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Political Union

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards political union in the Common Market before the referendum is held.

I would refer to what I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman on 18th December 1974.—[Vol. 883, c. 439.]

But, with the passage of years, is not political union now moving to political unity, as the Foreign Secretary has just said? If that is so, will not the Government and my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench make a clear declaration—that would satisfy the people before the referendum—that this country is totally opposed to any move towards a federal Europe?

Yes, Sir. I have no difficulty in stating that. The hon. Gentleman knows that I have said on many occasions that I do not believe that we are in sight of moving to a federal Europe by 1980 or by any later date. But it would be absurd for the hon. Gentleman or any of the rest of us not to commit ourselves to some form of unity in the future, if it can be achieved. There is nothing wrong with unity, as such. It would be an absurd proposition for anyone to say otherwise. It is the conditions under which it is achieved, and it is whether people desire it—

I appeal for your protection, Mr. Speaker.

As far as I know, no Community Government regard themselves as committed to political union in this way. We are certainly not committed to it. It would be for the House to decide, if and when it wanted to take steps in that direction.

Reverting to the supplementary question asked by the Leader of the Scottish National Party—the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart)—may I ask whether my right hon. Friend agrees that just as important as the common agricultural policy is the common fisheries policy? Is he aware that it must be settled before we get near a referendum? Having fished out their waters off Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France, Common Market inshore fishermen are now fishing in waters off our coasts. The matter must be settled before we decide, by vote or otherwise, whether our future is in the EEC.

I do not believe that political union is concerned with this issue. I do not believe that it affects it one way or the other. I have already said that I shall look into the question of the fisheries policy again. There is a derogation until 1982. We can consider the matter on another occasion at greater leisure. It is not related to political union.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to rule out full union, as not being on the agenda, but when the Government make their recommendation on the question of remaining in the EEC or leaving it, will they make clear their intention about political and democratic involvement in Europe through the European Parliament?

I do not know whether that would come at the end of the renegotiation period. Obviously, if the country decided to leave the Community the question would not arise, but if it took a decision to remain a member, the subject would come up for immediate decision.