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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we have just signed a non-reciprocal agreement on extradition with the United States, which means that we have to accept their rules and they do not accept ours. Is the noble Earl seriously proposing that rather than negotiating with our European partners, we accept what the Americans tell us to do within NAFTA? Is that the preferred way in which one subordinates British sovereignty?

The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I do not believe that the Americans are as bureaucratic as the EC. I believe that one would be able to negotiate with them quite happily.

To continue, we could literally become the Hong Kong of Europe, and we could have the best of both worlds. NAFTA does not have a bureaucratic government or the structure of a bureaucratic government, so the costs would be minimal in comparison. We could then build on and develop our relations with North America, which is undoubtedly our strongest ally in the world today. It would require a leap of faith to do that, but is that not just the sort of thing that UK plc should seriously consider before signing up to the European constitution, since when that is done there will be no going back?

I conclude by saying that I very much hope that the Bill will be passed so that the people of our country can have the opportunity of weighing up the arguments for and against. Only then would we see true democracy at work.

1.21 p.m.

Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I apologise for my inability to be present throughout the debate, but I did have the opportunity to hear the opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and I have heard other speeches as well. I crave your Lordships'

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indulgence in making a brief contribution in the gap and your forgiveness if I repeat things that have been said which I have not heard.

About a month ago, there was a headline in the Daily Telegraph that drew attention to the wages of spin. It went on to say that the electorate was increasingly lacking trust in the truth of what they are told by politicians. In my adoption speech in Croydon North East, in 1964, I campaigned on the slogan "Truth in Politics". At the time of the referendum for entry into the European Economic Community, I was the Deputy Chief Whip. I campaigned for entry on the assurance of Mr Edward Heath, the Prime Minister, that:

    "Joining the community does not entail a loss of national identity or an erosion of essential national sovereignty".

I do not support the Bill because I am anti-European. On the contrary, I support it because I believe that the electorate has an absolute right to be told the truth about our closer associations with the European Union.

I hope that it is not being too dramatic to say that we are approaching one of the great crossroads of history. It is far easier to lose our freedoms than to regain them. One of the lasting legacies of the previous Conservative Government is the awful phrase, "to be economical with the truth"—a near relation to spin. As the former Speaker of the House of Commons and a guardian of the rights and privileges of our inherited sovereign Parliament, I cannot approach closer union with Europe with the feeling that the Speaker of our House of Commons may possibly become as important as, say, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Virginia in the United States of America—however admirable he or she may be.

As parliamentarians, we have a sacred duty to explain the pros and cons of ever-closer union with Europe. We would be failing in our duty if we did not do that, and we should not be forgiven. It is in that spirit that I support the Bill, which gives the electorate the opportunity to hear the other side of the story from politicians. We should tell them the truth.

1.24 p.m.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I am glad to be able to take part in the debate. I recognise the sincerity of the beliefs expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. The trouble is that he is wrong. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving a website address. My only disappointment is that I believed that he was going to give us, which would have been rather fun.

I am really quite surprised that Conservative speakers are opposing the new draft constitution of the EU. After all, it does have a clause permitting voluntary exit.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I gather from the speakers' list that the noble Baroness is speaking on behalf of her party. May I ask how many of the speeches she has listened to in this debate?

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I have listened to most of them. Even when I was having a sandwich, I was listening to the speeches.

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I was just going to recite the clause permitting voluntary exit from the new constitution. It says:

    "Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements".

The article would allow for a straightforward unilateral self-exclusion from Europe, answering all of the dreams of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. However, the new countries queuing up to join the EU are unlikely to take advantage of such a clause. I remind the House of the percentages by which their citizens have just voted to confirm their EU membership. In Malta, 54 per cent voted in favour; in the Czech Republic and Poland, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred, 77 per cent were in favour. In Hungary, 84 per cent and in Slovenia 90 per cent voted in favour, while in Lithuania 91 per cent and in Slovakia 94 per cent did so. Those citizens have voted for security, prosperity and an entrenchment of their democracies in the community of human rights and the rule of law.

In response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, I was at the appeal of the Greek plane spotters, in Kalamata. I have to say that, inadequate as I found Greek law in that case, only the framework of the EU is working to raise the standards of guarantees for defendants that will hopefully reform the situation in future.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has said that:

    "If Estonia votes against joining the European Union, she will strike a tremendous blow for truth and freedom across the whole of Europe. The British Euro-sceptic case would gain enormously".

I fear that the noble Lord will be disappointed in September.

