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As I said, there is a growing tendency towards segregation, but there is also a significant trend towards greater integration. One only has to walk down any high street in Europe to see the path towards economic integration,
because there will be Zara and a branch of The Body Shop. Many of the elements of the economic future that everybody can enjoy are shared throughout the European Union. One of the results of the single European currency is that most countries that share the euro now have almost identical prices for large numbers of goods. The economic move towards integration across Europe is quite acute and often led by consumers.
Mr. Drew: There are still some of us who think that the euro has not been an unalloyed success. Indeed, many parts of Europe have faced economic depression because of the problems associated with it. Thankfully we stayed out and we have not faced those problems, so I wonder whether my hon. Friend is still in favour of joining the euro.
Chris Bryant: My hon. Friend knows that I am an ardent supporter of the euro. Whether I think we should join today, tomorrow, next week or in the next couple of months is quite another matter. For many countries in Europe, the situation is not quite as he suggested. For instance, the economic problems that Germany experienced, with high levels of unemployment, were far more to do with the integration of east and west than they were to do with Germans membership of the euro. Spain has enjoyed an economic resurgence over the past few years, thanks in no small measure to its membership of the euro.
There are other respects in which we can see a move towards integration. For instance, I do not believe that a single European country now believes it will go to war on its own. That is certainly true of this countrywe will never go to war on our own, unless there is an exceptional occurrence. That is quite a change from anything that has happened in the past. [ Interruption. ] I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South-West has a bad leg and is perhaps unable to get to his feet, but if he wants to make a sedentary comment [ Interruption. ] No, he does not; good. The final reason for the growing trend towards integration is the effect of economies such as those of India and China, which are pushing us towards integration so that we survive economically.
Those pressures play themselves out in different ways. In Spain, there is a drive towards integration, because of the passionate support in Spain for further integration in Europe, and at the same time a drive towards devolution and separatism, in Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque country and elsewhere. In Belgium, the position is exactly the same. Belgium is passionately supportive of its membership of the European Union and proud to have many of its institutions in Brussels, yet is currently unable to form a Government because of the separatism between the French-speaking and Flemish-speaking communities.
In Serbia, the situation is exactly the same. Some 70 per cent. of Serbians want Serbia to be a member of the European Union, but Serbian nationalism is as ardent as it ever has been. However, it would be wholly wrong to suggest that EU membership for Serbia should be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations on Kosovan independence. Even more importantly, we should not say that the four indicted war criminalsas opposed to others who have been accused of war crimesshould be used as a bargaining chip. It is essential that Serbia should surrender them to the United Nations war crimes tribunal so that they can see justice.
I want briefly to consider the position advanced by the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). As I understand it, his neo-conservative position on Europe tries to bridge those two strands in European thinking by focusing primarily on the need for a referendum. I have known the right hon. Gentleman for a long time. We were at university together and I even went to his 21st birthday partythat was a thing to recall. He has been a passionate and influential member of the Conservative party since he was 16, or however old he was when he gave that famous speech to Mrs. Thatcher. Despite his current position, I never remember him militating for a referendum on the Single European Act or offering to tender his resignation if no referendum was called on the Maastricht treaty; yet now a referendum is convenient for him, so he proclaims it.
Another interesting part of the right hon. Gentlemans policy, and that of his leader, is the desire to repatriate the social chapter and the ability to form employment and social legislation. In March this year, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) said:
it will be a top priority for the next Conservative Government to restore social and employment legislation to national control.
The powers we particularly want back are over social and employment laws because we have seen many of those affecting the laws of this country, the employment laws of this country, the European countries trying to impose their social model, as it is called, on Britain. That is what we have to change. That, of course, may be quite a lengthy process.
Well, youd be a lone voice because no other country would want to do that.
We might start out as a lone voice but actually there are many other countries, particularly in the east and centre of Europe, who increasingly share our perspectives.
The truth, however, is that not a single country in either the east or the centre of Europe shares that perspective. Not a single one has signed up to the suggestion that there should be a renegotiation of the existing treaties, let alone of the new treaty that is to come before us in the new year. Not a single party in any other country in Europe has suggested that that should happen. What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is that he believes that a British Government should, by definition, be a lone voice crying in the wilderness in Europe. I put it to him that that is a recipe for disaster and for isolationism in Britain. It might be a neo-conservative view, but it would be wholly impractical, wholly impracticable, and absolutely wrong for this country. If the Conservatives were to form a Governmentthat is a very big ifand to make a unilateral declaration of independence in that way, the courts would immediately want to take a view on what Britain was doing to its legislation. That would result in gross instability for British businesses just when they did not need it.
