§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Derek Twigg.]5.48 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)
The Danish presidency will host the European Council in Copenhagen tomorrow. It is due to run on to Friday, but I have already warned my colleagues that it could be a five-shirt summit. Today the House has its customary opportunity to debate the Government's priorities for this summit.
I hope that the EU leaders will agree at Copenhagen to issue a formal invitation to the 10 most advanced candidate countries to join the union in 2004. These are: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Their accession has been a long-standing aim of the Government's foreign policy. Three years ago my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was the first EU leader to call for this the largest expansion in the union's history, for the negotiations to be completed by the end of this year and for the accession to take place formally by 2004.
Much of the summit will be taken up with complex negotiations relating to the financial arrangements in an expanded union. Understandably, all member states and the candidate countries are looking for the most favourable terms. But I am confident that each country will keep an eye on the main prize—the unification of Europe and their place within it. The alternative—a failure of nerve to take the tough decisions necessary for enlargement—would be unforgivable. We would not just be denying future generations access to the economic benefits created by the world's largest trading bloc, but creating the conditions for future instability and even conflict in Europe.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the current round of EU enlargement. I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who said that we will see few more significant events in our lifetimes. For what we are contemplating is nothing less than a new Europe—a unified political and economic entity that is larger than the United States of America and Japan combined. For the peoples of the countries that we hope will come into Europe, accession will mark the end of an epic journey. For almost 50 years, Malta and Cyprus apart, they were subjugated by a system whose raison d'être was to crush the human spirit and frustrate the natural human aspirations of freedom and prosperity.
The fall of the Berlin wall not only demonstrated the bankruptcy of the Soviet approach, but showed that an all-encompassing ideology and authoritarian state control were no match for the determination of millions of Europeans to rejoin a community of values that has inspired the world since the enlightenment. The fall of the iron curtain acted as a catalyst for an initial burst of wealth creation in many parts of the continent, but the gruelling process of political and economic reform has also created some disillusionment, especially among those who expected instant transition to western levels of prosperity. Nevertheless, EU enlargement and membership enjoy high public support in all the accession countries, but there can be no further delay, and developments in recent months suggest that Europe 300 is taking that message to heart. Two months ago, the people of Ireland endorsed the Nice treaty, which is crucial to an efficient accession process. At the Brussels European Council meeting in October, EU leaders agreed the broad framework of a new budgetary settlement for the new, expanded Europe.
A Europe united by a common attachment to the ideals of good governance and based on democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law advances the causes of stability throughout the continent. It also acts as a bulwark against the forces of dictatorship, ethnic division and the atavistic national rivalries that have scarred the continent in the recent as well as the more distant past.
Many of us in the House are of the immediate postwar generation. For us, Europe was divided not only to the east by the iron curtain, but to the south, with dictatorships in Portugal, Spain and Greece. It was the European Union that helped to put those nations, each with its own troubled history, irreversibly on to the path of democracy and human rights. Today, the prospect of European Union accession is acting as a stimulus for reform in the group of 10 candidate countries, and in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. In the Balkans, the long-term prospect of European Union entry is driving economic and political reform. Democratic, market-oriented government based on the rule of law is becoming the norm in a region that still bears the scars of dictatorship and authoritarian rule.
§ Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
I am not personally opposed to enlargement, but would the Secretary of State care to comment on the views of the Secretary of State for Wales, who I believe is the Government spokesperson on enlargement? He said:Monetary union is … probably incompatible with enlargement."—[Official Report, 1 March 1995; Vol. 255, c. 1093.]
§ Mr. Straw
Before I could comment in more detail, I would, as the Speaker says when he tells us that he is putting the Queen's Speech in the Vote Office, need to send out for the full text in the interests of greater accuracy. Meanwhile, however, I refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 27 October 1997. [Interruption.] I know it almost by heart.
Enlargement is not just a matter of historical obligation. [Interruption.] I ask the Whip to bear in mind his obligation to his bank balance—we give him a cheque and he stays silent. [Interruption.] My Whip is always helpful and I am helpful to him.
Enlargement is also matter of enlightened national self-interest. Britain needs more partners if we are to tackle the problems that do not respect borders, such as illegal immigration, environmental degradation and cross-border crime. We need stronger links with our European trading partners if the single market is to realise its full potential. The impact of enlargement on Britain's economy is potentially enormous. Recent studies estimate that it could increase national GDP for the UK by £1.75 billion a year and create up to 300,000 jobs throughout the European Union.
§ Angus Robertson (Moray)
As a strong supporter of the European Union and enlargement, I am finding it very difficult to explain to my constituents and people throughout the rest of Scotland who are facing the prospect of massive closure in one of our most important industries why the fishing crisis is not on the agenda of the Copenhagen summit. The Foreign Secretary may not be aware of this point, but I have with me a letter from the Danish Prime Minister saying that the Prestige disaster is to be discussed at the meeting. That is important for the people of Spain, but the fishing crisis is a man-made disaster and why are the UK Government not pressing for it to be on the summit agenda?
§ Mr. Straw
Of course, we understand the great concern of fishermen in fishing communities throughout the United Kingdom and not least in Scotland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who speaks on fishing matters and is one of Europe's great experts in that regard, are extremely concerned to secure a fair deal that respects the needs of fishermen in the United Kingdom and, above all, ensures their long-term livelihood by further conserving fish stocks.
Fishing is not on the agenda of the European Council because it is on that of the Fisheries Council, which meets next week. That is a better forum in which the United Kingdom can settle the matter, as it can be dealt with there by qualified majority voting. The Prestige is a new issue that relates to new policy and we discussed it in the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which I attended on Monday and Tuesday. We are supporting the proposals being made by the Spanish Government about accelerating the phasing out of the single-hulled oil tankers that have caused such devastation to the northern coast of Spain and the south-west coast of France and could cause devastation here.
Alongside the enlargement process, the Convention on the Future of Europe is holding its deliberations. A key issue in the Convention is how Europe should operate and what its guiding political principles should be. Enlargement supports Britain's approach in that respect, as the 10 new member states share Britain's vision of the Union's future: a Europe of sovereign nations proud of their distinct identities, but cooperating together for the mutual good.
§ Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
My right hon. Friend mentioned the candidate countries and the Convention on the Future of Europe. One of the issues that greatly exercises the candidate countries is what role they will play when the Convention draws its conclusions, after which there will be an intergovernmental conference. They wonder what the term "playing a full role" will mean. If that issue is discussed, what view will he take?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
Order. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is looking for equal behaviour from the Whips of both Front Benches.
§ Mr. Straw
Of course he is not; he does not deserve it. At least sedentary interventions from Labour Whips are of the quality that one would expect for the money that they receive.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) asked me a question. I hope that an unpaid Whip will not interrupt me again. I cannot give my hon. Friend a comprehensive reply because the matter has not yet been decided in the EU. We discussed it yesterday in the General Affairs and External Relations Council when we considered whether the IGC should take place in 2003 or 2004. We took account of the conclusions of Nice and Laeken that the accession countries should be involved. Indeed, they must be involved, because their future as much as that of existing members will be at stake.
From any perspective, the case for enlargement is overwhelming, but the process is not without pitfalls. In particular, there is a risk that the accession of the 10 will simply establish a new economic dividing line across the continent. Some stark figures underline that. The new 10 will add 23 per cent. to the landmass of the European Union, 20 per cent. to its population but only 4 per cent. to its GDP.
At Copenhagen, EU leaders will have an opportunity to deal with some of those anxieties. Our objective will be advancing the candidatures of Bulgaria and Romania. Both countries have some way to go towards satisfying the criteria for membership but the Union should acknowledge the political and economic reforms that both countries have adopted in the past 12 years. We expect the Copenhagen summit to reiterate strongly the Union's support for both countries' objective of accession by 2007. We agreed to that at the previous summit in Brussels at the end of October.
I want to consider Turkey's application for membership. Britain has long championed Turkey's membership of the EU. Last week, I echoed the call of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for a "firm date" to be set for negotiations with the Turkish Government. I reinforced that commitment during a visit to Ankara last week. It was my third visit to Turkey as Foreign Secretary.
Turkish membership of the EU is a matter of obligation to previous EU decisions and our history. Turkey must be treated the same as any other candidate country. Three years ago, at the Helsinki summit, all Heads of State and Government said:Turkey is a candidate state destined to join the Union on the basis of the same criteria as applied to other candidate states.
Since then, Turkey has made significant progress against the so-called Copenhagen criteria for EU membership. Improvements have occurred in its 303 approach to human rights and the application of the rule of law. For example, it has abolished the death penalty. It also supports a market economy. If the principal definition of a functioning democracy is that it allows peaceful change of Government, Turkey more than passes the test. We have a large stake in the success of the new Government's national vision as a model, democratic, Muslim country that is coping with the challenges of globalisation in a way that marks it out for EU membership.
That befits a country that has long been linked with the United Kingdom by the bonds of military alliance, and already plays a key role in other European institutions and on the world stage. That role includes peacekeeping in Afghanistan and the Balkans, hosting Operation Northern Watch over Iraq and being a crucial ally in our battle against drugs and people smugglers, and in the war against terrorism.
Irrespective of the Union's outstanding obligations, Turkish membership should be a major strategic goal. Europe needs a western-looking Turkey—a secular Muslim nation joining us in the family of European democracies. That is a goal for which it is worth striving in any circumstances, but especially now.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Was anything said about the provision of air force bases in Turkey in relation to Iraq, which my right hon. Friend mentioned?
§ Mr. Straw
I am sorry, but I did not quite hear the question, which my hon. Friend may want to repeat. However, as he knows, there is a major Turkish air force base in Incilik. Both United States and United Kingdom forces use it by agreement, which is renewed at least twice a year, with the Turkish Government.
§ Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments about Turkey, which is making a strong case for getting a date for accession at Copenhagen. However, one of the Helsinki criteria was progress on Cyprus. In the light of the Annan plan, which was published a couple of weeks ago, does my right hon. Friend accept that the case for Turkey would be greatly strengthened if agreement on a settlement in Cyprus was reached? Does he also agree that to achieve that, Turkey must put pressure on Mr. Denktash to come to the negotiating table and do a deal with Mr. Klerides?
§ Mr. Straw
I was about to consider Cyprus. Although the issue is obviously linked to Turkey, it is a separate matter. The key parties to a resolution of the Cyprus conflict are separate from the Governments of Greece or Turkey.
I say to those who question Turkey's right to a European future that it has been a loyal European ally in NATO for half a century, making a vital contribution 304 to the defence of the continent throughout the cold war. Turkey therefore deserves a great share of the credit for bringing down the iron curtain and making possible EU enlargement to the east.
The overwhelming majority of Turkey's peoples are Muslim. It has political parties that celebrate that, just as western Europe has equivalent Christian parties, but it is a secular state and accepts our concept of liberal democratic values. Its accession would be hugely important to the stability of not only Europe but the entire world. The fitting response from the Union at Copenhagen would be a positive welcome for a firm date for the beginning of accession negotiations, subject to the Copenhagen criteria. The Turkish Government accept that.
Let us consider Cyprus. Our objective is that a date for Turkey's accession should be agreed at Copenhagen as part of a package. The other elements will be ironing out some of the outstanding difficulties on European defence and finding a solution that allows the EU to admit a reunited Cyprus.
The Helsinki criteria made it clear that, if necessary, the EU should be ready to admit a divided Cyprus—that is, a Greek Cyprus—if a comprehensive agreement for a unified Cyprus could not be reached. We were party to that agreement and we stand by it. However, everybody agreed that it would be far preferable to have a united Cyprus joining the EU. The point was reiterated in the General Affairs and External Relations Council a few weeks ago. If that does not happen, the EU will have to deal with the issues that underlie the conflict.
The Cyprus problem has existed for too long. For the past half century, relations between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey have been characterised by tensions and strife. We have a great chance to change that, cement the process of rapprochement between Greece and Turkey that began in 1999, and, as envisaged by the United Nations Secretary-General, welcome a new Cyprus to the EU.
On 11 November, Kofi Annan published a comprehensive settlement proposal for Cyprus to end the years of separation on the island. It is both balanced and fair, and it has our strong support. Too many openings have been missed in the past. The parties should not allow the current opportunity to slip by, whatever the difficulties. I therefore warmly welcome the Secretary-General's efforts.
A range of other issues will be discussed at Copenhagen. They include the middle east and Iraq.
§ Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)
I apologise to my right hon. Friend for waiting until he had completed his remarks on Cyprus before intervening. To take up the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), there is some anxiety that Turkey will delay a solution to the island's problems until it is ready to accede to the EU. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is aware of those anxieties. He commented extensively on Turkey's progress on other matters that concerned the EU; will he say whether Turkey has given him any reassurances on ending the division in Cyprus?
§ Mr. Straw
The best thing that I can do is to praise the constructive efforts that, to my certain knowledge, are being made in respect of Cyprus by both the Greek and 305 Turkish Governments. In the past few years, there has been a sea change in relations between Greece and Turkey—a dramatic change, for those who know the causes of the conflict. These days, it is the Government of Greece who are in the vanguard, pushing for an early and a firm date for Turkey's accession to the European Union. Of course there are some deep historical divisions that must be resolved, and both sides must take account of their own public opinions. However, in respect of Turkey's accession and of seeking unity on the divided island of Cyprus, both the Greek Government and the new Turkish Government have shown considerable statesmanship. I hope—I cannot be certain because it is fraught with difficulties—that that will pay off. I hope, too, that the diaspora communities of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in this country will recognise the huge importance for their relatives and friends in that divided island of ending the very longstanding conflict.
The three-monthly meetings of the European Council are the most important events in the EU calendar. The accession of 10 new members, which we hope will be agreed, will represent a profound change for the European Union; so will further work on Romania and Bulgaria. As I have already made clear, we want the Copenhagen Council to chart the course of Turkey's future accession to the European Union. Above all, reuniting Europe will be the greatest achievement of the current European generation. I hope that a further chapter in making Europe one continent will be opened at Copenhagen this weekend.
§ Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)
Walking home on Monday night, I bumped into a senior Labour politician—a keen European. I remarked how cold it was and he looked at me and said, "European weather." I decided that I had heard it all: an instinctive integrationism whereby even the weather is now European—despite the fact that the current weather may be known to northern Europe but is hardly known to the Mediterranean. There is no European weather any more than there is European foreign policy or European defence policy. Europe cannot be forced into conformity, yet that is precisely what the Government, often by stealth and very gradually, seek to do.
I listened to the Foreign Secretary's speech with some interest and, I have to say, with some enjoyment. I noticed that, unlike the Secretary of State for Wales, who has decided that the title of a lecture that I gave last year, "A partnership of sovereign nations", is now Labour policy, we heard very little from the Foreign Secretary about the partnership of nation states. The Foreign Secretary's Government and his party are instinctive integrationists. He made that clear tonight when he referred to the Europe that he was looking for as a "unified political and economic Europe". That may be his view, but I am glad that he stated it tonight, because I believe that that is the Government's position, rather than that set out by the Secretary of State for Wales.
We see that that is so from the Government's actions and words. They signed, to this country's cost, the social chapter. At Nice, they gave away the veto on 31 articles, and now they have only five areas in which they wish to keep the veto. We saw the Prime Minister's instinctive 306 integrationism when he spoke in Cardiff of a unified European foreign policy, of "communitising"—a terrible word, but it was in his speech—most of the justice and home affairs pillar; of a Europe without a fixed limit; and, in his words, of establishing Europe asa superpower, if not a superstate".
Despite what they say, the Government seek political unity, perhaps not as fiercely as Romano Prodi, but just as doggedly. After Cardiff and last week's debate on the Convention, the extent and nature of the changes in the EU that the Government seek are now becoming clear. We have also had Mr. Giscard d'Estaing's draft treaty and Mr. Prodi's proposals. Any new treaty is likely to represent a step change in the EU's structure, and I doubt whether anybody in the Chamber would deny that.
§ Mr. Ancram
I shall give way in a moment.
The new structure will be more centralist and less democratic, and will mean a further loss of sovereignty from nation states. All those changes will last long beyond the life of this Government. I believe that this is a constitutional change so great that the assent of the British people must be sought, and that if it is sought it will not be given.
I therefore call on the Government to assure the House and the country tonight that there will be a referendum on the draft treaty produced by the Convention. If the Government believe in democracy, the new treaty—either in draft or in actuality—should be put before the country before the forthcoming intergovernmental conference or, at the very least, before ratification.
§ Angus Robertson
Let me say at the outset that I would be the last person to defend the Government's policy, but would the right hon. Gentleman accuse the acceding countries of central and eastern Europe—for example, Lithuania, which has fought so long for its independence—of selling out to Brussels and getting rid of their independence when they become full members of the EU?
§ Mr. Ancram
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was here for last week's debate; otherwise, he would have heard me say that many of the accession countries have complained to me about what Brussels has demanded of them in the negotiations. They have told me that they did not get themselves out from under the centralised bureaucracy of the Soviet Union merely to find themselves under another form of centralisation.
§ Mr. Ancram
What I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] This is very important. We said before the last election that a major transfer of sovereignty of the sort that we 307 understand is likely under this treaty and a move away from intergovernmentalism should require the assent of the British people.
§ Mr. Ancram
Will the right hon. Gentleman give me time to respond?
If the treaty is to be ratified before the next election, a referendum should be held, and I ask the Foreign Secretary to assure the House that one will be.
§ Mr. Ancram
The Secretary of State might remember that I was out of the House at the time of the treaty.
§ Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)
How convenient to be out of the House at the time.
Is it still Conservative policy to hold a referendum on the Nice treaty? If so, would it be held before or after the referendum that the right hon. Gentleman proposes on the Convention? It certainly was the policy when he spoke for the Opposition on these matters.
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. Gentleman will remember that we called for a referendum on Amsterdam. He asks me about Nice, but Nice has been acceded to. I am talking about a treaty that has not yet been signed or agreed—a treaty that will make a major transfer of sovereignty from the nation states to the centralised institutions of Europe. In those circumstances, there should be a referendum before any decision is taken.
§ Mr. Straw
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wants to correct the record. My memory could be playing tricks on me, but my recollection is that the Maastricht vote took place after the 1992 election. "Dod's Parliamentary Companion" shows that the right hon. Gentleman was in the House and that he was an Under-Secretary and a Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office between 1994 and 1997. Thus, he was in the House. He knows the answer and there is no point in his being coy. He talks about frankness with the British public. Will he answer yes or no to my question about whether he voted against the Maastricht referendum?
