|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
As for the common foreign and security policy, the basis of this will now remain unchanged in a separate treaty, and a separate pillar, from the first pillar Community method. The essential features of the CFSP remain as they were. Unanimity voting is the rule. There is no sole right of initiative for the Commission. There is no role for the European Parliament in decision taking. There
is no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice, except in the particular case of safeguarding the rights of individuals subject to EU sanctions. The two jobs of Commissioner for External Relations and High Representative which, of course, exist already, will be amalgamated in a single job. But this reform does not extend the EUs substantive powers to act in foreign policy. In particular, the Union Representative, when working on common foreign and security policy issues, will operate within a policy framework set by the European Union Foreign Ministers, by unanimity.
All these guarantees not merely remain in the new treaty, but are reinforced in a new overview article that reaffirms them and has full legal force. For the avoidance of doubt, we also obtained a declaration that sets out the unanimous view of all member states about the meaning of those guarantees. That declaration, which then informs the detailed negotiation of the intergovernmental conference, states that the common and foreign security policies of the treaty, including in respect of the office of Union Representative and the external action service,
will not affect the existing legal basis, responsibilities, and powers of each Member State in relation to the formulation and conduct of its foreign policy, its national diplomatic service, relations with third countries, and participation in international organisations, including a Member States membership of the Security Council of the UN.
There was also a discussion at the Council about competition. The treaties have always made it clear that competition in the internal market should not be distorted. The now defunct constitutional treatys objectives would have included new wording about free and undistorted competition. When the treaty was set aside, that provision was lost, but we agreed on a new and legally binding protocol to be annexed to the treaties, which reaffirms the commitment to ensuring that competition is not distorted, and the other references to competition in the existing treaties will remain: for example, articles 4, 27, 34, 81 to 89, 96, 98, 105 and 157 from the European Community treaty. The legal position in relation to competition therefore remains unchanged.
Alongside meeting our four essential requirements, we secured a number of further improvements. The new treaty will confirm for the first time, explicitly, that national security is the sole responsibility of member states. The Union already signs international agreements, but the treaty formalises its legal personality. However, we have now agreed a declaration by all countries for this intergovernmental conference confirming that the fact of this legal personality does not authorise the Union in any way to legislate or act beyond the powers conferred on it by member states in the treaties. There are also new powers for national Parliaments to object to Commission proposals on subsidiarity grounds.
There are a number of extensions of qualified majority voting. In the most sensitive areas of QMVjustice and home affairs, and social securitywe obtained the right either not to participate or to insist on unanimity. In addition, a number of other QMV measuresfor example, those about rules within the eurozone, or those in justice and home affairsdo not apply to us. As for the rest, we have agreed them, because qualified majority voting is often in Britains interest. The biggest move to qualified majority voting in Europes history
was the Single European Act, but this allowed the creation of one of Europes greatest achievements: the single European market. More recently, we have secured reforms such as the services directive and other liberalising measures through QMV, including the lifting of the beef ban, when they would almost certainly have been blocked through unanimity. Among the QMV provisions in the treaty is one that provides a new legal base and QMV for energy market liberalisation, and another that provides QMV for decisions on emergency humanitarian aid to third countriesboth of them manifestly in the UKs national interest.
The other main reform is the fixed term, two-and-a-half-year presidency of the European Council, replacing the current rotating six-monthly arrangements. This is necessary for the Unions efficiency, but does not involve any extension of presidency powers. The President of the European Council will remain the servant of the leaders of the member states.
The most important aspect of the new treaty is that it allows the European Union to move on to the issues that really matter. For too many years, we have been bogged down in a debate about institutions. With the increase from 15 to 27 member states, change is essential, but with this agreement, we can now concentrate on issues that really matter: energy security, organised crime and terrorism, globalisation, further enlargement and making Europes voice more effective internationally.
This agenda is surely quintessentially one in Britains interests. Over the past 10 years, Britain has moved from the margins of European debate to the centre. This is absolutely right for Britain. Whether in defence or economic reform or in energy policy or the environment, or of course most particularly in enlargement and the appointment of the new Commission President, Britain has for a decade been in a leadership position in Europe. That is exactly where we should stay. I commend this agreement to the House.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I congratulate the new leader and deputy leader of the Labour party. Both of them were electedone had a slightly stiffer contest than the otheron the ground of listening to people, which is what I want to talk about today. In his final days in office, the Prime Minister has concluded negotiations for which after this week he can never be held accountable, and he has agreed to a transfer of power from Britain to Brussels without the permission of the British people. That will be remembered as one of the most flagrant breaches of any of the promises that he has made.
