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As I said, I do not think that a two-tier Europe is the right way forward, and of course I will argue firmly for that. While the debate about a two-tier Europe was lively in the early 1990s, in a world
where Ireland is in the euro but Britain is not but is a leading participant in European security and defence policy, the idea that there are two divisions in Europe simply does not add up. Many other issues show that the idea of a two-speed or three-speed Europe does not address the modern need. I am happy to have my hon. Friends support in that argument.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary accept that his statement is really quite disreputable given that this is quite clearly a democratic vote taken by people with full knowledge of what was going on? Will he not accept that it does affect the United Kingdom? We salute the Irish people, but the vote affects the United Kingdom because the treaty is no longer valid as far as the United Kingdom is concerned precisely because it has been overtaken by the no vote, which cannot now be changed.
David Miliband: At no stage have I cast any aspersions on the decision of the Irish people in this matter. There is nothing disreputable about reporting what the Irish Government have themselves committed to, which is to think about what they want to do next and then report back to future European Councils. I hope that on further reflection, despite the fact that we disagree on the issue, the hon. Gentleman might reconsider whether that is the most appropriate argument to make.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Mere words cannot convey my feelings on this matter. May I start by congratulating the Minister for Europe? He is following in the footsteps of the Secretary of State for International Development, who, as Minister for Europe, managed to persuade the French and the Dutch to kill off the constitution. The current Minister for Europe has managed to persuade the Irish to kill off the treaty.
Does the Secretary of State agree that this is not an Irish problem to be solved by the Irish, that this is an EU problem to be solved by all the countries of Europe, that the treaty is now a dead parrot and that he will not accept any urgings from colleagues in this or any part of the House that try to bully the Irish by suggesting that we should move forward with or without them?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend is the friend of the Minister for Europe, who whispered to me, as our hon. Friend got to his feet, that he is in helpful mode on this issue. I am glad that we have not encountered him in unhelpful mode today.
I can say to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson) that there is no room for bulldozing in this. I do not think it is right to describe it as an Irish problem. On that I agree with him. This is, though, an issue on which the Irish Government have said that they want to take a view about their next step. It seems to me right that we respect that. Equally, it is right that we address our own view of the issue because Britain should not leave itself in limbo as the only country in Europe without a view on the treaty, not
least given the fact that the Bill has been through all its stages in both Houses and is awaiting Third Reading in the Lords.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I offer my hearty congratulations to all the voters of Ireland in the referendum. At least they had a choice in a referendum, something that Scotlands voters were denied by a UK Government. That shows the clear benefit of independence in Europe. Will the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister tell their EU colleagues that the only way to build trust in the EU and its institutions is to move at a speed and in a direction that European citizens are happy with?
David Miliband: It is precisely to ensure that the speed and the direction are ones that European citizens and representatives are happy with that the Lisbon treaty was created and then proposed. I completely disagree that, somehow, the citizens of Scotland would have more power or more say, never mind more security or prosperity, if they were outside the UK, but that is a longer debate that will happen on many other occasions.
Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Lab): Is not the essential point that the Irish decision deserves full respect, but the decision to ratify of 18 other member states with a total population of well over 200 million equally deserves full respect? Is it not the case that we all have our right to represent our views on this subject and to make our decision? We should therefore continue the ratification process. When it is brought to an end, we should all meet together to see how any differences that emerge can best be reconciled and resolved.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): The Foreign Secretary demonstrates an almost Eurocratic arrogance in suggesting that the Irish Government should be allowed time to consider their position when it is the Council of Ministers that ought to be considering its position. Will he respond to the clear point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague): following the French and Dutch votes, the British Foreign Secretary said it was no longer possible to ratify the constitution, so why is the British Foreign Secretary now saying, in precisely the same terms, that in the light of the Irish no vote it is possible to ratify the treaty?
David Miliband: I could not have been clearer: without the support of all 27 countries, this treaty will not come into force. That was said again and again and again. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the situation after the 2005 referendums, he will know that in the House, never mind anywhere else, the treaty was only just beginning its passage. It was certainly not the case that two thirds of the countries had passed the treaty into law; they certainly had not.
