Skip to main content

EU Economy

Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2011

2. What recent representations he has received on the implications for his Department’s policies of economic conditions in the EU. (83283)

I have had a number of recent meetings with representatives of British business who have emphasised the immediate need for eurozone countries to act to restore stability to their currency and the need for the entire European Union to adopt policies to encourage growth and job creation through open markets and less-costly regulation.

Under the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, the financial transaction tax would have to go to the Council of Ministers, which requires unanimity. Will the Minister confirm that Her Majesty’s Government will veto the new Franco-German euro tax that will only damage the City of London?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it quite clear at the most recent ECOFIN meeting that we would reject an EU financial transfer tax, and he was supported in his opposition by 11 other member states.

Can the Minister tell us what practical actions his Government have taken to encourage our European partners to complete the single European market?

I have discussed this in the past two weeks with senior members of the Commission, and I have encouraged them to introduce measures under the Single European Act. Yesterday, in Berlin, other Ministers and I talked to our German counterparts about joint action both to deepen the single market and to reduce the cost of regulations, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.

What discussions has the Minister had with his continental cousins about the fact that the euro is burning while Brussels is fiddling? Would it not be much better to have an orderly withdrawal from the euro, rather than the crisis that we have at the moment?

I think, as my hon. Friend would admit in private, the idea that the eurozone can somehow be dismantled in an orderly manner is rather far-fetched. The collapse of the euro and a prolonged recession in the eurozone would do profound damage to hopes for growth and job creation in the United Kingdom. It is our largest single trading partner.

Could the Minister for Europe tell the House how work on the Government’s stated aim of repatriating powers from the European Union is progressing?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear to the British people in his Mansion House speech the other week that we need a rebalancing of responsibilities in the European Union, with some things being done, yes, at the centre, but more things being done by member states in future. That work is ongoing.

Perhaps the Minister for Europe could be a little more forthcoming. How many staff in the Foreign Office are working full-time on this endeavour, will there be a White Paper on the repatriation of powers, and when, indeed, could the House expect such a publication?

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman will have to contain his excitement for a little longer. That work is ongoing, and of course, we shall keep Parliament acquainted with progress on it.