§ Mr. Ancram
I voted for the Maastricht Bill, because I was here then, but I do not recall a vote on a referendum. If there was—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)
Order. Regardless of those circumstances, I have to say that that is a point for debate, not a point of order.
§ Mr. Ancram
To avoid getting into the more intimate details of the honeymoon of the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), I will check the record; if I did vote as has been suggested, I will certainly come to the House and admit that I was wrong. If I did so, may I say that, in the light of what is happening now, I regret that we were unable to seek the assent of the British people? I think it right that we should do so—
§ Mr. Ancram
I am going to move on now, because I am conscious of the time.
This is a particularly opportune time for the House to debate European affairs more generally than was possible in last week's debate. It is good to see the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) in her seat once again, as it is to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory). They represent us on the Convention and were able to enlighten us in last week's debate on the direction in which Europe is moving.
§ Mr. Ancram
My concern is that the sovereignty of this country should not be sold out without the consent of the British people. If the constitution likely to emerge from the Convention were to propose such a sell-out—last week's debate suggested that it will—the House should not ratify it without the democratic consent of the British people. That is a very simple principle—and, I believe, a correct one—that will be supported by many people in this country.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am going to move on, now. I have made our position on a referendum clear, and that is the position from which we will move forward.
The European Council meeting at Copenhagen will be of particular importance, as the Foreign Secretary said. We hope that four matters will be successfully taken forward from it. We look forward to the conclusion of negotiations on enlargement; we hope to hear something about reforming the common agricultural policy, whether or not the issue is formally on the agenda; we expect progress to be made on Turkey's path to EU membership; and we look forward to an acceptable resolution of the problems in Cyprus.
309 We support Turkey's membership of the European Union, but it raises an old question: what is Europe, and where does it end? The time has come for a wide debate, both in this country and across Europe. At the moment, we are talking about Turkey, but in the future we may also be talking about Ukraine or Belarus. We need to explore where we envisage the European Union ending and what we believe constitutes Europe. I believe that Turkey belongs in Europe. Its geography may be ambiguous, but its values are becoming increasingly democratic. Its membership will allow the European Union to show the Muslim world that it does not reject it as alien, that democracy and Islam are compatible, and that a country can be both European and Muslim. The Foreign Secretary was also suggesting that, and I believe that this would be a useful gain.
Britain and its partners in the European Union would do well to set a date at Copenhagen for the commencement of negotiations on Turkey's membership of the EU. It is important to welcome Turkey into the EU because it will help to underpin a stable settlement in Cyprus. Kofi Annan's proposals form a sound basis for a settlement that is fair to both communities, and I am pleased that the new Turkish Government's response has been encouraging, although the response of the Turkish Cypriot Government has been less so.
The island's division is one of Europe's unhealed wounds, and the impetus of EU enlargement and the United Nations plan give us the best chance in a generation to heal it. Having been involved in attempts at conciliation in the past, however, I would say to the Foreign Secretary that, in reaching an agreement, it will be important not to leave behind too many unresolved problems that could surface later to undermine a settlement. I hope that the Foreign Secretary would agree that progress on Cyprus could be faster if the Turkish Government were given to understand that Turkey would progress faster to EU membership if the Cyprus problem were solved. It would be a tragedy if this unique opportunity to unite the island were missed.
Last month also saw the expansion of NATO. It is a great tribute to the harmonious relations that exist between the United States, western Europe and Russia that we have been able to welcome Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria into the north Atlantic alliance. That showed that making Russia a cooperative ally—as we have done over the last few months—in both EU and NATO enlargement has been helpful. The Berlin wall was not torn down only for another wall to be set up further east. At the same time, however, we must understand the difficult relationship that some of Russia's neighbours have, and may continue to have, with her.
That is why it is vital that we get right the solution to the problem of Kaliningrad. The only way to guarantee that it will not become a permanent source of tension is to reach a fair settlement in which neither Russia nor Lithuania feels that its sovereignty has been compromised. Much progress has been made on this issue, but I hope that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, as relatively disinterested parties, will do their best in Copenhagen to ensure that a lasting settlement is achieved.
310 The 10 countries due to join the EU in 2004 are looking, above all, for two things from EU membership—prosperity and stability—but they will get them only in a European Union that is working to achieve them. The Lisbon process set out fine objectives, but in too many ways the EU has failed to deliver. The liberalisation of the energy market has been delayed, a single market in financial services is bogged down, and very little progress has been made in cutting youth unemployment. With the eurozone's main economy, Germany, in danger of recession, there must be more determination to move forward on the economic agenda. More red tape on business and more social directives only keep European economies stagnant. The deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry told the Financial Times that, since Lisbon,we have seen a raft of inappropriate measures that have damaged British business and the reputation of the EU".It is telling that, of the CBI's 10 most unpopular regulations, seven are EU directives. We must address that problem. In conversations that I have had with people around Europe, I have found that many who may fundamentally disagree with me about the future shape of Europe are as concerned as I am about the nature of some of the directives that are being issued.
A good example is the atypical workers directive, and the CBI has predicted that it may cost 160,000 British jobs alone. The directive is a fine example of how we have failed to fight our corner successfully in Europe, and have let down our partners by failing to win the arguments on economic liberalisation. The directive is a classic piece of Brussels bureaucracy and Labour MEPs supported it against the Government's wishes, so far as we can discern those wishes. The Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions went to Strasbourg to plead with the European Parliament's Social Affairs Committee to support the amendments that our MEPs had proposed. His own MEPs avoided him like the plague and not only went on to vote against his wishes but led the whole Party of European Socialists to do the same. The British representation in Brussels even refused to advise British MEPs how to vote. It was a complete shambles. I have to say that, rather typically, the Liberal Democrats were, as we might expect, split. Our MEPs voted to protect British jobs. There is still a chance to correct the directive, and I hope that the Government and their allies in the European Union will take the opportunity to do so.
§ Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston)
It is seems strange, to say the least, that the right hon. Gentleman should complain about the non-completion of the single market in financial services when his own Conservative Government blocked many of the directives, more than five years ago, and when the City and the CBI are against many of the directives coming from Europe.
§ Mr. Ancram
We supported the outcome of the Lisbon summit and the Lisbon principles, and our MEPs have been pressing hard in the European Parliament for their implementation ever since.
Everyone wants enlargement to be a success. Most previous enlargements have been successful—we need only look at the economies of Spain and Portugal and compare them with how they were 20 years ago to see that. Many people have rightly pointed out that the 311 number of these countries' nationals working in other European countries dropped after enlargement. That is an encouraging example, but there is also the warning of east Germany. The old East Germany has struggled since it united with West Germany and thus acceded to the EU, and its population has fallen. Among the reasons for it struggling is the weight of social regulation and rigid employment practices to which it has been subjected. Enlargement will succeed only if the EU moves to become less rigid and if it encourages flexible employment practices. More directives such as that on temporary workers to which I referred do nothing to help either the existing or the new members to build wealth and jobs.
In particular, I want to ask the Foreign Secretary about an announcement that he made yesterday on the free movement of workers. Why does he think it suitable for Britain not to have the transitional arrangements with the enlargement countries? Germany has secured the full seven-year transitional arrangements and every other major European economy has such arrangements in place. Why have we, in what is an overcrowded island, decided not to give those arrangements effect?
The Foreign Secretary has mentioned independent studies that justify the Government's position. [Interruption.] I hope that we find an opportunity during the debate to hear from the Minister for Europe, who spends more time talking from a sedentary position than from the Dispatch Box, some explanation of the Government's position.
Europe is also tied down by the failure to reform the common agricultural policy. There was a lot to be said for the CAP 40 years ago; now there is little. It has become to the EU what the Old Man of the Sea was to Sinbad—a parasitical burden that cannot be removed. The financial demands that enlargement has placed on the EU make the CAP unsustainable its current form, yet the Government have—
§ Mr. Ancram
I think that I gave way on that point last week, but if this is a different one I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman. I suspect that it is the same.
§ Mr. Bryant
The right hon. Gentleman is preaching to the converted in this Chamber. Is not the point on the CAP that he needs to persuade his colleagues in the Christian Democrat parties, if the Conservatives are still part of the Christian Democrat group in Europe, if we are to win on the issue?
§ Mr. Ancram
I am amazed by such an intervention from a Member representing a party that is in government and which claims that it is at the heart of Europe and that it will influence how Europe moves forward. Now I am being told that the future of CAP reform depends on my conversations with the German CDU. We are looking to the Government to produce answers. In Brussels the other day, France and Germany put together a scheme behind the backs of the British, but when the Prime Minister visited the House the 312 following week he told us that he welcomed that scheme. We have heard since that the Government are doing their best to try to unravel it because it is so damaging. It is for the Government to show that they can go to summits and get active reform in place on matters such as the CAP before they begin to undermine the enlargement process.
§ Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that there is such a thing as a mid-term review of the CAP, which has been strongly argued for by the Government and is still very much on the table and the subject of debate?
§ Mr. Ancram
We know that the money has been set until 2013. That is what the agreement is about and that is what has been delivered from Brussels. We know also that, whatever happens, it will be difficult for each of the 25 states to receive the same money that currently goes to each of the 15 without enormous tensions and enormous rows in the enlarged EU. That is the reality, but it is what the Government have allowed to occur. We look to them to begin to unravel it before it begins to damage enlargement.
The offer made to candidate countries is seen by them as unsatisfactory. If it is implemented, their electorates will naturally ask why they should pay the club's full dues but receive only part of the benefit. The Brussels offer endangers successful and sustainable enlargement. The opinion polls in Poland are worrying. Many politicians in the accession countries are naturally concerned that their electorates will reject EU membership unless a better deal is offered.
§ Mr. Ancram
I have given way a lot, so I shall make progress.
Why, therefore, have the Government apparently failed to support the Danish compromise package that has been put forward for the summit? What will be their position on the Danish package at the Copenhagen European Council? We heard nothing on that from the Foreign Secretary. Will the Minister at least support the Danish proposal to allow candidate countries some flexibility and allow them to top up direct payments? Far too much of the process of enlargement has been characterised by an attitude that treats the candidate countries as supplicants rather than applicants. Rigidity now may mean catastrophe later, and enlargement without Poland would be a huge blow to the enlarged EU's credibility.
In Portugal, we can see the effect of another side of the EU's rigidity. Yesterday, 1 million workers went on strike to protest against spending cuts imposed by the Commission. It was therefore heartening to see the Portuguese Prime Minister embodying the virtue of hope by telling us that we should copy them and that we would be better off in the euro. I look forward to further such lessons from him. Experience may point to a very different conclusion, however. Of course, we must sympathise with the Portuguese Prime Minister. If he had not inherited finances destroyed by the outgoing left-wing Government's profligacy, he would not be in such trouble.
313 By design or default, the Government are leading this country into ever tighter integration. Two years ago, the Prime Minister said in Warsaw that the EU did not need a written constitution; two weeks ago, he said that it did. We were told that the charter of fundamental rights would have no more legal weight than the Beano. Now we hear that its incorporation is acceptable, provided that there are certain horizontal guarantees. Before Nice, the Government had a limited list of areas in which they wanted the national veto abolished. Now the Prime Minister tells us that it should be abolished practically wholesale.
The Government's thinking on Europe's future structure is once again muddled. The Prime Minister has called for a "unified European foreign policy", but the experience of the past 18 months must show him how impossible that is to achieve. He will remember last year's Council of Ministers in Ghent and the communique that, in effect, had to say nothing because the countries represented there could not reach any agreement on their reaction to 11 September. For the past few months, we have seen the differing views among the British, French and German Governments as to how to deal with the threat of Iraq.
A unified foreign policy, in the end, would be either the lowest common denominator or it would try to impose on member states foreign policies that they were not prepared to accept. Nor is the Prime Minister's proposal for a unified foreign policy backed up by the means to enforce it. Some reinforcement of the high representative's powers will not achieve that. Once again, the Prime Minister is willing the end without willing the means.
On the other hand, if the EU works as a partnership of sovereign nation states, it will be able to accomplish the promotion of peace, prosperity and stability that are its proper goals. The single market needs completion, and we can look to the EU to help to maintain environmental standards in eastern Europe.
Last week, we debated the EU's structures in the context of the Convention, and I set out our views on reform of the Council and the Commission, restoring greater accountability and the role of national Parliaments, but there was a wider issue in that debate that has not been touched on today and which I believe must also be central to the Copenhagen summit: the need for Europe to re-engage with its peoples. It can do that only if it reforms and decentralises. It does not need to increase its central powers. It must have the courage to trust its peoples and to involve the national Parliaments.
As I have said before, the proposals made by the Convention's subsidiarity working group do not go far enough. National Parliaments must be able to enforce subsidiarity and proportionality. An early-warning system is not enough. We need a sense of finality—an end to what has become known as the ratchet effect. Only the elites of Brussels want ever closer union.
In summary, I believe that the EU can be made to work better. In the 21st century, it still has a vital role to play in building prosperity across Europe. We have the opportunity to enable it to do that and to build the true partnerships of sovereign nations that we wish to see. We in this country should have a vision of a Europe for the 21st century—firm in its cohesiveness, agile in its 314 international operations and taking pride in its diversity. Such a Europe could take on the challenges that face us while leaving intact the national aspirations that will be essential if it is not to collapse under the weight of its own centralisation. That is not the Government's vision, but it is ours. I believe that it is the vision that the British people support.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
I remind hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 15-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.
§ Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)
I am delighted with the opportunity to speak when we are on the threshold of the important summit that will take place in the next few days. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on what he has said recently about freedom of movement for new applicant countries, and I am convinced that when Ministers, including the Prime Minister, go to Copenhagen they will do what they have always done under this Government and present a strong, dynamic case for Britain's full engagement in the European Union. I wish them well.
Let me also add my congratulations to those extended by other Members over the last few weeks to my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), the Minister for Europe. When we worked in the Foreign Office together, I told him that he would be Minister for Europe one day, and now he is. I can think of no one better qualified, and I wish him well, specifically on the occasion of his first European summit.
The House is united in our wish to see an enlarged Europe. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) tried hard to sound radical and Eurosceptic, but it did not really come through: we know that, deep down in his heart, he supports most of what the Government are doing. He supports the fact that when British Ministers go to Europe they bat for Europe—they want to ensure that we get the best deal in Europe. And that is precisely what we have done in respect of all the other agenda items.
That is precisely what we have done on enlargement, for instance. Our country, and our Prime Minister, championed enlargement. We rightly suggested that it was essential for an enlarged Europe not just to benefit the European Union, creating the largest single market in the world, but to unite an historically divided EU. My visits to applicant countries give me the impression that that mood—enthusiasm about joining a European Union that is, in a real sense, led by the United Kingdom—has not diminished. Of course the results of opinion polls have changed in some of those countries when I was in Poland a year ago, there was concern about the need to maintain enthusiasm there—but I think that when it comes to a referendum the Polish people, like those in all the other applicant countries, will prove strongly in favour of EU membership.
The reason for the waning of support was the fact that the negotiations were taking so long. I welcome what has happened under the last two presidencies. There has been a desire to move forward and to establish a date for entry-1 May 2004. Nevertheless, we should not gloss over the problems that will arise over the next few 315 months and years. We must help the applicant countries as much as we can. It is not just a question of providing extra resources; it is a question—a very important one, I think—of this Parliament's working with parliamentarians in each applicant country so that we can build bridges and links.
When the applicants join the EU, they will have to engage in a bewildering exercise. Some of us who have attended European summits have had to do the same, of course, because the EU has its own language and subculture. When 10 are added to the existing 15, it is necessary to look at a reform agenda. Enlargement is surely nothing without reform, and it must be right for our country, our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary to be in the lead in that regard.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe will tell us something of the progress that has been made on the famous Blair-Schröder letter sent earlier this year. As my hon. Friend will know, the Prime Minister of our country and the German Chancellor compiled a list of areas in which they wanted reform. During the last debate of this kind before the last European Council meeting, I asked the Foreign Secretary how many boxes had been ticked. I know that he was concentrating very much on the enlargement agenda, but it is important for us to look at those boxes. I do not object to a single one of the items presented by the leaders of Germany and the United Kingdom—I consider them all important—but we now need to benchmark them.
The right hon. Member for Devizes said that the Opposition supported the Government on Lisbon. I went to that summit, and I was here for the Prime Minister's statement. The right hon. Gentleman may say that there was support for what the Government had achieved, but not much support came from the then leader of the Opposition. We want real support for the reform agenda, not just soundbites from the right hon. Gentleman. Without genuine reform, we cannot make the progress that we need to make in engaging the British people.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that need to engage the British people, but this Government are engaging them everywhere. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe have attended meetings all over the country in an attempt to ensure that the people understand what is happening in the EU, and to defeat the nonsense that issues from the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and some of the tabloid newspapers, when they undermine everything that the Government are trying to do.
§ Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells)
The hon. Gentleman talks of public support. Does he now regret giving all sorts of assurances, when he was Minister for Europe, that the charter of fundamental rights would not be made legally binding? Less than two years later, the Government have signalled their assent to its being legally binding: I was attending a plenary session of the Convention when that U-turn took place. Is that how to secure public support—giving assurances that are abandoned shortly afterwards?
§ Keith Vaz
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, and as I have just been reminded by my hon. Friend the 316 Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart), that is not what the Government have said. They have made it clear, in the context of the charter, that we want no extension of the current laws. That is what the charter was about: it was intended to encapsulate the rights and responsibilities that currently exist. It was not about making new law, but about codifying what was already there. The right hon. Gentleman knows that very well.
§ Angus Robertson
The hon. Gentleman said that the Government were connected with the people on European issues. Can he perhaps imagine how connected the Government may be with people throughout the north and north-east of Scotland after this weekend, when a crucial move that may involve tens of thousands of job losses—the equivalent of more than 100,000 job losses in England—will go ahead because it will not have been discussed at the summit? It will not be discussed because the United Kingdom Government do not consider it to be of vital national interest.
§ Keith Vaz
I am certain that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Of course the Government consider such issues important, and of course they are connected with the people of Scotland. Along with other Ministers over the past five years, I spent an enormous amount of time in Scotland discussing those issues. The First Minister, moreover, is a member of the European team of my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, and attends meetings regularly to talk about such concerns.
