HC Deb 10 January 1996 vol 269 cc195-6
9. Sir David Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet his counterparts in the European Union to discuss greater political union. [6846]

Mr. David Davis

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has had regular discussions with his European Union counterparts on a wide range of issues of common interest.

Sir David Knox

Does my hon. Friend agree that Britain can exert much more influence in the world and so protect British interests much better if we act in conjunction with our European Union partners, rather than try to go it alone?

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend will be unsurprised to hear that I agree with him. This summer and autumn, a large number of newspaper headlines, referring to my work on the reflection group, said that Britain was isolated on this, that or the other, but when those same journalists approached reflection group members and said, "Did you not find Britain obstructionist?" the response was, "No. Britain was extremely constructive in its approach." That is yielding dividends in a variety of areas, which I shall come to later.

Mr. McAvoy

The Minister has been disingenuous in his response to the point about the Secretary of State for Defence's statements. Bearing in mind the comments made by the main questioner, does not the Minister accept that such divisions within this country's governing party damage this country's interests when he represents it in Europe?

Mr. Davis

Our European allies understand only too well the British Government's position, but, if anyone is being disingenuous, it is the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he should have been here just before Christmas to watch the interesting sight of the Labour Front-Bench team putting one policy and everyone else on the Labour Benches putting another. They cannot talk to us about division in our party.

Mr. Dykes

As the Minister has a new year's resolution to be enthusiastic about our European Union membership, will he say in detailed aspects how that enthusiasm will be expressed in the coming months?

Mr. Davis

I am tempted to say, "In the Division Lobby," but I shall not. One of the ways in which that enthusiasm is manifesting itself is in promoting our view of what is best for the European Union. That involves a Europe that is decentralised, has a high competitiveness level, is deregulated and respects nation states' rights. All those matters are good not just for Britain, but for Europe.

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