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7.56 pm

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): I had intended to start my speech by saying that the single word "Europe" seems to inspire extraordinary feats of imaginative power, but I had not reckoned on the speech of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly). It seemed to beat even the imaginative powers of Nicholas Ridley, who said years ago of the European Union:

Myths and misunderstandings may not matter in many areas of life. I say that as someone who, as a child, believed for many years not only in Santa Claus but that the Lord's prayer went, "Our Father, a chart in heaven, Harold be thy name." Why Harold should have been His name, I have no idea. I was also confused in the collects by the author of peace and the lover of concord, which at least had some European context.

It is very important that we do not have myths and misunderstandings about this issue. When I go round my constituency in the Rhondda, it is very rare for anybody

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to mention the European Union to me. However, a few people do and one of the most common things said is, "I voted for a common market, not the European Union." We have heard that sentiment several times today from Conservative Members.

To say that there is a difference between a common market and the European Union is a false dichotomy. The free movement of goods when it comes to buying cars at EU prices in this country should, of course, be easier. However, without addressing issues of state aid and unfair competition from article 87, which was article 92 in the treaty, it will be impossible to bring about a common market.

The United Kingdom is the only country in the world, apart from the United States of America, that has a positive balance of trade in audio-visual services. If we are to achieve further gains in selling our television programmes, films and CDs in France, Germany and Italy, we will have to change copyright law and ensure further harmonisation across the EU.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bryant: The right hon. Gentleman has been here for hardly any of the debate, so I do not think that I will give way.

Mr. Redwood rose

Mr. Bryant: No, I will not give way. The right hon. Gentleman has not been here for long and some of us have suffered extremely lengthy speeches from his colleagues.

Chris Grayling: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me. As he is not certain about the difference between the common market and the European Union, may I ask him to comment on a specific example? I have friends in the police force who were forced to change their shift pattern as a result of a European directive. They did not want to, but had to change to a pattern that made them more tired and meant that they enjoyed the job less and did it less effectively. Why is it necessary for decisions about the shift patterns of our police forces to be dictated at a supranational level?

Mr. Bryant: I do not know the instance to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but on the broader issue of how we achieve a common market, we have to stray into areas that might otherwise be considered to have nothing to do with trade. As I said, copyright could be considered to be an area that is primarily of cultural significance and, therefore, the prerogative solely of member states, but if we are to achieve a common market in audio-visual services, we have to consider copyright.

Dr. Ladyman: The same directive to which the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) referred provided tens of thousands of people with holidays for the first time.

Mr. Bryant: Indeed.

There is now a common European market in drugs. That is an established fact and, therefore, we have to have a common law enforcement policy. It need not cover

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every detail, but we need enhanced co-operation between the police and other organisations throughout Europe if we are to deal with a problem that affects us in this country.

One can produce countless examples to show that trying merely to produce a common market for which people originally voted requires us now to stray into areas that might otherwise be considered as creating a union. What people voted for many years ago is also no longer relevant because the world has changed. When I was born, people did not travel as much as they do now. The health service in other countries now matters just as much to my constituents as the health service in this country, not least because a quarter of them travel to Spain every year. Whether they receive support from the health service in Spain, and the quality of that service, are what matters to them. It also matters to them whether the aeroplane in which they are travelling has met certain safety standards and whether health and safety regulations are incorporated in the laws of Spain, France, Italy, Germany and all the other countries they visit. Consumer protection is an essential part of the changed world, which we must now incorporate to meet the original objectives of the union.

Another misunderstanding that has been perpetrated by Conservative Members is that it is an issue of either the United States or the European Union—we have to be with one or the other. That view is particularly prevalent on the Tory Benches and may, indeed, be shared by the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith). I gather that one of his prominent supporters in the Chingford Conservative party told him immediately after he announced that he was standing for the leadership that he would rather be in the 53rd state of America than join Europe, and apparently the right hon. Gentleman agreed. We will ignore the figures, which are obviously a mistake—but Conservatives are not very good on facts. It is patently untrue that Britain has to make a single choice between the United States of America and the European Union.

