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That this House approves the Governments policy towards the Treaty of Lisbon in respect of provisions concerning foreign, security and defence policy.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Within the constraints laid down by the business motion, which the House has agreed to, may I, through you, enter a plea to colleagues in all parts of the House?
There are before us important groups of amendments on three subjects, and it would be extremely unfortunate if the Committee were to spend all its time discussing external relations and we were not to get on to at least the defence amendments. Are there any entreaties that you can make to Members of the House to move the business forward so that we may discuss what the Government clearly would like to discussall parts of the treaty?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): The hon. Gentleman is quite correct. All the amendments before the Committee are extremely important. I would urge all hon. Members to bear that very much in mind as the debate in Committee proceeds. All that the Chair can do is make entreaties of the kind that he is asking me to make, and I do so most seriously. The speed with which we progress depends entirely on the length of the contributions made by hon. MembersBack Benchers and Front Benchersand they ought to bear that in mind.
(i) Article 1, paragraph 24, inserted Article 10B TEU, paragraph 2, on joint proposals to the Council for recommendations to the European Council on the strategic interests and objectives of the Union; and
(i) Article 2, paragraph 175, inserted Title VI and Articles 188P and 188Q TEC (TFEU) relating to the European Unions relations with international organisations and third countries and European Union delegations; and
The Secretary of State shall, not later than 1st January 2009, lay before both Houses of Parliament a report setting out the role and powers of the High Representative and External Action Service and how they differ from those of the proposed Foreign Minister and External Action Service in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe..
Mr. Francois: I begin by saying that I hear the entreaty made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) in his point of order. I briefly remind the Committee that when the business motion was debated we pushed strongly for two days of discussionone for common foreign and security policy, and one for defence. It was unfortunate that, due to the rigged manner in which the Government have allowed the treaty to be debated, when we finished our first three hours of debate, a number of Back Benchers, particularly on the Opposition Benches, were still rising and attempting to catch the eye of the Chair. Mindful of that, I shall do my best to be relatively brief in laying out the position that I wish to advance.
The treaty of Lisbon would have numerous and profound effects on foreign, security and defence policyeffects that would tend to enlarge the powers of the European Union at the expense of member states. Potentially, one of the most powerful agents of that change is the new president of the European Council, so our amendment No. 258 would remove the presidents foreign policy role.
The President of the European Council shall, at his
level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
at his level and in that capacity
to mean? That is nowhere absolutely specified in the treaty. Indeed, it is why it is now reported that the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has been raising queries about what the post might mean in practice. Is it not extraordinary that the man who, as Prime Minister, helped to bring the post into being never bothered to find out what it would mean in detail in reality?
Nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) showed so memorably last month when we began to debate the treaty, in the hands of a skilful politician, that post could prove powerful indeed. Over time, he or she could be presented as a counterpart to the American or the Russian President. He or she would have the chief role in determining what the European Council discussed, and would presumably have the Council secretariat at his or her disposal, although that is one of the matters that is yet to be finally determined. In contrast, the current system of rotating Heads of Government holding the presidency would end. No more would each member state have a turn at the EUs helm, helping to give each country a vital sense of ownership of the EUs business; instead, we would have this powerful central figure. So
Let me finish my sentence, then I will be delighted to give way. So because that article in the treaty, in our opinion, represents something of a blank
cheque, which is likely to have a large amount written on it, we call for that article to be left out. Now, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), as a former Chancellor, knows a lot about large amounts, so I gladly give way to him.
Mr. Clarke: I have great respect for my hon. Friend, although I know we do not agree. He was suggesting to his constituents and mine that there is a danger that the president of the European Council of Ministers will be equated with the President of the United States. Of all his arguments, is that really a sound one, given that all foreign policy will be made by unanimity among the Ministers of the member states and the president of the European Council of Ministers will have no executive or policy-making powers of his own? People sometimes describe the presidency of the United States as a rather weaker institution than is sometimes imagined, but to say that the European presidency is likely to be equivalent to the presidency of the United States is surely to take his otherwise interesting arguments to the lengths of extremism.
Mr. Francois: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his comment. I have two things to say in response. First, he will have noticed that I used the phrase over time. I was not implying that what I described would happen overnight. Drawing an historical analogy, one can see how in our own country the Prime Minister was originally one of a number of Ministers, but gradually took over the agenda of the Cabinet and began to drive policy. That happened over a period of time and is something that our right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks has written about in great detail in some of his very good books. I am asserting that such a development could take place over time, not overnight. Secondly, my right hon. and learned Friend said that the new president would have no executive authority, but if, in effect, the president controlled the agenda of the European Council, that would be a powerful tool. Perhaps he and I have a different perspective on the matter, but I have tried to answer his point in detail.
Mr. Francois: I would like to make a little progress, because I promised to try to speak briefly. I shall take two interventions, but I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I then try to press on.
Mr. Swayne: My hon. Friend will recall that when the then Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), came to give a rather phlegmatic explanation of why the Government had reversed their position from opposing a referendum to favouring one on the previous treaty, he said that it was because there was going to be a permanent president of the Council. It was clearly a matter of importance to him.
Mark Lazarowicz: May I pursue this interesting analogy with the Presidents of the United States and Russia? The President of the USA is, I believe, commander in chief of the US militarythat was one of his functions right from the start of the formation of the United States. I am not saying that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the new European president would command some military force at this stage, but that parallel between the US President and the new role now being proposed is absurd. In suggesting that something might happen in futuremany, many treaties hence, if it were ever proposedhe is presenting an Aunt Sally. The reality is nothing like what he suggests is in the treaty.
Mr. Francois: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I am glad to hear that he was not suggesting what he thought I was suggesting. He used the phrase at this stage. Such points are the reason why we wanted two days, not one, to debate these matters in detail. I repeat, I used the phrase over time.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that there will be a common position in Europe on most of the important issues? Let us say that there is a common position on the middle east. Who would the Prime Minister of Israel or one of the Arab leaders wish to see if both the president of Europethe custodian of the common positionand the British Prime Minister wanted to visit?
Mr. Francois: My right hon. Friends point is well made. He mentioned a common position. If it is true that Tony Blair is going to apply for the job, I would be interested to know whether there would be a common position in the Labour party on whether he ought to get it. We await the answer to that question with genuine anticipation.
Amendments Nos. 262 and 263 deal with the new EU diplomatic service and, in particular, with the high representatives authority over it. The external action serviceto give it its technical nameis a new institution in the treaty whose role has yet to be determined. Indeed, a leaked note from the Slovenian presidency makes that explicit. The Government are again asking the House and this country to sign a blank cheque. The post of high representative is a powerful one in itself, but with the diplomatic service at his beck and call, we should be in no doubt that the EU would tend not to supplement member states foreign policy so much as try to supplant it. Our amendments seek to address that possibility.
Amendment No. 1 is also important because it would amend the crucial clause relating to the high representatives right to speak for the European Union at the United Nations Security Council when a common position is reached. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks said at the beginning of our earlier debate, its provisionswith a superficial change to the Foreign Ministers job titleare identical to those in the EU constitution. As such, they were repeatedly and publicly opposed by the Governments representatives in the negotiations on that document. As they put it at that time:
The UK cannot accept any language which implies that it would not retain the right to speak in a national capacity on the UN Security Council.
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