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Mr. Hendrick: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way, but does he not agree that, even though enlargement could go ahead on the basis of the Nice treaty, the EU will have 25 member states and a multiplicity of texts will make up the treaties, so it is simpler to shrink those texts into a constitution and add a little bit as well, which is effectively what the constitution will do?
Mr. Ancram: None of us argues that Nice alone is the perfect way to manage a Europe of 25 states, but I am absolutely certain that a full-blown constitution is not needed to do that. That is the point that we are making, and I shall come to it in a moment.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): Before we leave the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view of history, will he forgive me for finding it a little difficult to take? Does he recollect that he was the Conservative candidate against me in West Lothian in February 1974? I have the clear recollectionI do not think that I am wrongthat he was not a whit behind Edward Heath in being ardent for Europe.
Mr. Ancram: I hate to quibble with the hon. Gentleman's memory, but rather than February 1974, when I was fighting in East Lothian, I fought him in June 1970, when the situation was somewhat different. Indeed, I was one of a number of failed candidates who, having lost the election, wrote a letter to a national newspaper calling for a free vote on the accession Bill in 1972. That perhaps underlines the position that I took then and what my view is.
Unlike the Government, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition set out his alternative European vision in a speech that he gave in Berlin on 13 February. He spoke of a flexible Europea live and let live Europe that is more co-operative and less prescriptive, more varied and less conformist, based on a completed single market, working together in areas where joint action is beneficial, but able, without tension, to differ where necessary. He spoke of a Europe where the sovereignty of the nation state is the foundation. That is not the Europe of the constitution.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the real choice for an enlarged Europe is whether to have a new constitutional treaty or to continue with the existing constitutional treaties? As it appears unlikely that, by the next election, all 25 member states will have ratified whatever treaty is eventually agreed, will he confirm that the pressure for negotiation only extends to any new treaty and that any Conservative Government would not try to reopen the existing treaties on which we function at the momentall of which have been negotiated by Conservative Governments of which he and I were members or supporters?
My right hon. and learned Friend asks an important question. We have always saidand we say againthat had we been in government now, we would have used the period of the negotiation and renegotiation, which has been part of what the convention has been doing for the past two years, to make changes to the existing treaties. For example, we have made it clear for some time that we are not happy with the common fisheries policy; we believe that it is destroying the fishing industry in this country. Had we been the Government, we would have made that part of what we were negotiating in the course of the run-up to where we are now. If there is not a ratified and implemented treaty by the time we get back to government, Europe as a whole will have to look to see what it is going to do in future.
One veto prevents the treaty from happening at all. If that happens, we will, of course, have renegotiation just as this Government have renegotiated every time[Hon. Members: "Answer."] I have given the answer.
Mr. Clarke: Let us leave aside the fisheries policy on which our party has had the same policy ever since it went into opposition. If we say that the other member states were not persuaded that we should leave the common fisheries policy and one or two of them vetoed that, what would we then do? Presumably we would continue with the existing treaties.
My right hon. and learned Friend mentions the common fisheries policy and I am familiar with our position on that. I trust that the fish understand it as well as the fishermen. However, what other things would we negotiate in the existing treaties? Do we intend to open up anything from the treaty of accession, the treaty of Maastricht or the treaty of Nice? What are the other things that we would be seeking to negotiate?
Mr. Ancram: My right hon. and learned Friend is, I have to say, asking speculative questions. The point is thatand it is a very clear pointif, by the time we get back to government after the next election, this treaty has not been ratified by every country in Europe and if we refuse to ratify it, as we would, there will be no treaty. We will then have to look at the current position and the existing treaties and will have to decide what can be kept
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): My right hon. and hon. Friends should remember that the Conservative party opposed the Nice treaty and the treaty of Amsterdam, which were negotiated badly by the Labour Government. We object very strongly to this constitution and those treaties for transferring many powers too far from our democratic rights in this country. My right hon. and learned Friend has my full support and that of most Conservative Members in making these points.
Mr. Ancram: I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for making that clear. I also remind my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) that, at Laeken, the remit given to the convention was to try to simplify the process by which an enlarged Europe would be run and also to reconnect the European institutions with the people of Europe, who are being increasingly alienated from them. That, in itself, was looking for a renegotiation of the way that Europe is run. If we have not got a treaty as I hope that we have not when we return to power after the next election, that is precisely what we shall be returning to.
If we find we have the existing treaty, if we press points of renegotiation, and, presumably, if any one of the other 24 members does not agree with the points that we are making, it will veto them and we will be left with the existing treaty. What would we do if our negotiating points were blocked and we were not able to get unanimous agreement to reopen the treaty of accession, the treaty of Maastricht, the treaty of Amsterdam or the treaty of Nice that comprise the present constitution of the Union? What would we do if any one of the 24 blocked any particular change that we were seeking?
Mr. Ancram: I do not know how my right hon. and learned Friend conducts negotiations, but I always go into them intending to try to achieve what I seek to achieve. When Lady Thatcher was Prime Minister she was told frequently that she was never going to achieve the rebate by negotiation. She went in determined to achieve it and negotiated brilliantly, as my right hon.
Last Friday, the Prime Minister called for a real debate to dispel what he called the myths. If his call were genuine, he would abandon the myth that we are seeking withdrawal. He knows that that is not true, and when he returned to the point yesterday, he diminished the value of the debate that he wants. He should also abandon the myths that he is not an integrationist and that the constitution is not the gateway to a single European state.
Let us consider briefly the constitution. It is no mere charter of competencies of the sort with which we would have been happy, as I said to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe. It does not just define lines and levels of authority, but sets out an agenda: the creation of a political entity that would soon become a single European state. It is a constitution, and states have constitutions. We oppose a single European state, so we oppose a constitution.