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The Laeken meeting took place in 2001, as your Lordships will remember. It was a meeting of Heads of Government. It led to the convention being formed, which produced the constitution, which was rejected, which morphed into the reform treaty, which was eventually renamed the treaty of Lisbon. The Laeken meeting was a reflection of widely felt anxieties about the European democratic deficit. Laeken called for the convention to draft a more democratic structure “closer to the people”. The constitutional treaty did not in fact move in that direction. It was rightly rejected on the grounds that it was a centralising treaty, and not a treaty that would move Europe closer to the people, with the benefits that that might be expected to have.



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The democratic deficit itself is not a single object. It is not only about democracy: it is also a failure of European liberalism. There are a lot of legal questions arising out of the Lisbon treaty itself that I am not competent to take a view on. Much of the competence is on the Liberal Democrat Benches. There is also a failure to adopt the principles of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is often spoken of, but progress towards it either inside or outside the Lisbon treaty has been extremely disappointing.

The heads of government were rightly disturbed by Europe's relative lack of competitiveness, with much slower growth rates than the Asian countries. The question now is whether the Lisbon treaty has addressed the deficits successfully. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, believes that it has. I regret that it has not. I am sure that the European Union needs to have substantial reforms if it is to flourish—perhaps if it is to survive. In particular, Lisbon has extended qualified majority voting to some 40 areas of competence of the European Union, but has not returned any powers to the individual nations, so the process of negotiation in Lisbon has been regrettably lopsided.

The whole of the acquis communautaire, which is itself such an obstacle to reform of the European system, is still not only in place but growing steadily. When the eastern European countries joined the European Union, they were faced with accepting willy-nilly some 85,000 pages of the acquis communautaire. We are now told in this debate that that has risen to 98,000 pages. The acquis communautaire will undoubtedly in a few months’ time have reached 100,000 pages. But it will go on from there, occupying larger and larger areas of regulation.

The Lisbon negotiation failed to tackle fairly obvious abuses. The most worrying thing is that although everyone knows that the common agricultural policy is a European abuse which needs major amendment, no one can manage to get any amendment through. That is as true of the Lisbon treaty as it is of previous negotiations on the CAP. All institutions have to be repeatedly reformed if they are to remain vital or even serviceable. I fear that the European Union needs further major new reforms. This was a point on which I did not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, who looked forward to a period of stability. I am not sure that a period of stability rather than reform is what is really needed.

The situation has been made worse by the question of the referendum. I have heard all the arguments on both sides on a referendum, but what I think is certain is that the British people believe that a promise was made to them and that they now believe that the promise has been broken. One of the major problems of Britain’s relationship with Europe is indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, said, that the British people do not trust the European Union. Nothing is more unfortunate than the British Government taking a step, repudiating a promise, that makes the ordinary voter trust the European Union still less. It is not just the Government who will be blamed, though they will be blamed; the Union itself will be blamed.

Looking at the referendum as the final issue, and the relationship between British public opinion and the European Union as an essential part of the future

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reform of the European Union, I shall vote for a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, just as I had the good fortune to vote for a referendum on the Maastricht treaty 14 years ago.

10.52 pm

Lord Monson: My Lords, the hour is indeed late. On the other hand, a number of my noble colleagues of a broadly sceptic disposition have had to scratch, notably my noble friend Lord Neill of Bladen, so perhaps I may be allowed to speak for a few minutes. First I gladly join others in paying tribute to my noble friend Lord Grenfell and his colleagues for an excellent and very well set-out report. I cannot claim by a long shot to have read every word of it, but I sense that the conclusions do not entirely vindicate all of the Government’s reassuring claims.

My thanks also go to the noble Baroness the Lord President for her very useful briefing, even if many noble Lords, I fear, are likely to remain unconvinced by her seductive reassurance that the treaty embodies the best of all possible worlds for the United Kingdom. For some months now, the Government have claimed that the treaty is quite different from the draft constitution, thereby implying that Mr Giscard d’Estaing, Angela Merkel and other senior European statesmen and politicians are either liars or fantasists. But let us suppose for a moment that the Government are right, despite 96 per cent of the treaty being identical to the draft constitution, and despite the truly alarming proposal to give the European Court of Justice a much greater role in criminal justice and home affairs; right that, overall, the changes are fewer than those imposed by the Single European Act and the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties; and right that, theoretically, there is therefore no need for a referendum.

