On 14 September, Bill Cash organised a debate, in Westminster Hall, on the European Union fiscal union. Bill Cash made the following speech:
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): In the light of developments not only today but over the past several decades, not to mention more immediate events since the Lisbon treaty and the general election, I am glad to have the opportunity to deal with the question that has been embedded in the history of the European Community and the European Union over a long period. It relates to the creation of a two-tier Europe, which the fiscal union appears to represent. I cross-examined the Prime Minister on the issue in the Liaison Committee about a week ago, and I cannot say that his answers were satisfactory. I therefore take this opportunity to reply, vicariously through the Minister, to the Prime Minister on a number of the matters that remain outstanding.
Mr Barroso, the unelected President of the European Commission, gave a speech this morning, lecturing the whole European Union, and the world for that matter—not to mention the United Kingdom—on what is to be done about the mess that has been created over the past 20-odd years. In fact, it is much more than that, but I shall draw a line at the Maastricht treaty for present purposes; otherwise, we will be here all night.
Curiously, Mr Barroso takes the view that, in the short term, there has to be—surprise, surprise—reinforced economic governance. He also argues that all this can be done only by way of the Community method; in other words, nothing changes. In his speech, he had the temerity, despite the failure of the Lisbon agenda and the 2020 agenda, to say:
“Growth is key and we must use all instruments available to promote growth”.
He went on to talk about using the Single Market Act to promote sustainable growth. Then, somewhat ominously, he referred to his promise—this is not just a floated idea—that “the European Commission will very soon propose a Financial Transaction Tax.”
The clear implication is that that will apply to the European Union as a whole. It would be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say about that.
Mr Barroso went on to talk about the governance of the euro area, saying: “A system based purely on intergovernmental cooperation has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. After all, this is why the Community method and the European Union institutions were created by the member states in the first place.”
“The Economic and Monetary Union cannot function properly only on the basis of decisions taken by unanimity,”
So there goes that veto. He went on:
“Because if a eurosceptic fringe”—
I suspect that that refers to the likes of me and, I hope, other Members of the Government, and certainly to the majority of hon. Members who have turned up to this debate—
“can determine the position of one Member State and one Member State can block decisions, the result is that we are not credible.”
That raises the question, of course, of whether the policies are credible in the first place.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): On the Eurosceptic fringe, the fact is that, on many occasions when referendums have been held, the majority have voted in a Eurosceptic way, so it is possible that there is a Eurosceptic majority in the European Union.
Mr Cash: Opinion polls in this country have regularly indicated that 70% want a referendum and, moreover, would vote yes against the idea of the continuation of our present relationship with the European Union. People want renegotiation and if they do not get it, they want to leave. That is the position.
We are confronted with an incredibly serious situation that is getting worse. There will be a telephone conference this afternoon—it might already be in progress, at the very moment when we are debating this question—between Monsieur Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Papandreou, because the system has failed. If, however, we raise the question of its failure, the response is, “We don’t want less Europe; we want more,” so they want more integration, not less.
Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): Will my hon. Friend concede that the system was set up to fail by the fiddling of figures when it was established?
Mr Cash: Yes, I certainly will. In the case of Greece, it is perfectly clear that, to put it bluntly, misrepresentations —and even lies—were contained in the statistical base on which it was brought in. Indeed, even the present German Chancellor has criticised the way in which it was allowed to come in when it did.
In his speech, Mr Barroso said:
“The conclusion I draw is crystal clear—The only right way to stop the negative cycle and to strengthen the euro is to deepen integration, namely within the Euro area, based on the Community method.”
He went on to say: “What we need now is a new, unifying impulse—‘un nouveau moment fédérateur’”.
Let us get this clear—he means a new moment of federal fervour, although that is my translation. He continued by saying,
“let’s not be afraid of the word, moment fédérateur is indispensable.”
He went on:
“It has become clear that we need an even greater integration of our economic and budgetary policies.”
Do not get the impression that he is referring exclusively to the proposed fiscal union. His ambitions extend to the whole European Union. This is a call to arms by the Eurofanatics—let us be in no doubt about that.
