HC Deb 25 March 2003 vol 402 cc152-4
8. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

If he will make a statement on Anglo-French bilateral diplomatic relations. [104466]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)

Relations with France are close, but could be better. We continue to work with France on a range of important issues.

Michael Fabricant

Over the weekend Le Figaro reported further critical attacks on Britain by Mr. Chirac, but the Government are right to try to strengthen ties with not just the old but the new Europe. What, though, will be the cost of United Kingdom membership of the new expanded European Union of 25 states that the Minister mentioned a few moments ago? Has the Foreign Office conducted any analysis? Is he aware that the United States Government believe that, taking into account indirect costs, that cost could be as high as £30 billion a year—equivalent to about 80 new hospitals in Britain every year? Has the Foreign Office conducted such an analysis, and if not will it do so?

Mr. MacShane


Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister should not answer that question. I call Mr. Shaun Woodward.

Mr. Shaun Woodward (St. Helens, South)

Despite the considerable differences and problems, alluded to by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), with the French concerning military intervention in Iraq, does my hon. Friend agree that in fact, there are substantial areas of agreement with the French in foreign and security policy? Nowhere is this more important than in seeking a peaceful resolution between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and in the implementation of the road map for peace.

Mr. MacShane

I am glad that my hon. Friend makes that point, because on a range of key foreign policy issues such as the Balkans and the middle east, and on others concerning the idea of Europe as a partnership of nation states, we are much closer to the position of the French than some of our other European partners. If I may answer the initial question, Mr. Speaker, the Foreign Office has of course analysed the cost of enlargement of the European Union. We believe that it will add about €1.75 billion —

Mr. Speaker

Order. I told the Minister not to answer that question. I call the Reverend Martin Smyth.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

When the Minister said that we are really close to France, I thought for a moment that he was speaking of the tunnel. On our links with the European Union and the question of the European governor of the European Central Bank, when will France come up with a viable candidate, rather than prolonging the agony that they have entered into in the past? Is the Minister satisfied that we constantly defend our rights with the same determination that the French defend theirs?

Mr. MacShane

The question of the next governor of the European Central Bank will have to be resolved soon. Jean-Claude Trichet, the French candidate, certainly has the support of the City. He is a most austere and rigorous monetarist, and he is not lax on fiscal matters. He is stern on monetary matters—in fact, he is the very model of an Anglo-Saxon banker, even if he is French.