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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will give way. I do not want to speak for long. Does she agree that the "massive regional aid" which the European Union so generously gives us is merely deducted from the money that we have already given it? If we did not give it, we could spend it as we want.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, no, I do not agree with the noble Lord. The cost of our contributions to the EU last year worked out at something like 60p. per week per head. I do not think that that is a big contribution. Certainly it does not equate with what comes back.
Germany and France make bigger percentage contributions to the European Union than we do. We always talk as though we are the greatest contributors, but we are not. Germany and France already pay more than we do and in the very near future Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands will overtake us in contributions. I think that we get more than we give to the EU. I give way to my noble friend.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend. She just said that we get more from the European Union than we put into it. But the fact of the matter is that the latest figures show that our net contribution--after all payments and receipts--is £3.5 billion, which in fact, we would be able to spend as we wished rather than as dictated by others.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I shall leave the noble Lord to sort out whether it is thousands or millions and deal with the point in principle. We are not just about adding up columns of figures. What one contributes and what one gets back is made up in many different ways. No doubt those noble Lords who know so much about the European Union realise that it is very difficult indeed to sort out the exact arithmetic of the transactions connected with the Social Fund. I shall now continue with what I was saying.
Britain attracts large amounts of inward investment into poorer regions because foreign firms see Britain as a springboard for entry into the single market. A 1995 CBI survey found that 68 per cent. of the companies polled believed that EU membership had attracted inward investment.
Contrary to tabloid mythology, the European Court and Commission ensure, for the benefit of Britain, that other member states obey single market rules. Telecommunications is a very good example of that. Public contracts in other countries have been opened up to British firms. The Italian Government were forced to allow sales of Jaguar cars, among other things, and British veterinary drugs; the French Government were forced to allow British Airways to fly to Orly, Paris, and to let Sotheby's hold auctions in France. I could continue with the list but I hope that I have given your Lordships enough to paint the picture.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will give way. I want to point out that as of January 1998 we shall be able to hold auctions in France. I think that is the serious point to make.
Lord Hindlip: My Lords, I must protest again. That simply is not true. The latest information, of only last week, is that the French wish to delay our entry into France until 1999 at the earliest. The French Prime Minister himself has taken a hand in this.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, of course the French have been objecting to Sotheby's and whatever firm the noble Lord is talking about, whose name I do not know. The French have been trying to keep them out of France but the Commission and the
Let us now look at some of the consequences of leaving the EU or, indeed, changing our status. Certainly, the Bill proposes to leave it. British companies would have what has been called "regulation without representation". Our firms would have to abide by EU trade regulations but we would have no say in how those were decided. British companies could not appeal to the Commission or the Court for action against protectionist measures elsewhere in Europe. We should lose many jobs that exist because of inward investment which has come here for access to the single market. Surely we did not need the statement on Wednesday by the President of Toyota to know that. Millions of British jobs depend on the WTO negotiations. As I have already pointed out, the WTO is managed by the so-called trading superpowers: the United States, Japan and Europe. Our influence is only as part of the EU.
Our citizens would lose the benefits of freedom of movement throughout the EU with rights of residence, travel and of work. Recent years have seen a major change in the scope and nature of organised international crime, particularly drugs. We require to be fully involved in regional police co-operation, such as Europol. We would lose our right to have a say in EU environmental policy decisions which can have a major impact on pollution levels in Britain and indeed on the competitiveness of British firms. Again, I could go on, but your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I do not think I need to.
On 1st July this year Britain will enter the troika of the European Union preparatory to becoming, on 1st January, 1998, the President of the European Union. I should like to think that we shall enter the troika under a new Labour Government and, very importantly, determined to further the positive goals of Britain, inside the EU. If we allow negative voices to triumph or our national internal divisions to paralyse us, then we shall not only harm Britain but also Europe, and I do not think that future generations will understand us or forgive us.
Lord Gray: My Lords, I support the Bill of my noble friend Lord Pearson and welcome the opportunity to discuss what should now be the way forward. When in 1972 I spoke and voted against our entry into the Common Market, it was primarily because, beyond the immediate considerations, I saw a blueprint for a federal European state--something that no economic benefit could make acceptable to me. I was of course pigeon-holed as xenophobic or antediluvian. I thought myself realistic. At the time when I opposed Maastricht I had been upgraded to a Eurosceptic. Now, with serious studies suggesting that there might be life after Europe, I am in danger of becoming respectable.
No matter what is being, or has been said by whomsoever, the reality is that a single European state with the UK as a province--or parts of the UK as separate provinces--is on the agenda of ardent Europhiles and those bureaucrats dedicated to its realisation. We should demand that our politicians admit that the agenda exists, whether or not they subscribe to it. The electorate must be asked for its opinion. No mandate exists for a superstate. No general election will produce a mandate. A referendum alone will suffice, preceded by an honest campaign untrammelled by external interference or concern as to what other Europeans may think.
We are not past the point of no return. But the Bill has been brought before us when time is running out. Some believe that we can deal with monetary union in isolation. That may be a respectable opinion. I find it ridiculous because I hold that strict central financial control cannot be divorced from central political control, no matter how one dresses it up. That point is illustrated by the current disagreement over it twixt France and Germany.
I have railed against the notion of a European state. It behoves me to say why. I have said why before but this is an occasion when I feel it reasonable to repeat my views. I see the idea as running contrary to the current thrust of history; as denying the proposition that legislature should be accessible and responsive to its electorate, who should feel that they are ultimately in control of their destiny. Furthermore, by the nature of its existing institutions, the European Union denies the balance between executive and legislature which we have held is of paramount importance. I believe that our electorate would give the thumbs down to a European superstate and perhaps the gesture would be replicated in some partner states.