Let the issue be put and let the battle be joined.[ Official Report, 20 April 2004; Vol. 420, c. 157.]
What you cant do is have a situation where you get a rejection of the treaty and then you just bring it back with a few amendments and say we will have another go.
The Prime Minister has made three claims in rejecting a referendum. First, he has said that the substance of the treaty is different from the constitution. Secondly, he has said that we do not need a referendum, because the red lines were met. Thirdly, he has said that there is no significant transfer of power from Britain to Brussels. He is wrong on all three counts.
Let us take the issue of the treaty being different from the constitution. The constitution had an EU president, a single legal personality, a Foreign Minister and the loss of the veto; the treaty has an EU president, a single legal personality, a Foreign Minister and the loss of the veto in 60 areas. Far from being dead, the constitution has been resuscitated. [ Interruption. ] Was not the German Chancellor telling the truth when she said that
much of the substance has been maintained? [Interruption]
the public is being led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.?
The Reform Treaty will introduce...the innovations resulting from the 2004
as set out below in a detailed fashion.
Now let us have a look at the red lines, which do not include the EU President, the single legal entity or the vetoes, and even the areas that they cover are falling apart. The Prime Minister has said that British foreign policy is not being displaced, but we find that that red line is only in a declaration, which is not legally binding. The Prime Minister has said that the charter of fundamental rights could not change British law, but that red line has already been challenged by senior judges. In any event, his whole argument is bogus, because at the time of the constitution he said that the same red lines were met, but he offered the people a referendum. He said that the constitution
does not and will not alter the fundamental nature of the relationship between member states and the European Union.
Parliament should debate it in detail and decide upon it. Then, let the people have the final say.[ Official Report, 20 April 2004; Vol. 420, c. 155-57.]
The Prime Ministers third claim is that the treaty does not mean a significant transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels. That is simply wrong. Will the
Prime Minister confirm that power is being transferred in 60 areas as the veto is abolished? Far from their all being minor areas, they include energy, transport, employment law and the new EU diplomatic service. The new treaty even gives up some powers which members of his own Government have warned against. Two weeks ago, the Foreign Secretary said that putting criminal justice under the control of the European Court would be a major change and a matter of some controversy. So why did he sign up to it?
The Prime Minister himself said that the EU being given a legal personality across all the areas of its work would be potentially damaging. So why did he sign up to that? The Leader of the Housethe once and future Foreign Secretarydescribed the Foreign Minister and the EU President as central elements of a constitutional treaty, which could not be introduced without a referendum. So where is the referendum?
With this treaty, something is being done that was not included in any previous treaty. It does not just transfer specific power from Westminster to Brussels; it also includes a new ratchet clause that allows many of the vetoes that survive to be abolished without a new treaty. The Prime Minister shakes his head. He obviously does not know what he signed up to. This can happen without an intergovernmental conference and without the British people being allowed a say. Is not that another reason why we need a referendum?
This summit could have been about free trade, climate change and a trade deal to help Africa. Those things do not require a single extra central power in Brussels. They simply require political will and a sense of purpose.
All three main parties in the House signed up to a referendum at the last election. The Prime Minister has broken that promise, but within two days he will be gone. We will have a new Prime Minister, one who has promised, unlike his predecessor, to be humble, to be a servant of the people and to listen. If that new Prime Minister, like us, really believes in power to the people, he must hold a referendum and let the people decide.
The Prime Minister: Let me deal with each point in turn. First, I should point out that when the right hon. Gentleman quoted from the draft mandate for the IGC from the German presidency, he missed out the succeeding sentence, which is:
The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing Treaties and replacing them with a single text called Constitution is abandoned.
Let me go through the 49 articles that create QMV. Thirteen of them do not apply to the UK because they are about the eurozone or judicial and home affairs, which we have opted out of. Six involve issues such as allowing a group of citizens to propose initiatives; the negotiation of a withdrawal agreementI should have thought that the Opposition would want QMV on that; two relate to ending special state aid provisions for Germany post-reunification and to diplomatic and consular protection measures, which are not about the service, but about protection. Nine are minor and technical, including such extraordinary matters as the Council review of general rules on the composition of the Committee of the Regions, and the Comitology Committee, whatever that might be. Nine of them relate simply to new legal bases, but powers already exist.
