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On the single market, the Council welcomed the agreement on the services directive; welcomed agreement on the competitiveness and innovation programme; and looked forward to the Commission's forthcoming review of the single market and proposals for completing it. The services directive, in particular, is expected to deliver some 600,000 jobs across the European Union and add around €31 billion to the EU
economy. I pay tribute to the work of British MEPsboth from the party of European Socialists and the European People's partyin securing the compromise necessary to allow it to pass.
The Council agreed a number of specific measures and initiatives to combat illegal immigration, designed to strengthen borders while improving co-operation with some of the main source countries of migrants and refugees. In particular, the Council agreed to implement regional protection pilot projects to protect refugees in their region of origin and, therefore, avoid the need for mass migration. We also agreed to intensify work on readmission agreements, so that across Europe failed asylum seekers can be more easily returned.
On energy, another of the Hampton Court initiatives, we welcomed and agreed to take forward proposals for an external energy policy, developed jointly by Javier Solana, the EUs high representative, and the Commission. One of the priorities will be developing strategic partnerships with the main producer and transit countries, including a commitment to seek an agreement with Russia.
Finally, on climate change, the European Council committed itself to pursuing, in all the relevant multilateral organisations, an international goal consistent with the objective of a maximum global temperature increase on 2(o) C above pre-industrial levels.
This was a European Council which focused on the practical policy-driven agenda that we have long advocated. It demonstrated yet again the benefits of positive engagement with Europe, and I commend the outcome to the House.
We support enlargement of the EU so we welcome the accession talks with Turkey. There are genuine concerns about Turkish recognition of Cyprus and how Turkey treats Cyprus at present. The summit conclusions refer to the EUs
capacity to absorb new members.
Those of us who want the EU to be a force for co-operation, trade, stability and democracy on our continent should support further enlargement. Does the Prime Minister agree that that enlargement should eventually include all the western Balkans, Ukraine and, perhaps, even Belarus?
We back deregulation and we shall want to see concrete results from what the Prime Minister told us today. We have long supported greater openness and transparency at EU Ministers meetings, so should we not all be relieved that the Foreign Secretary completely failed in her extraordinary attempt to block the opening up of EU meetings to public scrutiny? When it comes to building alliances to block transparency the score, apparently, was 24-nil.
As well as opening up the EUs decision making, we should be reducing its costs. Does the Prime Minister support the growing campaign for the European Parliament to sit in just one place, rather than wasting hundreds of millions of euros moving between Brussels and Strasbourg?
Let me deal with the two most contentious issues at the summit: criminal justice and the future of the constitution. On criminal justice, will the Prime Minister give a guarantee that Britain will not give up its veto in that vital area? Our criminal justice system may have been reduced to chaos by the Government but that is still not an argument for handing it over to the European Union.
change fundamental principles of our legal system.
The European Commission has said that if we had no veto it would want to look at issues such as Belmarsh. The Prime Minister and I agree that ultimate responsibility for dealing with terrorism must lie with the British Government. Is that not an issue on which the Prime Minister should look to the long term, take a firm stand and not hand over responsibility for something that he will later regret? Abolishing the veto in those areas was a key part of the European constitution. Does the Prime Minister understand that reintroducing such changes without a referendum is completely unacceptable?
Is it not clear, after two decisive referendum defeats, that the European constitution should be declared null and void? The Prime Minister repeatedly told us that the constitution was essential to make enlargement work, yet Die Welt has said recently that
the last 12 months have shown that Europe can live without a constitution.
Does the Prime Minister accept that his argument about the constitution is being disproved by events? Is not the real alternative an open and flexible Europe? May we have a clear answer from the Prime Minister about the issue?
There is...agreement that the substance of the Constitutional Treaty is sound and should be retained.
Does the Prime Minister agree with that? Or does he agree with the Labour partys representative on the constitutional convention, who is in her place, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart)? She said last week:
The first thing the Government needs to do is to state categorically that the Constitution is finished. Like the parrot: dead, deceased and no more.
The Government are perhaps starting to look a bit like a Monty Python sketch so perhaps it is time to say: and now for something completely different. Instead of his usual pre-prepared rant, will the Prime Minister just answer two simple questions? They concern the key
issues at the summit. Will he give up the veto on home affairs and is the constitution deadyes or no?