Of course we must go on reminding people of Europe's importance. Rather than standing at the sidelines carping and attacking everything that the Government do, the right hon. Member for Devizes should do what any decent shadow Foreign Secretary would do when they are trying to fight for our agenda abroad, and support their intention.
§ Mr. Ancram
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, if the Government are trying to sell out our sovereignty, I should support them even though I fundamentally object to that?
§ Keith Vaz
That is precisely what I mean! What a load of rubbish. There is no question of this Government doing that. This Government support a British agenda in Europe, leading and fashioning the European debate in accordance with what we are trying to do. What an absurd suggestion that was from the shadow Foreign Secretary.
As I have said, the reform agenda is important, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe will tell us what progress has been made on the Blair-Schröder letter. Let me also express my concern about the ongoing debate on Turkey, and add that subject to the caveats of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), along with my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love)—that the Cyprus issue should be discussed and settled. We are not supposed to refer to those who watch our proceedings, but I know that the high commissioner for Cyprus is also aware of what is going on. Of course we have to deal with the Cyprus issue but it is vital that we have a date to begin negotiations for the entry of Turkey. I think that everyone accepts that that is a long way off but it is 317 important for the Turkish Government and the Turkish people to know that they will be fully included in a Europe of many nation states.
I hope that we will get out of Copenhagen a date for the start of those negotiations, because, as we all know from the recent negotiations and discussions with the 10 applicants, it takes a long time to move the process forward. Commissioner Verheugen may be very busy dealing with the 10 applicants, but it is necessary for the European Commission to appoint a senior official, perhaps one of the Commissioners, to look carefully at what Turkey wishes to do and to begin that negotiation process.
I hope that that will happen at the summit because the entry of Turkey is important to an inclusive Europe. We have heard far too often the view that because Turkey happens to be a majority Muslim country, Europe does not want Turkey to join. I was glad to hear what hon. Members on both sides of the House said about Turkey's inclusion in Europe. I hope that there will be more than good words—I hope that there will be good deeds. Let us get a date out of Copenhagen.
§ Keith Vaz
It is vital that Cyprus be allowed to join with the other applicant countries on 1 May 2004. The issue of Turkey also has to be addressed but that should not stop the enlargement of the European Union. It should not stop us accepting those 10 countries and enlarging with Cyprus, so I hope that that happens. I have two final points. One concerns the case of Catherine Meyer, which I raised with my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe when he spoke from the Front Bench in a different capacity. I understand that the Prime Minister has written to Chancellor Schröder about the Catherine Meyer case. I recently tabled a parliamentary question asking for details of the reply. That has not come forward yet. I know that the Minister knows Catherine Meyer, and is involved and interested in the case. It is important that we know what Chancellor Schröder has said.
It is unacceptable for the German Government and German courts to continue to act in the way in which they have. Catherine Meyer has not seen her sons for years and years. They are going to be 17 and 16. The whole of their childhood has disappeared. We are not talking about a country that does not subscribe to democratic values. We are talking about Germany, a close ally of our country. The judicial systems should be working together—not necessarily the same judicial systems. The court systems are independent but there should at least be some co-operation. There is no point in having a justice and home affairs summit meeting, and Home Office Ministers and Ministers from justice departments meeting when people are not prepared to talk to each other.
I want some progress to be made on the Catherine Meyer case. I urge the Minister, in the margins of the summit, when he meets the German Minister for Europe, and the Foreign Secretary when he meets 318 Joschka Fischer to talk about that case, because it is a blot on the relationship between Germany and the United Kingdom. I hope that we will have some news.
I end as I started by wishing the Minister and the Government well in the negotiations at Copenhagen. We always talk about things being historic but this is a historic conference. The summit will produce for us a new and united Europe, not a federal Europe but a Europe of nation states. The Poles no more want to have a federal Europe than do people in the United Kingdom. We want not a superstate, as the right hon. Member for Devizes says, but a Europe of nation states working together for the people of Europe and for the people of the individual countries.
§ Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
Last week in the Chamber, we spent a brief time concentrating on the future shape of Europe and its institutions. In this debate, properly, we have been focusing on this week's summit, where the European Union is poised to take a major step towards the historic reshaping of Europe. It is not simply the symbolic achievement of bringing eight former communist countries within the European Union but the sheer scale of the exercise. At one stroke, the union will admit more new members than in all the previous enlargements put together. As the airwaves and newspaper columns are filled this week with the haggles and disputes of last-minute negotiations, it is important that we do not lose sight of what is under way.
In the past half century of European integration, the world has changed significantly but the appeal of European Union membership has remained remarkably constant. The original six countries were brought together by common desires to end the uncertainties that had plunged Europe into war over many centuries, creating security by linking competing countries together. They sought to entrench democracy in the face of totalitarian disasters that had preceded the war in fascist Europe and arisen after it in communist Europe. They also sought to create prosperity by the creation of a common market for trade and economic development. Those themes of security, democracy and prosperity are as relevant to today's applicant countries as they were to the founding countries and many of those who have joined in the meantime.
After the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989, Lech Walesa talked of the creation of "a common European home", which in many ways is realised by this expansion of the EU. It is a development that the Liberal Democrats welcome wholeheartedly.
We must not presume that the anticipation of membership is universally positive within all the candidate countries. The latest evidence from the Eurobarometer polling indicates a high level of support, with 61 per cent. of populations in candidate countries believing that the European Union is "a good thing", but in particular countries it is obvious that the case has yet to be won. In the so-called Laeken 10, which have the prospect of imminent accession, there is still a majority who regard it as positive, but it is only 52 per cent. on the most recent poll. In individual countries, opinions ranged from 32 per cent. in Estonia to 67 per cent. in Hungary. Much of that wariness is due to the detail attached to the accession negotiations.
319 We should pay tribute to the candidate countries and latterly to the Danish presidency for the progress that has been made. When we debated the issue before the Seville summit, it looked a daunting task to get anywhere close to completion ahead of Copenhagen, but the last few days will be crucial to getting a set of agreements that can win favour in each of the applicant countries.
Attention will inevitably focus on some key areas. In particular, agriculture is a current cause of concern. The debate in Westminster Hall that I was unable to attend this morning focused on the fact that the common agricultural policy is a mess. It is costly, inefficient, and in its current form unsustainable. Farmers rightly want reform, although given the experience of previous attempts they are highly suspicious of the way in which it is being handled. Reform will undoubtedly be required but the mid-term review has been plunged into chaos and looks in danger of being fudged, and its credibility has been damaged.
The impact on the accession countries is of great concern to them. They have argued strongly about the proposals for phasing in the payments that they will be allowed to receive, not least because some of those will be back-loaded, whereas their contributions to the European Union will start almost immediately. The candidate countries are at best bemused and at worst hostile to contributing from the start to the British rebate and to French agriculture subsidies.
The crucial moment at the summit will probably relate to the island of Cyprus. The difficulty that we have there is obvious to all who have been following the debate, and Cyprus is the case in which we must be least presumptuous that accession will actually occur. Kofi Annan's November plan, updated this week, has offered real hope and a prospect of a solution to the problems experienced since the 1974 division of the island. Key players have made serious efforts to engage in the negotiations, although Mr. Denktash has made his reservations clear and there is much work still to be done. The news that the Turkish Cypriot leader must return to hospital is not good, and we must hope that he will make good progress, and that in his absence the talks in Copenhagen, too, will progress.
The Secretary-General wrote to the parties saying:Cyprus has a rendezous with history … it should not be missed".The summit is not the final word ahead of the accession treaties being signed, but with the expected presence of the United Nations Secretary-General we must hope that, notwithstanding the illness of Mr. Denktash, progress will be made.
In all this, Turkey will of course play a key role. It is inconceivable that a solution can be found without Turkey's support. Likewise, progress on Turkey's own desire to join the European Union in future is inextricably linked to a solution to the Cyprus problem. There has been much comment and concern about the prospect of Turkish entry—not all of it confined to the European Union and Turkey.
At the previous Copenhagen summit, criteria were set out that applicant countries had to match to be eligible for membership. Stability of institutions is crucial, 320 guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for the protection of minorities. A recent European Commission report has stated that Turkey has not yet satisfied those criteria, and the Danes have also questioned Turkey's readiness to participate.
Clearly there are issues to address. Turkey must be under no illusion about its responsibilities, but it is also true that the country has made significant progress. Mr. Erdogan, the leader of the governing party, has set out encouraging objectives since the elections a few weeks ago. Although we may concur with the judgment that the country has not yet achieved the standards necessary for entry, it should be given the clear incentive of a clear future starting point for substantive discussions. Without that, the prospect of Turkey taking the EU seriously will disappear and the hope for further integration within European will be dashed. The prizes are significant—a modern democratic pluralist Turkey, and the important signals that that would send out to other Islamic states that democratic and liberal economic policies are the starting point for closer ties with the European Union. There would also be the prospect of resolving NATO's relationship with the European security and defence policy, and the issues surrounding the use of NATO assets by the EU in that respect.
Enlargement and associated issues will dominate the summit, but the opportunity of the gathering must not be lost; we must ensure that other crises are addressed. In particular, fishing must be a key priority for UK Ministers, especially the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Moore
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me make slightly more progress first.
The crisis arising from the reduction in fish stocks and Commissioner Fischler's proposals is real. The strength of feeling has been evident across the UK, not least in Scotland; a massive petition taken to the Scottish Parliament has now been sent to the Prime Minister, and many have sailed from Scotland to take part in the protest taking place at the mouth of the Tyne.
Strenuous efforts are being made to tackle the issue, and the Scottish Executive Minister, Ross Finnie, has been working closely with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers to maximise the impact of the UK's arguments on the issue. Fishermen all over the UK know that there is a serious problem to tackle, but nobody can be expected to accept the Commission's draconian proposals.
Next week's Fisheries Council will seek a solution, but the Prime Minister's involvement at the summit is still essential. In other circumstances, the French President or the German Chancellor would have no hesitation about arguing the cause on behalf of their countries, and we should expect the same for our fishermen on this occasion.
§ Angus Robertson
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister recently wrote about the fishermen in the Daily Record. Referring to Ross Finnie and the Westminster Fisheries Minister, the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) he said:but they will also, I promise, have the full backing of both the UK Government and the Scottish Executive, right to the very top".321 I do not believe that Ross Finnie, the Liberal Democrat Minister with responsibility for fisheries, will be in Copenhagen. Is the Liberal Democrats' position that the British Prime Minister should raise the issue of fishing at the Copenhagen summit?
§ Mr. Moore
I hope that the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I said before his intervention, which was that I do believe that the Prime Minister should raise that issue. If an equivalent issue faced another member country, it would be inconceivable for its Prime Minister not to raise it, and I hope that our Prime Minister will do what is expected of him.
The debate will, of course, be carefully watched by many, not least by the accession countries, which will see the resolution of that problem as symbolic of the nature of the organisation that they seek to join. An article in the Financial Times yesterday by the Prime Ministers of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, stirringly entitled "One step away from making history", acknowledged the huge efforts made by existing and candidate countries to find solutions to the innumerable problems that have characterised the accession process so far. In taking the last few steps towards final agreements, they appealed for vision, statesmanship and pragmatism to go hand in hand. That catches the spirit of how the EU should do business, and is the right approach for the European Union leaders when they meet in Copenhagen.
§ 7.6 pm
§ Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
I welcome the critically positive speech by the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, and I contrast it with the negative speech made by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who, alas, in spite of his general geniality and good nature, cannot bring himself to say anything positive about the European Union.
§ Mr. Spring
Had the right hon. Gentleman listened last week to the debate on the Convention on the Future of Europe, he would have heard spelled out in the greatest possible detail policies dealing specifically with our relationship with the EU in a wholly positive and constructive way.
§ Donald Anderson
Perhaps the right hon. Member for Devizes was so positive then that he felt that he had to be totally negative tonight.
I approach the question of enlargement, which is, of course, the main item on the agenda of the Copenhagen Council, in a spirit not of caution or anxiety but of total rejoicing. I like the word that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary used when he said that this was not enlargement but unification. I know the countries of central Europe; I have lived for a year and a half in Hungary, and my eldest son has just married a citizen of Slovakia in Prague—and those who know these countries know that they are part of Europe. It is a uniting Europe that we see. Looking around the 322 architecture and the culture, who can doubt that although there have been artificial divisions in the past, especially after the second world war, those divisions are now, happily, being ended?
It was only in 1989, on 8 and 9 November, that the Berlin wall fell, and only in 1993, at the Copenhagen Council, that we saw the start of the enlargement process. It is a happy 10 years that has led from that Council in 1993 to the Copenhagen Council in 2002. Enlargement has proceeded apace. It is a tremendous tribute to the Danish presidency that it has done so well over the past six months to further the aim of the enlargement—or, as I would prefer to say, the unification—of Europe. This is indeed an historic time. The year 2002 will be remembered for the security changes, with the accession to NATO at the Prague summit in November and now the 10 countries being welcomed into the unity of Europe.
I also pay tribute to a good friend of mine, Commissioner Günter Verheugen, for the way in which he has brought the ship to port. It is sad that that coincides with a time of financial stringency, when Germany, which has been so ready to be the paymaster for the European Union in the past, is facing much difficulty, and is ready to throw its weight around as it did not do in the past. None the less, there is positive change, and we should welcome it. Indeed, it will have profound effects on the nature of Europe, which I shall come to in a moment.
When we began this process in Helsinki in 1993, there seemed to be so many obstacles, some of which were in danger of proving decisive, in the way of each of those countries. Estonia, for example, had a problem with its Russian minority and its border with Russia. Lithuania had a problem with its power station, and Latvia had problems with its own Russian minority. There was the question of how we could possibly welcome in a divided Cyprus. There was deep division between the parties in Malta, and the possibility of a negative outcome of the referendum. At times, Hungary had a more nationalist leadership that held perhaps irredentist views about the minority populations in Romania, and across the border in Voivodina. Poland had impossible problems with agriculture. The Czech Republic had problems with its minorities, and Slovakia suffered a setback because of Meciar. Save perhaps for Slovenia, every country had problems that at times seemed insuperable, but happily, by working through them and always seeing the broad vision, Europe has triumphed. The Copenhagen Council, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, will be a signal date for us.
At least I agreed with the right hon. Member for Devizes when he talked about the disconnection between the elites of Europe and the people of Europe. We clearly have a long way to go in convincing our peoples about enlargement. According to the Eurobarometer surveys of candidate countries, there was no overall majority in favour of the European Union in seven of the 10 leading candidates. So far as the UK is concerned, there is a general lack of interest in enlargement; indeed, the latest Eurobarometer survey found that only 51 per cent. even knew that enlargement was taking place. It is clear that a great task needs to be undertaken in terms of public relations.
323 I turn to two key issues that affect us: Cyprus and Turkey. Cyprus is a country with which we are on the most friendly of terms. Happily, two Commonwealth countries—Cyprus and Malta—will be joining the European Union. There are valued Cypriot communities in this country, and we are a guarantor power. Now, after 1974 and so many disappointments, there seems at last to be a real prospect of a happy conjunction of favourable factors in respect of Cyprus. The Turkish Government no longer includes Mr. Ecevit, and in Mr. Erdogan they have a leader who can deliver. Two elderly gentlemen—President Clerides and Mr. Denktash—sparred for far too many years. Mr. Denktash is alas ill, but we hope that that will not delay a settlement.
A happy rapprochement has taken place between the Greek and Turkish Governments, and through the initiative of Mr. De Soto, who had such triumphs in E1 Salvador, we have a package that, although unacceptable to the extremists, at last provides a chance of real progress. I anticipate that absolutists on both sides will reject it, and if they do, the prospect of a united Cyprus will be set back for perhaps a generation. Those who sign the document must also recognise that there will be some in both communities who will shout "traitor!" That is part of what far-sighted politicians have to bear, but we look forward, at last, to a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Others have already mentioned that Turkey is making serious progress towards meeting at least some of the criteria established in Copenhagen in 1993. Our Foreign Affairs Committee report stated:We conclude that Turkey's cultural and religious traditions will make a positive contribution to the diversity of the EU. Pursuing Turkey's candidacy evenhandedly gives an important signal that the EU is not a closed Christian club, but an open organisation which can embrace those parts of the world within its geographical compass, both Christian and Muslim … We recommend that the Government speak out forthrightly in defence of Turkey's EU candidacy"—and they have done so magnificently. However, the report also states that the Government shouldtemper this encouragement with the pragmatic advice that accession is certain to be some years away".Hopefully, that is not a rendezvous date, but an actual date—
§ Mr. Love
Should we also temper that judgment with the recognition that Turkey has many steps to take to meet the criteria for accession to Europe, not least in respect of democracy, the treatment of its minorities, and—perhaps most importantly in terms of sending a signal—support for a resolution of the division of Cyprus? Unless we can get those messages across, I fear that Turkey's entering into negotiations will not lead anywhere very fast.
§ Donald Anderson
I am absolutely confident that the Turkish leadership knows that positive moves on Cyprus will be extremely important to Turkey's candidacy. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, in that the same Copenhagen criteria on matters such as democracy, rule of law and human rights as are applied to other candidates should be applied to Turkey—no 324 more, and no less. Turkey could become an important model of Islamic democracy in the world. It is clear that it wishes to take the path into Europe. It has already undergone significant reforms, and we hope that implementation will follow.
I end on the issue of the new neighbours and the future expansion of our Europe. We know that, if there is to be a Europe, there has to be a non-Europe, and the danger always exists of instability at the borders. I understand that a new document is expected from the Commission in January, on our new neighbours. There are important problems not only in the south, in the countries of the Maghreb, because of the attraction of the region to the north of the Mediterranean, with their booming populations, but in those countries which have no reasonable immediate prospects—Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus—without substantial reforms. In that regard, I agree with Mr. Prodi. There have to be some new borders, and the question of where we draw the line will lead to problems. On a recent trip to Zagreb, I visited the cathedral and saw how the changes in European architecture are wholly reflected in that country; it is part of central Europe. Other Balkan countries, particularly Albania and Macedonia, prove far greater challenges.
