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ICM recently conducted a poll that found that 54 per cent. of businesses think that the cost of implementing EU regulations now outweighs the benefit of the single market. That poll also showed that 52 per cent. of chief executives think that the EU is failing and that 60 per cent. want what I advocate—withdrawal from the EU
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and a free trade agreement with EU countries. Crucially, only 24 per cent. of those business people thought that the EU would increase in economic importance in the future, whereas 35 per cent. thought that it would decline. Our future prosperity, Madam Deputy Speaker, depends on trading with countries such as China, India and South America and with the Commonwealth; it does not depend on being part of an inward-looking, backward-looking protection racket, which is what the EU has become.

Since 1970, the United States has enjoyed net growth of about 25 per cent., yet the EU—this much heralded economic powerhouse—has enjoyed net growth of around zero. When it comes to such stark figures, we have to ask whether the EU has contributed towards that sluggish growth. If we compare the EU’s stifling levels of regulation and high taxes with the USA’s business-friendly, low-tax economy, we are forced to conclude that the EU’s social democratic model has contributed to the problem. If the Chancellor is to be believed, the UK has enjoyed the longest period of sustained growth, but what could it have been without the drag of the European Union?

If we are to compete with the vastly cheaper labour forces of India and China, our economy will need to be agile and competitive with a light regulatory touch—not the EU model of crippling regulation, restrictive employment laws and high taxes. Surely the EU and the British Government must see the economic threat to our economy from India and China. In years to come, Madam Deputy Speaker, historians will look back and say that the biggest winner of the EU project was China.

Britain puts more into the pot than it gets out. We have been a net contributor to the EU ever since it started. We have contributed almost £200 billion in membership fees alone, and we will add another£14 billion to our bill for continued membership next year. The annual cost of the EU for every man, woman and child works out at £873. Can we imagine what a hard-working family of four on a tight budget could do with that kind of money—about £3,500? Every minute of 2007, the EU will cost the UK £100,000. Let us just think of the nurses, operations, hospitals, policemen, prisons or even cuts that such a figure could pay for. When you consider how wasteful the EU is, how many people do you think, Madam Deputy Speaker, would think that it was the best way to spend all that money?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman not to bring the occupant of the Chair into his debating points?

Philip Davies: I am sure you would agree with me if you did join in the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Member states are unlikely to do anything to expose corruption in the EU. Those that are net receivers are unlikely to raise objections about an inefficient and wasteful system. They know that the EU does not work, but it works for them. For net contributors such as the UK, the cost of the EU—inefficient or otherwise—is a debate that the Government do not want to happen. They do not want the EU to have to wash its dirty linen in public or for the British public to see how many doctors, nurses and police officers could be paid for with the money wasted in Brussels.

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I am sure that, when I sit down, Government Members will say that my speech shows that the Conservative party is anti-European and that it has not changed. I do not claim to be speaking on behalf of the party; I am speaking on behalf of what I believe in. It is to the credit of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) that he has allowed Back Benchers freely to express our views on withdrawing from the EU and the debate not to be shut down, as the Government would like.

I have tried to argue my case for EU withdrawal as a positive step for the future, not as something that is backward looking, by referring not to historic arguments about constitutions, but to the competitiveness of our economy. If we are to attract investment and win business in the future, we must start freeing ourselves from this stifling political Union. The 21st century, with the emerging economies of Asia, is not a time for uncompetitive protection rackets. Business is global, and if we are to compete, we must be too. Governments must reflect that with a light regulatory touch, and the main impediment to that is the EU. When considering the case for Britain being better off out of the EU, I am reminded of the words from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential election campaign headquarters: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

5.16 pm

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I must say how much I enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). The Times newspaper recently highlighted the five best MPs and the five worst MPs, and one of the reasons given for choosing who was one of the best MPs was the integrity and courage displayed.

Mr. Cash: It was in The Daily Telegraph.

Daniel Kawczynski: I beg hon. Members’ pardon .

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley is a great man who shows great courage and is prepared to put his strong beliefs about the EU before his own consideration for promotion. I applaud that greatly. My hon. Friend, myself and other Conservative Members—all very young people—are going to take the EU in a different direction. I was born on the day that Edward Heath signed the documents to take us into the Common Market—24 January 1972. Of course, when we had the referendum on whether we should stay in the Common Market, I was only three years of age, so I could not vote. Many hon. Members were too young to participate in that referendum, but there will come a time—I am convinced of this more than I am of anything else—when my generation of Conservative Members of Parliament will start to address some of the fundamental flaws in our membership of the EU and will make it more appropriate to our generation.

