I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the role of national Parliaments, but why did not the Liberal representative on the Convention on the Future of Europe advance
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these propositions then? Why did he not join us in insisting that when national Parliaments said no to something on grounds of subsidiarity, that should be the end of the draft directive? It is all very well for him now to say that all these things are highly desirable; that was not what the Liberal Democrats were saying during the Convention process. Will he, on behalf of his party, admit that he made a mistake then and perhaps even go so far as to make an apology?
Sir Menzies Campbell: I have not heard too many apologies this afternoon; I am not sure that I should be the first. I must say to the right hon. Gentlemanfor whom I have a great admiration, not least for the intellectual consistency and integrity of his position although I do not agree with itthat I am not sure that at this particular stage in these matters we advance the case or help the argument by going over what is essentially old, cold ground. What is important is, as has been said, that this is an opportunity as well as a reverse, and if it is an opportunity we must take it in perhaps a rather more positive spirit than his question might necessarily have suggested.
Let me deal with the question of subsidiarity, because this is an opportunity of the kind that I have described to consolidate that principle, and to ensure that it is properly applied. I have long toyed with the idea that the House, for example, might establish something approaching a subsidiarity audit, so that on an annual basis there was a report to the House, demonstrating the extent to which the principle had been properly followed and highlighting circumstances in which, in the opinion of the auditor responsible for producing the report, there had been a failure to apply the principle properly. We need a number of checks and balances. That would not require legislation, nor do I suspect that it would require a referendum. It is true, and one has to accept it, that in a number of areas there has been an incremental accretion of European Union powers without proper consideration of whether or not that is desirable.
I want to return to the question of enlargement because it is of such fundamental importance. In recent history, eight of the new members of the European Union were Soviet satellites and, as the hon. Member for Woodspring hinted, three of the older membersSpain, Portugal and Greecewere governed by dictatorships. The citizens of all member states, including the United Kingdom, have benefited from the resulting spread of democracy, the stability that that has brought about and the prosperity underpinned by membership of what is now the largest internal market in the world, consisting of some 450 million people. More than half of our trade is with European Union states, to whom we export three times as much as we do to the United States, and that trade supports some 3 million British jobs.
The European Union is unique globally as an alliance of states that has consistently and effectively extended democracy and has made part of its objective the bringing of stability and human rights to hundreds of millions of people, some of whomI know that memories on these matters can be shortlived under Nazism and then under communism. If one visits any of these places, as I am sure Members of the House of all parties have done in recent times, one cannot help but be
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affected by the sense of release that these countries feel and their commitment to both NATO and the European Union.
It is said that a new generation does not recognise the enormous achievement that the European Coal and Steel Community began, which has been continued by the EEC and the EUthe prevention of continental war in Europe. We should not avoid an opportunity to remind a younger generation of the extent of that achievement. We can illustrate its contemporary relevance by pointing to what has happened in the past 15 years in the Balkansnow, at least for the moment, quiet, although not necessarily always in some parts. I do not believe that the outpouring of nationalist, ethnic and religious hatreds that we saw in that region would have been anything other than inhibited if the members of the countries there now represented had been members of NATO and members of the European Union as well. That is one of the enormous advantages that the European Union has brought and we should never be slow to point out that advantage to those who are sceptical.
I also say this. I do not seek to set up the European Union as a strategic rival to the United States, but our strong defence of the rule of law, and our commitment to human rights and multilateral action, provides an important counterbalance to the current doctrines and strategies of the present American Administration. As an illustration of that I point to the fact of the negotiations with Iran on nuclear non-proliferationsomething which the United States, for a variety of doctrinal and other reasons, simply would not have been willing or able to engage in. The United Kingdom will be much better placed to influence America and other powerful states if we are at the heart of Europe, and a Europe with a clear and coherent foreign policy.