The hon. Gentleman will know that precedent plays both ways on this. The precedent in respect of Nice shows that the Governments around Europe went forward with ratification. In respect of Maastricht, Sir John Major came to this Dispatch Box and committed his
Government to continue with the passage of the Maastricht treaty, but did so after an interval of four or five months. The truth is that precedent plays in both directions and each side can take succour from those precedents.
Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the things that made Europe work, and that made it attractive to many of the new countries that have sought to join, is that the larger countries do not steamroll them on constitutional matters. Should we not therefore await a decision of the Irish Government before rushing to judgment? Otherwise, we are simply interfering in the constitution of another country and playing into the hands of those who say that Europe is giving away sovereignty.
David Miliband: In respect of constitutional matters, we are in a Union of equals, in which each country has an equal say. That is right and I defend it. I do not support majority voting on constitutional matters of this kind; it is right that unanimity is required. It is therefore important that we respect the vote in Ireland and give the Irish Government a chance to decide on their next step.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (UKIP): The Foreign Secretary wants a British view on the treaty. May I refer him to the latest ICM poll, which showed that two thirds of British people are against the treaty? Does he not see that it would be improper to send the treatys ratification for Royal Assent as the treaty is now unlawful? The treaty is not pining for the fjords; it is simply dead.
David Miliband: The treaty might not come into effect, but that does not mean it is unlawful for the British Parliament to exercise its view. I defend the right of this Parliament to do things that are popular or unpopularsometimes they might be unpopular, but that does not mean they are wrong.
Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and my fellow Europeans. So passionate and vehement were the words of the shadow Foreign Secretary that for a moment I allowed myself to toy with the idea that another by-election might be in the offing. May I tell my right hon. Friend that I read with great sadness in the Polish press this weekendin translation, obviouslythat the referendum result is seen not just as a triumph for Sinn Fein but as a reversion to the old architecture and a victory for the Franco-German axis, taking us back to pre-enlargement days? Does he have any message of hope for those Poles whom we welcomed to our EU?
David Miliband: The message to the Poles [Interruption.] I hear a sedentary intervention to the effect that my hon. Friend would be better at providing the answer, as well as the question. I am sure that that is right. The message to our fellow European Polish citizens is that the European Union is stronger for being enlarged. The procedures need to be updated, and they should keep faith with their vote to join the European Union in the first place.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con):
When the Foreign Secretary was young, this House passed devolution in Wales, which was rejected four to one by the Welsh people. At least when it was offered again 20 years later,
they had another vote. If the other countries of Europe were allowed a vote, in how many of the 27 does he think the treaty would pass a referendum?
David Miliband: I think I am right in saying that nine countries decided that although the constitution merited a referendum, the Lisbon treaty did not because it was an amending treaty. That is right. We should defend our parliamentary system. The Irish case is different, as the Irish have a written constitution with a specific requirement for referendums on all constitutional changes. Different parts of Europe have different democratic systems, and we should stick to our own.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): May I express my wholehearted welcome for the Irish decision and congratulate the Irish people on having spoken on behalf of millions of other Europeans who have not had the choice? There has been much talk of the emergence of a multi-speed Europe. Is my right hon. Friend interested in the weekend reports stating that differential inflation ratesand therefore a multi-speed Europeare beginning to emerge even inside the eurozone? That might lead eventually to the eurozone fraying at the edges, particularly at the Italian edge, which has serious problems at the moment.
David Miliband: If I thought, as my hon. Friend does, that the Irish rejection brought closer the day of the socialist commonwealth perhaps I would take a different attitude, but I fear it does not bring that day closer. In respect of diversity within the eurozone, I would need to check the figures, either with the Treasury or the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable). I think I am right to say, however, that there have been differential inflation rates within the eurozone since its creation 10 years ago. I do not have datacertainly not to handshowing that the inflation differential has grown in the past 10 years. In fact, some of the reports marking the 10th anniversary of the creation of the euro suggested the opposite. However, I am happy to look into the matter and work on it with my hon. Friend.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that any change in the treaty to take account of the views and concerns of the Irish would involve ratification happening again in all the other 26 countries? Does not the act of proceeding with ratification in this country therefore show clear contempt for the Irish people and the Irish Government?