My quarrel with that contention is based primarily not on the doctrine of the sanctity of a manifesto commitment, important though that undoubtedly is, not least to maintain public confidence in Parliament and our institutions, but on the fact that, even if the proposed changes are less far reaching than those in earlier treaties, and assuming our opt-outs or red lines can be made to stick—which is a very big “if”—the changes, in particular the extension of QMV, represent the last straw that breaks the long-suffering British camel’s back. I refer to the remorseless erosion of our powers of self-government.

I voted no in 1975 and in a minor and wholly ineffectual way campaigned for a no vote, sensing the way in which things were likely to evolve, despite assurances to the contrary. Most but not all of my family, friends and acquaintances thought my stance rather eccentric, even subversive—indeed, Bennite. It is difficult to remember it now, but enormous numbers of people at that time were in total fear of Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn and the supposed cohorts of Maoist subversives lurking in the shadows, waiting only for his command to unleash mayhem. It seems ridiculous now, but that is how millions of people thought in those days. These friends and acquaintances happily accepted the assurances of Messrs Wilson and Heath that joining the EEC, as it then was, would be essentially liberating, with no adverse consequences, notwithstanding some unease about the treatment of our allies and

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kinsmen in New Zealand. The idea that the EEC and its successors would gradually but remorselessly extend their powers so as to push their way into the nooks and crannies of our everyday lives was at that time quite inconceivable.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has given us a few examples of the way in which the EU has interfered in the internal affairs of various countries, not only our own but other countries as well—we must be vigilant to protect the rights of the citizens of other countries as well as our own. Let us look at what has come to light in the past 10 days alone in this country. First, rural bus networks are being crippled by an EU directive obliging bus drivers to be given 45 hours’ time off after driving a mere 31 miles. It would take no more than an hour and a half to drive that distance on a rural road in a remote area. Secondly, a small manufacturer of alcoholic fruit cordials is told that he must switch from 37.5cl bottles to 35cl bottles at enormous cost to his business, even though he does not sell these cordials in the EU as far as I know and his customers benefit from the slightly larger bottles in which they buy the stuff. Thirdly, a couple have been told that they cannot live in a rather splendid-looking house, judging by the newspaper photographs, but must live in a caravan in the garden for several months because some rare newts have been found adjacent to the house. To the EU, newts are apparently more important than human beings. Fourthly, pub landlords have been told that they could be hit with a massive financial penalty if customers chat up barmaids. This sort of thing—and things that are far important than that—has been happening month after month, year after year without the democratic consent of the British people. Subsidiarity has turned out to be a total farce.

The moral case for a referendum is this: for almost 33 years the British people have experienced the consequences of the 1975 referendum vote. They have seen the powers of national parliaments gradually whittled away and felt the tentacles of the EU force their way into the nooks and crannies of their everyday lives, rather than the EU confining its intrusions to matters with a genuine cross-border dimension such as the single market, to which I have no objection.

Foreign affairs excepted, the proud, ancient nation-states of Europe are now left with far less autonomy than the princely states of India pre-1947, and in many respects with less than Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, Alabama, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, New South Wales and Queensland, to name but a few. Of course, these states and provinces share our individualistic, democratic, Anglo-Saxon heritage, where the tradition is “trust the people”, however unpredictable and often awkward they may turn out to be.

Continental elitists have never really “trusted the people” whom they regard as volatile and often tending towards a narrow Poujadism, and who accordingly cannot be trusted to follow the right advice or think along the right lines. Hence the Euro-zealots vastly prefer a genuinely benevolent paternalism exercised by a dispassionate Olympian enarque such as Monsieur Giscard d’Estaing, or the equivalent of the enarque in other continental countries, which they believe to be a

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far safer and tidier arrangement. Such people equate uniformity with stability and order and shudder, for example, at the idea of each American or Australian state or Canadian province deciding on its own traffic laws, let alone its own criminal law, including, for example, the application of capital punishment. “How untidy, cher coll├Ęgue, how anarchic”, I can hear them say.

National differences and idiosyncrasies can be permitted by this reasoning provided they are confined to matters which the French term “folklorique”. At one time one hoped that the eastern and central European countries, liberated from tyrannical uniformity less than 20 years ago, might join with us in fighting to preserve individuality and resist obsessive harmonisation and the nanny super-state. Alas, with the possible exception of the Czech Republic, they are too preoccupied with financial problems at present. I readily concede that there are one or two desirable aspects to this treaty but believe that they are heavily outweighed by the less desirable ones. We are not, of course, permitted to pick and choose so I shall most certainly join those noble Lords pressing for a referendum.

