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Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend is trying to seduce the last dinosaurs on this side of the House, but does he accept that we have to reflect on the single market and all that it brings? That is why some of usrevisionists though we beview this development as an unpalatable move that will lock us further into even more centralisation.
Mr. Cook: I would say gently to my hon. Friend that there is nothing in the constitution that represents increased centralisation. It certainly consolidates existing measures, but the Single European Act was passed a good two decades ago. Another reason why this development should be welcomed is that there are 3 million people who work in Britain on goods that are exported to the EU, which is the market for the great majority of our exports. I personally do not believe that it is a viable long-term strategy to say to our continental partners, "Go and jump into the channelbut do keep buying British". That would not be welcome news to the 750,000 British companies that export to the EU.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?
Mr. Cook: I happily give way to my hon. Friend, who has made me drop my toothbrush on many occasions.
Mr. Davidson: I am not quite sure about the point of the toothbrush.
My right hon. Friend mentioned 3 million jobs in this country, but does he accept that the EU exports more to us than we do to them, and that in the eurozone there are more jobs dependent on trade with Britain than there are British jobs dependent on trade with the eurozone? In those circumstances, they would not cut off their noses to spite their faces.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his Olympian confidence that Britain has much greater
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economic weight than the entire eurozone, but I suspect that if he gets down to negotiations it may not look like that, and I would invite him to reflect on the relative percentages. The exports that we send to the eurozone amount to some 10 per cent. of our total gross domestic product, but the exports sent from the eurozone to Britain amount to fewer than 3 per cent. At the end of the day, we need themI put this gently; I do not want to exaggerateat least as much as they need us. It may be a bridge too far for my hon. Friend, but I invite him to reflect on the fact that since the euro was created, inward investment coming to Britain as a share of European investment has tumbled to a quarter of the previous level. My hon. Friend should reflect further on what he said, before the economic consequences of that start to affect his own region.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab) rose
Mr. Cook: I am terribly sorry, but I have now taken my two interventions for which I get injury time and I have no injury time to take any more. Fortunately, I am capable of counting to two.
I want to return to a point that was implicit in the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on the Single European Act. Much of it is indeed consolidated inside this text, but although there some new matters are included, I would stress that 80 per cent. of it comprises the existing five treaties to which we have already signed up. Those who want Britain to vote no must be honest and tell people that they would not be voting no only to the new matter, but to the whole basis on which we have been a member of the EU for the last 30 years.
I listened carefully to what the shadow Foreign Secretary said about renegotiation, but when he claimed that Mr. Bot would agree with him to renegotiate, I would point out to him that Mr. Bot signed this constitution. His name appears in the early pages of the document; the idea that he is now going to start renegotiating something that he has already authorised and signed seems to me to be pure fantasy and delusion. In the end, if another dozen European countries have referendums and vote yes, we should not imagine that their Governments are then going to settle cheerfully down and have a look at renegotiating the terms that they commended to their own people.
Lastly, I want to say that when I was Foreign Secretary, I was impressed by the extent to which we live in an interdependent world. Our prosperity, security, freedom from organised crimeeven our weatherdepend on our success in achieving common approaches with the rest of our continent. The EU is an intelligent progressive model for trying to achieve such agreement. Of course, it is a condition of membership that compromises have to be accepted and that the option of going it alone has to be given up, but those are not just the conditions of membership of the EU, they are conditions of life in our modern interdependent world. In trying to reject the conditions of the EU, those hon. Members who are saying no to the constitution are also seeking to say no to modern reality. That is the case for voting yes to the constitutionfor the sensible improvements that it makes to sensible arrangements for the modern world.
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Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): We have heard a lot of quotations so far in this debate. I wonder whether, during his time in No. 10 Downing street, Mr. Derek Scott was aware that he had acquired such an extraordinarily authoritative influence over the proceedings of the House of Commons. I shall not follow the style that has been established, other than to refer to a quotation to which the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) animadverted a moment ago. Title 1 of part 1 of the treaty states that
"this Constitution establishes the European Union on which Member States confer competences to obtain objectives they have in common. The Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives and shall exercise on a Community basis the competences they confer on it."
Those two especially well written sentences contain the essence of the document that we are invited to consider today. I welcome this Bill, and I especially welcome its provisions for a referendum. When Mr. Bryan Gould, as he was then, introduced what I think was new clause 51 of the Bill ratifying the Maastricht treatythe new clause called for a referendum on that treatymy Liberal Democrat colleagues and I, and other hon. Members from all parties, voted to support the proposal.
As I have said often in the House before, I believe that it is right, for constitutional and political reasons, to seek the endorsement of the people of the UK when the intention is to change the relationship between Brussels and Westminster. I very much hope that the Bill will pass into law before what we understand to be the date of the general election, although I have some doubts whether sufficient legislative time is available in both Houses of Parliament. If the general election is called for 5 May, I believe that it would be right to fight it on the provisions of this Bill, and in particular on the proposal that the constitution should be ratified.
As far as I know, at no time in history have any British Government signed a treaty that has not been ratified subsequently. However, the logic of those who would reject the Bill and the constitution seems to be that there are no circumstances in which this country would ratify a treaty entered into by our Government. That would be a very novel constitutional position to adopt. It would almost certainly put into very sharp contrast our relations with our EU allies. Therefore, rejection of the Bill would immediately provoke something of a constitutional impasse with the EU, and perhaps worse.
Many people say that the debate on the referendum, when it takes place, must be on the terms of the constitution itself, but I think that they are guilty of wishing for something that cannot be achieved. Does anyone seriously believe that the debate on the referendum, once it begins, will be conducted both in the country and in those newspapers that are most violently against the EU on anything other than the question of whether membership is good for us or otherwise? It will be beholden on us to argue for the principle of EU membership, as well as for the terms and merits of a particular document.
On many occasions I have argued in this House that we should never allow ourselves to forget the turmoil out of which the European Coal and Steel Community was formed, and the purposes of it and its successors.
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The aim was to avoid the continent of Europe being subjected to the destruction, war and loss of life that had disfigured it three times in the preceding 80 years. War between EU member states is now inconceivable. That is neither incidental nor fortuitous; it is a consequence of the EUand, yes, of NATO as well. It is something of which I think that we are too often careless. We too often forget the genesis of the EU, and what it has achieved.
The Foreign Secretary said earlier that our membership of the EU allowed us to join France and Germany in seeking to influence the policies of Iran, in an area that is of vital importance for our security. The remarkable handshake that we saw yesterday may presage a new chapter in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians. The EU, collectively, will have an enormous influence on the outcome of the journey on which Israel and the Palestinians appear to have set out. That influence will stem from what we can contribute and from the political influence that we can bring to bear.
The argument for the EU that will inevitably form part of a referendum campaign must not be allowed to go by default. It is also worth reminding ourselves that only a few years ago eight of the new members of the EU were satellites of the Soviet Union, and that three member statesSpain, Portugal and Greecewere dictatorships. It is inconceivable that those countries would revert to dictatorships, or that the former Soviet satellites would do anything other than adhere to the principles of democracy and open markets that we in this country have taken for granted so long but to which they have sought to aspire.
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