The Tory position is wholly incompetent in this regard. Hon. Members often say that they hate the common agricultural policy. I hate many elements of the CAP and the way in which it is framed, and I would
like to see it further reformed, but let us never forget that if there were no CAP, there would be a French agricultural policy, a Portuguese one, a Spanish one, a German one, a Greek one
Chris Bryant: And possibly a British one. All of them would do far more damage to Africa and other countries around the world. Furthermore, hon. Members often say that they dislike the fact that the European Union has been unable to sign off its books every year, yet they know full well that the area where there is most fraud is not the spending of the Commission but the spending of the member states. They are the same people who refuse to allow the Commission the power to insist on seeing the books of the member states so that that fraud can be tackled. Sometimes there is hypocrisy in the argument.
I am not a neo-conservative in any shape or form. I am an internationalist. I believe that enlightened patriotism means locking in the countries so that they can never go to war with one other, so that they cannot undercut one another on costs or on health and safety legislation, so that they can share their power and, yes, their prosperity, so that they can tackle international crime, climate change and human and drug trafficking, and so that they can better ensure the security of their people. Isolationism is not true patriotism. Our membership of the European Union is vital to Britains economic and social interests.
I should like to mention the EU-Africa conference, about which there has not been a great deal of discussion this evening. Twenty-six of the 27 EU leaders attended the conference. The only one who was missing was, of course, our own Prime Minister. I should like to congratulate the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on her stance. She attended the conference and used the opportunity to berate Mugabe and to highlight the anger that we Europeans feel towards him about what he is doing to his own country. It is a difficult situation, of course, because no one would want to shake the hand of Mugabe. Nevertheless, the conference was extremely important. Issues of immigration, aid, security, climate change and trade were all discussed.
I am a little concerned about the total focus on Mugabe. Having just returned from Darfur, where I saw the extraordinary suffering of the people of that region, and having met the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, I believe that there are people in Africa who are just as bad as Mugabe, if not worse. Mugabe is awful, but he must not be allowed to stop important countries such as Great Britain from attending major international conferences. After all, billions of pounds of British taxpayers money goes in aid to Africa, and it is vital for us to take part in those talks.
It is the first time that we have had such a conference in seven years. I know that I am in a tiny minority, because all three political parties have backed the Prime Ministers not going to the conference. I, however, must
take the opportunity to speak out against it. I want to explain why. I feel passionately about the Helsinki agreement, which represented the first steps in the liberation of the eastern European countries. The great politicians of the west engaged for the first time with the dictators and oppressors of eastern Europe. It must have been difficult for Harold Wilson and his colleagues to meet people like Ceausescu, Brezhnev and other oppressors and dictators, but it was an important first step in securing freedom for that region. News of the discussions and the wests determination to get better human rights for the people of eastern Europe filtered through to those people on the BBC world news and through other media. I, for one, believe that the Prime Minister should have attended the conference, and I regret that he did not.
My second brief point, because I want to ensure that my two colleagues get a chance to speak, is on Kosovo. I met the Foreign Secretary of Serbia a few weeks ago and he impressed me greatly. He was one of the many young political activists who fought against the brutal dictatorship of Milosevic. Like many others, he put his life on the line because of his determination to fight that dictator and oppressor. Who can forget the terrible struggles of 2000, when we saw on television the courage of those people who fought the oppression and brutality of Milosevic? Of course, someone like the Serbian Foreign Minister, who is a democrat and a decent, honourable man
Daniel Kawczynski: I am glad that the Minister nods in agreement. The Serbian Foreign Minister, obviously, is under a great deal of pressure from the Serbian people. The prospect of losing 12 per cent. of their sovereign territory will whip up many people in his country into deep frustration and concern. I hope that the Minister will meet the Serbian Foreign Minister over the coming days and weeks to discuss the issue.
We must never forget that Serbia has already suffered over Kosovo. It led to the warwhere many people were killedto sanctions against Serbia and to the bombing of Belgrade. I remember my first ever political demonstration in 1999, outside No. 10 Downing street with my Serbian friends. We campaigned through the night against the bombing of Belgrade, which I thought was terrible.
Finally, Cyprus, as the Minister will know, is against a forced decision on Kosovo. That would be seen as setting a threatening precedent in the EU whereby certain issues could be immediately imposed and fixed. To my knowledge, the Cyprus issue has gone on for at least 30 years. It is a difficult problem, but the Americans, and others, are not trying to force a resolution. Therefore, I believe that we must be more patient with Serbia, and not force a decision this month.
Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): So it goes ononce again, this House is debating the European question: which powers should be exercised at EU level and which should rest with member states? Once again, the political class argues about the handover of democratic decision making to remote functionaries.
