Previous Section Index Home Page

20 Feb 2008 : Column 377

New article 240a states:

In other words, it is not just a matter of the name of the foreign Minister or otherwise; the treaty differs in a range of ways from the proposed constitution, which was abandoned by the 27 Governments of the European Union last June.

Mr. Clappison: I shall put this next question slowly for the benefit of the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). What is the difference between the posts of Union Minister for foreign affairs and high representative? Where is the difference in what the person is going to do?

David Miliband: The difference in the posts is that the precision with which the new treaty defines the role of the nation states in governing the Council’s decisions addresses very directly some of the concerns about the original proposals that existed on both sides of the House. The hon. Gentleman will see in treaty language, clearly enunciated—

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): There is nothing different.

David Miliband: When I say there is something different and the hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that there is nothing different, I do not understand how we can come to a meeting of minds. The difference is that the treaty is different, and given that we are debating the treaty, I do not know how we can avoid recognising that.

Mr. Francois: The Foreign Secretary has lost that one.

David Miliband: No, I think that the hon. Gentleman has just lost the House. [ Interruption. ]

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): The posts are different. They differ in the relationships in respect of the Council and the Commission. The Foreign Secretary is discussing the narrow treaty provision, so will he just help me a bit in relation to NATO, about which he says the treaty contains special mentions that were not in place before? If the talk about France rejoining NATO fully is correct, some people might be concerned that the new dynamics would be that the EU positioned itself in such a way as to have a right of veto over NATO decisions. Is there anything in the treaty that would allow that to happen?

David Miliband: No. NATO is rightly governed by the rules of NATO and the European Union is governed by the rules of the European Union. Although Conservative Members suggested in a rather mocking tone that I had been foolish to allow my hon. Friend to intervene, I agree with the first part of her remarks about the two posts being different.

Let me move on to qualified majority voting. As has been the case since Amsterdam, there is scope in this treaty to take some secondary and implementing decisions by QMV. In addition, when proposals are explicitly and
20 Feb 2008 : Column 378
unanimously requested by the European Council from the high representative, they can be decided by QMV, but the treaty makes it clear that there must be a specific request, by unanimity, from the European Council. It remains to be seen whether any of the provisions for QMV will be used—despite having had QMV for operational purposes in common foreign and security policy for 10 years, it has not been used once. In addition, the emergency brake mechanism can of course be used if the UK’s vital interests are affected by a decision that is about to be approved by QMV.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary is discussing the general point about CFSP and the views taken by the Union. The Union has a relationship with Russia, which strongly objects to national missile defence being placed in Britain, the Czech Republic and Poland. That clearly has implications for the whole continent. What competence does the European Union have in this regard? Does it have any? Does he expect it to have any if it is to have a common foreign policy?

David Miliband: That goes to the heart of the difference between a European Union foreign policy that is complementary to national policies and one that substitutes for them. The issue of ballistic missile defence is a bilateral rather than multilateral one.

Common foreign and security policy remains intergovernmental and in a separate treaty. Importantly, as I explained to the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over substantive CFSP policy is clearly and expressly excluded. As agreed at Maastricht, the ECJ will continue to monitor the boundary between CFSP and other EU external action, such as development assistance. But the Lisbon treaty considerably improves the existing position by making it clear that CFSP cannot be affected by other EU policies. It ring-fences CFSP as a distinct, equal area of action.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): I would be grateful if the Foreign Secretary could give a little more clarification about how the new way in which policy will be defined links to the ideas put forward by the Oxford Research Group about sustainable security and the need to move from a paradigm of defence and control to one where we examine the issues of international development and, specifically, climate change. Will he tell us how that will be examined in the new Lisbon treaty arrangements?

David Miliband: I am afraid that my hon. Friend has all but floored me with her reference to the Oxford Research Group—I have not read its manifesto or recent research publication, although I clearly need to do so.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): Cameron’s outfit.

David Miliband: Perhaps my hon. Friend and I can both read the publication and then compare notes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) will know that debates have taken place in this House about the changes introduced by
20 Feb 2008 : Column 379
the treaty in respect of sustainable development. She will also be reassured when the national security strategy is published, because it will take a broad look at these issues, rather than a narrow one.

