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Fathoming the Foreign Secretary's position is not much easier. He exhibits schizophrenia on the question of a referendum. One moment he is aggressively against a referendum and the next he is passionately in favour. That is surely not just because the Minister for Europe, as we heard, swore at him. This is the same Foreign Secretary who blithely assured the House in the autumn of 2003 that EU enlargement would not create undue or unsupportable migration to the UK from the accession countries. He will remember the debate in question.
We now learn from Stephen Pollard's new biography that, according to the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary flew into an hysterical panic over migration when the EU was enlarged. I am very grateful to the Government Chief Whip. She kindly handed back the copy of the biography that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition tried to give to the Prime Minister as a Christmas present, so that I could better use it, having been unable to get a copy myself. I have had a moment or two to glance at it and it is worth reading the following quote into the record. It says:
"'Jack Straw and the Foreign Office just completely flipped on the position they had held before. Jack went into hysterical mode about what he now saw as the impending consequences of accession. He started making dramatic predictions of what would happencompletely the opposite of what he had wanted about five minutes earlier.' For months, Straw had been 'the man who said everybody was welcome to come and draw benefits', as Blunkett puts it. Come the moment of accession, however, Straw 'suddenly decides he's in a terrible panic and he doesn't want anybody here at all. And so we're going round in circles.'"
Does that not illustrate why having just two days a year to debate European policy is wholly inadequate? Every so often, we ought to have the opportunity to debate European trade policy and migration policy, because only then will we be able to flush out of the Foreign Secretary what the
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Government's policy is. His coming here just twice a year and speaking for the whole Government in what amounts to a group therapy session is pathetic and inadequate.
Mr. Ancram: I agree. Indeed, my point is that this issue relates to two Departments that the Foreign Secretary has led. We now learn that he gave to this House an account that differs totally from the actual truth. This is another fine mess.
Keith Vaz: The shadow Foreign Secretary has been speaking for 11 minutes, but he has raised none of the issues that will be before the European Council at this weekend's meeting. This is our only opportunity to debate these important matters before that meeting. Will he get on and put forward the Conservative party's agenda, rather than relying on tittle-tattle?
A far more important question is, what is the Government's position on Europe today? For all the Prime Minister's talk about being at the centre of Europe, the Government have never really had a policy on Europe, except to adopt the course of least resistance. They are always the poodle, never the bulldog, hence last year's surrender over the separate European military planning capabilitythere can be no other explanationand the current apparent readiness to go along with the EU's proposed lifting of the embargo on arms sales to China, in the full knowledge that it will cause a deep breach with the United States. In terms of military equipment, that could be very damaging to our national interest.
The Foreign Secretary tried to make light of this issue yesterday by suggesting that the embargo has "no legal force", but that we now have a legally enforceable EU code of conduct. That seems strange, given Amnesty International's criticism of that code of conduct as "not legally binding". The EU embargo, however, applies as a Council decision. If the Foreign Secretary is right, why is Chinabacked by French commercial interestsso keen for the embargo to be lifted, and the US so adamantly opposed?
Two months ago, the Prime Minister signed the treaty establishing a European constitution, even though it contains many elements that he had assured us would not be in it. First, there is the constitution itself, which he told us in October 2000 was not necessary. Secondly, reference is made to EU control of justice and home affairs, matters which we were told would be dealt with through co-operation between nation states. Thirdly, the EU is given a single legal personality, a proposal which the Prime Minister once described as "potentially damaging". Fourthly, reference is made to a legally binding charter of fundamental rights, even though we were promised that such a charter would not be legally binding and would have no more legal force than the Beano. Fifthly, the promised vetoes in respect of social security and criminal law have been watered down into so-called "emergency brakes". The Government's firm opposition to a European public prosecutor has been
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overruled by the constitution and control over our asylum and immigration has at best been compromised, at worst surrendered. And what about the 248 other amendments that the Government tabled, but which were rejected?
Why did the Prime Minister sign up to a constitution that flies in the face of his Government's promises? As I have said, the answer is that this Government have no policy on Europe other than to adopt the course of least resistance. Still they tell us that this constitution is nothing more than a rule book to run the enlarged EU. What sort of mugs do they take the British people for? That is not what the EU is telling the wider world. When in Israel last week, I asked a senior Minister about his views on the EU's relationship with the peace process. He said that the EU was being very pushy about playing the lead role and that EU representatives were now telling him that Europe was more powerful and influential than the US. They said that it had more people and that, under the constitution, it would soon have its own president, foreign minister and diplomatic service, complete with ambassadors. They also said that it would have its own foreign policy and currency, and eventually its own military forcesand the clout, therefore, to deliver in the middle east.
Once again, we see the use of the forked tongue. The Government are minimalists at home to allay public suspicions, but enthusiastic integrators abroad. That is not a clear picture; it is more of a tangled web. By way of contrast
In contrast with the Government, we have a clear view of Europe and of the EU. We are in Europe, and we are determined that Britain should be a positive and influential member of the EU. We are looking for a more flexible, less bossy Europe, in which the strengths and wishes of individual nations count. We believe that to achieve that, Europe must change. We oppose the constitution in principle because we believe it is a gateway to a country called Europe to which we do not want to go. We also oppose it in detail, because it erodes our essential rights in respect of self-determination. I have been through the list of those erosionsthe trappings of European statehoodmany times, so I need not do so again today.
I will, however, allude to a new erosion of our rights. The accusation has been made that the constitution will make the already serious problem of EU fraud even worse. Let me quote whistle blower Marta Andreasen, who certainly knows the workings of the EU institutions backwards. Last week, she pointed out that those institutions needed reform, rather than more powers. She charged that the constitution would create
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a dangerous system of "shared control" that is "equivalent to no control". She said:
"my experience from the inside allows me to say that we are at great risk if we vote for a Constitution that increases the powers of institutions which have proved up until now to be totally unaccountable and lacking in transparency. If we let go this opportunity to express our dissent there will not be another opportunity again".
We will therefore campaign to defeat this constitution in the referendum, when it comes. With us in government, it will come by next September, and I believe that the British people will have the good sense to vote no. That will, in turn, open the door to the building of a new Europe that works for its peoples, not its elites. We will reverse the conveyor belt that for too long has transferred powers only one wayfrom national Parliaments to Brussels. It is clear that the EU has powers in respect of matters that would be better dealt with by member states, and we are not alone in thinking this. As Commissioner Margot Wallström said,
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