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The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): Could the hon. Gentleman name a single Head of Government—Mr. Aznar, Mr. Chirac, Mr. Schröder—who is up for abolishing the national identity of his country to merge into a European superstate?

Mr. Maples: Certainly the Prime Minister of Belgium is a pretty willing participant in that process, and I would suggest that Herr Schröder is too. They are willing to have an awful lot of their national identities subsumed. I am not saying that we are there now. I am not saying that the draft constitution will get us there, but it is another step on the road.

Let me set out for the Minister six fundamental points. If they are dealt with in the negotiations of the IGC, I would be reasonably happy with the treaty, but if they are not, I shall be unhappy with it.

The first is the pillar structure. The Convention proposes the final collapse of pillar three—that home affairs matters should come under the Commission with

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qualified majority voting in almost all cases. This is a perfect example of how the EU advances. Home affairs started at Maastricht as pillar three. At Amsterdam, a bit of it came into pillar one. Now the rest of it has gone into pillar one, and we have gradually moved from unanimity to qualified majority voting. That is what happens. When it starts, it all looks perfectly innocent as intergovernmental co-operation, but we end up with the supranational organisation making our laws about nationality and asylum.

Secondly, I have some real issues about the common foreign and security policy, but the Government have dealt with the most important one, which is maintaining unanimity on setting that policy and in anything to do with defence. But I am concerned about the dual-hatted foreign minister. The position that Solana occupies is perfectly acceptable. We need an instrument for a common voice in areas where we can and do agree. No one would deny that. We have a lot of interests in common and we need to be able to promote them. Señor Solana does a magnificent job in that respect. His position as secretary-general of the Council is right. But if that person is to be the foreign minister with a position in the Council, and dual-hatted as a vice-president of the Commission, I do not see how that will work. He will have divided and dual loyalties with different responsibilities to both. But what worries me far more is that this is the start of the collapse of pillar two. This is the start of bringing the Commission into foreign and security policy. That must remain intergovernmental. That is a fundamental sticking point, and I hope that the Government will resist the dual-hatting of the foreign minister. I do not particularly care what they call him. I would rather that he stayed as secretary-general, but it is important that he does not have a role or responsibility in the Commission.

Thirdly, as I said to the Foreign Secretary, I am very concerned about the charter of fundamental rights. If it were like the United States Bill of Rights—about freedom of speech, due process and cruel and unusual punishments—few would have much objection to it. We certainly would not want this House ever to pass a law that we felt breached those things. However, it does not deal with that. It is a Bill of political aspirations. It is not a Bill of fundamental legal rights.

For instance, everyone has a right to a free placement service. Everyone has a right of access to preventive health care. I think that another says that everyone has a right to vocational and continuing training. I am concerned that eventually that will mean that somebody who does not like the provisions that the elected British Government have made in this place for continuing training or preventive health care will be able to challenge them in the European Court of Justice. That is a fundamental alteration in the relationship between member states and the European Union.

I have looked at the so-called parallel articles. I am continually told by intelligent British diplomats, "Oh, we can get around all this incorporation." The fact is that the Government did not want incorporation. They did not want it in the Nice treaty. They did not want it in this constitution. I hope that they will fight to get it out. I do not believe that any of the articles that they have got in, or for that matter any parallel articles that they could draft, will protect us from the consequences that I have tried to outline. We know about the

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constructivist nature of the European Court of Justice. If there is a chink in the armour, they will find their way around it, and before we know it they will be telling us, as the United States Supreme Court tells the United States Congress, what we can and cannot pass as legislation.

Keith Vaz: The charter of fundamental rights does not go one iota beyond existing British law.

Mr. Maples: It goes way beyond it. It allows a supreme court—the European Court of Justice—to say that everyone has a right to a free placement service. I do not know quite what that means; I assume that it is something to do with helping people to find jobs. I am happy for us to pass laws about that, because we can repeal them, but if the European Court of Justice can tell us that such laws are unconstitutional, that is a central ingredient—a keystone—of a federal European state.

Fourthly, we need to strengthen subsidiarity, which is weakened by these articles. We are told that, if enough national Parliaments do not like that, they can—to use the Foreign Secretary's words—deliver a message to the European Commission; a fat lot of use that is. The Commission is not democratically responsible to us, or indeed to anybody, and in the past it has taken no notice at all of the subsidiarity provisions. If subsidiarity is to mean anything, those provisions must be strengthened.