On eurobonds, Mr Barroso, having said that we need even greater integration of our economic and budgetary policies, confirms that the Commission, again, on behalf of the European Union,
“will soon present options for the introduction of Eurobonds”, on which, as it happens, the German constitutional court has cast grave aspersions. Indeed, I understand that the President of the German Republic has also said that he regards them as illegal. I could spend a lot of time going into that, but I do not need to for the moment. Mr Barroso said: “Some of these options could be implemented within the terms of the current Treaty”—
that is the abominable Lisbon treaty, which we accepted after we had opposed it as a party, united together, and called for a referendum that we never got—
“and others would require Treaty change.”
I wanted to draw all those matters to the attention of my colleagues, because they are the latest emanations from the European Commission. This is what it is about and, as we speak, none of it is being reported.
Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is describing something that is not surprising; we are getting milk from the milkman in terms of the statements that he has read. Does he, like me, find it depressing that the Front-Bench representatives of both main parties argue for less democracy, rather than more, in the eurozone?
Mr Cash: That is absolutely the case, and it is very depressing. The whole objective of the treaty arrangement, from its inception and the days of Jean Monnet onwards—and as evidenced by recent treaties, including the Lisbon treaty—is essentially undemocratic.
Implementing the measure would create a situation in which people in this country, who in general elections have voted through their own free choice at the ballot box for policies, were denied those policies because the proposals brought forward by majority voting in the European Union are inimical to growth and deficit reduction.
I shall explain why it is so fundamentally wrong for the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the coalition Government as a whole—under the baleful influence of the Liberal Democrats—to advocate the idea of a fiscal union. For reasons that I will explain, fiscal union is immensely damaging to the national interest and our economy.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that it is the language surrounding these new moves that is deeply worrying? I believe that those people who had a chance to vote on whether they wanted to join what they thought was the common market would never have done so at any time if the rhetoric that we are now hearing had been used then. The language being used relates to deeper fiscal integration, eurobonds and basically subsuming what the British people want. That is why we need to ask the people again whether they wish to embark on this experimental project.
Mr Cash: I am grateful for that intervention. Indeed, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his statement—which he slipped in, as it were, in the middle of the emergency debate on the riots—he said that he was going to promote the idea, and that the Prime Minister had already spoken to Mrs Angela Merkel and Mr Sarkozy and had encouraged them to go ahead with fiscal union.
In addition, he said that he, as Chancellor, had already made overtures to other Chancellors in other member states advocating the idea of fiscal union. When he said that, he was ignoring the fact that the consequences of going down that route would, as I said at the time, have been such that even Edward Heath would not have proposed it back in 1971-2. Indeed, if hon. Members look at the White Paper produced at that time, they will see that it says that we would retain the veto in our national interest and that to fail to do so would not only be immensely damaging to the United Kingdom, but would even endanger
“the fabric of the European community itself.”
Since then, we have had an accumulation and aggregation of policies in defiance of the democratic issues and principles to which the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) referred—and, indeed, in defiance of the wishes of the people of this country and, as the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) said, of other member states such as Ireland, Denmark, Holland and France. Every single time a referendum, which shows the democratic wishes of the people in question, has been overriden, we are being taken down a route that, above all else, does not work. That is the problem.
Apart from the matters of principle, the real problem is that such an approach does not work and is now causing immense damage. For example, there are incredibly high levels of youth unemployment in places such as Spain, where 47% of young people are unemployed. There are similar levels of unemployment in Greece and Italy, although the figures are not quite as high as 47%.
I do not need to read all the figures out, but the official statistics for unemployment among youths under 25 are 46.2% for Spain, over 23% for eight countries and 32% for one country. This is not a working system; this is a system that is destroying people’s aspirations and prosperity.
Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): I commend the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate. I agree with what he is saying, particularly his comments about the system simply not working. However, does he agree that part of the problem that the United Kingdom is faced with is that we need to have a cohesive alternative to the total integration policy that he is outlining, which I am sure is completely different from the approach that he will discuss shortly? A practical coherent alternative needs to be laid out by our Government to try to lead ourselves out of the mess into which we have got over the past 20 years.
Mr Cash: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He may recall that I raised the matter in Prime Minister’s questions, when I asked when the Prime Minister would lead us out of the mess that had been created by the existing treaties. This morning on the “Today” programme, we heard Lord Lawson of Blaby echoing that call and saying that he had always had grave reservations about the political union. I can only say that when the Maastricht treaty came and went, a lot of those arguments developed at the same time. The hon. Gentleman is completely right in saying that we must have a constructive alternative.
