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Mr. John Baron (Billericay): Is my right hon. Friend aware that whereas the Lord's prayer runs to something like 60 words, and the American declaration of independence to about 350, the EU directive on the import of caramel and caramelised products runs to something like 25,000?
What are we doing to these small countries? Let us take Estonia as an example. It is now free of Soviet domination, and negotiating to join the European Union. We are imposing on it a common agricultural policy. At the moment it has a free market in agriculture, but while we are trying to reform the CAP at home, we are making Estonia comply with an agricultural policy that we are imposing on it as part of the accession negotiations. More than that, Estonia is having to raise its external tariff as part of those negotiations. Imagine what that will do to the poorer countries to the east of Estonia, such as Belarus and Ukraine, all of which will now have to surmount a higher hurdle to continue to export their produce to Estonia, if and when Estonia becomes a member. Estonia also has to take on the full burden of the acquis communautaire.
Many of those countries in eastern Europe have weak administrative and legal systems, and I doubt whether, in practice, they will be able to comply with this volume of obligation. This has, of course, triggered a reaction. Reference has been made in this debate to Poland, which is already suffering as a result of European Union export subsidies. That has done enormous damage to Polish agriculture, but Poland is now being told that it will be a second-class member of the European Union, and will not even qualify for the agricultural support enjoyed in western Europe. It would not, therefore, surprise me if Poland eventually decided, for that reason and others, not to join. That would be a tragedy, because we must reunite Europe.
The essential mistake is to suppose that reunification of Europe requires a single organisation with an enormous volume of regulations and laws. It would be far better to reform the European Union into a Europe of democracies, and to welcome all the applicant countries into a looser common European structure, without their having to surmount all those enormous obstacles to qualify for membership.
I have asked for a working group on the economic future of Europe, too, because all our political and social dreams for our continent depend on a successful economy. However, we are losing ground in the world economy. We are over-regulated and our competitiveness in those wider markets is under attack, so I have suggested to the convention that we take evidence from outside the European Union. The EU is seen by many, particularly those in developing countries, as a rich man's club. It has higher peak tariffs than the United States or Japan, and
I am afraid that the very strong integrationist momentum in the convention means that the supposed solution to any of these problems is always more Europe. The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), who is in his place, repeated the bold claim that the fundamental charter of rights will remain a political document, and will not become a legally binding one. However, that proposition is under attack in the convention; it is almost certain that the charter will be incorporated as legally binding. If, having left office, the hon. Gentleman is still so confident of that claim, it would be interesting to hear from the Minister whether the Government intend to hold out in all cases against incorporation of the charter.
Angus Robertson: On the question of allies, I am keen to learn a little more about the convention's workings, and about which colleagues the right hon. Gentleman is working closely with. For example, is he in alliance with Jens Peter Bende, who holds regular meetings with the convention? Which political parties from other countries attend those meetings? Do they include the party of Slovakia's Mr. Meciar, or that of Austria's Mr. Haider?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I am a member of several different groups and alliances, some temporary and others shifting. Obviously, I am a member of the national parliamentary meeting, and I regard myself as having a particular duty to protect and advance the interests of this House. I am also a member of the United Kingdom delegation, which holds meetings, and of the European People's party. I do attend meetings organised by Jens Peter Bende, who heads an informal forum, as he describes it, consisting of a rainbow alliance between left and rightan alliance that is to its advantage. I do not know whether a formal membership list exists, but I can confirm that the Austrian Freedom party does not attend those meetings. The great advantage of the forum is that, like me, it puts democracy first. To do otherwise would be to build on insecure foundations.
It is no good advancing the proposition that Europe should do more, get bigger, spend more and have more missions and objectives, unless we secure at its foundations democratic consent from the people whom we represent. At the moment, that consent is lacking. I believe that electorates are trying to send us a message. The sad fact is that people do not vote at all, or they vote unexpectedly, and often for rather nasty people.
If people feel that they are not being offered genuine choices in elections, they express that feelingas they did in the first round of the French parliamentary electionsby voting for extremist parties. Turnout in European
Through referendums, people deliver snubs to the European elite. Switzerland voted no to joining the European Union, Denmark voted no to the euro, and Ireland voted no to the Nice treaty. That is not a very good record for the integrationists, but it seems not to have slowed down or altered their ambition. I again appeal to the Government, and the Minister in particular, not to continue to try to persuade the Irish to change their minds. It creates great cynicism in Europe when an electorate vote no only for the European Union to come back for another opinion.
The impression is gaining ground in Ireland that the EU will continue to shake the Irish electorate until it gets the right answer. Such action is completely unnecessary. The Nice treaty is not necessarily about enlargement. The provisions necessary for adjusting the institutional balance, and the voting in the Parliament and the Council, could be removed from the treaty and put into the accession treaties. That is what happened last timeand I know because I was there: I was the Minister who negotiated the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden.
If those provisions were removed from the Nice treaty, the rest of it could be quietly forgotten, or swept up in the deliberations of the convention and the 2004 intergovernmental conference. A perfectly good solution exists, therefore, but instead the European Union seems obsessed with bullying the Irish electorate until they change their minds. That should act as a warning to us in any referendum on the euro. If we make the mistake of saying yes to the euro, the matter will indeed be all over; but if we say no, will that be the final decision? We need to know the answer from the Government before we proceed much further.
I am extremely worried about the lack of democracy in Europe. It is expressed in several ways, and electorates are trying to send us a message. However, I do not want to end on a negative or unduly pessimistic note. A solution does exist: we simply need to apply a little political science. Where do people feel democratically represented? At the level of their nation state, surely. It is at state level that public opinion, a single electorate and a demos exist. It is at state level that people elect, reject, dismiss, make changes and choices, and see the results of their decisions. We have a working democracy, which is replicated throughout the EU at member state level. However, such factors are absent in the European Union. There is no European Union demos, and it cannot be created artificially by waving an EU flag, or passing EU laws. It may evolve over decadesperhaps even centuriesbut it does not exist at the minute.
Of course, the European Union, and in particular the Commission, are trying to develop a European people and a European mode of thought on an accelerated time scale. Today, the Bruges group has published an interesting document on the taxpayers' money that is spent on funding the European movement, policy centres, endowing university chairs, training journalists, and providing schools and schoolchildren with information on the EU that has a strong integrationist slant. We are
Such efforts will fail. I object to them because they are wrong, they are an abuse and they are corruptbut they will not create the conditions for a supranational democracy in Europe, either. The only solution is to return powers to member states so that issues can be argued and decided at the level of democracy in which most people engage. For issues that must be decided internationally or on a Europe-wide basissuch as cross-border and trade issuesthe procedure must be spelled out clearly in a treaty text and must provide for the full involvement of the parliaments of member states. That is the prime task of the convention. If we fail, the EU will fail. If we succeed, we may have a second chance.