11.02 pm

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, noble Lords are not witnessing attempted identity theft. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, is down on the original list of speakers but has regretfully withdrawn. He is far more fastidious than I. I am not, however, speaking in the gap because my name should have been on the list and is on a revised list. I apologise and will not detain your Lordships very long.

I make it absolutely clear from the beginning where I stand on this. I voted no in the last referendum and I am against ever closer union. It is not an objective that I hold dear for reasons to which I shall come in a moment. I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, is present. I never thought that I would take one of his phrases as my text but he is one of the most sensible and—if I may say so without sounding patronising—balanced and well informed Members of this House. He told us that we should not look too closely at what is in the treaty or the constitution but rather that we should be infused by the spirit behind it, which is very beautiful and moving. I am sure that he was genuine about that. However, my problem with that approach is that I find the general manifesto of the Communist Party very moving. As I understand it, its objectives are from each according to his ability and unto each according to his needs, which has an almost biblical simplicity about it and I should have thought would have appealed to the author of the sermon on the mount. But when you look at what the Communist Party has done and the gap between its aspirations and achievements, you are reminded of the gap between the aspirations of the European Community and what it has done.

I heard the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, say that you can reform the common agricultural policy. How much reform has there been of the common agricultural policy in the past 40 years? It is evil, it is selfish, it is expensive and the effect that it has impoverishing poor people around the world is wicked. There is no other

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word for it. I can remember very well one of my former colleagues in the other House—he is not in his place here at the moment—saying that we had to join the Common Market because that was the only way that we could change the common agricultural policy. Good luck to him.

The common fisheries policy, which has been mentioned, is not so much wicked as absolutely disgusting. What it does is disgusting, and we all know it. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, appreciates that. I am only sorry that I am not in a position to compliment the noble Lord, Lord Renwick of Clifton, who gave one of the best speeches that I have ever heard on the Common Market, as I prefer to call it. It was factual, it was without hyperbole and there was hardly an adjective in it from one end to another. Unlike other Members from the Foreign Office who grace our Benches, he took a very cold-headed and realistic view of the Common Market.

The problem with those who join us from the Foreign Office is that they remind me so much of a telephone call that I had in New York when Charles de Gaulle vetoed us. That afternoon I was working in a bank. I was living in New York at the time. I got a telephone call saying, “Isn’t it marvellous news? Have you heard? De Gaulle has just vetoed us”. I said, “I think it is marvellous news; I am damned if I see why you do, Richard”. He was a Foreign Office official up in the consulate-general office. He said, “Don’t you see? Within six months, they will be bringing us the crown of Europe on a platter”. He believed it, that is what the Foreign Office believes, and that is where it is so wrong. It will always go on believing it, because it is very deeply imbued in it.

There is that delightful man, the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, with whom I have jousted a couple of times about European aircraft. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Lee, is not in his place. His grasp on reality seems to have deserted him since he joined the Liberal Democrats. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, talked about not our giving up sovereignty but sharing sovereignty. I tried to explain that concept once to my constituents in Dudley many years ago. I said: “Shared sovereignty is quite simple. We get together in a room with a lot of other people, and we have a piece in telling them what to do and they have a piece in telling us what to do”. That is what shared sovereignty means. If anyone wishes to dispute that interpretation, I will gladly give way. My constituents said, “Oh. We do not actually want to share in telling other people what to do and we are damned if we want them telling us what to do”. So I am afraid to say to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that demonstrates that the concept of shared sovereignty did not have much appeal to my constituents.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, I think, spoke on this point, although I was not in the Chamber; I was listening to the debate in my room. The European Union has some very good things in its record for which we should be very grateful, particularly the civilising influence that it has had on the countries of eastern Europe and the fact that it has eliminated the death penalty from the statute book of many countries. We should be very grateful to our friends in Europe that it has accomplished that.



