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Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling). I am not sure that he has persuaded me to go on a weekend break to Croydon instead of Prague, but he has done a good job in persuading me that it is at least worth thinking about. His predecessors have clearly served the constituency with some distinction, and it is good to see Jack Weatherill in the other place.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I had hoped to speak in last week's earlier incarnation of it, but I was at least able to hear the speeches of the various Front Benchers, so I had some forewarning of what we were likely to hear today. Interestingly, in his opening remarks during that debate, the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) came as close as any Conservative Member has yet come to saying that if the Single European Act were debated today, the Conservatives would be much warier of enshrining it in statute. From my perspective, that is a jolly good movealbeit not far enoughin the right direction. If we get an apology for Maastricht as well, we can begin to think much harder about the Europe that some of us on the Labour Benches would like to see.
There are those who are still disposed to believe that there is yet some hope in the Euro project, but for some of us the reality is that the European constitution is deadnot long live the constitution! When I intervened on the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), I managed to elicit the fact that the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) might not be quite so lonely in future, if early-day motion 318 is to be taken at face value. It is good to see some Eurosceptics in all parts of this House, and not just on the Labour and Conservative Benches.
So a seismic shift has taken place in the past fortnight, and anyone who pretends otherwise is being optimistic, naive or oblivious to the reality of what is happening. That shift may have been led by the French and the Dutch, but it is the people of the whole of Europe who have spoken. They have completely ripped up the Euro project, and they want a very different sort of Europe to be taken forward. The reasons for that can be interpreted in many different ways, but I like to think that my favourite economist, Anatole Kaletsky, put his finger on it in a series of articles in which, in simple terms, he took the view that, "It's the euro, stupid, what done it." Trying to force together all the various currencies has created great resentment among the peoples of Europe. In his article of 9 June, he drew parallels between the no votes in France and Holland and our own, in a sense voluntary expulsion from the exchange rate mechanism in the early 1990s. Perhaps those votes will prove to have the same value.
I make no apology for saying that in my view, the days of the euro are numbered. Not only will nation states not want to join the eurozone, which we have wisely
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decided to stay outside; it will collapse from within because of the completely daft policies that have been introduced on the basis that such a currency union can be achieved. The reality, however, is that it will not work.
The growth and stability pact is what is really doing the damage. At the very time when we need to grow the economies of Europe to deal with increasing worries about employment and all that comes on the back of that, we have a pact that insists on the opposite. That is why countries such as Germany, France and indeed Italy are either trying to cheat on the pact and gain more economic freedom and flexibility or, more particularly, are trying to live in denial and pretend that they can get away with it regardless.
We are not talking just about economics in the pure sense, though. This is not just about some economists playing with various theories; it is about the direction in which the European project was going. Worryingly, we have learnt nothing from the destruction of manufacturing on the mainland of Europe, followed, I dare say, by our destruction of it here. Under the Bolkestein directive, we have been moving towards the disruption of public services as well in the mad pursuit of even more privatisation. We must wonder whether we have learnt anything from what has been going on. If we followed the same route as the rest of Europe, we would have even more unemployment and a further detachment and disengagement of the European peoples. We hope there will be an opportunity for us to think again about what is happening. Perhaps countries will start listening to their people, rather than trying to believe that it is the people who are out of touch and what they really want is more and more euro-centralisation.
I have been playing a game with the Table Office, trying to find out whether it is possible to ask the Treasury whether it has carried out analysis to establish what will happen if the eurozone breaks up. Could the lira be recreated? Perhaps in the interim prices could be quoted in pounds; a stable currency might be more desirable than the euro in its current state, which is causing all sorts of problems. I tried to table a question to that effect, but it was not allowed. Sadly, it seems that it is not possible to work on the basis of supposition, although according to Kaletsky and Larry Elliott of The Guardian, the other economist who appears to know what he is talking about, the situation is becoming daily more realistic and less a matter of pure speculation.
It is not just a question of economics, however. It is also about what else the European project implies. There is a political and social argument that needs to be had. Sadly, because of the various defeats faced by my party during the 1980s and 1990s, we were somewhat seduced by the views of Jacques Delors 17 years ago, when he made a memorable speech to the Trades Union Congress. Much of what he said was laudable; the problem was that people saw all the answers in terms of ratcheting us even further towardslinking us even more directly toeverything European. There were good things that we could take from the EU, but there were also bad things that we should avoid.
Kelvin Hopkins: I agree with everything that my hon. Friend is saying. Does he agree that the reason the labour movement and the trade unions ran for cover was that Jacques Delors was promoting the idea of a social Europe, not a neo-liberal Europe? The reverse is now true: the trade unions are running away from Europe because of neo-liberalism.
Mr. Drew: My hon. Friend has obviously read my speech, which is not surprising because we come from the same school of thought. That is exactly it. We thought that we were getting, dare I say, a social Europe. Some of us were even persuaded that we were getting a socialist Europe. Of course, we were getting anything but that: we were getting a neo-liberal Europe, and we continued to move in that direction until the countriesrightly, in terms of their populationsbegan to smell a rat and began to reject it out of hand.
These arguments have been debated and will continue to be debated. As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) rightly said, the trade unions are now beginning to realign themselves, with union after union moving gradually, if not from a sycophantic position on Europe, through a more sceptical position towards one of almost downright hostility. I welcome that; we need to have that debate.
I am not arguing the case for busting up the EU; we need to change it. We need to change our thinking on the EU and advance new ideas. A political and social argument needs to be conducted on the left, as well as, dare I say it, on the right. It seems that the right have got their position together. It could be argued that they went through a dark period during which they were too friendly towards the centralising tendencies of the EU, but they now appear to be clearer in their perspective than some on the left. The left will, I hope, respond in due course. If not, they risk being completely out of touch with their own people.
I welcome the fact that the constitution is dead. I welcome the fact that there will have to be a clear realignment of thinking on the left, as well as on the right, and I like to think that some of issues that we have debated today are relevant to it. I am not going to go over the same ground in detail, but in this day and age, I cannot understand how anyone who believes in justice in the wider world could support the common agricultural policy. Irrespective of its impact on producers and consumers here, that policy is bereft of any moral justification in respect of its impact on the less developed world. We have to put our hands up about that. We need to understand that some producersnot only in this country, but in France and Germany where the CAP has been part of a protectionist rumpface tougher times ahead. I do not want further neo-liberalism, but the re-establishment of local food chains through which producers can have greater say over what consumers really want. That can now begin to happen.
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