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11 Dec 2002 : Column 311—continued

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ancram: I think that I gave way on that point last week, but if this is a different one I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman. I suspect that it is the same.

Mr. Bryant: The right hon. Gentleman is preaching to the converted in this Chamber. Is not the point on the CAP that he needs to persuade his colleagues in the Christian Democrat parties, if the Conservatives are still part of the Christian Democrat group in Europe, if we are to win on the issue?

Mr. Ancram: I am amazed by such an intervention from a Member representing a party that is in government and which claims that it is at the heart of Europe and that it will influence how Europe moves forward. Now I am being told that the future of CAP reform depends on my conversations with the German CDU. We are looking to the Government to produce answers. In Brussels the other day, France and Germany put together a scheme behind the backs of the British, but when the Prime Minister visited the House the

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following week he told us that he welcomed that scheme. We have heard since that the Government are doing their best to try to unravel it because it is so damaging. It is for the Government to show that they can go to summits and get active reform in place on matters such as the CAP before they begin to undermine the enlargement process.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly): Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that there is such a thing as a mid-term review of the CAP, which has been strongly argued for by the Government and is still very much on the table and the subject of debate?

Mr. Ancram: We know that the money has been set until 2013. That is what the agreement is about and that is what has been delivered from Brussels. We know also that, whatever happens, it will be difficult for each of the 25 states to receive the same money that currently goes to each of the 15 without enormous tensions and enormous rows in the enlarged EU. That is the reality, but it is what the Government have allowed to occur. We look to them to begin to unravel it before it begins to damage enlargement.

The offer made to candidate countries is seen by them as unsatisfactory. If it is implemented, their electorates will naturally ask why they should pay the club's full dues but receive only part of the benefit. The Brussels offer endangers successful and sustainable enlargement. The opinion polls in Poland are worrying. Many politicians in the accession countries are naturally concerned that their electorates will reject EU membership unless a better deal is offered.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ancram: I have given way a lot, so I shall make progress.

Why, therefore, have the Government apparently failed to support the Danish compromise package that has been put forward for the summit? What will be their position on the Danish package at the Copenhagen European Council? We heard nothing on that from the Foreign Secretary. Will the Minister at least support the Danish proposal to allow candidate countries some flexibility and allow them to top up direct payments? Far too much of the process of enlargement has been characterised by an attitude that treats the candidate countries as supplicants rather than applicants. Rigidity now may mean catastrophe later, and enlargement without Poland would be a huge blow to the enlarged EU's credibility.

In Portugal, we can see the effect of another side of the EU's rigidity. Yesterday, 1 million workers went on strike to protest against spending cuts imposed by the Commission. It was therefore heartening to see the Portuguese Prime Minister embodying the virtue of hope by telling us that we should copy them and that we would be better off in the euro. I look forward to further such lessons from him. Experience may point to a very different conclusion, however. Of course, we must sympathise with the Portuguese Prime Minister. If he had not inherited finances destroyed by the outgoing left-wing Government's profligacy, he would not be in such trouble.

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By design or default, the Government are leading this country into ever tighter integration. Two years ago, the Prime Minister said in Warsaw that the EU did not need a written constitution; two weeks ago, he said that it did. We were told that the charter of fundamental rights would have no more legal weight than the Beano. Now we hear that its incorporation is acceptable, provided that there are certain horizontal guarantees. Before Nice, the Government had a limited list of areas in which they wanted the national veto abolished. Now the Prime Minister tells us that it should be abolished practically wholesale.

The Government's thinking on Europe's future structure is once again muddled. The Prime Minister has called for a Xunified European foreign policy", but the experience of the past 18 months must show him how impossible that is to achieve. He will remember last year's Council of Ministers in Ghent and the communiqué that, in effect, had to say nothing because the countries represented there could not reach any agreement on their reaction to 11 September. For the past few months, we have seen the differing views among the British, French and German Governments as to how to deal with the threat of Iraq.

A unified foreign policy, in the end, would be either the lowest common denominator or it would try to impose on member states foreign policies that they were not prepared to accept. Nor is the Prime Minister's proposal for a unified foreign policy backed up by the means to enforce it. Some reinforcement of the high representative's powers will not achieve that. Once again, the Prime Minister is willing the end without willing the means.

On the other hand, if the EU works as a partnership of sovereign nation states, it will be able to accomplish the promotion of peace, prosperity and stability that are its proper goals. The single market needs completion, and we can look to the EU to help to maintain environmental standards in eastern Europe.