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However, it is very easy to over-egg the cake with respect to the European Union. I regard the idea that it is only because we have a European Union that there has not been a third world war in Europe as absolute poppycock. In my view, there are three reasons why there has never been a war since 1945. One is that the vast majority of Germans today are ashamed of what their fathers and grandfathers did. Of those who are not ashamed of what their grandfathers did, many do not want to have visited upon them again what was visited upon them between 1939 and 1945. If anyone does not fall into those two groups, they are influenced by the fact that we have the bomb. The French have the bomb and the Russians have the bomb. The Germans do not have the bomb and we are not going to allow them to have it. That is why there will not be third world war in Europe. Anyone who thinks that if the bomb did not exist, another Hitler in 25 or 50 years’ time would be deterred from advancing into France just because his country was a member of the European Coal and Steel Community is completely out of touch with reality.

There is one last matter that I wish to touch on. I said that I voted no, like the noble Lord, Lord Monson, but I actually walked through the streets of Birmingham at the front row of a parade in which Mr Benn was also a participant. From that time on, my father-in-law was absolutely convinced that I was a communist. I never succeeded in dissuading him from that conviction. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, prayed in aid some remarks of Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. I, too, thought that some of Lord Jenkins’s remarks were overwhelmingly persuasive.

I remember in 1975 that the Parliamentary Labour Party held a debate on how we should vote in a referendum. The debate went on for five days. I was a fairly new boy in the PLP—even more diffident than I am today—and I did not participate in that debate, to my eternal regret. Roy Jenkins said two things in that debate. First, he said that he had never had much time for kith and kin in politics. We all knew what he was referring to. He was trying to get people to recall Ian Smith, UDI and Rhodesia and to persuade members of the Labour Party that we should vote for membership of the Common Market. When he said that, my mind went back to when I was learning to be a chartered accountant in Canada, when I once took part in an audit commission at an engine company. There was a fellow with us called Doug Neil, who was a Canadian. The other fellows on the audit commission said to me, “Do you know about Doug?”. I said, “No, what is there to know about Doug?”. They said that Doug had lost three brothers on the same day at Dieppe. Therefore, I have a lot of time for kith and kin in politics.

The second thing, which I shall never forget, that Roy Jenkins said in that debate was his description of his visits to Washington for meetings with the governors of the International Monetary Fund. He bemoaned his fate. He said, “Do you know what used to happen to me? All the European Finance Ministers”—there were only six of them then—“used to get together in a room to agree a position, and I was excluded from those meetings. All that I could do was to sit in another room alone with the US Treasury Secretary”.

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I thought, “How lucky could you be?”. When I heard Roy Jenkins make those two remarks, I realised that I did not share his values or those of people who thought like him; nor did I share his political judgment. It is for those reasons that I am not in favour of ever closer union.

11.14 pm

Lord Moran: My Lords, I must apologise for not being here for the earlier part of the debate but, having a damaged leg, I found that my place in the speakers list clashed with appointments at two hospitals. I thank the government Whips for allowing me now to speak briefly in the gap.

Late last year, Mr Michael Portillo said that on a number of central issues, including Europe and immigration, the electorate have effectively been disfranchised. British democracy, he continued, has been diminished and weakened, not only because most of our laws are devised by an arrogant, self-regarding and unaccountable elite in Brussels but because this situation cannot be changed as the result of a tacit consensus among an arrogant and self-regarding domestic elite. That is surely true. I wonder how long our Government can go on disregarding public opinion on issue after issue, building up hostility in so many areas and behaving at times as though they need not bother about the country outside Westminster. Not for ever, I think.

Numerous polls have shown that most of the electorate understand that the treaty is essentially the same as the rejected constitution. A few of them also know that Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the devisor of the original constitution, has said:

Those are hardly the words of a democrat but are said by a leading light of the EU.

The new treaty, like the earlier constitution, introduced radical changes in the nature of the EU and in our relationship with it—changes that will go far towards establishing a single European state. The whole structure of the EU is being centralised and strengthened. We are to lose a great many of our vetoes, and the EU is in future to deal as far as possible directly with European citizens, bypassing national Governments. It is to assume a legal personality, giving it the status and powers of a full-blown state.

A not unreasonable need for change to cope with the expansion of the EU has been transformed into a great leap forward towards an integrated Europe. This has been done without any consultation with the peoples of the EU, among them the British, who were promised a referendum by all three of our main political parties but are now being denied it.

Those who are expert in these matters—not least the European Scrutiny Committee of the other place—say that the Government’s red lines and protocols, which are supposed to protect Britain’s interests, will not give us effective protection. The public understand that we are being asked to agree to a massive transfer of

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powers to Brussels. More of what is still left of our sovereignty as a nation is to be surrendered. Before too long, there will be no need for deliberation in Westminster on important matters.


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