I have always advocated the idea of our working effectively with a European system capable of producing the right results. In fact, I hope that no one will mind my holding up a copy of a book that I wrote in 1990 called “Against a Federal Europe: the Battle for Britain.” I think I can confidently say that there is not very much in there that I would change and that most of it appears to have come true. To answer the question asked by the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell), I should say that it is very alarming to note that the first chapter is entitled “Britain for Europe”; it is not only a case of “Britain for Britain” but of “Britain for Europe,” because it is certainly true that we are affected by what goes on in the other member states.
As I have said many times before, the answer to the question is to go down the route of having an association of nation states, whereby we would return the right and proper power to this Parliament to make judgments on behalf of the people who have chosen us in a ballot box, to follow through policies, and to try to work in a form of understanding made on the basis of trade and political co-operation.
That was the situation anticipated by the 1975 debate when we had the referendum, which people understood. However since then, there has been onward and continuous progress towards ever further integration in an ever more undemocratic and ever more dictatorial manner. The time has come when we have to draw a line. It should have been drawn a long time ago. We drew it as a party over Lisbon. We said that we would not accept that treaty, but now here we are implementing it like there was no tomorrow.
A rather intriguing article by Camilla Cavendish was published on 8 September—only a few days ago—in The Times, which also had rather a good leader, either on the same day or the day before. It is rather amusing that she says:
“It’s no longer cuckoo to take the Swiss road; Britain and the EU are no longer going in the same direction. We should grab the chance for an amicable divorce”.
She then explains how that would be done. Essentially, she is arguing for an association of nation states, as many of us have. We are at a dangerous crossroads. A particular reason for this debate is the fact that the idea of fiscal union is being promoted. In our opinion—or in my opinion, anyway—that is entirely the wrong direction to take in the context of the broad landscape that I have been seeking to identify.
Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a persuasive argument. On the point of European nations not being members of the EU but being very successful, the article that he mentions refers to Switzerland, but there have recently also been articles about how the Norwegian krone is attracting a lot of investment. That is another example of a successful European nation outside the EU, which reinforces the point that an association of nation states rather than a political union is the best way forward.
Mr Cash: I endorse entirely what my hon. Friend has said. We are at a crossroads and it is a very dangerous crossroads. We have to get it right. It simply is not good enough to appease the European institutions by going along with their ideas when we have our own national interest to stand by, support and protect. We are not just talking about institutional arguments; we are talking about real people, their real daily lives, the unemployed and the people who cannot increase the enterprise of their businesses.
I was deeply concerned in my exchanges with the Prime Minister. I put a question to him on the question of the single market. In reply, he made it clear that he was conscious of a fact, which I had put in a pamphlet that I had published the day before. The pamphlet, by the way, is called “It’s the EU stupid”, because we have got to a stage where it is obvious that the EU is at the root of so many of these problems.
On the question of the single market, I pointed out to the Prime Minister that if there is a fiscal union of certain member states it is inevitable, as a matter of solidarity, that they will use the treaties to transfer their own wishes, through majority voting and a block vote, in a way that will be contrary to our own domestic economic interests. What would be the point of a fiscal union if, when it came to questions of legislation relating to the economy, the member states were not prepared to vote together? They will. When they do, and they outvote us, that will gravely undermine our competitiveness and our ability to grow small and medium-sized businesses. It will affect our growth. It will damage and destroy our prospects of reducing the deficit, because it will lead to a reduction in growth, which is already stagnant.
Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does my hon. Friend think that we should allow the fiscal union to go ahead, for those who wish to join it, if our Government negotiated for us independent democratic control over everything here that mattered to us as the price for making that sacrifice?
Mr Cash: The short answer is that it would depend on how the renegotiation went. If the renegotiation was entirely in line with protecting fully our own interests, if it were guaranteed that we were not tied to the existing arrangements by a treaty that drew us in to all the adverse consequences of being part of this overall European Union in the shape and form that it has at the moment and if we could manage to achieve the perfect answer, then that would be a good idea. However, I do not think that that is the way it is going to go. I think that we will put forward positions, if we ever get to the point of renegotiating the treaties. A meeting took place a couple of days ago in which it was clear that a very large number of MPs in the Conservative party want renegotiation. Some of us have been arguing for that for 20 years. However, the fact is that that is the position in the party as a whole. The question is not only whether we want to renegotiate, but how that would be done.
