back to that particular referendum and debate, which took place some time ago. He should bear it in mind that the Irish Government clearly did not think the Irish people would vote the way they did. It was precisely because of the compelling nature of the arguments that they did so.
Mr. Connarty: I find the hon. Gentleman's comments slightly disingenuous. A number of my relatives live in Ireland. They told me that the biggest argument in their area was that, if Ireland agreed to enlargement, it would lose the grants it received from the EU: they would go to places such as Poland and other parts of the eastern bloc. That is what influenced a lot of people to whom I have spoken in Ireland to vote in that way. Believe it or not, other people do not read the esoteric documents that so delight the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Cash: It so happens that the document to which I have referred was sent to every person in the Irish Republic, so the hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that one. The Irish no campaign made the point that Nice is not primarily about EU enlargement. It argued that it is about dividing Europe along the lines that many of us have described today.
On the grants, to answer that question directly, long before the Irish referendum came up, everyone knew that the Irish grants were going to disappear by 2006 at the latest. The Irish have known that for the best part of eight years, so there is nothing new in it. I do not see what the hon. Gentleman's point is. They knew it before they even voted on the treaty.
We have seen the rules of play for new enhanced co-operation. If a country says no to an extension of EU co-operationfor example, because it has been rejected in a referendumthe countries that want it can simply go ahead on their own and use the Union's institutions for a purpose that voters may have expressly rejected. That procedure can be used for proposals on which a large majority of the European electorate, according to public opinion surveys, agree with the nation that rejected the proposals in a referendum. The fact that a scheme of enhanced co-operation can be voted through by majority decisionthat takes us back to the group of amendments that we considered at the beginning of these debateslimits the capacity of Government to negotiate in the EU.
As I said earlier and on Second Reading, two parallel operations are running together. One is enhanced co-operation and the other is qualified majority voting. They interweave to achieve the objectives. It is all part of a seamless operation to take us further and deeper into European integration. Indeed, during the negotiations on the treaty of Nice, the Danish negotiator, Mr. Cristofferson, often said that if this or that wording
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I fail to understand how the hon. Gentleman can argue that small countries are being bulldozed when each one of them has an absolute veto over the treaty. Unless every one of those countries agrees to the treaty, there will be no treaty. How can that be bulldozing them? They should make the decision in their interest. We should be debating what is in our interest, not going over the Irish interest, as the hon. Gentleman is.
Mr. Cash: Not so. The fact is that we are all affected by what goes on in the other countries. The difficulty is that there is a referendum only in a limited number of countries. That is the point that I am making.
One cannot say that the people of any particular country have consented to the invasion of their right to decide who governs themwhich is what the process is all aboutif they have not been given a referendum. That is why I argued for a referendum from the very earliest days after Maastricht. I ran the Maastricht referendum campaign, for which I obtained 500,000 signatures, and have consistently campaigned for a referendum ever since.
The consent of the people would be gained in referendums. The issue of whether a small country's negotiating position would be adversely affected and weakened is directly related to the issue of consent.
Dr. Ladyman: Our country has just had the ultimate referendum, a general election. Conservative Members said that the general election would be a referendum on Europe and European matters. Labour Members made clear our position on those matters and on the treaty of Nice and we won that general election. How therefore can the hon. Gentleman say that the United Kingdom has not been consulted?
Mr. Cash: I do indeed say that. First, in the last general election, the Government made absolutely no attempt to address the European issue. Secondly, the Conservative party failed in that election to address the issue properly.
The bottom line is that there are very important issues in this business of enhanced co-operation, extending to enhanced judicial co-operation and the treaty establishing the European Community. Enhanced co-operation would extend to a range of matters. The vast impact that it would have is a matter of gravest concern. Every line of this Billit is subject to a programme motion, thereby preventing us from explaining precisely what is proposed in the treatyis the equivalent of a whole Bill that it would take Parliament the best part of six months to consider and pass. That is what is so undemocratic about these arrangements.
We are legislating on a monumental scale. Many of the lines of this treaty which we shall be enshrining in statute are the equivalent of an entire Bill. I suggest that Labour Members carefully consider how democratic that is.