I have made it clear to my colleagues in the European Union that while we accept that the eurozone needs a banking union, the detailed arrangements need to safeguard the interests of those member states that will not be part of the eurozone or of the banking union.
I reject the hon. Gentleman’s caricature of our position. We are playing an extremely active and constructive part in the negotiations. We recognise that getting the arrangements for a banking union sorted out is of real importance to our friends and partners who have committed themselves to the single currency, and that their financial stability will be of great benefit to the United Kingdom’s economic interests.
The International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde said at the weekend that a banking union was the first priority in saving the eurozone. If the Minister agrees with that, will he tell us precisely how many EU states agree with his plan for double majority voting to ensure that rules applying to banks in Britain are not dictated by a banking union bloc through the European Banking Authority?
All 27 EU Heads of State and Government said in the conclusions to the October European Council that, in the arrangements for a banking union, there needed to be a “level playing field” between the ins and the outs, as well as safeguards
“in full respect of the integrity of the single market in financial services.”
Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to read the blueprint published over the weekend by Mr Barroso, which contains 50 pages of detailed proposals for a full banking, fiscal and, ultimately, political union? Does he think that any of the proposals that this country has made have the remotest chance of being listened to in the context of that document, and of what Mr Noyer said the other day? Lastly, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the European Scrutiny Committee receives an early explanatory memorandum from the Government on those proposals?
I read President Barroso’s comments with interest. He was of course talking not about the immediate negotiations on a banking union but about the longer-term development of the eurozone and how to safeguard its stability. That objective is in the interests of the United Kingdom, but it is true to say that at some stage there needs to be a sensible, grown-up conversation between all members of the EU to work out the right architecture for a future Europe in which some will be members of the single currency and others will remain outside it.
At the recent European Union Council, the UK held a quadrilateral meeting with the Danes, the Dutch, the Swedes and the Finns. Will the Minister take this opportunity to outline the areas of common interest with those nations, and to underscore the importance of joint working with our northern European neighbours?
We talk to our northern European neighbours and, indeed, to other member states about the whole range of issues on the agenda of any particular European Council meeting. The countries that are not in the single currency certainly have a common interest in ensuring that whatever arrangements the eurozone may agree—they are some distance from agreeing among themselves about the right design at the moment—they take proper account of the integrity of the single market and the interests of those who are not part of the euro.
Following the failure of the Government’s too little, too late approach to the recent EU budget negotiations and given the Government’s isolation in Europe, there are now indications that the Prime Minister is preparing to cede powers and influence over the eurozone banking union in return for minor tweaks to the EU budget. Is there not now a real risk that the Government will neither secure a good deal for British taxpayers nor deliver safeguards to British business on the banking union?
That was another script written before the European Council concluded. I have to say to the hon. Lady not only that this Government have a confirmed commitment and record of working to secure the national interest of the United Kingdom, but that that record sits in stark contrast with the record of the shadow Foreign Secretary, who gave away £7 billion of the United Kingdom’s rebate when he held this office.
Order. I gently say to the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash), who has now left the Chamber and for whom I have the highest regard, that it is a courtesy to remain within the Chamber until all exchanges on the question posed have been completed. I feel sure that the hon. Member for Stone is as interested in everybody else’s opinions as he undoubtedly is in his own.