There are nine articles of genuine substance on matters such as the implementation of own resources decisions, which it is in Britains interests to have QMV on, because it allows us to ensure that countries cannot block that; on the authorisation, co-ordination and supervision of intellectual property rights protection, which, again, it is absolutely in Britains interests to have; and on matters such as urgent aid to third countries and humanitarian aid operations.
The idea that this involves some vast transfer of powers from the UK to Brussels is completely and utterly absurd. But do not take my word for it, take the word of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who heads up the Oppositions constitutional committee.
some of the Eurosceptics will have demanded a referendum just about the date on the top of the piece of paper, but they are flogging away, I think, at a dead horse.
The Single European Act and Maastricht involved far more QMV transfers than anything that we have agreed. As for the external action service of the EU, because it comes under one personit is sensible to merge both poststhe Commission offices will break down the barriers with the Council offices, so that they can all be in the same place. Are we to have a referendum on an open-plan office? It is absurd.
The question that I have for the right hon. Gentleman is this. If this is so important, if this is the one thing that requires a referendum, sucking away the countrys political energy for months, why did he not go to the meeting on Thursday morning of the European Peoples party to which he was invited by the German Chancellor? What did he say when he was asked to go to the meeting? He said that he was too busy to attend. So this is a fundamental question requiring a referendum, yet he cannot even turn up to the meeting.
Incidentally, if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he will get some salvation from the new grouping that his party is joining, which includes the Czech Prime Minister, let me tell him what his friend the Czech Prime Minister has said about the deal. He said:
it was very difficult but in the end very successful. The result is considerably better than the European Constitution,
and that he did not think that a referendum should be held. The truth of the matter is that the Conservative party has not got a serious policy on Europe. This is no doubt the reason why the right hon. Gentleman did not raise the matter at Prime Ministers questions last week or attend the European Peoples party meeting and, to be fair to him, I think that he is going through the motions a bit today. If the Conservative party wants to be a serious party of government, it should have a serious policy on Europe. The fact that it does not have one means that it is not a serious party of government.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD):
Are any of the issues contained in the mandate to the IGC capable of being reopened, or is the mandate the final word on what can be discussed at the IGC? The Prime
Minister has said that the legal position in relation to competition remains unchanged, but does he understand the anxiety of the CBI that competition policy has been substantially weakened? How will the ability of the European Union to facilitate the internal market be achieved if protectionism begins to rise again? In particular, how will the European Union be able to deal properly with the challenges of globalisation if there is further protectionism? What specific rights did the Prime Minister find so objectionable as to justify a United Kingdom opt-out from the charter of fundamental rights? What flexibility does the EU Trade Commissioner now have in relation to agriculture for the purpose of achieving a successful outcome to the Doha round? Finally, what decisions were taken on the role that the European Union should play in alleviating the desperate humanitarian conditions in Gaza?
The Prime Minister: The detail of what was agreed obviously has to be negotiated at the intergovernmental conference, but the key elements have been agreed. In relation to the language in the constitutional treaty about free and undistorted competition, it was somewhat bizarre to meet people who said that they wanted the whole constitutional treaty to be scrapped, but that we should have preserved these particular words. I am afraid that, once vetoes went down from us in a whole series of areas, vetoes went down for others, but that is exactly why we had the legal protocol. The Commission lawyers have made it quite clear that they believe that their ability to act in the internal market is unfettered, unrestricted and unchanged as a result of this; that is important.
In respect of the charter, it is not that we are against any of the fundamental rights. Indeed, we have such rights in UK law. We wanted to ensure, however, that there would be no question whatever of our being in a position where either the European Court of Justice or our own UK courts could use the charter of fundamental rights to extend or expand UK law, particularly in the labour market or the social sphere. I do not believe that that is the intention, but we need to bolt this down very clearly. We are able to do our own laws in our own way here, and that is the right thing. I understand why people are now asking whether we are against peoples fundamental rights. Of course we are not, but we believe that, in respect of the charter, it is better that those things are decided here.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): The Prime Minister and all those involved in the process are to be congratulated on coming up with an agreement that will not require a referendum. However, may I have his assurance that there will be proper parliamentary scrutiny of the whole process, clause by clause? Given that the House will go into recess in July, will he assure us that there will be proper procedures to enable us, through our Select Committees and through other means, to have proper scrutiny of all these proposals?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|