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11 Dec 2002 : Column 329—continued

Bob Spink (Castle Point): In saying that there should be no linkage between the accession of Cyprus and the settlement there, does the hon. Gentleman think that if the settlement goes ahead on terms that are not proper and sustainable in the future, so that property rights and the legal rights of the original owners are protected in

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areas such as Kyrenia and Ayios Ambrosios, it would in the longer term deliver a solution in Cyprus akin to that in Northern Ireland during the past few decades?

Mr. Dismore: If a solution can be put to the people in a referendum, it is important that it commands overwhelming support from both communities. Acceptance of 51 per cent. by either community may be technically sufficient to carry the vote but it would be disastrous. Adjustments were made to the proposals yesterday and I hope that the final version will command confidence.

I am concerned that the Turkish Cypriots have been delaying progress. There has been time for negotiations for well over a year, and they have the most to gain from a solution. That was exemplified by the big demonstration that took place a couple of weeks ago when 20,000 people were on the streets of north Nicosia asking for a solution—indeed demanding a solution—and showing support for the platform of XThis country is ours" which is bringing the opposition parties together. In our country, the equivalent would be that about 5 million people took to the streets of London.

The Greek-Cypriot side has clear reservations and the adjustments made yesterday made some progress to address them. I have yet to see the details, but I understand that a review clause was proposed with a shortening of the transitional period. More Greek-Cypriot refugees should be able to go home and a fund will be set up for the voluntary repatriation of settlers.

Major issues remain, however: freedom of movement, settlers and property rights. They could all breach the acquis communautaire and will require detailed derogation. Those substantive issues must be considered. None the less, it is important that the negotiations continue and that they are not forced by an artificial deadline. In the Northern Ireland peace process, for example, deadlines became more elastic as deals were getting closer.

I return to the fundamental point: Cyprus must join the European Union, irrespective of whether there is a settlement. It is a settlement that we all want, but it is not and should never be a precondition.

7.42 pm

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): I want to outline seven principles that should guide the Government at the forthcoming Council. Indeed, they should probably guide any Government at any Council meeting.

First, I am sure that it is widely agreed among Members on both sides of the House—there is no dispute—that it is important that we reassert the fact that enlargement is of huge importance. In its successive guises and titles, the European Union has had a series of purposes. Clearly, its first and primary purpose was the establishment of lasting peace between Germany and France.

We take great pleasure from the way in which democracy has been sustained and built in Spain, Portugal and Greece. Some of the elder statesmen, who were involved in the early days of European union, resisted even that enlargement. They wanted a tight nucleus of traditional, western European countries to form the basis of the EU, so early enlargement was unacceptable.

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I am glad that there is now consensus that the next historic task is to underpin reform and sustain democracy in the countries of the former Soviet bloc; 10 of the 13 applicant countries come from that bloc.

I have changed my mind about Turkey. I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) said in a most persuasive speech and what the Foreign Secretary said when he opened the debate. The idea of a democratic, Muslim, European Turkey being part of the EU, if it can meet the necessary tests, is indeed attractive. I do not claim to know a great deal about Turkey. My family has visited the country twice in 100 years. I was there about 12 years ago on a business trip and my father was at Gallipoli in 1916, but I know enough to agree with the verdict that has been given in the House: it is right that Turkey should be encouraged in every way to join the EU and the negotiations should proceed as smoothly as possible.

In relation to the middle east and Muslim issues, I hope that at the Council the EU as a whole will do what it can to encourage the partners in the middle east process—Israel and Palestine—and indeed the United States to re-engage in the process as aggressively as possible. I realise that the Quartet has the greatest responsibility, but a clear message from the Council that it attaches importance to the resolution of the dispute between Israel and Palestine would be of immeasurable help in addressing the broader middle east questions that we face. I hope that such a message will come out of the Council.

