Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.Although the Bill is slim, it is significant and important. It will do two things. First, clause I will enable the implementation under United Kingdom law of the accession treaty, which was signed in Athens on 16 April and extends the European Union to the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia from 1 May 2004. Secondly, from the same date, clause 2 will allow nationals of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia the same rights to work in the United Kingdom as those enjoyed by nationals of current member states and those that will be automatically enjoyed by nationals of Malta and Cyprus. However, that will be subject to a clear regulation-making power to withdraw such a concession if the need arises, as I shall discuss later in my speech. Let me begin with clause 1. The accession treaty is one of the most important agreements in the European Union's history. Enlargement sets the seal on the end of the cold-war division of Europe. Many hon. Members, including myself, represent Britain's immediate postwar generation. We hardly need reminding that security among European nations has been nothing less than a continental and American obsession for almost 60 years. That was the stimulus behind the infusion of Marshall aid and the inspiration for the foundation of the European Union. It led to the establishment of the most successful military alliance in our history—NATO. European security was a central preoccupation of one of my most distinguished predecessors. Ernest Bevin. If he were alive today he would, I am sure, be immensely proud of the progress that Europe has made from being the
that was so vividly described by Churchill in 1945 to becoming the prosperous and peaceful Union that we have today. Those of us who take an interest in European history need to recognise that the norm in Europe has been conflict and bloodshed and that the exception has been relative peace and harmony. That exception, which we have created in the past 60 years, has not been accidental but was created as a result of conscious decisions by peoples in Europe and throughout the continent. When the Berlin wall fell in 1989 and tens of millions of Europeans decided to take destiny into their own hands, they were not unwitting actors in a historical drama driven by political and economic forces beyond their control. Indeed, they wanted to exert control over economic and political forces that had previously denied them such control. They acted because they recognised that their system had failed them. They looked not further east or south but west for a better future, freedom, representative government and the opportunity better to reward their talents. They recognised the European Union as an institution that, alongside NATO, had delivered security and prosperity to its members for decades. As a result of that, almost immediately after the fall of the Soviet bloc Governments and the establishment of substitute Governments that became representative and democratic in time, Governments in central Europe pursued the goal of EU membership with relentless determination. It has been a remarkable effort. Political and economic reforms have laid the foundation for a prosperous future. Given the rich talents of each of those countries, I have no doubt that they will, over time, enjoy an economic transformation every bit as striking as that in Spain and Portugal since the 1980s."breeding ground of pestilence and hate"
Bearing in mind the overwhelming votes in referendums so far among accession countries, will the Secretary of State deprecate those who make the case that people in accession countries who have voted to enlarge the Union are substituting their hard-won independence for some form of tyrannical government? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the building block of the European Union remains independent member states, and that enlargement should be supported by all Members of this place?
It is a matter of free will whether enlargement is supported. However, I sign up to both of the propositions that the hon. Gentleman makes. In all my dealings with my Italian, French and German colleagues, I have had no sense from them that they feel that their nationhood has been diminished or undermined by membership of the European Union. More importantly, countries such as Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Hungary see their membership of the EU as an expression of their new nationhood, and not in any sense a detraction from it.
The Secretary of State is making the point about the future prosperity of the applicant countries that will follow, as he says, from their entry. He must take into account the fact that the current average level of prosperity of the applicant countries in terms of per capita income is about one seventh of that of the present members. Unemployment is about twice as high. In Poland, for example, it is 20 per cent. Who will pay for the great new prosperity that the applicant countries will enjoy?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Enlargement will lead to a greater range of gross domestic product per head than has existed hitherto. There are some significant figures. The new 10 will add 23 per cent. to the land mass of Europe, 20 per cent. to the population, but only 4 per cent. to the GDP of the EU. Those disparities are there.The hon. Gentleman asked who will pay, and I will give the exact figures later. The key way in which we have the process paid for is by increasing the output of the new member states. In a sense, they pay for it themselves. That has been historically the practice, after some initial subsidisation of new entrants, and I think that that will be the practice in future. Already, the GDPs of the candidate countries—former communist bloc countries—have grown by 40 per cent. As they are drawn into the EU, they will have wider access to our markets, especially our agricultural markets, or some of them. They will also be able to change and adapt their labour practices. We shall then see them really motoring, in the same way as the economies of southern European countries that have come within the EU. There will be some subsidy, and I shall deal with that.
Those of us in this country who hail from central European Jewish backgrounds, as I do, have no reason to feel any antipathy towards our fellow Europeans, but we are legitimately concerned about the right of this country to retain the power of self-government. Given that it is now five years since the inclusion of the protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality in the treaty of Amsterdam, will the Secretary of State identify one directive or regulation flowing from the EU that has been repealed under the terms of the protocol?
No, and the practice has been unsatisfactory. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked for an answer and I have given him the answer. I am then asked what we are going to do about the situation. One of the major issues that is being discussed within the Convention is to ensure that there is a two way street in terms of subsidiarity. There is an important proposal, which I hope will be supported by the whole House, that where the Commission puts forward draft proposals for legislation and that is objected to by a third of national Governments, those proposals must go back to the Commission for reconsideration [Interruption.] I am asked what reconsideration means We want to see that strengthened. I believe that that is a dynamic mechanism and far better than the mechanisms that were put in place by the previous Government.
I return to the point made earlier by the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Sir Michael Spicer) about the economics of the new entrants. Is it not true that when Spain, France and Greece all joined the EU, exactly the same phenomenon was true? Britain increased its trade with countries such as Spain by about 40 per cent. over only four or five years.
Indeed, that is the case.
The Secretary of State has made an important point about the failure of the principle of subsidiarity up to now. He has said that there is a new power in the draft constitution. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that at best member state parliaments will be able only to request that the Commission review a proposal, and that there is no obligation on the EU or the Commission to take any notice of such a proposal? The point was made by the Scrutiny Committee. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore undertake to veto a draft constitution that does not give practical effect and powers to member state parliaments to enforce the subsidiarity principle in the way that he thinks is desirable?
I do not undertake to do the latter, but I shall come on to our approach to the recommendations, of the Convention when we get to the intergovernmental conference. However, we want to see the present proposals strengthened. The matter was discussed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing at the dinner that I attended on Monday. We wish to push it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
No. I have taken many interventions, and I may take some more later.I say to the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) that even this proposal represents a significant advance on the proposals for subsidiarity which were included in earlier treaties. In the previous Government, the right hon. Gentleman, when he had responsibilities for Europe, voted in favour of the Maastricht treaty. He was an adornment of that Government. The proposal allows some dynamism in the process, and the right hon. Gentleman needs to see that in the context of the majority that is required, even under qualified majority voting, to get something through. If I may, I will make some progress. I pay tribute to the efforts of previous Governments, including the right hon. Members for Wells and for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), to secure Europe's unification. It was a distinguished predecessor of mine, Lord Hurd of Westwell, who said eight years ago:
It was good that the previous Administration, under John Major, not only made those statements but backed them with actions such as the establishment of the know-how fund and the sponsorship of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Also, that Administration pushed and prompted the EU to enter into association agreements with each of the applicant member states so that they had a route through from where they were in 1989–90, which was flat on their backs in economic and political terms, to where they are today, which is just about to become fully fledged members of the EU. In paying that straightforward tribute to the previous Administration, I say also that we are proud of this Government's record in pursuing this cause. In a speech in Warsaw three years ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was the first EU leader to call for enlargement before the European parliamentary elections next year. At the time, some believed that that was overly ambitious, not to say an unrealistic ambition. However, it is about to be realised on schedule. To take up the point raised by the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Sir Michael Spicer), integrating the accession countries into the Union will entail costs. The financial package agreed by Heads of Government at last year's Copenhagen Council amounted to £26 billion between 2004 and 2006. By any standard, that is a large amount of money, but it is well within the overall budgetary ceilings for enlargement that were agreed in Berlin in 1999. In comparative terms, it amounts to a total cost to the EU 15 of just 0.1 per cent. of EU GNP in any one year. We must make a calculation—and both the previous Government and we have done so—about whether the benefits of accession outweigh the costs. That has been our judgement collectively in the House over many years. Studies estimate that enlargement could increase our own gross domestic product by £1.75 billion in the medium term, and help to create more than 300,000 jobs across the Union. Our workers will enjoy freedom of movement across the world's largest trading bloc. Our companies will enjoy unfettered access to a market of more than 500 million consumers. The opportunities for the United Kingdom are greater than for almost any other country in Europe, if only we take them. We have the opportunities arising from our more dynamic, more liberal market economy, and from the way in which our service sector excels, and we have the opportunities presented by the fact that we speak—if the phrase will be pardoned—the lingua franca of the whole of eastern Europe: English. The further east those countries are, the more they look towards us, rather than towards some of our continental neighbours. Those are opportunities that we should seize. Enlargement will not only help us to realise Europe's full economic potential; it will give us the capacity to reach across national borders to confront the new threats to Britain's security. We all know that, acting alone, we will never be able to protect our citizens from the threats of global terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the chaos and misery spread by failed and failing states. We need more partners in Europe to confront those threats, and we need to build on the tried and trusted EU methods—co-operation across borders, intelligence sharing and joint law enforcement operations. That has been a central lesson over the past 20 months in the campaign against terrorism. If the European Union is mutually to benefit from the accession of the additional 10 countries, the institutions that were originally designed for the six founding members will have to be reformed to cope with the demands of 25 member states. It is a tautology, and a pretty useless one, to claim that what is in the Convention, and the changes that the Convention may in time lead to, are not a condition for accession. That is obvious, because we are dealing with accession separately. It tells us nothing, except that if we tried to operate the EU at 25 with the existing institutions, we would find that the institutions became less and less efficient. There are many examples of how that would happen. For example, when the revolving presidency was first agreed, each member state had a presidency for six months in every three years. When we first became members, it was once every four and a half years—almost within the perspective of a single Government term. Currently, it is once every seven and a half years, and from 1 May 2004 it will be once every 12 and a half years. In addition, alongside the wider disparity in economic performance in those countries, there is a much bigger range in population and capacity. With the best will in the world, it would be extremely difficult for some of those very small countries—in private they know it, even if they are less willing to admit it in public for the time being—to run an effective presidency across all the Councils for six months in every 12 and a half years. There will be no collective memory in those systems. That is why we proposed that there should be a fulltime president of the Council. We also proposed that there should be a full-time representative on foreign affairs, and within that there should be arrangements for team presidencies. I say to those Opposition Members who share my vision and view of a European Union of sovereign nation states that it is in their interest as much as ours that we strengthen the institutions of the Council, which represents those nation states, rather than that they should be weakened, as they have been in recent years."Enlargement is not a luxury. It is a necessity if we are to build a safe and successful Europe for the 21st century."
It has always been understood by those of us in the Opposition who are keen on enlargement that in order to make a European Union of 25 work, there would have to be concessions. We would give up something in order that the new entrants could come in, and the EU would be no less effective. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in treating the outcome of the Convention, he will safeguard certain interests that we have, such as foreign policy being subject to a veto, but otherwise will seek the best solution of the division of powers between the European Union and the British nation, so that we can make progress within the EU, rather than trying to make progress impossible?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Of course we have our clear red lines, and we will stick to them. We will not have foreign policy communitised. We simply will not have it. There are many other red lines for us, but what we have learned since the mid1980s is that this country benefits, for example, from qualified majority voting in a wide range of areas. When Maastricht was under discussion, it was striking that Lord Hurd, debating whether there should be a referendum, pointed out that the most significant and major changes that were made in the way in which the EU operated in order to make it more effective, not least for our benefit, were ones made in the Single European Act. Lord Hurd said:
"There was no referendum on that and precious little call for one."—[Official Report, 21 April 1993; Vol. 223, c. 453.]
The Foreign Secretary assured my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) that there would be no communitised foreign policy if he had his way. Can he explain the differences between a communitised foreign policy and a unified foreign policy in Europe, which the Prime Minister promoted in Cardiff some months ago?
Of course I can. There is a huge difference. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman is in such a muddle over the issue that he does not understand the difference between a communitised foreign policy and a unified foreign policy, so I shall explain.A communitised foreign policy is one where all the Community institutions operate in respect of that foreign policy. The right of initiative is left solely, as it is at present in respect of trade or fishing, to the European Commission. As Foreign Ministers, we would become subordinate to the European Commission, and whether or not we went to war would be subject to qualified majority voting in the Council. We would be bound by the decisions reached by qualified majority vote inside the Council. Even if we objected to the decision, we would still have to put our troops in, and any legal issues would be subject to arbitration by the European Court of Justice. That is the communitisation of foreign policy. A unified foreign policy is what we all seek, regardless of whether we are in the European Union. It is one under which we have a view, others have a view, and we try to come together in unity. That is what we seek. The phrase that we use is "a common foreign policy". Sometimes we are able to achieve that, as we have on the middle east, rather successfully, and as we have on the Balkans and many African conflicts. Sometimes we cannot achieve it, as in the case of Iraq, in which case we have to agree to disagree.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
I will in a moment, but I have something that I feel the House ought to listen to, if I may say so, with respect—
As opposed to the rest.
As well as the rest.The right hon. Member for Devizes, the shadow Foreign Secretary, he who voted for Maastricht and against a referendum on Maastricht, said when he was making an impassioned speech in favour of Maastricht and against a referendum—I ask the House to weigh these words with great care—
He went on to say:"I said at the beginning that I did not want to be part of a European superstate."
which seems to imply that he was content, if necessary, to be a member of a superstate, because he regarded that as preferable to being outside it. If he has a better explanation of that, I am happy to give way to him. I see that he remains silent."Equally, I do not want to find myself in a country that is outside a European superstate, with our industries unable to penetrate it"—[Official Report, 4 November 1992; Vol. 213, c. 343],
My right hon. Friend will recall the letter that the Prime Minister and Gerhard Schroder sent to Prime Minister Aznar on 25 February 2002. It set out our stall on the reform agenda. Is he confident that we have made progress on achieving the points in the letter?
Yes, we have indeed made progress and we shall achieve more.The Convention on the Future of Europe has been examining how to make European institutions work better for the past 15 months. Representatives of this House, the other place and the Government have participated in that. It is increasingly clear that the accession countries broadly share the United Kingdom's vision of the Union's future: a Europe of sovereign nations, proud of their distinct identities but co-operating for mutual good, and a partner, not a rival, of the United States. We have always been clear about our objectives for the Convention. We want delegates to agree a constitutional text for the Union, which enables it to work efficiently at 25 members, sets out what it is, what it does and how it does it, defines the role and powers of its institutions and their relationship with member states, and improves its ability to deliver practical benefits to Europe's citizens. Some contend that the Convention is about none of that but signals the demise of the United Kingdom as a sovereign independent state. It does not. If it did, none of us—except the right hon. Member for Devizes, who appears to be dallying with the idea of a superstate—would have anything to do with it. Given all the recent comments, it is worth recalling that of Giscard d'Estaing, that the outcome will not be a European superstate but a "union of states". Some—not me, but Opposition Members—may say, "Oh well, he's a former President of France and we should take less notice of him." The idea that France, with its separate seat in the United Nations Security Council, and a history and foreign policy that are as distinctive as ours, would be willing to give up its national identity for a European superstate, in which it would be overwhelmed by countries non-sympathetic to it, is nonsense.
The Foreign Secretary said that one of the Convention's aims is to make running the EU more efficient. I apologise for taking him from the higher echelons of the ether that he is currently inhabiting to the practical consequences of running an organisation of 25 member states. Like me, he will have sat through Council of Ministers meetings that worry about minutiae. Unlike me, he will not have had to do that in an organisation of 12 member states. That was difficult enough, but I suggest that doing it in an organisation of 15 is almost impossible, given the detail to be considered in, for example, the Agriculture Council. What sort of arrangements can be devised to pare down the detail, involvement and the sheer number of hours that a body of 25 member states would require?
The right hon. Lady raises important practical issues. When we considered justice, home affairs and foreign policy, we were dealing with second and third pillar arrangements whereas she had to deal with first pillar arrangements. I recall one occasion on which I was almost driven completely mad when we were arguing about the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications. The minimum for which the directive allowed was 31 days. That was also the case in every member state except Austria, where the period allowed under its domestic law for driving disqualification was 28 days. It was a wonderful, Rubik's cube of a challenge without a solution. We found one in the end.
Give us all the details.
In time-honoured fashion, we settled on a month, which could be 28 or 31 days. It was 6 o'clock on a Friday, I was chairing the session and I claim some credit for the outcome.The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) made an important point. We should all consider the Convention carefully, and the need to make Europe work more effectively. Let us consider the operation of a Union of 25 member states, some of which have skilful Ministers to take the chairs of the Councils, but only for six months. To be frank, there are less skilled Ministers, from countries with no collective memories in their systems or from tiny countries, who tell us that they do not have the capacity for such an extraordinary undertaking. Unless we do something practical about that, power will shift to a centralised Brussels Commission. That will happen if we do nothing. Some people claim that we should have voted against the Nice treaty and that we should now hold a referendum on the Convention. For them, the point of a referendum is to say no to it.[Interruption.] Of course that does not apply to everyone. However, those who suggest that the Convention is a terrible nightmare need to examine the proposals and the requirements of a future Union. Those requirements mean that we must ensure that member states, through their Ministers in the Council of Ministers and the Council's secretariat, can rebalance the Union's institutions in the interests of our citizens. That can be achieved through several prosaic methods. First, we could appoint a full-time president of the Council, who would be answerable to the Council and sovereign nation states, just as the President of the Commission is answerable to the Commission. Secondly, there could he team presidencies. Instead of every country having all the presidencies once every 12 and a half years, member states would be placed in blocks of four, and each country could share two presidencies for two years. I am happy to provide the grid for hon. Members. Many other, mostly prosaic, things can be done to make the Union operate better. That will enable rebalancing. I accept the point made by the right hon. Member for Wells that the proposed mechanism is not as satisfactory as it should be to ensure a block on Commission proposals that national Parliaments regard as unacceptable. That is important. I do not agree with the proposal for a single legislative council that is emanating from part of the Convention, but although the idea is overblown, more effective scrutiny of the drafting of directives and regulations and a check on too many regulations is in the interests of member states.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the advantage of the rotating presidency is that it puts the reins of the Community in the hands of directly elected national politicians every six months? Which country does he find deficient? Luxembourg, which has a population roughly the size of for Wolverhampton, has been able to run a professional presidency for the past 30 or 40 years. Which country does the Foreign Secretary believe to be incapable of performing that function?
Seductive though the hon. Gentleman's invitation is, I shall not be drawn into naming names.Luxembourg is the exception among very small countries. It was significantly supported and, as a founder member of the European Union, it has a specific expertise and skill that are not available to others. It is not only tiny countries that are sometimes unable to provide effective presidencies. Like any other Minister, I am happy to chair the bodies, but from my experience, which is shared by some hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, if the hon. Gentleman wants to ensure that the House and the Government answerable to it are better served in Brussels, in the Councils in Luxembourg and in the Commission, our rather prosaic proposals are likely to deliver greater efficiency.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the key matter in reforming the European Union is the power of the Council of Ministers? If that power is retained as it is, with the ability of the sovereign countries to determine whether they will go along with foreign and defence proposals, the identity of the president and the officials and the nature of the systems in the committees are secondary matters. The issue of principle is the power of the Council of Ministers. If that does not change, there is no case for a referendum.
