The House of Commons held a debate, yesterday, ahead of the European Council meeting on 30 January. During the debate Bill Cash made the following speech and interventions:
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee and its Chairman for arranging this debate. I am sorry that the Government did not take note of the unanimous view of the European Scrutiny Committee that such a debate should be held in Government time. However, we now have this opportunity to air our views before the Prime Minister goes to the summit. He is to be congratulated on his use of the veto, which I am bound to say I was glad about because I had suggested its use in my pamphlet “It’s the EU, Stupid”, and in other discussions.
The proposal for fiscal union vitally affects our national interests and our democracy; it is not just about the single market and the City, essential though those matters are. As I said to the Foreign Secretary the other day, once we have crossed the Rubicon we cannot cross it again, and it is imperative that there should be no backsliding at the summit on 30 January. I totally repudiate the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister that the non-EU treaty of the 26 should eventually be folded into the EU treaties. The Liberal Democrats are an obstruction to our vital national interests. A house divided against itself will fall, and the situation will be worse still if it is built on sand. There are now two Europes, both built on sand, and the situation is not only precarious but dangerous.
What is the root cause of the European crisis? It is not merely a eurozone crisis; it is a crisis of the European Union as a whole. Europe is being destroyed on the altar of ideology. The existing treaties, which cover 70% of our legislation here in the UK, have failed and are the root cause of the crisis in Europe.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): In the light of the hon. Gentleman’s attack on the role of the Liberal Democrats in all this, would he accept that the Deputy Prime Minister’s hosting of the recent summit of European Liberal leaders—including two Prime Ministers, six Deputy Prime Ministers and five European Commissioners —to try to bring together a bilateral plan to support jobs, growth and prosperity across Europe was a positive step?
Mr Cash: We are all in favour of growth, but unfortunately the European treaties themselves work against that aim because of the degree of overregulation, and many other matters that I shall come to in a moment.
The lack of growth is contaminating the UK economy. Elsewhere in Europe it is creating civil disorder, with youth unemployment of up to 45% in Greece and Spain, and 30% in Italy. The present European Union is completely undemocratic, and the existing treaties should be sent to a convention so that all the member states could have the opportunity to face one another and decide what kind of Europe they want. In the past, when referendums have been held in France, Holland, Ireland and Denmark, the no vote has been overturned by bribing and threatening the electorate. That kind of behaviour, combined with economic and political crisis, creates a fertile breeding ground for the far right, as I predicted as far back as 1990.
There is no growth in Europe, except in Germany. We cannot grow from a stagnant Europe, and the coalition cannot achieve its main objective of reducing the deficit and achieving growth so long as this paralysis continues. The remedy of the Eurocrats—and, indeed, the leaders of European Government and the Liberal Democrat leadership in this country—is a fatal obstruction to our present and future economic success.
The approach adopted by the Prime Minister today at Davos reflects the view that I expressed in my pamphlet “It’s the EU, Stupid” and the growth paper that has been circulated to all Members of Parliament and the Lords and others, as well as in my remarks to the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, which is that we need to refocus our trade towards the rest of the world and not rely on the fact that we have 40% to 50% of our trade with the EU to provide the mainspring of our economic future.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): Emphasis is constantly placed on our trade with the European Union, but it is not always pointed out that we have a massive trade deficit with the EU. Given the austerity measures here and over there—but particularly over there—that is only going to get worse.
Mr Cash: Indeed. In 2009 there was a trade deficit of £14 billion in goods and services, but since then it has risen to £51 million. Those figures speak for themselves.
Cuts in public expenditure cannot solve the problem on their own. We need enterprise for small and medium-sized businesses and drastic cuts in overregulation. We need enterprise, not strangulation. Indeed, we must insist on our ability to enter into trade relationships on our own terms, in our own national interests, and not be confined to a single trade policy dictated by the European Commission.
I was deeply alarmed to read in today’s City A . M .that Angela Merkel at Davos is encouraging more integration. She is quoted as saying: “We have to become used to the European Commission becoming more and more like a government.”