A line will have to be drawn, and when we do so we will have to find creative solutions for those countries that are the wrong side of it. We do not know what the final outcome will be; all that we do know is that the Europe that began with the vision of de Gasperi, of Jean Monnet, and of Adenauer will not be the Europe that we end up with. It began for a certain reason, and involved relatively rich, homogenous peoples. The Europe that will emerge will be far more diverse and valuable. It will still be a model for the world, but when the new, poorer countries are admitted, it will indeed be very different in 10 or 20 years' time. The applicants therefore need to be realistic about their own chances, and we too, as Europeans, have to be realistic and expand our thinking as Europe itself expands not just geographically, but culturally. That is an enormous challenge, and the Copenhagen council will be a major step on the road to meeting it.
§ Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
I am most grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for catching your eye in this important debate. It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson). He has done the House great service as the longstanding Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. I may not always agree with everything that he says, but I always listen with great care and attention, as the right hon. Gentleman has a lot to offer in foreign affairs debates.
Like the Foreign Secretary, who opened the debate, the right hon. Member for Swansea, East used the language of Europe reunited. To me, that sounds like the language of the superstate. I bow to the right hon. Gentleman's superior intellect when it comes to examining such matters, but I feel able to disagree with him from time to time.
Much has been said about enlargement in this debate, and I think that it is one of the greatest challenges facing Europe. There have been four enlargements since the 325 community was established by the six founding member states, but there has been nothing approaching the ambition of this project. I want briefly to touch on some of the specifics this evening.
If enlargement is to succeed, the candidate countries must be able to receive the benefits, but they will not reap the full fruits of enlargement unless businesses, and business men and women, are happy to invest their money in them. For that to happen, they must have confidence in those countries' legal systems, but the quality of the judiciary and the trustworthiness and efficiency of the criminal and civil justice systems are serious matters in some candidate countries, as reports on enlargement by the Select Committee on European Scrutiny and by the European Commission show.
If the trustworthiness of the criminal justice system in some states remains in doubt, we are exposing British businesses to serious risk of injustice, for example with the introduction of the European arrest warrant. I hope that the Minister for Europe will say what the Government are doing to help in that respect when he winds up the debate.
We must also encourage the new states to make their criminal systems of satisfactory quality. I hope that the Minister will say whether any candidate countries are causing the Government specific concern.
In addition, trustworthy and efficient civil legal systems are vital when it comes to building prosperous societies that attract investment. I understand that it is not unusual for civil law suits in Poland, for example, to take up to five years before receiving a judgment. I have heard from British investors that the weaknesses of the legal system there are a serious impediment to business. That is a challenge that must be overcome if our new partners are to enjoy the prosperity that they deserve. Inefficient legal systems effectively put property rights at risk. Helping the candidate countries reform their legal systems should be a priority for the Government.
Structural operations, or regional subsidies, are potentially of great benefit in building up these countries' economies. In particular, they can help build up the infrastructure that many of these countries badly lack. To enjoy that benefit, however, the candidate countries must be able to absorb those subsidies. As the European Scrutiny Committee's report says, some candidate countries haveweaknesses in public administration which call into question the candidate's capacity for sound management of EU funds".That is dangerous. Unless we can encourage reform, those countries will not receive the advantages of EU membership that they need, and taxpayers' money will be at risk. Are the Government, with our European partners, looking at ways to simplify the allocation of structural funds without damaging their integrity? Again, that should be a priority. I hope that the Minister for Europe will answer that point.
There is also the question of a proper management of funds by the Commission. It would be hypocritical of existing EU member states to insist on the new members raising their administrative game when one of the EU's central institutions has such a lamentable lack of financial self-discipline. We now have a chamber orchestra of whistleblowers, if the House will forgive the term, and the unsympathetic manner in which the Commission handles them is deeply disappointing.
326 It is clear that current systems of financial controls are not satisfactory. Major reforms, along the lines suggested by the sacked chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, are only now beginning to be implemented. The latest Court of Auditors' report also pointed to continuing serious weaknesses in the EU's finances. We need significant improvements urgently. For all of us, it is scandalous that taxpayers' money from all over Europe is treated so carelessly.
We have heard very little from the Government about this matter. One could almost believe that it does not seem to be of particular concern to them. I believe that it should be. Eurostat has today reported that only 31 per cent. of the British public think that EU membership is a good thing. That is unlikely to improve while the Commission seems so arrogant. It must become better at taking care of public money—taxpayers' money. Romano Prodi's grand plans for the Commission become particularly risible when the Commission fails to do properly the jobs that it already has. The Commission should learn to walk before it even thinks of beginning to run.
If we can deal with these matters, we can vastly increase the chance of enlargement being a real success. Enlargement, and this summit, must not be about fine words alone, but about hard work on the practicalities of making the EU work. The cost of failure is too high a price for any members of the EU to pay.
§ Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)
I begin by declaring an interest. In October, I visited Cyprus as a guest of the House of Representatives there, and of the Morphou municipality. I shall refer to Cyprus in a little while. Also, I visited Greece last week, where I met various Ministers, academics and journalists. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) commented on the quality of European weather, but I took London weather with me on my visit to Athens. It poured with rain most of the time.
I undertook the visit because I wanted to look at some of the issues related to the presidency of the EU, which Greece takes over in January. The debate has focused on the proceedings in Copenhagen in a few days, but it is important for us to look beyond that, and to examine the forthcoming presidency. I shall set out some of the key priorities that will emerge—one of which is, of course, enlargement. The Greek presidency will see to the finalisation of enlargement and the signing of the treaty, and I shall say more about that in a little while.
Asylum and immigration are extremely important matters, and so is the Lisbon agenda, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) referred. The Greeks are concerned that their presidency may be overshadowed by security issues, in particular the confrontation with Iraq. However, Greece has made real progress on security matters, especially with the break up of the November 17 terrorist group. I am also pleased to say that the bilateral aspects of Greece's concerns about European security and defence policy, a major source of disagreement between our countries earlier in the year, have now been resolved. Greece now regards the matter as being between the EU and Turkey, rather than between Great Britain and Greece.
The Greek presidency will want a reaffirmation of the Lisbon process, and it is especially keen to look at matters related to social inclusion. Special attention will 327 be paid to the applicability of the Lisbon process to the new applicant states, assuming that enlargement goes ahead. It is important that we recognise that Lisbon sets a challenging agenda for states that already belong to the EU, and for those set to join in just over a year's time.
Immigration and asylum are also key issues for the Greek people. Over the past 10 years, Greece's population has increased by 8 per cent., or almost a million people, as a result of immigration. That immigration comes primarily from the Balkans and Albania, and from north Africa.
Greece is very concerned about the policing of the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and considers its national border to the south and to the east to be the EU's front-line frontier in the battle against illegal immigration. We must bear it in mind that the total length of Greece's coastline is the same as that of the continent of Africa. It is therefore not surprising that the Greeks should have great difficulty in trying to prevent illegal migration into the EU through Greece. It is fair for Greece to hope for help from the EU in developing the policies necessary to police that EU frontier. It is important that we recognise that it is better to stop illegal migration into the EU in the Mediterranean than in the English channel. Greece needs help and I think that it will be looking for financial support from the European Union, as might Italy and Spain, which face similar problems.
On the social issues arising out of immigration and asylum, I was pleased that the Greek Government are looking at the regulation of legal migration. The written statement issued yesterday on the free movement of people to the UK from the accession countries is an important contribution. There is an important debate to be had on this issue, and I hope that we will be able to play a constructive role with Greece in dealing with a problem that affects all European Union countries.
On enlargement, Greece is keen to press the road map forward for Bulgaria and Romania, as Bulgaria is a border state with Greece and Romania is not very far away. It would also like to see progress towards integration of the western Balkans into Europe. Obviously it will be a long time before there is sufficient stability for them to become members of the European Union, but progress in that direction is welcome.
As many speakers have said tonight, the key enlargement issues for this European summit are Turkey and Cyprus. Those who have followed Greek politics for as long as I have welcome the rapprochement in recent years between Turkey and Greece. Several years ago, they were not far short of going to war over a rather obscure rock in the eastern Aegean but since the recent earthquakes that struck both countries so tragically, there has been a much more friendly relationship, piloted in particular by Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the then Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Cern. The very positive attitude that I saw in Greece to the new Government of Mr. Erdogan was extremely welcome. Some commentators described it as being one of reserved optimism, but certainly everyone whom I talked to had a rather more welcoming approach. The early statements issued by Mr. Erdogan were very positive, even though their content may have 328 been reined back under the influence of the Turkish military. They are, however, a clear sign of the good intent of the new Government in Turkey and are welcomed by the Greek Government.
Greece also recognises Turkey's importance for regional security, because bringing Turkey into the European Union would strengthen regional security in south-east Europe. Greece sees Turkey as a key partner in the development of south-east Europe and the Balkans. People often talk about Greece as the key state, the entry state, with Thessaloniki as the key port for entry to the Balkans, but the Greek view is much wider than that. It knows that it needs key partners such as Turkey to achieve proper development in that important region. Like us, Greece is keen for a date to be set for the start of accession negotiations for Turkey.
When considering Turkey in the European Union, one must inevitably take a reality check against the Helsinki process. With the new AK party Government in Turkey, there has been a welcome break with the past system of musical chairs that has bedevilled Turkish politics for so long. The same faces and personalities have been changing seats and changing places, in and out of Government for decades. There was really very little change and, as others have said, the Government were pretty detached from the population at large and operated as a political elite.
The new Turkish Government have learned the lessons of previous parties which were portrayed as Muslim. The AK party sees its role as evolutionary not revolutionary. In fact, if one were to describe the party to itself as Muslim, it would take exception. Its members call themselves Conservative Democrats. However, looking at their programme, they are probably more like social democrats than conservative democrats. I was interested to see that Mustafa Akinci, the leader of the Social Democrat party in northern Cyprus, believes that he is far closer to the platform of the AK party than to Mr. Baikal, the leader of the official Turkish Social Democrat party.
The new Turkish Government have a clear programme on human rights and constitutional reform. It is perhaps not surprising, when one sees that the leader of the AK party, Mr. Erdogan, is banned from sitting in Parliament because of statements that he made several years ago. There have been important reforms on the death penalty, torture and minority rights. The state of emergency has been lifted and progress has been made on incommunicado detention and access to lawyers. The question is whether all those constitutional reforms going through the Turkish Parliament can be delivered, and I think that Turkey needs help on that. I was pleased, therefore, to hear that one of the outcomes of the visit to Ankara by the Foreign Secretary last week was a $3 million bilateral arrangement between the UK and Turkey to provide support for prison reform, modern policing, economic affairs and banking regulations.
The Turkish Government's other priorities include economic revival and stabilisation, key facts in developing progress towards European Union membership within the context of the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps most important is the question of European Union accession. As has been said, EU accession will help to strengthen the reforms in Turkey, but we should not see Turkish membership as a one-way 329 street. Turkey has an awful lot to offer the EU. We must recognise that at the very least, before my generation has retired, Turkey will start to provide quite a lot of the young labour that we will need in western Europe as our population increasingly ages, and more people become less economically active than the economically active population can support. Turkey is a young country—half of its population is aged under 20. When I come to retire, the people looking after me in my old folks' home may well have a Turkish background.
I have said optimistic things about Turkey, but there is always the great "but": the role of the army in Turkish politics to defend what it sees as the secular state and the principles of Kemalism. Although the general mood of the army now appears to favour EU entry and the new chief of staff is seen as a progressive, none of the reforms so far contemplated considers the role of the army on the National Security Council in Turkey, where 50 per cent. of the seats are reserved for the military. If the Turkish army is serious about withdrawing from politics and Turkey is serious about European Union entry, the National Security Council has to become a purely civilian body.
Cyprus is also an important topic in today's debate. Turkey is trying to link its membership of the European Union with progress on Cyprus. However, the two are not linked, and we need to resist that even though Turkey is trying to push that agenda. It is also trying to link its acceptance with the reform of the European security and defence policy Ankara document. Certainly a settlement in Cyprus is desirable, but I do not think it right to link it with its EU accession. That has been said on many occasions since Helsinki, most recently tonight, and previously in answer to a question that I asked the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago.
We must recognise the constructive role played in the negotiations by the Republic of Cyprus. It is also fair to say that the time pressures that have been put on those who are being asked to make extremely difficult decisions can be counter-productive. People need time to adjust to the serious concessions that may have to be made to make progress.
We must reflect the fact that both sides have to agree in a referendum if the deal is to go through. In this respect, I take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) when he talks about extremists being rejectionists. Many people on both sides are concerned about the proposals not because they are necessarily extremists but because they see the possible problems arising from implementing the plan or believe that they could lose out. Refugees from Kyrenia, for example, would see very little in the plan for them as it stands. Those people are not necessarily extremists but they are concerned about their position. We must recognise that we are talking about the lives, properties and futures of real people with real concerns. It is easy for us in the House to talk about things in a very glib way without recognising that those problems are long standing and deep seated.
§ Bob Spink (Castle Point)
In saying that there should be no linkage between the accession of Cyprus and the settlement there, does the hon. Gentleman think that if the settlement goes ahead on terms that are not proper and sustainable in the future, so that property rights and the legal rights of the original owners are protected in 330 areas such as Kyrenia and Ayios Ambrosios, it would in the longer term deliver a solution in Cyprus akin to that in Northern Ireland during the past few decades?
§ Mr. Dismore
If a solution can be put to the people in a referendum, it is important that it commands overwhelming support from both communities. Acceptance of 51 per cent. by either community may be technically sufficient to carry the vote but it would be disastrous. Adjustments were made to the proposals yesterday and I hope that the final version will command confidence.
I am concerned that the Turkish Cypriots have been delaying progress. There has been time for negotiations for well over a year, and they have the most to gain from a solution. That was exemplified by the big demonstration that took place a couple of weeks ago when 20,000 people were on the streets of north Nicosia asking for a solution—indeed demanding a solution—and showing support for the platform of "This country is ours" which is bringing the opposition parties together. In our country, the equivalent would be that about 5 million people took to the streets of London.
The Greek-Cypriot side has clear reservations and the adjustments made yesterday made some progress to address them. I have yet to see the details, but I understand that a review clause was proposed with a shortening of the transitional period. More Greek-Cypriot refugees should be able to go home and a fund will he set up for the voluntary repatriation of settlers.
Major issues remain, however: freedom of movement, settlers and property rights. They could all breach the acquis communautaire and will require detailed derogation. Those substantive issues must be considered. None the less, it is important that the negotiations continue and that they are not forced by an artificial deadline. In the Northern Ireland peace process, for example, deadlines became more elastic as deals were getting closer.
I return to the fundamental point: Cyprus must join the European Union, irrespective of whether there is a settlement. It is a settlement that we all want, but it is not and should never be a precondition.
§ Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)
I want to outline seven principles that should guide the Government at the forthcoming Council. Indeed, they should probably guide any Government at any Council meeting.
First, I am sure that it is widely agreed among Members on both sides of the House—there is no dispute—that it is important that we reassert the fact that enlargement is of huge importance. In its successive guises and titles, the European Union has had a series of purposes. Clearly, its first and primary purpose was the establishment of lasting peace between Germany and France.
We take great pleasure from the way in which democracy has been sustained and built in Spain, Portugal and Greece. Some of the elder statesmen, who were involved in the early days of European union, resisted even that enlargement. They wanted a tight nucleus of traditional, western European countries to form the basis of the EU, so early enlargement was unacceptable.
331 I am glad that there is now consensus that the next historic task is to underpin reform and sustain democracy in the countries of the former Soviet bloc; 10 of the 13 applicant countries come from that bloc.
I have changed my mind about Turkey. I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) said in a most persuasive speech and what the Foreign Secretary said when he opened the debate. The idea of a democratic, Muslim, European Turkey being part of the EU, if it can meet the necessary tests, is indeed attractive. I do not claim to know a great deal about Turkey. My family has visited the country twice in 100 years. I was there about 12 years ago on a business trip and my father was at Gallipoli in 1916, but I know enough to agree with the verdict that has been given in the House: it is right that Turkey should be encouraged in every way to join the EU and the negotiations should proceed as smoothly as possible.
In relation to the middle east and Muslim issues, I hope that at the Council the EU as a whole will do what it can to encourage the partners in the middle east process—Israel and Palestine—and indeed the United States to re-engage in the process as aggressively as possible. I realise that the Quartet has the greatest responsibility, but a clear message from the Council that it attaches importance to the resolution of the dispute between Israel and Palestine would be of immeasurable help in addressing the broader middle east questions that we face. I hope that such a message will come out of the Council.
The second principle that Governments should always bear in mind at Council meetings relates to the general direction in which they want the EU to move. In a sense, we are always at a time of decision about that, but the prospect of enlargement makes the decision starker than normal. People sometimes say that we face a choice between two models in Europe: heterogeneity or homogeneity; diversity or integrationism.
However, there is a third choice and it is interesting to observe that the draft constitution highlights the fact that that third choice is a more realistic possibility than it has been for a long time: renegotiation of or withdrawal from all but the free trade aspects of the Union. The draft constitution contains a procedure for voluntary withdrawal from the Union, which has been broadly welcomed by the Convention. Mr. Giscard d'Estaing has said that countries choosing that route would have a similar status to members of the European Free Trade Association because:We have to abrogate the … treaties that exist. If a country says that it does not like the new treaty, there's no existing structure for them to cling to, they cannot seek refuge in the old agreement … you can maintain an economic role, but you can no longer be in this political system.
The prospect of that looser arrangement, which has been attractive to many people in the UK, will be more realistic if the wishes of the Convention are fulfilled. I think that would be the wrong direction to take and that the middle way advocated by the Conservative party for many years, characterised at the last general election by the phrase "In Europe, not run by Europe", is the right way. It is a route of heterogeneity and diversity—of variable geometry—and I hope that it will be the Government's guiding star, too, although I do not think that it will be.
332 The third principle relates to what Britain's position should be and it flows from what I have just been saying. It is clear that Britain's future is inextricably linked to the EU and will become more so as the Union enlarges. In his opening remarks, the Foreign Secretary gave a dramatic portrayal of just how large the new EU will be in geographical and population terms. Britain's unique status in the world will thus become even more important—it will be at the centre of Europe, of the Commonwealth and of the relationship with the United States of America.
It is right to say that the Prime Minister's skilful handling of issues relating to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction has currently enhanced our relationship with the USA. We thus have a unique and historic opportunity, which is growing in strength, to broker our relationship in those three areas.
