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Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): Let me take the hon. Gentleman back three or four sentences. He briefly mentioned a proposal for national Parliaments to be able to amend European legislation. I am not sure whether he means that an individual country should amend the legislation for all the countries. However, that is an unreliable process unless all the countries get together to amend the legislation for everybody. That is the purpose of the European Parliament.
Mr. Spring: I was trying to make the point that we need to enhance the role of national Parliaments. The Minister for Europe has also said that. We should consider the matter properly. We are making suggestions that can subsequently be discussed and debated to ascertain whether they can be developed. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that there is no point in discussing the disconnection of national Parliaments from the architecture of the EU without making some practical proposals. Those that I have outlined are among several ideas that we want to consider. It is important that our national Parliament has a role in the EU that it currently lacks.
Angus Robertson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing yet another intervention. He talked about several ideas on subsidiarity, yet he did not mention the role that sub-state Parliaments in the United Kingdom might play. Perhaps he has missed something out or has no ideas about subsidiarity apart from the role of the House of Commons.
We support a change in the tone and structures of the EU. We want clear limits on what is done centrally. How does that square with the Prime Minister's view that there should be no finality to what is done at the centre? Of course, exceptional and unforeseen circumstances may arise and demand a unified response; that is different. However, it is ridiculous to diagnose the problem constantly and offer no prescription. The British people want not high-flown, windy rhetoric, but a clarity that is absent from current Government thinking.
The Minister for Europe talked about the eurozone and the fact that the euro will come into play in a few weeks. Of course, the strength of the euro will depend on the performance in the economies of the countries in the eurozone. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we can only hope that the economies of Europe will grow, because they are important export markets for us.
It's not just a question of economics. It's about the sovereignty of Britain and constitutional issues, too."
The Minister for Europe recently gave his views on the euro on "Newsnight". He expressed such wonderful banalities as, "We can't afford to be left behind in Europe." He showed that he had no clue about the operation of the European central bank by saying, "Where we don't have influence yet is in the direction of monetary policy." However, his most fatuous remark was, "Even if you opt out you are affected by it."
Leaving aside our position as the fourth largest economy in the world, let us consider Canada, which is a member of the North American Free Trade Area and has an economy that is far more dominated by and more inextricably tied to the United States than our economy is affected by its relationship with the continent of Europe. Yet no one in Canada believes that it is essential for the Canadian dollar to be abolished. There are many other examples around the world.
As the Bank of England has confirmed, foreign investment has not been dissuaded from coming here because we are not in the eurozone. What economic statistic can the Minister for Europe produce to reflect the disadvantages that apparently burden us?
The single currency has little to do with economic considerations and everything to do with the politics of integration in the EU. As Mr. Duisenberg, president of the European central bank, openly said:
If the Minister for Europe wants to elevate the important debate above woolly rhetoric, he should consider producing a White Paper to examine the economic, political and constitutional implications of the single currency. If the Government did that, I am sure that the document would bear out our view that it is in Britain's interests to retain our currency. That view is held by a clear majority of British people.
I have already referred to the tensions and difficulties in the Balkans. I should like to mention two other worrying areas in Europe. Today a meeting is taking place in Nicosia between the representatives of the two Cypriot communities, Mr. Denktash and Mr. Clerides. The position of successive Governments has been clear: we favour a bizonal, bicommunal, federal structure for the
Turkey also has ambitions for EU membership that we have accepted. However, it is greatly in Turkey's interest to resolve the problem in Cyprus, not least because of the growing disparity of living standards between the two parts of the island. Cyprus has already closed 23 out of the 31 accession chapters. We can only hope for a settlement. However, its absence cannot be allowed to impede full EU membership.
Lastly, I want to consider Gibraltar, where passions have risen dramatically in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the recent Brussels process meeting in Barcelona. We welcome the Government's commitment to ensuring that Gibraltarians will participate in the next European elections and we look forward to hearing the details. I hope that the Spanish Government will try to minimise the points of friction across the border.
The people of Britain have a special feeling for the people of Gibraltar, for good historic reasons, and value their continued association with us. I am sorry to have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that nobody is more directly responsible for the upsurge of concern and anxiety in this country and, particularly, in Gibraltar than he is. He said:
So, despite assurances about respecting the right of Gibraltarians to determine their future, an atmosphere of bullying hostility has been created. This is a mess entirely of the Government's making; it is destructive and wholly unnecessary. We have made it clear that the way forward in any negotiations should be based on the concept of two flags and three voices, echoing the successful peace process in Northern Ireland. We would encourage the Spanish Government to seek a productive and friendly dialogue with their Gibraltarian neighbours and, in that atmosphere, encourage Gibraltar to respond.
All hon. Members hold Spain in great admiration. In the time span of a generation, it has transformed itself into an exemplary parliamentary democracy and a successful constitutional monarchy. It is also a valued EU and NATO partner. Despite all that, there is no question but that the right of Gibraltar's citizens to maintain their constitutional arrangements is an absolute one, and no amount of weasel words will alter that fact.