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11 Dec 2002 : Column 336—continued

Mr. Simon: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I do not speak for the Government. However, what he proposes may be fair. I am not terrified of foreigners—I quite like them—so I would not consider a little more harmonisation, fiscal co-operation and, indeed, other non-damaging forms of co-operation, the end of the world.

That brings me to the need to tell the truth. For a Labour Member, I have an unusual number of Tory friends. I talk to Tories more than usual—perhaps even to a dysfunctional extent. I can even say that some of my best friends are Tories. For the past 10 to 15 years they have talked about such issues and asked repeatedly, XWhy do you people want to do this? Why do you feel like this? Why do you line us up with the frogs, jerries and all those dastardly foreigners when you could be magnificently, proudly and beautifully English?" They cannot get their heads round that.

I am not English. I was born in south Yorkshire, grew up in Birmingham, a quarter of my family is Marseille Corsican, my name is Siôn Llewelyn, which is as Welsh as its gets, and my kids have Welsh names. A couple of weeks ago in west London, my sister had her first child, whose father is an Ulster Protestant who supports Republic of Ireland sports teams. A lot of the time, the concept of Englishness is simplistic, which may colour my approach to integration.

There is something else that Tory Europhobes hate. The last thing they want to hear about and the most disastrous example of how bad things can possibly be is Tuscan evenings—the sun gently setting over San Gimignano, Vesuvius viewed from the Golfo di Napoli, Fellini, XLa Dolce Vita" and all that malarkey, the

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Vieux Port at 9.30 pm as the children and prostitutes come out to play. Tory Europhopes hate that rosy European dream, as well as Stendhal, Mozart, Strindberg, Mahler, Michelangelo, Racine, Flaubert, Baudelaire—all those centuries of amazing art, history and culture in common. Historically, we have been embarrassed by all that stuff, but we are wrong. We dare not tell people about those Tuscan evenings, but we should admit that there is nothing wrong with them or thinking that way—it is about vision, dreaming the dream and thinking big thoughts, and we should not be ashamed of that.

Obviously, the integrationist project—I have no problem calling it that—is about more than that. The shadow Foreign Secretary repeatedly used the word Xintegration" as if it were akin to molestation. However, I am an integrationist. I am not frightened of foreigners, and do not consider myself better than the French or Italians. The project has practical benefits, which Members have talked about today and will continue to talk about. However, it is also visionary, and we should not be frightened to say so. I am not ashamed of dreaming the dream, as the people who dreamed it in the past have brought us to the decent, liberal, humane, prosperous, plural society in which we have the privilege of living.

To recap, continental Europe is a nice place with nice people. We have a shared history and culture, and in many ways its people are just like us—they are no better and no worse than us. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Mr. MacShane: Does my hon. Friend recall that the previous Leader of the Opposition made a speech in which he said that if people voted Labour, England would become a foreign land? Somebody wrote to The Times saying, XYes—could it be the south of France?"

Mr. Simon: I thank the Minister for making my point more eloquently than I ever could have done. However, I suspect that he will not be quite so keen to support my next point.

If we are shy about telling the truth about Europe, we are terrified of going a step further and admitting that some foreigners influence our legislative process. Bedraggled clichés about being run by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels stem from disingenuousness or illiteracy. However, as qualified majority voting is extended, some of our laws are increasingly inspired by foreigners. That is okay, because they are not foreigners but Europeans, like us, and we should not be afraid of them. Why should we assume that my constituents, who have never had the opportunity to vote for my hon. Friend the Minister, are instinctively more attached to him than his counterparts elsewhere in Europe—

Mr. Bacon: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Simon: No.

Mr. Bacon: The hon. Gentleman asked a question—will he give way?

Mr. Simon: I have not finished asking it yet.

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Why should we make that assumption when the Minister's counterparts have been directly elected by our fellow Europeans elsewhere in the European democracy?

Mr. Bacon: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a simple answer to his question? People in this country can understand the Minister when he stands at the Dispatch Box, and read parliamentary debates and court judgments, but they cannot do so for the whole of Europe.

Mr. Simon: The hon. Gentleman assumes that my constituents are monolingual and incapable of understanding foreigners. He may be speaking for his constituents, but he should not presume to speak for mine because they are a highly educated, multi-skilled, multilingual, multicultural bunch.

The late Mick McGahey came back from the Soviet Union and was asked what he found there. As succinct and eloquent as ever, he said, XPeople."

Mr. Todd: He did not say it like that.

