HC Deb 18 July 2000 vol 354 cc213-4
11. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

If he will make a statement on the agenda for the current IGC as it relates to enlargement. [129550]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

The central purpose of the intergovernmental conference is to prepare the European Union for enlarged membership. The applicant countries will measure Europe's commitment to enlargement by our resolve to complete these reforms on schedule. Britain's positive role in the IGC reflects the Government's position that Britain must be the champion of enlargement.

Mr. Luff

Notwithstanding the Foreign Secretary's platitudes, does he agree with recent authoritative estimates that enlargement could cost the EU budget £24 billion because of a failure to achieve fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy? Does the Foreign Secretary regret his Prime Minister's failure to secure such reforms at Berlin last year?

Mr. Cook

At Berlin we secured reform of the structural funds and the common agricultural policy, which has provided—[Interruption.] We did indeed. Every household in Britain will see its bill decrease by £64 as a result. We created room in the budget to afford enlargement in the current financial perspective until the year 2006.

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends cannot pose as supporters of enlargement if they constantly harp on the cost of enlargement. There will be benefits. For Britain, those benefits could result in almost an additional £2 billion-worth of trade. We will benefit from that as an existing member; it is not just the new applicants that will benefit.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Is there not a paradox in that many of the new applicants are newly emerging democracies? If they are accepted, they will be joining an organisation that is bureaucratic and centralised and will be giving up some of the democracy that has just been established? Should not the European Union enhance its democracy and help them to share in its operation?

Mr. Cook

Whether those countries should join is a decision for their own democracies. I do not know any of those Governments who are not enthusiastic about joining the European Union. I agree with my hon. Friend that we must make the European Union more transparent, democratic and accountable and that is precisely why we are pressing at the IGC for reform of the Commission and the Council of Ministers, and for votes that will fairly reflect the size of population in the larger countries such as Britain.

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