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Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks): Is not the truth, when we cut through the spin, that the agreement represents three more major steps to a European superstate? First, the Prime Minister has signed away the veto in 23 new areas--in fact, one Government official put the number of new areas that could now be decided by majority vote as high as 39. By doing that, has the Prime Minister not granted European institutions the opportunity to impose further integration in future?
Will not a court that reinterpreted the working time directive as a health and safety measure now use the further loss of the veto to impose precisely the sort of regulation that could cost jobs in this country in future? Will not the loss of the veto on structural funds mean that future Governments will not be able to stop British regions losing money? Will not the weakening of the veto on the environment mean further interference in town and country planning? However much it is hemmed about by
Could it not be seriously against this country's interests no longer to have a veto over the appointment of the Commission President? Will the Prime Minister confirm that he has abandoned the veto on groups of countries integrating more closely--so-called "enhanced co-operation"--and that we cannot stop them, even when our national interest is being harmed? Can he confirm that the EU will now be able to fund European political parties directly, without a national veto?
Does not all that represent a major step toward European integration and does not the charter of fundamental rights represent the second major step toward that superstate? Everyone but the Prime Minister has been open about what the charter will lead to, irrespective of whether it is in the treaties. The European Commission says:
If the Prime Minister is worried that Europe will not be able to force through as much legislation in future, why is the answer not less legislation in future? Continuing the relentless ratchet of integration makes successful enlargement less likely, not more likely. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is no clear commitment in the communique to entry dates for the applicant countries, as President Chirac has made clear. It is not surprising either that, with Europe moving in this direction, the Prime Minister has agreed to yet another summit, whose purpose will be to start drafting a Euro-constitution, which in the words of the German-Italian paper on this subject, will be
The Prime Minister has missed the best opportunity of his premiership to put the case for the sort of Europe that is supported by the majority of people in the United Kingdom. He has missed that opportunity because that is not the sort of Europe in which he believes. Instead, the summit has represented three more major steps on the road to a superstate. It will be up to us, the Opposition, to put the case for a different direction, for a modern, reformed and flexible Europe. It will be for us to put the case for a European Union that is right for Britain and for Europe as a whole; and to put the case for being in Europe, not run by Europe.
The Prime Minister: I preferred the right hon. Gentleman with the jokes. What he is saying about qualified majority voting is extraordinary. Nine of the measures relating to justice and home affairs come within our protocol protection. As for 11 of the other articles, we have, for example, the appointment of the Deputy Secretary-General of the Council, the pension arrangements for the registrar of the court and the approval of the rules of procedure of the Court of Auditors. Should we have blocked the enlargement treaty for these things? It is ridiculous.
As for what the right hon. Gentleman says about the Commission President, it is vital for our interests that we do not end up in a situation where, as the EU enlarges, that appointment can be blocked by one small member state. Did we not learn that when the Conservative party was in power and the Commission President before last was appointed? Let us just say that, as a result of the rules,
That is a classic example of what I am saying. There are certain areas--for example, trade in services--where Britain has to take on other countries and secure unanimity. It finds that it cannot do so because another country blocks the approach, for various protectionist reasons. Qualified majority voting allows us to proceed in that way. It cannot be that QMV is always in other countries' interests but not in ours.
I shall deal with some of the factual points. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was opposed to moving to QMV, although the move to QMV for the social and cohesion funds--the structural funds--is not for some years to come. It is hugely in this country's interest to have QMV there. At present we cannot get a proper deal on structural and cohesion funds because there are certain interests, mainly in the south of Europe, that block it via unanimity. If we were able to move to QMV, we would get a better deal for this country. In the course of the negotiation, I was arguing that we should move to QMV quicker, because it was in our interest to move there more quickly.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned countries in financial difficulties. That is subject to the budget ceilings that exist, and there is no bale-out in respect of the euro, because that is secured in another article under the Chancellor's negotiation.
Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the support for European political parties. I point out to him that that was requested by the European People's Party, which is the association of European political parties and of which his party is a member--but let us leave that to one side.
In relation to enhanced co-operation, the right hon. Gentleman says that he is in favour of a more flexible Europe, but he opposes the idea of enhanced co-operation, which means that if countries want to, they can go ahead, and other countries have a choice whether to join. Surely that is the very flexibility that he is talking about.
The right hon. Gentleman goes on about the charter of fundamental rights. The reason the Commission is asking for it to have legal status is that it does not have legal status. Our case is that it should not have legal status, and we do not intend it to. We will have to fight that case.
When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the word "integration" being wrong in respect of any European treaty, does he not remember the Maastricht treaty and the Single European Act? One can go back to any European treaty and find the word mentioned there.