Mr. Cash: The Foreign Secretary referred to the exceptions where the ECJ has a role, and I accept, as the European Scrutiny Committee said, that the role is limited. Under the Bill he is excluding the CFSP from implementation into English law. How will he reconcile that with the fact that, in those limited circumstances, the ECJ will, through the European Communities Act 1972, have an impact on British law? Can he reconcile the two positions?

David Miliband: I want to do so. The hon. Gentleman caught me halfway through my explanation of the ECJ’s role. The ECJ has a consequential role in respect of two aspects. It will monitor the boundary between CFSP and other EU external action, such as development assistance. As I was saying, the Lisbon treaty considerably improves the position by ring-fencing CFSP.

There is a judicial gap in a second area; it exists in respect of sanctions on individuals. Individuals subject to economic sanctions can already challenge them in court if they believe that their rights have not been respected. The treaty extends that provision to CFSP sanctions measures. That is an important part of ensuring that EU sanctions regimes are robust and credible. That consequential role of the ECJ does not infringe on our country’s laws in the sort of way that the hon. Gentleman fears.

Mr. Cash: Unfortunately, the Foreign Secretary’s Bill excludes CFSP from implementation into UK law. It follows that if the ECJ were to make decisions in the areas granted to it, it would be impossible to reconcile what the ECJ has the power to do under the treaties and what the Bill says.

David Miliband: I do not accept that those things are impossible to reconcile because they are doing different tasks. The treaty is clear about the limits on the ECJ’s role, not least in respect of policy, but it recognises that the ECJ must have a consequential role in the two areas that I described. I am happy to correspond with the hon. Gentleman further about the issue— [ Interruption. ] It is suggested that I do not correspond with him further, but I would be happy to do so.

The Lisbon treaty also establishes an external action service to support the high representative. It does not alter the responsibility of member states or the nature of CFSP decision making, but it will reorganise Commission and Council secretariat staff and include seconded staff from member states. All of this can deliver benefits in terms of more effective co-ordination. It will improve the policy advice to the Council by aligning EU external spending with the political priorities set by the member states in the Council. In post-conflict situations, it offers the chance to improve the EU’s ability to deliver coherently by improving co-ordination of a range of conflict prevention, crisis management and stabilisation tools.

Mr. MacShane: Since 1973, under successive Governments, Britain has sent some of its best brains from different Departments—not just the Foreign
20 Feb 2008 : Column 380
Office—to work in Brussels, and they have done a good job for Britain. I know that my right hon. Friend is under huge budgetary pressures, but I urge him to see what he can do to ensure that as the external action service develops Brits help to shape it, in both Europe’s interest and British interest, which I believe genuinely coincide.

David Miliband: Mt right hon. Friend makes a good point. I can assure him that when it is in the interests of the individuals to gain experience from the EAS we will want them to do so. It is an important way forward.

Mr. MacShane: Send some Tories.

David Miliband: We are happy to send people of any political stripe to the EAS, although I do not know whether Tories would want to go. We can address that question another time.

I am happy to confirm the Government’s continued commitment to UK presence on the United Nations Security Council. Like every hon. Member, I support that presence: we argued for clarity in the Convention and the treaty to safeguard that position, and nothing in the treaty will undermine it. Only sovereign states can hold seats at the Security Council and the EU is not a state, and will not become one. Under current arrangements, the President of the EU and the high representative sometimes already address the Security Council, if they are invited to do so, but that does not make them members nor negate our membership. As the Foreign Affairs Committee has said, the treaty

For the sake of completeness, let me now turn to three aspects of European security and defence policy, on which we asked searching questions in the Convention to defend our position. The first is permanent structured co-operation. One of the UK’s priorities on defence—in both the EU and NATO—is to get our partners to shoulder more of the international security burden and to get them to develop the right capabilities and provide the right sort of forces so that they can help to tackle the security challenges that we face. The treaty includes a new provision—permanent structured co-operation—focused solely on developing EU member state capability in line with those aims. To become a member of permanent structured co-operation, EU member states will need to commit to a higher level of capability development. The prospect of membership will, we hope, encourage member states to develop the sort of deployable, flexible and sustainable forces for which we have been calling.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): Many of us who have served in the armed forces, including myself, are concerned about the development of a European defence force and how that would work in conjunction with NATO. Can the Secretary of State give an example of when NATO might be used or when a future European defence force might be used? In all the conflicts and theatres in which I was involved, there was no unanimous agreement on action in Europe. I can see a situation in which there is a call for a European force that cannot be answered, partly because the forces are double-hatting in NATO, but also because unanimity will never be achieved.

