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Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware of the growing view among all the parties in Britain that the basic reason he is opposed to holding a referendum on the new constitution is simply because he would be hammered? Is it not right and proper in a democracy that, before imposing a written constitution, he should seek the opinion of the people? Would it not help to remove much of the anxiety and depression about the whole affair if he said that we will have a referendum and let the people decide whether they want a written constitution?
The Prime Minister: As a result of what happened at the weekend, we do not have an agreement. Surely it is better to see whether I am right in saying, when the agreement is finally promulgated, that it does not alter the basic constitutional relationship between member states of the European Union, or whether the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it does. It is surely on the basis of the agreement that we should make the judgment.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Prime Minister will know that the Germans and the French said that they would go ahead with the constitution only on their own terms. The Prime Minister said, and he repeated it today, that he agrees with the constitution in principle. Together, that would betray not only Poland's democratic sovereignty but the United Kingdom. Delaying a decision on the voting system until 2009 does nothing for the situation and is mere camouflage. By failing to veto the constitution, the Prime Minister, far from being a peacemaker, will have to meet his own Munich.
The Prime Minister: I am afraid that that sums up the sentiment in today's Conservative party. Let me repeat the position, and the hon. Gentleman can go and look at what the Poles said. The President and Prime Minister of Poland oppose not the constitution but one aspect of it that affects their country's interests.
The Prime Minister: They had a referendum on whether Poland should become part of the European Union. We, too, had a referendum, and it was offered by Labour, not the Conservatives. I point out to the hon. Gentleman once again that there is no way in which Britain will gain from the process of what is happening in Europe if it absents itself from those negotiations. Yes, France and Germany will argue their corner, and we should argue our corner. For goodness' sake, we do not have to worry about being beaten by the French and the Germans every time. We have shown in many negotiations in the past few years that when we fight to get our own way we can get our own way. We can do so without the Eurosceptic nonsense that too often emanates from the Opposition.
The Prime Minister: I agree with the last part of what my right hon. Friend said and think that it is important. An issue such as trade is a classic example of where we should be driving through the single market and so on, but obviously we can do so only as part of the European Union. In many areas of trade and commerce, we need qualified majority voting to make sure that, in a Union of 25, small states do not block change. When one looks back at the historyI know that my right hon. Friend was not doing thisone can see that part of the Eurosceptic myth is that these things are never going to happen and that somehow it is never going to arrive, so we do not lose by staying at the side. However, that is not the way in which it has ever worked.
Maastricht was a classic example of that. When the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues were in power they went to Maastricht and let everyone else determine the terms, then got their opt-out from the social chapter and the single currency. Sweden never had an opt-out from the single currency, but had a referendum on it. We, of course, have said that we would have such a referendum here if we recommended joining. The truth of the matter is that what happened at Maastricht is a classic example of everything that was wrong with the Conservative party and its former leadership in Europe. We were utterly marginalised. We got an opt-out from the social chaptera fat lot of good that did anyone, franklyand the rest of Europe went ahead, and we should have been there determining how it was shaped right from the beginning.
If we did what the Leader of the Opposition wants us to do, we would make exactly the same mistake on European defence. If Britain does not play its full part in European defence and shape it in a way that is consistent with NATO, it will be taken forward by others, perhaps in a way that is inconsistent with NATO. That is why we must remain at the centre of Europe, not on the sidelines.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Up to now, many of the attacks on coalition troops in Iraq have been blamed on former regime loyalists. Is there not now a danger to the coalition case in Iraq? What will happen if the terrorist attacks continue, perhaps unabated? Will that not lend credence to those who argue that despite the undoubted merits of getting rid of a gangster regime, when it comes to the big issuethe issue of dealing with international terrorisman attack on a sovereign Arab nation has made the threat from international terrorism worse, not better?
Why do they want to stop us making progress in Iraq? It is because if we make progress in Iraq, their entire argumenttheir lie that somehow this was about oppressing Muslims or defeating the Arab worldis exposed for what it is. If Iraq gets on its feet as a stable, independent, sovereign state, democratic and prosperous, that will be the best political argument against the extremists. That is why they are in there trying to bomb and kill innocent peoplemost of whom, incidentally, are Iraqisand to stop us.
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the only way in which we will defeat this menace is, wherever it may be in the world, to go after it, and to take the security and political measures that will allow us to defeat it at every single levelin terms of intelligence, in terms of military capability, in terms of security, but also in terms of the political vision for the world.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): It has not been a bad weekend really, has it? First they drag Saddam out of his rabbit hole, then they knock this European constitution into the long grasslonger than Saddam's beard. Do not send a search party to look for it. We have had two Christmas presents; should we not take them and be thankful?
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Will the Prime Minister please convey our best wishes and congratulations to the Polish Prime Minister? Will he please tell him that we all wish our Prime Minister had the courage that he showed last weekend?
The Prime Minister: It is amazingI make a point to the Conservatives, and they simply do not listen or take it on board. Let me repeat this again. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes, he can go and look at what the Polish Prime Minister said. The Polish Prime Minister said that he supports the constitution for Europe and disagrees with this one aspectjust as there are points with which we disagree. The idea that somehow the Poles were saying no to the whole constitution is a myth, and I am afraid that if we based our foreign policy on that myth it would be a foreign policy based on sand.