I agree with my hon. Friend; I am about to come to that point.Let me deal with the issue of a referendum. It is important to remember that the Convention has no executive authority—none whatever. It will make final decisions on absolutely nothing—its deliberations are not definitive. Its task is to submit a constitutional text to member states next month at the Thessaloniki European Council. Whatever the Convention recommends, the decisions on whether there is a new constitution for Europe—then, crucially, what goes into it—do not depend on any operational institution of the European Union. No one should get obsessed about the fact that it will be called a constitution. Every party represented in this House has a constitution—that does not make it a nation state. I refer those who want further elucidation to an article that I wrote for The Economist two or three months ago, in which I try to expand on that. The content of any new treaties will depend solely on the Governments of the 25 sovereign states meeting together in an intergovernmental conference and taking decisions only by unanimity. That IGC negotiation is unlikely to conclude before the end of the year. Adoption of the draft treaty would then be subject to ratification by the different constitutional procedures of the member states. In the United Kingdom, there is no hard and fast rule about which issues should go to referendum, and the weight of an issue—its gravity—cannot be the sole test.We have routinely held referendums on what most of us regard as second or third-order issues such as Sunday drinking in Wales. We have never held referendums—nor has any other country, as far as I am aware—on the most critical question that can ever come before any Government and Parliament, but particularly a democracy: whether to go to war. Although there is no iron rule, in practice we have had referendums to determine whether to change dramatically our constitutional arrangements. That has been the case for the past 30 years. Thus, we had the 1975 referendum on whether to stay in or leave the European Union, and the late-1990s referendums on whether to have a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly or a London—orHartlepool—mayor. The euro plainly comes into that category of changing our constitutional arrangements in an open-and-shut, dramatic way, even though the criteria for the Cabinet's recommendations are, as we all know, economic. In each of those examples, the choices are very stark and the alternative consequences are clear. One stays in the Common Market—as it was—or leaves it; one has a Scottish Parliament, or not; one has the euro, or sterling. What we—successive Governments—have not done is to have referendums on whether to approve changes to the existing institutions to which we belong. The Single European Act of 1986 and the Maastricht treaty of 1992 introduced big changes in the way in which the European Union ran—on any analysis, bigger changes than could possibly be introduced by the Convention even if everything in it was simply rubber-stamped by member states, which will not happen. They were big, and complex, changes. It is worth remembering that 12 members—that must be a significant majority—of the shadow Cabinet, including the right hon. Member for Devizes, who is shadow Foreign Secretary, and the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), as well as the right hon. Member for Wells, who is not in the shadow Cabinet, voted against a referendum on Maastricht, and did so for very good and eloquently expressed reasons. Similar arguments must apply to the product of the intergovernmental conference. Any changes will be complex overall. Let me be clear that we will not sign up to them unless we are clear that they meet our aims—to make the EU more effective and responsive—and do not compromise our national sovereignty. I hope that the changes agreed by member states in the forthcoming IGC will involve important reforms, which we have discussed, to the way in which the EU operates internally. However, they will not entail any significant change in the relationship between the United Kingdom as a sovereign state and the European Union as an association of nation states. It follows that any likely overall reform package will not be on a par, in terms of importance, with, for example, whether we keep our pound sterling or share our currency with the euro. As I said, the IGC's product will be far less significant than either Maastricht or the Single European Act. Moreover—this is very important—the IGC and Convention product will be, on any basis, far less significant than the Bill in terms of the future of Europe and the future of this country. I have heard no calls from right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches for a referendum on the contents of the Bill. Of course they do not intend to do that, because they are in favour of the Bill, but against the Convention. The IGC negotiations should result in reforms that enable the Union to respond effectively to voters' concerns. As we all know, one of the issues that animates European voters and Governments alike is Europe's—not necessarily ours, in fact far from it—relatively weak economic performance. We have sought to reflect our commitment to economic dynamism in Europe in the changes that are made by clause 2, which will make a modest, but important contribution in that respect. The point of clause 2 is to grant nationals from the eight central and eastern European accession countries the same rights to work in the UK from 1 May next year as are enjoyed by nationals of the existing member states. As I told the House earlier, nationals of Cyprus and Malta will enjoy those rights automatically on accession. That measure is in our national interest. It will attract the workers we need in key sectors. It will ensure that they can work here without restrictions and need not be a burden on the public purse. It makes sense financially, as we can focus resources on the real immigration problems, rather than trying to stop EU citizens enjoying normal EU rights. Independent studies, including recent independent research commissioned by the Home Office, suggests that there will not be a substantial increase in immigration from the accession countries that poses a threat to standards of living and employment in any region of the UK or to any occupation. That is because although there will be rights of migration here, what is bound to happen is that the economies of the 10 countries, especially the eight that I mentioned, will expand, and as a result the demand for labour in them will increase. For those who are concerned about the matter, I say this: we should bear in mind the experience of Spain and Portugal in joining the European Union. It is worth remembering that we now take Spain and Portugal for granted as countries that are on the same level as ourselves, but they were not in that situation at all when they joined the European Union in the mid1980s. I shall give some figures for Spain and France. When Spain joined the European Community in 1986, there were more than 100,000 Spanish workers in France. Within eight years, that figure had fallen to 35,000. What is fascinating about Spain and the United Kingdom is that there were many Spanish people in the United Kingdom before Spain joined the European Union; now, there are hundreds of thousands of British people in Spain—the migration has been the other way.
I was in Portugal in 1985, and I recall Lisbon being an incredibly poor city. If one goes to Portugal today, one can see the massive transformation that has been brought about by membership of the European Union and the single currency. Does my right hon. Friend think that that is likely to happen in all the other accession countries as they join the EU and the single currency?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I believe that that will happen. If, however, there are problems, and we need to change the regulations that we introduce, clause 2(2) allows for the regulations to be changed for any individual country, or as a whole, or for the concession to be withdrawn.It is true that recent progress towards enlargement has not been entirely smooth. I regret that in Cyprus it did not prove possible for a settlement to be secured before Cyprus signed the treaty of accession on 16 April. We repeatedly sought to facilitate an effective negotiation between the two parties, Greece and Turkey. I pay tribute to the Governments of Greece and Turkey, who played a commendable role in trying to secure a satisfactory conclusion, to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his special representative de Soto, and to our special representative, Lord Hannay. A settlement was not possible, however, so Greek Cypriot Cyprus—the state that we recognise—is part of the European Union and the Turkish part is not.
Does my right hon. Friend welcome the opening up of the border between the two communities in Cyprus? We hope that negotiations will start in the very near future, and that they will lead to the solution that he is looking for.
I do, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's work in trying to secure a rapprochement between the two communities. He knows better than almost anyone in the House that the diaspora of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots is a very important constituency for the political processes in Cyprus. The recent opening up of the borders has been terrific, and has provided people on both sides with hope regarding what is to come, and shown them how, after years of enmity, they could live in peace with a more open border.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I have agreed that the European convention on human rights should be extended to the United Kingdom's sovereign base areas on Cyprus, with effect from 1 May 2004. This is good news, particularly for the 7,000 Cypriot citizens who live in the sovereign base areas, who will enjoy the same human rights protection as other Cypriots. I very much hope that, at some point during the next Parliament, the Government will be able to introduce a Bill to endorse the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Turkey should follow thereafter. A state in which the overwhelming majority of people are Muslim, but which is secular, and accepts our conception of liberal democratic values, would strengthen Europe's ties with the Islamic world. I think that the whole House is united—I hope it is—in encouraging Turkey to continue its programme of reform so that we shall be able to judge it on the same basis as all the other countries in terms of whether it is ready to come into the European Union. We also look forward to the accession, on the same strict criteria, of an increasing number of Balkan states in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Enlargement, as all the parties to the treaty have declared, is a continuous, inclusive and, I believe, irreversible process. This current enlargement, which is of unparalleled dimension and significance, will broaden the horizons of European unity, enhance the United Kingdom's influence in the European Union, and increase security and prosperity across the continent, to the benefit of all European Union citizens. I commend the Bill to the House.
Does "irreversible" mean that we cannot get out?
I would like to start by referring to a matter that the Foreign Secretary dealt with at some length, although it might not strictly come within the terms of the Bill. I would like to make a comment or two on his analysis of why he is not going to hold a referendum on the treaty that will be forthcoming as a result of the work done by the convention. I find his explanation quite extraordinary. We live in a world in which we have had 34 referendums since 1997. We have had them on Scotland, Wales and London, we have had them on mayors, and now we are going to have them on regional assemblies. Yet the Foreign Secretary tells us that, on this significant measure—which he tends to suggest is not as significant as some of his colleagues think—we cannot have a referendum.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Let me just pose one simple question to the Foreign Secretary. If it is significant to have a referendum on whether we should have a mayor, not just in London but in Hartlepool, why is it insignificant whether we should have an elected president of the Council of Ministers for a five-year period? What is the difference between the two? I will tell the House what it is. The Government are afraid to put this whole question of a constitution to the people of this country because, as the Secretary of State himself has said, they fear that they would say no.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I will in a moment.We have been given a series of explanations of what the constitution is going to mean. We were told by the Secretary of State for Wales that it involved "tidying up", yet on Sunday he agreed that it was constitutionally significant. We have heard all sorts of explanations from the Foreign Secretary of the importance of the measure. We heard the Prime Minister the other day wrongly saying that the constitution was essential to make the accession treaty work. Whatever explanation is given, we cannot deny that this is a significant measure, and my colleagues and I would like to see it put to the judgment of the British people.
We know what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. It is his arguments that are poor, not what he is saying. I have already explained this point, but I am happy to repeat it. If the Convention is agreed by member states in due course, it will involve some important changes in the way in which the European Union operates, but they are complex. It will not involve a significant change in the nature of our relationship with the European Union. If the right hon. Gentleman is now arguing for a referendum on the contents of the Convention, why was he against a referendum on Maastricht, which, on any analysis, involved much more significant changes in our relationship with the European Union? Let him answer that.
I will. Ten years ago, I was against all referendums. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Yet, since 1997, we have lived in an age of referendums. The question that the Foreign Secretary refuses to answer is: why, if we have a referendum on everything else, can we not have one on the European constitution? As for the Foreign Secretary's— [Interruption.]
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. We must have some calm and quiet in the House. These are important arguments that should be heard on both sides.
The Foreign Secretary's suggestion that we should not have a referendum because this is a complex issue is a total insult to the British people. He knows, and I know, that the Convention and the constitution are going to move Europe from being a Europe of sovereign nations to being a supranational Europe. If that is not significant, I do not know what is.
That is surely a remarkable argument. The spirit of the age has changed, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman must change. Will he tell us where, along that Damascus road from Maastricht, the light dawned?
I find it quite extraordinary to hear the arguments of the other side. I believe that the British people should decide whether this is significant. All the opinion polls that we have seen suggest that they think it significant and that they want a referendum. Yet we have the arrogance of those on the Government Front Bench who say that, because it is a complex matter, the British people should not be allowed to make a judgment on it. That is the most disgracefully antidemocratic argument that I have heard in the House for a long time.
No, I am going to move on.The Bill fulfils the technical requirements arising from the treaty signed in Athens on 16 April. It paves the way for the accession next year of 10 new members of the European Union. The Conservatives welcome enlargement, and we warmly welcome the accession countries.
May I come back to the important question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson)? At what point did the shadow Foreign Secretary suddenly change his mind?
When I very reluctantly found myself in a world in which we had referendums on Scotland and Wales, in which I had to take part, and a referendum on London—a world in which I suddenly found that the process was one in which we consulted the people in referendums. But why, if we do that on all these other issues, are the Government not going to do it on this significant issue? There is absolutely no question but that they are avoiding a referendum on this issue because they believe that the British people, if asked, would give them the judgment that we believe should be given.
No, I am going to move on.I spoke about this matter at the beginning of my speech, because it does not strictly arise from the Bill, but the Foreign Secretary had raised it and I felt that it was necessary to deal with it. The Conservatives have consistently supported enlargement. As early as 1992, the then Government made the expansion of the EU into eastern Europe a clear policy aim, and we have promoted it ever since. Today we are pleased that it is coming to pass, and we support the Bill. That is not to say that we see enlargement as a panacea. Despite the Foreign Secretary's rather high-flown optimism, it will undoubtedly pose substantial economic challenges for many of the accession countries. It will need patience and understanding. There will be great disparities of wealth. Poland has a population more than three times the size of Greece's. Its gross domestic product per head is under a quarter of that of Greece, yet in the first year of full membership it will receive from the EU only 65 per cent. of what Greece will receive. There will also be great disparities in living standards, and there is no quick or easy way of resolving them. Successful enlargement will require commitment and courage from the applicant countries as well as from those who are already members. We must be realistic about the challenges that accession and enlargement will bring. I mention this so that we do not start this debate peering at enlargement through rose-tinted glasses. In that regard, I must also mention that the provisions in the Bill on the immediate freedom of movement of workers from accession countries are a cause of considerable concern. This is inevitably a sensitive issue, but for a start, we need to know why so many other countries are taking advantage of the transitional derogation that is available in the treaty. There are questions to be answered about why the United Kingdom is not doing so. We will return to that issue in detail in Committee, but for the moment, I flag it up as a matter of concern.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that a significant reason why other countries see that aspect as more important than it is seen to be here in the UK is that 80 per cent. of such people currently outside the accession countries are living in Germany and Austria?
As I understand it, six of the 15 current members will allow immediate entry, while the others will use the derogation for somewhere between the two and seven years that are allowed. I believe that we need to deal with the matter carefully and understand the implications. As I said, we will return to it in detail in Committee. I believe that many questions should be answered at that stage.We must pay tribute to the determination of the accession countries to join the EU even in the light of the challenges that many of them will face. I welcome this enlargement because it moves towards the completion of Europe—
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way on that point?
I am in middle of making it; perhaps the hon. Gentleman should wait until I have finished making the point before seeking to intervene on it.I welcome this enlargement because it moves us towards the completion of Europe in a way that was impossible in the days of the cold war. As my noble Friend Lady Thatcher said in her famous speech 15 years ago:
Now those great European cities have regained their roots and are undeniably European again. I believe that everyone in all parts of the House will welcome that."We must never forget that east of the iron curtain peoples who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom and identity have been cut off from their roots. We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities."
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He congratulated the accession countries on their determination to join the EU. Will he therefore distance himself from Conservative Members of the European Parliament who campaigned in several of the referendums in accession countries against their joining?
We made it clear all along in this House that we believed in accession and wanted enlargement of the European Community. That was the position of the Conservative party and it is exactly what we have said all the way along.I think that we should recall history. We should recall that Europe has never been the introverted, defensive and conformist entity that so many eurocrats like to paint it as. Europe is broad and varied, speckled and different, and combative and affectionate. To an historian, Poland, which is famous for its bravery, has always been a natural part of European history, along with the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It is not often remembered—it may be that not many people know this—that the Lithuanians were the first European people to defeat the Mongols. Today, we welcome these countries, together with those other vital parts of European history and culture, the Czech and Slovak Republics and the Republics of Hungary and Slovenia. As Lady Thatcher recognised, they lie at the geographical heart of Europe. Like the Foreign Secretary, we welcome the accession of the Republic of Cyprus, although we regret that it is not possible for the island to join us whole. We delighted in the accession of the Republic of Malta, whose courage and resilience we in this country recognise and know well. Like the Foreign Secretary, I hope that we may one day welcome Romania and Bulgaria, and possibly, in due course and if European Union criteria are met, even Turkey. We are looking now not at an old, outdated fortress Europe, but at a new, vibrant and forward-looking Europe—a patchwork quilt of cultures, interests and values. We should now be turning our backs on a coercive, conformist Europe where power is increasingly drawn to the centre. That is yesterday's unenlarged Europe. We look to tomorrow's Europe as one that rejoices in diversity, recognises national rather than supranational interests and works on the basis of co-operation rather than coercion. That is what we believe is meant by a true partnership of sovereign nations.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He is at a very important part of his speech. Can he confirm that the 10 applicant countries have without exception accepted the terms of all previous treaties in the European Union and have signed up lock, stock and barrel to the acquis communautaire, which seems to me to suggest that the Europe about which he is talking and which he hopes will come into place in the future is not actually on offer at present?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point that I was going to mention a little later. The applicant countries know what they have signed up to, but they will now face an intergovernmental conference that will supersede those treaties. I shall deal with the issue later, but my understanding is that those countries will not have full voting rights in that process, although they will be bound by whatever comes out of it. That is a very important point and we need to come back to it.I want to seek to clear up a little confusion—or perhaps I should say, given the turmoil in the Government at the moment on all matters European, a little of the confusion. The Prime Minister claimed last week that our call for a referendum on the new constitutional treaty had been made because we were against enlargement. As I said, he said that the constitution was necessary to make enlargement work. He has clearly not realised that enlargement can and will proceed now with or without a new constitutional treaty. Either he has not done his basic homework or he has done it but does not want an honest debate, as that is the position, as the Library has made perfectly clear. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition remonstrated with the Prime Minister, only to be met by an hysterical and clearly rattled outburst of invective. Yesterday, in an extraordinary and intemperate letter, the Prime Minister turned fact and history on their heads and accused my right hon. Friend of jeopardising enlargement, claiming that he sought to take Britain out of the EU. I wish to make it clear that that is not only totally untrue, but black propaganda of the most cynical and disreputable kind. It was not my right hon. Friend who said that the EU
and was a reason for coming out; it was the Prime Minister in Beaconsfield in 1982. It was not my right hon. Friend who said that the EU had"takes away Britain's freedom to follow the sort of economic policies we need"
and that withdrawal should be negotiated. Again, that was the Prime Minister, in his election address in Sedgefield in 1983. I can tell the House that we will take no lessons from the Prime Minister on hostility to Europe and inconsistency in his approach to Europe. While I am on this theme, may I ask whether it is true that the Foreign Secretary, who was happy to quote me—I hope that he will listen for a moment—called at the Wembley conference in 1980 for withdrawal front Europe? How strange that that seems to have slipped his mind."drained our national resources and destroyed jobs"
I did not speak at the Wembley conference in 1980, as far as I remember. I may be wrong, but it was a long time ago.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to correct the impression given by a report on him by Andrew Roth, who seems to remember it well.The truth is that we believe in enlargement and want to make it work. What is clear is that it will not work in an environment that forces the accession countries to conform and toe the line. There is too much variety in Europe for that. Yet that is what the Government and their centralising allies are concocting and proposing. For all the weasel words of the Secretary of State for Wales, that is what is likely to emerge from the Convention. The Prime Minister was wrong to say that the measures being considered by Giscard d'Estaing for the new constitution are vital for enlargement. They are not. He would have been nearer the mark if he had said that what is emerging from the Convention would make successful enlargement that much more difficult.
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that, with the accession of 10 new countries to the European Union, the existing constitution in it s informal form needs no amendment whatever? Is that the position of the Conservative party?
No. I do not know how many debates on Europe the hon. Gentleman has attended, but I have been arguing from the Dispatch Box that we want a much more flexible Europe precisely because enlargement is coming. I am now saying that the Convention will produce something that is even worse than what we have at the moment, move us away from a Europe of nations towards a supranational situation and make it even more difficult for enlargement to work.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, 60 years on, it remains impossible to improve on the position as it was articulated by Winston Churchill:
"We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed. And should European statesmen address us in the words which were used of old—'Wouldst thou be spoken for to the king, or the captain of the host?'—we should reply…'Nay sir, for we dwell among our own people'"?
I am grateful not just for my hon. Friend's perfect recollection of Winston Churchill's words, but for the point he has made.
What is the right hon. Gentleman's response to that eloquent intervention, though? The logical conclusion of what the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) has just said is that we should not be in the European Union. Is that the right hon. Gentleman's view?
No. What it means is that we should be in a partnership of sovereign nations. That is what "sovereign nation" means. The Foreign Secretary frequently talks about a partnership of sovereign nations, but his intervention shows that he does not understand what sovereignty means, and is quite prepared to alienate it because he does not think it matters.
I am chairman of the European Movement, which Sir Winston Churchill set up with the precise objective of ensuring that we tied ourselves more closely to the continent. As Lord Jenkin pointed out in a letter to The Times, Sir Winston was emphatically in favour of our applying to join the European Economic Community—for exactly the political and economic reasons for which we eventually did join.
I do not think there is any difference between our arguments. We are talking about a partnership of sovereign nations, which is what the European Economic Community was. One of its basic principles was that power flowed from the national Parliaments towards the centre. The Convention proposes something very different—that power should flow from the top down towards the national Parliaments.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
I will give way once more; then I must make progress.
I was somewhat confused by the intervention concerning what Winston Churchill aspired to. If I recall rightly, he once said, "If Britain has to choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea." I do not think that Winston Churchill would have been in favour of the European Union.