Those of my constituents who write to me advocating withdrawal from the EU—I am glad to say that it is a small number at present—should realise that our relevance to the Commonwealth, the USA and the world would diminish significantly. But—and it is a big but—we can be close to and at the heart of Europe while remaining critical of individual decisions taken by the Union. Too often, the Government have made the mistake of not being sufficiently critical. They have embraced changes when they did not need to do so and received nothing in return. I am thinking especially of the opt-out from he social chapter.
The fourth principle is that the Union has to be outward looking. It has been said repeatedly, but it cannot be said too often, that there is still a danger that the EU will not be as outward looking as we want it to be. Changes in world trade and the irresistible trend towards globalisation mean that we must not get sucked into an inward-looking, protectionist, high social cost economy. All the dangers are still there, especially in respect of social costs. I urge the Government to be very wary. I am not convinced that they have been. Individual directives have caused great concern, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) pointed out at the beginning of the debate. We constantly talk about the dangers, but we must also understand them and work them out in practice during the negotiations at the Council.
The fifth principle is flexibility. In order to advance, the EU does not have to be more integrationist; it must be more flexible and more accommodating to the needs of more different nations. The degree of integration that the EU has already achieved would surprise its founding fathers—the Monnets of this world—and they would not want to drive that integration much further. The original treaty of Rome, amended at Maastricht, talked ofcreating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen".That must be remembered. We are talking not about a union of states but about people who believe that they belong together in peaceful coexistence. Many people on the continent often forget that.
Variety—the sixth principle—is obviously important. One-size-fits-all policies never would work in the EU and they will work even less well in the new enlarged Europe. That is especially true as regards the single European currency and interest rates, but that debate is for another day.
333 Crucially, in the run-up to the possible new constitution, the seventh principle should be listening to what people actually want from the EU. We can think of countries in the EU that have failed to listen effectively to what their people wanted and the consequences have often been difficult and painful for the whole union.
We have to use our sovereignty to advance the interests of those who elected us. That is what we are talking about, and it will be much more complex in an enlarged EU. Given the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe, we as parliamentarians have to be increasingly aware of the need to be accountable to our electors for the way we choose to use that sovereignty.
I am generally opposed to referendums. I cannot remember how I voted during the Maastricht debates on the question of a referendum. In fact, I cannot even remember whether there was such a vote.
§ Mr. Luff
There will be a whole stack of referendums in the so-called regions of England if the Government have their way. Referendums were held in Scotland and Wales. There will be referendums everywhere we turn, and I am glad to say that there will be a referendum on the single European currency if the Government ever have the courage to put that before the British people.
§ Mr. Luff
I very much thank the hon. Gentleman for reminding me about the Belfast agreement. So referendums are much more commonplace than they were. If we can have a referendum on the question of whether Birmingham should run Worcestershire's affairs—I emphatically think that it should not—there should be a referendum on a new constitution for Europe, if there is to be one, preferably before the treaty is ratified, not afterwards. I hope that that referendum will take place at the earliest possible stage.
The trouble is that the Government do not look for the right things at Council meetings and that so much of what Europe needs to do is rather boring and nitty-gritty. The great aspirations of enlargement are obviously important—we share them—but proper reform of the CAP is central to achieving them. That is said in every debate ahead of a Council meeting, but it just does not happen. Before the Berlin meeting, which took place three or four years ago, we were told that a major reform of the CAP had been achieved and that it would permit enlargement of the EU.
Nothing of the kind had been achieved at that Council meeting. Jacques Chirac talked into the early hours of the morning and continuously negotiated the 334 CAP, wearing down the other Heads of State. The tape recordings were still being transcribed many days, if not weeks, later to work out exactly what had been agreed because the Prime Minister wanted, possibly quite reasonably, to cling to the rebate as the essential achievement of that meeting. He was prepared to squander any progress on CAP reform to hold on to that rebate. That may or may not have been the right tactic, but I wish that he could have been more effective in securing CAP reform.
Every chance must be seized to advance CAP reform, but it is just not happening. CAP reform is in the interests of the taxpayer and the farmer, as well as those of the developing world, so I hope that the Government will insist that CAP reform is pursued at successive Council meetings, as well as at every other opportunity.
I am not convinced that the fisheries issue should be on the agenda at the Council meeting. I am persuaded that the relevant DEFRA Minister, who has rather more experience of such issues than those who will attend the Council meeting, should pursue those negotiations. However, that is clearly another issue of great importance.
We still have not completed the single market. Public procurement remains a scandal in the EU. Unless those issues are addressed effectively, how can we say that the Government are negotiating in the interests of Britain and, indeed, an enlarged EU? The European negotiations that we need to permit enlargement are about very practical issues designed to make Europe work better and to be more diverse. That will strengthen, not weaken the EU.
The Prime Minister often says that the Conservative party is the enemy of Europe and that it is full of extremists who want to destroy the EU. He regularly says that literally and by implication. I think that he is absolutely and completely wrong. To belong to a club, to be critical of that club and to argue for its improvement is to support that club. To turn one's eyes from the problems that exist is to be an enemy of that club. I fear greatly that by driving the countries of the EU to excessive conformity—to bureaucracy rather than democracy—he risks a reaction that can destroy the EU, which he claims to support.
The Prime Minister risks economic failure through single interest rates; institutional gridlock, as issues are not properly devolved to national Parliaments but are maintained at European level; possible American hostility to the EU, as it seeks to assert itself against American interests, which is a matter of great concern; and, above all, a reaction of the peoples of Europe against the old federalist agenda, to which he and the Government are still tragically wedded. In a sense the issues never change, but, as we face a very exciting chapter in Europe's history, they have probably never been more important.
§ Mr. Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington)
I shall begin with the parochial, by reassuring the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff). He is clearly losing sleep worrying about the possibly aggressive expansionist plans of Birmingham vis-à-vis Worcestershire. He may sweat at night worrying about lebensraum, but I reassure him that we have no such 335 desire. In fact, we are sufficiently incapable of running Birmingham to be by no means keen to run Worcester any more than it wants to be run by us.
§ Mr. Simon
I also wish to reassure the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who is personifying—indeed, embodying—the Scottish National party in its entirety tonight, as well as the Welsh National party and apparently all the Irish parties. My constituency is entirely urban. It is in the middle of Birmingham city centre. It includes spaghetti junction. It is almost as far away from the sea as one can get. I know nothing about fish. There is no point intervening to ask me about fish. I have nothing to say about them.
§ Mr. Bryant
Is my hon. Friend aware that Winston Churchill once said that Baldwin was thoroughly bored by Europe and that Chamberlain thought that Europe was no more than a greater Birmingham?
§ Mr. Simon
I have nothing to say about that, but I thank my hon. Friend for that instructive intervention. I was terrified for a horrible moment that it would be about a piscine matter.
I hope that I have dispatched the parochial, so I wish to join the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire in offering my right hon. and hon. colleagues on the Treasury Bench some morsels of principle that they might take with them to Copenhagen and which they might, I hope, bring back again and continue to deploy thereafter. Two principles—maxims might be a better word—could be usefully applied widely in European matters. First, please let us get on with things to the greatest possible extent. Secondly, it would be wrong to say, "Start being honest with people", but perhaps I can recommend a move to an even more candid style of discourse.
For example, let us apply those two principles to the euro, setting aside, for the sake of argument, the Chancellor's five economic tests. For debating purposes only, let us assume that the tests could be met pretty much at any time and that the real political dynamic is not about the five economic tests, but about winning a referendum. [Interruption.] I am assuming that as a debating point for the sake of argument. There seems to be an assumption that the polling data militate against a referendum because there is apparently a significant, consistent majority of people who say that they would not vote in support of the euro. However, that number is offset by an almost equivalent number of people who say that they believe that euro entry is inevitable. The latter number is not a quirky figure but a significant percentage. The chattering classes dismiss it as a 336 manifestation of the general contempt in which the public hold them—they think the public believe that they will implement that chattering class-project, whatever the people want. That tells us more about the chattering classes than about the people. Commitment to a referendum must be absolute, and we can adopt a new currency only if people vote for it. Everybody knows that.
When someone tells the pollsters, "I'm not going to vote for a single currency, but I think it is inevitable" they mean, "I'm instinctively suspicious of foreigners and loath to give up the pound, to which I have a sentimental attachment, but I'm not stupid—I know that a historic tide is swelling beneath me. I do not feel any enthusiasm for the euro, but I accept that it is right and I am going to vote for it." I am trying to gird the loins of my ministerial colleagues. "Opposed to entry" means emotionally and romantically opposed, and "I believe entry is inevitable" means "I know that it is right and I am going to support it."
§ Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk)
As the hon. Gentleman is talking about the Government being truthful, does he accept that if there is a single interest rate it follows, as night follows day, that there must be greater power at the centre, particularly over taxation, to deal with the consequences? Greater harmonisation of taxes is inevitable, whatever verbal assurances have been given by the Government. That has been recognised by Hans Tietmeyer, so why will the Government not admit it?
§ Mr. Simon
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I do not speak for the Government. However, what he proposes may be fair. I am not terrified of foreigners—I quite like them—so I would not consider a little more harmonisation, fiscal co-operation and, indeed, other non-damaging forms of co-operation, the end of the world.
That brings me to the need to tell the truth. For a Labour Member, I have an unusual number of Tory friends. I talk to Tories more than usual—perhaps even to a dysfunctional extent. I can even say that some of my best friends are Tories. For the past 10 to 15 years they have talked about such issues and asked repeatedly, "Why do you people want to do this? Why do you feel like this? Why do you line us up with the frogs, jerries and all those dastardly foreigners when you could be magnificently, proudly and beautifully English?" They cannot get their heads round that.
I am not English. I was born in south Yorkshire, grew up in Birmingham, a quarter of my family is Marseille Corsican, my name is Siôn Llewelyn, which is as Welsh as its gets, and my kids have Welsh names. A couple of weeks ago in west London, my sister had her first child, whose father is an Ulster Protestant who supports Republic of Ireland sports teams. A lot of the time, the concept of Englishness is simplistic, which may colour my approach to integration.
There is something else that Tory Europhobes hate. The last thing they want to hear about and the most disastrous example of how bad things can possibly be is Tuscan evenings—the sun gently setting over San Gimignano, Vesuvius viewed from the Golfo di Napoli, Fellini, "La Dolce Vita" and all that malarkey, the 337 Vieux Port at 9.30 pm as the children and prostitutes come out to play. Tory Europhopes hate that rosy European dream, as well as Stendhal, Mozart, Strindberg, Mahler, Michelangelo, Racine, Flaubert, Baudelaire—all those centuries of amazing art, history and culture in common. Historically, we have been embarrassed by all that stuff, but we are wrong. We dare not tell people about those Tuscan evenings, but we should admit that there is nothing wrong with them or thinking that way—it is about vision, dreaming the dream and thinking big thoughts, and we should not be ashamed of that.
Obviously, the integrationist project—I have no problem calling it that—is about more than that. The shadow Foreign Secretary repeatedly used the word "integration" as if it were akin to molestation. However, I am an integrationist. I am not frightened of foreigners, and do not consider myself better than the French or Italians. The project has practical benefits, which Members have talked about today and will continue to talk about. However, it is also visionary, and we should not be frightened to say so. I am not ashamed of dreaming the dream, as the people who dreamed it in the past have brought us to the decent, liberal, humane, prosperous, plural society in which we have the privilege of living.
To recap, continental Europe is a nice place with nice people. We have a shared history and culture, and in many ways its people are just like us—they are no better and no worse than us. There is nothing to be afraid of.
§ Mr. MacShane
Does my hon. Friend recall that the previous Leader of the Opposition made a speech in which he said that if people voted Labour, England would become a foreign land? Somebody wrote to The Times saying, "Yes—could it be the south of France?"
§ Mr. Simon
I thank the Minister for making my point more eloquently than I ever could have done. However, suspect that he will not be quite so keen to support my next point.
If we are shy about telling the truth about Europe, we are terrified of going a step further and admitting that some foreigners influence our legislative process. Bedraggled clichés about being run by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels stem from disingenuousness or illiteracy. However, as qualified majority voting is extended, some of our laws are increasingly inspired by foreigners. That is okay, because they are not foreigners but Europeans, like us, and we should not be afraid of them. Why should we assume that my constituents, who have never had the opportunity to vote for my hon. Friend the Minister, are instinctively more attached to him than his counterparts elsewhere in Europe—
§ Mr. Simon
The hon. Gentleman assumes that my constituents are monolingual and incapable of understanding foreigners. He may be speaking for his constituents, but he should not presume to speak for mine because they are a highly educated, multi-skilled, multilingual, multicultural bunch.
The late Mick McGahey came back from the Soviet Union and was asked what he found there. As succinct and eloquent as ever, he said, "People."
§ Mr. Simon
It would be wrong for me to do an impression. Mick McGahey did not say, "Happy people", but his point was that people are people—my people are like your people. We do not have to be afraid of foreign people. No one is diminished by being European—it does not make me less British or less of a Brummie or the Italians less Italian. What we do not need is fear and bunkerite isolationism. We need a little imagination and courage, and a continuation of the progressive and confident way in which the Government have dealt with the matter so far.
§ Angus Robertson (Moray)
I speak on behalf of the Scottish national party and Plaid Cymru and do so gladly, especially after the earlier contribution from the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who gave a broad sweep of the vision of enlargement. Although I do not subscribe to the entirety of the vision painted by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon), it is a vision in general that we need to retain. While we are speaking about technical matters, we should understand how important enlargement is to everybody on the European continent.
I speak in the debate with mixed feelings. I am a great supporter of enlargement, both on a political and a personal level. On a political level, I think that I am right in saying that my party is the only party represented in the House that has Europe at the core of its central policy platform, and independence in Europe as our main policy. That policy is being pursued by all the countries acceding to the European Union at present.
On a personal level, I am a product of integration, my father being Scots and my mother coming to this island as a refugee after the second world war. I therefore have a degree of mixed identity and I have no fear of losing my identity in an enlarged and enhanced Europe. Despite all the criticism that I could level at the UK, being in a Union has not made me any less Scots, and I 339 am sure that the European Union in the future will not make a Frenchman any less French or an Estonian any less Estonian.
The downside for me in the debate, with which I shall deal later, is the matter of fishing. I shall speak first about enlargement. My party and I are strong supporters of enlargement, in part because of the tradition in Scotland which has viewed our historic nation as having long and good relations with the nations of central and eastern Europe. That was brought home to me only last week when I met the mayor of Tallinn, a former Prime Minister of Estonia, who proudly took out his membership card for the Scots club in Tallinn. There is a link between Scotland and many of the countries of central and eastern Europe. The SNP welcomes enlargement as being good for a peaceful continent and for enhancing prosperity, co-operation and an improved environment.
It is estimated that enlargement will create about 300,000 jobs across the EU, which will benefit many thousands of people in Scotland and throughout the entire continent, as companies take advantage of trade opportunities. It cannot be lost on anybody looking at enlargement from a Scottish perspective that more than half the enlargement candidate countries are the same size as Scotland or smaller—Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta are all roughly the same size as Scotland or smaller. I was reminded of that last week when the Foreign Secretary, in a speech to the Press Gallery, waxed lyrical about the new proud nation state that had so recently gained its independence—that is, Slovenia. Like the other nations acceding to membership of the EU, it is aiming to be independent within Europe, something that I would like to see for Scotland.
Not only Slovenia, but other countries too have had to think long and hard about that. I look back to Lithuania and remember my party's former deputy leader, the late Dr. Alan McCartney, who worked closely with Vytautas Landsbergis, the first President of an independent Lithuania. It is clear that all the candidate countries are looking forward to accession and to playing their role in a confederal Europe, without losing their identities.
All those countries will have a guaranteed seat at the top table of the Council of Ministers. They will have permanent representation on the Council, the right to nominate a Commissioner, and considerably more Members of the European Parliament per head than Scotland. They are rightly set to enjoy first-class status, while Scotland unfortunately does not, but that is no bar to all those countries rightfully taking their place.
I endorse entirely the view expressed by many hon. Members in all parts of the House with regard to Turkey's possible membership in the future. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) made a strong case for that. Having spent most of my working life on the continent in Austria and Germany, I can pay tribute to the substantial contribution made to those societies by people of Turkish origin. I look forward to their country being a full member of the European Union.
With reference to reform of the EU, which is central to the work that is taking place on the Convention and which is tied to enlargement of the EU, I put on record 340 again my support for the proposed reforms to improve the efficiency of the EU, bringing it closer to the citizen, and supporting transparency, accountability, democracy and subsidiarity—for example, with the opening of proceedings of the Council of Ministers. At least we will be able to see what Scottish Executive Ministers are doing when they say that they are playing an important role at Council of Ministers meetings.
However, it is supremely ironic that while the EU is becoming more transparent, European policy within the UK remains confidential. The concordats ensure that discussions between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive are secret. Both the Scottish Parliament's European Committee and the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee have called for changes in that regard.
On the likely constitution or constitutional treaty, I am glad that the Conservative party takes the view that that should be put to the people in a referendum, although that is not entirely consistent with the party's view of previous treaties, which were of equal or greater significance. The Scottish National party has been consistent.
§ Mr. Spring
If there is an overarching constitutional treaty, it changes the fundamental base of the relationship between the member states, which has up to this point been intergovernmental.
§ Angus Robertson
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. That is one of the reasons why the SNP has a standing policy. We would like a constitution or a constitutional treaty put to the people in a referendum, because we support such a treaty. We want it to be endorsed by the electorate so that it has the full mandate of people in Scotland and anywhere else that would choose to hold a referendum.
I shall touch briefly on the workings of the Convention, noting that there are no Scottish Executive or Scottish Parliament representatives on the delegation from the UK to the Convention, despite the fact that First Minister Jack McConnell, in an article in Business a.m. on 20 December last year, said that he hadpledged to fight for a place on the convention".Of course, he failed.
Unlike the UK, Germany takes the role of its devolved areas, the Lander, seriously, with the Premier of Baden-Wurttemberg, Erwin Teufel, being a full member of the German delegation. Mr. Teufel has argued for better rights for devolved Governments in the EU in the Convention, whereas the UK has not. The UK Government's representative. Peter Hain, has spoken in the Convention six times. His contributions amount to 2,869 words and he has never mentioned Scotland once in his contributions. He mentioned Wales once, but only in connection with where his constituency is, not in terms of how the EU should progress and Wales's place within it.
