HC Deb 21 March 1984 vol 56 cc1046-7
56. Mr. Tim Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he now expects Portugal and Spain to join the European Community.

Mr. Rifkind

Spain and Portugal want to accede to the Community on 1 January 1986. As I made clear to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) on 22 February, we are working hard in the Community with a view to completing the negotiations this year so as to make this possible.

Mr. Smith

How damaging does my hon. Friend think that failure to reach agreement at the EEC Council will be to the entry prospects of Portugal and Spain?

Mr. Rifkind

I hope that it will not lead to any significant delay in the negotiations. The agricultural mandate has been agreed by the Community, and that is one of the main outstanding matters to be discussed with the Governments of Spain and Portugal. Naturally, the Community will not be able to give as much attention to this matter as it would have wished because of the outcome of the negotiations yesterday, but we still hope that the timetable can be adhered to.

Mr. Park

When Spain joins the Community, will there be an end to the preferential tariffs which act against the export of vehicles to Spain from this country?

Mr. Rifkind

We have made it clear to the Spanish Government that, in our view and that of many other Community countries, one consequence of Spain's accession should be a substantial reduction in the level of tariffs which that Government impose against imports from other countries. If the negotiations resulted in such a change, motor vehicles would benefit from it.

Mr. Hal Miller

Are not the Spanish Government seeking a lengthy interim period during which the tariffs would effectively remain in force? Can the Minister give us any news about that matter and tell us whether our Government are pressing for that period to be as short as possible?

Mr. Rifkind

It is likely that, as has been the case in similar negotiations with other new members, a transitional period will be agreed. We have, however, emphasised our view that that transitional period should not preclude a very sharp reduction from the outset in the level of tariffs against industrial imports.

Mr. Rogers

The Secretary of State said earlier, in answer to my question, that the Government would not support an increase in own resources. Will the Government still support the accession of Spain and Portugal without such an increase?

Mr. Rifkind

The British Government have made it clear on several occasions that the accession of Spain and Portugal is highly desirable, for both political and other reasons. Very few who believe in the Community do not believe that the accession of Spain and Portugal is an essential requirement for its political development.

Mr. Latham

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, as the Prime Minister has said from the Dispatch Box, there can be no question of Spain entering the Common Market until its position over the Gibraltar border is satisfactorily regularised?

Mr. Rifkind

I can give my hon. Friend a complete assurance in that respect. The Spanish Government are aware that it would be inconceivable for access between Spain and Gibraltar, after Spanish accession, to be different from access between Spain and other members of the European Community.

Mr. Foulkes

How can the Minister state that he is still sure that Portugal wishes to join the Community on 1 January 1986, when the Brussels debacle will mean that Portugal—which will be one of the poorest countries in the Community—will be a net contributor to its funds?

Mr. Rifkind

I am sure that the Portuguese Government will be able to speak for themselves with regard to their own interests. The hon. Gentleman is right. The existing budgetary arrangements produce arbitrary and artificial consequences. One of those would be that, unless special provisions are made for Portugal, Portugal would have the curious and unwanted privilege of joining the United Kingdom and West Germany as a net contributor. That effect emphasises the need for reform in the budgetary arrangements of the Community.