I say this with a great deal of diffidence, but I like to think that if that great statesman were standing at this Dispatch Box and were asked if he approved of what was emerging from the Convention now, with Giscard d'Estaing, he would give the same answer—because that is precisely what the choice could be.Enlargement requires decentralization and flexibility—what has sometimes been called flexible geometry, within which the very different interests and requirements of the accession countries can be better recognised and met. In a European Union with new members as diverse as Estonia and Cyprus, not only is conformity ludicrous; it makes flexibility essential. The Europe of the Convention and the constitution is anything but flexible. We are seeing the building of the new superpower to which the Prime Minister referred in his speech in Poland in October 2000. [Interruption.] The word "superpower" was used by the Prime Minister, not me. The Foreign Secretary must understand that the Opposition are very puzzled by the different descriptions of what is happening that we hear from the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales. It is time they got their act together and decided what they are trying to achieve in Europe. We are talking about a Europe in which fundamental rights will be centrally enforced, asylum laws will no longer be made nationally but will be made at European level, large swathes of international policy will be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the intergovernmental concept that gives nation states their voice and their moment of leadership in the Council will be weakened, and foreign policy will no longer be a matter for individual members but, ultimately, will be imposed centrally. It is a Europe that will have increasingly crossed the line between the Europe of sovereign nations and the sovereign nation of Europe. This centralised and bureaucratised Europe is precisely what enlargement does not need. Many of the accession countries to which the Bill refers have only comparatively recently freed themselves from centralised. Soviet domination. They are new democracies with national democratic institutions that are still young and finding their way. The last thing they want or need is to find themselves once again under stifling centralised domination. They want to see their national Parliaments strengthened, not weakened, and they want to have their own voice in Europe. Those countries had a taste of post-Giscard Europe during the Iraq crisis, when nearly all of them joined Great Britain and Spain in supporting the US line against the stance being taken by Germany and France. President Chirac's arrogant and intemperate response, chiding them for being "ill brought up" and threatening them with consequences if they did not dance to France's tune, was a salutary warning of the way in which a unified foreign policy would operate: it would be centralised, insensitive and bullying.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I have given way a lot, and I am not going to do so again for the moment.That is what is likely to be enshrined in the Convention's recommendations. The proposed constitution states that there must be a
with a duty incumbent on member states"common foreign and security policy",
that policy"actively and unreservedly to support"
Whatever the Foreign Secretary may say about what is meant by a unified foreign policy, that is what the Convention is trying to achieve. Different European countries, including the accession countries, will rightly have different ideas about the future direction of international affairs, different historical relationships and different interests. In a healthy, enlarged Europe those should be not constrained but encouraged. It would have been unthinkable to impose the French view about Iraq on all the accession countries, with all their close ties to the United States."in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity".
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I will give way when I have made further progress.The Maastricht treaty said that member states should co-ordinate economic policy. The new constitution says that
which is completely the other way around. If that is not centralisation—if that is not drawing power away from nation states—I do not know what is. We do not yet know for certain every detail of what will emerge from the Convention, but we do know that it will be a lot more than the "tidying up" referred to by the Secretary of State for Wales. We do know that it will be a lot more than was implied by the Foreign Secretary's famous "golf club constitution" analogy. And we do know that it will mean seeking to centralise rather than devolve, and institutionalise rather than leaving things to national Parliaments. With a single five-year presidency, it will break the concept of intergovernmental leadership—a point made by a number of my hon. Friends in interventions. I believe that that is the antithesis of what enlargement and accession need to succeed. There is another aspect, mentioned earlier, which has a bearing on enlargement, arising from the constitution. The constitution will abolish and replace previous treaties. The accession countries will find themselves in a European Union fundamentally different from the one that they are about to join. It is not clear whether they will have equal rights of participation in the forthcoming IGC. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that they must not be treated as second-class members? Their future as well as ours is being determined in the debate on Europe's future. Would it not be better, therefore, for the IGC to take place after I May next year, when the accession countries will be full members and will be able to exercise their rights as such, including rights of veto?"the Union shall co-ordinate the economic policies of the member states",
The right hon. Gentleman has alleged twice that the accession states will not participate in the IGC. They will be full participants, and will take part in all debates. The treaty will be signed after I May, and at that point all 25 members will vote for or against. They will have full veto rights, along with the United Kingdom and every existing member state. The right hon. Gentleman must not raise false hares, and must rely on reading documents to know what is the case.
I did not learn that from reading documents; I learned it from the accession countries themselves. They know that while they may be able to participate, they will not have the same voting rights as other EU members while the treaty is being negotiated. I am merely advancing the sensible proposition that if the negotiation were left until after 1 May 2004, they could play a full and democratic part in it.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity last week to meet the high-powered delegation from the Hungarian Parliament. They all wanted the Convention's conclusions to be ratified after their country and others had fully joined. What would be wrong with ratifying the constitution after enlargement?
That is a fair point. I have gone further by suggesting that the IGC itself should take place after 1 May, when those countries are full members. I think that that is a constructive proposal, and am surprised that the Government have dismissed it out of hand. That too shows the view that the Government take of the democratic process in relation to the negotiations.I believe that both current and accession members of the EU can and should benefit from enlargement. It will increase our trade and theirs. It will encourage stability and prosperity. However, it is deeply disappointing that, in its rush to build the European superpower, the EU has failed to tackle the areas most in need of reform if enlargement is truly to succeed: reform of the common agricultural policy, of regional subsidies and of EU finances. It is also disappointing that more progress has not been made towards deregulation and decentralisation, which offer most to an enlarged EU and to the countries joining.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I have given way an awful lot. I have given way rather more than the Foreign Secretary did, and I have given way to him rather more than he gave way to me.
I give way one more time.
Just to pin this down, it is clear beyond peradventure that new member states will participate fully in the intergovernmental conference. That was the conclusion of the Copenhagen summit. Another conclusion was that the new treaty will he signed after accession precisely in order to ensure that those countries can participate politically in the negotiations. They have to because, legally, the new treaty could not be signed until after their accession.
The Foreign Secretary, perhaps deliberately, is missing the point. The point is that those countries will not have the right to veto matters within those negotiations; until they are full members, they will not have the right to do so. That is what they say to me and I believe that my suggestion is important.We need a clear vision to reconnect the peoples of the present EU and the peoples of the future EU with the European Union. We need to create a Europe within which the peoples of the accession countries can feel at home. We have been arguing for some time for a Europe in which the democratic ability to hold the EU and its institutions to account is strengthened, particularly within the national Parliaments of the nation states. We have been promoting an EU within which the role of the national Parliaments is strengthened in terms of the initiation of European legislation. We are looking for an EU where sovereign Parliaments can come together to veto undesirable EU legislation that offends against the principles of subsidiarity. I heard what the Foreign Secretary said about the present proposals to allow the Commission to take back legislation, to look at it and to reconsider it. He knows as well as I do that that is no power at all, because the Commission could come back with the same legislation all over again. Why will he not accept my suggestion that a significant number of countries could say no to legislation because it offends against the rules of subsidiarity, and stop it in its tracks? We would like to see a Europe that works increasingly through framework rather than specific directives to recognise individual national needs. We want Europe to return to its first principles of power flowing from the people—through the national Parliaments—upwards rather than from the top down. We want a less bureaucratic and centralised Europe that will allow the new democracies among the accession countries to flourish, and which will recognise and respect the variety and differing interests of the increasingly disparate membership of the EU that accession will bring. Enlargement is at once a great challenge and a great opportunity for Europe. We wish the accession countries well but we must ensure that the Europe that they are joining is a Europe for the future—a genuine partnership of sovereign nations, flexible, responsive and dynamic, rather than a European superpower, top-heavy, centralised, coercive and inimical to the nation states. We stand at the crossroads of that decision. We on the Conservative Benches are clear that we will fight to preserve the primacy of the nation states in Europe, the new as much as the old, and we will never forget that, in the end, Europe must never be about its institutions and must always be about its peoples. That is why we believe that, when faced by momentous decisions on Europe's future, it is the peoples of the nation states who should decide, starting with a referendum here. We support the principles of the Bill.
Order. I remind the House that there is a 15-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches from now on.
The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) ended his speech by talking about the need for vision. I think he is right. The lack of vision is on the Conservative Benches. What a confused and muddled speech from the right hon. Gentleman. Just imagine the shadow Foreign Secretary not reading the Copenhagen conclusions and therefore not being aware that the new countries when they join on 1 May will be able to participate fully in the next IGC. Of course they will be able to participate fully, as they have as observers in the debates that are going on at the moment.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I am delighted to be participating in this debate. I am pleased to be able to be part of a debate that will see the enlargement of the European Union.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is being very modest. He has played a very large part in pushing the enlargement process forward. I congratulate him on what he has done and what the Government have done. Those of us who have been watching this particular development over the past few years would not have believed that, less than three years after the Prime Minister made his speech in Warsaw on 6 October 2000, we would be debating the accession of the 10 applicant countries.I have just returned from Poland, where I met a number of people who are involved in various activities concerned with entry to the EU. They do not share any of the concerns that have been put forward by the shadow Foreign Secretary. They are absolutely delighted that they will be part of the European Union. They are pleased that they will be able to participate in a new Europe and they want to be there as full members, participating in all the decision-making processes.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for finally giving way. He as a former Minister for Europe should know this and I am aghast that he does not. If he had spoken to any of the accession countries, he would know perfectly well that they do not have full voting and equal rights on exactly the same basis as existing members. He is in ignorance of that. Time and again, the accession country representatives have pointed that out to us and hoped that the British Government would take that issue up.
The hon. Gentleman will find that he is confused. When those countries join the European Union on 1 May, they will be full members, exactly as the Foreign Secretary has said, and they will be able to participate fully in all the activities of the European Union.
Let me try to explain. When the IGC starts, when it is triggered—we do not yet know when that will be—all 25 member states will participate fully. There are no votes at the IGC in the sense of votes on amendments to a Bill. People search for compromise and the veto power comes at the end of the process. That will not happen until after 1 May next year, when the 10 new member states will be full, legal, veto-wielding members of that IGC. Beforehand, they will have exactly the same powers as us.I hope that hon. Members can now move on. There is not a problem on this matter. There is a debate about when the IGC should start and how long it should go on for, but we are clear that those countries will participate fully and have the same veto rights as we will at the end.
Order. Interventions, even from the Front Bench, need to be interventions and not speeches.
I am grateful to the Minister for Europe. Perhaps he can conduct a seminar for Opposition Members after the debate so that they will know exactly what is going on. Perhaps that will result in another dramatic conversion by the shadow Foreign Secretary, who may then support some of the views that have been expressed.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I give way to the Conservative Member who signed the Maastricht treaty.
I am grateful for that. It is important to probe further the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised, because the Minister's intervention, which I am sure was meant to be helpful, left the matter clouded in some obscurity. The issue of when the IGC starts is central. If the IGC starts some months before the accession of those countries, of course, there will still be vetoes to be wielded later, but a huge amount of the negotiating dynamic will already have taken place. If the Minister is saying that the accession countries will have full rights to participate in the IGC from the very moment the IGC starts, whenever it starts, that is the reassurance that the House is seeking.
Order. I suggest that we get back to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz). There is a time limit on his speech and he does not get extra time for later interventions.
I am conscious of my time limit. Therefore, I will speak very fast and leave it to the Minister for Europe to clear up any ambiguity at the end of the debate.I am concerned about the early-warning letters that have been sent by Commissioner Verheugen, to whom I pay tribute for the work he has done over the past few years. In March he wrote to all the member-designate countries apart from Slovenia, pointing out that there were concerns about the way in which they were negotiating in the run-up to their admission. I hope that the Minister for Europe can give us an assurance in his reply that although these early-warning letters are clearly important, they will not in any way be an obstacle to the completion of membership on 1 May. When I was in Bydgoszcz, in Poland, last weekend, it became clear that there was concern about criticisms of the dairy industry. It is important that our Government should continue to play a leading role in helping the member-designate countries. During my visit to Poland, I heard about the action plans that have been launched by Ministers over a number of years. We need to continue to give that practical support. We have the finest diplomats anywhere in the world, and it is really important that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue, through its embassies, to develop links with the member-designate countries, and to ensure that they are given as much support as possible. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Devizes—this country was right not to have a transition so far as the right-to-work provisions are concerned. We heard from the Foreign Secretary about the statistics for Spain. I do not think that there is a great desire on the part of citizens of the 10 applicant countries to come to live in this country and not to return to their countries of origin. Of course, those who wish to participate in our wonderful economy under new Labour would like to come to work here, but their intention is to go back to their countries. Those who currently work under work permits, or who come here as students and are therefore able to work for 20 hours a week, ensure that they send their remittances back to their countries of origin. We were right to act as we did, and Germany was wrong to provide that transition. If we are really talking about these countries as first-class countries and equal partners, the smaller the transition, the better. It is very important that we ensure that they can be accepted as first-class partners. Whenever the Foreign Secretary speaks, I mention to him the letter that was signed by Chancellor Schröder and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on February 2002: the reform agenda that we put forward as our means of trying to ensure that Europe was reformed. I hope that in his reply, the Minister for Europe will tell me how many of the 27 points that I counted in that letter have actually been satisfied. I know that the Foreign Secretary said that he was pleased with progress. We are all pleased with progress, but let us look at the practicalities of the way in which we can make Europe a better place to operate in. The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) talked about the Council of Ministers meeting. Any hon. Member who has been to such meetings will know that we need to make that whole process much more efficient and effective. As the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton) said, when one attends such a meeting and each one of the 25 countries has to have its little say as to what it thinks policy should be, it goes on for ever and ever—rather like the Nice negotiations, which went on for four days. That caused enormous frustration to all those participating in them and it was the fact that they lasted four days that gave the Prime Minister the impetus to try to push forward the reform agenda. We certainly need to make sure that Britain is at the forefront of modernising the way in which the European Union operates, because the members-designate want an efficient and effective EU. We must also ensure that when we have these great summits such as Lisbon and Tampere, we follow up on what we are trying to achieve. The difference between Lisbon and other summit meetings was that it was the first international EU summit in which there were benchmarks as to what Europe should achieve. A particular figure was raised at Lisbon, as it has been subsequently. In the last decade, the United States of America created 10 million new jobs, but Europe managed to create only 1 million new jobs. It is clear that the arrival of the member-designate countries will ensure that the economic agenda will be moved forward. But as we set such goals at these grand summit meetings, I worry that, although people always say that these summits are a success—as with everything to do with the European Union—we do not follow them up as effectively as we could. The importance of Lisbon and Tampere is that there were benchmarks, and that is what the new members are looking for. They are not looking for wide-ranging woolly debates about where Europe is going. They want a practical solution to the problems that they face—and they do face enormous problems—and I hope that we ensure that that happens. As for Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, we do of course want all three of those countries in the European Union. I hope that the impetus of getting 10 countries in at the same time will not mean that we neglect the candidacies of these other countries. It is clear that Turkey has a long way to go—everyone agrees that that is so—but we have to move the debate forward; rather than keeping on saying that about Turkey, we need to give some practical support. As far as our embassy in Ankara is concerned, we need to help the Turks, just as we need to help the Bulgarians and the Romanians. One complaint that I have heard in recent months is that the established countries have not given as much support. The French helped Poland, but Poland felt that it might have gone to one of the other countries for assistance. Practical assistance to Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey will make a huge difference. I want to say just one thing about the debate on the euro. I know that this issue does not relate to the treaty, but it does have a significance; certainly, a number of applicants have mentioned it to me. We had a long discussion about the EU debate on the Convention, which is not part of the treaty either. In terms of the ongoing debate, my visit to Sweden on Monday demonstrated that there is real concern that what should be a clinical decision is turning into a bit of shambles. I would be in favour of the Chancellor's bringing his statement forward, so that there is some clarity. What we say on 9 June will have a dramatic effect on the Swedish referendum. At the moment, the situation is very finely balanced. I, too, have changed my position, rather like the right hon. Member for Devizes. Of course, the five economic tests need to be assessed, and whatever the Chancellor says I will go along with, because he is much cleverer than I am on these matters and I accept his judgment. In that sense, my position has not changed. However, we should have a referendum on this issue on 14 September, to test public opinion. If we keep on raising expectations on this issue and then dashing them, we will not be in a position to know what the public really feel. So I am not against having a referendum earlier rather than later, and I should certainly like to have one during this Parliament. Whatever the Chancellor's tests are and his assessment is, I will go along with that. But I do not want us to put this issue off until after the next general election. We should be wary—what we say on 9 June is going to have an effect on countries such as Sweden, and, indeed, on the member-designate countries. This debate is about enlargement. As we all know, this is a slim Bill, but it will have massive consequences. The Prime Minister was right to take the lead on enlargement, but it is also right that we continue to push the reform agenda forward. Having 10 new countries in without moving that agenda forward will mean that Europe will fail to deliver on the many issues on which we must deliver on behalf of the people of our country, and the people of Europe.
It would not be a debate on Europe in this House if some reference were not made to Sir Winston Churchill—perhaps endorsing his success in the recent BBC poll—but it is always important to put quotations from the great man in context. He once said that Britain, when faced with a choice between Europe and the open sea, should always take the open sea. I believe that he was First Lord of the Admiralty when he said it, so such a view is perhaps hardly surprising.This Second Reading debate on accession takes place against the background of a debate that has recently commenced in the country—or at least, in some parts of it—which has very quickly assumed near-frantic levels, characterised by apocalyptic predictions and extravagant language. The truth is that we have heard such language on many occasions before. The language being used now evokes for some of us a very considerable feeling of nostalgia. Much of it is familiar from 1972, when Sir Edward Heath took the UK into the European Economic Community—without, of course, holding a referendum. Some might argue, on the basis of Damascene conversion, that he ought to have held one. In 1975, the referendum instituted by Harold Wilson was accompanied by the same sort of language. Language of the same kind was employed night after night when the previous Conservative Government pushed the legislation on the Maastricht treaty through the House on a three-line Whip, and we heard similar expressions and sentiments in respect of the treaty of Nice. Is it too much to hope that some day we may be able, in the country at least, and, I hope, in the House, to hold a debate about Europe that is not characterised by such extreme positions? The Bill is not strictly about the European Convention—although much of the debate has been taken up with that subject and I want to say a word or two on it in due course—and neither is it about the single currency. However, if the events of the past 24 hours are going to be replicated between now and 9 June, I am not sure that I can wait: the excitement may prove to be too much. I was much impressed by the loyalty of the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), who said that he would follow whatever the Chancellor said. I wonder how many members of the Cabinet have adopted a similar self-denying ordinance. The Bill is about an enlargement that many people predicted would never happen. They said that Europe was too introspective, exclusive and narrow. Those claims were made not all that long ago, but they have been firmly laid to rest by the enlargement process. Like the Foreign Secretary, I hope that further enlargement, when it takes place, will include Turkey. The right hon. Gentleman offered the very powerful reason that Turkey is a Muslim country and that Europe is open to all those capable of subscribing to its economic values and its standards of human rights and civil governance. All applicant countries have to meet those standards, but if Turkey joined the EU it would continue to emphasise that Europe, far from being introspective, is constantly looking outwards and willing to accept countries that can achieve the standards and principle on which Europe is built. It is worth reminding ourselves that eight of the countries covered by this treaty spent far too many years under the arid and unproductive domination of the Soviet Union. The Berlin wall fell some 14 years ago, in 1989. Now both NATO and the EU welcome those countries as full partners, and not in any subordinate or second-class role. I cannot help thinking that the applicant countries, and especially those freed from recent Soviet domination, would hardly be likely, in the first bloom of the exercise of freedom, to submit to the EU that the imaginations of the most fervent Eurosceptics continue to try and conjure up. A country is hardly likely to escape from the hegemony of the Soviet Union and then, in the first blush of freedom, subscribe to the perceived hegemony of Brussels if that involved signing away its new rights to democracy and self-determination, and its ability to decide about joining the EU or NATO.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a very powerful argument. Does he agree that it has been underlined by the overwhelming votes in favour of accession achieved in the majority of countries that held referendums? The yes vote in Slovenia was 60 per cent; in Hungary it was 83 per cent; in Lithuania it was 89 per cent; and in Slovakia it was 92 per cent. Those are positive votes from people who understand that they are not giving up their independence in exchange for some sort of tyrannical governance from Brussels.
That intervention also underlines the fact that it is not just a question of not submitting to some tyranny of Brussels: people also see the positive advantages to be derived from the EU. In the early days, the possibility of NATO membership for former Warsaw pact countries was being discussed. Many of those countries said that membership of NATO and the EU was a necessary insurance against any reversion to the sort of political system under which they had laboured since the end of the second world war. Those countries wanted to secure what might be called an entrenchment, to ensure that the democratic principles that they had been able to espouse could never be watered down.It is self-evident that an enlarged EU would transform the countries that join it, and those that are already members. The advances in economic stability, competitiveness and democratic reform already evident in the applicant countries have been underpinned by the promise of EU membership, which is now to be delivered. Moreover, although the EU is not a military or security organisation, the coming together of countries for economic and political purposes that it represents will reduce the risk of instability on Europe's borders. That risk was very real, and some might argue that it remains so. Conflict can erupt during periods of significant economic and social change, and the Balkans are a constant reminder of the perils of that instability. In his speech, the Foreign Secretary rightly referred to the disappointment felt by many people that the whole of Cyprus may not join the EU. However, some encouragement can be taken from the way in which citizens of both the north and the south of Cyprus appear to be taking matters into their own hands. In the north, people do not consider the view of Mr. Denktash to be representative of the sort of lives that they want to live, nor of the relationships that they would like to have with their neighbours in Cyprus. That demonstrates that the prospect of EU membership can be a powerful encouragement to solving what appear to be intractable problems. Of itself, the opening of the border between northern and southern Cyprus was highly symbolic, but it may be even more significant in practical terms, given the change of heart and mind that it clearly brought about in many of the citizens of that unhappily divided island. It is also worth pointing out that, essentially, the European map has been redrawn. Countries that we opposed before 1989, and against which we might have used nuclear weapons, are now our allies and partners. We may be anxious about the CAP or the consequences of extending qualified majority voting to transport or financial services, but we must remind ourselves again and again that accession represents a quite remarkable political transformation. It ought to be recognised as such. For example, Germany is part of that transformation. It was split for the best part of 40 years, and its reunification was not achieved without difficulty. There were problems in relation to the prosperity of East Germany, and some would argue that the former Chancellor's over-generosity in agreeing to exchange one Deutschmark for one Ostmark contributed to the economic difficulties presently facing Germany as a whole. Even so, such matters are measures of enormous political advance. That should never be forgotten amid our anxiety about intervention prices for grain or the support to be given to milk producers.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way, as he is reminding the House what a remarkable historical development we are witnessing. Given the enormous changes in the map of Europe over the past 60 years, does he envisage that a European superstate will emerge in the next 50 or 60 years?