The second principle that Governments should always bear in mind at Council meetings relates to the general direction in which they want the EU to move. In a sense, we are always at a time of decision about that, but the prospect of enlargement makes the decision starker than normal. People sometimes say that we face a choice between two models in Europe: heterogeneity or homogeneity; diversity or integrationism.

However, there is a third choice and it is interesting to observe that the draft constitution highlights the fact that that third choice is a more realistic possibility than it has been for a long time: renegotiation of or withdrawal from all but the free trade aspects of the Union. The draft constitution contains a procedure for voluntary withdrawal from the Union, which has been broadly welcomed by the Convention. Mr. Giscard d'Estaing has said that countries choosing that route would have a similar status to members of the European Free Trade Association because:

The prospect of that looser arrangement, which has been attractive to many people in the UK, will be more realistic if the wishes of the Convention are fulfilled. I think that would be the wrong direction to take and that the middle way advocated by the Conservative party for many years, characterised at the last general election by the phrase XIn Europe, not run by Europe", is the right way. It is a route of heterogeneity and diversity—of variable geometry—and I hope that it will be the Government's guiding star, too, although I do not think that it will be.

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The third principle relates to what Britain's position should be and it flows from what I have just been saying. It is clear that Britain's future is inextricably linked to the EU and will become more so as the Union enlarges. In his opening remarks, the Foreign Secretary gave a dramatic portrayal of just how large the new EU will be in geographical and population terms. Britain's unique status in the world will thus become even more important—it will be at the centre of Europe, of the Commonwealth and of the relationship with the United States of America.

It is right to say that the Prime Minister's skilful handling of issues relating to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction has currently enhanced our relationship with the USA. We thus have a unique and historic opportunity, which is growing in strength, to broker our relationship in those three areas.

Those of my constituents who write to me advocating withdrawal from the EU—I am glad to say that it is a small number at present—should realise that our relevance to the Commonwealth, the USA and the world would diminish significantly. But—and it is a big but—we can be close to and at the heart of Europe while remaining critical of individual decisions taken by the Union. Too often, the Government have made the mistake of not being sufficiently critical. They have embraced changes when they did not need to do so and received nothing in return. I am thinking especially of the opt-out from the social chapter.

The fourth principle is that the Union has to be outward looking. It has been said repeatedly, but it cannot be said too often, that there is still a danger that the EU will not be as outward looking as we want it to be. Changes in world trade and the irresistible trend towards globalisation mean that we must not get sucked into an inward-looking, protectionist, high social cost economy. All the dangers are still there, especially in respect of social costs. I urge the Government to be very wary. I am not convinced that they have been. Individual directives have caused great concern, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) pointed out at the beginning of the debate. We constantly talk about the dangers, but we must also understand them and work them out in practice during the negotiations at the Council.

The fifth principle is flexibility. In order to advance, the EU does not have to be more integrationist; it must be more flexible and more accommodating to the needs of more different nations. The degree of integration that the EU has already achieved would surprise its founding fathers—the Monnets of this world—and they would not want to drive that integration much further. The original treaty of Rome, amended at Maastricht, talked of

That must be remembered. We are talking not about a union of states but about people who believe that they belong together in peaceful coexistence. Many people on the continent often forget that.

Variety—the sixth principle—is obviously important. One-size-fits-all policies never would work in the EU and they will work even less well in the new enlarged Europe. That is especially true as regards the single European currency and interest rates, but that debate is for another day.

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Crucially, in the run-up to the possible new constitution, the seventh principle should be listening to what people actually want from the EU. We can think of countries in the EU that have failed to listen effectively to what their people wanted and the consequences have often been difficult and painful for the whole union.

We have to use our sovereignty to advance the interests of those who elected us. That is what we are talking about, and it will be much more complex in an enlarged EU. Given the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe, we as parliamentarians have to be increasingly aware of the need to be accountable to our electors for the way we choose to use that sovereignty.

I am generally opposed to referendums. I cannot remember how I voted during the Maastricht debates on the question of a referendum. In fact, I cannot even remember whether there was such a vote.

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