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Roger Casale: If the treaty of Nice fell, what is the earliest date at which enlargement of the European Union could take place?

Mr. Ancram: I will deal with the treaty of Nice, which is an important point in view of the Irish referendum. We have not had an answer from the Minister on that. We have been told again today that the treaty is necessary for enlargement. Until the Irish referendum, that was the firm position of the Government.

The Labour party election manifesto claimed that

Those were the two key words—vital and essential. Like so much of that manifesto, we now discover that that is at best a distortion of the truth and that Nice is not necessary for enlargement, as my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) said.

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Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ancram: When I have finished this point.

Since 7 June, with our general election out of the way and the Irish referendum results staring the Government in the eye, the European Commission has had to admit the truth. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson), who has now left the Chamber, questioned the Minister and quoted to him what President Romano Prodi told The Irish Times on 21 June:

Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Henley also pointed out to the Minister that the Foreign Secretary told Parliament on the next day:

He then said:

He did not tell us at that stage that we would have to have a series of treaties, which the Minister sprang on us today. I suspect that if he checks with his advisers he will find that one treaty would secure the accession and enlargement that is necessary.

There we have it. Nice is not and never was necessary for enlargement or capable of affecting it on its own.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North): I understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but does he believe that the countries that are seeking to join an enlarged European Union will understand those arguments? Does he not see a risk that they might think that British Conservatives are more concerned with the minutiae and with their own interests than with building bridges with other countries in Europe? At this time, is that not a dangerous signal to send to other partners beyond Europe?

Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman will have to speak for his party and its relationships with those countries. We have been in contact with them and they understand our position. In many cases, they understand our concerns, which would affect them if they continued with their applications for accession.

Dr. Ladyman rose

Mr. Ancram: I will give way in a moment. I keep on being asked what will happen about accession if the treaty is not ratified, but what will happen if the Irish continue to vote against ratification? At the time of the referendum, many people thought that that was the end of the treaty. That was not the line being taken by Commissioners in Europe or by the Government earlier. I want to hear a categorical answer from the Minister. If the Irish do not ratify the Nice treaty, is he saying that enlargement will be impossible, or that there are other ways of achieving it?

Peter Hain: Legally, the treaty has to be ratified by all 15 member states, as the right hon. Gentleman very well knows.

Mr. Ancram: I shall ask the question again. Is the Minister saying that if that treaty is not ratified by the

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Irish, accession and enlargement cannot take place? That is a very straightforward question; I ask him to give me an answer.

Peter Hain: I have already answered it. The answer is, in the terms of this treaty, yes. The treaty cannot proceed—enlargement cannot proceed—unless all member states endorse it. The right hon. Gentleman wants us to follow the same course: to put another roadblock in the way of enlargement. That is what he wants to do.

Mr. Ancram: I want to get this clearly on the record, because the Minister is now saying that if the Irish continue to refuse to ratify the treaty of Nice, enlargement is finished. It is not what has been said previously, so it is interesting to hear it being said now. I give the Minister a chance to correct himself if he is wrong, but that is what he has put before the House today: that if the Irish continue to say no, enlargement is ended. Is that right? The Minister does not know.

Mr. Robert Jackson rose

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda) rose

Mr. Ancram: I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson).

Mr. Jackson: Does my right hon. Friend consider that the effect of a negative vote in the House on Third Reading would help or hinder the Irish people in deciding to ratify the Nice treaty and enable enlargement to take place?

Mr. Ancram: I must say, with great friendliness to my hon. Friend, that I spent some time dealing with the Irish people, in Northern Ireland and in the south, and I learned very early on not to try to tell the Irish people what to do. I doubt whether they would listen, particularly to what is being said in the House. They will continue, as they always do, robustly to make up their own minds.

Dr. Ladyman rose

Mr. Bryant rose

Mr. Ancram: I want to make progress; then I will give way.

We need to take the argument further, because Nice failed to address the single biggest obstacle to enlargement: the unreformed common agricultural policy. The truth is that enlargement cannot succeed with the CAP as it stands, and I believe that the Minister would agree with that—he is nodding.

Agriculture currently absorbs nearly 50 per cent. of the European budget—the Minister provided my hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) with an answer that says that the figure is just under 50 per cent. at the moment—but if Poland acceded, that figure would rise to 85 per cent. Therefore CAP reform must be a necessary precursor to enlargement, yet at Nice it was totally ignored. That treaty—that negotiation—which was to do with enlargement, did not deal with the single most important precursor to enlargement.

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That precursor will continue to be ignored. The Minister talks about accession by 2004, but he should read what President Chirac said last week. He said, with an eye to his own domestic political requirements, that as far as he was concerned there would be no reform of the CAP until 2006. I should like to place on the record what he said, because we can speculate in the House, but we know that if there is no reform of the CAP, enlargement is in danger to a far greater degree than anything that my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage has suggested.

President Chirac said:

Effectively, he is saying—this is another challenge to the Minister—that the precursor to enlargement will not occur because the French will not allow it to happen. What is the Minister's answer then, in terms of enlargement? How does he deal with that?

Peter Hain: The answer, for the record, is that common agricultural policy reform is not necessary for enlargement. It is not necessary: it is desirable. It is not technically necessary, however. In any case, the treaty does not deal with common agricultural policy reform. [Hon. Members: "Exactly."] Exactly so. That is being proceeded with on a separate road; it has already started, as a result of the British initiative, and will continue. There is, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, an agricultural chapter, which must be negotiated, state by state, in order for the accession of each of those states to be ratified, and that is one of the next sections of the enlargement process down the road.

Mr. Ancram: Although I am new to this particular legislation, I am again astounded by the Minister's attitude. Is he really suggesting that the common agricultural policy does not matter as far as enlargement is concerned? How will an enlarged Community or Union pay for itself without a reformed common agricultural policy? Is he suggesting—

Mr. Robert Jackson rose

Mr. Ancram: I will allow my hon. Friend to help the Minister in a moment, but I should like to ask the Minister the question first. Is he seriously suggesting that we could have an enlarged Community or Union of the sort that we are talking about without a reform of the common agricultural policy, and believe that it would work?

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