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Those of us who have argued that case are winning the argument. A book was recently published called The Making of Eurosceptic Britain. Some people would even argue that the Labour Government have come to a certain degree of reality, although that is
denied by their attitude to the Lisbon treaty. We need to recognise, however, that although we are winning the argument, we are not winning the battle of the establishmentbe that the Whips, the establishment of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the courts or the diplomatic service. There is no recognition that Europe as it stands is not a working proposition.
Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman talks about the Governments Euroscepticism, and I agree that there is a degree of it, although it is somewhat hidden. The sighs of relief from Downing street were almost audible when the French and Dutch voted no in their referendums and when the previous attempt was defeated by Spain and Poland. If the Czechs reinforce the Irish decision, there will also be sighs of relief in Downing street, and I hope that that is the case.
Mr. Cash: Indeed, and I was delighted when my good friend VÃ clav Klaus made a powerful statement as soon as the Irish result came through. People recognise that this is not working. They know that in Downing street, in the Foreign Office and all over Europe, but nobody will do anything about it. That is why I am angry. I am frustrated by seeing something that is going so badly wrong and so obviously calls out for proper remedy. There is a need for renegotiation, but also for alliances and co-operation. There is no need for this stubborn, arrogant European Government. As far as the UK is concerned, Mr. Barroso is the President of the European Union by courtesy of the European Communities Act 1972. He is appointed and he does not have any legitimacy, in the sense in which our Prime Minister, Ministers and Government do. Governments can be turned out, and this Government will be turned out in part because of their attitude on these matters.
The way in which the Government have supinely accepted the Euro establishment attitude to the Irish vote is in itself a demonstration of what is going badly wrong. The Irish peoples attitude is like the old aphorism:
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.
People can make their political analyses time after time, but the plain fact is that the project is not working. The Irish people have examined it and they have said that they do not like it. The same goes for the other countries that voted in the same way. This is a dead treaty. It needs renegotiation and democracy.
To my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) I say that we do need a post-ratification referendum if we cannot get one any other way, because it is vitally in our national interest to make certain we get the kind of Europe that suits this country. It is not enough to say that Europe has gone far enough. It has gone far too far, and it is time for my party and this House of Commons to insist on the supremacy of Parliament. That supremacy is based on the election of Members of Parliament in general elections: it does not come by virtue of laws passed by other countries with which we do not necessarily agree.
I shall conclude by pointing out that the latest opinion polls demonstrate that the arguments that I put are right, and that the people of this country want renegotiation. This treaty should have been binned as soon as the Irish vote was known. That is exactly what happened with the European constitutional treaty, and it is a disgrace that this Government have done almost nothing about it.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): Although many important subjects have been raised in the debate, especially by the Foreign Secretary, I wish to concentrate on the consequences of the Irish no vote. I also want to set out the nature of the crisis facing the EU as a consequence, the deeper economic crisis that lies behind that, and the opportunity that the Irish no vote represents for the UK.
I listened with great interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). I have listened to a great many of his speeches in my short time in the House, and I share many of his views on these matters, but I listened too to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind). He made a very interesting contribution that represented a development in his outlook, but many of us have developed our views as the EU has developed anddare I say it?lurched from crisis to crisis.
We have been here beforein 1992, when the Danes voted no to the Maastricht treaty, and later when the Irish voted no to the Nice treaty. This time, however, things are different, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) was correct when he quoted a member of the Irish Government as saying that there is simply no question of going to the Irish people for a second time. That technique of wearing down the patience of the peoples of Europe has run its course, and I do not share the view expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea that there is a possibility that the referendum in Ireland could be rerun.
Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman may have read a letter in todays Financial Times from Professor Simon Hix, who was speaking this afternoon to the European Scrutiny Committee. He is professor of comparative politics at the London School of Economics and he said that
the majority on the No side was much bigger this time and there was a much higher turnout. Also, the sentiment of the public has changed since last time.
I remind the Minister for Europe, however, of what the previous Prime Minister said after the last referendum. On 20 June 2005, he told this House that the treaty cannot proceed. In a very dramatic speech, he told the European Parliament:
The people are blowing the trumpets round the city walls. Are we listening?
Sadly, the answer obviously was that the people to whom he was speaking were not listening, as they did exactly what he said that they should not dothey brought back a revamped version of the constitution, pretending that it was a completely different treaty.
