Mr. David : I am reluctant to become embroiled in the hon. Gentleman's historical discourse, but does he accept that nation states, as currently defined, are a distinct product of a period of historynamely, the 19th century?
Mr. Cash: I suspect that the hon. Gentleman refers to the treaty of Westphalia. To carry on with the historical analogy, 1648 is defined as the year of the nation state. The fact remains that since then we have had terrible problems of nationalism, which is different from a proper appreciation of an association of democratic nation states. No democratic nation state has ever gone to war with another democratic nation state. That is the truth. Yes, nationalism is wrong, but not the idea of a democratic nation state.
Indeed, I would go further and say that the problem that lies at the heart of the way in which the European project has gone wrong is the essence of double-speak, which has also undermined people's ability to believe in the project. In George Orwell's "1984", there are references to the Ministry of Truth, where freedom is slavery and the words are inverted in just the same way as we find in the European Union. It is strange that that should have been done. There was a deliberate determination, running against the realities, to use expressions that had the opposite meaning. For example, subsidiarity really means centralisation and primacy. Not once has the principle of subsidiarity been applied. I have asked repeatedly in the House for one example of subsidiarity in action, but it has not happened.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con):
Does my hon. Friend agree that we have had a single empire in Europe, the Roman empire, a single currency, gold, and a single language, Latin; that we now have a Europe that is in danger of going the "dominus et deus" route or even the
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dictatorship route; and that if Europe continues in the direction adopted by its present political elite, they might end up going the same way as the Roman elite?
Mr. Cash: There is a great deal of truth in that. The refusal by the elite to accept the inevitable consequence of the rejection of the constitution by the people in referendums in their own countries indicates their failure to appreciate the democratic requirements of a modern state.
Price stability was embedded in the Maastricht criteria, yet there has been no price stability. That is why, as the hon. Member for Great Grimsby made clear, the whole concept of the central bank does not work. The result is high unemployment, as my old friend Peter Shore and I argued during the debates on the subject.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that unemployment in the euro area has fallen by 10 per cent. since the launch of the single currency, and will he revise his views in the light of that fact?
Mr. Cash: He certainly will not. [Laughter.] I will go further and say that the hon. Gentleman, with whom I have had the pleasure of debating on other occasions, should reflect on the results of the French referendum in the light of high unemployment in that countryat least 10 per cent. but actually much higher. Unemployment in Germany is running at 12 per cent. and morehigher than in the time of Adolf Hitler. Perhaps it is he who should change his position, not I.
Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman might like to reflect on whether to make comments of that nature in future. Those of his colleagues who have made such comments in the Chamber have chosen to apologise.
The hon. Gentleman makes some interesting points about subsidiarity, a concept whose origin lies in an encyclical of the Roman Catholic Church of 1881, I believeif I am wrong he will correct me, I am sure. The Church expounded that no power should ever arrogate to itself the authority to make a decision that could more properly be made by a lower authority. Can he cite any example of the Roman Catholic Church abiding by that principle?
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To return to the subject of double-speak, the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy have undermined farming and fishing. That is the problem. Attempts have been made to persuade us that there is a democratic rationale to the European Union. In reality, it is permeated by lack of accountability and lack of democracy. That is the real problem. When European politicians speak of reform, in fact they go further, into over-regulation. The Government and the House must grapple with the fact that if we want to make changes to improve regulation, we will have to do one of two things: either we will have to persuade all the other member states of our casewe have just seen what has happened in relation to the services directive and the working time directive; or, if we are determined to make the relevant changes, we will have to make legislation in this place that is expressly inconsistent with legislation already made in Europe. To do thatthe Minister for Europe knows my Sovereignty of Parliament Bill and the principles that it enunciates very wellwe shall also have to lay down a clear policy wherein it is stated that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom to make the changes in respect of any directive or regulation, then pass the legislation stating that we do so notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972, and then require our judges to give effect to that inconsistent law. Otherwise, the result is all talk and no action. Reform cannot be achieved any other way, unless the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that we can get unanimity among all the member states on the reforms that he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have proposed.
We have to make a decision. Are we just going to do what the European Union tells us to doby majority voting, as often as not? Or are we going to defend our national interests and insist on doing so by using the powers of this place? It is we, through this House, who govern the United Kingdom. That is the key point. What is important is the electors and democracy. The right hon. Gentleman and the constitution must provide answers to those issues.
What is to be done? Remember that, as I told the Prime Minister some months ago, the constitutional treaty repealed all the existing treaties. We therefore have an opportunity. If the Government are prepared to sign up to a treaty that repeals all the existing treaties and imposes a law of primacy of the European constitution and the European Court of Justice, surely, in the light of the rejection of that treaty, the Government will now say simply, "We were prepared to repeal all the treaties, so let us do so and then go back to the drawing board." Let them heed another opinion poll commissioned by the European Foundation from ICM, in which people were asked whether they want
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associated statusa relationship with a Europe that is, in effect, the Common Market plus political co-operation. Some 68 per cent. of 18 to 24-year-olds said yes, as did 62 per cent. of most of the other grades and classes in the poll.
The Government have a real problem, which is why I believe it would have been sensible to make Europe the centrepiece of the general election. If we do as I suggest, we must bear in mind the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), in what is, by any standards, a significant shift away from what Front Benchers have been saying for many years. My hon. Friend even referred to the Single European Act in terms of considerable uncertainty.
Mr. David: I notice that the hon. Gentleman supports what the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) said, but does he believe none the less that Britain should have associate membership, not full membership, of the European Union?
Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and I tabled a series of amendments to the European Scrutiny Committee report that appeared just before the general electionamendments to which the hon. Gentleman subscribedand some of those called for associate status. It is all there on the record, so I do not need to repeat it today.
The real problem now is not the constitution itself. The constitution is dead. The real problem is the existing treaties. What has given rise to the over-regulation, the lack of democracy, the double-speak and the inability to produce policiesforeign policy and so onfor Europe that are constructive and stable? The short answer is that the whole project is filled with contradictions and riddled with double-speak. No wonder the people of Europe have looked at that failed project, with its high unemployment and low growth, and concluded that they cannot live with it any more. We must address the existing treaties, which have given rise to all these problems, to restore democracy in Europe and to the nation state and, irrespective of the Whip, to the House as well. The only thing that has driven all the failed attempts to get the issue straight since 1990, and since the Single European Act 1987, is that the whipping system has insisted that Members do what they are told, keep their mouths shut and carry on as if nothing has happened. As it happens, it did not happen, and it will not happen now. The fortunate truth is that truth has now prevailed. The movement towards examining the basis of the Single European Act onwards includes Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and the constitution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring said unequivocally, as far as I can recall, that we had to have a debate. I would prefer a decision. Now is the time when the British peoplecertainly from the Opposition Benches and those whom we representwould expect us to be able to say that we want to have a Europe that is stable. We know that if Europe implodes as a result of the chaos that could come from the continuation of ridiculous policies and failed projects, there is more danger in the instability and the tension that could come from that than there is from having a good and settled discussion as we move forwards.
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It will not be a matter only of debate. I wrote a pamphlet entitled "Associated but not Absorbed", in which I pointed out that other nation states, in my opinion, would tend to follow us if we took a lead. It is down to the Government to do that, but I do not think that they will. I am therefore heartened that it appears that we, the Opposition, are now re-evaluating many of the things which previously were regarded as off limits. We are listening and I believe that changes are about to occur, but I would like to see a decision. I would not like simply a debate. We need to go back to what is effectively the Common Market and, at the same time, political co-operation. It will be something that is perhaps a bit more than the Common Market but it will probably be less than the Single European Act.