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May I take the Prime Minister back to his early political career in Scotland? He will remember that a movement was launched by great figures such as the late John Smith and Donald Dewar, and by lesser figures such as the Prime Minister and me, to persuade the then sceptical Labour movement of the merits of the European Union. We won that argument, and we ask him to return to it, because very few people under the age of 50, including the Foreign Secretary, have been able to engage in the debate. If the Prime Minister does return to that argument, it will help him to escape from the image that he created of someone who is afraid of the ballot box. He may also persuade the leader of the Conservative party to say whether he is in
favour of Britain being in or out of the European Union, or both at the same time.
I now turn to the specifics of the treaty. The red lines were of course understandable, but on the vision, as the Prime Minister describes it, what is he doing to promote a more decentralised and devolved Europe, rather than the European superstate that is the figment of Europhobes imagination? Why did he not do more to promote the concept of subsidiarity, which is so weak in the treaty? Does he not realise that it is highly corrosive to public confidence when the European Commission promotes issues such as rules on working time, which should be a matter of national competence, instead of using its energy to deal with cross-border issues such as global warming and the aviation industrys contribution to it?
We support the Prime Ministers vision of an open, outward-looking Europe, but why has he not rebuked his friend and former colleague, Peter Mandelson, who, instead of getting down to his job of delivering liberalised world trade negotiations, is launching protectionist attacks on China? What is the Prime Minister doing to address the urgent deteriorating political situation in Turkey, partly created by rebuffs from the European Union? Will he at last give us a timeline for fundamental reforms of the wasteful, economically illiterate common agricultural policy?
My final question to the Prime Minister is this: will he come out of his bunker and join the Liberal Democrats in supporting a referendum on British membership of the European Union, and join us in making the European case, and campaigning for a yes vote?
The Prime Minister: I welcome what the hon. Gentleman said about the long-term agenda for the European Union, and I hope he will read the document that we have published today, in which we set out the case for an open Europe that looks out to the world, as well as the case for a world trade agreement. We support the hon. Gentleman in urging all parties to make that agreement soon. We support EU outreach to Turkey, and we hope that the negotiations with Turkey will start soon. In the document, we also support wide-scale reform of the EU budget, including reform of the common agricultural policy. The hon. Gentleman will remember that there was an agreement that those reform discussions should start next year, and they will do so.
I agree, too, that it is time to have a debate about the future of Europe in the context of Britain being positive about its membership of the EU. It is unfortunate that the debate has not concentrated on the things that European countries can do together, including environmental action, in which we can work with our partners to deal with climate change as well as action to open up the single market. Sometimes, we forget that 62 per cent. of our exports go to the European Union; 40 per cent. of all financial services activity in Europe comes through London; and 80 per cent. of the burgeoning carbon market for the whole of Europe is based in the City of London. We are in a privileged position because, through the United Kingdoms financial services in particular, we can
benefit from the extension of the single market and make it the means by which we can create jobs for the future.
I am pleased that the two candidates for the leadership of the Liberal partyat least the two candidates who have announced that they are standing for the leadershiphave said that they do not regard this as a constitutional treaty. They regard it as an amending treaty that does not require a referendum, so they share the view of every single Government in Europe, apart from that of Ireland, where there is a constitutional obligation to hold a referendum. I hope that we can proceed on the basis that there will be a full debate in the Chamber in the House of Commons on all the details of the legislation; that every Member of Parliament who has views can contribute to that debate; and that we can look in detail at the provisions that have been agreed as part of the amending treaty. I think that people will come to the conclusion that we have defended the British national interest, and built in the necessary protections for the future.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the agreement by 27 sovereign countries. The Prime Minister referred to the appointment of a high representative for foreign and security policy. Will he confirm that that individual will not be the Foreign Minister, that the representatives of the European external action service will not form a foreign ministry, and that we will not have European Union embassies but EU missions throughout the world?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is the distinguished Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I stress that foreign policy will remain intergovernmental. We have always said that decisions will be made unanimously and that the treaty does not, as people have claimed, remove our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We have always said that the organisation and function of any external action service must be agreed unanimously, too. I can therefore reassure my hon. Friend on each point that he made.
The Prime Minister: There are three separate ways in which the justice and home affairs opt-ins work. First, we have the right to opt in to any new measures. Secondly, we have the right, if we so choose, to opt out of existing measures that we have accepted if they are amended. The third option, to which I think the hon. Lady was referring, applies to Schengen measures. After a period of five years, they will stop being intergovernmental measures and become part of the treaty. At that stage, we will have the right to opt out, if we choose to do so.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab):
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the year before last, he and I were both elected on a manifesto pledge to campaign wholeheartedly for a yes vote on the new constitutional treaty, that that pledge was scuppered, as was the treaty itself, by the no votes in France and
Holland, and that that being so, those who write well remunerated articles reminding the Labour party of manifesto pledges have either not read the manifesto or prefer money to truth?
