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Lord Willoughby de Broke: I am glad the noble Lord raises that as I was just going to come to it; he anticipated my remarks. What Mr Benn did is entirely up to him. He islet us be politean eccentric and
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During the interesting debates earlier, I made a short list of the referendums that have occurred within the European Union, or just without it, in the last few years. The Danish referendum on Maastricht voted it down. The European Union did not accept that; they had to have another go and then come up with the right answer. They were given a protocol on something, a bribe to vote yeswhich they did. Nextthese are not necessarily in chronological order; there were so many defeats of the European Union in democratic elections I cannot remember which order they came inthere was the Irish referendum on the Nice treaty. They voted that down and were given a bribe, told to go away and have another think. They did so. The Danish voted down the euro; they were asked to think again a couple of years later, then they voted it down again. There is nothing like a Dane.
Then we had the Swedish referendum on the euro; that was voted down. The French voted down the constitutional treaty, as did the Dutch. The Norwegians have repeatedly voted against joining Europe, despite, according to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, apparently being run by fax-democracy from Europe. Of course they are not; they are not in the agricultural policy or the fisheries policy. They do roughly what they want and put into law what is required. Just to mention the Swiss again, they have repeatedly by large majority voted against joining the European Union.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Does my noble friend recall that the European Parliament has voted in the past few weeks that were the Irish to be so impudent as to vote down the treaty of Lisbon it would not make any difference and the project would go on? The European Parliament has said it will override any decision of the people of Ireland which would make the treaty null and void. But, of course, it will not because it never does.
It is not right to say that the European Union has the monopoly on democracy. All noble Lords who have spoken against referendums largely seem to be a part of the eurocracy and they do not like losing democratic referendums. That is what has happened and so, of course, they certainly do not want a referendum on the treatyand not even on in or outbecause they might not welcome the result.
We consistently move forward with greater European integration against the will of the British people. We can argue about particular opinion polls at particular times, but there is a steady opposition to what we are doing in Parliament, which has
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Lord McNally: The noble Lord is quoting the noble Lord, Lord Owen, but during the period to which he has referred the Conservative Government won three general elections while carrying through the treaties which he has pointed to as being significant to our membership of the EU. Does he not think that the British people might have shown some of the displeasure detected by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, at one of those three general elections?
Lord McNally: Let me give the noble Lord a history lesson. There was a party that put a specific question during that period. In 1983 the Labour Party fought a general election on withdrawing from Europe albeit only eight years after a referendum, and it received its worst result since 1918. Again, does not the noble Lord think the British people were saying something when they had the chance?
Lord Willoughby de Broke: They might have been saying something about the leadership and policies of the Labour Party and not necessarily about their attitude towards the European Union. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McNally. Surely now he is
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I was defeated in that election in 1983 so I know a little bit about it and about the reason why people voted against the Labour Party. It was nothing to do with the Common Market or Europe; it was everything to do with the fact that at that time Labour Party policy was to get rid of the independent nuclear deterrent. I know that because on every doorstep that was the main issue that was raised.
I cannot see why it is so odd, so objectionable and so extreme to ask the British people finally to have their say. After all, 33 years ago they were asked for their opinion in a referendum on what was then the Common Market. I will not go into details but we all must agree that it is a very different animal now from what it was 33 years ago. Everything that has gone through since then has gone through without the British people being able to have a say. The Liberal Democrats are absolutely right to seek a referendum on whether we should be in or out and, yes, I think that UKIP would accept the result of such a referendum. It would be very healthy to have that. I do not understand why the Liberal Democrats are against it. They should support this. It is, after all, their policy.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, will be familiar with what happens in Canada when the Quebec nationalists call for referendums so that that Quebec can leave Canada; when they lose them they call for another one. I gather that in Canada these are now referred to as neverendums.
Listening to this debateand I rise in this packed Chamber where the UKIP amendment is clearly the focus of national attentionI feel as if I am listening to a performance of The Mousetrap for the 455th time. It is a whodunit but we all know who did it and it is quite a familiar plot.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has to be commended for his persistence and for his transparency. The amendment is intended to achieve two purposes: first, to embarrass the Liberal Democrats and secondly, if possible, to get Britain out of the European Union. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that I am not embarrassable and, secondly, I wish Britain to stay within the European Union. I stand here with the great he-elephant himself, my noble friend Lord McNally, sitting alongside me looking at a rather crudely dug pit with some attempt at camouflage in front of it and with UKIP tempting us to jump into it. I am not going to do that.
