|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): In those heady days in 1997, I suggested to the Prime Minister that he was walking on water now but that he would drown in Europe. With the failure of the European constitution, the Lisbon agenda and his negotiations over the rebate, and having conceded effective victory to Angela Merkel and Jacques Chirac and being outflanked by them, does he accept that his European legacy is holed below the waterline?
The Prime Minister: Virtually whatever we might do, the hon. Gentleman will think the same, which is no surprise as we have fundamentally different views of Europe. He wants Britain out of the European Union, whereas I think, particularly when the European Union is enlarging and pulling in countries that share our vision of Europe, that it is absurd for Britain in the 21st century to withdraw from Europe. We have a different set of objectives from him, which makes him not a very good judge of whether we are successful or failing.
"Countries such as Poland are crying out for investment in their infrastructure, and wise use of structural funds could be crucial in helping their economies to prosper."[Official Report, 5 June 2003; Vol. 406, c. 372.]
I hope that my right hon. Friend agrees with that quotation from the previous shadow Foreign Secretary. Is the budget that my right hon. Friend has been so bold in negotiating sufficient to assist Poland and other countries that desperately need our help?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right that Poland stands to gain about €60 billion in economic development funds over the next financial period. That is of enormous assistance. We still have not had an answer from the Conservative party about whether it agrees that we should pay anything towards the costs of enlargement. Perhaps it will tell us now.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): Back in June, the French were in disarray, President Chirac had lost the referendum on the constitution and was in a weak position, and the Prime Minister looked strong. Today, we are paying £1 billion more, and President Chirac has won the rebate and denied CAP reform. Does the Prime Minister realise that Britain, and not only him, now looks weak and pathetic in the eyes of the European leaders?
The Prime Minister:
How does the right hon. Gentleman therefore explain that France will pay more than Britain in the next financial period? France is also paying money. Let me try to educate him again. All the wealthy countries are paying more over the next budget
19 Dec 2005 : Column 1573
period because the whole point of enlargement is to transfer from the wealthy to the poor. Let me read to him what he said about enlargement:
"The Prime Minister is right to say that enlargement is a great prize that is worth fighting for. The 10 countries seeking membership of the EU will bring 70 million customers for British goods and services in a single market extending from the Atlantic to the Baltic."[Official Report, 28 October 2002; Vol. 391, c. 543.]
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that that is nothing to do with it. The problem with the Tories is that they have not yet realised that Euroscepticism is a problem for them, not a solution. At some point, they might wake up to that. It is absurd, however, to say that one is in favour of enlargement, and that everybody else should pay for it but that we should not.
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): Perhaps the barmy army on the Opposition Benches does not understand the importance of reaching a budget settlement and the link to future trade, but the British people do, British industry does, British workers do and most Members of Parliament do. Can my right hon. Friend give the Opposition more of what he has already given them this afternoon?
The Prime Minister: I simply point out that in each of the central and eastern European countries, as my hon. Friend rightly implies, there will be a tremendous development in trade in goods and services. As a result of the economic development of Ireland and Spain, for example, our trade over the past few years has grown enormously. Our trade with those countries is now about £40 billion a year, which is of enormous benefit to this country. When we pay our fair shareand it is our fair share, not morewe are actually making an investment, not merely in countries that have supported us politically but in countries whose economic success is of benefit to Britain. There are orders for goods and services as their infrastructure improves, and so forth.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why it is important to recognise that this is not just about a deal at the European Union. It is also about fulfilling our role as champion of a Europe that is enlarging because enlargement, in the end, is in Britain's interest.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):
The wealthy countries may well be paying more, but they are also getting more. Will the Prime Minister confirm that as he sought agreement, he agreed to €2 billion extra for Spain and regional development funding, €2 billion extra for Italy, the regions of France and structural funding, €400 million extra for Germany, €150 million extra for Sweden, and the same for Austria? Meanwhile, the highlands and islands and the rest of Scotland will have a €500 million shortfall under the Commission's proposals for the European regional development fund. Given that the Prime Minister achieved such a wonderful deal on the rebate, will he guarantee to
19 Dec 2005 : Column 1574
Scotland and the regions of England and Wales that the Treasury will make up that shortfall pound for pound, euro for euro?
The Prime Minister: I have made clear what we can and cannot do in respect of the structural funds. Incidentally, the figures that the hon. Gentleman read out were completely wrong. Spain, which has been a massive net recipient, will receive some €40 billion less. Wealthy countries that have been big net recipients will become net contributors. That process is inevitable whenas I tried to explain for, I think, the fifth timethe wealthy countries pay more to the poorer countries. That is what enlargement is about, and in the end it will benefit Scotland as well as the United Kingdom as a whole.
Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): We all know who was responsible for blocking cuts in European agriculture subsidies, and it was not our Prime Minister. Will he reassure Make Poverty History that he will continue to campaign for trade justice? Will he also talk to the friends that the United Kingdom has made in francophone Africa as a result of the progress that has been made for Africa during our presidency and try to persuade them and the Canadians to raise the case for CAP reform with France, Belgium and Luxembourg in the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie?
The Prime Minister: I certainly will. My hon. Friend is right that it is important for us to keep up the pressure during the rest of the Doha trade round. The phasing out of agriculture export subsidies by 2013 represents at least some progress, and the aid-for-trade deal is also extremely important. However, I am awareas, I think, are many others in the international communitythat we must do far more if the trade round is to be a success.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): For all his histrionics, is the Prime Minister really impervious to the feelings of betrayal among the people of this country who were led by him to believe that the British rebate was safe in his hands? Is not the truth that last weekend he gave away British jam today in return for French jamais tomorrow?
The Prime Minister: I was pleased when the right hon. and learned Gentleman got to his feet, because I have a quotation from a speech that he made when he was shadow Foreign Secretary. This is what he said, talking of enlargement:
"structural funds cannot continue to be used as they have been . . . Now these funds will be needed elsewhere. Countries such as Poland are crying out for investment in their infrastructure, and wise use of structural funds could be crucial in helping their economies to prosper. I hope that that will also be pursued."[Official Report, 5 June 2003; Vol. 406, c. 372.]
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|