Last week, we debated the EU's structures in the context of the Convention, and I set out our views on reform of the Council and the Commission, restoring greater accountability and the role of national Parliaments, but there was a wider issue in that debate that has not been touched on today and which I believe must also be central to the Copenhagen summit: the need for Europe to re-engage with its peoples. It can do that only if it reforms and decentralises. It does not need to increase its central powers. It must have the courage to trust its peoples and to involve the national Parliaments.

As I have said before, the proposals made by the Convention's subsidiarity working group do not go far enough. National Parliaments must be able to enforce subsidiarity and proportionality. An early-warning system is not enough. We need a sense of finality—an end to what has become known as the ratchet effect. Only the elites of Brussels want ever closer union.

In summary, I believe that the EU can be made to work better. In the 21st century, it still has a vital role to play in building prosperity across Europe. We have the opportunity to enable it to do that and to build the true partnerships of sovereign nations that we wish to see. We in this country should have a vision of a Europe for the 21st century—firm in its cohesiveness, agile in its

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international operations and taking pride in its diversity. Such a Europe could take on the challenges that face us while leaving intact the national aspirations that will be essential if it is not to collapse under the weight of its own centralisation. That is not the Government's vision, but it is ours. I believe that it is the vision that the British people support.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I remind hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 15-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

6.39 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): I am delighted with the opportunity to speak when we are on the threshold of the important summit that will take place in the next few days. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on what he has said recently about freedom of movement for new applicant countries, and I am convinced that when Ministers, including the Prime Minister, go to Copenhagen they will do what they have always done under this Government and present a strong, dynamic case for Britain's full engagement in the European Union. I wish them well.

Let me also add my congratulations to those extended by other Members over the last few weeks to my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), the Minister for Europe. When we worked in the Foreign Office together, I told him that he would be Minister for Europe one day, and now he is. I can think of no one better qualified, and I wish him well, specifically on the occasion of his first European summit.

The House is united in our wish to see an enlarged Europe. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) tried hard to sound radical and Eurosceptic, but it did not really come through: we know that, deep down in his heart, he supports most of what the Government are doing. He supports the fact that when British Ministers go to Europe they bat for Europe—they want to ensure that we get the best deal in Europe. And that is precisely what we have done in respect of all the other agenda items.

That is precisely what we have done on enlargement, for instance. Our country, and our Prime Minister, championed enlargement. We rightly suggested that it was essential for an enlarged Europe not just to benefit the European Union, creating the largest single market in the world, but to unite an historically divided EU. My visits to applicant countries give me the impression that that mood—enthusiasm about joining a European Union that is, in a real sense, led by the United Kingdom—has not diminished. Of course the results of opinion polls have changed in some of those countries—when I was in Poland a year ago, there was concern about the need to maintain enthusiasm there—but I think that when it comes to a referendum the Polish people, like those in all the other applicant countries, will prove strongly in favour of EU membership.

The reason for the waning of support was the fact that the negotiations were taking so long. I welcome what has happened under the last two presidencies. There has been a desire to move forward and to establish a date for entry—1 May 2004. Nevertheless, we should not gloss over the problems that will arise over the next few

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months and years. We must help the applicant countries as much as we can. It is not just a question of providing extra resources; it is a question—a very important one, I think—of this Parliament's working with parliamentarians in each applicant country so that we can build bridges and links.

When the applicants join the EU, they will have to engage in a bewildering exercise. Some of us who have attended European summits have had to do the same, of course, because the EU has its own language and sub-culture. When 10 are added to the existing 15, it is necessary to look at a reform agenda. Enlargement is surely nothing without reform, and it must be right for our country, our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary to be in the lead in that regard.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe will tell us something of the progress that has been made on the famous Blair-Schröder letter sent earlier this year. As my hon. Friend will know, the Prime Minister of our country and the German Chancellor compiled a list of areas in which they wanted reform. During the last debate of this kind before the last European Council meeting, I asked the Foreign Secretary how many boxes had been ticked. I know that he was concentrating very much on the enlargement agenda, but it is important for us to look at those boxes. I do not object to a single one of the items presented by the leaders of Germany and the United Kingdom—I consider them all important—but we now need to benchmark them.

The right hon. Member for Devizes said that the Opposition supported the Government on Lisbon. I went to that summit, and I was here for the Prime Minister's statement. The right hon. Gentleman may say that there was support for what the Government had achieved, but not much support came from the then leader of the Opposition. We want real support for the reform agenda, not just soundbites from the right hon. Gentleman. Without genuine reform, we cannot make the progress that we need to make in engaging the British people.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that need to engage the British people, but this Government are engaging them everywhere. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe have attended meetings all over the country in an attempt to ensure that the people understand what is happening in the EU, and to defeat the nonsense that issues from the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and some of the tabloid newspapers, when they undermine everything that the Government are trying to do.

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