20 Feb 2008 : Column 381

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but inherent in it is a significant correction to what some of his hon. Friends were saying earlier. He used the word “unanimously”, and the troops would be deployed only on the basis of unanimous agreement. He raised the spectre that the EU would not be able to perform an important task because unanimous agreement would be required before any forces could be deployed under PSC. It is a significant point, but it is right that unanimous agreement should be achieved before forces are deployed, and I think that he would agree with that.

I do not wish to anticipate future conflicts, but the ESDP is involved in 13 missions at the moment, which gives some indication of where it is going. I know of the hon. Gentleman’s service in the armed forces and it is, of course, respected on both sides of the House.

Mr. Ellwood: If I may illustrate my point from my own experience, the problem is the one that we had in Bosnia. The EU was there for peacekeeping and monitoring, but when things got tough no one was willing to do the fighting. My worry is that if unanimous agreement is required, we will not send troops anywhere, because the member states will discuss the issue and never come to a resolution. We will have to fall back on the United States as a back-up, which leads to the conclusion that we should retain NATO as the structure and not even try to play around with an EU defence force.

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman will agree that the first step is to build up capabilities. The purpose of permanent structured co-operation is to incentivise capability development. When the capabilities are in place, the decision on how to deploy them can be made. I do not disagree that NATO should be the first resort for the sort of missions that he describes, but I disagree that we should not even try to develop a European capacity to complement the work of NATO.

Mr. Henderson: Is not the reality that there are some circumstances in which it will be far more appropriate for NATO to become involved, usually when there is a north American influence or interest? In other circumstances, where there is still a serious issue to be faced and with a specific European interest, as in Chad, for example—[Hon. Members: “Chad?”] There is a serious situation in Chad that needs to be addressed and there are many European Union interests involved. It would be better for the EU to provide a combination of forces for that situation, rather than NATO.

David Miliband: Yes.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): I am in favour of European co-operation on these matters, where possible, but will the Foreign Secretary acknowledge that whatever people may think is the case, the truth is that outside the NATO structures there is little capability for peacekeeping, almost no capability for peacemaking and no capability whatever for war fighting?

David Miliband: I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that, beyond France—and we could debate exactly where it fits in his schema, although it does have those capabilities—which is outside NATO for these purposes, capabilities are severely limited.

20 Feb 2008 : Column 382

I shall move to a conclusion with two final points about defence. There are changes to the mandate because the treaty expands the list of tasks that ESDP can undertake. The treaty also commits member states to offer assistance in the event that another member state is the

That means that EU member states that are not members of NATO are now committed to the defence of their European partners.

The treaty is in Britain’s interest because it will make the EU’s common foreign and security policy much more efficient, and it will give greater coherence to our actions and those of our partners on the global stage. In short, it will make the EU a more serious foreign policy player, not to the detriment of British foreign policy, but to our advantage. I say to Opposition Members that it is no good supporting European action around the world and then tabling amendments that would make it more difficult. The European Union is vital to tackling the global issues we face today. A more effective European Union is in our interest, not contrary to it. The treaty acknowledges that, and gives us the tools to create a vital and effective common foreign and security policy. I commend it to the House.

2.8 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I beg to move, To leave out from “House” to end and to insert instead thereof:

It was our contention, when the timetable for debating this Bill was discussed three weeks ago, that the vital areas of foreign policy and defence merited at least two separate days of debate, and I suspect that it will be clear, both from the uncertainty surrounding these issues and their importance, that far more time should have been given to them.

At the outset, let us be clear that the foreign, security and defence provisions of the EU treaty provide a classic illustration of how closely the treaty now before us mirrors the EU constitution, usually down to the smallest detail. The Foreign Affairs Committee, which has, of course, a Labour majority, concluded in its report that

Next Section Index Home Page