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): My hon. Friend makes an important distinction. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be suggesting that we would consent to a fiscal union provided that we were insulated in some way from the direct effects of that fiscal union. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) is saying something much more profound, which is that we should use this opportunity to recover control over a whole lot of policies that are already damaging the British economy, and continue to damage the British economy, whether there is a fiscal union or not. It is that latter position that has to be, ultimately, subject to a referendum, or the danger is that we will sell the pass on fiscal union and we will not recover very much.
Mr Cash: I agree with that entirely. My hon. Friend is very much in line with the views of many us on this side of the Chamber, which is that if this is going to be done, let it be done properly. Let us not nibble away at some of the minor matters. Let us get down to the real nub of the issue and say that this kind of Europe is not a Europe with which we are prepared to continue. The status quo is completely untenable, and so a referendum question that dealt with those matters—including the question of fiscal union, because it will be so damaging, and I will give further examples of where I think it would be damaging in a moment—should be: do we want to leave the European Union all together; or, given that the status quo is untenable, do we want to renegotiate the treaties?
We now know that the bulk of the Conservative party, which, after all, is the bulk of the Government, wants renegotiation. The next question is, are we just going to nibble away and pretend that it is renegotiation, or are we going to get down to the structural questions and really do it? I believe very strongly that the Prime Minister has an obligation to go the next summit and to put forward proposals for renegotiating those treaties in a way that would actually change the entire system. If the other member states say, “No, we are not prepared to put up with that,” then we will deal with that situation at that point in time. The case for a referendum in either event, to my mind, is completely unanswerable.
On the question of fiscal union itself and damage to the United Kingdom, I have already mentioned the problems that will arise in relation to the single market bloc voting arrangements. We are always being told that our trading relationship with the EU is vital to us, and that it represents approximately 50% of our trade. Some dispute that, but the reality is that it is a substantial proportion of our trade. However, if one actually looks at the net results of the so-called benefits of that trading relationship, I am bound to say that in the past year alone, between 2009 and 2010, our trade deficit with the European Union, the other 26 member states, has gone from minus £14 billion to minus £53 billion. The deficit has leapt up by £40 billion in one year. Those figures are taken from the House of Commons Library and the Office for National Statistics, so I am not going to dispute them—others may wish to do so, but they are official figures. I have repeated them several times and no one has challenged me on them. That demonstrates that our trade with the rest of the European Union is not working. The reasons for that are over-regulation and a system of economic constraints that prevent us from allowing our small businesses to grow. After all, small businesses make up the greatest percentage, by a massive amount, of the prosperity of this country. The downside of our failure to grow is increasing unemployment. We heard the figures today. The truth is that we are not growing because we are trading with a Europe that is bankrupt, except for Germany.
There is also the question of the position vis-à-vis the City of London. The Minister and I have crossed swords on this from the very outset. When the de Larosière report came out—it was about four years ago, I think—I wrote letters to the Financial Times, several of which it published. I argued that we had to keep the City of London within the framework of our own legislation and not appease those in the European Union, such as those in France and elsewhere, who would like to take control over our City of London. The Government caved in, and now the whole City of London is within the jurisdiction of the European institutions and the rules and regulations that will be made there. Every single time there is a new problem in the City of London, we will have to ask ourselves to what extent it is the consequence of that fatal mistake.
Mr Redwood: Does my hon. Friend agree that the situation causes the electorate to believe that we have a dishonest political debate in this country? We are having a big argument over the Vickers report and how and when it should be implemented, whereas it will all be settled under the capital requirements directive, CRD IV. I do not see the point of the Vickers report.
Mr Cash: That is all part of the problem. I have been on the European Scrutiny Committee for 26 years now, and over and over again I have found that legislation brought to this House is based on European legislation, but that is never disclosed. People do not say, “Oh, by the way, we have got to do this, therefore we are going to,” so we go through a charade of passing legislation as if we have control over it. The Whips move in like the clappers, saying, “You can’t possibly vote against this, because it’s all based on European legislation that we have already agreed to under the European Communities Act.” In reality, we are being governed by Europe, and that is my greatest objection—plus the democratic question, which the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton has mentioned—and why I got so exercised about the Maastricht treaty. We have gone beyond that now, and what we are faced with is much more critical, but we can remedy it if we renegotiate the treaties.