The Prime Minister: First, let us go through the issues that the right hon. Gentleman raised at the beginning. On the capacity to absorb new member states, no, that is not a new criterion. Indeed, it was part of the insistence of this country that conclusion language that suggested that it might be a criterion was taken out. In respect of Turkey, yes, of course, we support Turkeys accession, which is why, under our presidency, we began the accession negotiations.
In respect of the criminal justice system, fortunately as a result of what we have negotiated, we can opt in or out at our leisure. That is the right thing to do. There may well be circumstances in which, as a result of Europe, for example, wanting to tighten immigration controls in a particular instance, we might want to participate in that process, but it is up to us. That is the benefit of the flexible arrangements that we negotiated.
As for whether the constitution is dead or not, that depends not simply on me, but on all the other countries in Europe. What is very obvious, however, is that it cannot be proceeded with unless there is an overturning of the French and Dutch no votes.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about leadership in Europe, he is not going to get a pre-prepared rant. [ Interruption. ] No, I am just going to point out that his decision that the Conservative MEPs should leave the European Peoples party is a foolish error of judgment. It is one of the few instances, incidentally, in which an error of judgment by the Opposition can have an impact on the country. If he wants to take someones word for itnot mineI can tell him that the British Chambers of Commerce has said that this would damage British commercial interests and several members of his own European party have said that it is deeply inimical to the proper interests of this country. He has said that, by the end of next month, he will reach a decision on this matter. Let me tell him what other Members of the European Parliament call the people he is negotiating with: nutters, the barmy army, very embarrassing allies,
fascists, outcasts and neer do wells.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD):
I begin by generally welcoming the terms of the Prime Ministers statement. There are a number of matters that are particularly welcome that he did not mention. I have in mind, for example, the agreement to deliver aid to the Palestinians. I welcome the renewed commitment to enlargement and, although there is no doubt that there are particular difficulties that attach to Turkey, it has been the view on both sides of the House that Turkeys accession to the European Union is essential for the future of the European Union. I also welcome the agreement on transparency, although the Prime
Minister may care to reflect on how the United Kingdom came to be isolated on an issue of that kind.
The Prime Minister is right to accept that a union of 25soon to be 27cannot operate within a framework designed for six. In the meantime, what practical steps can be taken for reform and does he remain committed to a referendum if there are any proposals for constitutional change that would significantly alter the relationship between Westminster and Brussels? If I may say so, he was a little hard on the Leader of the Opposition. I wonder whether he would give some consideration to the constitutional propriety of this: if there is a referendum, could we have a second question to ask the British public whether they think that Tory MEPs should leave the European Peoples party? We would not find it too difficult to agree on the form of a question: Should the Conservatives leave sensible Mrs. Merkel and join a rag-bag of eccentrics?
What does the Prime Minister propose to do to involve British citizens in the debate about Europe in the 21st century? Was there any discussion of rendition and possible breaches of international law? Does he accept that, however welcome negotiations with Russia about security and energy might be, they should not absolve Russia from legitimate criticism of its human rights record, its restrictions on non-governmental organisations and its attitude towards freedom of the press?
The Prime Minister: First, in respect of enlargement, we are essentially agreed that we want enlargement to proceed. The issues raised by the constitutional treaty will come back in some form or another, for sure, because if we have a Europe at 25 and then 27or an even greater number if we encourage more member states to join, especially from the Balkans, which would be sensible in the longer termthe issue of how Europe works will be a live one. It would be deeply unfortunate if this country took an unprincipled decision to be opposed to anything that changes the proper workings of the European Union.
Secondly, on the practical steps in the meantime, the steps on subsidiarity are important, thanks to this European Commission President, as are the additional steps on deregulation that are being taken. For the moment, the single most important issue for the European Union is to concentrate on things such as energy policy, on which there is a common and collective need, and mass migration across the European Union. In that regard, there was a debate on illegal immigration, which affects all the major countries in Europe and, obviously, the United States as well. That discussion during Thursday nights dinner perhaps could not have been held in quite such a way a few years back. There is now a far stronger need to take European action, which is, again, a reason whywith the greatest respect to the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron)taking the unprincipled position of never co-operating on the European issues of justice and home affairs would be great mistake.