One of the tests we all have in this HouseI have talked to many others about itis that you know whether you are doing the right thing when you look around you in the Lobby and discover who else is there. If the noble Lord is asking me to go into the Lobby with UKIP, I reply that I am not going to do it and I recommend to my friends not to. We spent several days listening to tales such as that the European gendarmerie is designed to operate on the shores of the United Kingdom to suppress honest British citizens or the suggestion that the xenophobic dimension of the treaty is intended to stop British citizens criticising Brussels, let alone burning the European flag. I am very sorry that we have not heard the story I came across in eurofacts the other day: that there is a new directive that will inhibit the rights of spiritualist workers to operate within the European Union by subjecting them to the test of whether their work as mediums achieves the results they claim. Never mind; perhaps that will come up another time.
I wait with interest to hear what the Conservative Front Bench will say on this. The question of where the Conservative Party stands on Europe is one which we are all interested to discover and I trust that sometime between now and the next election we may possibly discover it. Let me spell out, however, where the Liberal Democrats stand. Nick Clegg is a clear and gut European. He made the argument in the House of Commons for an in/out referendum because we despair of getting a decent national debate. I have to say to the Government, as I have said before, that it is one of the greatest failures of this Government over
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I have already explained why I am not inclined to support the UKIP amendment. My party has just agreed a new policy paper on Europe and we will be launching our own campaign on European issues in the autumn. I hopeperhaps it is illusorythat the Labour Government will by then agree with us and that some senior Labour Ministers will start to say some positive things about European co-operation, even if it upsets the Daily Mail and the Murdoch press.
We need an informed public national debatethat is what my party supports and underwritesbut we are clear against the transparent intentions of the UK Independence Party. It is in Britains long-term national interests to remain an active and committed participant in the European Union.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will know that I take no part of setting a trap for the Liberal party. As far as I am concerned, UKIP is a newcomer to the debate about Europe; it is a Johnny-come-lately. As I have told this House so many times before, I was never in favour of going into the Common Market, and I believe that it would be in our interests now to leave the European Union. So my position has been clear practically all my life. I have quite enjoyed being involved in this debateone of very many in which I have taken part over the past 30 or 40 years.
What do noble Lords who do not support the amendment have against referendums? Why is it all right for the Scots to have a referendum on devolution and, indeed, on whether to leave the United Kingdom? Why is it so special that they should be allowed to have a referendum on whether they leave the United Kingdom, yet the United Kingdom cannot have a referendum on whether it should continue to be members of the European Union?
The amendment sets out a respectable position. The time probably will come when we have to have a referendum on whether we remain in the European Union. After all, things are not everlasting. The British people may very well insist at some time in the future that we have a referendum, so the current situation is by no means certain. Indeed, I believe it is perfectly respectable for people to call for a referendum.
Under our constitution, referendums are advisory. They in no way undermine the sovereignty of Parliament. As we have so often said, Parliament, in the last analysis, by repealing the European Communities Act
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I believe that we should leave the European Union. I have said so in this House many times before. I do not think that our membership brings the benefits which the noble Lord, Lord Radice, described. We were told that it would increase our trade and be good for our economy and our industries. But since 1973, our industrial capacity has fallen from 32 per cent of GDP to 13 per cent, and great industries have been destroyed during that time.
If you look at our position vis-Ã -vis the European Union in trade terms, we run a constant deficit with it in goods and services of about £40 billion per year. It is by no means certain that we make a profit by trading with the EU. In fact, we make a big loss. In addition, we pay about £12 billion a year via the exchanges as a contribution to this so-called club. Yet only 9 per cent of our total economy is involved with Europe. So we are by no means get the trading benefits but we are increasingly getting a reduction in the opportunities that Parliament has for deciding the course of this country. As the Government themselves admit, 70 per cent of all legislation emanates from Europe. It is no good the noble Lord, Lord Radice, shaking his head. Those are government figures and I am only quoting them. We are increasingly losing control of our destiny and being ruled by people whom we do not elect and we cannot dismiss.
The world is a much bigger place than Europe. People say that if you leave Europe you will be sidelined. Why should this country be sidelined? It built a big empire from a much smaller base than we have now. The world is a big trading place and the big opportunities for trade and co-operation are not in Europe; they are outside Europe, as all Members of this House know. They are in China, with a population of 1.3 billion and in India which is burgeoning as a great nation and a population of over a billion. There lie the opportunities for our industrialists, for the people who have things to sell and with whom we should be co-operating. There are vast opportunities throughout the world; we do not have to be confined to the backyard of Europe.
