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new phase of sanctions on oil and gas.
There has been no evidence over the past 48 hours that any of those things have happened. Therefore, the credibility of British policy on the matter will have been reduced, with consequent effects in the Iranian newspapers.
That is a disturbing state of affairs. I do not want to take up all the time today asking about it, but we shall have many further questions to ask in the House about that matter and about the future conduct of the policy. I hope that ensuring that there is real European Union agreement among Heads of Government will come up at the European Council.
I have much less to quarrel with the Foreign Secretary about on Zimbabwe. I very much agree with the thrust of his remarks, and there is a great degree of unity in the House, much of which was expressed in Prime Ministers Question Time. The Southern African Development Community and the African Union have a crucial role and a responsibility to continue their engagement to try to resolve the crisis. However, we must not shy away from our responsibility towards the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe.
Of course we hope that Britain continues to take a lead in ensuring that the EU explores further options for increasing pressure on those who have directed and engaged in state-sponsored violence and who are destroying Zimbabwe. We want the Foreign Secretary, or the Minister for Europe when he winds up, to confirm that Britain is seeking agreement now, ahead of what looks like a deeply unfair election on 27 June, among our international partners on the most effective response to an announcement by Mugabe that he has won the electionnamely, that Ministers would seek immediate Security Council action.
The Foreign Secretary referred to raising the matter at the Security Council, which we very much support. However, we hope that he will endorse the idea of a Security Council commission of inquiry to investigate reports of torture, murder and human rights violations. We hope that Ministers believe, as we do, that there is a strong case for the International Criminal Court to examine the situation in Zimbabwe closely, given what has happened in recent months. It is, of course, also vital that African nations should withhold recognition of any flawed result and that the EU should approach African nations to encourage them to withhold recognition. Indeed, that should be one of the outcomes of the forthcoming Council meeting.
On the other matters that the Foreign Secretary mentioned, I strongly support what he said about the progress in Bosnia and agree with him that the progress made in Kosovo is welcome, including the new constitution. I want to return at the end of my remarks to some of the wider, forward-looking issues that he raised, but he will forgive me for now saying a little more about the Lisbon treaty and the result of the vote in Ireland.
The crisis that the European Union faces this weekand it is a crisisis one of its own making. The crisis has not been brought about by external factors or agents and has not arisen over a fundamental disagreement over any substantive matter of policy; rather, it is a democratic crisis. The question before the EU now is whether it is the kind of organisation that respects democracy or even understands the importance of popular consent in building successful, lasting institutions.
The crisis is also totally unnecessary. The EU faces no institutional obstacle in pursuing its agreed goals, and daily business goes on as normal. In its own terms, the EU is working perfectly well. As one recent academic study on decision making in the EU found, business as usual rather than gridlock has been the norm since enlargement. The whole purpose of the original constitution and the Lisbon treaty, which are so much the same, was to move more power from Europes nation states to the EU, to create new institutional structures.
Keith Vaz: I thank the former Secretary of State for Wales. He attended a number of summit meetings when he was in the Cabinet and when he was a junior Minister. How can it be possible for the 27 members of the EU to conduct their business properly with the rules that were created for 15?
Mr. Hague: That question may reveal the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is a little out of date on what has been happening in the European Union in the past few years. There seems to have been a change in the atmosphere. It seems to be true that countries are less likely to wield or threaten the veto in a Union of 27 nations. There has been a willingness to work together. The study that I quoted is by people who have no axe to grind from what one might call a Eurosceptic point of view, but simply set out dispassionately to see how the European Union was working. To change that in a massive institutional way requires a degree of popular consent. Indeed, it requires majority popular consent in the countries of the European Union. However, it is clear now that that consent is not forthcoming.
Kelvin Hopkins: Following the question that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) asked, would it not be easy, with a much larger Union, to devolve more power back to member states Parliaments and for the EU to try to do less? Would that not solve the problem of having a larger Union?
Mr. Hague: The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely powerful point, and there is indeed a strong case. We have heard so much about subsidiarity over the years, yet we have not seen decision-making powers in any respect returned to the nation states. If that was to happen, even in some areas, it would change the dynamics of the debate. However, there has been a one-way ratchet for a long time, and that is what the people of Ireland, France and the Netherlands have reacted against.
Mr. Jenkin: Is it not altogether inconsistent for the former Minister for Europe to support the treaty, which gives more power to the institutions of the European Union and takes power away from the member states, given that he told the European Reform Forum back in 2005 that the European Union
is not a country, so it cannot be a democracy?
Mr. Hague: Well, that is a good one, but I do not want to pick on the former Minister for Europe; when we really want to pick on him, we have even juicer things to go at him with. After all, although he supports the Lisbon treaty, which brings the charter of fundamental rights into legal force, he was the Minister who said that the charter would have the legal force of The Beano. So now we have The Beano enshrined in the Lisbon treaty. Whenever we want to pick on him, we have that to resort to, but I do not want to do that any further today.
Daniel Kawczynski: My right hon. Friend is making a very powerful critique of the Government, but before he finishes his speech will he turn his attention to the Liberal Democrats, who have behaved in an extraordinary way over this whole processabstaining in this House, but refusing in the other place to support the referendum?
Mr. Hague: My hon. Friend can be assured that, in line with all debates on Europe over the past six months, I am coming to the Liberal Democrats. I am only a few pages away, although I might even skip a few pages to bring that moment on a little earlier.