The Prime Minister: The constitutional concept, as was stated in the declaration, has been abandoned. If anybody has any doubt about the special treatment that has been accorded to Britain as a result of our negotiations, Valéry Giscard dEstaing, who is hardly a supporter of what we have been trying to advocate, said only a day ago, on 20 October:
As to the balance sheet of the changes, it mainly favours Great Britain, which will enjoy a special status: It is placed in an exceptional situation with respect to monetary union; it does not apply the Schengen agreement; it is not bound by the constraints of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.... and it retains its discretion to interpret certain judicial matters.
That is how we have defended the British national interest, and that is why the amended treaty is quite different from the original constitutional treaty. We have secured the protections for the British national interest.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): Does the Prime Minister recognise that the history of the European Union is hugely shaped by the Courts, and that they have always, through judicial activism, changed elements in the treaty in the direction of ever closer union? As they were the ones to find in favour of European law having primacynot this House or any other Parliamentdoes he not realise that the Courts will progressively find in the direction of a single legal personality, and that his opt-outs will no longer exist?
The Prime Minister: I do not accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. The protocols that we have negotiated are part of the treaty and they are legally binding, no matter what he wishes to believe. If he is in any doubt about what has happened, the President of the European Parliament only a few days ago, writing in The Daily Telegraphas a Christian Democrat, he should support the Conservative party but does not do so on this matterstated:
The special deal . . . in this area even goes as far as allowing withdrawal from previous agreements where the UK had opted-in.
we have reverted to a classic treaty between 27 sovereign states under international law similar to all previous EU treaties.
Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab):
May I remind the Prime Minister, in response to the question from the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), that the destiny of Europe was set when we signed the Single European Act in 1986 under a Thatcher Government? The House should welcome my right hon. Friends statement that 62 per cent. of our exports now go to Europe, whereas it was 57 per cent. 10 years ago. The House should welcome his emphasis on jobs, competitiveness, prosperity, climate change, security, the single market,
free trade and openness. I assure him that these will be the subjects of debate when we come to discuss the reform treaty.
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will very much be part of the debate on the Floor of the House when we discuss all the provisions. I welcome the chance to debate the treaty and to show that the protocols and the opt-ins that we have succeeded in achieving defend the British national interest. My hon. Friend is right. At some point, even the Conservative party will have to come to terms with the fact that we benefit from our membership of the European Union. It is not just 62 per cent. of our trade and 40 per cent. of all financial services activity of the EU in London50 per cent. of investment banking is in London [Interruption.] The Conservatives do not seem to be concerned that millions of jobs are dependent on our membership of the European Union. It is estimated that our trade with the European Union makes possible 3 million jobs, and if the Conservatives want to create a period of economic instability, I know where business and the British people will be. They will want economic stability.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): Does the Prime Minister recall the statement that he made in this House in July on constitutional reform, in which he promised to devolve more power directly to the people? He asserted:
The right of all the British people to have their voice heard is fundamental to our democracy.[ Official Report, 3 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 818.]
Does he realise the damage that he is doing to peoples faith in democracy, when he breaks his own manifesto promise to hold a referendum on the treaty, which in substance and legal effect is almost identical to the previous one, and when he ignores and contradicts the words that he uttered on direct democracy only three months ago in this House?
The Prime Minister: If we were voting on a decision to join the euro, there would be a referendum; and if we were discussing the old constitutional treaty, there would be a referendum. We have secured the defence of the national interest in such a way that no fundamental change is taking place in the relationship between the European Union and Britain, which is shown in the protocols as well as in the opt-ins that we have achieved. The right hon. Gentleman should think again before his next intervention, because he was one of the Conservative Whips when the Conservatives opposed a referendum on the Maastricht treaty.
We consider that, for those countries which have not requested derogations or opt outs from the full range of agreements in the Treaty...the new Treaty produces an effect which is substantially equivalent to the Constitutional Treaty.
Secondly, turning to the Schengen building agreements and framework decisions, there are 70 to 80 areas in which we have agreed that there is no role for
the European Court of Justice, but if we opt in to these and to clauses 62 to 69 of the reform treaty, those areas will be controlled by the European Court of Justice and the Commission. Will the Prime Minister assure us that whatever Bill he introduces in this House will include detailed procedures so that this House knows its role in deciding whether the Government should be advised to opt in or not to opt in to those things, or whether to accept the opt-out in certain areas, as we go along through the five years and debate whether there will be transposition of all those 70 to 80 areas?
The Prime Minister: I assure the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee that there will be a full opportunity to debate those issues on the Floor of the House. In particular, he will find that we have an opt-in on all those matters, and it will be for us, the British people, to decide whether we opt in on those issues.
