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Mr. David: I agree with my hon. Friend that it would not be the end of the world if agreement were not reached this weekend. I would still argue, however, that it would be in our national interest, and our best interests, if agreement were reached. The European Union will not suddenly collapse. Enlargement will still occur. If we get agreement on a good treaty, however, things will be better for everyone, and certainly better for the European Union. For that reason, I hope that it will happen.
On enlargement, I referred to the enlargement that will take place next year, but I hope that that will not be the end of the process. I hope that Romania and Bulgaria will join soon thereafter, and Turkey too. I am glad that something of a consensus is emerging in the House about the desirability of a Muslim country such as Turkey joining the European Union. I welcome that. As well as those three states, however, we should open our arms and ensure that there is a warm embrace for the Balkan countries, which are in the process of putting forward applications. If they meet the criteria, both economically and politically, they should be able to join the European Union too. If our vision is of a European Union of that size, it is therefore all the more important that we have a European Union that operates effectively, and that the issues that have been addressed so far are successfully addressed in the foreseeable future.
I want to refer briefly to one or two of those crucial issues. A strong intellectual case exists, if we are serious about making the EU work more effectively with an enlarged membership, to have an extension of qualified majority voting. On the one hand, it is possible to protect our national interestred lines have been drawn where we will maintain the vetobut at the same time, generally, an extension of QMV is preferable. I am also well aware that this is a controversial area in terms of how votes are weighted in the Council. Perhaps I should declare a slight interest as chair of the all-party group on Poland. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Poles when they say that the formula agreed at Nice should be adhered to, because it is on that basis that the people of Poland cast their votes to join the European Union. I hope that the Government will bear that in mind over the weekend and during the delicate negotiations that will take place.
Andrew Selous: The hon. Gentleman will know well that the Poles are particularly concerned to have some reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the preamble. Does he also share their concerns on that point?
Mr. David: I understand the points that the Poles make, but I think that that is one of the areas on which they may be persuaded that it would be better to adopt a different course. I am therefore optimistic that agreement can be reached on a sensible way forward for all parties.
That is a big issue. One of the smaller issues, but one of considerable importance, is that of subsidiarity and proportionalityunfortunate terms that do not mean a great deal to many people. They are important, because subsidiarity is the principle that defines where decisions are taken. It means that decisions should be taken at the most appropriate level as close to the people as possible. Proportionality means that the EU should not do other than what is necessary for it to do.
There is a protocol at the end of the draft treaty on those two principles and one of the key proposals in it is that national Parliaments should have a new and key role in the EU's decision-making process. I shall be frank with the House. I would dearly have liked to see that protocol strengthened so that, instead of there being a so-called yellow-card proposal, there is a red-card mechanism. However, the distinction between them is more apparent than real. The protocol explains that if the European Commission, after consultation, comes forward with a set of proposals to national Parliaments and one third of those Parliaments object to the proposals on the basis of subsidiarity, the Commission is obliged to take the proposal back and to review it. Given that there is a close relationship between national Parliaments and national Governments, such a warning to the Commission would mean that its proposal would be dead in real political terms. The provision will add something that is new and innovative. It will give greater responsibilities to national Parliaments and this House in particular, which considers its European scrutiny role to be so important.
To return to a point I made earlier, if that important protocol is agreed, it will be incumbent on the House to consider carefully how we conduct our debates on European affairs and how we conduct European scrutiny. Although I have commended the work of the House, its Standing Committees and the European Scrutiny Committee, that will not be enough if the protocol is agreed. It will therefore be important that the Housein its Committees and on the Floordevotes far more time and effort to European issues. Given that the United Kingdom now has a number of devolved institutions, it is important that a specific and clear relationship is worked out with them on how they can express their views on the European matters that they will be asked to implement.
It is also important that the House develops links with national Parliaments in other member states and with the European Parliament. I shall again be frank, and I speak as a former Member of the European Parliament. All too often, we are parochial and inward looking in our attitudes. We need to take a broader perspective and to be true internationalists. One of the surest ways to do that is to extend our hand of friendship to other national Parliaments and the European Parliament and to make sure that we have meaningful dialogue with them so that we can together develop the EU in the way that we want.
In September, the Government published a White Paper on their approach to the intergovernmental conference. If we study the White Paper and what has so far been agreed at the IGC, we will be able to see two things. First, we will see that the Government have been true to their words and have consistently argued with a great deal of success for the things that they announced in September. Secondly, we will see clearly that they have been successful in setting the agenda for Europe in a way that was not possible a few years ago. That is important not just in terms of our immediate considerations but in terms of Europe's future development as well.
Finally, I wish to refer to a comment made by Sir John Kerr in the Financial Times on 25 November. He was responding to a point that many Conservative Members have made. They say that we are talking about a constitution for Britain and not a constitutional treaty. There is a key difference, and Sir John Kerr said that the constitutional treaty
Mr. Bacon: First, does the hon. Gentleman accept that at the last COSAC meeting in Rome, the document that was circulated in English did not say constitutional treaty on the cover, as the cooked-up document that the Foreign Office has printed does, but constitution for Europe? Secondly, no matter what Sir John Kerr's views are, once the thing goes throughif it gets throughthe adjective will get dropped and the document will start to be referred to using a noun.
Mr. David: I am not sure about the use of the English language. It is my understanding and that of Sir John Kerr that we are discussing a constitutional treaty. That is clearly recognised by the Government, which is why the words printed on the cover of the document that we are debating make that crystal clear. The important factor is not only the words that we happen to use, but their legal implications. If the treaty is to have force in Britain, it must be approved by Parliament because we are the sovereign body and that is what counts.
As we approach this important weekend, it is more important than ever for the House to make its collective position clear. We are Europeans and Britons at the same timebeing both is not a contradiction. I am proud of being a member of the European Union, I am proud of being British and, incidentally, I am also proud of being Welsh. In the complex modern world in which we live, we need such a perspective on how we may all live and work together on the basis of mutual respect. As I said early, I hope that the treaty will be agreed so that we may co-operate on that basis in the future.