The crisis that the EU faces is considerable, although its leaders believe that they will be able to get past it, just as they did with the previous crises. However, that will not mask the very deep crisis of democracy and legitimacy that now exists in the EU. There is no possibility of the EU working in its current form unless it completely denies democracy and separates itself from the normal mechanisms of consent that law making in democracies usually requires. That is not acceptable.
I want to look more closely at the crisis facing the EU. The disillusion in Ireland partly reflects the fact that the EU has not kept up with the pace of change or the trend towards globalisation that have been evident over the past 15 or 20 years. The EU has used the four freedoms of movementof goods, services, people and capitalnot as great liberating principles but as a licence to create an unaccountable law-making bureaucracy.
According to the Heritage Foundation, the UK has the freest economy in Europeand the sixth freest in the worldwhereas the economy of the eurozone is rated as merely the 27th freest. A MORI poll of 1,000 British business chiefs in 2006 revealed that 54 per cent. of British businesses felt that EU over-regulation outweighed the benefits of membership of the single market. The EU Commission itself admits that the annual cost to business of implementing single market regulations is about €600 billion. That is far more than it estimates that the single market adds to the EUs gross domestic product each yeara mere €225 billion. So the costs and benefits of the single market versus the regulation are out of kilter.
We have become choked by excessive regulation, and the EUs economic growth has become anaemic compared with that of its international competitors. Since the Lisbon agenda in 2000 proclaimed the ambitious target of achieving 3 per cent. annual growth in GDP over the next decade, which would make the EU
the most competitive economy in the world,
it has barely managed half that level and its growth now lags well behind that in the United States, let alone that in China and India. When US unemployment recently hit 5 per cent., stocks on Wall street started to crash in reaction. In the EU, however, more than 7 per cent. unemployment is regarded as a cause for celebration.
The problem for competitiveness is essentially one of over-regulation, but even under the existing arrangements, that will continue to be a problem for the EU. Colleagues have already referred to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has stated:
I do not believe it is appropriate for social and employment legislation to be dealt with at the European level
restore social and employment legislation to national control.
If we allow Britains economy to become hidebound in this way
emerging economies like China and India will walk all over us.
Remember that it is the basic rules of the single market which have allowed European integration to progress...In short, no single market, no European project and no Europe puissance.
The main attraction of the single market is not the extent of regulation, but the fact that it is a tariff-free trade area with rules on competition and state subsidies. Even the Prime Minister admits that the EU now accounts for 50 per cent. of all regulation in the UK, yet there is nothing intrinsic to a customs union that requires it to carry such a large body of regulation on matters ranging from the noise emitted by lawn mowers to the rules governing the employment of part-time workers.
Listening to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea, I reflected on the question: what is the single market? I do not believe that the single market has to be represented by the huge body of regulation that is imposed upon us today, but I put it to my right hon. and learned Friend that, if we are to change that, we must necessarily commit ourselves to some form of renegotiation. The logic of his position is that he is now in favour of renegotiation, although there might be different means by which that could be achieved. I entirely agree with him that we need to escape from the unbearably adversarial tone that has dominated the relations between British Governments and the European Union over the past 20 or 30 years. We want a genuinely respectful, co-operative relationship, in which our mutual needs are understood.
integration is vital for our Continent. And if the UK doesnt continue with us in this process of integration, conclusions must be drawn...we must find a special status for Great Britain. If the British want to be apart, well, then we must be able to offer them that, and they must be able to accept.
I have no idea whether such special status could be negotiated with our European counterparts. I think that it could be, if we had the will. The fact that a dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool European federalist such as Giscard dEstaing is perhaps saying the same thing as my Friend the Member for Stone shows that different views can be accommodated in the European Union, and would allow us to move to a different kind of Europe.
The obstacle to achieving some kind of special status might be that we would not be the only country seeking such status, as demonstrated by the referendums in the Netherlands, Ireland and even France. Many countries might want special status within the European Union. Perhaps that is the kind of Ã la carte Europe that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea talked about, but it would mean having to address the existing treaties.
As for the current position, our Government are missing out on the opportunity to start a new debate about the sort of Europe that we want. The Prime Minister is cowering behind the institutionalised consensus in order to curry favour with Governments. That is influence without power. Labour is failing to take the lead in Europe. That kind of policy does not put the UK at the heart of Europe. We are just followers going with the flow, without influence over events. Instead of
using our leverage in Europe to change the direction of the EU, the Government seek simply to polarise a spurious debate in our country. They say that it is not possible to renegotiate without leaving. I have heard a Minister say that it is not possible to go into McDonalds and order a lobster thermidora clever quip, but the EU is not McDonalds. In reality, the UK is in an unassailable negotiating position to achieve change in Europe.
