HC Deb 12 May 1993 vol 224 cc796-7
11. Mr. Spring

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Swedish Foreign Minister to discuss Sweden's future relationship with the EC.

Mr. Hurd

I met Mrs. Af Uglass on 26 April in Stockholm and the Prime Minister, Mr. Bildt, the following day. I confirmed our strong support for a successful conclusion to Sweden's negotiations now going on to join the Community.

Mr. Spring

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that it is very much in Britain's interest that the membership of the European Community is enlarged and open to countries that are suitable for membership? Does he agree that the accession of Sweden, a country with which we have many links, will strengthen the EC's economic base and open up further opportunities to Britain in an expanding single market'?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, indeed. We look forward warmly to the day when Sweden joins the Community. We want the negotiations with the four applicants—Sweden, Finland, Austria and Norway—to press ahead as soon as possible so that, preferably, they go through all the processes and become full members by 1995.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that before any question of accession by Sweden to the EC, there is the matter of the European Economic Area, and a 550-page treaty, which is now under discussion? Since the Swiss have decided not to go ahead on that for the time being, can the Foreign Secretary tell us about the position of Sweden? Is it not a fact that accession to this treaty would mean considerable economic, commercial and legal obligations for Sweden? Have they been fully understood in Sweden, and would it have to have a referendum before acceding?

Mr. Hurd

The arrangements that have been made between the European Free Trade Area countries since the result of the Swiss referendum on the EEA are freely entered into by Sweden and fully understood by it. So the process of EEA is going forward and, at the same time, negotiations are making progress between Sweden and the European Community on its full accession.

Mr. Fabricant

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that the rapid accession of Sweden and the other EFTA countries to the EC would result in a far more pragmatic and financially advantageous view of the expenditure within the EC?

Mr. Hurd

I think that they would all be net contributors, if that is what my hon. Friend is hinting at. There are wider and more political reasons why we in this country—and, I believe, most of the Community now —would warmly welcome the arrival as full members of the Community of those four countries. They are all well qualified and they would all, as far as we are concerned, be warmly welcomed.