I was about to agree with the hon. Gentlemanhe and I started our parliamentary careers togetherand then he spoiled it with his ridiculous last 10 words. If there is a new treaty, it would have to come back to all the Parliaments that have passed the current one. My view is that no one in Europe should embrace renegotiation. I was interested to hear the comments of
the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who sat on the Convention, that he wanted to reopen the Conventionthat would not be a good thing. If there is a new treaty, it must come back to all the Parliaments to be ratified.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the vast majority of the British public will be delighted at the result of the Irish referendumthe referendum that they did not get? Will he answer simply the question that the public want answered? If when the Dutch and the French voted against the constitution they were not told to go back and think againthe whole thing was withdrawnwhy is a country such as Ireland being told to go back and think again? Why has the whole thing not been withdrawn, with our saying, as the then Foreign Secretary said the first time round, The treaty is dead. End of story.
David Miliband: The Irish are not being told anything. They are telling us that they want time to decide on their next move, and we are saying that that is a reasonable thing for them to do. They are not being commanded, bullied or persuaded to do anything against their will. It is for the Irish Government to make their own decision about the Irish national interest. I do not think there is any danger in giving them the time to do that. There is certainly no danger that somehow, during that time, the equation will change so that we do not need 27 countries to ratify. We will need 27 countries to ratify the Lisbon treaty. As I said in respect of the 2005 referendums, there are precedents on all sides, whether we look at Maastricht, Nice or the 2005 issue.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Does the Foreign Secretary realise that his statement, and those of other political leaders on the continent of Europe, reveals a contempt for the views of the peoplea contempt shown by his Government in refusing to give the promised referendum on the treaty, and a contempt shown for the French people, the Dutch people and now the Irish peopleand that that contempt and arrogance are leading to a growing disillusionment and disenchantment with the European Union across the European continent, which do actually do some good?
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): It is good to hear that my right hon. Friend will be helpful to the Irish Government. With that in mind, will he make an offer to hold any rerun of the referendum in the United Kingdom? That would be a magnificent gesture, and I am sure that the Irish people would support him in it.
Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) (Con):
As a still unrepentant supporter of the treaty, I must nevertheless recognise that if it is not a dead duck it is an extraordinarily badly shot-up duck at present. However, does the Foreign
Secretary accept that this need not be a crisis in Europe, and Europe need not descend into constitutional turmoil? There is a huge amount of business to get on with, which will not wait while we indulge in constitutional musings. Is this not a wonderful opportunity for President Sarkozy to achieve a spectacular success, and become even more famous than his wife?
David Miliband: I am not sure whether politics is a route to greater fame than fashion and song, never mind other pursuits. However, the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that the rejection of the treaty in the referendum is a blow to reform of the European Union. We must wait to see the Irish view before the next steps can be taken.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Just a few answers ago, the Foreign Secretary said that renegotiation was not an option. If that is true, in reality the treaty is dead, and if that is the case why on earth is the House of Lords debating the Bills Third Reading on Wednesday?
David Miliband: I repeat that I do not support renegotiation, I do not support a two-tier Europe, and I do not support the new Convention that is being proposed. That does not seem to me to negate the fact that, 95 per cent. of the way through the process, it is right for us to complete the passage of the legislation so that the British Parliament can express a clear view that we can take into European discussions. That has been urged on us throughout Europe, and the Irish have made it clear that they would respect countries that took such action.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): All true democrats in the House will wish to join me in congratulating my old friend Declan Ganley on his inspired leadership of the no campaign in Ireland. The Secretary of State has an opportunity to display his own leadership skills, which may be called on by his party sooner rather than later, by leading us out of this mess. It is not up to the Irish, who have voted no, to reflect; it is up to the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers in Europe to articulate a way forward, but before they do so they must acknowledge that the treaty is now dead.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman and I disagree about the Irish responsibility, and about the freedom of the Irish to decide their next move. We also disagree about our position. I am clear about the fact that we should pass the treaty; I am also clear about the fact that if it is not passed everywhere else, it will not come into force.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Is not the Foreign Secretary rather like the shopkeeper in the Monty Python sketch? He is trying to persuade people that the parrot is not dead, but is not the truth of the matter that the Lisbon treaty has expired, is deceased, has gone to its maker, and isactuallydead?
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