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Keith Vaz: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is not a question merely of the European Council agreeing that negotiations should start? A recent opinion poll in France reported that 70 per cent. of people there were against Turkey's membership. Does he welcome President Chirac's decision to go on television tonight to argue Turkey's case and to say that EU member states have a responsibility to sell Turkey's membership directly to their people, rather than waiting until the end of the negotiations?
Sir Menzies Campbell: Indeed, and opinion polls suggest that persuading public opinion in France or Germany, for example, will be something of a task. It is to be welcomed that President Chirac will go on television this evening to make the case that the hon. Gentleman has outlined, but the notion that privileged partnership can be an alternative to membership needs to be killed now. One commentator this week said that it was of "dubious legality" and "transparent bad faith".
Passing legislation, as the Turkish Parliament has done, is one thing, but changing attitudes is quite different. We must bear it in mind that showing anything less than enthusiasm for Turkey's candidature, and
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instead offering something equivalent to a rebuff, could cause the progress being made in Turkey to be stalled or even reversed.
Mr. Cash: Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen the opinion poll that came out about two weeks ago which showed that 58 per cent. of all people in the UKand 68 per cent. of people aged between 18 and 24, and 65 per cent. of people in Scotlandwanted the existing European treaties to be reduced to trade and association agreements? Does he agree that adopting that as a policywhich I would certainly advocatewould also help in the context of Turkey? It would demonstrate that we could work together without giving way to the primacy of the European constitution.
Sir Menzies Campbell: I did not see that poll, but if it is as pessimistic about Scotland as the hon. Gentleman suggests, it fills me with a certain anxiety. However, I have never regarded the EUor the Coal and Steel Community, or the European Community that developed from thatas being solely about trade. I consider it to be about the rule of law and human rights as well. The hon. Gentleman's question seems to imply that the arrangements between the European countries should be modified to provide only for trade and economic co-operation. Were that to happen, I believe that we would be giving up something that I consider to be of enormous importance and significance.
That is how it was regarded in the immediate post-war period, when the impetus to find mechanisms to ensure that France and Germany were not at each other's throatsas they had been three times in the preceding 80 yearswas at its highest. I should be very reluctant to see an association emerge that was more akin to the European Free Trade Area, for example, in which the fundamental issues of human rights and the rule of law were put to one side. That might help a lot of countries to join the EU, but I am not sure that it would necessarily be in the UK's interest.
The opening of accession negotiations with Turkey is the surest way to maintain the momentum already evident in that country towards reform, securing respect for freedom and human rights and promoting a stable and prosperous future. However, those objectives must be achieved in substance and not merely in form. That is why accession provides Turkey with a great opportunity and also a considerable obligation. Persuading public opinion in the EU and Turkey of the merits of Turkish accession remains a considerable task.
I turn now to the question of the EU budget. It is inevitable when budget considerations are under discussion that there should be a very sharp focus on the UK rebateor abatement, as it is more properly described. I have no doubt that the view that it continues to be justified remains correct. Even with the abatement, between 1995 and 2002 the UK paid into the EU two and a half times more than either France or Italy.
The European Commission appears to have some general proposals for a rebate mechanism applicable to all net contributors. So far, there is not sufficient detail about the proposals to make clear exactly how they will work, and what the consequences would be for
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the UK. Important, significant and justified though the abatement may be, however, the long-term question must concern the level of Britain's net contribution. If a more acceptable and sensible method of financing that had the effect of reducing in the long term Britain's net contribution could be achieved, then I shall continue the animal metaphors that have characterised today's debate by saying that it would be a rather dog-in-the-manger attitude not to include the abatement in the discussion. The abatement is significant more for its consequence than for any intrinsic merit.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the problem is the CAP, without which there would be no budget problem? Is it not right for Britain to make a net contribution to the EU budget so that poorer states and new members can benefit?
In addition, I should need a great deal of persuading before I could accept the Commission's proposals for substantial increases in EU funding. There are continuing allegations of corruption, and the auditors have still not signed off the accounts. As a result, this is no time to ask for more money and to do so would display a certain amount of insensitivity in political terms. In that regard, I support the British's Government's position, which is buttressed by France, Germany, Sweden, Holland and, I understand, Austria. The aim is to stabilise current expenditure and to limit the budget to 1 per cent. of gross national income. Given the present rate of current economic growth in the EU, increased spending at this time would be both unwise and even unsustainable.
On the CAP, the priority for budget savings must not be the abandonment or destruction of the CAP. People who believe that it can be simply wished away or destroyed have a rather optimistic view of such matters. What is essential is reform. The CAP's failings are self-evident. They include excessive production, unsustainable farming practices, the penalising of both taxpayers and consumers, and an impact on the developing world that we may sometimes forget in our discussions but which matters a great deal when it comes to issues of universal free trade. No doubt that is an issue to which the newly appointed British Commissioner will give his considerable attention.
Moreover, implementation of the reforms to meet the Lisbon targets has been very slow. Growth in the EU is slow and intermittent, and that is of some concern. Unemployment in France, Germany and Italy is now on the order of 10 per cent. That is a clear indication of the need for economic reform.
Another issue is the dependency ratiothe ratio of non-workers to workerswhich is rapidly increasing in the EU. We have an ageing society with a high proportion of non-workers. Coupled with low growth and high public spending, that will inevitably be unsustainable in the long term.
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Tony Baldry: Does not that also emphasise the need for Europe to remain competitive, especially with China? If European competitiveness does not keep up, we will fall further and further behind the new emerging economies.
It is clear that a large part of the discussions this weekend will concern external relations. Before I address the situations in Iran, Ukraine and the middle east, I wonder whether hon. Members shared my distaste at the reports that the telephone conversations of Dr. el-Baradei may have been the subject of electronic eavesdropping by our American friends? We have had reports in the past of the telephone conversations of the Secretary-General of the United Nations being subject to the same intrusion, and it seems to me that the confidence that we are entitled to have in international institutionsboth the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nationsis not served by such actions.
We should welcome the agreement, to which the Foreign Secretary was party, by which Iran has undertaken to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities. But it is also clear, as the Foreign Secretary will acknowledge, that some long-term agreement is required to cover not only nuclear matters, but economic, security and technical issues. The overwhelming priority must be to achieve a permanent end to uranium enrichment and the production of plutonium. Those are legitimate under the non-proliferation treaty as part of a civil energy programme, butas everyone knowsit is a short step from that level of expertise to the production of nuclear weapons. There is much to be said for the view that Iran has come close to mastering nuclear technology. That is of consequence not just in the context of Europe.
Hon. Members will be aware that next year we are to have another review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. If those with long memories cast their mind back to 2000, they will recall that success was achieved at the review conference only by virtue of the declared nuclear powers entering a separate agreement committing themselves to nuclear disarmament and to practical steps to achieve and implement it. At the NPT conference next year, the declared nuclear powers may be asked to account for their obligations under that agreement. No doubt the EU will have a view on the conference, but I suspect that it will be a difficult occasion, with several countries being forceful about what they regard as the obligations undertaken by the declared powers and the extent to which they have been implemented.
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