As far as my hon. Friends more general point is concerned, I am pleased that the Committee takes the view that the treaty as it affects Britain is quite different from the treaty as it affects other countries. Britain will decide on justice and home affairs, because we have the opt-in; Britain has the protocol on the charter of rights; Britain has an intergovernmental decision on foreign policy; national security has been exempted from the treaty; and we have a veto on social security. In all the areas where there were question marks beforehand, we have defended the British national interest. As my hon. Friend has rightly said, the treaty is different in its consequences for Britain and for other countries.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): Does the Prime Minister recognise that there is always an ongoing responsibility on this or any other British Government who are playing their role properly in Europe to do more to explain and inform people about developments within the European Union and Britains role within those developments? Will he acknowledgewe have all experienced this, whatever our views on the European issuethat when it comes to Question Time, Any Questions? or Radio Five Live phone-ins, the most common complaint is that people do not feel they get sufficient unbiased information on which to make a judgment about Europe? That will not change to any great extent given the arcane and at times impenetrable debates that will take place in this House on the minutiae of the draft treaty. Does he have any specific initiatives in mind, running concurrently with the passage of this treaty, to get more information out to the British publicparticularly, perhaps, through the education system?
The Prime Minister:
I note that the right hon. Gentleman has become the president of the European Movement. It is, of course, part of the work of the European Movement to stimulate debate in the country about the future of the European Union. There will be time to debate all the detailed parts of the amending treaty in the House of Commons, which will also provide an opportunity to inform the public about the consequences and implications of the amending treaty.
I believe that the public will come to the view that we have taken the right decisions to protect the national interest.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): The Prime Minister has not answered the question whether there will be a free vote for his side on a referendum. We now know that the Liberals will opt out. Will he say whether, given the question marks described by some of his colleagues and the doubts about the language, which he himself referred to in December, he will let the British peoplerather than just him and his Governmentdecide whether the treaty should be signed?
The Prime Minister: I have already made it absolutely clear that if we secure all the detailed amendments that we have sought and that are in the text at the moment, we are prepared to sign the treaty and recommend to the House that the treaty be ratified. As far as the hon. Gentlemans position is concerned, I see that he has signed the early-day motion calling for a referendum even after ratification.
The Conservative party will have to make a decision, because if it wants a referendum after ratification, it is effectively asking the European Union to reopen the conditions of membership of the European Union. I believe that the Conservative party will find it very difficult to get supporteven from the Czech Civic Democratsfor that position. It will find that 26 out of 27 members of the European Union do not want to go along with its proposals for changes. The Conservative party will have to make a very difficult decision. I believe it will have to decide what is in the interests of the British people.
Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree with the trade unions and me that we must not under any circumstances put jobs in this country at risk? Some 62 per cent. of our exports go to the European Union. If we put exports at risk, we are putting jobs in this country at risk.
The Prime Minister: There is not a constituency in this country that does not depend on trade with the European Union. That trade has grown substantially since we joined the European Union in the 1970s and it will continue to grow over the next few years. What would put it at risk is a prolonged period of instability with people not knowing whether we proposed to continue with our membership of the European Union or we were trying to renegotiate that membership. I believe that there is no support in the country for putting thatand thus jobs and the prosperity of the British peopleat risk.
Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con):
There is considerable concern that protocol 7 is not sufficient to prevent the European Court of Justice from using
the charter of fundamental rights in future to create new, individual legal rights in the United Kingdom. Presumably, the Government have taken legal advice on that. I should be grateful if the Prime Minister told me whether that legal advice is absolutely 100 per cent. unequivocal and whether he will publish it.
The Prime Minister: The charter records but does not create new rights and the protocol has the full force of law. That is both the legal advice that we have had and, I suspect, the legal advice that anybody else who has looked at the issue has had. I believe that the Confederation of British Industry has also looked at it very closely, and it has come to the view that we have defended the British national interest.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): As someone who, on many occasions, has not been over-enthusiastic about various aspects of the European Union, I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that, bearing in mind what he has said about the opt-outs, many of the objections today really amount to little more than xenophobia. Some of the talk very recently about Munich, betrayal and so on is utter rubbish from start to finish.
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend. The problem is that some Conservative Members do not just want to stop the amending treaty but want to renegotiate the whole membership of the European Union. That is why they start with employment and social legislation; they then say that even if the treaty is ratified they will still want a referendum. That will open up the question whether we are serious about our membership of the European Union. I hope that at some point the Conservative party will come to its senses and realise that we are in Europe and that we are in Europe to stay.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): The Prime Minister has conspicuously avoided responding to the request from the Leader of the Opposition to reconcile his remarks on the protocol with the letter from the Minister for Europe to the European Scrutiny Committee on 31 July. On that occasion, the Minister said that the protocol
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