Fifthly, articles 95 and 308 of the treaty establishing the European Community—which essentially allow the Council to do virtually anything in pursuit of establishing the internal market, and go very wide indeed—must be reined in, because although that mechanism has not yet been exploited to the full, it might well be.

My sixth point concerns the provision on the right to withdraw. I hope that that remains. That is not to say that I want to withdraw—[Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Leicester, East knows that I do not. None the less, the fact that it is there gives us some comfort, because we know that we will not need to have a civil war to decide what the constitution means—if there comes a point when we do not like it, we can get out. That is fundamental.

Sir Teddy Taylor: Does my hon. Friend accept that it is not actually the right to withdraw, but the right to withdraw subject to the approval of the European Parliament?

Mr. Maples: I have to say that I did not read it quite like that, but perhaps it needs some clarification.

Mr. Cash: It is subject to QMV.

Mr. Maples: Yes, I understand that the European Parliament has a role under QMV. However, the right to leave is pretty clearly established. If any member state were to decide that it wanted to do so, it would surely want to negotiate a treaty with the European Union that set out what its relations would be in future. I take my hon. Friend's point, but I think that of my six tests, the Government have comprehensively met that one.

People will say that a lot of what is in the constitution is in the existing texts. That is of course true, although not all of it is there. That shows how far we have come

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in 20 years. By a series of salami slices—the Single European Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, the Convention—

Keith Vaz: The Conservatives did some of it.

Mr. Maples: I am not saying that we did not play a part in it, but that by a series of salami slices we have come an enormous distance from a grouping for economic purposes—[Interruption.] I wonder if my hon. Friend the Member for Stone could keep his conversation a bit quieter—he is rather putting me off.

We have come an awful long way from the situation in 1984 to that implied by the Convention. We have moved from a simple grouping of sovereign states to what is very close to a united states of Europe, and we have done so without realising that it has happened. It is an inexorable process that always starts as a series of aspirations—for example, the social charter winds up as the social chapter—that are ultimately enforceable by qualified majority voting. We see that again and again. On any particular matter, one need only get a competence, get it to QMV, get it into pillar one, and that is it—the end of national decision making.

I should like to propose an alternative. The Minister and the Foreign Secretary say that the Conservative party just wants to get out of Europe, but I do not. My alternative—I first proposed it when I held the job of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram)—is to have a more flexible Europe. Some articles in the treaty, which are repeated in the new constitution, allow for flexibility. They allow a group of member states that want to continue through enhanced co-operation to do so. If a group of member states want to set a similar policy on nationality, asylum, continuing education or the right to placement services, I am all for their being able to do so, but such policies should not be imposed. There should be a core of trade and business—a single market. I am perfectly prepared to subscribe to that, because it is of great benefit to us. In fact, for the sake of argument, I would be prepared to draw the line where we are now and go no further, although I should prefer to roll the clock back a little to before Nice. There is a real role for Europe and for a constitution that builds in such flexibility and makes it clear what people's rights are.

The federalists argue that the only way in which to make a 25-state European Union work is through qualified majority voting everywhere and the Commission having a role in everything. However, I believe that there is an alternative method, through flexibility. That would be a better model.

The European Union is constantly guilty of trying to run before it can walk. It has a massive unfinished agenda of completing the internal market and its free trade agenda—15,000 individual external tariffs remain—successfully completing enlargement and the long overdue reform of the dreadful common agricultural policy. It would have been far more productive and better for all of us if the huge energy and brainpower that has convened in Brussels to dream up the Convention had been applied to trying to solve some of the problems.

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We are on the wrong track. We are heading inexorably, piece by piece, year by year, competence by competence, QMV session by QMV session towards a united states of Europe. We should be heading in a different direction, towards flexibility. We should stop pretending that our action is other than what it is.

Before I became a Member of Parliament, I was a lawyer dealing with tax matters. We tried to dream up tax planning methods and schemes that would pretend that something was not quite what it was—for example an insurance policy that did not resemble one. It would be slightly different and have a few characteristics that enabled one to argue that it was not an insurance policy. I asked an American lawyer whether he thought that it would work with the internal revenue service. He replied, "John, the IRS takes the view that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck." This is a duck.

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