The Lisbon agenda was not discussed at the recent General Affairs Council. However, the incoming Swedish presidency and the forthcoming Spanish presidency have indicated their intention to progress work on the EU’s next strategy for sustainable jobs and growth as a successor to the current strategy, which expires in 2010.
I think that the hon. Lady wrote that question before the Council meeting, when it was made clear that there would be no fiscal implications for the UK and that we would be able to maintain our competitiveness. Most of the City has welcomed the fact that we need to make sure that across the whole European Union there is a proper system of risk management so that we can compete with the rest of the world.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Lisbon agenda is about setting up the mechanism whereby Europe can effectively tackle the problems of the international economy, of trade and of the environment by bringing together mainstream groups from every country? That is the way forward, rather than opting out to the fringe—lunatic and otherwise—which is the Opposition’s policy.
My hon. Friend makes a fair point. The most important point, surely, is that we know that, as a country, we do not have a hermetically sealed economy. Our economy is reliant on trade with other countries throughout the European Union, and if we are not to undermine that trade, we have to ensure that there are strong economies throughout the whole continent. That is precisely what the European Council is doing.
Given today’s remarkable legal judgment in Germany to suspend ratification, it is a great shame that the original question was not about the Lisbon treaty. But as it is not, I shall observe that the Lisbon agenda was intended to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010—and that with one year to go, there is clearly a lot still to do. Will the Minister assure us that there will be no weakening of the British position on our critical opt-out from the working time directive, which is now used by 15 EU countries and directly affects some 3 million people in this country alone?
As the hon. Gentleman did not ask about Germany’s Constitutional Court judgment today—because you, Mr. Speaker, would not have allowed him to do so under this question—I shall not answer today that, of course, that is a matter for Germany, and not for the United Kingdom to reply to. However, I can say to him that of course we need to ensure that our opt-outs stand firm, and that is precisely what we intend to do.