The UK Government promised that the further transfer of powers to EU institutions would require a referendum, and so did half a dozen other EU Governments. Where people were askedin France and Hollandthey overwhelmingly voted against that. Despite the best efforts of the entire political establishment, the French and the Dutch overwhelmingly rejected the view of their masters. I venture that, had the people of Britain been asked, they too would have shouted an unmistakeable No!
Yet the political class gathering in Lisbon has simply overruled the people. Across Europe, democracys veto has been counter-vetoed by the technocratic elite. Now we in the UK, like others in Europe, can only watch as those in the political class go ahead. We are powerless as they make the same net transfer of power under the reform treaty that they wanted to make under the original constitution.
When Hugo Chavez lost his recent referendum in Venezuela, at least he had the good grace to accept the outcome. In Europe, when the political bosses lose referendums they simply carry on. The Government talk about providing leadership in Europe, and I wish they would. Half a dozen EU Governments have reneged on promises to give their people referendums. If this Government wanted to give leadership, they would lead the way in offering people a referendum. In doing so, they would force other member states to allow their people a say. In allowing people a direct say, the Government would demonstrate that policy in Europe is not the preserve of the professional diplomatic elite, but the property of all the peoples of Europe.
In a few days time, the European diplomatic corps will meet to sign the constitutional treaty. Their gathering, remote and exclusive, is a perfect symbol of what is wrong with the EU. Unaccountable and detached officials meet to make the decisions, but the people are kept safely away behind the barriers.
Our Prime Minister will stay away from the photo summit, and that too is a telling illustration of our relationship with Europe. We sulk, we are petulant, but ultimately, we are submissive. Nothing better illustrates what is wrong with our relationship with Europe: for all the petulance and grandstanding, in the end we go along with what has been decided.
Those of us who have campaigned long and hard for a referendum may well find that our wish, and the wishes of the British people, are simply ignored. The failure of the political establishment to allow a referendum will ultimately mean that the European project remains the project of the elite. It will be the preserve of the technocrat, the diplomat and the official, not of the people. Without a referendum, the EU project will lack democratic legitimacy, and without that legitimacy, it will not thrive. The question is, will it survive?
In conclusion, the failure to give us a referendum on this treaty denies it legitimacy. Political power held by institutions without democratic legitimacy do not stand for long. They lack stability, and are vulnerable. As communist Yugoslavia, apartheid South Africa and Soviet Russia all discovered, political institutions that lack democratic legitimacy ultimately fall apart.
One day, the people of Europe will challenge the EUs institutions directly. The days of deference to the diplomat and the technocrat, and to Foreign Office and
the EU officials, will come to an end. On that day, EU institutions will find themselves without legitimacybut less legitimacy for the EU is not necessarily bad. Indeed, the worse things get, the better they may one day be.
Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): At the beginning of the debate, the bomb that exploded in Algeria was mentioned. I want to comment on EU relations with Algeria, which I visited last year. It is a country of enormous tragedy. It does not face starvation, drought, flooding or other natural disasters, but it desperately needs our help. We cannot rely purely on France to engage with Algeria. We in Britain need to do much more.
On the way to Algeria, I was struck by the fact that nobody was travelling economy to get there. That is a troubling phenomenon, because it means that no one is voluntarily going to that country. Business class was packed with people involved in oil, diplomacy and so on. Algeria is one of the few countries in the world that does not even have a guidebook. There is no Lonely Planet guide to Algeria, nor is there one to Iraq and one or two other countries. The position in Algeria is troubling, and I believe that we should be engaged with it.
I wanted to discuss the EU treaty, but it has dominated the debate. Despite the long speech of the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), some of the dangerous sanctions that the new treaty puts on national Parliaments have not been properly drawn out. Our Parliament will have a duty to contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union. Nobody can predict accurately what that will mean in practice, but criticism by elected representatives in our Parliament of the European Commission and its decisions might be out of order. National Parliaments, unlike the European Parliament, were not creations of the treaties, and our rights do not depend on them. The new treaty proposes for the first time that national Parliaments be subservient to the Union.
I had an interesting exchange with the Foreign Secretary at an evidence-taking sitting of the European Scrutiny Committee. I was amazed that he did not know the original French wording of the treaty and its provisions about national Parliaments. It was surprising, given that he said that he wanted to change it, that he did not know the original words. The treaty states that
National Parliaments contribute to the good functioning of the Union.
However, the French original makes it clear that national Parliaments should contributeand have a duty to contributeto the functioning of the Union. The treaty also provides that national Parliaments must see to it that subsidiarity is respected.
National Parliaments contribute to the good functioning of the Union,
Given its constitutional significance, we emphasise that this is not an area in which any ambiguity is tolerable and we shall look to the Government to ensure that its original undertakings are met in any new text.
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