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Ec Budget

Volume 170: debated on Thursday 19 April 1990

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To ask the Prime Minister if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the size of the United Kingdom's net contribution to the European Community budget; and if she will make a statement.

I have at present no plans to do so. The Fontainebleau 1984 mechanism remains wholly intact. Our cumulative benefit from it will be some £7·5 billion by the end of 1990.

As last year's record contribution of £2 billion, or £3 a week for each British family, was outrageous, will my right hon. Friend make it abundantly clear that had she not battled so furiously for rebates in 1984, that amount would have been at least 50 per cent. higher—and this at a time when she was accused of being negative, unhelpful and unenthusiastic about Europe?

As almost everyone seems to be having a go at her these days, will my right hon. Friend also make it abundantly clear that she will maintain her courageous battle for Britain against socialist nonsense and overspending in the EEC? Will she totally ignore the views of the wimps and Euro-nuts among the Opposition—and even among the Conservative party—who are seeking to blow her off course?

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. We fought staunchly for Britain's rebate. We started off, to coin a phrase, by being isolated and we came back with £7·5 billion for Britain.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that in addition to financial matters, she and the Foreign Secretary will discuss the Belgian proposals for European union with other Ministers from the Common Market when they meet in Dublin over the next two weekends? Does she agree that these issues render the prerogative an increasingly outdated idea, and accordingly, will she tell Mr. Haughey when she meets him tomorrow that she is not prepared to give any view on, still less any commitment to, that paper unless it has been debated in this House? Does not she think that anything less than that represents an unacceptable democratic deficit in the United Kingdom?

There are now two matters: one is European monetary and economic union; another has been proposed informally by Chancellor Kohl and concerns political union. Neither matter is properly defined, but in so far as economic and monetary union was defined in the Delors paper, in stages 2 and 3, this House has already made its view clear: we could not possibly accept stage 2 or stage 3 of Delors as they stand, although we accept stage 1. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] We accept stage I and its completion and we are well ahead with completing it in this country.

In our view there are plenty of other matters to discuss in Dublin—the consequences of German unification, completing the single market in 1992, bringing the Uruguay round to a successful conclusion, especially on agriculture, completing the EEC-European Free Trade Association negotiations, and devising new forms of association for the countries of eastern Europe. If we got down to discussing those matters, that would be far better than discussing more esoteric issues that do not need to be addressed now.