Mr. Simon: It would be wrong for me to do an impression. Mick McGahey did not say, XHappy people", but his point was that people are people—my people are like your people. We do not have to be afraid of foreign people. No one is diminished by being European—it does not make me less British or less of a Brummie or the Italians less Italian. What we do not need is fear and bunkerite isolationism. We need a little imagination and courage, and a continuation of the progressive and confident way in which the Government have dealt with the matter so far.

8.10 pm

Angus Robertson (Moray): I speak on behalf of the Scottish national party and Plaid Cymru and do so gladly, especially after the earlier contribution from the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who gave a broad sweep of the vision of enlargement. Although I do not subscribe to the entirety of the vision painted by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon), it is a vision in general that we need to retain. While we are speaking about technical matters, we should understand how important enlargement is to everybody on the European continent.

I speak in the debate with mixed feelings. I am a great supporter of enlargement, both on a political and a personal level. On a political level, I think that I am right in saying that my party is the only party represented in the House that has Europe at the core of its central policy platform, and independence in Europe as our main policy. That policy is being pursued by all the countries acceding to the European Union at present.

On a personal level, I am a product of integration, my father being Scots and my mother coming to this island as a refugee after the second world war. I therefore have a degree of mixed identity and I have no fear of losing my identity in an enlarged and enhanced Europe. Despite all the criticism that I could level at the UK, being in a Union has not made me any less Scots, and I

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am sure that the European Union in the future will not make a Frenchman any less French or an Estonian any less Estonian.

The downside for me in the debate, with which I shall deal later, is the matter of fishing. I shall speak first about enlargement. My party and I are strong supporters of enlargement, in part because of the tradition in Scotland which has viewed our historic nation as having long and good relations with the nations of central and eastern Europe. That was brought home to me only last week when I met the mayor of Tallinn, a former Prime Minister of Estonia, who proudly took out his membership card for the Scots club in Tallinn. There is a link between Scotland and many of the countries of central and eastern Europe. The SNP welcomes enlargement as being good for a peaceful continent and for enhancing prosperity, co-operation and an improved environment.

It is estimated that enlargement will create about 300,000 jobs across the EU, which will benefit many thousands of people in Scotland and throughout the entire continent, as companies take advantage of trade opportunities. It cannot be lost on anybody looking at enlargement from a Scottish perspective that more than half the enlargement candidate countries are the same size as Scotland or smaller—Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta are all roughly the same size as Scotland or smaller. I was reminded of that last week when the Foreign Secretary, in a speech to the Press Gallery, waxed lyrical about the new proud nation state that had so recently gained its independence—that is, Slovenia. Like the other nations acceding to membership of the EU, it is aiming to be independent within Europe, something that I would like to see for Scotland.

Not only Slovenia, but other countries too have had to think long and hard about that. I look back to Lithuania and remember my party's former deputy leader, the late Dr. Alan McCartney, who worked closely with Vytautas Landsbergis, the first President of an independent Lithuania. It is clear that all the candidate countries are looking forward to accession and to playing their role in a confederal Europe, without losing their identities.

All those countries will have a guaranteed seat at the top table of the Council of Ministers. They will have permanent representation on the Council, the right to nominate a Commissioner, and considerably more Members of the European Parliament per head than Scotland. They are rightly set to enjoy first-class status, while Scotland unfortunately does not, but that is no bar to all those countries rightfully taking their place.

I endorse entirely the view expressed by many hon. Members in all parts of the House with regard to Turkey's possible membership in the future. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) made a strong case for that. Having spent most of my working life on the continent in Austria and Germany, I can pay tribute to the substantial contribution made to those societies by people of Turkish origin. I look forward to their country being a full member of the European Union.

With reference to reform of the EU, which is central to the work that is taking place on the Convention and which is tied to enlargement of the EU, I put on record

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again my support for the proposed reforms to improve the efficiency of the EU, bringing it closer to the citizen, and supporting transparency, accountability, democracy and subsidiarity—for example, with the opening of proceedings of the Council of Ministers. At least we will be able to see what Scottish Executive Ministers are doing when they say that they are playing an important role at Council of Ministers meetings.

However, it is supremely ironic that while the EU is becoming more transparent, European policy within the UK remains confidential. The concordats ensure that discussions between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive are secret. Both the Scottish Parliament's European Committee and the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee have called for changes in that regard.

On the likely constitution or constitutional treaty, I am glad that the Conservative party takes the view that that should be put to the people in a referendum, although that is not entirely consistent with the party's view of previous treaties, which were of equal or greater significance. The Scottish National party has been consistent.

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