I wanted to make the observation that the accusation is flung at the Irish that they perhaps rejected the Lisbon treaty because they did not understand it. Indeed, some of them said in television interviews and opinion polls that they did not understand it. If they did not understand it, however, whose fault was that? There is something wholly appropriate about people voting against this treaty because it was incomprehensible, since its incomprehensibility was a calculated and deliberate decision. Let us remind ourselves that Giuliano Amato, one of the drafters of the treaty, said that they had
decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional.
although the British, Dutch and French have insisted we eliminate all reference to the word constitution... all the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but hidden and disguised in some way.
The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.
Well, his joy was premature, because this result poses a Mortons fork for supporters of the constitution in any of its guises. If people cannot understand the substance of the treaty, they reject it, but if they can, as the French and Dutch voters did in its earlier more comprehensible form, they dislike it just as much. That makes the refusal to draw the obvious conclusion and drop the whole thing more puzzling and it makes the Governments determination to avoid letting the British people have their say in a referendum more comprehensible, if deeply cynical, which is what that decision has been.
David Taylor: Is not the right hon. Gentleman being a little narrow and unfair to the Irish people? Even their own politicians acknowledged that they had not read or fully understood the documentnot unlike, it has to be said, what the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) said in a similar debate in a different era.
We should not apologise for the democratic process we went through. Many other electorates in Europe would like to have gone through the same process.
Dr. Julian Lewis: One aspect of the treaty that most people did understand was that if it had gone throughor if, heaven forbid, it still doesit would have been the last time that any question would have arisen of anybody having to have a referendum before making any further constitutional changes. That was the ratchet effect that it had. May I draw my right hon. Friends attention to the very interesting early-day motion 1828, tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson), which quotes the German Interior Minister as saying that
a few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans?
Mr. Hague: Once again, my hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Early-day motions from the hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson) are, when they are on this subject, full of wisdom. Indeed, I was going to make the same pointthat it has been said that a country of 4 million cannot hold up a continent of 500 million, which is an extraordinarily revealing argument. The EU is a union of sovereign and independent nation states; it is not a sovereign polity in its own right, in which a single states objections can be overridden by the majority of a federation. The fact that that argument was madeit was made in this House in response to the Foreign Secretarys statement on Mondayis indicative of a mindset that sees such a polity as the ultimate goal of the processes of the EU. That argument is not only wrong conceptually; it ignores the most salient fact that only those few million have had the chance to vote on the treatyon this version of itand that if others were offered the chance to vote, many more would reject it as well. Among those many, there is every indication that the vast majority of voters in this country would be included.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, because of the nature of the treaty, it has to go through on the basis of unanimity among all countries,
so the statement that 4 million people cannot hold up the other 480 million or whatever cannot be relevant to the treaty. Perhaps that quote is more relevant to the idea of a two-speed Europe, in which the rest of Europe goes ahead without the countries that want to lag behind.
Mr. Hague: What I think is meant by those who say that a few million cannot hold up several hundred million is that they hope that a process of ratification will be completed in the other 26 countries, following which the Irish can be told that they have no real option other than to vote again. That is why, despite the fact that the Government say that there is to be no bullying or bulldozing of the Irish, the completion of the ratification process after the Irish referendum result is part and parcel of a fully intended bullying and bulldozing process.
Ms Stuart: The right hon. Gentlemans argument is supported by the fact that, in earlier discussions when the original constitution was drawn up, there was a very strong move to insert a clause to invite a country that failed to ratify to leave the European Union. At the time, it was excluded only because it was thought that Britain would be the problem.
Mr. Hague: That is another powerful point, which underlines how those who believe that there is an inevitable process of political centralisation to be pushed forward in Brussels have been surprised by the reaction of the peoples of Europe. The people of the Netherlands are not raging Eurosceptics and the people of Ireland are not anti-European. The votes cast in those countries and in France show how ridiculous it is to accuse anyone opposed to the Lisbon treaty or the EU constitution of being anti-European. Those who are against those texts now know that millions of people are on our side across many different countries of Europe.
We live in a democracy. Our Government draw their mandate from the British people to whom they put a manifesto setting out what they would do. The Labour partys manifesto said that it would put the constitution to a referendum, but said nothing about signing up to another EU treaty without a referendum, let alone a treaty that just about every other European Government agree is almost identical to the EU constitution. The Government have no democratic mandate to go ahead with ratification.
There is a question that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and anyone else who has denied the British people their say cannot answer. If they want to put forward the British view, as the Foreign Secretary mentioned last Friday, why do they not find out what
the British view is in a referendum or a general election? They know the answer, but they dare not say it. If they sought the opinion of the British people in a referendum, the treaty would be rejected. This is cynical and calculating behaviour, which is an abuse of the voters trust. One way that this declining Government could renew the voters trust would be to take the bold step of having a referendum, but there seems to be no prospect of the Prime Minister doing that. Instead, the Government are left to explain why the Irish people should have their say on this treaty, but the British people should not. It seems that the Irish people may have to vote twice before the British people have voted even once.
The Foreign Secretary needs to think very carefully about all this. I should have noted earlier that this is our first debate since his leadership campaign began in the ranks of the Labour party. He is meant to be going on a tour of Britain in the autumna meet-the-country roadshow, as it was described in the Daily Mirror. The paper says that the Foreign Secretary
is preparing for a possible Labour Party leadership battle by going on a tour of the country.
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