No, I do not. Countries that have won their independence will not give it up lightly. Furthermore, the balance of the argument in the United Kingdom has undoubtedly shifted to some extent. Fervent pro-Europeans such as me should recognise that. In respect of the common foreign and security policy, upon which we received an eloquent tutorial from the Foreign Secretary, the events of the past six months—although I took a different position from the right hon. Gentleman—have underlined for individual Governments the fact that there may be issues on which for moral, political or other reasons they may want to take an independent position. The British Government, and the House of Commons by a majority, took an independent position by comparison with, say, France.Let us suppose the circumstances had been different and the United Kingdom had wanted to hold back on military action. Members of the House would have wanted to retain that right—that obligation to our constituents. I speak as someone with a front-line RAF base in his constituency: RAF Leuchars. Young men and women went from my constituency to fly fast jets over Iraq. I shall not cede my responsibility for their welfare and the decision as to whether they go to war. Indeed, the vote was an interesting precedent that I hope will continue. Nor shall I cede my obligation to scrutinise the Government who send those young people to war. That is a much more common view both in the countries that are becoming members of the EU and in the existing membership. The events of the past six months may have served only to underline the importance of those matters. Reform in the candidate countries has brought economic benefits to their citizens. Increased levels of trade and investment in those countries have benefited the UK and all those within the single market. Trade with the 10 candidate countries has increased by 400 per cent since 1990, merely against the promise rather than the fact of accession. Both the European Union as a whole and Britain within it stand to gain from a larger economic bloc with increased weight. The EU will have a combined population of more than 500 million and a market twice the size of the United States. In international trade negotiations, the EU is already the most powerful member of the World Trade Organisation, and can only become more powerful. Along with those privileges and advantages come responsibilities. I very much regret that we have been inadequate in the face of one the most overwhelming of those responsibilities: reform of the common agricultural policy. The CAP takes 50 per cent. of the EU budget and also stymies or makes difficult the development of some of the poorest countries, whose principal commodities are agricultural. We have an overwhelming moral obligation to provide equitable market access for products from developing countries. Reform of the CAP is a necessary precursor to the fulfilment of that moral obligation. I do not share the reservations, or anxieties, of the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) about clause 2, although we shall listen carefully when he and his colleagues propose amendments and consider whether they have substance. However, the explanation proffered by the Foreign Secretary as to why the clause is in this form in this Bill is entirely reasonable and sensible and I am disposed to support it. Reform would have been of great value for its intrinsic worth and merit, but we should all recognise that enlargement has largely been the driving force behind it. As the right hon. Member for Devizes rightly said, enlargement can take place without the Convention. However, what sort of European Union would we have if enlargement took place under the existing arrangements? It would become sclerotic and incapable of decision making. Individual countries would have the capacity to stand in the way of the legitimate objectives of the whole of the rest of the Union. It is thus inevitable that arrangements suitable for six must be revised in the light of 25 and—who knows?—28, or even 30. That is why I support the principle of the Convention. It will clarify precisely the role of European institutions and will define the rights and responsibilities of states, their citizens and the Union. The right hon. Member for Devizes made a sound point about subsidiarity. Subsidiarity was one of the principles by which Mr. John Major, as Prime Minister, sought to underpin the Maastricht treaty. However, it is a reasonable admission that the application of that principle has been less than rigorous. If there are any mechanisms that would make subsidiarity more effective, including the one suggested by the right hon. Member for Devizes, we should not only embrace them but look for other measures as well. Brussels should do only what it is necessary for Brussels to do. The rest of government should be the responsibility of individual states. I have no anxiety about the use of the word "constitution". A constitution would be a much-needed improvement in both transparency and accountability. If hon. Members ever have to have recourse, at the request of a constituent, to some issue of competence, they will know of the problems of finding their way around the Rome, Maastricht and Nice treaties. It is by no means straightforward. It is something of a safari, or even a voyage, and is as likely to end up in the Sargasso sea as anywhere. It is thus essential that there is a far higher degree of transparency, and hence understanding, of the treaties and their consequences for us and for our daily lives. As I think is clear, my right hon. and hon. Friends' approach is generally supportive of the Government. I want to make one distinction, however. The Prime Minister and, in rather more colourful language, the Secretary of State for Wales were wrong to rule out, in all circumstances, a referendum on the Convention. If Convention proposals have constitutional implications, there should be a referendum. If they are, in truth, no more than a tidying up, a referendum will be unnecessary. However, I do not see how we can make that judgment at this point, when even the procedures of the Convention have not yet been completed, when the intergovernmental conference has not begun and when our Government have not come back to Parliament to indicate what they are about to agree. I have no difficulty about referendums. The former leader of the Liberal Democrat party, now Lord Ashdown, was the first to call for a referendum on the single currency. Why? Because it is not merely an economic issue. The tests may be economic, but there is both political and constitutional significance. If the proposals that emerge from the long and elongated process that I have tried to describe raise any constitutional implications, there is an obligation to put them to the people in the form of a referendum. Furthermore, there is political advantage to the Government in so doing, because we must get away from the notion that Europe is somehow only the responsibility of legislators and Parliaments and is not something on which we ask individual citizens to exercise judgment.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, the simplification of the treaties of Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice would be a great advantage. When we talk to our representatives on the Convention it is clear, first, that about 75 per cent. of the text would relate to business that had already been agreed, and secondly, that whether there should be a chairman or a president of the Council is hardly an earth-shattering issue that is likely to be raised in the Dog and Duck.
I am someone who believes fervently that there should be a common foreign and security policy, but I also believe that it should be based on the rights of individual Parliaments and Governments to determine their own foreign policy and decide on the circumstances in which they commit their troops to conflict. In setting up institutional arrangements, it is not impossible to bring about that highly desirable end, but we need to understand that constitutional implications may arise from the nature of the institutions themselves.That is why it is unwise to the point of foolishness— I am sorry if this is unpleasant for those on the Treasury Bench—to say that there will be no referendum. Until the process is completed, how can a rational assessment be made about whether the final product includes an issue of constitutional significance? We have to wait until we have the product or the package: only at that point can we make an informed judgment about whether a constitutional issue is raised that would require a referendum. I am going to conclude, because many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in the debate. To return to an earlier point, this is in one sense a rather prosaic occasion, but many people acknowledge that it marks an enormously significant step. Our continent was riven by two terrible wars in the 20th century and half of it was crushed by Communism for the best part if 40 years. It is now setting out, so far as it can, to come together in a union that seeks to preserve democratic values and ensure economic freedom. There will be 25 free and democratic nations in the European Union. The purpose of the Bill is to allow that to happen. This is surely an occasion to savour.
I had, perhaps naively, assumed that this would be a consensus debate—a blessing, a benediction and a welcoming of what the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) referred to as a remarkable political transformation. I had not given sufficient weight to the ability of Opposition Front-Bench Members to exercise their visceral dislike of the European Union, which we encounter so often.The increase in the number of states within the European Union and the greater diversity that will flow from it will have many positive effects. For example, the new countries that looked to the United States for their liberation are far more transatlantic than the initial core of six nations who formed the Union. Foreign policy will therefore be mightily transformed, and greater diversity is surely to be welcomed, just as we welcome the historic rejoining of so much of Europe. On any definition—cultural, historical or political—the newer members of Europe are indeed part of our Europe, which was artificially separated at the point that Soviet tanks had reached at the end of the last world war. Certainly, 2002 saw fundamental changes in both the political and security landscape of our Europe—the biggest ever enlargement of the European Union and NATO at the Prague summit. The process began in 1989, and who can forget the wonderful scenes at the Berlin wall on 8 November that year? Since then we have seen great steps forward—not the end of the process, but a major change. It is so much a matter for joy and rejoicing that I ask the Minister for Europe whether the Government plan to celebrate the great change in Europe? Will any Government moneys be available, not just nationally but locally, for minorities such as the Polish community in this country, or perhaps to inform young people about the historic event before us? We could use the twinning arrangements in Wales and Scotland to ensure that the dramatic change is celebrated appropriately throughout the United Kingdom There were problems—sometimes despair—at points of the route along the way: discussion of the regatta principle and differentiation, for example. Certain countries seemed to have insuperable problems. Slovakia, with its leader Mr. Meciar, appeared to be ruled out at one stage, while Malta was so highly polarised in its political composition that it seemed that there would never be a consensus. Happily, we have seen the positive results of the referendums so far. In Malta, a subsequent general election confirmed the position established in the referendum. Along the way, there were fears that the Baltic countries, which were part not of the Soviet empire but of the Soviet Union, could not be welcomed into the political or security structures of Europe without causing too much offence to the Russian Federation. All that now appears to be in the past. We have arrived, and I pay tribute for having arrived not only to the Government—I recall the Prime Minister's historic speech at Warsaw—but to the valiant efforts of Günter Verheugen, the Enlargement Commissioner, who has coaxed and forced—carrot and stick—so successfully along the way. The new entrants are certainly historically and culturally European. The Baltic states were part of the old Soviet Union while others were part of the Soviet empire. Remarkably, Cyprus and Malta are included, which creates a new opening to the Mediterranean, so two members of the Commonwealth are joining us as members of the European Union—another significant fact to welcome. I welcome all this, not least because of my personal history. I lived in Hungary for some time—and what country is more European or democratic than that? The four parties in Hungary have all been in government at some point since the remarkable change. My first son was conceived in Hungary, married a Slovak in Prague last year, and is now living there. Another son is married to a Maltese citizen. Many of us, including the Minister, have grand personal links with the new countries. They have all come together; the results of the referendums are clear. Europe will never be the same again, as President Chirac found to his cost, when he lectured the new countries in respect of Iraq as badly brought up—mal élevés—which caused great offence. Foreign policy, so often Franco-German dominated, will now have to be discussed in more consensual ways over a far wider spectrum of issues. The newer countries have a greater transatlantic leaning. I am delighted that Poland has been offered leadership of one of the new zones in Iraq. What a wonderful transformation since 1979 and the end of the Soviet Union and empire. The Convention shows the new alignments, the new debates and the new challenges. As for problems for the United Kingdom, I have heard some understandable concerns about the dilution of regional policy as a result of the demands of the accession countries. It is fair to say, however, that the financial settlement reached with those countries was remarkably niggardly, certainly if assessed in terms of the amount per head of population—far less than in earlier enlargements. I have also heard some concerns about the movement of workers from the date of accession, but there are safeguard provisions. There are also concerns about the position of the Roma—a major social problem in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There is a need for an EU-wide policy to improve the social conditions of the Roma and to discourage a wave of emigration. The current visa regime for Slovakia, which will expire in May next year in any event, is causing concern. The Government could end that regime, if only for its symbolic importance, a few months before we are pledged to do so. It is important for the Government to ensure early ratification of NATO enlargement for the seven new members. There is surely no controversy about that enlargement, and the UK has championed that cause. Norway and the US Senate have been through their parliamentary procedures, and I urge the Minister to consider parliamentary progress on that matter. There is consensus and, because of our past, it is important that we are seen by the seven new NATO countries to be manifestly on their side. No opposition will be met in Parliament, so I see no reason why ratification of NATO enlargement should not be completed by the House by the early autumn at the latest. Perhaps the Minister can tell us when the NATO accession Bill will appear before the House. The problems that are likely to arise include the monitoring of the performance of the new members. The Copenhagen EU Council has the safeguard clause for unforeseen developments in the first three years, and we need real and rigorous monitoring to ensure that there is no backsliding by the new members. In the next stage of enlargement, Bulgaria and Romania have a target date of 2007, which was set at Copenhagen, but there is no prospect of an early accession for Turkey. Indeed, the Turkish Government have mentioned a period of 10 years. The Foreign Affairs Committee produced a positive report last year, which said that Turkey must be treated like any other country in respect of the Copenhagen criteria. However, key problems arise for the Turkish accession, including Cyprus. It is inconceivable that negotiations should be started with a country whose army is in illegal occupation of a fellow EU country. Other questions include the lack of civilian control over the military and the treatment of religious minorities—including the Christian minority—in Turkey, and they will have to be properly addressed. A glance shows that the Balkan countries, many of which have small populations, form a black hole on the map of Europe, because they contain the potential for instability in Europe. They must be encouraged along the way. Croatia, by far the most advanced and—on any definition—a very European country, has made its application already. After we have dealt with that application, we will have to consider Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. It may be that we should have a pre-accession strategy for the western Balkan countries as a whole, with possible differentiation for Croatia. Another problem is the new borders, and the danger of creating another fence at the edge of Europe. How will we deal with the new neighbours? Expansion has to end at some point. If there is Europe, there must be non-Europe, but how will we deal with those countries that, for the time being and possibly for ever, will be on the wrong side of the line, such as Ukraine, Belarus—with its current problems—Moldova and others? Europe must develop creative solutions to that problem. The Bill is short and technical, but marks a sea change in our Europe. It is a good story. After all, who can forget the joy of November 1989 in Berlin, which marked the start of this process? I see the process not as one of enlargement but of reunification of the free nations of Europe and I greet it with enthusiasm.
I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who set out the scale and importance of the enlargement process with great clarity. Before he spoke, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) made an important announcement on behalf of his party by committing himself to a referendum if the final outcome of the intergovernmental conference includes any constitutional changes. His speech also indicated that that was likely, if not probable.The Convention contains a German group, called More Democracy, which has obtained 80 signatures from Convention members in support of national referendums on the outcome. Those signatures come from across the political spectrum—not only from critics, such as me, but from people who are fervently pro-Europe and the EU and who believe in a constitution for that body. Those people know—as the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife suggested—that if the outcome is to have a strong foundation, it must be based on the clearly expressed support and will of the people. For that reason, most other countries have already made a commitment, or expressed a firm intention, to have a referendum. They can see, even at this stage, that the constitutional consequences of the Convention will be enormous. I regret, and I have said so in the Convention, that the fantastic complexity of the present Union has led to an enormously complex treaty for the accession of the new countries. No attempt has been made to simplify or repeal sections of the acquis communautaire, which now runs to 97,000 pages, all of which have to be implemented to the letter in all the applicant countries. If another model had been attempted, we could have brought the newly liberated countries into the European family of democratic states much more quickly. The accession will happen on 1 May next year, although it has been described in some of the Baltic states as "an arranged marriage"—no love and little passion, as already shown by the low turnout in the referendums that have been held. However, the referendums will show a yes vote and enlargement will take place on time. For that reason, I support the Bill, but I am critical of several aspects of it. The implications have not been described or debated. The right hon. Member for Swansea, East mentioned immigration and the Romany population of some of the accession countries. Estimates range from 2 million to 5 million Romanies, all of whom would, in theory, have immediate access to this country. I do not claim that we should be unnecessarily scared about that, but we should at least consider the issue. The consequences of the free movement of people could take us all by surprise. The issue was debated last November, and when I asked the Minister about the terms of entry to this country, he said:
Shortly after that, the Government changed their mind and they will admit, from day one, all workers and others from the accession countries to live and work in this country. Since that time, several other countries that had made similar decisions, such as Ireland and Denmark, have had second thoughts and will not allow such unrestricted entry. It is important that the Government clarify their position on estimates of the number of people who may be affected. The Commission believes that 350,000 people will seek to live and work in existing member states after enlargement. Many people have criticised its methodology for being based too heavily on what happened to East Germany, but its experience is on a different scale. Since 1990, it has received about £400 billion in assistance from the former West Germany for a population of only 17 million. The migratory flow has moderated, but it could be much greater after EU enlargement, given the poverty gradient and the fact that polls in those countries show that a great many people wish not just to travel to member states but to live and work in them. We therefore need more information about the subject if we are to get the public onside for this historic and unprecedented enlargement. We must also consider the effect on the countries concerned. I visited the Czech Republic last week, where I was told that we had been fantastically mean. Commission figures published in a paper by the European Research Group show that Greece receives in any one year four times as much from the EU as the Czech Republic will get over the next seven years. The terms of enlargement are therefore not particularly generous. More important is the fact that we are imposing on the new countries an enormous regulatory burden that will undermine their competitiveness. In some cases, we are imposing an agricultural system, particularly on countries such as Estonia, which has free trade and will have to raise its tariffs against poorer countries such as Belarus and Ukraine to its east. If that added to the known weaknesses in those countries' legal and administrative systems, we could be storing up great problems. Those have been under-reported and under-debated—indeed, they were under-remarked in the Foreign Secretary's opening speech. We learned about another effect of the EU's increased diversity during the Iraq war. Eastern European countries very much resented being told, particularly by the French President, to keep silent. That was the language that they used to get from Moscow—they were told, "Don't worry, we handle the foreign policy." We all need to recognise that it will be a different, more diverse and, perhaps, more diluted Europe. Unfortunately, the Convention on which I serve is designing a European constitution that will concentrate more powers at the centre. I want to say a word about the outrageous remarks of the Foreign Secretary in our debate. It is not right that a British Minister should pretend that the constitution is a "tidying-up exercise" I know that that was not his phrase—it was coined by the Secretary of State for Wales—but it should have been contradicted, clarified and put right by him. This is not a tidying-up exercise. We are engaged not just in building a new constitution for Europe but in establishing a written constitution for this country, which has never been attempted before. We are not a golf club or a political party, and to trivialise the matter like that, as Foreign Secretary did, demeans his office. Comparisons are made with Maastricht, and we are to have a referendum on that treaty, because by far the biggest issue at Maastricht was the single currency When the Government make their mind up about that, we will have a referendum—or perhaps not. At least we have been offered the possibility of a referendum on the single currency. In any case, Maastricht was signed by the Prime Minister of the day just before the 1992 election, and featured prominently in our manifesto. We ratified it after the election. There is not a single syllable in the manifesto on which the Labour party won the last election about the constitution that we are building."There will be transition periods with respect to free movement of people and Britain will apply some of those".—[Official Report, European Standing Committee B, 20 November 2002; c. 6.]
My memory may be less accurate than the right hon. Gentleman's, but the Prime Minister of the day negotiated an opt-out on the single currency at Maastricht. That did not stop many members of his party calling for a referendum on the remaining clauses of the treaty. One of the people who called for a referendum, without any reference to the single currency, was the present Leader of the Opposition.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right, and that call led directly to the promise by my party to hold a referendum on the euro decision—by far and away the most important matter to come out of Maastricht.Enlargement is far more important than Maastricht. The cure for anyone who thinks that this is simply a tidying-up operation with no constitutional significance is simply to read the draft constitution that is now available. All the existing treaties will be repealed and rolled into the new constitution after amendment. In addition, there is a new 50-page section that will become part 1 of the constitution, setting out a wholly new Union with its own new legal powers and powers in new areas. It will have its own new legal personality, and qualified majority voting will become the norm across the board. We will have a Europe Minister and harmonisation by qualified majority voting of criminal laws and criminal justice procedures. This week, the House debated the Criminal Justice Bill, which excited many hon. Members who wanted to retain trial by jury. I must tell them: enjoy it while you can, because once the constitution is enacted—and the Government have no quarrel with this part of the constitution—criminal procedures will be harmonised across the European Union by qualified majority voting, and they will not be determined by the House at all.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I am short of time.How can the Government pretend that a change of that nature, which clearly takes decision-making powers, such as those that we discussed earlier this week, away from the House and gives them to the new Union, is not of constitutional significance or does not affect what is called the institutional balance in Europe? Frankly, it is outrageous. We want honesty on this subject. If the Government are confident that all this is good for the United Kingdom and Europe, they should describe it accurately and defend those policies honestly in public debate. What is wrong and, I repeat, outrageous, is to take embarrassing or difficult proposals and simply deny their importance. I cannot accept that. The proposals in the Bill will have epic consequences for the powers of the House and this country's powers of self-governance. That is widely recognised on the continent. No one in the Convention is unaware of it—they realise that we are refounding the Union on a different basis with new and different powers. People who want that and people who do not both agree on the constitutional significance of the change that is being proposed. A Government who have said that they will grant the people of Iraq a vote on their constitution should have the humility to grant this country a referendum on our constitution when it happens.