For us as a country, the important thing is to keep our options open on such issues and, in the meantime, to carry on building the alliances that have seen very successful measures being negotiated in the European Union recently, not least of which was, of course, the services directive.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): What discussion took place about the need for EU action to assist the African Union and to contribute to peace and security in Darfur and Congo? Has any progress been made on the establishment of the battlegroups in the European Union and an enhanced role for the EU on security and defence policy?
The Prime Minister: There has been progress both on establishing the peacekeeping force in Africa, which is part of the work of the United Nations, and on trying to ensure that the EU has the strategic capability to assist any such progress. The declaration specifically on Africa, which recommitted us to the millennium development goals, was an important part of the statement. There is also a desire to hold the EU-Africa summit, if we can overcome some of the difficulties that have been experienced with it in the past.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I was surprised that the Prime Minister responded to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) about whether the constitution was dead by saying that that was a matter for our other partners in Europe, given that he told us last year that because the constitution was dead, we did not need a referendum in this country. Now that he has decided with his European colleagues to postpone the constitutions burial for two years in the hope of resurrection, will he assure us that if there is any question of that resurrection, the matter will be put to a referendum of the people of this country so that they can make it clear once and for all that they do not want a European constitution?
The Prime Minister: Our position on the constitutional treatyor any constitutional treatyand a referendum has not changed. I said that it would be not for me alone to say what will happen to the constitution because that will be a matter for agreement among the 25. The question for Conservative Members is whether they are more interested in making a point to their own party than in securing the right agreement in Europe.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Was there was any discussion of the working of existing European institutions, especially those such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, which has taken over responsibility for licensing air safety? Will my right hon. Friend give me a certain undertaking that under no circumstances will the United Kingdom accept a derogation from our existing air safety that would put at risk anything in the air space of the United Kingdom?
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Prime Minister will know that on the Order Paper, as there has been for months now, there is provision for the European Union Bill to have Second Reading, for a money resolution and so on. Last year, through that Bill the Government voted to implement into UK law the full text of the European constitutional treaty and to provide for a referendum on it. The right hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot implement part of the treaty, so either he is completely committed to every provision of that treaty, in which case he should tell us now and get on with the Second Reading, or he is committed only to some part of it. In the event of the latter, he should withdraw the Bill from the Order Paper. Will he do so?
The Prime Minister: No, for the reasons that we have given on many occasions. Let me explain. I understand entirely why the hon. Gentleman holds the position on Europe that he does, but the amendment that he tabled to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Billan amendment supported by those on the Conservative Front Benchwould mean, in effect, our leaving the European Union. [Hon. Members: No.] Yes, it would, because it specifically sought to allow the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972the Act of our membershipto be overruled. To the Conservatives, I say that they have positions on such issues that they may want to keep within their own party, but they are central to the future of this country and we shall expose them at every turn.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): In the discussions about migration policy, did the Prime Minister or any of the other leaders discuss the plight of very poor people from west Africa, hundreds of whom have died trying to cross from west Africa to the Canary islands or to the Mediterranean, or those hard-working people who lead a twilight existence in every major city in Europe but none the less contribute to the economic well-being of us all? Will the European Union take a humanitarian view and do its best to assist poverty alleviation in west Africa?
The Prime Minister: We did discuss thatit was a major part of our discussion on mass migration. It is important that we work to ensure that those African countries that are in a state of abject poverty are helped; that is why this country in particular has played a leadership role in help for Africa, the millennium development goals and so on. On the other hand, the people coming into Europe often do so in extremely dangerous circumstances, as my hon. Friend rightly says, and they are often prey to organised crime and illegal people trafficking. It is important that we have solid rules in the EU that protect our borders; otherwise the incentive is for people to engage in that appalling trade continues. We need a balance: we need to make sure that there is properly managed migration with proper controls and we need to act on some of the root causes of migration in the countries of origin, and we are doing both. It is interesting that that is the single biggest issue facing EU countries such as Spain and Malta.
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