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Mr. Bryant: I thank my hon. Friend. I started my comments this evening by saying that the great myth-making machine that has spread itself throughout the European Union, largely assisted by members of the Conservative party as they wander around Europe, has been profoundly unhelpful to the debate and has made it far more difficult for Britain to get advantages for our country.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): We have gone over quite a lot of old ground this afternoon, leading me to misquote the late great F.E. Smithleaving me perhaps none the wiser, but certainly better informed. I shall try not to cover that old ground, but instead concentrate on the matter before us tonight.
However, enlargement was not totally dead. In an interview with The Irish Timesthese are not off-the-cuff remarks, as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson)Mr. Prodi explained that "thankfully", the treaty of Amsterdam allowed for enlargement of up to a total of 20 countries. He continued:
Was Nice about enlargement? After all that hype and hot air, was it really relevant to enlargement? Closer examination of the documents that emanated from Nice reveal a different story. The truth is that the bulk of the business at Nice had nothing to do with enlargement. Members may have been surprised to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) that the annexes detailing the process for enlargement account for only about 5 per cent. of the contents of the treaty and the presidency conclusions. So much for Nice being all about enlargement. The amendments proposed by the Nice treaty are not yet in force, nor will they be until at least the end of 2002. It is reported that a second Irish referendum will not take place until after the Irish general election, which must be held by June 2002, and no doubt pressure will be brought to bear on the recalcitrant Irish between now and then.
As I have said, we are assured that enlargement will go ahead irrespective, so I ask again, what was Nice really about? Opposition Members have been strong supporters of the enlargement process. We saidand speaker after speaker has said it again this afternoonthat we would ratify tomorrow a treaty that was genuinely about enlargement. Therefore, we are right to oppose the Bill. It has virtually nothing to do with enlargement, and anyway, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said, we may like the lock, but we do not like the stock and the barrels.
Only one thing will genuinely pave the way for successful enlargement, and it is not the Nice treaty. I say that as one who passionately believes in enlargement. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes has an Italian grandmother. We heard that the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) had a Glaswegian grandmother. Well, I have a Slovenian mother-in-law, desperate to be enlargedor rather, desperate for the land of her birth to be admitted into the family of Europeand I suspect that she is influenced by her upbringing in a communist environment, an experience that she no doubt shares with the late grandmother of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
It is my belief that the only thing that can pave the way for a successful enlargement is reform of the common agricultural policya subject that, I note, is treated, whenever mentioned, like the plague. The last attempt, as we all know, at limited reform of the common agricultural policy was made by the German presidency in 1999. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who argued that it is time for the issue to be addressed once and for all. That is certainly what the people to whom I speak in Devon and the west country generally are saying. Without the immediate reform of the CAP, they view all the other arguments and discussions as irrelevant. There is no doubt that people have been left feeling alienated, disconnected and, frankly, bewildered by our discussions on the extension of qualified majority voting and other matters that seem to them to be far removed from their everyday lives.
In conclusion, the Nice treaty represents a missed opportunity. The Conservative party envisages a modern, forward-looking and flexible Europe, which also addresses the inherent problems that have been discussed in this debate. We will continue to work to that end, but we do not recognise any of that in the Nice treaty, and that is why we shall oppose its ratification.
Jon Trickett (Hemsworth): I do not agree with the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire), who seems to approach the EU with almost theological principlesas, I am afraid, do some of my hon. Friends, but from another point of view. I approach the EU from the point of view of a pragmatist, and most people in Europe share that view. Many of my hon. Friends who have pressed the case to accelerate integration and the deepening of the EU should be very careful about their desire to press forward.
The people of Europe have generally indicated that they are somewhat disconnected from the political process, especially in relation to the EU. We would be ill advised to disregard the increasing scepticism that the people of Europe feel towards the political class and the European project. To its credit, the EU recognised that problem in a discussion document that was issued during the summer.
If we were to apply the Hemsworth test, or that of any of our constituencies, to the EU, we would find that the problem was not so much one of the various treaties, which we may or may not have signed, containing superfluous pages, but whether our constituents and the people of Europe felt that they had access to prosperity. That is the test that we should use to judge the processes of enlargement and integration.
It is undoubtedly the case that prosperity probably will be enhanced by the EU's enlargement. The Minister referred to a £4 billion increase in gross domestic product. That figure may or may not be accurate, but I have no doubt that an enlarged market would generate increased wealth over time. We know that market economies do not operate in ways that guarantee the equality of access to that prosperity for all the people in that market. The EU's founding fathers and mothers well understood the processes of social exclusion and social division that can work alongside the enhancement of wealth and prosperity. That is why they devised several mechanisms to attempt to safeguard the communities that would suffer from exclusion because of the enlargement and strengthening of the European market.
I accept that the British economy will benefit from the increased prosperity generated by the EU's enlargement, but it would be preposterous to argue that that will have a completely even effect across all the communities that we represent. It is clear that further restructuring will take place in the British economy as a result of enlargement. If labour costs in the east are compared with those in the United Kingdom, it is apparent to everyone that British companies may well seek to take advantage of the larger market, but not necessarily by using British labour. In fact, British jobs may be displaced by labour in the east. To take a long-term, historical view, that may not be a bad thing, but we will be failing in our duty if we do not acknowledge that that will be an inevitable consequence of enlargement. The treaty of Nice and the Bill should be used to enhance some of the powers contained in the instruments that the EU devised. I am afraid that, by that test, the treaty of Nice fails.
I shall briefly refer to three of the available mechanisms, the first of which is the ability of a national Government to use their tax and spending powers to help to control economic activity within their national boundaries. That will certainly be circumscribed if we are to enter into the later stages of monetary union. Most hon. Members will know about the growth and stability pact, which has already led the EU and the Chancellor to cross swords over his spending plans. Given the possibility that the economy will go through a rough period, the growth and stability pact may well impact on the British Government's public expenditure and tax plans. That is worrying and may lead to the circumscribing of the
My second point is that the structural funds were devised in the knowledge that the European market would have a differential impact on different communitiesfor example, some would suffer from exclusion. That will be the case in the future. Women, migrant groups and those in peripheral areas or areas of traditional industry have all suffered from the restructuring promoted by the EU. All of them were recipientsperhaps insufficiently in some respectsof structural funding, but enlargement of the community to the east poses big questions as to whether structural funds will be adequate to protect communities such as the one that I represent.
The third mechanism is contentious, but it is an important tool in the armoury of anyone wishing to resist the processes of fragmentation and social exclusion. Article 137, the so-called social chapter, is barely moved forward by this Bill. Given Mr. Deputy Speaker's strictures, I will not go into that matter, but I have studied in detail the social chapter and the documents on it produced by the Library. I believe that it is possible to argue that article 137 has been weakened. It certainly has not been strengthened and we need such instruments to protect us and to ensure that the prosperity that Ministers and those leading the British nation's negotiations have promised is to be shared by all our communities.
I utter a word of caution. If we find that enlargement produces further social division and exclusion as the result of the aggregation of wealth elsewhere, we will pay. We have already received a clear warning in the European elections, in various referendums and in the general election that people are becoming disaffected. If they believe that powers are escaping from the nation state and they do not regard the EU as an ally, I fear for the future. With that warning, I look forward with interest to the rest of the debate.