I wish that people would not accuse those who believe that we would do better out of Europe as being nasty little xenophobes and little Englanders because that is not the case. It is possible for Britain, with its great history and abilities, to co-operate freely with all the countries of the world, but it is constrained because of the regulation, decision and control from Brussels.
That is my view of the situation. I can certainly talk for a very long time, but I shall leave it at that. Most of us in this Chamber have spent many hours, late at night, discussing the Bill. I am grateful to the Government for giving so much time to discussion of this very important Bill and the treaty. We are going to have more days on it than we had on Maastricht. I believe that that is an achievement and would like to conclude by thanking the noble Baroness and the Government for allowing this Chamber to have a very full and open discussion.
Lord Hamilton of Epsom: I have put my name to the amendment because it really is time that we asked the British people again whether they think that they should be in the EU. We last asked them in 1975, which is too long a time ago. I remember the words of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, who said that the UK is seen as an increasingly reluctant member of the EU. That is right: it is the way that the British people see it and they should be asked again.
However, I do not support the amendment because I think that the country will vote to pull out. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Radice, that all the evidence is that the country will vote quite substantially to stay in. I accept the argument that one referendum does not solve the problem, but for those who want this country to stay in the EU, it buys a certain amount of time, and I do not quite understand all the reluctance to have a referendum because it would settle the issue for a few years.
The real benefit of a vote in a referendum which said that the United Kingdom wanted to stay in the EU is that it would destroy the last vestiges of credibility of the United Kingdom Independence Party. How could it stand in future elections saying, We believe that we should pull out of the EU, when a vote had just taken place saying that the country did not want to pull out? That would be extremely helpful.
I agree that I speak in rather party political terms for the Conservative Party, because we have suffered in endless elections from the spoiling tactics of UKIP, which has achieved nothing in terms of its objectives. What have the achievements been? In any constituency it has always taken very many more votes of Tories than of anybody else, the result of which has been that Labour Governments have had bigger majorities than would otherwise have been the case. And lets face it, this Labour Government have probably been the most Europhile Government in the history of this country.
UKIP has always talked with a forked tongue about not putting up candidates against Eurosceptic Tory Members. I just think of the plight of my right honourable friend in the other place, David Heathcoat-Amory, whose Eurosceptic credentials could hardly be surpassed. In his rather marginal constituency he has a majority of 3,000, which he has had for the previous two elections. If UKIP had succeeded in standing against himit did not; it managed to poll only 1,000 votesit would have removed him in favour of a Liberal who, like all our Liberals, would have been a rampant Europhile. That is not terribly clever politics. One really wonders what UKIP is up to.
The timing of my erstwhile noble friends who have moved over to UKIP could hardly be worse. They have joined the party at a time of infighting, misappropriation of funds and unauthorised donations, and it seems to be a question of the rats joining a sinking ship.
A notable omission from the supporters of the amendment is the Liberal Democrats. As it was Liberal Democrat policy to have a referendum on in or out, I was quite confident that there would have been supporters for the amendment. I do not accept the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that he did not want to join in with UKIPI am not a member of UKIP, as I have probably indicated already. Why did the Liberal Democrats not support the amendment? It used to be party policy. But of course that is too much to hope of the Lib Dems. Their party policy changes so quickly, does it not? It was their party policy a few weeks ago, but now it no longer is.
Lord McNally: It has been the party policy of the Liberal Party for 50 years to support Europe; it was the party policy of the SDP, one of the forming parties of the Liberal Democrats, for 25 years; and it has been our policy since formation to support Europe. I am getting a little tired of hearing those who have waved and wobbled about Europe for the whole of their political careers talk about these Benches not having a policy. We have not only a policy but a principle on Europe, which could well be a lesson to some of the parties around this Chamber.
Lord Hamilton of Epsom: They are very weird principles. The Liberal Democrats were on record as saying that they wanted a referendum on in or out. As a way of getting away from the problem of having a referendum on the constitution, they said, No, no, we dont think we should have a referendum on the constitution, but well have a referendum on in or out. As I have already explained, many of those in favour of Europe in todays Committee believe that they would win a referendum on in or out, so I do not know why the Liberal Democrats are worried about it. Nevertheless, they then decided that they would not do that after all.
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