Keith Vaz: That is an excellent exposition of the importance of the treaty, but could my right hon. Friend address himself to the issue of what will happen to Britain's position if France or the Netherlands votes no? Will we go ahead with our referendum, or will we scrap it and take the matter back to the Council of Ministers?
I stand by the comments that the Prime Minister has made. He has made it clear that our process of ratification involves a referendum, so if there is a constitutional treaty to ratify, it will be done by the
25 May 2005 : Column 848
British people by means of the referendum set out in the Bill that I am glad to say we introduced into this place yesterday.
On the involvement of the European Council, given the terms of the treaty and what would be expected, in the first instance it is important to place on record the fact that none of us can judge at this stage what will be the outcome of the referendum in France or the Netherlands. It would therefore be unwise to hypothesise and better to wait only a few remaining days until the position is clearer across the European Union.
I welcome the opportunity that the constitutional treaty provides for engaging in a fundamental argument with those here in this Chamber and in the country who see Britain's future as standing outwith the European Union. There is a strong case to be made on the basis of prosperity and security, as I have tried to outline this evening, and Britain's future lies within a reforming European Union. On that basis, the constitutional treaty provides exactly the sort of framework for which we, and Members present in the House, have been working and strivingfor exactly the kind of reforming Europe that we want to see. As I made clear in my remarks