Mr. Hopkins: Was it not the case that when the talks broke down because of Poland and Spain, Whitehall experienced a palpable sense of relief that the matter would not return to the agenda for another seven years? Unfortunately, it has returned.
Ms Stuart: I shall let Whitehall speak for itself. I never understand why the British always accept being put into that kind of positionthe reason why I never understand it is probably because I was not born hereand feel that they must apologise and prove that they are good Europeans. By the way, the British are extremely good Europeans.
Enlargement has received cross-party support. As far as I can see, we are the only country that has always supported Turkey's application. The issue has never been party political and has always concerned how we can make Turkey's application happen. The rest of Europe has always seen that policy as a fiendish plot by perfidious Albion to bring in Turkey in order to break up the European Union; far from it. In future, Europe must achieve greater co-ordination in its foreign and security policy, and Turkey is such a significant player that it is incumbent on us to make sure that it is with us.
Examining matters historically, does the hon. Lady agree that Britain, far from being perfidious, has been the bulwark of democratic freedom in Europe for at least the last century and probably for much longer? After an intensive internal debate,
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1712
The Economist has significantly shifted its position on the EU. On 25 September, it stated:
Ms Stuart: I hope that that does not happen. I remember The Economist front page when the Single European Act was passed. It felt that the Single European Act was disastrous and that it should be torn up. If we do not end up with a structure that allows us to move forward, the danger exists that such a break-up might occur.
It is depressing that the legal instrument to take the Lisbon process forward was not incorporated in the constitution, because the institutions of the Commission felt that that process would leave them out of the loop. Self-centred institutional interests prevailed rather than a desire to make the process work, which is a great pity. I make that criticism because I want the European Union to work and my children to experience the benefits that I had. I do not want to break up the European Union. As the negotiations with Turkey continue, I hope that we stick to what the constitution currently says on religious valuessome people argue for that because they want to keep Turkey out.
On military, security and defence policy and the European Union, we are currently making tremendous progress with or without the constitutional framework. If one visits the west Balkans, one finds huge changes in the way in which European Union countries deploy their national troops. Over the past six months, national caveats have been lifted to an unprecedented extent. European Union countries have done that because the military has learned from experience and convinced their politicians to change the political framework. In a sense, that is how the European Union must proceed. It must respond to what people want it to do and not hope that a framework imposed from the top will deliver the goods.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart). I miss our weekly visits to Brussels as members of the Convention on the Future of Europe, which drew up this wretched document. When the constitution fails, perhaps we will be sent out again to do a better job and will listen to the instructions given to the Convention, which were not to write a constitution, but to create a more democratic Europe that is closer to its citizens.
I agree with many of the hon. Lady's observations, and particularly those on Turkey. Those of us who want to draw Turkey in a European direction should be extremely worried about the constitution on those grounds alone. In my view, the constitution will make Turkey's accession almost impossible. Indeed, I shall go further: apologists for the European constitution sometimes say that enlargement10 countries joined in Maymakes it necessary. In fact, the opposite is the case: greater variety and diversity in Europe make the case for a more varied treaty relationship and count against the command and control mechanism that is entrenched in this European constitution.
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1713
I was interested in the hon. Lady's question, which I hope that the Minister for Europe will answer, about whether the President of the Commission could be same person as the President of the Council of the European Union. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is adamant that that could not happen under the constitution, but I have received legal advice that the situation is ambiguous. That matter needs clearing up. Any idea that the constitution brings clarity, certainty and finality to those difficult issues of who does what in Europe is clearly at variance with the fact that large chunks of it are already subject to different legal analyses by different lawyers in different countries.
The draft constitution runs to more than 500 pages and costs £47 if someone actually wants to buy it. In our last debate, the Minister supported the idea that it should be sent to every household in Britain. If I sent it to one of my constituents, the postage, I am informed by the post office outside, would be £4.31, so at a rough estimate the postage cost alone to the Government would be £130 million.
Mr MacShane: I take the right hon. Gentleman's point entirely; I made a similar one in the last debate. Is he saying that it is his personal position, or the position of the Conservative party, that this money should thus be spent?
I do agree on the need for a debate on the treaty's contents. I am therefore rather alarmed by the pocket edition that has been published by the Foreign Office, which is presumably intended to be some form of substitute. I have a copy here. It is longer than the whole of the American constitution, so it is still, although potted, pretty lengthy. What alarms me about it is the inaccuracies, half-truths and distortions that it contains.
I should like the Minister to tell me why, for instance, the document describes the post of the new European Foreign Minister as simply the merging of two of the existing foreign policy jobs under the existing European Union. That is a complete distortion. Anyone with the slightest acquaintance with the real constitution knows that there is a vastly expanded role for this new post. The new Foreign Minister for Europe will conduct foreign policy on behalf of member states. He, or conceivably she, will run the external action service, which is Eurospeak for the European Foreign Ministry. Indeed, under the terms of the constitution, by declaration appended to it, work on the setting up of that Ministry is already proceeding, even before any votes in referendums have been concluded. The Foreign Minister will also run the European diplomatic service,
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1714
convene and chair the meetings of Foreign Ministers, and set the agenda for those meetings. None of that is in the existing treatiesit goes way beyond anything that is described for the existing jobs.
Mr. MacShane: As the House is sparsely attended, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman and I can have this dialogue. All the actions that he describes are carried out principally by the Commissioner for External Relations. Article I-28 of the new treaty says that the new European Minister for Foreign Affairs will carry out policies
That means that he or she will need the unanimous agreement of the Council of Ministers of all 25 member states before he or she can do anything. For the rest, he continues the work currently carried out by Mr. Patten, who has just retired as External Relations Commissioner.
The right hon. Gentleman is making heavy weather of this. I understand his general opposition, but he should not be unfair on a very accurate and precise document produced by our civil service in the Foreign Office and which provides a neutral description of what is in the treaty.