One of the problems and frustrations that we face is that we in Great Britain play by the Queensberry rules, we do what the EU tells us to do and we are compliant, unlike our partners in the EU who repeatedly break agreements and cheat. An example of that is the Irish. The Irish have recently given their dairy farmers£300 million in illegal subsidies. I thought that we were in something called a common market, whereby industries were meant to be treated in the same way acrossthe whole EU. How is it feasible for the Irish to give
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£300 million to their dairy farmers? How on earth can Shropshire farmers compete against that and imports of cheese and other milk products, when the Irish are flagrantly going against the spirit of subsidies?

I recently went to Romania. We are going to give£8 billion of taxpayers’ money to help the Romanians and Bulgarians with their agriculture, so that their systems become comparable with ours. That money is being sent to foreign countries. Our own dairy farmers in Shrewsbury —I hasten to say that I am chairman of the all-party dairy farmers group, of which there are now nearly 100 members—are going out of business day after day, while we prop up the Irish, the Romanians and the Bulgarians.

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): They are milking the EU.

Daniel Kawczynski: Yes, it is an absolute disgrace.

We need a more effective energy policy across the European Union. Sweden will be an oil-free society by 2012. I remember visiting Sweden in the mid-80s, when it was already pioneering endothermic energy and various renewable fuels. How marvellous that the Swedes, with a population of 9 million to 10 million people, can be an oil-free society by 2012. We can learn from one another and we should start to co-operate in the energy field.

Some countries, however, are behaving in complete defiance of what a common EU policy should be. I have already mentioned this to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady). Germany is the main culprit. It is building a pipeline from Russia across the Baltic sea so that it can have a stable supply directly to its coastline on the Baltic. That will cause huge environmental damage in the Baltic sea, but worse, it is a deliberate attempt to bypass other EU nations. Germany wants deliberately to bypass the Baltic states and Poland and have its own secure supply from Russia. That, in my humble estimation, is a massive breach of what a common energy policy should be. The Government should use their influence to make the Germans think again.

We forget about the growing importance of Russia in the European debate, although Russia has been mentioned. I applaud the Finnish presidency for focusing on trade relations with Russia. However, we need to work together as EU nations to help when one EU nation is unfairly treated by Russia. As I have already mentioned, the Russians are trying to block all imports of meat products from Poland and are threatening the Poles. As members of the European Union, we should be doing everything to support Poland in its dispute with Russia to ensure that its products have proper access to Russia.

The Russians are also blocking a lot of Georgian agricultural products. That is the way in which the Russians operate. If one tweaks their nose, they want to retaliate very aggressively. Because of the recent espionage problems between Russia and Georgia, the Georgians are having terrible problems exporting basic foodstuffs and agricultural products. I hope that the Government will use their power of influence to express in the strongest terms that if Russia is to be taken seriously in the future and, even more importantly, if Russia wishes
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to be a member of the World Trade Organisation, as it aspires to be, it has to act in a more balanced and business-oriented way.

Mr. Hoon: I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman’s arguments. Having recently visited Georgia, for example, I know the difficulties that are being faced there. However, does he believe that our influence and the influence of other European countries would be stronger or weaker if Britain withdrew from the European Union, as he appears to advocate?

Daniel Kawczynski: At no stage—I notice that there is a Whip present—did I advocate withdrawal from the European Union. I simply said that my generation will change the relationship with the European Union. That is a very different thing.

Mr. Ellwood: I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend’s last comments. May I press him on the point about gas and the connection with Russia? Does he agree that the big EU bus was parked outside No. 10 Downing street? When we had the presidency of the EU, there was a great opportunity to sort out a European gas policy and market. The fact that we failed to do so means that every time something happens in Russia, the effect ripples right across. That is why our gas prices go up and down so tremendously. That is likely to happen again when the winter comes.

Daniel Kawczynski: I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Britain will be a major gas importer in future years, so the Government should be doing more to lead the way on securing a major contract with Russia.

While I am on the subject of Russia, I feel very strongly about the disturbing reaction to the death of Mr. Litvinenko. Of course we should be concerned about alleged poisonings, but we cannot be prosecutor, judge and jury. I was absolutely appalled when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as part of his great wish to become the next deputy leader of the Labour party and to appear on television, accused President Putin on British broadcasting of being involved in the poisonings. That was an absolute outrage. It is not for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to accuse the democratically elected President of Russia of poisoning. Yes, we have concerns, but we believe, even with regard to Mr. Putin, that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Kelvin Hopkins: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman read last Sunday’s edition of The Independent on Sunday, but it included a suggestion that there might be an Italian connection to the poisoning.

Daniel Kawczynski: I am not here to speculate. I only wanted to record in Hansard that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should be very careful before publicly trying to suggest that President Putin was involved in the poisoning.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps I can suggest that the hon. Gentleman gets back to the debate on European affairs.