I am pleased that there are two democratically elected Scottish representatives involved in the Convention process, although not through the Scottish Executive or the Scottish Parliament. It will not surprise the House that both are members of my party, Professor Sir Neil MacCormick MEP for the Greens/European Free Alliance group, and Councillor Keith Brown of 341 Clackmananshire council. We will continue to make the case for the improved representation of Scotland in the EU, with equality of status and the same rights and obligations as other EU countries. At a time when more decisions are being made at a European level, it is essential for Scotland to be there and that way we would at least ensure 100 per cent. attendance at key meetings, as opposed to UK Governments, both Tory and Labour, who have terrible records in representing Scotland. That for me is a positive vision of Scotland's place within a changing Europe, and that is why I welcome what is on the agenda of the Copenhagen summit. However, I come now to what is not on the agenda, which disappoints me greatly—namely, fishing.
I have reason to believe that the Foreign Secretary would not have mentioned fishing at all were it not for the fact that I intervened on him during his opening speech. The right hon. Member for Devizes made no mention of fishing either. He spoke about competition policy, the CAP, European security and defence policy, European monetary union, the Convention—the list goes on, but fishing was not on it. Perhaps the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) will be able to say when he replies what the Conservative party's official policy is on the question that I am about to raise, which is the unmitigated impending disaster for the fishing industry, and not just in Scotland. Anyone who listened to the "Today" programme this morning will have heard concerned fishermen from North Shields. Fishermen from around the coast of this island and Northern Ireland face disaster if the Commission's plans go through.
In a recent article in the Daily Record, the Prime Minister put a figure of 14,000 on those in the fishing industry who are under threat. Unfortunately, that seems to undermine the warning by the Scottish Executive that the figure is over 40,000, many of whom are likely to lose their jobs.
I appeal to Members representing constituencies south of the border to imagine the prospect of more than 100,000 people losing their jobs within a short matter of months as a direct result of EU policy. Imagine the Front Benchers of a British Government not raising that at the most important meeting that the EU can hold. It is unimaginable that Jacques Chirac, facing the prospect of 100,000 French farmers losing their jobs, or Premier Aznar facing the prospect of 100,000 Spanish fishermen losing their jobs, would not raise those matters in a Council meeting, especially a summit meeting. I have grave concerns that Government policy on this is completely out of sync. I note with interest that the Secretary of State for Scotland tried to persuade us yesterday in the Scottish Grand Committee that the Prime Minister has said thathe has already raised the matter at the European Agriculture and Fisheries Council."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 10 December 2002; c. 12.]I have followed EU business for a long time and I have never heard of a Prime Minister taking part in a European Agriculture and Fisheries Council. The Prime Minister takes part in summit meetings of Heads of State and Government. That is what will take place at the end of this week and that subject is not on the agenda. We are repeatedly told, because apparently the UK Government think it important, that the Prime 342 Minister did talk with Franz Fischler on 14 November in what was described as a short meeting, and that was confirmed earlier today by his office.
I am glad that the Minister of State is here because I intervened during questions to raise the matter and he said:Of course every one of the 15 EU member states will have pressing problems that it will want to place on the agenda at Copenhagen. "—[Official Report, 10 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 149.]I note with interest that there is no mention of the fishing industry on the agenda. I have confirmation from the Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who holds the presidency of the EU, that an important issue for the Government of Spain is set to be debated—the Prestige disaster. Hon. Members will know about the oil spill off Galicia, which is tremendously important, and understandably so for the people of Spain. Their Government have made the effort to have the matter put on the agenda, yet the UK Government have not made a similar effort with regard to fishing.
I asked the House of Commons Library yesterday if it would produce a list to show how often member states have put matters of vital national interest at the top of the agenda of European Council and summit meetings, and it ran to five pages. I summarise by mentioning that in 1965 France secured veto powers on CAP reform, in 1983 the UK raised the budget rebate, and in 1992 Spain raised cohesion funding—the list goes on. With an impending disaster in the Scottish fishing industry, people in my constituency and throughout the coast of Scotland and elsewhere in the UK cannot and will not understand why the Government are not batting for them at the most important meeting that can make decisions, or seeking to impress on other Governments that it is imperative to deal with the issue.
§ Angus Robertson
I shall not, because I am in my last minute. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand.
I have come to this debate with a heavy heart and with mixed feelings, because I am a convinced and proud European who is over the moon about the prospect of enlargement. It breaks my heart to stand here and persuade representatives of any democratic Government to stick up for people. Having marched with the steelworkers at Ravenscraig and Gartcosh with colleagues from the Labour party, I thought that there would be an understanding of what mass wholesale unemployment would mean, and I hope that the UK Government will make that effort and raise the matter at the Copenhagen summit. Every single effort needs to be made to secure the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.
§ Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley)
I am pleased to take part in the debate as we enter a new era in the development of Europe. The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) made a case for Scotland's involvement in that, and I hope that in future Yorkshire will also have its chance to have its voice heard in Europe as the regional agenda develops in Britain.
343 Like the hon. Gentleman, I also claim mixed parentage. My father was born in Yorkshire and my mother, alas, was born in Lancashire, so there are some differences there. I am reassured by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon), who is no longer in his place, that even people in Lancashire are people.
Since the second world war it is good to say that much of Europe has enjoyed peace and stability, and I hope that enlargement will mean much greater peace and stability throughout Europe. Last month the Prime Minister described the forthcoming enlargement as the creation of a new Europe by free will. Unfortunately, we know that many of today's threats come not from within individual countries but from terrorism. I believe that together in Europe we can work with the other parts of the world to try to continue in the peace and stability that we have all enjoyed for many years.
The EU has greatly boosted trade, jobs and the economy. We have heard today, and have been encouraged by it, positive speeches on both sides of the House about the EU, and a real desire to see how it can develop.
South Yorkshire has recently benefited from objective 1 money and I hope that with the enlargement of the EU there will be a commitment to achieve development across all of Europe's regions. We see within our own country how some regions have not done so well in the economy, hence the reason for the structural funds that have come to areas such as mine. It is important for stability, peace and justice that huge disparities are avoided in wealth, health and development throughout Europe and ultimately the whole world. Of course, there are many other issues as well as security and economic success. Increasingly, we have environmental concerns that do not stop at national borders.
We have often heard the European Union criticised for being complex and a difficult institution for its citizens to understand. Some take the view that there is a disconnection between the European institutions and the citizens of Europe and that that has led to apathy, so I should like to discuss an area that has been little mentioned, but was brought to my attention yesterday when the Select Committee on Education and Skills met members of the British Council. I refer to European education programmes, which should spread out and benefit all countries, including those that are joining the European Union as well as those that are already members.
The British Council runs many of the European Union education programmes in the United Kingdom. The number of programmes is probably greater than many hon. Members think, as they span the entire breadth of our education systems. For example, school education and joint curriculum projects operate between schools and colleges, giving staff training opportunities and allowing them to develop networks with teachers in other countries. Two such projects exist in Sheffield.
On adult education and lifelong learning, the aim is to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of adult teaching and learning by supporting European co-operation projects, learning partnerships, staff training 344 and the development of networks across countries. If we want a Europe in which adults have the skills and abilities to work in the sort of jobs that will arise in the next decade, adult skills and education are very important.
The Lingua programme promotes the learning of foreign languages. The hon. Member for Moray might like to find out a bit more about it, as he was somewhat sceptical about the ability of this country's citizens to read and converse in other languages. As a linguist, I think it is very important that we promote the learning of languages in schools and for adults. The Lingua project supports the raising of awareness of language learning opportunities and seeks to develop such opportunities. As people get to meet the citizens of other European countries and learn about them, it is only natural that they should learn their languages. That enriches our culture and makes us all Europeans, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon) said.
Arion study visits are themed study visits for education decision makers. Again, they involve the sharing of education issues and ideas across Europe. The Government have rightly made education our No. 1 priority, and I should like to see it on the European agenda as well.
In addition to the programmes run by the British Council, there are other European Union educational programmes such as Erasmus, which relates to higher education and aims to encourage co-operation between European universities and support the mobility of students and staff and the development of joint programmes and courses and thematic networks. I was heartened by the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who recognised that the development of the European Union is not only about economics, peace or defence, but about culture and learning.
Of course, education has an intrinsic value, but it is especially important for the European Union in promoting co-operation and understanding between countries as we stand at the threshold of an enlarged European Union. By learning languages, we can begin to recognise the importance of the knowledge economy, in which people can benefit from being able to converse in another language in terms of trade between countries. In England—I say England advisedly—we are too often happy to sit back and allow other people to deal with things because they speak English. Is it not time that we learned those other languages so that we can expand our trading and cultural links as well?
Programmes such as those that I have mentioned support and create opportunities for all our citizens. I believe that enlargement provides opportunities not only to secure economic development, but to promote through such programmes understanding and co-operation across an increasing and I hope ever-enlarging number of countries. I firmly believe that enlargement will bring greater stability and prosperity to increasing numbers of people and that all European citizens will be working together for a more peaceful, prosperous and stable world.
§ Mr. Shaun Woodward (St. Helens, South)
We are holding an important debate on an important subject, and considering an important meeting in Copenhagen in the next few days.
Britain's future unquestionably lies at the heart of Europe. I speak from experience when I say that we also unquestionably have the right Government to negotiate that future. I say that with some pleasure because in a former guise in another party I spent some time undergoing the twists and turns of trying to explain to my constituents and activists why I was pro-European, how that view could be accommodated with going no further into Europe, the way in which Europe presented all sorts of problems, and that closer integration was not a good idea.
In the debate, Conservative Members expressed similar conundrums, which individuals are trying to solve. When the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) spoke about the reasons for a new constitution, I wondered whether the Conservative party was prepared genuinely to consider what the Government are trying to achieve. The Prime Minister made it clear in Cardiff last week that we need a proper constitution for Europe because of the EU's expansion to 25 members. Without change, it is impossible to take forward such a Europe in the way that we support. The Prime Minister spelt out that we want a constitution,which makes it clear that the driving ideology is indeed a union of nations and not a superstate".Secondly, he made it clear thatthe Convention is proposing a radical strengthening of the subsidiarity principle.
Subsidiarity will not be compromised but enshrined. The Commission and the Council are currently judge and jury. The Convention wants national Parliaments to be given new early-warning rights. They are important because if sufficient national Parliaments object, the Commission's proposals will require revision. That means expanding the principle of subsidiarity and giving national Parliaments in a union of nation states greater control. It makes perfect sense for us to go back to the treaties and create a sensible, simple constitution in plain language.
At Copenhagen, two crucial issues will be considered: enlargement and the future political architecture of the EU. That is necessary because we are entering a new phase in this millennium. Interdependence means the expansion of the global economy. However, there is a dark side to that. It includes the problems of climate change; trans-border crime, and AIDS and HIV. The list is long. We must have effective structures for dealing with them. They must be flexible but integrated in order to work. Archbishop William Temple once said that the art of government was creating structures in whichself-interest will prompt what justice demands.Structures and integration therefore matter.
Of course, democratic accountability is critical in that architecture. People feel stronger if they have a greater sense of democratic accountability. A constitution would ensure that it was enshrined in a principle that underscores enlargement in the next few years.
346 The right hon. Member for Devizes spoke of failures in the EU under the Government. He should visit the north-west, where two thirds of our exports go to the EU. He should witness the 400,000 jobs that have been created in the north-west and which depend on our exports to the EU. There has been £5 billion of inward investment in the north-west. Structural funds are being poured into Merseyside. The infrastructure projects in my constituency include roads, railways, new schools, new equipment, community projects, regeneration, and two new business parks. We even hope that we will get money for rebuilding or finding a new home ground for the Saints. All those projects are due to structural money from the EU.
The summit will critically tackle where we go from here. We face many problems. Twenty-five years ago, the EU constituted 15 per cent. of the world's population; the figure is now nearer 5 per cent. In the early 1980s, there was a 10 per cent. gap in GDP per capita between the peoples of Europe and those of the United States. Today, the figure is closer to 42 per cent.
Unquestionably, we must do something about improving economic performance and reviving failing economies. We must increase our markets and make them more efficient. I say to Opposition Members that it is impossible to make the single market work without further integration. It is absurd for Conservative Front-Bench Members, as architects of the single market, to argue for less integration in the context of the single market. External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten recently observed that in Europe at present we are seeing a unique experiment in regional integration. It is unique for a number of reasons, but it is absolutely unique across the globe.
We must look at the important question of Turkey. The Foreign Secretary was right to refer at the beginning of his speech to Turkey's accession to the EU as an "obligation". This weekend, we shall look to the summit as much to see what it says about Turkey as to see how that reflects what it says about ourselves. Our response to Turkey's accession is, as much as anything, about the kind of Europe we want to create. Do we want a Christian club for reactionary economies or a dynamic union of nation states focused on improving the economic performance of those countries and providing security and a climate free from terrorism?
In that context, I refer to the lamentable remarks that former President Giscard d'Estaing made recently about Turkey joining the EU. He said that those who support Turkey's accession are enemies of Europe. He said that Turkey is a different culture, with a different approach and a different way; that Turkey is a country that is close to Europe but it is not a European country. Those arguments—those prejudices—are serious, because when Giscard d'Estaing speaks, he speaks for many, albeit not a majority, who would prefer to see the European Union as a club, not an effective single market working for the peoples of nation states.
What are former President Giscard d'Estaing's objections? His first is a prejudice about the religious nature of most of the peoples who make up the European Union. That argument excludes the 18 million Muslims who are already a critical and well-integrated part of it. He regards the admission of more Muslims as potentially destabilising. His second objection seems to be about Turkey's size: it has a 347 population nearly the size of Germany's, so it is too large and its backwards economy poses a threat. I understand that what he proposes for Turkey is a trade association with the European Union, but not full integration. On that, he is entirely wrong. It would be a terrible backwards step for us were we to go with that advice.
This is about the kind of Europe that we are trying to shape, and how the political architecture that we are forging can best serve the peoples of these nation states. Former President Giscard d'Estaing has been economical with history. He forgets, for example, that at the time of his own presidency, Turkey was already on its way to membership. He forgets that, back in 1963 when Britain's membership was vetoed, Charles de Gaulle recognised that Turkey was indeed a European country.
More compelling today, however, is the logic of Turkey joining. In 1989, the Berlin wall fell and we saw the curtain lifted for a new generation, with hope and possible prosperity offered to it. Today, the curtain can be lifted between the east and west. Former President Giscard d'Estaing fears that Turkey as part of the EU bordering on Iraq would be dangerous for the EU. I believe that the opposite is true: it is a real opportunity. As John F. Kennedy said when he was at the Berlin wall in the 1960s, "Freedom is indivisible", and as Attaturk said 75 years ago,Countries vary, but civilisation is one.
Geographically, Turkey offers us an opportunity to create a bridge between the east and the west. It stands at a crossroads between Europe, the middle east and central Asia, yet it serves not as a bridgehead between east and west, but as a bridge to unite civilisations, providing an opportunity to bring 80 million Muslim people into the institutions and ideas of Europe. Three years ago, former President Clinton paid a visit to Turkey. While he was there, he said:When people can celebrate their culture and faith in ways that do not infringe upon the rights of others, moderates do not become extremists and extremists do not become misguided heroes.There is a lot for us to learn in those words. There is also a lot for us to learn by thinking about what we might lose if we do not embrace Turkey.
Turkey sits on the eastern flank of NATO. It is a strategic ally of Israel, a buffer against Iran, and an ally against Saddam. In the past, it has been a shock absorber against an expansionist Soviet Union, and today it absorbs the Russian pressures on the middle east. It is a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. In short, Turkey offers us the chance of having a window into the Islamic world. We have made many mistakes in the past in relation to Islam. Today we see new contours emerging in the post-cold war world, and we can see the importance of this new order. In the past, the United States and the European Union have missed the opportunities to create new paradigms with which to deal with Islamic fundamentalism. Today, Turkey gives us that chance.
The old Turkey of 70 years ago has gone. It has begun a journey, and that journey is now advancing at speed. This Turkey is drawn by European values such as 348 democracy. It has abolished the death penalty. It has also outlawed torture, and punishes those who are guilty of it. Its "Midnight Express" culture is giving way to one in which it is trying to establish freedom and human rights. As the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) rightly observed, the Turkish model, with its 80 million Muslim people, is a democratic alternative to the models of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is important that we embrace it.
Turkey has the strongest economy in its region. President Giscard d'Estaing's question about whether Turkey is European is simply the wrong question to ask today. The right question is whether the European Union can afford not to include Turkey. That question whether to include Turkey and offer it a real prospect of accession is central to the success of this weekend's summit, and central to all those in Copenhagen who are framing the architecture for successful European Union enlargement.
§ Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
I am delighted that we are having our third debate on European affairs in 10 days. We have now had two in the Chamber, and one in Westminster Hall earlier today. I was intrigued to hear the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) assert that the Conservatives had many warm things to say about Europe. When his boss, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), spoke earlier, he gave away the Tories' understanding of Europe when he gave us his little vignette on European weather. He seemed to think, in his "little Englander" way, that the isobars that wave across Britain are somehow entirely British, and that French, Spanish and Italian isobars never have anything to do with this little island, which is more precious than anywhere else. It reminded me of the approach to foreigners adopted in "The League of Gentlemen", in which anyone who goes into the little shop is told: "This is a local shop, sir, for local people." It is a bit depressing to hear that the Conservative party still has such outmoded views.
Someone once said of the BBC that it was the greatest cultural invention of the 20th century. I believe that the European Union is probably the greatest political invention of the 20th century. It is certainly one of the greatest feats of diplomatic engineering. Countries that were at war not only in the last century but across the last 10 centuries and countries that not long ago had fascist or left-wing dictatorships have managed to find peace with one another; countries that had communist dictatorships will soon enter the EU; and countries that had and have great industrial muscle and might will soon join countries that have had little industrial might over the past 250 or 300 years. There is a common endeavour of abandoning Europe's history of rich and poor countries, areas and regions, and trying to abolish grinding poverty across the whole of Europe. That is a significant political and diplomatic achievement.
Part of that success has relied on the enormous flexibility that the Union has been able to establish. Despite the fact that the original founding fathers of the European Economic Community—they were, in the main, men—had a clear idea in their mind, which, as Members have said, is not one that many in the Chamber would share, we have none the less been able to move through major transitional periods, such as the 349 accession of the United Kingdom and that of Spain and Portugal, with their history of fascist dictatorship. Over the next 18 months, we face the accession of 10 new members, but all that shows the enormous flexibility in the EU, which has been part of its phenomenal strength.
