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Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is talking absolute nonsense. Is it not a fact that even before the European Union's decision to lift the ban on exports to China was agreed or came into being, the United States had dragged its heels for the past three years over the international traffic in arms regulations waiver on the transfer of technology? To link the two is absolute nonsense.

Dr. Fox: But the ban has not been lifted. The Government have changed their position on more than one occasion. They were initially against the lifting of the ban, but they then suddenly became in favour of its lifting. It is the lack of consistency that we complain about, and that lack of consistency is based on short-term expediency, not the long-term national interest.

In the coming months, the relationship with Europe will be centre stage. We need to have a realistic and balanced assessment of our relationship with the European Union and of the relationship between the EU and the rest of the world. Much good has come initially from the creation of the European Community, then the EU. We have moved from a century when much of the world's conflict originated on the European continent to a new century in which a stable family of democracies has been able to welcome those from the oppressed states of the former eastern Europe. The EU has helped with the seamless transition to democracy of Spain, Greece and Portugal and the reunification of Germany. The progress of the single market, albeit at much too slow a pace, has been a step in the right direction.

The biggest problem with the EU, however, is that it has a Eurocentric view of the world that is a generation out of date. While the EU gazes at its navel and slowly ossifies, China, south Asia and the Americas continue to take an increased share of the world's market, eroding what would have been European wealth and power. The citizens of Europe have been betrayed by those who have failed or refused to see what is happening beyond the borders of Europe itself. It is a failure compounded by the overtaxing, over-regulating and uncompetitive nature of the social democratic policies followed by too
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many European Governments. It is not a coincidence that many more jobs have been created in the United States than in the EU, or that the United States has actually been increasing its share of world trade. Social democratic policies are making Europe less competitive in an ever-more competitive global economic environment. There is no Marshall plan now, no post-war growth spurt to hide the uncompetitive nature of the interventionist doctrine. In a world of ever-more fiercely competitive markets, it is sink or swim—and the waters are rising around Europe.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I guess we get the hon. Gentleman's drift that he is not very much in favour of the European Union. A few years ago, he was, as I understand it, vice-president of the campaign against a federal Europe, which declared quite openly that it was in favour of a separate relationship for Britain with the EU and, if that was not possible, withdrawal from the EU. Does he still hold the views that he held then?

Dr. Fox: We are all allowed to have some progress in our views. For example:

That was the Prime Minister during the Beaconsfield by-election in 1982.

We made it very clear at this election that we want to have a different relationship with the EU—a more flexible relationship—but to remain within the EU. That was extremely clear during the general election. We have to have a different relationship with a different EU because, over-burdened by parasitic bureaucracy, hard-working people across the EU are overtaxed, businesses struggle to compete and the cost of failure is paid for by the young unemployed of France and Germany and by the diminished potential of the next generation. The real problem of the EU is not that described by the little Englanders—that Europe is too foreign—but that it is not foreign enough. The EU needs to be more outward looking and flexible, and should end its absurd obsession with uniformity, which causes unnecessary friction and time wasting.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the United Kingdom should have an associate membership status with the European Union?

Dr. Fox: No, we should play our full role in developing a more flexible European Union that would be in Britain's best interests.

All this is important because in the coming months, no doubt in great detail, we will have to decide whether we want to sign up to the next chapter of European integration. We will debate the issues in the Bill that the Government bring forward—I am sorry that there will not be two Bills, rather than one. The German Minister for Europe, Hans Martin Bury, has said:

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That is far from the tidying-up exercise described by the Government.

The new constitution would undermine individual member states' ability to determine their own policies in key areas such as the economy, law and order, and asylum and immigration. The European Union would gain most of the trappings of statehood, with its own president, Foreign Minister and legal system. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) has said:

The Government's whole handling of the European constitution is typical of how they do business in Europe. First, they say that nothing damaging to Britain is being proposed. When that is proposed, they say that they will block it. Then when they give in, they say that it is a good thing for Britain after all.

A former Minister for Europe, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), is in the Chamber. He claimed that the charter of fundamental rights would be as legally binding as the Beano. However, in the constitution the charter will have full legal status and will be enforced through the European Court of Justice.

Another former Minister for Europe, the right hon. Member for Neath (Peter Hain), claimed that the negotiations on the constitution were a "triumph for Britain". The truth is that the Government simply abandoned many of their objections and accepted proposals that they had previously condemned. During negotiations, the right hon. Gentleman tabled 275 different amendments. Only 27 were included in the final draft, yet the objections covered many important areas.

The Government called for the new EU power to

to be deleted, but they were ignored. They said that they did not want an EU Foreign Minister. The right hon. Member for Neath said that that was "unacceptable", but the Government were ignored. They opposed making the charter of fundamental rights legally binding, but in the end, as ever, they gave way. Originally, the Government were against the very idea of a constitution. In 2000, the Prime Minister said that there should not be

However, in the end he gave way to those other member states that wanted one—how typical.

On 12 May 1997, the new Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Robin Cook), launched his mission statement. He said:

To that I say just one word: Zimbabwe.

On Africa, the many speeches and endless photo opportunities of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have generated far more heat than light. In his speech to launch the report of the Commission for Africa on
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11 March, the Prime Minister managed not to mention Zimbabwe at all, yet it is surely the greatest stain on all of Africa's fragile democratic record.

For all his talk, the Prime Minister has achieved little. When robust action was required, he looked the other way. Robert Mugabe has destroyed the rule of law, contravened human rights in the most appalling way and destroyed his country's prosperity with casual indifference, yet this British Government have stood idly by. They have bottled out of confronting President Mbeki on his tacit support for Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe depends on South African energy supplies, yet the Government seem afraid to demand action from President Mbeki.

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