The present constitutional direction of the EU has clearly run its course, as was demonstrated by the latest referendum in Ireland, and our EU partners enjoy a £38 billion trade surplus in goods with us. Germany alone has a trade surplus with us of £15 billion. The Prime Minister is fond of declaring, as he did yesterday, that 3 million jobs in Britain depend on our membership of the EU, as though it were we who were economically vulnerable. In fact, 6.4 million jobs in continental Europe depend on trade with the United Kingdom. Germany exports more goods and services to the UK than we do to it. Some 3.2 per cent. of German gross domestic product is exported to the United Kingdom. In France, the figure is 3.3 per cent; in Spain, it is 3.6 per cent.; in the Netherlands it is 7.4 per cent.; in Belgium it is 8.4 per cent.; and in Ireland it is 11.6 per cent. Imports from the EU 27 to the UK have grown by an average of 13 per cent. over the past two years.
Given the strength and extent of trading relations between the UK and the EU, it is clearly ridiculous to suggest that we will somehow be drawn into a trade war with our European partners simply because we want to negotiate in our own interests in the European Union, instead of carrying on along the present trajectory. It simply would not be in any nations interests to start a trade war between the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union just because we insist on rolling back some of the acquis and seek opt-outs from some of its more damaging aspects.
Failure to change direction would not only damage our national interest but fail to address the interests of Europe as a whole. By failing to seize this latest chance to exercise leverage, the Government are failing to settle the issue of the European relationship, which has dogged Governments of both parties and exasperated our continental partners. The Government have failed to restore voters faith that something can be done about an issue about which they complain so much.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): May I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not being able to attend the full debate? I was in the Chamber to hear the opening speeches, and I have listened with great interest to what has been said, and agreed with much of it.
The Irish referendum result was a breath of fresh air. It was a tremendous victory for ordinary people standing up against the bureaucracy and the elites of Europe who think that they know best, and what is good for us. The Irish have shown that ordinary people know what is best, and what is good for them. I have the privilege of representing the largest Irish community in the eastern region of England, so I have a large Irish community in my constituency. Last Saturday I went to the Luton
Irish forum, and congratulated many of my Irish constituents on a splendid result. We were all very happy about it, and there was a certain amount of justified pride.
There has been much suggestion that because Ireland is a small country, the vote is not significant. However, it was almost the only country given the chance to vote. If other countries were given the chance they, too, would vote no. That is not just my view but that of Simon Hix, professor of European and comparative politics at the London School of Economics, who spoke to the European Scrutiny Committee this afternoon. In the Financial Times he wrote:
The EU has lost three referendums in a row, and most other publics would have voted No if they had been given the chance.
I defer to his better knowledge, and I am sure that he is absolutely right. It would have been the case in Britainthere would be a large majority for a no vote in Britain, if we had the opportunity to hold a referendum. I hope that at some point there will be some kind of referendum.
I want to explain why the Irish voted no, because it has been suggested that people did not know what the referendum was about. We are told that there was confusion, so they voted negatively because they were a bit nervous. There have even been suggestions that when those referendums took place the vote was all about xenophobia and obscurantism. In fact, on my terms at least, the vote is often won for the no campaign because working people and trade unionists think that the EU is not on their side. Indeed, recent decisions by the European Court of Justice, including on the Viking Line case, suggest that the rights of employees, workers and trade unionists have been overridden by the interests of the corporate world, business and employers, which is worrying.
Fifteen years ago, the trade union movement thought that social Europe was what it was all about, which is why some trade unionists were enthusiastic about the EU. It was always clear to me that that was not the case, and Europe has turned against trade unionists and workers in recent times. The European Court of Justice decisions are very significant indeed. Yesterday I was at the headquarters of the International Transport Workers Federation in London, and I saw some of the posters that had been used. They were about the crushing of workers rights, and they were no doubt displayed all over Ireland. They had a big impact on working people, who thought that the treaty was not a treaty for ordinary people but a treaty for business and the market. It was not a treaty to protect their interests.
Looking back to the French and Dutch referendums and, before them, the Swedish referendum, we see that it was the left that voted no in large numbers, because those people thought that the European Union was for business and employers, not for working people. For a long time, we have been sold the idea that there was an element of social protection, but it was not true.
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