As we shall see, enlargement will bring many changes to trade, which other Members have mentioned. It is worth bearing in mind the fact that when Spain acceded to the EU, British trade with it increased by 40 per cent. across the next five years. We can probably expect significant additional prosperity for this country as a result of enlargement.
Significant philosophical changes in the understanding of the EU will come about through enlargement. For a start, the old-school idea of the EU, whereby it was seen as a club whose members shared a virtually identical cultural, philosophical and historical heritage, will disappear. In other words, the old grand tour vision of Europe—the Prado, Louvre, Uffizi and Parthenon version of the EU—will go. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's remarks on why Turkey should not be part of the EU reflected that old grand tour understanding of Europe, which will now finally disappear.
Enlargement will also mean a far more diverse understanding of the term "liberal democracy". That will help the EU to establish a much greater and more sensible understanding of subsidiarity. The EU will involve not only republics and constitutional monarchies, which function in many different ways, but countries such as this, which have asymmetric devolution, and such as Belgium, which is barely a country at all in respect of its degree of devolution. The EU will also involve republics formed out of revolution and republics formed after the end of communism. It seems clear to me that we must have a greater understanding of a Europe of the regions in which the regional and individual identities of each different country will be far more significant.
On an issue that is perhaps significant to British understanding of the EU, some major institutions in each member state will start to change how they operate. For example, the understanding of British people about what constitutes a public service broadcaster is far different from that of people in Poland or Hungary. Over the years, the model that we have espoused—a free press and an independent public service broadcaster—will increasingly become that for the rest of the EU.
Significant institutional change will be necessary. Although I do not want to go over last week's debate, it is essential that we achieve much greater clarity about the respective roles of the Commission, the Council, the Parliament, the member states and the EU as a whole. It seems to me that ordinary members of society, ordinary members of the public, need to understand where authority lies in any given area. Unless we can provide a set of treaties, a constitution, making that much clearer, we will do ourselves a great disservice.
Although Anders Rasmussen is doing a wonderful job and will, we hope, do an even more wonderful job over the next few days, I feel that the current stop-start presidency often gives the many industries that rely on decisions made at EU level a sense of instability and uncertainty. They do not know how fast an individual directive or area of policy is proceeding until they discover the current presidency's criteria and priorities 350 for the next few months. That is why I passionately believe in a much more long-term presidential system, which would also give us a better understanding of the significance of elected Governments in the Council of Ministers—hopefully more transparent than in the past—as opposed to the Commission.
Incidentally, it would be nice if the process of enlargement ended transmigration between Brussels and Strasbourg, which must be one of the craziest things that diplomacy has ever led to.
I also think that some of the Commission's institutions need to be strengthened. This is not always a popular view, but I feel that the competition directorate in particular must, in years to come, play a vital role in ensuring that the concept of state aid is not abused, especially in new member states, where the history of intervention in industry is very different from that in established EU countries.
The Trade Commissioner will, I think, play a far more significant role in the next 10, 15 or 20 years. There will undoubtedly be times when the EU wants to stand four-square with the United States, and unless we have a Trade Commissioner who can do that robustly we will again do ourselves a disservice.
There will clearly be many challenges relating to crime and defence, and we will need to strengthen our competences in those contexts. In one respect, however, I think that further accessions may lead to a significant turn towards Britain. I expect English to become, increasingly, the language of the European Union. That is already happening in many European debates. It is no longer a case of English, French and German; nearly everyone speaks English. There will, of course, be a consequence for the English language, whose future now lies more in the hands of non-native than those of native English speakers.
The problem of MEPs' pay and conditions will have to be resolved before the entry of the new member states.
Many Members have referred to Turkey's accession. I agree wholeheartedly about Turkey's strategic significance, but I reject the argument advanced by some that as only a small part of its land mass is in the historical continent of Europe, and much is beyond the Bosphorus, we should not entertain the idea of its membership. Like others, I also reject the rather anti-Islamic argument that some have advanced. It always strikes me as ironic that a profoundly anti-Islamic view should exist in many southern Mediterranean European countries in particular, while at the same time a passionately partisan view is adopted on the issue of Palestine and Israel. That has always struck me as a contradiction. Mr. Giscard d'Estaing said that Turkey was Islamic while Europe was fundamentally Christian. Let me remind him that the Moors defined much of Spanish culture, and that without that history Spain would not be the country it is today.
One other issue will impinge rapidly on the United Kingdom by virtue of enlargement of the European Union: UK membership of the euro. It is getting ever clearer that all the states that are seeking to become members in the next 18 months will be fast upon the escalator to joining the euro. I have a profound worry that this country will be trying to chase the coat tails of the Polish Prime Minister when it comes to our own membership.
351 There are dramatic dangers in Britain staying out of the euro, not least a fall in inward investment, which we are already beginning to see. Investment in France and Germany as a percentage of their gross domestic product has risen since the euro began, whereas in the UK it has dipped in the past two years. We already know of the logistical and cost problems for any UK business that trades in the rest of Europe. At the moment, 57 per cent. of our trade is with European countries in the eurozone. For all those businesses, there are additional costs to our remaining isolated from the euro. The chairman of the British Tourist Authority has argued that tourism in Britain is already losing out by many millions of pounds a year because American long-haul visitors are deciding to visit the rest of the Europe and not the UK because of the euro. Many European travellers are deciding not to come to Britain.
I also worry that we will be sitting on the political sidelines in Europe with other people deciding our economic destiny if we do not join. There are the dangers of the shocks of exchange rate volatility, which dramatically affect in particular manufacturing industry but nearly every aspect of the British economy.
Many arguments are advanced against the UK joining the euro, not least that there will be a significant restraint on UK spending, despite the fact that the French and Irish economies manage themselves differently: 33 per cent. of GDP is spent as opposed to 50 per cent. of GDP by this Government. We would have similar flexibility.
One could advance many arguments. Some people argue that the UK will survive well on its own, that that is what is happening at the moment, that we are doing better than the rest of Europe, so why on earth should we bother? I say to those people: we will be able to survive as an economy on our own—as a niche. If we stay isolated from the euro we will become a niche market, with all the dangers that that entails: we will be prone to the ups and downs of the world economy, and threatened by exchange rate volatility. Of course, we could survive as a country—with higher prices than in the rest of Europe, with fewer jobs than in the rest of Europe and with less economic clout.
§ 9.3 pm
§ Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston)
The forthcoming summit in Copenhagen will deal with enlargement, which will bring together the nations of Europe on the basis of free trade, international agreement and co-operation founded on current democratic institutions. It will mean a Europe capable of looking after our interests in a global context. It will mean a bigger trading area to create even more prosperity and more jobs. That is why the Government support enlargement: it is good not just for the applicant countries but for the British people.
Europe in the previous century was for the most part divided: there were two world wars, millions of people were killed, and nations across the continent lived in fear of each other. What has been achieved in the past 50 years is astonishing, and history is accelerating. The achievements of the last 50 years outweigh those of the previous 2,000 years. National barriers to goods, people 352 and services have been swept away by the European Union. The development of international road, air, rail, energy and information networks has turned the globe into a village and Europe into a neighbourhood—a community two clicks of a mouse away. These networks are the arteries of the European economy, and the health of that economy is totally dependent on the ability of goods, services and capital—and people—to flow freely around Europe.
An enlarged Europe will bring even more prosperity to its citizens. This is about a strong Britain in a greater Europe. At Copenhagen, EU Heads of State and Government are expected to take all the necessary decisions to conclude accession negotiations with the 10 candidate states identified as ready for EU membership: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are all destined to become EU members.
The European Council is also expected to decide on a detailed road map for the future accession negotiations and preparations with Bulgaria and Romania, and on the next stage of Turkey's candidacy. I have been fortunate enough to visit Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia this year to look at their preparations for entry into the European Union. I have also visited Romania, which, with Bulgaria, will have all the 31 chapters required for accession closed by 2004, ready for it to enter in 2007.
The popularity of the European Union in those countries is enviable. They all recognise the potential for peace, prosperity and security that membership will bring. It is lamentable that the Conservative party always chooses to attack and denigrate what many other nations hold in high esteem.
Turkey's new Government and eventual accession hold the key to two major problems—
§ Mr. Hendrick
The very institutions that bring prosperity and peace to Europe, such as the European Commission. From many Conservative Members, we have heard nothing today but regular attacks on the European Commission and the other institutions.
§ Mr. Hendrick
All institutions lose money. The hon. Gentleman's local authority and mine will have outstanding debts and money that has—
§ Mr. Hendrick
The hon. Gentleman has made his points, and they do not stack up.
353 I was talking about Turkey. The willingness of Europeans to accept a predominantly Muslim but secular democracy into the European Union will, as many of my hon. Friends have said, send a signal to all the Muslims in the world that the west is not anti-Muslim, and that the European Union is about peace and democracy, not race and religion.
As I said earlier, I also believe that Turkey's accession would solve the problem of a divided Cyprus—if Kofi Annan's plan has not solved it beforehand. The economic and political security that Turkey's and Cyprus's membership of the EU could add to the military security already provided by NATO would help to remove the scars of a divided island.
Too often we hear from people who should know better that Britain and the rest of Europe are anti-Muslim. Turkey is a key opportunity for Europe, and should be seen as a problem only in so far as it still has to meet the Copenhagen criteria.
With anything up to 25 nations as members, the reform of EU institutions such as the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers is also on the agenda. The Danish presidency has responded positively to that agenda by producing a report detailing many of the discussions so far and describing three models of presidency reform.
The first option maintains the main features of the current rotating presidency, while extending the co-operation between successive presidencies. I would call that the least change option. It would improve presidency preparations and handovers, but not alter significantly the workings of the presidencies themselves. In an EU of 25 nations, the current model, even in an enhanced form, would be unworkable.
The second option combines an institutional presidency for the Council's co-ordinating chain—the General Affairs and External Relations Council and the Committee of Permanent Representatives—that could be chaired by the secretary-general/high representative or his representatives, with a system of rotating presidencies or elected bodies for most other Council configurations. That model seems arbitrary, and I am not sure what advantages it would bring.
The third option offers the prospect of a team presidency. The team could be composed of three to five members, selected according to criteria such as geography and size, for a given period—one and a half years or two and a half years, for example—renewed at fixed intervals or through a rolling system. That seems the most exciting proposal. It offers a much wider involvement in the presidency, along with maximum co-operation between member states.
I understand that the Danish presidency has proposed strengthening the role of the high representative to respond to the problem posed by the presidency's role in external relations Proposals include chairing certain Council meetings; representing the EU in international organisations or in meetings with third countries; negotiating international agreements in respect of common foreign and security policy, and in European security and defence policy; submitting proposals; informing the European Parliament; and supervising EU special envoys.
As the European Union enlarges still further, there will be an increased need for a coherent voice to express the EU's general views on both soft and hard diplomacy 354 issues. The ideas put forward by several member states on an elected president of the European Council are also important. This variant could be combined with the second or third of the models that I have mentioned. A European Council president would be elected for a longer period—up to five years—prepare and preside over the European Council, and represent the EU in relations with third countries at heads-of-state level.
In the absence of a European Government, that proposal would go a long way towards giving the EU the identity that it currently lacks. For all the importance of the President of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, citizens view them with scepticism, and as not being their own. An elected president would give them a figurehead—someone with whom they could identify. I look forward to a successful summit in Copenhagen, and I wish our Government representatives all the best in their deliberations.
§ Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
I must apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for being unable to be present for the opening speeches; however, I wanted to get in on this matter if possible.
I want to raise an issue that I do not suppose has been raised by anybody else in this debate or elsewhere: the relationship between the European Union, ourselves, the United States and the International Criminal Court. That issue should be debated in this place, and the Government should make a statement on it. Less than two years ago, this House passed legislation on the ICC. For many of us, it was a matter of great pride that we ended something that started at Nuremberg. There were obstacles in the way for many years, but ICC legislation is now on our statute book, and 85 countries throughout the world have ratified the ICC.
However, the ICC is now in danger because of the actions of the United States. The US is not merely saying that it does not agree with the ICC; it is trying to eliminate it. It is doing so, first, by threatening to withdraw peacekeeping forces around the world unless agreement is reached that American forces and personnel will not be subject to the ICC. Secondly, it has passed the American Service Members' Protection Act 2001, which prohibits US involvement in peacekeeping unless US personnel are excluded from the powers of the ICC. Ultimately, it gives the US the power to liberate any American personnel who are kept in The Hague.
Thirdly, the US actively pursued countries to sign bilateral impunity agreements. That is of great significance, as the EU was at the forefront of establishing the ICC. Unless the EU and those countries seeking full EU membership act in a united and coordinated fashion, there will be a severe danger that the ICC will be undermined.
When the US approached the EU with the idea of establishing bilateral agreements to exclude US personnel from the activities of the ICC, I hoped that the UK would take the lead and say that that was not on. I hoped that we would say that the ICC could have no credibility if the most powerful nation in the world were excluded from its provisions. Instead, however, the UK sought to establish that there could be bilateral agreements with the US if they followed certain principles.
355 I do not have time to go into those principles, as I want other hon. Members to be able to contribute to the debate. Also, I am aware that my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe will not have time, when he replies, to give me the answers to the several questions that I want to raise. However, I hope that he will assure me that he will respond in writing later.
First, will my hon. Friend the Minister describe the current state of negotiations between Britain and the US over an impunity agreement? We know that the Americans have been seeking bilateral agreements with each of the countries in the EU. What stage have those negotiations reached? I think that the House should be told.
Secondly, the EU laid down various principles for the conclusion of bilateral agreements. Have the Americans accepted the European conditions as to when an impunity agreement can be signed, or do they consider the conditions to be inadequate? I believe that about 14 bilateral agreements have been signed so far. The countries that sign such agreements tend to be placed under great pressure by the US. For example, the US has negotiated very aggressively with East Timor and said that it will withdraw resources unless that country agrees to a bilateral agreement. Have any of the agreements signed so far been ratified by the Parliaments of the countries concerned?
Does it remain a condition of EU entry that countries should sign up to the ICC in its entirety, or has that requirement been dropped? What legal advice have the Government received on whether it was legal for the UN Security Council to defer for one year the application of the ICC to the US? Also, what legal advice have the Government received regarding bilateral agreements that conflict with the intentions behind the International Criminal Court Act 2001 that we passed less than two years ago? What has priority—the intentions and contents of the 2001 Act or a bilateral agreement?
This is an important issue. I realise that the Minister cannot answer it fully in 15 minutes. However, the negotiations on legislation that mattered so much to the Labour party in establishing an international criminal court are very important. Does he agree that we should be kept in touch with what is happening if actions are taken that will inevitably weaken something that we created less than two years ago?
§ Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk)
I have listened to the debate with great interest for the past two hours. I am conscious that there is at least one other Member who wants to speak, so I will be very brief.
Having listened to a number of contributions, I want to respond particularly to that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon), who, unfortunately, is not in his place, and to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant). The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington said that Conservative Members were against Europe and what he called Tuscan evenings. I have to say that I have spent some of the happiest days of my life sitting in deckchairs in Tuscany looking at the towers of San Gimigniano. I had hoped for a rather more profound contribution.
356 The Italian writer Primo Levi, in one of his greatest books, "I sommersi e i salvati"—"The Drowned and the Saved"—said that as a Jewish holocaust survivor, he could not accept that people should be judged because of the group to which they belonged. He wanted to be judged, above all, as an individual. None the less, he had to accept that there was such a thing as a Hispanidad, a Deutschum and an Italianata, without which there would be no purpose in being a nation.
I think that we have fundamentally misjudged the extent to which there is an emotional glue—here I agree with the hon. Member for Rhondda—that binds the European Union project together. I am talking about people's experiences when Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Greece were fascist dictatorships—some of them even in my lifetime—the experience of the low countries as areas for war and, above all, the experience of France, which was invaded three times by Germany in 70 years. Even if there are good and rational reasons why people might object to this project, I believe that many people are beyond those rational arguments because the emotional glue is so strong. I do not necessarily blame them for that—it is probably right. Fundamentally, however, they underestimate—as I suspect that many people in the House of Commons do—the absolute difference between their situation and ours. We underestimate their emotional glue and they underestimate our tradition and attachment to parliamentary self-government.
We are faced with a project that already has, or will soon get, a Parliament, a flag, an anthem, a currency, a central bank, a driving licence, a passport, a concept of citizenship, a legal system with a hierarchy of courts and a Supreme Court, a criminal justice system with a public prosecutor and a police force, an army, a president and a constitution. That is not what the people of this country wanted or will ever want. I believe that they will uphold their right, expressed through the House of Commons, to be a self-governing democracy, capable of making their own laws, making their own arrangements, setting their own taxes, issuing their own currency and controlling their own destiny.
§ Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)
It will come as no surprise to hon. Members that I want to focus my remarks on the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
Let me set the scene by agreeing with almost everyone that the UK is and will be a champion of enlargement in Europe. Ten countries are looking to enter the European Union in 2004 and although they are at various stages of the negotiating process, and there are one or two hiccups, there is a strong political will for that to happen.
I strongly believe that Turkey should be given a date for accession—as several hon. Members have said—although that will be controversial in some quarters. Hon. Members have referred to human rights and the related issue of minorities, as well as democracy in Turkey and the role of the army. Although progress has to be made on all those matters, we should remember that the package of measures passed by the Turkish Parliament earlier this year was deemed to be a good start to the process.
357 As an hon. Member said earlier, the election process cleared out—if I may use that phrase—all the old guard, the old faces who turned up regularly in Turkish Governments. We have hopes that the new Government will be much more progressive and that they will recognise what needs to be done if the country is to enter Europe in the future.
As I said, I want to concentrate my remarks on the accession of Cyprus. First, it needs to be said loud and clear that Cyprus more than meets the accession criteria. However, the problem for Cyprus is different from that of the other nine states because the island has been divided for the past 28 years. We must give the highest priority to trying to end that division before the accession of Cyprus.
In many international forums nowadays, we talk about the failure to implement UN resolutions. Over the past 28 years, there have been a number of UN resolutions on Cyprus, so its case is stronger than most. A further problem is the continuing isolation of the Turkish-Cypriot community and its relative economic decline during the past 28 years. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in the UK greatly want the island to be reunified. There are thus many reasons to give that priority. There have been many, many attempts to deal with the problems in the past so if we are not successful, for whatever reason, we should recognise that, as has been said many times, Cyprus should none the less accede to membership.