Slightly fancifully, my prescription for the current malaise of Euro-dither would be to banish the Commission, its servants and acolytes to a desert island--without their mobile phones--while the elected representatives of the nations, regardless of party, thrash out our collective future--if there is to be one, or decide otherwise--and produce choice for referendum decision.
On the subject of that desert island--which hopefully would not have any inhabitants for the Commission to organise--perhaps that body would turn its collective mind to trying to bring some order to what is presently an unsatisfactory state of affairs in Europe. It could produce constructive thinking about the common agricultural policy and how to assist the European
Coming back to the real world, the present state of the Community is in urgent need of overhaul. We should address that before going forward in any direction at all. Let us face up to reality and grasp the nettle of essential reappraisal before we create a Babel in Europe with the risk of dire consequences. Let us pass this Bill and send a warning tingle down the collective European spine.
Viscount Exmouth: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity afforded us by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, to debate this highly important issue, in which I have a profound interest, having been resident on the Continent for a number of years and particularly through having benefited from parentage of both Anglo-Saxon and European origin, which probably amounts to some sort of qualification for a declaration of interests!
The continental countries therefore have an overriding need to unite as a single entity and to share allegiance to one flag and one army, with no national borders which should provide them with a degree of security that history will not repeat itself.
The economic and fiscal advantages of becoming a fully integrated member of the European Union cannot be quantified in the short term. Only after several years of total immersion will economists be able to acclaim that an economic miracle or an economic disaster has taken place. I have yet to read a non-governmental publication which believes in the former.
It is unlikely, however, that monetary union will succeed without a common fiscal policy and central collection of taxes and redistribution, issues which would appear to be unacceptable to this country.
There are factors of great importance to consider, factors of national importance, which, if not addressed at this stage of our involvement with the EU, could lead to anarchy within a superstate and civil unrest on the streets of Europe.
The people of the British Isles are disenchanted, confused and concerned over the European question. They have elected a government to power so as to be kept fully involved and advised over directives emanating from Brussels: directives, some of which appear to have no common sense attached to them and are not even tabled
Is this what we want from our involvement with Europe? Is this the promised dream from which we were led to believe we would benefit as a member nation of the European Community? British people voted to join the European Economic Community in 1975. They did not vote to become members of a federal European union. Do we truly wish to lose our national pride along with our parliamentary sovereignty and also lose our ability to decide what would suit us a nation?
We must preserve our identity and all that we have inherited and worked for over the centuries. I believe we can do so as an independent country within a European free trade area. Members of a European Union will, in due course, lose their cultural diversity and become mere clones of one another, while countries will simply be referred to as regions. Such changes are guaranteed to undermine the very foundations of the United Kingdom.
Lord Buxton of Alsa: My Lords, I want to mention briefly some items with which I am familiar myself but which have not yet been mentioned and possibly may not be mentioned this afternoon. I am therefore keeping off all the splendid and eloquent comments on the general issues.
My items are also mentioned on the basis that I do not believe there is any stopping the juggernaut and that in due course, by a process of use of the ratchet, persuasion, bullying and probably deals, Europe will finish up with majority voting. It is on the basis that there will be majority voting that I want to raise these points.
No protest or argument at IGC will avoid the ultimate if we have majority voting. Majority voting, when it takes place, will apply to the Falkland Islands. There is gossip and talk in this respect. There will one day be a heavy vote in favour of the handing over of the Falkland Islands and their British citizens to Argentina. Spain and Italy will see to that. At the moment, Spain and Italy are great allies of the bureaucratic machine in Brussels. I can think of all the answers that will be forthcoming to dispel anxiety. But, as far as I am concerned, they should be wisely discounted because they may well prove meaningless. As I have so often found, as the juggernaut drives inexorably forward, everything that is said here in answer to questions turns out to be invalid.
Gibraltar is another example. It is again in the news. Because of the glittering attractions in Europe for Mediterranean countries, Spain is not going to be satisfied just with largesse on a truly staggering scale, nor with being awarded traditional British fisheries and quotas by the Italian Commissioner--for which, incidentally, she has been promoted. Now that things are really on the move for Spain with the Commission, the sabre rattling has already begun, as noble Lords will have seen in their newspapers in the past 48 hours.
And what about the Channel Islands? The writing is already on the wall, because one of the most disgraceful incidents in our history occurred very recently and passed almost unnoticed. The FCO and the Ministry of Defence did absolutely nothing about French fishermen invading Channel Island waters. If ever there was a case of sucking up and looking away from reality, that was it. Those islands will be a ripe plum for majority voting if the FCO happens at the time to be sucking up to France.
The sinister aspect in all these matters is that Whitehall, perhaps understandably--I can see how it arose and what the problem is--is now the dedicated ally of Brussels. The Front Benches of all parties seem powerless and certainly Ministers are no longer in direct control of everything that goes on. Whatever party wins the next election it will really make no difference. An iron vice has been forged between Whitehall and Brussels. I thank profoundly the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for introducing this Bill. It is only his Bill, or something like it, which can loosen the vice and restore the initiative for Ministers and Parliament, and therefore the respect of the British electorate.
Over the years I have raised many issues in this House. I have had numerous letters from Ministers, and replies to questions and discussions. They have always insisted rather vehemently that their decisions are not dictated by Brussels and that there is no loss of sovereignty. But it has always turned out that that was wrong. Now, somewhat quaintly, Sir Edward Heath has blown the gaff. Stung by charges that he surrendered