This, I believe, is an historic debate. The Bill will implement a treaty whose time has come, as it represents the continuing evolution of the European Union from six countries to nine, then 15, and now 25. We are in this process because we recognise that the economy, trade and the environment are continental, not national issues, and give rise to problems that require international solutions and international regulation. We have set out to work in common with our European colleagues, implementing the principle of subsidiarity to ensure that appropriate decisions are taken at the most appropriate level while still retaining the capacity to make decisions at a European level where required. We do all that without any diminution of national identity. Certainly, for those members who have been in the European Union for getting on for 50 years now in one form or another, there has been no diminution of national identity—perish the thought that there should be. However, the European Union is changing, and not just in the number of countries involved. Its nature is of course evolving as well.The debate is about whether the EU should be deeper or wider, and the Bill is about how wide we should go at this stage. Certainly, the EU should become wider. As other hon. Members have said, the face of Europe changed when the Berlin wall came down in 1989, and we are now welcoming countries that, in many cases, have undergone years of totalitarian regimes, and it is worth pointing out that they are joining other countries already in the EU whose people have lived under fascist regimes in recent history—Greece, Spain and Portugal. We welcome them all in the recognition that the natural boundaries are now the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and possibly the Urals. At the same time, NATO has expanded, and the idea of common defence, with European countries looking after one another's interest, is now well established. The expansion of the EU has been perhaps slower than that of NATO, and perhaps more controversial, but it is nevertheless just as crucial. I do not believe for a moment that those countries will enter a Europe that is significantly deeper because those national identities that I talked about have been removed, but I believe that, since we have had the treaties of Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam, and now Athens, the EU is significantly different. To pick up a point that the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) made when he said that there had been 34 referendums on constitutional issues since 1997, it is interesting to note that there were also a handful of referendums on constitutional issues in this country, as I recall, between 1974 and 1979. I do not remember a single referendum on a comparable issue taking place between 1979 and 1997. Of course we will be heading for one, sooner rather than later, I hope, on the more constitutional aspects of membership of the euro itself. What has been very significant—my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) mentioned this from his experience—is the enthusiasm for membership of the EU found in the applicant countries. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Malta have already said yes. Poland goes to the polls in a referendum in early June, and I want to concentrate some of my remarks on the situation in Poland, which despite, or perhaps because of, its geographical situation, is perhaps one of the more western-looking countries of eastern Europe. With 42 million people, its accession will represent the most significant increase to the numerical size of the EU, and it already has 10 years of successful economic reform and growth behind it. I first visited Poland in 1988, when it was a completely different country from how it is now. I met a certain trade union leader—Lech Walesa—in a clandestine meeting in a church crypt, and it was a fascinating firsthand experience to see the situation that Solidarity and the Polish people were in at the time. It was interesting to see a command economy in operation—if operation is the right word—eating through the black market, and how Poland had probably suffered over the years because of the loss of talented people who left the country. I do not claim that Poland has it all easy now. I think that there is an economic and political necessity for it to join the EU. It foresees difficulties in the first few years. Indeed, Poland expects to be a net contributor to the EU budget for two or three years, but its long-term future in the EU is certainly bright, which is more than could be said if it were to stay out at this stage. However, Poland has 17 per cent. unemployment and 60 per cent. of its farmers are subsistence farmers in a countryside that has barely changed in the past 50 years. It is worth mentioning subsistence farmers, because of course by riot selling into the market they are not involved in subsidies. Polish Governments have had a relatively short life expectancy, which has made long-term planning difficult, and its transport infrastructure is weak. Perhaps many of Poland's economic problems are caused by the natural and very close linkage that it has had with Germany. We should not take what has happened in Germany in the past few years because of its decision to go in for unification, which was taken for political and economic reasons, as being typical of what is happening in the eurozone. Other hon. Members have mentioned the cost of that unification, and it has distorted the German economy, but that is not typical of the eurozone as a whole.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the effects of the experience of German monetary union, whereby there was an exchange rate of 1 Ostmark to 1 Deutsehmark, paved the way for the Maastricht treaty, which has led to a successful single European currency that now embraces 12 member states and is functioning perfectly well?
That is exactly one of the lessons that I drew on when I took my decision to vote yes—again, in the words of another contributor—whatever the Chancellor says, in the future referendum on the euro when we have the opportunity to do so.The enthusiasm for the EU that is shown in Poland, as well as the other applicant countries, is to be found particularly among the young, the educated, the middle class and the urban dwellers of that country. Despite the possible short-term pain, they recognise the advantages to Poland in accessing a larger market and in gaining economic stability, making it more attractive to inward investment. Younger people especially also see opportunities for the free movement of labour and greater opportunities to study abroad. The recent decision to normalise arrangements for Polish au pairs to come to this country does not sound significant to us, but it was certainly a very popular decision in Poland. We should remember that, when we come to the date for the European referendum in Poland, in theory, about 70,000 Polish people in this country could be entitled to vote in that election. The chances are that very few of them will take up that opportunity, partly because they are perhaps transient, and partly because there are only two centres in the United Kingdom—London and Edinburgh—where they will have the opportunity to vote. As well as having that very close link with this country—it is worth pointing out that English is now the second language in most Polish schools—there is a strong pro-American feeling in Poland. I do not know the exact figure, but I would not be surprised if perhaps 1 million Poles lived in the United States, particularly in areas such as Chicago. Polish people understand that being in a European alliance and a transatlantic alliance are not alternatives but complement each other, and that describes part of their good feelings towards the west generally. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David)—who hopes to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker—and I were in Poland recently, visiting schools there. A competition had been run in Poland to find out which schools knew most about the EU, and four of the winners won a visit from a Labour MP. It was pointed out that the losers won two visits from Labour MPs. Our visits were certainly very fascinating, and the two towns that I visited were both in rural areas some way from Warsaw. The further we got from Warsaw, the more obvious the rural poverty became. I visited a well established technical school for 15 to 20-year-olds in the town of Plock, and although it had been in existence for 85 years, I was their first foreign visitor of any sort. We were able, however, to have a debate with students at that college in English on the subject of joining the European Union. The enthusiasm there was tremendous. Why should we take that message to young people in Poland who are not old enough to vote? The reason is that they have family, friends and neighbours and a future, and it is young people who will campaign strongly for Poland's accession come referendum day. One of the issues that most amused people to whom I talked in Poland was the prospect of their country, a new member of the European Union, joining the euro before Britain, which a few years ago we would have thought impossible. I must admit that I am worried that we may come to a situation in which 24 countries in the European Union have joined the euro before Britain, which will put us at a major disadvantage. The problem that the Poles face with the referendum is the 50 per cent. threshold that has been set. Until now, there has been a real question as to whether turnout will reach 50 per cent. It is important—not constitutionally vital but politically essential—that turnout reaches that level, and opinion polls suggest that it might still be on the edge of that. I hope that there will be a big push over the next couple of weeks to ensure that the clear majority of 70 per cent. or more in Poland in support of European Union membership is translated into an effective turnout and result. It is worth pointing out that President Chirac's words about Poland in particular and the eastern European countries generally in recent weeks have, if anything, hardened the Poles' attitude and made them more determined to fight to get into the EU and ensure that their voice is heard. Like others, I confess to a Damascene conversion—I voted the wrong way in 1975. I have repented, and the Europe that I voted against in 1975 is not the Europe that is alive today. Today, we have a Europe that is about open borders, open minds, celebrating differences, celebrating diversity, respecting national identities and traditions and working together where we need to do so: a Europe with common values, a common market, and, I hope, in the future, a common currency. Europe has been constantly reinventing itself for the past 2,000 years, and is in the process of doing so again. This Bill helps to make that vision of a common Europe—a people's Europe—a reality, and I welcome it.
This has properly been a broad debate. The Bill is narrow—it is a slim volume—but its implications are wide. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Mr. Speaker, have properly allowed the debate to range widely, because we can only consider the Bill in a wide context. The background and the implications are of great importance. The debate has been fascinating, and nothing has been more compelling than the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who spoke with passion and deep authority about the implications of much of what is happening. I want to return later to one of the issues that he raised, but the House would do well to heed what he said.I support the Bill, and I am delighted that we are debating it. I confess to some mild surprise that enlargement seems to be coming to a conclusion so quickly, as it seemed that it would be protracted forever. I have some history in this matter—the Berlin wall came down and the liberation of east and central Europe from the Warsaw pact took place while I was the Minister with responsibility for Europe. I do not claim all the credit for it—I concede that there were other factors at work, too—[Interruption.] The praise of my hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) from a sedentary position is too kind, but I want to share the credit as widely as possible. The fact is that this issue has been under debate for a long time, and I recollect a Foreign Ministers meeting in June or July of 1990 in which the accession of the new countries of eastern and central Europe as early as 1995 was discussed. For much of the period since then, it has always been five years away. Until recently, it still seemed five years away. The Government—I do not want to do more than give them credit—deserve some credit for the effort that they have put in to compress the final stages so that we can look to enlargement taking place next year. It is really important that this House give warm support to that, because whatever the implications—there are negative as well as positive ones, on which I want to reflect in a moment—enlargement was a historical imperative. We had a broad duty to abandon the idea that the European Union could be some kind of cosy club of prosperous western European countries and to expand it to embrace the whole European family. That is not yet complete—more is to come, as has been said; I am not sure about extending it as far as the Urals, but there is certainly scope for further enlargement. That was an imperative, it was necessary that it happened, and it is a scandal that it has taken so long to get to this point. I glory in the fact that it has at last happened, however, and I hope that the signal that the House sends in support of the Bill resounds with clarity outside. Let me reflect a little on the implications. There are financial implications, institutional implications, and implications for the broad foreign policy outlook of the new European Union that will emerge. First, I want to deal with the financial implications, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells has spoken clearly. What exists is too much a relic of the old cosy western European club looking after its own. I would not contest the fact that the financial transfers—much of which originate from this country, the second largest contributor to the European Union to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland have made a significant contribution to the relative prosperity, compared with their previous position, that those countries now enjoy. It is indefensible, however, that those countries, which have advanced themselves considerably in economic terms, should continue to gain that scale of benefit from the EU budget while the accession countries, most of which are way behind economically, are fighting for the scraps that are left over after the club has had its full rations. There is scope in that injustice and inequity for a great deal of tension and division in what should be a united family of European nations emerging.
The right hon. Gentleman is making a thoughtful speech, and I do not disagree at all with his points. Will he reflect on the fact, however, that the amount of money that is to be transferred to the accession countries is huge: about 3 per cent. of GDP—$26 billion—over the next two years? Were a lot more transferred, those countries might not have the capacity to absorb it. It is a technical point, but an important one. I am not saying that the arrangement is perfect, but throwing a lot more money at them now may not be the most sensible way of advancing.
That is a fair point. As the hon. Gentleman's Government are discovering in relation to the health service, pouring in money in huge quantities does not necessarily do the trick. I am grateful to him for making that point. I fancy, however, that the Governments of the accession countries could make good use of a lot of those transfers if they were available earlier than is envisaged.It is the inequity, however, that will cause problems. Those financial implications, particularly in relation to the common agricultural policy, have not been grasped properly, or, to the extent that they have been grasped, they have not been dealt with. The common agricultural policy is an outrage. It is institutionalised folly, economically, financially, ecologically, socially and in every way that one can think of it. It has outlived any usefulness that it might originally have had. It should be demolished, or at least massively reformed. The process provided an opportunity to address that, but sadly it was not done. I have no doubt that there will be intense financial pressures in the enlarged Union that will lead to the issue being addressed again, and I fully expect it to be fudged again. Scope for huge division and tension is built in to the Union's failure to address that issue now. The institutional implications are formidable and have properly concerned many hon. Members who have spoken. I am not one of those who believe that the European Union can be endlessly enlarged without reform of institutional arrangements. That would be absurd, because what worked for the six original members—it has gradually creaked more and more as there has been enlargement—cannot possibly work for 25 or 30 members. There are two ways of addressing that problem, but sadly the wrong choice has been made through both the Nice treaty and the Convention. The centralising approach says that the decision-making machinery could not process efficiently the quantity of decisions required in a Union with 25 members. The solution under that approach would be to apply a more powerful engine to the mincing machine so that the mincing could be done more quickly. That is not the answer to the problem; it is an old-fashioned answer drawn from a world gone by. The right approach is to try to put less into the mincing machine so that fewer things are subject to EU decision taking. That would give countries more scope to make decisions for themselves and would allow the EU's arrangements to have more variability, flexibility and diversity. I have no rooted objection to the Council of Ministers having a permanent presidency rather than a revolving presidency—it does not cause me intrinsic offence. There might be something in the Foreign Secretary's comments about strengthening the Council of Ministers, which I would welcome. Effective rebalancing of the institutions requires a definitive shift of power away from the Commission to the Council of Ministers, which would require more than simply giving the Council a full-time President. There was an opportunity to use the process of enlargement to decentralise the European Union. Every other international institution in the world is doing that. International businesses, international voluntary organisations and all international institutions are decentralising to become multi-centred entities and network organisations rather than being centralised at head offices. The EU is the last relic of head office culture. The opportunity to respond to the institutional requirements of enlargement by creating a genuinely modern organisation for the future rather than by entrenching centralism has been lost.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the EU had 25 member states and we continued to have a rotating presidency, the European Commission would indeed be able to run rings round the Council of Ministers and the Council's governance would be less effective? Surely a team presidency in which several member states could form a more cohesive presidency for two and a half years, for example, would limit the European Commission's powers much more effectively?
I do not reject that argument out of hand—there might be something to it—although we would want to think about its implications. However, it does not alter my key point that the right approach is to move power definitively to the Council of Ministers, which requires more than tweaking existing powers or strengthening its ability in what the Foreign Secretary described as rather prosaic ways. I want something more interesting, radical and in tune with the modern age.The output of the Convention, after it has been institutionalised through the intergovernmental conference, will have constitutional implications. I take issue with only one point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells. We do not know for certain how large the implications will be because we all know that IGCs tend to water things down as time goes on and I have no doubt that Governments will exclude several measures that appear in the current draft and about which there has been speculation. I am sure that the British Government will want to exclude many measures, and they will have the power to do that. The Convention will not be as scary as its current draft looks. However, the fact that it will have significant constitutional implications for the United Kingdom is absolutely incontestable, and that is why it is absolutely right for my party to say that a referendum should be held on it. I know that a few hours of searching through Hansard would allow one to find speeches that I made in days gone by in which I turned down the idea of holding a referendum on the Maastricht treaty, to which, as the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) thoughtfully pointed out, I was a signatory. However, time has moved on. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells said that the most important part of the Maastricht treaty was the single currency and, if the Government get round to it, a referendum will be held on that. The aspects of Maastricht that would have made the most difference to this country were the single currency and the social chapter, but the treaty as it stood implemented neither. The Single European Act was arguably more important than anything that happened subsequently, but there was much public sympathy with what it did. The worry is that current proposals are out of tune with public sympathy. I urge the Government to think again. If they are confident that they can present the ultimate output of the IGC as mere tidying up, housekeeping and a bit of administration, they should have the courage to tell the public that and invite them to endorse that view. If the institutional changes that I advocate—decentralization and reducing the quantity of governance that occurs through the EU machinery—were made, and my party were in government, I would be completely confident in submitting such changes to a referendum, because the public would be amenable to the changes and would welcome them greatly. I urge the Government to think again, because the public are already alienated from political processes. If the Government had the courage to hold a referendum, it would represent a way of bridging that gap. My final reflection is on the broad issue of foreign policy. Something rather important happened over the past six months, and in a way it was the first dividend of enlargement, even before enlargement had taken place. During the latter part of last year and the first few months of this year, there was a sense of the tectonic plates in Europe shifting somewhat. Oddly, it was almost triggered by the rather over-flamboyant celebrations of the French and German ruling classes of the Franco-German reconciliation in the 1960s. There were all those great celebrations in the Champs Elysees, in the sense of, "Here is the Franco-German axis, the motor of the European Union." Yet within almost days of that taking place, there was a division within NATO—admittedly not the European Union—where France and Germany found themselves leading a contingent that consisted of themselves and Belgium. The rest of the EU and all the accession countries that are part of NATO—
The Minister claims that Luxembourg was also part of that great phalanx. That may or may not be true, and it is marginal in its importance.However, a change took place, and in the diplomacy that led up to the Iraq conflict one could see the same movement in the tectonic plates inside Europe. Rather oddly, as a result of enlargement, the further east the EU extends, the more Atlanticist becomes its outlook. The physical centre of gravity has moved east, but in a way the political centre of gravity has moved west. I regard that as a benign outcome. The idea that Europe should turn itself into a countervailing superpower against America is absurd, wrong and dangerous. We are all on the same side. We should be part of an Atlanticist network and alliance. It is more likely that the EU will fall into that category now as a result of the enlargement that has taken place than was the case before. That is one of the implications of enlargement that seems to be unquestionably positive. This is a good debate to be having and it is right that it should range widely in a relatively non-partisan way across the issues. These issues will have implications for decades to come. I have no doubt that in 20 years' time we shall be looking at a European Union that is looser, more diverse, more flexible and more of a network Europe than anything that we can now envisage. This may turn out to be the point at which that development began to happen.
I, too, welcome the Bill. Most of the 10 countries that are the subject of the accession treaty have had more than their fair share of war and tyranny, certainly during the past century. The hope must be that the new century will bring peace, stability and some prosperity to their peoples.It would be trite to say that most major decisions involving the European Union are political. Decisions by accession countries to apply to join and the decision by the EU to accept their applications were major political decisions, as we have heard in the debate. One does not have to be a Marxist to believe that politics cannot be isolated from economics. The accession of the 10 countries will have economic consequences both for themselves and for the other countries of the EU. The hope must be that the consequences will be benign. It has been said that there will be another 105 million consumers coming into the EU as a result of the treaty. That could well create, at least in the short term, a boost to trade. However, I suspect, looking back, that the EU is rather like those companies in the 1960s that grew through acquisitions. After a while, the growth fell off. There were then more acquisitions and then there was again some growth. The fear is that although there may be some growth at the beginning, it will then fall off. As has been said, almost all the applicant countries are perhaps of a different order from most of the countries that applied previously. I think that this is the fourth accessions Bill debate that I have attended during my time in the House. The first one was in 1972, when the United Kingdom and other countries joined the EU. I think that it is fair to say that with the three previous Bills, most of the countries, although not all—we had Portugal and Spain—were relatively well off. Now we have 10 countries, or possibly nine—perhaps Cyprus can be excluded, for instance—but eight, anyway, that are of a different order in terms of their economic development. The average income levels of the applicant countries stand at about 28 per cent. of the present EU level. As has been said, the population of the EU will grow by about 20 per cent., but only 4 per cent. will be added to the gross domestic product. If we consider GDP per head and take that of the United States as 100, the present EU countries reach about 62 per cent. of the US GDP. With the accession countries, that figure will drop to about 58 per cent. Those on the continent—I do not think there are many in the House—who see the European Union as an economic rival to the United States may not be too happy about that. On that basis, it will take a considerable time for the EU to catch up, if it ever does, with the US in terms of GDP per head. The present accession countries are applying to a European Union that is quite different from the one that existed in 1972. The structures have changed. There has been more integration, certainly on the economic side. Whereas in 1972 and later, countries would have been able to adapt their own economies to try to fit into the EU, that opportunity gets less and less as economic integration continues. We heard about the acquis. The right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) said that it consisted of 97,000 pages. I obviously did not count correctly—I got to 80,000 and decided to give up, but I accept the figure of 97,000. Those poor, unfortunate accession countries have to swallow the lot whole. Much of the acquis entails legislation of which we would approve, on employment rights, health and safety, the environment and social cohesion. We, as the wealthier countries of western Europe, might be prepared or able to live with such legislation, although the pressures of globalisation on the European economy and the EU are such that I am not sure whether the present members of the EU can live easily with some of the acquis and some of the legislation. The newer countries, such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are coming into a system and they will have to take it all. That allows them less flexibility to try to increase their rates of growth so that they can come up to the levels of the existing member countries. It will be a difficult problem for the accession countries. They will not be able to be as entrepreneurial—the Poles, in particular, are extremely entrepreneurial—as they might wish. They will find that to some extent their economy is hamstrung by the dead hand of some of the acquis communautaire. In 1971 there was no monetary union. I do not think that there was monetary union at the time of the two following accession treaties, but it exists now. As I understand it, the new countries will not join the monetary union immediately. They do not have an opt-out, but they have something called a derogation. I am not quite sure what that is, but as I understand it, they have to work very hard towards becoming members of the monetary union. I do not know whether there is a time limit; I suppose not. It is not for me to give advice to countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, but as regards monetary union, I would say to them, "Keep on derogating. Take your time. Don't rush it, not only for the sake of your own countries, but for our sake and for the sake of the euro area and the euro 12." If the accession countries are to move towards a common monetary policy, they will first have to conform to the Maastricht criteria. We all know what that means, so there is no need to repeat it. They will have to bring down their public borrowing—their public expenditure, in effect—to the Maastricht limits. If they have to go even further, to the wretched growth and stability pact, they will have to bring their borrowing down even further. Over the past four or five years, the growth and stability pact has had a deflationary effect on the European Union. It is not the only factor causing deflation in the EU—globalisation, the acquis communautaire and the inflexibility of the system are also causing deflation. Germany and the Netherlands are probably in recession and Italy is approaching it. Deflation is taking hold in the European Union. I am sure that the countries that we are considering want to be part of the greater whole, but if they start to depress their economies to reduce derogation or approach a common monetary policy, that will affect not only them but us, although we are outside the euro area. It is therefore a problem, and genuinely worrying, that any attempt by those countries to apply the growth and stability pact and the Maastricht criteria will have a deflationary effect in Europe, where we currently need inflation. Instead, we have deflation and high unemployment. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Levitt) said in an offhand way that unemployment in Poland is currently approximately 20 per cent. It is almost 10 per cent. in Germany. If it is 20 per cent. in Poland now, what will it be when that country begins applying the growth and stability pact and the Maastricht criteria? I do not know the percentage of unemployment in the other accession countries. As I said earlier, I hope that they will keep on derogating. If those countries move towards monetary union, they will have to fix their exchange rates. I do not know what the Polish zloty is worth and I have no idea how one converts it into euros. However, experience shows that after exchange rates are fixed, everybody knows that the rate was wrong, although at the time, everybody agreed that it was right. It is extremely difficult—indeed, almost impossible—to fix exchange rates. Will the accession countries be encouraged to move towards monetary union and fix their exchange rates? I know that their currencies are perhaps not as tradeable or negotiable on the international markets as others, but such a move will affect those countries, and if they get it wrong, not only Lithuania, Estonia and Poland will suffer. We, too, will suffer, and so will trade with those countries.