She urges more and more Europe, but that Europe would be both undemocratic and increasingly dominated by Germany itself, as I have repeatedly stated for 20 years, and as The Economist concedes in this week’s edition. It states, following France’s downgrading, that
“the balance of power has long been shifting from the French President to the German Chancellor”,
and a former French economic Minister has said that
“Berlin is alone in the cockpit”.
That is not healthy for Germany or the UK, and certainly not for Europe. It now seems certain that President Sarkozy is on the way out, and Italy and Greece have technocratic Prime Ministers. Democracy is dwindling and diminishing. The Franco-German partnership is now a hollow reminder of German strength and French weakness. This is all the more reason why the UK must insist on leading Europe out of this crisis with Euro-realist policies and an insistence on government by consent. Sadly, Germany believes in government by rule, and is now even proposing the European Commission as the anchor of European government.
There has been much agitated activity in seeking to resolve the Greek bankruptcy, but there has been no result. A few days ago I came across a five-page article written in 1998 setting out exactly why Greece should not be allowed into the European Union, which was of course ignored. Every member state is responsible for this failure of judgment and must bear the consequences. It is a pity that those such as George Soros who are now wringing their hands in Davos did not listen to the Euro-realist arguments instead of condemning and mocking them.
On the draft agreement, we must bear in mind that the issues now being presented to the British electorate and the European Union are more political than legal. There are still fundamental legal problems in the latest draft of the agreement between the 26. There must be no misunderstanding: this deal is flawed in seeking to incorporate the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, which are institutions of the EU, into a non-EU treaty.
Furthermore, what is the basis in the treaty on the functioning of the European Union for the proposed powers, including infringement powers, to be conferred on the European Commission under article 8 of the agreement? Prima facie, that is unlawful, given the prohibition on infringement proceedings under article 126(10) of the treaty. There are serious doubts about the use of article 273 in relation to issues of jurisdiction. There is also the issue of enhanced co-operation under article 10, which bypasses the treaty requirement that enhanced co-operation should be used only as a last resort; the agreement proposes its use “whenever appropriate and necessary”. This could cause serious damage to British national interests in relation to the internal market.
My Committee, the European Scrutiny Committee, will be investigating all these matters with the assistance of evidence from witnesses from all sides of the equation. There is a further problem of whether the treaty to establish the European stability mechanism can come into force before the amendment to the Lisbon treaty, so that member states could allow such a treaty, given that the United Kingdom has not yet ratified it. I would be grateful if the Minister would answer these questions when he responds to the debate; I hope that he is listening to what I am saying. We urgently need to know whether the Government have received the fifth, and presumably final, draft. If not, will he tell us when they will, and when it will be sent to the European Scrutiny Committee?
With regard to article 13, will the UK Parliament be involved in the proposed inter-parliamentary conference? If so, will the European Scrutiny Committee be invited to attend? At present no one knows how that arrangement will work in practice—there are serious question marks over the agreement—but we know that it will be determined by German demands and conditions. I do not blame Germany for its pride and defence of its own national interests, but I do not believe that we the UK should pay one penny to provide funds for an EU bail-out which, if it were done within the European Union itself, would be blatantly unlawful.
Mme Lagarde, who is now head of the International Monetary Fund, openly admitted in September 2010 that to save the euro,
“we violated all the rules”.
It is ironic that she should now be in charge of a further attempt to bypass the rules. That is outrageous, and I am glad that America has quite rightly said that it believes that Europe should sort out its own mess. However, that will be achieved through policies for genuine growth, and not through bail-outs with fictitious money and a refusal to face up to Euro-reality.
We now live in peaceful democratic times, and we must therefore insist on our Westminster democracy as the basis for protecting our national interest. Let us therefore get down to the business of letting the British people have their say, and of saving the United Kingdom from impending disaster and the European Union from itself. We must turn our eyes to the sunlit uplands of enterprise and international trade, earn our way in the world by our own efforts and re-create the foundations of true independence of action and prosperity for our own country.
Mr Cash: Did the Prime Minister agree with Angela Merkel when she said: “We will have to get used to the fact that the European Commission… will become more and more like a government”?
Alistair Burt: Alas, I have not had the opportunity to test that quote with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but I will do so as soon as I have the opportunity.(…)
One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings, the motion lapsed (Standing Order No.24).