John Bercow: I respect the sincerity and integrity of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, but I put it to him that he ought not to overstate the case of the European Union as a counter-weight, or even in some cases of trade and foreign policy a preferable alternative, to the United States. Would he not care to reflect, as he has many times in a different context, on the inappropriateness of the European Union lifting the arms embargo on China, and on the truly pitiful inadequacy of the current EU sanctions regime towards Burma? Those are two issues about which I know he has long been concerned; the American position is greatly superior to that of the European Union.
Sir Menzies Campbell: In some respects, Congress rather than the Administration has sometimes been responsible, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the proposalit appears to have run into the long grass somewhere, and let us hope that it stays therethat the EU embargo in relation to China should be raised. It should be remembered that it was imposed after Tiananmen square, on which there has never been full disclosure. I understand that some of those who were imprisoned at the time languish there still, despite the passage of time.
I do not for a moment overstate the European Union's capacity to achieve common foreign policy. Common foreign policy requires unanimitywhich we
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may debate on another occasionwhich necessarily inhibits its ability to proceed as far as the hon. Gentleman and I might like it to. I do, however, believe in strong defence of the rule of law, support for human rights and the importance of multilateralism. There is a sense in which the Americans have the battalions and do not need multilateralism. We do not have the battalionsI wish that we didand therefore we do need it. That, I think, is an important doctrine and an important foreign policy position, and I hope that the European Union will continue to espouse it.
I believe that Europe needs a period of stability. We have been in what could be described as an almost Maoist permanent cultural revolution, experiencing treaty upon treaty. There ought, in truth, to have been sufficient flexibility in the institutions of the European Union to accommodate first enlargement, and then the arrangements necessary for a union that has swelled from six to 27 member states.
There have been crises in Europe before, and Europe has always survived them. Sometimes they have been personality-based, but on this occasion it should be recognised that the difficulties are more profound. The events of the past 10 days cannot be ignored, but nor, I believe, are they as apocalyptic as some would claim andit would appear, at leastsome would hope.
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab): It is a pleasure to be the first Englishman, indeed the first Yorkshireman, to intervene in what has so far been an argument among Scots about the relationship between Great Britain and Europe. It is, however, difficult to maintain the air of elegiac sadness maintained by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) throughout his speech over what has happened in Europe. I see it more as a comic situation: the well-fed and well-oiled ruminations of Giscard d'Estaing and selected members of the European elite have turned into the John Cleese dead parrot sketch. Although we do not say as much in the Houseapart from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who did so on Mondayit is clear that the parrot is dead, snuffed it, passed on, gone into another land, tod, mort, no longer with us. That means that Eurosceptics like me will be deprived of months of fun and happiness in opposing the European constitutionsuccessfully, at the end of the day. I regret that. At last, for that period at least, I would have had a useful role in politics. Meanwhile, my right hon. Friends will be deprived of months of straining their acting ability, pretending to be enthusiastic about something that they did not particularly want in the first place. A certain amount of clarity in politics has been achieved.
What will we have instead of all that? Well, we may have more debates on the post mortem than we were scheduled to have on the constitution itself. We began debating the Bill before the end of the last Parliament. It now seems that we shall be talking more about the constitution now that it is dead than we were when it was living. Certainly there will be weeks of hypocrisy, and there will clearly be a ganging-up on the United Kingdom, particularly over the rebateas if we were responsible for the noes in France and Holland. Many crocodile tears will be shed by all parties, here and in Europe. There will be a prolonged attempt to postpone
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the funeral of the parrot, until the smell becomes overwhelming. I imagine that it will be carted around Europe, being given a lengthy state funeralsomething unique for parrots. The corpse may well be interrogated on what it wants and what its intentions are. We may even see a post-mortem cutting up of the corpse to see which bits can be preserved: the beak, the wings, the feathers? Which bits of the plumage can be preserved? Will the dead bird itself be forgotten? I am not entirely sure, but there will clearly be weeks of that kind of activity.