The right hon. Gentleman should know that many of those countries have fixed their exchange rates to the euro. Indeed, they have been fixed for many years. Estonia is already effectively in a currency union with the eurozone. The problems are surmountable. We need to devise ways of enabling those countries to join more quickly, not obstacles.
Some have fixed their exchange rates and others have not. I do not know enough about Estonia's economy to say whether that has been good for the country. If the accession countries have to fix their exchange rates and they get it wrong, considerable problems will arise in their economies.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Argentina is a good example of a weak economy linking its currency to a strong economy with disastrous results?
I thank my hon. Friend for that.Let us consider interest rates. It is extraordinary that the European Central Bank will fix one interest rate for an area that extends from Portugal to Estonia. How can one rate take into account the diversity of those different countries' economies? Some of my left-wing friends may worry about me, and I do not want to sound like Professor Hayek, but why do we need a European Central Bank? Why cannot Lithuania or parts of that country—or parts of Britain—have their own interest rates? Why do we need a monolithic, bureaucratic, huge central bank, which supposes that it can fix exchange rates for the whole area? The movement towards monetary union could have a deleterious effect on the accession countries.
How will people in the accession countries feel when they realise that, under article 107 of the Maastricht treaty, it will be illegal for their political representatives to influence the European Central Bank? Will they conclude that they have reverted to a position whereby they have politicians who cannot represent them and cannot influence the decision makers? What is the point of elections if the people for whom we vote no longer have the right to influence the decision makers?
Those may well be matters of concern for those people.The real problem is that the whole monetary policy of the European Union was designed for a period of inflation—that was entrenched in the system at the time—which results in a lack of flexibility. Major economic problems will arise when the system has to try to adjust to the deflationary trends that are occurring not only in Europe, as a result of the common policy, but in many other areas of the world. Those problems will affect the countries that we are discussing and existing member states. Recently, a prestigious French research group—I suppose that all French research groups are prestigious; this one is called, in English translation, the French Institute of International Relations—tried to forecast economic developments in the European Union over the next half-century. Frankly, its conclusions do not make happy reading. It is a long report. I have not read it all, but I shall quote two sentences. The Minister has obviously read it, probably in the original French. One of its conclusions was:
Perhaps some of us do not want such parity, but there are people on the continent who do. More importantly, almost the final sentence says that it is foreseeable that the European Union faces an"The enlargement of the European Union won't suffice to guarantee parity with the United States".
In other words, as a result of globalisation and the inflexible nature and structure of the European Union, and despite, or perhaps because of, the accession of the other states, the EU may be on the way to "history's exit ramp". That is a strong statement by a prestigious body, not an assessment that comes from me or from some of the wilder Eurosceptics on these Benches. We have talked about foreign policy and diplomacy, but there are real economic problems in the European Union, which will not be solved, and may be made worse, by the countries that are coming in. The accession countries clearly believe that their economies will be better off in than out. I trust and respect their judgment, and I hope that they are right."inexorable movement onto 'history's exit ramp'".
The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) has made similar speeches in all the years I have been listening to him since I entered the House in 1987, but one development in the course of that long period is that the euro now exists, and we have to face up to that. Indeed, the costs of not being a member of the euro are greater than some of the problems of being part of it that the right hon. Gentleman described. That is not the subject of the debate, and I shall try to steer away from it, but I am sure that we will pick it up on another occasion.I am delighted to welcome the Bill, which I support, not least because it gives me a unity of purpose with my own Front Benchers on a European matter. I am also delighted that there is cross-party agreement that the accession of the new countries is an extremely welcome development. I joined the Conservative party in the 1960s precisely because it was positive about Europe. I felt that one of the great challenges for my generation was to build together what was then western Europe after the fragmentation that occurred on three occasions in 100 years—in the 1870s, during the 1914 period and from 1939 to 1945—and that it was lamentable that we were out of one of the most exciting political and economic constructs available. I was also aware of the devastation on the other side of the iron curtain. I was in Prague in 1968. I left just before 21 August, when the Soviet troops came out of hiding and occupied the city, but I was able to sense the excitement and hope that were in the minds of the Czechoslovakian people before it was cruelly crushed. In 1988, when I went back with the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, we had a private dinner with Havel, who was partly beaten up by the police on his way there, and who told us of all the problems that he and the people who worked with him faced. The following day, he was arrested and taken out of Prague because it was thought that he might be the focus of attention. That was in 1988, shortly before the rapid movement to freedom that emerged in Czechoslovakia. Whereas my generation saw the challenge of bringing western Europe together in a political and economic union, the challenge for this generation is to realise the hopes and aspirations of those who were previously under communism—eight of the applicant countries in this accession round—and to ensure that they can benefit as well. It is important to bear in mind the fact that one of the strengths of the European Union was that we acted as a magnet for many of the people who tried to resist communism and who eventually brought down the Berlin wall. Of course NATO provided a military strength in the west, of which those people were aware, and which to some extent kept the Soviet Union at bay, but the positive side was the magnetic strength of the European Union. People could see and talk about its economic stability and the way in which countries could come together and form institutional arrangements while retaining their own identity; those things made the challenge worth while. The European Union has much to be pleased about in terms of its achievements in securing the accession treaty that we are celebrating today. Of course, the applicant countries are entering voluntarily. I sometimes read some of the more scurrilous British papers—and I do not blame Lord Black for all of them—but the reality is that this is a union that people voluntarily wish to join. That seems remarkable when we read those elements of the British press that concentrate only on the negatives. Those negatives inevitably exist; there are negatives in this country, for heaven's sake.
Is it not worth remembering that, as well as entering the European Union voluntarily, those countries are doing so having achieved overwhelmingly large majorities in the referendums that have so far taken place?
I am enthused by their enthusiasm for joining a political, institutional, legal and economic union. Incidentally, it was all of those things when we joined, although some of the more Eurosceptic commentators try to rewrite history. There has always been primacy of European Union law over British law where that has been agreed.There will need to be changes to the current arrangements within the European Union. I admire the clarity and eloquence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), but not always the conclusions that he reaches. The reality is that, to accommodate its almost moral obligation to provide a settlement to the east, the European Union will have to change the way it does things. We do not yet know how constitutionally devastating these matters will be, so it is premature to say that we should have a referendum. I have voted against holding referendums in the past, and because of comments that have been made in this debate, I shall share with the House something that perhaps ought not normally to be shared. By the way, in the past, it always used to be "referendums", rather than "referenda". [HON. MEMBERS: "It still is!"] Well, I noticed the rewriting of history by the Treasury Bench. I opposed the holding of referendums in a debate in the House—in 1992, I think. My views on the matter were already set and I was perfectly happy to express them in the debate. The opportunity to express them was, however, drawn to my attention by the Whip on duty at the time, who said, "Wouldn't it be a good idea if you participated in the debate on referendums, because we've got a few nutters on our side who think it's worth having one on Maastricht." I do not wish to be drawn on that, because history has shown that that was a very shrewd move if one wanted to lead the party, and I did not. I have not yet seen a reason why this House should be usurped by an instrument of which I am not in favour, in principle, in a parliamentary democracy. There may be a case for a referendum, but it is interesting that the people who talk about the primacy of the House of Commons are the first to rush to the instrument of the referendum, which is a populist move, when they think that they might not get their way through argument in this House. Let us not assume that there should be a referendum, but not rule it out, which would be equally foolish. However, if we jump to a conclusion now, we will do so using bogus arguments. Perhaps the reason why we are using those arguments is much more about whether we wish to be associated with the European Union in its entirety. So let us have some clarity about that, please. When we look at the Convention proposals, which may or may not be accepted by the intergovernmental conference, let us bear in mind one important rule. The purpose of being in the European Union and the European Economic Community dramatically changed in the 1980s, when it was realised that, in order to drive forward what we wanted—a single market—we had to make concessions. In other words, the rules had to be such that decisions could be reached to ensure that tariff and non-tariff barriers could be broken down. The situation was eloquently summed up by the noble Lady Thatcher, then Prime Minister, in this House in 1989, when she said that the reason why we accepted qualified majority voting was to overcome the protectionist instincts of any one member. I agree with that; indeed, it is at the heart of what the European Union is all about. We give up our independence, veto or so-called sovereignty to gain something of greater importance. The prospect of gaining something important is exactly what the applicant countries now see. Of course they are not saying that everything in the acquis communautaire is wonderful, although in the context of some earlier comments, I point out that the acquis communautaire has been a phenomenally effective way of helping those countries to adapt to what was a system with no rule of law at all at the beginning of the 1990s. The ability to meet the acquis communautaire has been one of the great abilities. In 1994, I attended as a Minister one of the first face-to-face meetings in what was then the single market Council. The meeting was held in Frankfurt an der Oder, which is on the border with Poland and is obviously situated in what had been the eastern Länder. All the hopeful aspirants came to talk to us. Although the progress that they have made since that day has taken longer to achieve than many of us, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), would have liked, it has nevertheless been made largely because of the help that has been provided, and the framework and acquis communautaire against which they have measured themselves while they have developed. We have helped them to do that.
Would the hon. Gentleman also care to acknowledge the role of the Council of Europe? Applicant countries joined the council and benefited from a democratic training ground that now qualifies them and their institutions for entry into the European Union.
I am trying not to be selfish about my praise. The Council of Europe has an equal share in terms of its great achievements.The problem for us is not only the way in which we reform our institutions. This is not a debate in which we should explore that in detail. I was one of the active members of a group led by Lord Brittan which made a submission to the Convention that was signed by many Conservatives and endorsed by the former Prime Minister, John Major, proposing an approach radically different from that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells. I commend that submission to hon. Members; I know that the Government have read it, because they have referred to it in debate from time to time. I believe that there should be a constitution—I do not resile from that word—but the question is what it should contain. I would fiercely oppose some proposals and I hope that the Government would so as well. The idea that foreign policy should be kept as a separate institutional pillar, but with a veto, is obvious and common sense, and it should be kept. I believe that we should maintain a veto over certain taxes, including those that are not directly related to single market measures, such as value added tax, and those that are related to the governance of the country, such as direct taxation and most elements of corporation tax, although business itself would clearly like to remove some of the anomalies that exist in the tax base, as opposed to the tax rate. I issue those two big caveats, but the rest is open to discussion, and we must await the outcome. Certainly, in some instances, we shall want the power assigned to European Union institutions to be exercised properly, efficiently and rapidly. At present even good results take too long to emerge from the process. We want more effectiveness, but there is little doubt that the Commission will be too large with at least 25 members. Of course there must be reform, but we can discuss that in other debates. Amid all the excitement, there must also be some awareness of the problems that will arise. We shall need to explain why, as a result of doing our duty and bringing in countries that were formerly vulnerable, economic and competitive developments will involve certain costs—costs that we must bear and sort out. I was fascinated to read the findings of one survey, according to which economic convergence to within 75 per cent. of the EU wealth average might take between one year and—in the case of Romania—34 years. That may be a static analysis with hidden depths, but it is clear that if we want certain countries to be considered serious applicants—and that already includes Romania—we shall have to make great sacrifices. We shall have to ensure that budgetary arrangements and assistance for such countries are commensurate with the challenges that Romania faces, as long as it shows its political will. The problems, however, should be dwarfed by the overall benefit of a single market for 500 million people. That is twice the population of the United States, although I agree with the right hon. Member for Llanelli that nothing anywhere near the same gross domestic product per head is involved: that is an ambition for the future. The single market has huge potential, some of which has already been realised in the case of countries that were obviously going to join. UK trade with the 10 new member states has increased by more than 400 per cent., compared with a 43 per cent. increase in our trade with the rest of the world since 1990. We are seeing the benefits of that, and of the integration of our economy with the economies of those countries. There is no doubt that further benefits will result; but I ask the Minister to bear in mind in his public utterances outside this place that we must prepare people for some of the negative developments that may result, and explain why the sacrifices may be necessary. I shall not say much about asylum and the movement of people, but I will say that the problem of asylum in this country can be solved only on a European Union basis. That does not mean that we should not have our own policy, but it does mean that we must try to find ways of helping countries at the perimeter of the EU, which may not have sufficient controls, to ensure that uncontrolled population movements do not happen. There is no point in trying to do that at Calais, at Dover, or at any fortifications in the south of England. This must be seen much more as a European Union issue. We must ensure that such measures as the Dublin convention are more effective, rather than going on and on about dangers posed to this country. Let us take some European Union action. We need to prepare for other events. I believe that the next EU budget review will take place in about 2006. The current budget is capped at 1.27 per cent. We have so far failed to persuade the French that there should be a proper reform of the common agricultural policy, although there has been some movement on a sliding scale. We really must tackle that: our failure to do so constitutes a huge failure of EU willpower. It is not enough for us to say, "Let us write off the European Union as hopeless". Certain things in this country should be changed, and we have not tackled them. Such problems are problems for the European Union. We must play a constructive part in securing change, and continuing to work for it. It ill behoves President Chirac to tell off the Poles about foreign policy, but I would advise the American Administration not to start saying that France is picking on various EU member countries on a whim. Incidentally, it may not decide to pick on us at all times. I do not believe in forcing a single European foreign policy or even that a credible defence policy would work, but we must strive as far as possible to have common objectives in Europe on some of the dangers that face us in the rest of the world.
The European Union is now preparing for its biggest enlargement ever in terms of scope and diversity. As we know, 13 countries have applied to become new members. Ten of those countries—Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia—are set to join on 1 May next year. The historic treaty was signed in Athens last year. Following ratification, enlargement will take place on 1 May next year. I look forward to that, as I am sure many other hon. Members do, and indeed to the accession of Bulgaria, Romania and eventually Turkey.I would like to address the issue of accession from the economic, foreign policy and political perspectives. On the economic side of things, many studies have shown the economic benefits for incumbent members as well as for new entrants. About 14,000 British firms currently trade with central and eastern European countries. Enlargement will benefit the British consumer, allowing access by suppliers of goods and services to many of those countries. It will provide benefits to the British consumer in the way of much cheaper prices. As has been mentioned, the applicant countries will receive about £25 billion from 2004 to 2006. That is only 0.1 per cent. of Europe's GDP but will bring huge benefits. Their GDP is estimated to be set to rise by approximately 19 per cent. in the medium term. Pre- accession aid as set out in the current financial perspective will benefit accession countries by about €1.6 billion per annum. As we have seen, qualified majority voting has helped the European Union to achieve a stronger and more liberal negotiating position. A Europe of 25 must have QMV in as many areas as it needs. For example, QMV is necessary on the tasks and rules of the structural and cohesion funds to stop net recipients blocking efficiency and cost savings, which addresses the point made by the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) Enlargement will remove barriers to trade. As I have said, UK companies will benefit from a more than 40 per cent. increase in the size of the single market, which will have more than 500 million consumers: the biggest single market for trade and investment in the world—larger than the United States and Japan. Enlargement will increase economic growth in the current 15 member states and could increase UK GDP by £1.75 billion as UK goods and services flood into the accession countries. In my region in the north-west of England, about 400,000 jobs are linked to membership of the European Union and access to the single market. In the next five years, it will receive about £1.5 billion in EU structural funds. Enlargement is a very good deal both for EU incumbents and for new members. For central and eastern European countries, enlargement will involve the elimination of tariffs, quotas and the adoption of a common external tariff, while gaining from single market access. Central and eastern European countries will have to establish the four freedoms—freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people—which are a principal concern of this Bill. At the same time, they must recognise health, safety, industrial and environmental standards, the adoption of common competition and state aids policies, and the removal of frontier controls. Those countries will gain most from their own liberalisation. Importantly, new political and economic stability will boost external investment as risk premiums in those countries drop. Single market competition rules will cut tradedistorting tariffs, which average some 6.5 per cent. in central and eastern European countries, compared with about 3 per cent. in the European Union. Moving towards better competition will certainly provide increases in imports, lowering the cost of consumer goods and therefore increasing welfare gains for the accession countries. Although there will be initial barriers to trade such as product harmonisation, over the long term those barriers will lead to gains, which is the central long-term benefit of enlargement for the central and eastern European countries. As we know, in October 2002 a Franco-German compromise enabled the EU to agree on ways of financing the common agricultural policy after 2007. The Heads of Government agreed that between 2007 and 2013, the overall ceiling for CAP market support expenditure will rise by no more than 1 per cent. per annum on the 2006 level. That will mean that the budget for this part of the CAP for the EU 25 will be able to rise to just over €45 billion in 2006, and to about €48.6 billion by 2013. This is not the reduction that many of us would have liked; nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction, because it could have been much greater. The EU agreed to offer a phasing in of direct aid to accession countries: some 25 per cent. in 2004, 30 per cent. in 2005 and 35 per cent. in 2006, rising to 40 per cent. in 2007 and increasing by 10 percentage points in each ensuing year, reaching 100 per cent. by 2013. I know that that was not the ideal scenario for many accession countries, but it is a step in the right direction. Cutting the CAP will benefit the UK and accession countries, as it is a distortion to trade. The Prime Minister and the Government are working hard to achieve those cuts, and by engaging more in Europe the UK will be in a stronger position to achieve further liberalisation and reductions in the CAP. It is very important that current EU member states support the accession countries in meeting European environmental targets. For example, Poland has recently expressed concern that it will need an extra €40 billion to meet the necessary environmental criteria by the 2015 deadline. It is important that we co-operate as much as possible in order that such targets are met.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Lucas factory in Ystradgynlais exported its jobs to Poland three years ago not because the barriers to trade had come down, but in effect because standards of trade had not gone up? One of the great benefits of this Bill is the levelling up of standards, which will protect jobs across the whole of the European Community.
I totally agree with my hon. Friend, and a little later in my speech I shall discuss minimum income guarantees, which will become the norm across the European Union and would have addressed the very point that he makes.Enlargement will enhance stability and security in Europe. Europe has been the centre of the two largest wars ever; millions of lives have been lost. We now have an historic opportunity to bring peace and security to central and eastern Europe through membership of NATO, and to bring prosperity through membership of the European Union. Europe's post-cold war architecture will change into a new, united Europe. The UK has been at the forefront of European policy on these matters. The UK-French initiative at St. Malo in 1998 instigated European defence co-operation. The rapid reaction force will give the European Union the capacity to conduct military operations in response to international crises when NATO is not engaged. Its range of potential missions is described as including
Such a force was missing in Bosnia, and the consequences were also evident in Kosovo until NATO finally took action. NATO, not the EU, remains responsible for collective and territorial defence. It is important to note that we are not trying to create a European army. European Commissioner Hans van den Broek noted:"humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking."
