|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): This has been an enjoyable debate. My first debate in the House of Commons was the equivalent debate in 1994, in which the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) sat in my seat as a Europe Minister. I have stayed roughly the same, but it might be fair to say, if one examines his speech of 10 years ago, that he has changed a bit.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) made a fair point about the nature of debate on Europe in this House. Ten years ago, the House was fuller and there were more, shorter interventions. Some of those were tough, but there was not the relentless whinge of negativism that we have heard this afternoon. I wish that we had a mechanismthis is not for me, but for the Leader of the House, for the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, and for the usual channelswhereby we could find ways of discussing these issues in more depth. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary tried to do that through the Standing Committee on the Convention on the Future of Europe, which sat while the Convention was carrying out its workthe first time in British parliamentary history that a treaty was discussed and subjected to cross-examination while the negotiations were going on. Alas, not one Conservative Front Bencher bothered to turn up. Until they take the question of Europe seriously instead of reproducing bromides from the Rothermere press, it will be difficult for the House to take seriously their views on Europe.
The Conservatives can take some comfort, because there is now no question of a plan B, as their plan A is in front of all our eyes. It was ably put forward by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who said that the European Union is a
That was plan A. However, it was confirmed more recently at a more senior level by the Leader of the Opposition's former speech writer, now a distinguished MEP, Mr. Daniel Hammill, who headed an article in The Wall Street Journal on 2 December with "Is Britain on the Way Out?" To his satisfaction, he proved that the answer was yes. The vision he offered was that of another Norway.
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1756
In Oslo, however, Norway is known as a fax democracy because it has implemented more EU directives than the United Kingdom. Every law passed in Switzerland has to conform with EU law and the taxpayers of Norway and Switzerland have to pay hundreds of millions of euros to Brussels. If the Conservative party has a vision of our being out of Europe and somehow having a glorious future separate from the EU, let me make it clear, and let every business know, that it would mean still paying a large cheque to Brussels, still obeying every Brussels directive but having no control over the shape and implementation of the directives. That should be on the record.
Let us also be clear that the Conservative party's current policy is to put Britain in breach of its treaty obligations. Leaders of the Conservative party have confirmed that they wish to pass national legislation that would put Britain in breach of its current treaty obligations on specific key matters. That means, for the first time in British history, that the United Kingdom would vote to put itself in breach of solemn treaty obligations, either meeting large fines from the European Court of Justice or withdrawing from the EU because of one tiny matter. We all have sympathy for the problems of British fishermen. However, outside the EU, no European country would be obliged to allow British fishermen to land their fish at French or other ports. That shows the frivolity, facetiousness and irresponsibility of the Conservative party's current policy.
The debate is about the discussions that we will hold tomorrow at the European Council meeting. The House broadly supports the idea that the EU should open negotiations with Turkey without new hurdles, barriers or conditions. We look forward to Croatia taking the European road. I have said that consistently in all my visits to Zagreb. However, we want those accused of terrible war crimes in the 1990s to be made accountable and the entire Croatian state apparatus to work to secure the delivery of Mr. Gotovina to The Hague.
Croatia and the western Balkans show the fatuousness of the cliché that conflict in Europe is no longer thinkable. It was not thinkable 10 or 15 years agocolleagues of all parties would have made such remarks. However, conflict then exploded in our midst, with the consequence of 1 million asylum seekers surging across all our European borders. Why did it happen? It was precisely because of Europe's failure to act and have a coherent common foreign policy. We had the sit-on-the-hands policy of Conservative Foreign Ministers, one of whom will return to the House if the voters of Kensington and Chelsea are foolish enough to vote Conservative at the next election. He will undoubtedly sit on the Opposition Front Bench before long. I look forward to that because I hope that he will go on his knees to the British people to apologise for the disasters of isolationist British foreign policy of the 1990s. That dirge of isolationism was heard in many contributions to today's debate.
The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) made a speech that contained more metaphors about dogs than the House had ever heard before. It will be read out for ever more at Crufts. We all know and love the right hon. and learned Gentlemanhe is the House's favourite shaggy old Labrador. We have to take him out for a walk every night because we
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1757
know that if he does not rid himself of his anti-European bile he will be unhappy. He does not believe a word of the rubbishhe had been a liberal pro-European all his life until the Conservative party lately adopted its current wretched policy.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) was right when he said that we should not set the bar any higher for Turkey. He was also right to say that we have to pay serious attention to Ukraine. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) also made that point. What an example Ukraine has set in recent weeks. Once again, people are rising to demand their democratic rights, supported by the united voice of Europe, including High Representative Solana and the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania. Europe has spoken as oneit is not the Europe of conflicting, competing, discordant voices depicted by the Opposition.
Mr. MacShane: I offered to pay the way for the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West on Boxing day, but it was a tease. We are good friends, I hope, despite our differences at the Dispatch Box, and I can assure him that, having spoken to the leader of our Council of Europe delegation, the Foreign Office will make funds available, not literally for every single hon. Member, but for those who want to go to Ukraine. We want Britain to be there.
Mr. Brady: I am grateful to the Minister for the help that he has provided. However, I was referring not just to Members of Parliament but to other British citizens who have volunteered to help in Ukraine but who must meet the costs from their own pockets.
Mr. MacShane: We have provided a great deal of money to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to help to pay for official election observers. I was talking about Members of ParliamentI do not think that I can write a cheque at the Dispatch Box for other British citizens who want to go to Ukraine.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) was, as always, positive. The letter signed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Schröder and Mr. Aznar in 2002 made 10 points, many of which have already been achieved. I am happy to write to my hon. Friend with the details rather than detain the House. I have a special affection for the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), as I represent his parents in the House. I am sorry that he was not in Rotherham last Tuesday when, with His Excellency the French Ambassador, I unveiled a plaque in front of the town hall beside the cannon forged in Rotherham that was used to sink Napoleon's fleet at Trafalgar. However, we
15 Dec 2004 : Column 1758
have moved on, as the plaque commemorates the 100th anniversary of the entente cordiale:
The right hon. Gentleman, however, made an uncharacteristically pessimistic, dark and apocalyptic speech. He told us that it will be difficult to secure a yes vote on the new treaty of Europe. I welcome that suggestion because, unlike the Opposition, who believe that a no vote on Europe is already in the bag, I am not complacent. I prefer to start with a hill to climb, and I am sure that the British people will not resile from this important treaty and isolate themselves from the rest of Europe. We all remember the right hon. Gentleman's winning intervention in the election. He warned the British people that if they voted Labour Britain would become a "foreign land". Would he like me to speak French now? Are the people of Rotherham living in a foreign land? Such scaremongering rhetoric is unworthy of his leadership qualities to which, one day, I expect the Conservative party must return.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|