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16 Dec 2002 : Column 540continued
Mr. Duncan Smith: Last week in Copenhagen, the Prime Minister was again outflanked by France and Germany over membership negotiations for Turkey. The Turks wanted them to start before the current round of enlargement was implemented, and they were supported not just by the UK Government, but by the Spanish, the Italians and even the Greeks. Yet, once again, France and Germany prevailed. Negotiations have been delayed until December 2004well after enlargement will have been completed.
Does the Prime Minister agree that those actions by France and Germany have been to the detriment of the European Union? Does he also agree that it is imperative that we encourage Turkey, as a NATO ally and as a secular, democratic Muslim nation, to play a full role in the European Union at the earliest possible opportunity? We are constantly urging the benefits of democracy on the Islamic world, yet here is the EU telling Turkey that she must prove her intentions all over again. Does not the Prime Minister think that direct negotiations would provide the strongest possible incentive for Turkey to meet the highest standards on human rights? Does he also agree that negotiations would provide the ideal opportunity to ensure that Cyprusnow to be an EU member itselfbecame a united island again? Was not the decision to delay these negotiations a snub for the Government of Turkey and for all those nations that supported her?
The Prime Minister says that the Euro army has reached an agreement with NATO that will allow it to use the alliance's planning, assets and headquarters. This, he said, means that the Euro army Xstands ready" to take over military operations in Macedonia. Is that not in fact an admission that the Euro army should have been inside NATO all along? Now we have the rather ridiculous sight of the Prime Minister pretending that the EU has no military competence other than NATO deciding what it will or will not do. Surely the Government's position on this throughout has been seen for what it isbaseless and solely part of a wider negotiation with France.
Last week I wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to raise the severe proposed cuts to British fishing quotas. There was not one word about the common fisheries policy in the presidency's conclusions. That seems strange, given that before Copenhagen the Prime Minister wrote that Scottish fishermen would have the Government's full backing
The Prime Minister is right: this ought to have been a truly historic moment for our continent, when the cold war divisions were replaced with a new European settlement on prosperity, stability and mutual co-operation. Instead, all too often, the EU élites, to which he never refers, are bent on creating some sort of superpower. The common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, which the Prime Minister simply fails to sort out, are left unreformed as part of wider discussions. The forces of old Europe seem reluctant to let go: making them do so will take more than the Prime Minister talking tough before meetings and backing down after he has been there.
The Prime Minister: Where does one begin, Mr. Speaker? First, for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the enlargement process has been a great setback for the European Union is bizarre. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but he effectively said that it was disgraceful that it had taken so long. I think that it is remarkable that, 13 years after the Berlin wall fell, we have managed to get 10 countries into the European Union.
The Prime Minister: If I may say so, it was a slightly grudging welcome. Given the interests at stake, it is a remarkable tribute to the vitality of the European Union that these countries have been accepted. The Leader of the Opposition had to make this attack because at the very time when a large part of the Conservative party is queueing up to get out, this other lot is queueing up to get in.
As for what the right hon. Gentleman said about Turkey, what happened was not to do with the French and German objections. It is correct that Britain, Italy, Spain and probably Greece would have gone further, but many countries were deeply hesitant about whether Turkey could fulfil the criteria. The key was to get a date, and we have got a date. It could have been a few months earlier, but it is, again, a tremendous step forward in Europe's relations with Turkey. Although I am a huge supporter of Turkey's membership of the European Union, there are issues to do with human rights that must be addressed. It is important that we address them and that Turkey's new leadership, who are really trying to address the issues, are given time to do so properly. It is churlish to suggest that the European Union was snubbing us or snubbing Turkey. Given where we were, it is a big step forward.
The most disastrous thing that we could do in respect of the CFP would be to adopt what I assume is now the policy of the Conservative party and withdraw from it. That would give us no protection whatsoever. It would not actually stop cod stocks being fished before they migrate to British watersit would not actually help our fishermen at all. We must recognise that there is a huge problem. We are fighting hard to get the best deal possible, but it is a cruel deception to pretend to the fishing industry either that there is not an issue or that there is some simple solutionneither is correct.
As for the Leader of the Opposition's statement that with the Conservative party we should get a better deal in Europe, I do not know of a Conservative partyit will be interesting to see whether Opposition Members can name oneanywhere else in Europe, in the existing EU, in the countries that are about to join or in countries that may join later, that supports the completely foolish, backward and isolationist policy of the British Conservative party.
Judging from the House's reaction to the remarks of the leader of the Conservative party, it widely shares the view that we felt no sense of history when the right hon. Gentleman described a time of such historic groundbreaking achievement for Europe and for the spread of democracy, stability, peace and security across the continent as 13 wasted years. I thought that that referred to a different period in history relating to the Conservative party.
None the less, the 18 years of unbroken Conservative Government in this country certainly helped to build the single European market. It helped to extend qualified majority votingthanks to Mrs. Thatcher and the Conservative partyand it even helped to pave the way for the enlargement process on which Conservative Members seem to be trying to pour cold water today. They have no sense of history and even less sense of the futurethat is the Conservative party.
Given that some of the continuing entrenched aspects of the common agricultural policy have become even more entrenched as a result of some of the decisions that were reached at the summit, what prospect does the Prime Minister see, with enlargement ahead of us, of achieving the genuine, long-term reform of the CAP that is inevitable, desirable and will come about only if our country plays its full part at the top table of Europe? It will not be achieved on the country club membership basis advocated by certain people.
I welcome the decision reached about Turkey. It is important that over the next two years there is full and active engagement with the Turkish authoritiesnot least as regards human rightsto ensure that as and when accession negotiations with Turkey are held, they are based on stability and dependable understanding as regards not only the commitment of the Turkish democratic authorities to Europe itself, but the need to maintain the fundamental values of human rights that Europe enshrines and to which we are signatories.
Does the Prime Minister agree that it does not help intelligent discussion of matters European in this country to speak in a completely misleading fashion, bandying about such shorthand terms as XEuro army"? In fact, there is a strategic and sensible basis on which NATO and the EU can co-operate when they want to do so or whereby they can pursue different or varying agendas when that is the most sensible course. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that message from the summit, following the most recent NATO discussions, is welcome and must be the sane way forward?
Fisheries are a major concern to many of our communities, not least those in Scotland, so I welcome today's statement from the Commission that it wishes to defer decisions on quotas for a further three months. In his discussions with the leaders of the fishing representatives after the turn of the year, will the Prime Minister take every opportunity to carry them with him on the discussions that must ensue about the scientific evidence? The fact that our domestic fleet has already made a good contribution must be recognised in Brussels to a greater and more sensitive extent than it has been so far.
Finally, I welcome the Palestine conference, which the Prime Minister has announced today, but will he underscore the need for Europe to be seen to be contributing to restarting the middle east peace process? Will he acknowledge that it would be appropriate for the Defence Secretary or the Foreign Secretary to make a statement before the recess about any possible British troop deployments vis-a-vis Iraq during the parliamentary recess?