Britain has consistently advocated a strong, successful and effective common foreign and security policy. The Iraq crisis has shown that foreign policies are ultimately determined by national interests. Britain needs to be able to act alone, on its own initiative, as it did in Sierra Leone—and, for that matter, as France did in Ivory Coast. Europe's disunity is not fatal. The Institutional Reform Commissioner, Michel Barnier, said:"The voice of Europe will only be heard in world affairs if there is a single voice."
Such crises can be prevented in future if the EU can develop a common diplomatic culture. The arrival of Javier Solana as the EU's first High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy has been a real success, as was evident in the Balkans. The current challenges for the CFSP are to confront the threats from terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and to develop a stronger relationship with the Muslim world. The role of the High Representative must be enhanced. By combining the present roles of Chris Patten and Javier Solana, the EU could create a single post that would improve co-ordination in external policy. In the final analysis, there can be no QMV on defence or foreign policy, and no European army. That would lead only to a bipolar world order that would be extremely dangerous. Again, I agree with the right hon. Member for Horsham, who spoke about the centre of gravity moving towards the Atlantic, even as the EU border moves east. This Bill is the formal ratification for redrawing the political map of Europe. Too often, the word "Europe" is synonymous with the term "western Europe". The democracy, peace and prosperity that we have enjoyed in the west have not been shared in the east. It is now time for the European family to unite around our common values. In order to join the EU, the accession countries have had to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria, according to which a prospective EU member must be a stable democracy, respecting human rights, the rule of law and the protection of minorities. That is a huge step to have taken in the short periods for which the different countries involved have been free of the shackles of communism. The success of countries in central and eastern Europe in achieving such structural changes in such a short time deserves congratulation, and it will allow Europe, finally, to be united and become more stable and prosperous. Enlargement will reduce the pressures for economic migration by boosting the economic growth of the candidate countries. Research from Portugal showed that there had been a decline in the numbers of people leaving Portugal to find work since it became a member. When Spain joined the EU in 1986, 109,000 Spanish workers were based in France; by 1994, that figure had fallen to 35,000. As accession countries benefit from increasing prosperity, their citizens will have more opportunities at home. It is time to redefine our discourse and act as a partner, not an adversary. As the symbols of communism collapsed with the removal of the Berlin wall, it is now time to get behind the common European identity of a united Europe, a union of nation states working together to solve common problems with common solutions. An article in the magazine E! Sharp of October last year commented:"The present crisis must be put in a historical perspective."
That is a worrying observation, and shows why we must rethink how we can engage citizens in achieving an historic prize—the unity of Europe."Not only do the vast majority of EU citizens have no idea which countries are candidates to join the Union, but many of them do not even want to know."
It is hard to think of a measure that the Government could have brought to the House that I could support more unreservedly and with greater pleasure than this Bill to expand the European Union. To sum up my response, I would merely say, "And about time too."It is 14 years since the fall of the Berlin wall. I vividly remember reporting from Brussels on how the European federalists responded with stupefaction and panic to that wonderful event, and on how they scrabbled to accelerate the process of European integration and to delay the moment of expansion of the EU for countries that had been kept in the socialist twilight for so many years. Only East Germany was admitted, but now, after 14 years of miserable refusal to trade freely with those other countries—keeping out their sauerkraut and their plums under the ridiculous quotas and tariffs that we maintained against them—they are finally to be brought into Europe, and I am overjoyed. This is the prelude to a change in the doings of the Community. There will be a change in its culture, which is, in some ways, a very good thing. There will be far greater use of English in the Community. I do not know whether that is a good thing, but it will certainly be to the advantage of those who speak only English—although it might be good for members of the Community to be forced to speak French, in so far as they are capable of speaking English already. There will also be pressure on the hard core of the Community—what Donald Rumsfeld described as the "old Europe". France and Germany will pedal ever harder to try to maintain the old ways. That is what is going on in relation to the constitutional Convention. It is a symptom of the recurring desire to fight the expansion of the Community, which they see as a threat to the way in which they have always run things—deepening and centralising authority and power in the Brussels institutions. Before I discuss the Convention, I shall talk briefly about the continent that people are playing around with as they go about their constitution making. There is one essential geographical point that no one has yet made in this important debate about European enlargement. Nobody has got to the fundamentals, because nobody actually knows—it is nowhere written in any European treaty—what Europe is. No one has defined Europe geographically. Herodotus said that the world was divided into Europe, Libya and Asia, without giving us any more detail. Strabo did no better. When I met the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), in the Library just now, I thought I would seek a more up-to-date opinion, so I asked him: "What is Europe, Robin?" He replied that it was that part of the Eurasian land-mass that stretches, more or less, from Portugal to Russia. That view would probably be broadly be accepted by the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Levitt), who is no longer in the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Urals. If he were here, I would ask him whether the people who live in the Urals were European or not. Is it really credible to say, as the former Foreign Secretary did, that Russia is not a European country? Are we saying that Moscow is not a European city, or that Leningrad is not a European city? Are we saying that Vladivostok is not a European city? Patently, it is. Bill Clinton, a former president of the United States, has said that Russia should eventually join the European Community. There is intellectual force to that point. It is a fact that Israel is a member of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, so under some constructions of the word "European", Israel is a European country. There is no ready, logical, geographical terminus of Europe. Several Members have said how much they look forward to the incorporation of Romania. If we accept Romania, why not Moldova? If we accept Poland, why not the Ukraine, and so on? There is no logical, geographical definition of Europe and thus no coherent political unit. That is why so many efforts are made to find some other definition of Europe. Some people say that the definition is not just geographical, but cultural, because it has to do with values. We have seen some slightly creepy attempts by some members of the German Christian Democratic Union to exclude the Turks from an eventual European vocation on the grounds that Europe is coterminous with Christendom. I do not happen to agree. It is absurd to say to the Bosnians, whom we made such a huge effort to defend, that they have no European destiny because they are Muslims. That would be wholly wrong. I do not know whether any hon. Members are foolish enough to oppose eventual Turkish membership of the European Union. If so, I ask them where they think Europa was when she was raped by the bull? [Interruption.] Where was she? Such knowledge is probably banned by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills: it will not be allowed under new Labour because it counts as classical learning, which is to be extinguished by philistine Government Members. I will tell the House where Europa was—on the coast of Asia Minor. She was on the Turkish coast, which is one of the many reasons why Turkey ultimately has a European vocation. Those who oppose the widening of Europe to include a wide family of countries should reflect on the fact that many young people, increasingly sceptical about the methods and manners of the European Union, sniff in the idea something of a racist construct. They sniff in it a white man's laager on the edge of the Eurasian land mass. They do not like it and that is one of the reasons why the EU has been losing popularity among young people. I make those points because I foresee further expansion beyond 25 countries. As the community expands, it is vital that the institutions of the EU should be as flexible as possible. It is wrong to conclude from the fact of expansion that we must, as the federalists always do, try ever harder to fit everybody on to the same Procrustean bed, to force them all through the same hoops and oblige them all to obey exactly the same 97,000-page acquis. Rather than tighten the federalist ratchet every time we have an expansion, why not use our imagination and take the screwdriver to loosen the ratchet a bit, and include people on a looser basis? Would that not be a more progressive way of expanding the community? I am not by any means an ultra-Eurosceptic. In some ways, I am a bit of a fan of the European Union. If we did not have one, we would invent something like it—some means of association between the sovereign states of Europe, perhaps an organisation in Brussels—overnight. I was educated at a European school. If I wanted to, I could sing the "Ode to Joy" in German. My key point is that there are tangible benefits to our membership of the European Union. At some stage the game is up and all bets are off, as our political careers are all extinguished in one way or another. However, under the terms of the benign and beneficent Single European Act—several hon. Members have generously pointed out that it was a Conservative inspiration and that Mrs. Thatcher, as she then was, pushed forward with the extension of free market values across the European Community—I would be able to seek an alternative career as a dentist in Belgium or, with what we are inaugurating today, in Poland, Malta or any of the other accession countries. There are benefits to membership of the European Union. My only contention is that, in order to reap the benefits, it is not necessary to build a single European polity, as we appear to be trying to do—"e pluribus unum". I do not believe that we need to make, out of 15 different and disparate states, one state with a centre in Brussels. I believe that that is a mistake and I see no reason why we should agree to the constitution as currently proposed. The Minister has been involved in discussing the detail in Brussels, but there are several respects in which this is a constitution and a treaty too far.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that some of the most successful clubs have stuck to their core principles and rules of membership and have not diluted them? When ties are loosened to any great extent there is no club any more.
The word "core" is important. It is precisely because we want to stick to the core competencies and exclude the excrescences that have built up over the past few years that our case is so powerful. We want to avoid the constant centralising and federalising tendency, which is why we oppose prima facie some of the stuff that is emanating from the Giscard Convention.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about the rules, but does he not remember that it was the Conservatives who passed the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty, which established the very rules about which he now complains? Is he not concerned that he is going against everything that his own party previously agreed with?
I have already paid generous tribute to my party for being the inspiration behind the Single European Act. As for the Maastricht treaty, the point has been well made by several hon. Members that it was the Conservative party that decided to have a referendum on the treaty by calling for a referendum on the euro. The Government have yet to decide whether, owing to the Prime Minister's timorousness on the subject, they have the guts to call such a referendum. However, I believe that holding a referendum on the constitution would be a good thing if it were presented to the British people in the form that is currently before us. The proposal for an elected European President is a considerable constitutional advance according to the definitions. Interestingly, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) committed his party to a referendum. I believe that the proposal was a sufficient constitutional advance to trigger Liberal Democrat support for a referendum, and I very much look forward to seeing the right hon. and Learned Gentleman on the barricades.
Which barricades did the hon. Gentleman have in mind—Henley or St. Andrews?
The referendum campaign will go round the country, and I am sure that we can share a platform in many places.The incorporation of the European convention on human rights is another trigger, and will have a huge impact on our judicial system. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) spoke eloquently about the Criminal Justice Bill and handing over a lot of crucial decision making to institutions in Brussels. The constitution goes too far. If we had a referendum on it and the people rejected it, it would not be a disaster. People who are in favour of the constitution cannot assert that it is in any way essential, as it has no function and does not advance enlargement one bit. It is intended purely to centralise more power in Brussels, and it would be a great thing if it were revisited and more of an effort made to turn it into a proper vehicle for subsidiarity. I therefore hope that there will be a referendum. The Minister must realise that, if the Government fail to call one, there will be an independent referendum. It is likely that, out of the great mass of popular wrath at not being consulted on the issue for so long, there will arise a referendum. I very much hope that the Labour Government will have the guts to abide by the verdict of that referendum when it happens.
Hon. Members are rarely given the opportunity to discuss Europe and its many facets, and this is the first opportunity that I have taken to discuss an issue that is extremely important to my constituents, as it is to those of every hon. Member. It is refreshing not to have to focus obsessively on the single currency, although I understand why many hon. Members have chosen to mention it in passing. Any debate on the euro tends to degenerate into name-calling, with Europhiles describing anybody with legitimate worries about the single currency as anti-European, and Europhobes describing anyone who is at all pro-European as selling the country's sovereignty down the river. Of course those are caricatures and our electorates deserve better than that. I am delighted that those hon. Members on both sides who have spoken so far have generated more light than heat.Few would cavil at the idea of enlarging the EU. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson)—whose speech I thoroughly enjoyed—was extremely critical of those hon. Members who oppose enlargement, but I have not yet heard any Member, even the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), oppose the principle of enlarging the EU.
My hon. Friend may be interested to know that, for the very reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson), one of enlargement's strongest opponents was Sir Edward Heath, a former leader of the Conservative party.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that useful information. Interestingly, he mentions someone who is no longer a Member, but who, I am sure, would have taken part in the debate today if he were.The former Prime Minister, John Major, mentioned on a number of occasions the importance of widening the EU, but not deepening it. In 1995, the then Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said:
Even the current Tory leadership agrees with that. Last year, the shadow Foreign Secretary said:"Enlargement is not a luxury. It is a necessity if we are to build a safe and successful Europe for the 21st century."
I should like to know what the next sentence was, because that sounds like a preamble to a withdrawal of support. Last October, even the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) said:"EU enlargement is a project that has always enjoyed the total support of the Conservative party."
There is no doubt that the enlargement that the Bill facilitates has led directly to the controversy over the new EU constitution that we have all been talking about in the past few months. I find it remarkable that, at Prime Minister's questions last week and again this week, the Leader of the Opposition called for a referendum on that draft constitution specifically to persuade the British people to reject it unequivocally. Even if the draft constitution discussed by the House rejects all forms of federalism—if it does not mention federalism but reinforces the nation state's rights to sovereignty—the Conservatives will still call for a referendum and for it to be opposed. It is unreasonable and unrealistic simultaneously to support EU enlargement and oppose the constitution that will enable enlargement to work. I tell the House unequivocally that, if I believed that the new European constitution would make this country subject to a federal Europe so that we were completely under the metal fist of Brussels, I would be one of those Members calling for a referendum on the constitution. The reason why I am confident that that will not happen is simply that I accept and trust implicitly the assurances given to the House by the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who said today and in a speech two days ago that, although the process of producing the new constitution was complex, the Government would not accept anything that compromised the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. I am absolutely happy to accept that assurance."enlargement is a great prize that is worth fighting for."—[Official Report, 28 October 2002; Vol. 391, c. 543.]
I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has great trust in the Prime Minister, but why does he not have the same trust in the electorate of Cathcart, and, indeed, of the rest of the UK, to make a remarkably simple judgment on whether the proposed constitution is in their interests?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point, as it brings me on to an issue mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell). Why are the Government saying no to a referendum now when they do not know what the final form of words in the constitution will be? The reason is simply that the Government have insisted from the outset that the UK's sovereignty must not be compromised in the new constitution. It seems an odd negotiating stance to say at the outset, "Here is what we will not stand for. Here are the red lines. If we lose that, we will have a referendum." It is a ridiculous stance. We know already that the new constitution for Europe will not compromise the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. What it will do is put in place new arrangements to allow a 25-member EU to function properly. Because it does not take away any of the authority of this House, there is no need to put it to the people, any more than there was a need to put the Maastricht treaty or the Nice treaty to the British people.
Does my hon. Friend find it remarkable that eight of the 10 applicant countries that are largely responsible for the Convention on the Future of Europe meeting as it has done, are not only anxious but desperate to get into the EU on the terms that they are being offered, having only a short time ago exited from what was arguably a superstate under which they were oppressed? Does he agree that if they had a perception that they were about to re-enter an oppressive superstate, they would have made that point known in the negotiations by now?
That is a valid point. On top of that, I suggest that, after hearing praise for the Government on the speed of this process, a move to a referendum, which would be a purely partisan political move at this point, would simply be seen as a way of delaying the process and delaying progress towards a constitution that is desperately needed. If I thought that it would compromise the sovereignty of this House, I, too, would favour a referendum, but I have no doubt that it will not.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I have given way several times, so if the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I shall make some progress.I do not believe that a federal Europe will ever happen. Those who want to draw comparisons between a hypothetical united states of Europe and the United States of America are barking up the wrong tree and are very wide of the mark. Two things helped to create the United States of America: first, a single common language, and secondly, a brutal civil war that killed one in 50 of the population. Shelby Foote, the civil war historian, was once asked, "What was the great cultural legacy left by the civil war?" His answer was that the civil war made the United States a singular—before the civil war, the United States were; after the civil war, the United States was. Unless at some point in the future we miraculously have a single language in Europe and a brutal civil war, I would have to suggest that that path is not open to Europe. A federal Europe is nothing more than a Conservative chimera. It is something that nannies use to scare very young children who have an ambition to be Conservative Members into going to sleep: "If you don't go to sleep, the federal Europe will get you." Clearly, it will be used to scare voters, too. What we have is a Europe of nation states cooperating on many levels. Each nation state fiercely guards its rights when necessary, and shares sovereignty when it is in its interest. I hope that we press ahead with the historic move to increase the size of the EU by 10 nations—an unprecedented number, and an achievement about which we should all be proud and happy.
I agree entirely with the intellectual thrust of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is it not an irony, however, that he overwhelmingly welcomes the enlargement of the European Union so that those countries can have a state of independence within Europe, but opposes that for the country that both he and I represent?
Never let it be said that the Scottish National party does not have its finger on the pulse of political debate in this country. Given that it is three weeks since the party was decimated in the Scottish Parliament elections, now is not the time for the hon. Gentleman to start talking about tearing to bits nation states already in the European Union.We should press ahead with this historic move. Ten more nations understandably want to add the economic freedom of the world's largest trading bloc to their newfound political freedom. Members of this House must extend a welcome to those nations, not slam the door in their face.
The question of which nations should accede to the European Union is a matter for them, and I would not wish to intrude on their choice. However, I am certain that we should give the Bill its Second Reading and make the nations welcome if they decide, through their democratic processes, that it is wise and in their interests to join.Of course, those countries' accession will present an enormous challenge to the European Union. We have heard that several have a gross national product per head that is one seventh of the average in existing EU member countries. That will put an enormous strain on the European Union, and it is especially pertinent to clause 2 because if we are to avoid enormous population movement and migration of workers, it is vital to put in place measures to drive forward the single market so that those countries are swiftly brought up to a level of prosperity broadly comparable with that of the rest of the Union. In the short term after accession, we must avoid a situation in which the United Kingdom extends full free movement while the remainder of our European partners impose all sorts of restrictions, because that would mean that all the pressure would fall on us. The Government were wise to build powers into the Bill to deal with such an eventuality.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many parts of the United Kingdom, such as south-east England in particular, need more workers, especially skilled workers?
I am not convinced of that, although I have an open mind and remain to be persuaded. It is clear that the current work permit system represents something of an abuse, especially because of the way in which it relates to information technology workers. That issue was raised with the Prime Minister today, but it goes beyond the scope of the debate because the system relates to non-EU members.It is vital that newly acceded members do not rely simply on subsidy, which would make them a burden on other countries. They should develop as genuine engines of growth as we draw them into the free-trade benefits of the Union. If that is to happen, one of the requirements is growing flexibility in the rest of the Union, especially on labour practices, because an enormous strain will otherwise be placed on the Union. The economics of the Union need to advance and be reformed because there is otherwise a significant danger that the European Union as we know it might be consigned to the dustbin of history—a point that the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) drew to our attention. I shall move on to an aspect of the debate that I had not imagined that I would intrude on. However, almost every speaker has mentioned it and the Secretary of State himself brought it into our discussion. Although I welcome the Bill, I had not identified any connection between it and the European Convention. It was the Secretary of State who made that connection. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Harris) reinforced the principle that the Secretary of State introduced: that being in favour of accession required acceptance of the reforms consequent on the Convention. I do not believe that. I do not believe that there is any necessity to draw together accession and what is happening in the Convention and the constitution that is its product. I have already said clearly that there must be economic reform if accession is to be a success rather than something that threatens the existence of the Union. Equally, I agree entirely that there must be significant institutional reform. That does not mean that we are required to agree to institutional reform of the scale or sort published in the draft constitution produced by the Convention.
What institutional reforms would the hon. Gentleman propose?
I want a completely different order of reform. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) said, we want reform that loosens ties—a dilution. That is one of the principal arguments in favour of expansion of the Union, although I accept that there are other more important economic arguments. Certainly one of the institutional arguments that was often advanced in the 1980s and 1990s for expanding the Union was that a wider Union would be a less deep Union.
Will the hon. Gentleman name one institutional reform? I would like one concrete example.
I shall concentrate precisely on what I do not think is desirable institutional reform, as advanced by the Convention. From that, I think that the Minister will be able to infer what I would be in favour of.
Under the hon. Gentleman's proposals, how many Commissioners would there be?
I am not interested in the number of angels that dance on the head of a pin, nor in the number of Commissioners that sit in the Commission. That is a matter of little consequence.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be wholly welcome if, as proposed in the Convention, the Council of Ministers were opened up so that citizens could see how representatives of their Government argue and then decide on vital matters of national interest such as, for example, fishing? At least we would then know how hard people were arguing for us.