Daniel Kawczynski: I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I shall do so immediately.

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The European Union’s priority should be helping small, vulnerable countries with illegal immigration. My friends who are Members of Parliament in Malta tell me that the country is being swamped by illegal immigrants from Libya. Many western Africans are coming to the ports close to the border with Tunisia, near Tripoli, and going across to Malta in a clandestine way. To my knowledge, we have not sent any immigration enforcement help to assist Malta in its struggle. We need to send patrol boats and assistance in sending people back. Malta needs us to put pressure on Tripoli to police its ports better. The Prime Minister has tried to improve our relations with Colonel Gaddafi and we should be using our position of influence. If the Prime Minister could manage to stop Colonel Gaddafi from going ahead with weapons of mass destruction, surely he can convince him to tighten up his ports to prevent illegal immigration into the European Union.

Another problem is the Canary islands.

Mr. Brady: Before my hon. Friend moves on from Malta, does he agree that Britain has a particular role to play in Malta and Cyprus, the other two Commonwealth countries that are members of the European Union? Before he moves on to the Canary islands, where other member states might have a role to play, does he agree that it would be nice to see Britain playing an especially strong role in countries with which we have an historical Commonwealth connection?

Daniel Kawczynski: I agree with my hon. Friend. The Maltese MPs made the point that they were somewhat disappointed that we, as a fellow Commonwealth country and that country’s principal ally, had not taken a lead in the European Union to assist in that grave matter.

Tens of thousands of west Africans are coming from Mauritania and Senegal to the Canary islands, which cannot cope. Many of those illegal immigrants will make their way to France or the United Kingdom, so there is no good saying, “Well, of course this is not our problem,” because it is. In a recent television documentary on illegal immigrants, many of them said that they were going to the Canary islands only as a way of getting to the United Kingdom, so we should be doing far more.

The hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) made an interesting point when he said that controlling our borders was one of the critical ingredients of sovereignty. I estimate that illegal immigration is the biggest threat to our sovereignty. If a country cannot police its borders, it does not have sovereignty. Some of my colleagues say that the EU is the biggest threat to our sovereignty, but that is not the case. The biggest threat is not being able to police our own borders properly.

Finally, I want to discuss a European country that has not been mentioned so far: Belarus.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Great minds think alike.

Daniel Kawczynski: The hon. Gentleman and I have spoken about Belarus on many occasions. The west played a huge part in freeing the formerly communist countries of eastern Europe from tyranny. The BBC
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played a role by broadcasting to those countries in their own languages, showing them that there was a world outside communism in which people had freedom, managed to enjoy democracy and were not fearful of the secret police. That gave tremendous succour to the people of eastern Europe. They really appreciated it, and were extremely grateful to Great Britain and the BBC for standing up to communism and showing them an alternative. We need to do the same for Belarus. We need to broadcast to its people to show them that the tyranny of President Lukashenko is not inevitable, and to show them that they should aspire to democracy, and to joining the free countries of Europe. We should invite Opposition leaders from Belarus to London, and we should give university scholarships to Belarusians. Most importantly, political parties need to build bridges with Opposition parties and to help them financially in any way that they can.

I come to the last part of my speech in which I will say something nice about the Labour party. Many Labour Members played a tremendous role in safeguarding democracy in Portugal in 1975. Some hon. Members may remember that, in 1975, Mario Soares was trying to install a new democracy after the military dictatorship in Portugal, and members of the international socialist movement ensured that that happened, by making repeated visits to Portugal, and by inviting Opposition leaders here. Callaghan, Wilson and many other others stayed close to Mario Soares, and they helped to nurture democracy in Portugal. The Labour party and other socialist parties across Europe played a fundamental role in helping Mario Soares to retain democracy in Portugal. My generation has a responsibility to do the same for the poor people of Belarus.

5.32 pm

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Thank you for calling me to speak so early on in the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] That was said in jest. I shall give a fairly non-intellectual exposition of my concerns about the European Union. It is the natural position of a Conservative to be sceptical about large and grandiose projects, and I make no apology for being sceptical about the European experiment. I believe that we should have a Europe full of self-confident, strong nation states that are free to act in their own national interest, but also to work together when it suits them.

Often, hon. Members who raise concerns about the European Union are shouted down for being little Englanders. I am not a little Englander, but a rather big Englander. This country has a heritage of thinking big, because we have always looked overseas for our future. However, we have never looked towards Europe, and while its countries were squabbling, we were off exploring new worlds, creating new opportunities for the country. We are a great trading nation that does not like the artificial confines of the European Union, and we have truly wide horizons.

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