There are three reasons why that is important. First, Cyprus has developed extremely close ties to the EU. It may come as a surprise to some Members that those ties go back as far as the association agreement that was signed in 1972. The history behind that is that when Britain was in the process of entering the EU, Ted Heath went to Cyprus and said that the Cypriots should be thinking along similar lines. They did not take that step then, but entered an association agreement. That was followed, in 1987, by a legal framework, which is still in existence.
Cyprus made its first membership application in 1990–12 years ago. In 1993, the EU recognised for the first time that the Government of Cyprus could make an application on behalf of the whole island. All the subsequent Councils—Luxembourg in 1993, Corfu in 1994, Essen in 1995 and so on—recognised the validity of Cyprus's application.
In 1998, it was agreed to start accession negotiations and the watershed came at Helsinki. In that connection, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who was then Foreign Secretary. He played a role in resolving the controversy at that time by saying that Cyprus should accede but that all relevant factors should be taken into account. That view still stands.
Since 1998, all the progress reports have stated positively that Cyprus should be able to enter the EU. Indeed, the last report, before the Council meeting in September, confirms once again that Cyprus fulfils the political criteria, that it respects human rights and freedoms, that it has developed a market economy and can compete within the EU. Indeed, there is talk of Cyprus joining the euro almost as soon as it enters the Community. It will indeed be a member.
358 Everyone realises that there are still one or two things to iron out as regards the acquis communautaire, but no one sees that as a stumbling block. We would then see the culmination of the closer and closer relationship that has developed between the EU and Cyprus.
Secondly, there has been all-party support in the House for Cyprus's membership. I can trace such support back to the 1997 Labour party election manifesto, which gave priority to the enlargement process. More importantly, that manifesto refers particularly to Cyprus's application to join the EU. Indeed, an accompanying document was issued at the time in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. It was called "Labour on Cyprus" and stated:We all want Cyprus to join as a united island. But we are clear that accession must not be made conditional on settlement and that there must be no right of veto for any third party.That policy was adopted across Europe at the Helsinki conference. I could quote one ministerial statement after another—indeed, I could quote Opposition Members who sit on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benches—all confirming and underpinning that policy.
If we are to be entirely consistent, if we are to recognise our long-term commitment to Cyprus and, indeed, if we are to maintain the integrity of our position and that of Europe, it is critical that Cyprus should enter. Given all the commitments that I have mentioned, we should not countenance the loss of credibility that would occur—not only in the United Kingdom and on the island itself, but across Europe—if Cyprus were not to enter.
Thirdly, I want to consider the phrase "all relevant factors", which was arrived at during the Helsinki meeting. All sorts of people have interpreted that phrase and related it to the UN negotiation process. I shall briefly mention the background to those negotiations because the Whip is waving at me even though I thought that I still had another four minutes to speak. The background includes UN resolutions, the high-level agreements that were reached and the acquis communautaire. The Cyprus Government have lived within those agreements and tried to interpret them constructively; so much so that, in June this year, the UN commended them on being constructive in trying to assist and on being flexible in trying to reach an agreement.
It was not possible to reach an agreement, but the recent framework agreement produced by the UN Secretary-General shows that all the political parties—not only Greek Cypriot, but Turkish Cypriot—have agreed that that document can form the basis of negotiations. So people are working constructively, but there are problems. I often read about the difficulties, and I was somewhat embarrassed and saddened by the comments made by Mr. Denktash on returning to Cyprus a couple of days ago, but we need to maintain a positive attitude to the process. That has been done in Cyprus, and it is what we should do. With good will, we can move towards a settlement, but I return to my original point: if that settlement is not achieved, we need to accept that Cyprus should join the EU.
§ Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)
Today we are certainly at a critical and historic juncture in the EU's development. We are on the brink of enlargement and, will effectively make history in Copenhagen, as the EU is extended to many of our eastern European friends, as well as, of course, Cyprus and Malta. There have been many excellent speeches today—of course all with the theme of welcoming the enlargement process—and I should like to mention one or two of the hon. Members who have spoken.
The hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) talked about Cyprus, as indeed the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) has done. There is cross-party support and understanding on that issue. We earnestly hope that a settlement will be reached, but, of course, if that does not happen, it cannot in any way be allowed to impede the process of the Republic of Cyprus into full membership of the EU. I agree with the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) who talked about the historic fulfilment of a process and said how remarkable it was that we had overcome obstacles that hindered us for many decades and reached this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) said that there was still work to do and talked about the need for judicial reform in the accession countries, and for transparency and efficiency in the European Commission. The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) talked about rapprochement between Greece and Turkey, which is very important. Many hon. Members have welcomed Turkey's progress towards accession to the EU and the resulting positive developments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) talked about Turkey and withdrawal. We want an EU that works for its members so that the question of dismemberment and withdrawal does not arise—we are dedicated to that aim. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon) talked about Tuscan nights and all sorts of things. I am not quite sure what his two principles are but he certainly spoke powerfully. The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) also talked about Turkey and, importantly, fishing. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has written today to the Prime Minister asking him to raise the specific issue of the common fisheries policy in Copenhagen. I believe that all hon. Members accept that that problem needs to be resolved.
The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) was right that enlargement is an extraordinary event. His many achievements include writing "Glenda Jackson—The Biography", but I do not know how many copies have been sold. However, he talked about the relationship between the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Last week, the debate on the Convention on the Future of Europe demonstrated the Government's flabby attitude. We need a practical, step-by-step process to enable the EU to face up to the challenges of the 21st century, and in last week's debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) set out in detail the building blocks that are vital to reconnect the EU to its members and tackle the democratic deficit. It was saddening but 360 not entirely surprising that the Minister for Europe failed to respond to any of my right hon. Friend's practical and imaginative suggestions, and concluded:We finish where we began, alas, on the debate between those in the House who want a stronger and more effective European Union in which nation states have a clear and defined role, and those who want us to leave the European Union. That, again and again, is the difference."—[Official Report, 2 December 2002; Vol. 395, c. 723.]He missed the point entirely. Throughout the European Union, there are people who either wish to withdraw from the EU or oppose its enlargement. That view is more widely held in some countries than here. Conservative Members are trying to address the issue head-on by making constructive policy suggestions. That is the real difference between the Opposition and the Government both now and in last week's debate.
In the past five and a half years, members of the Government have made many accurate criticisms and observations about the EU's structures and direction—they have spoken of the "elites" of Europe and a sense of disconnection. However, despite their analyses of the problems facing the EU, they have failed to secure the return of even one increasingly centralised power to national Parliaments. It was instructive that not one Government Member has mentioned the role of national Parliaments—they speak the language of subsidiarity but have consistently failed to deliver.
§ Mr. Woodward
I remind the hon. Gentleman that I talked extensively about the role of national Parliaments, but he was not in his place.
§ Mr. Spring
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, and will read what he said in Hansard with great interest.
Two years ago, before Nice, the then Secretary of State talked about the extension of qualified majority voting by the French presidency. He ruled it out in advance and said that the vast majority of proposals were unacceptable. In practice, as we have seen time and time again with this Government, they meekly accepted a clear majority of the proposals that had nothing to do with enlargement.
Similarly, we witnessed the creation of the European rapid reaction force. We are, of course, committed to enhanced pan-European defence co-operation, but that must be achieved under the umbrella of NATO. Again, before St. Malo, the Prime Minister made it clear that he did not want an EU defence capability outside NATO, but at Nice that is precisely what was signed up to. Once more, the Government gave way.
It is hugely important that we continue to engage with our US ally. We are already seeing defence spending levels that are wholly inadequate right across the EU. I note that in Germany the defence budget is to be cut still further. In addition, the Government should clearly have refused to allow the charter of fundamental rights to go forward. We were told that it was simply proclaimed on the sidelines of Nice and that it would have no legal significance greater than the content of the Beano. As always, the Government were wrong. The Commission stated at the time:In practice, the real question is when and how it"—that is, the charter—should be incorporated in the Treaties".361 The Government speak about constructive engagement, but do not stand up for their beliefs and give in, time and again.
The same thing is now happening on the proposed constitution. We were told one thing, and in practice something entirely different has emerged. It will simply lead to a great expansion of judge-led law in this country. During the debate last week, we heard much justification from the former Minister for Europe, now Secretary of State for Wales, for horizontal articles that would somehowblock the charter from being invoked to change nationally determined domestic law."—[Official Report, 2 December 2002; Vol. 395,c. 681.]My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) pointed out clearly in the working group that that was simply not the case, and that the great arguments that had been advanced by the Government and won by the Government, according to the right hon. Member for Neath (Peter Hain), were not true at all.
The Government have been in office for five and a half years, and we are entitled to make judgments on their conduct of foreign policy in relation to the EU and elsewhere. When the Government came to office, we witnessed the extraordinary event of the then Foreign Secretary announcing a foreign policy based on ethical considerations, with the bizarre and offensive implication that distinguished former Foreign Secretaries such as my noble Friend Lord Hurd and Sir Malcolm Rifkind pursued an unethical one in their defence of UK national interests. Over a period of five years, as with any Government, there will be high and low points. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes has freely acknowledged recently the constructive role played by the Foreign Secretary in securing the Security Council resolution in respect of Iraq.
However, nowhere has an ethical dimension of foreign policy been more blown to smithereens than by the way the Foreign Secretary and the former Minister for Europe have conducted themselves with regard to Gibraltar. Never can a Foreign Secretary have acquired the dubious distinction of infuriating not only the people of Gibraltar, but British public opinion, and sending the Spanish Government up the garden path. It was a fantastic diplomatic failure. It is not only those on the Opposition Benches who take that view. The Foreign Affairs Committee report spelled that view out clearly.
The Prime Minister has spoken of a unified foreign policy, whatever that means. Of course, we do not favour a common foreign policy that would deprive Britain of an independent capability to pursue our national interests. The UK is at the centre of many concentric circles—the EU, the UN Security Council, NATO, the G8 and the Commonwealth, which, coupled with our history, places us in a unique position for a medium-sized power and gives us unparalleled global reach. Our country, able to pursue these links and operate freely in international affairs within these circles, offers considerable benefits to the EU. Those are a bonus, not something to be given up.
Of course, increased co-operation in foreign affairs is desirable, but when the EU needs to come to a common position—for example, on the issue of Zimbabwe— 362 difficulties can arise, as in the meeting between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries on the question of visas. I hope that the Minister will refer to that, as it is a matter of genuine concern. I hope that the Minister will explain when he replies how we are to send a clear message when we have such problems with international organisations linked into the EU.
Europe faces a massive challenge post-enlargement. The EU has been hugely successful in keeping the peace on the continent, developing the single market and bringing the people of Europe together, but it has been less good at forging an economic environment that will enable it to compete in the 21st century.
The culture of centralisation and harmonisation runs powerfully in the EU and must be fought against because it undermines its success. That is the challenge. The EU was originally forged in the cold war era when the bloc mentality prevailed. It is perfectly understandable that the attitudes of a generation of European leaders were influenced by that, but the time has now come to move on.
We, in contrast to what has substantially become a mentality that is frozen in time, have set out a clear vision, as my right hon. Friend did last week, and a set of steps, which will reconnect the people of Europe with the EU and offer the necessary flexibility to the accession countries during the next few years. That will enable us to escape the bloc mentality that has informed much of the European debate in order to offer the much needed flexibility necessary for the EU to thrive and prosper.
History is to be made in the next two or three days. Let us embrace the challenge that it offers, but offer the people of Europe, both in the existing and the accession countries, structures with which they can feel comfortable. For that we need fresh and radical thinking. History, in turn, demands that of us.
§ The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)
I, too, have a printed out, pre-cooked and pre-digested speech, but as Minister for Europe I am trying to respond to debates and to have a conversation about Europe. If the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) will forgive me, I would rather not reply to each point in his pot-pourri of ideas, which contained every cliché and obsession about Europe of the past 20 years. He referred to the problem of the bloc mentality. My difficulty in debating with some Opposition Members in particular is their blockhead mentality
In his opening remarks, the shadow Foreign Secretary condemned the idea of an integrationist approach to Europe. I want to integrate in NATO and in the World Trade Organisation. I have no problems with our integrating in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman accused us of being instinctive integrationists. For my part, I plead guilty. He is an instinctive isolationist. From the 1930s, through imperial preferences and right back to Tory support for the corn laws, that problem has condemned the Tories to year after year in opposition.
The hon. Member for West Suffolk said that the Conservatives are all in favour of Europe. In a speech on 9 May 2002, the shadow Foreign Secretary said that EU enlargement had always enjoyed the support of the 363 Conservative party. It had its own referendum only a few months ago and it booted out the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), whom the shadow Cabinet had selected to represent the Conservative party on the Convention, and through a free vote of all its Members elected the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory). Speaking for the Conservative party on the Convention on Radio 4's "Analysis" programme on 5 December, he said that he was very worried about enlargement—that it was one of those unexamined good ideas that people were afraid to oppose but had not really thought through the consequences of. He went on to say that it would be extremely expensive. That is the formal voice for transmission to Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava of the Opposition Front Bench, but where is their real voice? There is only one Member on their Back Benches now. He spoke well, but the rest are utterly absent. I do not think that the burghers of central and eastern Europe, the folk of the Mediterranean who are coming into the European Union or even my very good friends in Gibraltar will be very impressed by the emptiness of the Opposition Benches during this important discussion.
We have heard some constructive speeches. In particular, excellent speeches about the importance of Turkey's entry into the European Union and the rightful claims of the people of Cyprus in that regard were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love). I think that they spoke for the majority in the House and across the party divide.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) for his congratulations and prescience. His blessing upon my head has turned out to have put me where I am. I hope that I will last at least as long as he did. He emphasised the need for reforms and spoke about the case of Lady Catherine Meyer, which concerns many of us in government. There is a problem, as the German court system does not work in accordance with norms that have been agreed elsewhere in Europe, and if we are to secure justice for Lady Meyer we need a more integrated approach. There is no justice to be gained for her from the Tory approach.
The hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore), who spoke for the Liberal Democrats, welcomed enlargement and referred to the need for common agricultural policy reform. I think that he spoke for many in the House. Along with the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), he also referred to the very serious crisis that faces the fishing communities and fishing folk of Scotland. The subject is technical and I am not entirely sure that it will not be best dealt with at the specialist council, where moves can perhaps be taken forward under qualified majority voting. I assure both hon. Gentlemen that I have had a discussion with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the Bench tonight and that we will discuss the matter with the Prime Minister tomorrow. The tactics of exactly how an issue should be brought to the fore in the European Union are difficult and need to be considered. They must also be put into effect in the most efficient way. One can always pick up a megaphone and 364 shout across the channel, but I am not sure whether that is the best way of advancing the cause of Britain, Scotland and the fishermen. None the less, I promise to keep in the closest touch with hon. Members from Scotland about the issue.
The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), who is not in his seat, made a very constructive speech. [Interruption.] I see that he has been transposed to the Front Bench. He made an important speech in which he referred to the need for discussion at Copenhagen about the Israel-Palestine dispute. I assure him that that will be discussed—indeed, Foreign Ministers are already discussing it—and I hope that there will be a positive declaration on it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon) made a remarkable speech. He promised to be candid, which makes me think of the lines of a former Foreign Secretary, the great Lord Canning, who said that of all the ills that heaven can send,save me … from the candid friend.My hon. Friend took us to the highways and byways of Tuscany and San Gimignano, and called for us all to be honest with people. He also said that his first and most important principle was to get on with it, so I propose to do exactly that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn) called for more focus on language learning in Europe, and my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) said that English was going to be an increasingly dominant language in Europe. Indeed, when I heard the Foreign Ministers of the accession countries making their presentations at my first Brussels General Affairs Council meeting, they all spoke English. However, we make a huge mistake if we believe that a monolingual Britain will make advances in a European Union, let alone a globalised community.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley gave excellent examples of programmes. I should like her to send details to Opposition Front Benchers. Although I am sure that they are all gifted linguists, or can certainly do wonderful things with their tongues, it would be no bad thing for them to learn a foreign language and thus understand the cultures of the countries with which we must communicate. Indeed, 10,000 EU students are studying in UK universities and approximately 1 million students from the EU study in universities outside their countries. I welcome that development. We must look forward to the new Europe that is being built by younger people and students in their universities, not the Europe of separated nation states, closed borders and frightened peoples, to which Conservative Front Benchers bear witness.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda made the important point that the European Union is the world's greatest experiment in liberal democracy. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick) said that the achievements of Europe in the past 50 years outweighed those of the past 2,000 years. The shadow Foreign Secretary, who is muttering, read history at Oxford. I believe that he got only as far as Hobbes and the invocation of the war of all against all. I do him an injustice because I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a convinced European. He does not believe a word of the anti-European drivel that his leader forces him to 365 pump out. Conservative Members should pay attention to the recent intervention by Lord Heseltine, a great Conservative.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda mentioned the increase in trade. He is right. Trade with the accession front-runners from the former Soviet bloc has increased by 400 per cent. since 1990. That is 10 times the growth of the UK's trade with the rest of the world.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) posed an important set of questions. He is a former Minister, and he was extremely courteous in saying that I could write to him with the replies. I shall do that.
The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon) made a fine, short intervention in which he talked about the emotional glue that holds nations together. He is right, but we can allcall spirits from the vasty deepto quote Hotspur, and turn them into fears. We have a choice: we can live under the shadow of our fears about Europe or in the sunshine of our hopes and the vision of our ambition. The House and the country want to live with ambition and hope.
Reference has been made to referendums that might be called on various aspects of Europe, but two great consultations on Europe have taken place in the past five years. One happened in 1997 and the other in 2001. In both cases, the British people had a simple choice: yes to Europe or yes to the Conservative party. There was no contest.
I hope that in our next debate, we can set aside the clichés, talk to each other and find ways in which to reconnect the great Conservative party to its internationalist and European tradition. To that end, I shall not invite my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward), who made a powerful and eloquent speech, to recross the Floor because he is happy here and we want him with us.
At some stage, the Conservative party will have to talk sense on Europe. Conservative Members had a choice tonight—at the beginning of the debate and at the end—but, once again, we heard nothing from them. They have missed the bus on Europe and they have missed any chance of connecting with the British people.
It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.