The noble Lord disputes that the EU has secured peace. If I understood him rightly, he ended by quoting a Russian soldier before he went to his death. However, dramatically fewer Europeans have died in the half-century since the second of two massive 20th century wars ended than in the half-century beforehand.

At least the noble Lord is honest about his isolationist intention, as other Conservative Peers have been. In August 2000, he said:

    "It is . . . deceptive to suggest that we can renegotiate the Treaty unless we are prepared to leave the EU if our 'partners' don't agree the changes we need".

On the "Jeremy Vine Show", he said:

    "We should get out of it"—

that is, the EU.

That is indeed the logic of Conservative Party policy, and my sympathies are with the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, who is going to have to explain whether Conservative policy is being dragged in that direction.

The noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, believed that the position of the Queen might be endangered, but I assure him that the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family of European immigrants to Britain is most comfortably ensconced. Indeed, the EU has the highest percentage of constitutional monarchies of any region in the world.

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I fear that Eurosceptics will never be convinced by any rational arguments in favour of the EU, although I shall attempt a few. The basic problem is their irrational difficulty over sharing. The whole basis of the EU is the willingness to pool formal sovereignty in order to achieve more real control over what happens to us. There is more real sovereignty in being part of a bigger whole that can collectively ensure currency stability, curb global warming, tackle third world debt, secure human rights and address security threats, than there is from the trappings of impotent isolation.

Those who oppose European unity usually have the same problem with recognising diversity in society, pluralism of opinions or dispersal of power. It is the concentration of formal competence in one place, the illusion of homogeneity, the notion that there is only one way of living one's life, the refusal to compromise and co-exist, that seems to be the hallmark of the mindset of those who hate the European Union.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has in fact revealingly said:

    "I loath and fear the Treaty of Rome".

That fear speaks volumes and surely comes from deep insecurity and lack of confidence. Yes, there are certainly some proposals from Brussels with which we disagree, but we should fight our corner, and we can win. In fact, we win more votes in the Council of Ministers and are more often on the winning side than any other member state.

There certainly is an issue about some English people in particular failing to connect with Europe. There is a sense of Europe as a threat and as something that will rob them of their identity. It is perhaps a lack of confidence about what identity consists of in modern Britain, and we have to address that. It is not possible to operate with assurance and ease in Europe if you do not know who you are in the first place. Those of us who do have that sense of confidence are able to add the European dimension to our other identities—in my case as a Londoner and a Briton—and feel that far from losing, we are gaining something in addition; namely a share in the power to shape our lives for the better. It is that sense of optimism and confidence that I would most want to encourage among my fellow citizens.

We all know that the French, the Italians, the Spanish and the Dutch have absolutely no intention of submerging their own identity in some Euro-fudge. There was an attempt last year to design a Euro-flag that looked like some poor imitation of a Bridget Riley picture which was said to encapsulate all the national flags. It was fundamentally misconceived. We are not a Union that tries to be a melting pot, a stew of nationalities and races stirred together to get a nouvelle cuisine new dish. The 12 yellow stars on a blue background—which I am afraid the EU stole from the Council of Europe—will do quite nicely, thank you.

I am, as I said, surprised that more Conservatives do not support the new constitution, which has an exit clause. It also offers a more competent, effective and

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democratic EU with some very beneficial features. That is why 52 per cent of British people support the constitution.

I should like to mention in particular the charter of rights which will mean protection against abuse of power by EU institutions. Surely that is something that Conservatives and other Eurosceptics could support. It would also protect us against abuse of EU law by national governments implementing that law. Perhaps we could look forward to an end to the gold-plating of EU regulations, for which I am afraid this Government have a weakness. Think of the abattoirs legislation. In implementing legislation on veterinary inspections of abattoirs the then Ministry of Agriculture imposed additional requirements so that UK law required a permanent veterinary attendance rather than regular veterinary inspection—a very different thing—as set out in the directive. That added enormously to costs and threatened to put small abattoirs out of business, particularly those dealing with organic and specialist herds—an issue which I believe is dear to the heart of many in this House.

In my own area of justice and home affairs, on which I speak in the European Parliament, the Government have gone much further in the Extradition Bill—on which I was able to speak—than required by the EU regulation on the European arrest warrant. I think that that gives EU law a bad name. I very much hope that the charter of fundamental rights will curb that type of tendency.

Some speakers today have said dismissively, "Don't talk about the clear benefits of the EU". Perhaps they are afraid of their reiteration. I should cite a few. As has already been cited, 3.5 million jobs, I think, depend on our exports to the EU. There are exports to the value of 143 billion. Some 750,000—three quarters of a million British-based firms—

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