My rather more obscure difficulty with some of the views expressed today—another myth—stems from further back, to 1848, when Palmerston said:

Those words are often repeated. It is profoundly wrong that we should now try to maintain that view as the foundation stone of our diplomatic efforts. As we must know by now, allies for a day are not allies that are worth having any longer. True patriotic diplomacy builds long-term, not just short-term, alliances. Our interests change from year to year.

On the treaty, we need to ask only three questions. The first is whether further reform is desirable and/or necessary. We have already heard the Conservative answer. We heard it in May 1992 when, in his maiden speech, the Leader of the Opposition said:

He was referring to the Maastricht treaty—and Conservative Members clearly agree with that view now, judging from what they have said today.

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At that time, however, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to oppose any change. Even if that treaty had been changed, as the shadow Foreign Secretary suggested we might change this treaty in some a-la-carte way to make it acceptable, it would not have been improved in his view—this is obscure, I fear. He also said that a bite from a Rottweiller hurts just as much as a bite from a Pekinese. [Interruption.] That was the view of the Leader of the Opposition, who was wrong then and is wrong now.

Enlargement is vital. Whatever some hon. Members have said, it is at the heart of the issue under debate. Improved trade for United Kingdom businesses will undoubtedly follow from enlargement. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the problems when Spain acceded to the EU, but British trade with Spain increased by 40 per cent. in the two years following its accession. We can expect similar benefits for British industry with the accession of the other 12 applicant members.

United Kingdom industry needs to compete on a level playing field with that of Poland and the other countries that will be coming into the EU. That will not happen unless we advance enlargement at some speed. Furthermore, we need the applicant countries to adopt the principles that we have to adopt on state aid. Improved travel safety throughout the 12 applicant countries would also be good. Hon. Members have also said that politics in eastern Europe will be stabilised, which would be an essential result of enlargement. I submit to Conservative Members that that cannot happen unless the decision-making processes of the EU—in the Council, the Commission and the Parliament—change. There are too many Commissioners. There should be fewer if the Commission is to do its business effectively and expeditiously. It is unimaginable for 27 countries to produce 35 Commissioners. The process of appointing the President of the Commission is unsustainable now, and would be even more so. If we do not make the changes required by the treaty of Nice, it will lead to poor decisions. The common commercial policy of article 214 is a significant advance, as is the improved article 31, which will make a significant difference for this country.

We need to improve the effectiveness of the EU in international negotiations. The French determination to ensure that cultural and intellectual property issues are always treated under unanimity may in the long term prove to be a mistake for this country. Of course, we need the speeding up of the Court of First Instance and the European Court of Justice, which will be expedited by the treaty.

Therefore, the first question we must ask is whether reform is desirable and/or necessary, but the next question is whether it is a good deal for the UK. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) said in his inaccurate portrayal of re-weighting in the Council and the reassignation of votes, Britain will get a better deal. Furthermore, our ability to block proposals that will not be in our interests will be improved. Unanimity on tax, social security, defence, budget, border controls and treaty change will be preserved, which is essential—it is what we went into this process hoping to achieve.

Finally, we must ask ourselves whether this is the right time for us to ratify the treaty. Contrary to what several Conservative Members said, if we vote against ratification this evening we will undoubtedly delay enlargement. One hon. Member suggested that it would be possible to call

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an intergovernmental conference tomorrow if we really wanted to. Clearly, that is living in cloud cuckoo land. The processes of unpicking the treaty and reconstituting another would take a considerable number of months. Furthermore, if this country were to say that we did not want to go forward with ratification, I would doubt that we would see enlargement in the next 10 years, let alone the next 10 months.

On the Irish referendum, I recognise that the unanimity principle should, and always will, apply to treaty change, but that does not mean that because one small country has voted, every other country must adopt exactly the same position as that first country. It is a profoundly undemocratic process to say, "They have decided, so we cannot even take a decision for ourselves."

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