Absolutely. I accept that that might be highly desirable, but we are talking about what has come out in the draft constitution. I urge right hon. and hon. Members to log on to the internet website where it is available. It is clear that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart has not done so, given his closing remarks. The Union so described is clearly described by the Convention as the united states of Europe.Ministers have argued, as have Opposition Members, especially the Liberal Democrats, that it is legitimate for them to say, "It would be wrong in principle to commit to a referendum now, given that we do not know the magnitude of the changes. After all, this is only a draft constitution and the IGC has yet to take place. Perhaps we should consider later the real scale of change in terms of whether this is tidying up or whether it is something much more significant." I accept that, in principle, that argument has some value, but we must consider the practicalities and bear in mind the months during which the Convention has been gestating. The product is to a large extent a done deal. I am sure that there will be a battle on defence and foreign policy. I have no doubt that the Government will return from the IGC trumpeting their triumph. I have no doubt also that they will triumph on defence, foreign policy and taxation. It would be extraordinary if they did not, but they will use that to mask the profound changes to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells referred, and pass them off as a tidying-up measure that makes no fundamental change in our relationship with the rest of Europe. The Foreign Secretary was explicit. He said that there would be no significant change. I argue that there is an absolute and fundamental change, and it is already clear from the draft constitution. Our relationship with the Union now is set out in treaties that can be changed only by unanimity. The European Union enjoys its power and competence by leave of the member states. The constitution will fundamentally alter that relationship. We, as nation states, will enjoy our power and our competence by leave of the Union, through a constitution that can subsequently be changed by the Union, without requiring the absolute consent of all member states. That is a fundamental change in the nature of the Union, giving it its own legality and person. That is the enormity of what is being proposed. I do not believe for one moment that the Government will get away with passing that off as a tidying-up measure. I tried to intervene on the Foreign Secretary as he concluded his remarks—indeed, I had tried to intervene earlier. He concluded with a grand flourish about the process of enlargement. He said that he believed that it would be irreversible. I asked him—from a sedentary position, admittedly, but I am certain that he heard me—whether he would tell us what he meant by "irreversible". Unfortunately, he did not. I hope that when the Minister winds up the debate, he will expand on quite what the Foreign Secretary meant by it. There is a suspicion—not unnatural, given the way in which the constitution is expressed in draft form on the internet—that the position is irreversible because those that join have no way of getting out. I suspect that that is not what the Foreign Secretary meant. Perhaps this is part of Labour's search for some new belief. Having ditched clause IV, which of course contained the term "irreversible", it seeks some other article of faith. This European journey is it. I hope that the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to what the Foreign Secretary meant. It is clear from the draft constitution—again, I urge hon. Members to read it, so that they know precisely what they are talking about—that it is no tidying up, no codification of the existing treaties. There is a fundamental change in the nature of the organisation. All the other members of the Convention clearly accept, acknowledge and agree with that. Whether they are for it or against it, they acknowledge the singular nature of the change and its enormity. We cannot allow Ministers to pretend to the British people that it is something of little consequence, about which only a few people are exercised, and with which the rest of Europe is entirely content.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) for mentioning clause IV. We do not often hear it mentioned in this place any more. It brought a lump to my throat, and I almost felt a chorus of "The Red Flag" coming on, but it quickly passed, as it has done in new Labour.I should like to pick up something that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) said in his speech. In his usual modest way, he pointed out that there was something that none of us had seen or discussed in the debate: the definition of Europe. It is an interesting point. As a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I know that the subject is discussed there from time to time. In Council of Europe terms, Europe stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals. One needs only to make the short journey across the Bering strait to Alaska to reach north America. He was right to say that the borders of Europe will continue to expand, and so they should. Hon. Members who described the treaty of accession as an historic milestone are correct, and it is wonderful. The Foreign Secretary mentioned Europe's violent history. The map of Europe has been drawn and redrawn over the centuries, always on the basis of conquest, war and the imposition of treaties on unwilling countries. We are considering a completely different process. It is grotesque, especially in the context of the acceding countries, to suggest that one can compare the Commission to the Politburo. However, such language often creeps into discussions about developments in the European Union, especially in our media. We are drawing a new map of Europe peacefully, on a co-operative, voluntary basis. A dream is becoming reality. In recent years, there has been much argument about whether we should broaden or deepen. Those who opposed the concept of the European Union believed that broadening it would avoid deepening it. They did not want to expand it on the basis of what was good for other countries but to prevent the European Union from deepening. I believed that we should deepen before broadening, but we cannot. We cannot stand aside and tell countries that have emerged from the shadow of the former Soviet Union that we must get on with our business and they must wait. We must therefore try both to broaden and to deepen. We all have our personal stories about the accession countries. I am delighted about Lithuania's application. Not many people know—why should they?—that as a member of the Political Committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, I was responsible for a report on Lithuania. I was a rapporteur for its application to join the Council of Europe and I spent time in Lithuania, studying various institutions. It attained full status at the Council of Europe. All countries must do that before applying to join the European Union. The Council of Europe should be perceived as the democratic training ground for countries in transition from the totalitarian system of the former Soviet Union to the family of democratic nations. When I produced the report, several institutions could not be favourably compared with institutions in our country and other parts of western Europe. An act of faith was required. We had to say that the willingness to democratise meant that association in the Council of Europe—and now the European Union—would hasten the creation and development of democratic institutions in Lithuania and the other accession countries. There has been much discussion about the countries' reasons for joining. Of course there are economic benefits to joining the European Union, whatever the short-term difficulties they and we might encounter. However, the decision is essentially political. The accession countries want to join the European Union for political reasons rather than for the economic benefits that they hope will ensue. Although the debate is about the accession treaty, it is impossible to discuss it in isolation from other developments such as the Convention and the euro. However much we want to cloak the debates in the language of economics, though, they remain political. It is a political issue. When I heard the shadow Chancellor this morning—I hear him so often on the "Today" programme that I thought for a moment I was cohabiting with him—I agreed with most of what he said. An economic snapshot of convergence might be right on the day that it is taken, but a little further down the line it will not be. One cannot say that because we have economic convergence on one particular day it is right for us to join the euro. I should not like to say that we are misleading people, but we are trying to camouflage an essentially political decision in the language of economics. Frankly, it is not going to work, because our economies could be converging on one day and diverging on another. It is a political argument, just as it was a political argument that led the French, Germans, Italians and Spanish into joining the euro. When I hear that we are giving up our sovereignty or that 1,000 years of our history are threatened, I wonder what one would say to the French and the Germans about that. I have always felt that the French and German Governments are as anxious to preserve their sovereignty, history, customs and pride as we are. Those countries have not descended into barbarism because they joined the euro. Whatever else one says about the short-term difficulties that they may be undergoing, my personal experience is that quality of life and living standards in France and Germany are at least equal to, and in most cases exceed, those of this country. I do not believe that the Bill or any of the proposals so far in the Convention will lead to a European superstate. I do believe, however, that we are on the road towards a united states of Europe, and personally I very much welcome that. It might not be a view that sits well in this House or, at the moment, in this country, but there is an historical inevitability about it. I asked the right hon. and learned Member for North-East File (Mr. Campbell) what he thought about that, and I should like to hear his answer. Given the enormity of the institutional, political, social and geographical changes that have taken place in Europe in the past 50 to 60 years, I cannot believe that in another 50 to 60 years we will be looking at anything like the Europe that we are discussing today. We will have a European superstate—a united states of Europe—and that does not frighten me at all.
It does not frighten the hon. Gentleman, but it worries—indeed, frightens—quite a lot of people. Would he be prepared to support a campaign to have a referendum on this and abide by the will of the people?
A referendum on what? That is the important point. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I would put the question, "Do you want to have a European superstate?", that is a no-brainer, because I know exactly what everyone, in the House and in the country, will say: no. Perhaps not everyone—there must be a few more like me.I am simply asking the House to look beyond what is happening today, or might be happening in two or three years' time when the Convention is a reality, to what sort of a Europe we think we will be living in in 60 years' time. I can see the inevitability of a Europe with a president, a Government and the national Parliaments being more like state parliaments in a federal united states of Europe. After all, why should we stop at the borders of the nation state? Who is to say that the political entity of the nation state is as far as we can ever go? I am sure that the people of Wessex, Mercia and Essex did not particularly want to join England in a united state—
Nor did Wales.
Wales certainly did not. However, by virtue of conquest, it happened. Nowadays, we are talking not about invasion and conquest but about voluntarism and people willingly surrendering an element of their sovereignty, as we have already done in order to provide a greater European good. Whatever it does to the rest of the House, a united states of Europe most certainly does not frighten me.
It is always a privilege to follow the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). Chelsea football club, which we both support—he rather more actively than I—is of course a wonderful manifestation of the ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe, although I think that it has a few more English players these days. When I listen to the hon. Gentleman speak, I reflect on how I could perhaps be persuaded of the case for a common criminal justice policy, because a single policy on hunting would be unlikely to lead to a ban—but that is another matter.I apologise to the House for having been absent for some of the speeches in this debate, but as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had important parliamentary business elsewhere on the Selection Committee. I apologise to you for that discourtesy, but fortunately I have not missed many speeches. This is only my second speech on European affairs since I came to the House just over 11 years ago; my first was six months ago. That was perhaps the more statesmanlike version; today's might be a little more knockabout. The right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, made an interesting contribution to our proceedings. He regretted the lack of consensus in the debate. I have to tell him that the reason for that on our side is, in part, that the Prime Minister started it. I had not intended to speak in this debate but I was absolutely infuriated by what he said last week during Prime Minister's questions. A lengthy exchange—it runs to a full page of Hansard—is perhaps best summed up in what he said about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition:
That is simply untrue in every particular. I intend to give the House a history lesson on the Conservative party's engagement with the issue of the enlargement of Europe. We were in favour of it when the Labour party was still in favour of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from Europe. Today, the Prime Minister compounded the sin. I cannot quote his exact words, because I have not seen how they will appear in Hansard, but I noted them down like this: "The true agenda of him"—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—"and his colleagues is to get Britain out of the European Union." That is complete nonsense. Why he feels this compulsive need to misrepresent his opponents, I just do not know. He seems to need to believe that the Conservative party is a distillation of the purest evil, so that he can define himself in distinction to what he needs to believe that we are—which we actually are not. That also applies to other opponents of the Prime Minister. He does not just misrepresent us on our positive attitude to enlargement of the European Union. He misrepresented the House of Lords, alleging that it had killed the Bill on hunting introduced by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster). That Bill never got to the House of Lords. He misrepresents our position on debt relief, saying that it effectively began in 1997 when this Government came to power. It did not—it began with the last Conservative Government. He misrepresents us over the issue of a 20 per cent. cut in public expenditure—a malicious Labour lie if ever there was one. Again, today, at Prime Minister's questions—"What is very clear, as the right hon. Gentleman has just admitted, is that he wants people to say no to European enlargement … So what we now know from the Conservative party is that it is against the enlargement of the European Union and that it is against those new countries coming into Europe because, under his leadership, the Conservative party is against Europe."—[Official Report, 14 May 2003; Vol. 405, c. 306.]
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is getting a trifle carried away. Perhaps he ought to come back specifically to the Second Reading of the Bill before the House.
Your intervention is well timed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because my notes lead me naturally back to that subject anyway.Today, at Prime Minister's questions, the Prime Minister also accused my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition of being a member of Conservatives Against a Federal Europe—CAFE. In fact, that organisation ceased to exist two years ago, so it would be a little tricky for him still to be a member. All these assertions are just plain wrong, but it is clear that the Prime Minister believes them. He means well—he means well on the issue of European integration—but Mr.Toad meant well. The Prime Minister is becoming the Mr. Toad of British politics, rushing from one new enthusiasm to the next and dismissing all those who raise perfectly legitimate objections. Because our party has serious doubts about the constitutional implications flowing from the Convention in relation to enlargement, the Prime Minister has persuaded himself—possibly quite genuinely—that we are against enlargement itself. We are not. The national interest, and the European interest, demand that these views should be expressed, because serious issues flow from the constitution, and I do not believe that they are necessary to facilitate enlargement.
Does the hon. Gentleman dissociate himself from the comments made by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) last year, when he said clearly to the House that the Conservative party would oppose enlargement unless a reform of the common agricultural policy had taken place first?
I do not recall my right hon. Friend ever having said anything of the kind. Of course, reform of the common agricultural policy is a much more important idea than this wretched constitutional Convention, in terms of achieving effective enlargement. I certainly think that the Government could have done a lot more to reform the common agricultural policy. How much better it would have been if their energies had been spent in that direction.My main purpose today is to correct the Prime Minister and persuade him that scepticism about the constitutional implications of enlargement is not opposition to enlargement itself. I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary pay tribute to the last Conservative Government for their work on enlargement. He is indeed an honest and honourable man, and he rightly paid tribute to John Major and Lord Hurd. However, the first glimmering of an idea that the Conservatives would call for enlargement came from the noble Baroness Thatcher. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) quoted her remarks in his opening speech, but they bear repetition. In that famous Bruges speech, she said:
And so they are. In a fine speech in 1991, only a year or so after the Berlin wall tumbled, John Major spoke of eastern Europe's release from communism:"We must never forget that east of the iron curtain peoples who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom and identity have been cut off from their roots. We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities."
Towards the end of the speech, he said:"Outside our Community the strongholds of communism in the East have crumbled. Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Sofia, Dresden—all now live in freedom. Hungarians, Poles, Czechoslovaks, Bulgarians and others look to our European Community for inspiration, hope and support. They must not, and I trust will not, look in vain."
Interestingly, his next remarks are an example of the Conservative party's pragmatic concern to ensure that enlargement works in everyone's interests:"There are 80 million people in Eastern Europe who have recently gained their freedom. The 16 million who live in the Eastern part of Germany already enjoy EC membership. 64 million Europeans have still to make the same leap."
That came from a party that supposedly opposed enlargement of the European Union. A group of colleagues from my parliamentary intake of 1992, three of whom are now in the shadow Cabinet, the "standard bearers", wrote the following in a 1991 pamphlet:"If they made the leap too soon, it would not only be expensive for us, but perhaps damaging to them. We would be doing them no service if we held out false hopes of membership in the next three or four years; but we should make it clear that the option of full membership exists in due course. It is open to them, as soon as they can sustain the political and economic obligation that it entails. In the meantime, we must help them prepare for that day."
They went on to say:"Now the EC faces a choice. It could, on the one hand, open its gates to new members, forge a partnership with Japan and the United States, champion the cause of free trade and free enterprise throughout the world. Or it could degenerate into a cosy, introspective huddle, suspicious of the outside world, suffocated within by bureaucracy and meddlesome regulation."
The Conservative party's track record is absolutely clear, but as always, just because we believe in something passionately, that does not mean that we should not ask questions about the mechanism by which it is achieved. When the Nice treaty was agreed, the Conservative party officially said:"A Conservative Europe will welcome new members … front east of what was once the Iron Curtain."
That is enough quotations from the Conservative party's history. [HON. MEMBERS: "More!"] I am torn, as I have many more quotations, but I think that I shall leave them to one side and make the other points that I wish to make in the short time that remains. As the hon. Member for West Ham made clear, it is no secret that we saw enlargement partly as enabling a wider, but not deeper, European Union. I think that there is nothing wrong with that, as I believe that a wider Europe is the right approach. However, we also felt passionately that enlargement was about fulfilling the great goal of spreading democracy around Europe, just as we did in respect of Spain, Portugal and Greece. It is now the turn of central Europe. It is time to restore the countries of central Europe—rather than eastern Europe, to which they are sometimes described as belonging—to their full place in the European family. I was interested by the reaction of some of the foreign press to the signing of the treaty on 16 April. The way in which different countries have responded to the threat or prospect of enlargement is fascinating. Belgium's De Standaard believes that enlargement has "lost its lustre" after eastern European newcomers, by siding with Washington in respect of Iraq,"We are not blocking enlargement, which we passionately support, by opposing the Nice Treaty. Indeed, we would commend tomorrow a Treaty that was genuinely about enlargement, including provisions on vote re-weighting and Commission size. But the current Nice Treaty is mainly about political integration, and we cannot support that. Indeed it will make enlargement more difficult, not easier. Furthermore a Union genuinely preparing itself for enlargement would be tackling its biggest obstacle—the CAP."
I am afraid that there can be no neo-colonial attitude to the new EU members. They deserve to be treated as the fully grown, mature, democratic states that they are. Such neo-colonialism from Belgium is simply not acceptable. Germany's Siiddeutsche Zeitung echoed that theme, warning that it will be increasingly difficult to provide an enlarged EU with a sense of direction after the current EU's failure to back France and Germany in what the daily calls"bit the hand of old Europe—France and Germany—which had shown so much generosity in taking them in."
That is a fascinating reflection of German opinion. In the applicant countries, there was generally a sense of triumph. The Lithuanian paper Verslo Zinios, hailed an"their alliance against George Bush."
while an editorial in Kauno Diena proclaimed that"historic and symbolic day of Lithuania's integration",
"for more than five decades we were torn from the West and now we are coming back".
It is all the doing of the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks).
Indeed. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his part in achieving that fine comment in the Lithuanian press.Interestingly, in Slovakia, Pravda took a slightly more careful view. It asked
Today's EU, it said,"What do we need EU for?"
We should be alive to the fact that Slovakia has been presented with a rather difficult position. Either it comes in on the terms that we set for it, or it does not. That has important implications. We should be sensitive to the fact that, although such countries may have accepted the acquis communautaire—the regulatory framework that they will embrace as part of membership—that does not mean that all of them are enthusiastic about it."differs from the club to which Slovakia submitted its application".
They may not all be enthusiastic, but 93 per cent. of Slovakians voted in favour of joining the EU. Does that not suggest that the Convention that the hon. Gentleman fears so much, of which those countries know they will have to become part, is something that they find much more acceptable than he does?
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that there was only a 50 per cent. turnout in Slovakia—just enough to make the referendum valid. I hear what he says, and I am sure that the right decision was made, but that does not mean that a better decision could not have been made in the event of a different approach to the negotiations.In a fine speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) described the real priorities that would make enlargement the great success that we want—simplification of the acquis communautaire, deregulation, reform of the common agricultural policy and, yes, technical changes in the way in which decision making works in the EU. All those things matter. Decentralisation will be a key factor. I fear that failure to achieve those aims could lead to a failure of the EU's institutions, progressive paralysis, and disillusion with the very Union that Labour Members who are so enthusiastic about its current structure want to bring about.
The hon. Gentleman makes a persuasive case for further decentralisation. What is the Conservative party's position on more direct rights of access to the EU for the Scottish Parliament?
We are all in favour of scrutiny, but I will leave the details to my hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring).I fear that enlargement—along with the Bill and the treaty to which it gives effect—has become an excuse not for a more liberal, outward-looking Europe but for a deepening of Europe. There has been an almost obscene rush on the part of existing member states to deepen the EU's institutions before the entry of the new member states. The Foreign Secretary said that the euro was a constitutional issue, and the hon. Member for West Ham said it was a political issue. I was interested to hear those views. I am not sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree with the Foreign Secretary, but I think that the Foreign Secretary is right. He said that there should be a referendum. I agree that it is just possible that the final outcome of the intergovernmental conference will be "tidying up". Other Conservative Members have accepted that possibility too. It is, however, extremely unlikely. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) said that we should win the arguments here rather than putting them to the people. Given a Government as determined as this, with a majority this size, that simply is not an option. That is one of the reasons why a referendum is so important. I expect the constitution to turn out less awful than the worst predictions but to have major constitutional implications for the United Kingdom. Given the Government's record of squandering the advantages negotiated for them by the last Conservative Government, such as the opt-outs from the social chapter and the single European currency, we have every reason to wonder what they will end up with after the IGC. There must be a referendum on the most likely outcome of the constitution and the new enlarged Europe before the treaty is ratified. May I make a final, parochial point? My right hon. Friend the Member for Wells feared aspects of freedom of movement for those in the new countries—the enlarged Europe referred to in clause 2. I have a rather different fear. I accept the Labour argument that—as Spain and Portugal show—there will be a rapid growth in employment prospects in the new member states. My constituents in the Vale of Evesham who are involved in horticulture, who currently rely on employing low-skilled people from the applicant countries to pick and pack, may find themselves in difficulties. All kinds of painful readjustments will have to be made to accommodate enlargement, but it is right that we should make those readjustments. There will be local pain and suffering in a number of respects. The financial flows will be considerable, as my hon. Friends have said, but I am an optimist, and I agree strongly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude): at present, the trend still seems to be going deeper but I genuinely believe that a Europe of 25 member states—and, I hope, more—will inevitably be a looser, more diverse, more flexible Europe than we have at present. That is why, given the chance, I will vote with enthusiasm for the Bill. It is important legislation that deserves to succeed.