|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Cash: My right hon. and learned Friend is setting out a healthy catalogue of concerns about the direction in which Europe has been going, but does he also accept that it is extremely important to have regard to the political structure of Europe and the manner in which the integration process has been developed under existing treaties? We should approach that not in an individual or isolated manner, but by reference to a proper and radical renegotiation of all the treaties, so that we could then live comfortably with whatever emerges.
Mr. Ancram: We want to see a reformed Europe and I do not believe that that can be achieved in one go. What we must do is set the process in motion and reverse the conveyer belt. As my hon. Friend knows, the Government have comprehensively failed to do so. As Derek Scott said:
Those were his words, not mine. We would negotiate to restore local and national control over our fisheries. As the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who is no longer in his place, pointed out, the common fisheries policy has been a disaster, while nationally managed fisheries off Norway and Iceland have been a success.
We would also restore Britain's opt-out from the social chapter, which has allowed costly regulations to be imposed on Britain. In the light of the shocking examples of fraud in the EU overseas aid budget
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1688
uncovered by OLAF in its latest report, it makes sense for more of our overseas aid budget to be spent from London and less of it from Brussels.
The Government scathingly deride the notion that it is possible to negotiate to bring powers back from Brussels to Britain. The Prime Minister told my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition that
The Minister for Europe takes a differentand, I have to say, on this occasiona more realistic view. [Interruption.] I am about to cite the wise words of the Minister for Europe, so he should listen. What I call negotiation, he calls networking. He spoke about convincing the Irish, Austrians, Spanish and Italians that there is a better way forward. I call that constructive negotiation. He believes that he can get rid of the common agricultural policy that way. Add a little grim determination to secure our objectives, and I do not believe that we are that far apart on our ability to renegotiate sensible decisions within the EU. Let us hear no more defeatist talk about the EU being unamendable and unchangeable.
Different European countries want different things from the European Union. The British people want free trade and a structure to help us work together with our European partners to tackle common problems such as the environment and international crime. Others want a full-blown political union and a federal state. There can be only one answer to those divided positionsa flexible Europe. We should let those countries that want to integrate further do so, but other countries should not be compelled to join them. Outside the core area of the single market, they should be allowed to reclaim powers from the EU where the EU is performing badly.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): If all the other 24 countries decide that one of the things that they want is a constitution as expressed in the constitutional treaty, what will the right hon. and learned Gentleman then do?
Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman knows the rules of intergovernmental conferences. If there is one veto, the treaty dies. That has been made clear on both sides of the House and has been accepted by those responsible in the Convention for producing the constitution.
The need for a flexible Europe has never been greater. As the Foreign Secretary said, enlargement has not reached its limits and I am delighted that there is cross-party support in this country for negotiations to begin for Turkey's membership. Ukraine, too, is showing a European vocation, but an EU of 30 or more countries would be unworkable under the current tight structure and would be worse still if the constitution came into force.
The Foreign Secretary chided me for wanting to see Turkey open negotiations while saying at the same time that we should vote against the constitution. May I remind him that the constitution's designer, Giscard d'Estaing, said:
We have seen two rather different elections in Romania and Ukraine. I congratulate the new President of Romania and I would like to see Romania in the European Union, but first the Government must show that they have dealt with current concerns about the integrity of the political process and the judicial process, and with corruption elsewhere in Romanian society. We salute the Ukrainian people for their defence of, and enthusiasm for, democracy. We very much hope that the elections on Boxing day are free of fraud. Ukraine will always have a special relationship with Russia, but equally it has a right to look to join the European Union.
Deregulation is another key feature of the Europe that we want to see. The failure of the Lisbon agenda is a matter for regret. The EU is burdened with far too many regulations and we need systematically to reverse the drivers of regulation.
The European Union has achieved much that is good. It has effected a lasting reconciliation between countries that were once bitter enemies. It has nurtured young democracies. It has been the lure for countries emerging from dictatorship to uphold the rule of law. It has created wealth by opening up European markets. It has done all those as a partnership of sovereign nation states. That is what we must now build on. The antithesis of that would be to follow those who seek to create a superpower to act as a counterweight or rival to the United Statesand that we must resist. It is a vain vision that would make a dangerous world even more dangerous.
As we approach the EU summit this weekend, there is a choice of approachto stand up for British interests or to continue to be Europe's poodle. The Government have pursued the latter path for too long. Within Europe, it is time to make our true voice heard again.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): I cannot begin without expressing my profound disappointment that the Government have neither published nor introduced to Parliament the Bill designed to facilitate the ratification of the treaty, establishing a single constitutional document for Europe. It has been reported that the Government Chief Whip believes that it would be difficult to put such a Bill on the statute book before the election. If that report is true, it conveys two pieces of information: first, that the likely date of the election is almost certainly 5 Mayprobably the worst kept political secret in Westminsterand secondly, the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Government to put such a measure through Parliament.
I find that particularly disappointing, as I had been looking forward to campaigning with the Foreign Secretary. I could see him, myself and perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) going to mass meetings of the British people, strenuously arguing the case for endorsing the constitution. It now appears from what the Minister for Europe has told the people of Durham that I was responsible for persuading the Foreign Secretary of the virtues of the referendum, so I count it as a personal failure that I have not been able to persuade him of the virtues of early legislation on this matter.
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1690
Enlargement will undoubtedly be a significant issue for discussion this weekend. Not much reference has been made to Bulgaria, but I understand that that country has now pretty well closed all her chapters and will, in that sense, be eligible for membership. I hope that that membership proceeds smoothly and expeditiously.
In the matter of Romania, to which some reference has been made, the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was right that considerable doubts remain about corruption, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, but we are entitled to derive some encouragement from the election of Mr. Basescu, who was elected expressly on an anti-corruption ticket. As the Foreign Secretary was willing to agree a few moments ago, that is a clear indication of how the prospect of European Union membershipand, indeed, its requirementsmay have considerable influence on electorates, who are aware that without substantial change and their support for suitable political candidates, their aspirations for membership may not be able to be realised.
It is inevitable that the principal focus will be on Turkey. One national newspaper this week rather portentously said that "Turkey's moment has arrived". The admission of Turkey will be a strategic decision of historic importance. The Foreign Secretary himself spoke of Turkey forming a bridge between Islam and the west. There is reason to believe that Turkey's ultimate entry may not be for some years10 years in some estimates. In the meantime, there is an opportunity for inward investment and modernisation to take place. Just as the whole House supports Turkey's accession to the EU in principle, so it will also support the view that Turkey must implement all necessary reforms in full. There is a sense in which Turkey and the Turks must prove themselves, but it is important that they do so according to the same conditions as apply to everyone else, and that the bar is not set higher for Turkey than for any other applicant country.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|