Mr Jenkin: Before my hon. Friend leaves those shocking trade figures too far behind him, do they not demonstrate another factor? Our European partners, notably Germany, have far more to lose by disrupting the trading relationships between us and the rest of the EU than us. I do not diminish the point that we want to maintain the free movement of goods within a customs union, if we can, but the idea that they simply will not talk to us or chuck us out is absolutely ludicrous.
Mr Cash: Given the growth the rates elsewhere in Europe and the complete mess that the eurocrats and other Governments—including our own—have created, allowing us to get into this parlous state, it is inconceivable that they would dare to argue that somehow or other they could operate without us. That suggestion is simply child’s play and a joke, although it has got beyond a joke because it is so serious. That seriousness might come out this afternoon, but it will certainly come out—as night follows day—over the next few months.
I have been looking into the £53 billion trade deficit. I made some further inquiries, because I wanted a breakdown, and I was given the figures yesterday. In the trade balance of £53 billion against us, £17 billion is in vehicles—cars and lorries. In other words, we have destroyed or have had destroyed our manufacturing base in car making—as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North knows that better than me—and yet our trade in commercial and other vehicles is now on a monumentally adverse basis.
Another point that I am bound to make, which is deeply concerning, concerns the consequences of the departure of one or more states from the European Union, which some advocate. Some will have read Hans-Olaf Henkel in the Financial Times the other day. He is the former head of German industry, the equivalent of the director-general of the CBI, and he said that the “biggest professional mistake” of his life was to have supported the euro process, which is an important statement from someone of his standing. He is completely against the idea of the European Union as it now is. Germany has some very important voices, because it is effectively the paymaster for the rest of Europe.
Our negative trade balance with Germany is devastating. I was in Poland the other day, and I looked at its trade figures. I suspect that a lot of people in Poland desperately want to remain within the framework of some protective system but are deeply worried about the imbalance between Germany and Poland. And so it goes on—if we look at the Greek or Spanish situations and at the bottom line, what is happening with fiscal union is also, to use an expression, the creation of a greater Germany. For practical purposes, if we examine what is said at the various meetings, no one can be in any doubt that the Germans call the shots. The Germans are benefiting enormously from the European Union for one reason, which is that they are benefiting from their investment in other countries.
In that context, I have the figures for unit labour costs, if anyone is interested. In the past 10 years, German unit labour costs have gone up by only 2%. The average of all the other member states put together has unit labour costs increasing by no less than 25%. That is worth thinking about. Not only do we have the most monumental trade balance against us with Germany, but its trade balance with the rest of Europe is monumentally in its favour, and the Germans have done that largely through what we might call their skill or commercial nous. None the less, they have managed to do it and so they make huge profits from other parts of the European Union. Let us not be taken in by the argument that, somehow or other, Germany will suddenly go walkabout. The Germans get so much out of the European Union, and Angela Merkel is making it clear that they will continue to do so, and that is one of the reasons why Germany is so committed to political union. That does not mean, however, that it is in our interest.
George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con): My hon. Friend gets to the nub of the issue—whether it is realistic to expect the Germans to accept mutual liability with countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal. It was different when they wanted to reunite Germany, and when West Germany was prepared to accept some of the liabilities of East Germany. Does he accept the difference, and that that is why going to full fiscal integration to prop up the euro is a very big decision for the Germans?
Mr Cash: I very much agree with that. I put that same point to the Prime Minister in the Liaison Committee last week. I asked him whether he seriously believed that Germany was going to be able to bail out the other member states. The money is simply not there. To imagine that Germany could carry the weight of the Spanish debt is, as Camilla Cavendish has said, complete cloud cuckoo land. We can see the Italian position getting increasingly out of control, while the Greek situation is beyond critical. Greece should exit the euro—that is perfectly clear—but there are desperate attempts to prevent it happening, although that is literally trying to do something impossible. One might as well believe, as Alice said in Wonderland,
“six impossible things before breakfast”,
and the truth is that one of them is the idea that Germany will be able to sustain the whole of the European Union or, indeed, that its own people will allow that. All the evidence is that there is a very serious concern that they simply cannot afford to do it and that they do not want to do it. I will not give all the instances, because they are so well reported in the newspapers and other media.
Mr Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): One of the reasons that things have worked quite well for Germany is that, without the southern countries, the exchange rate of the euro would have been even higher. They therefore helped suppress the exchange rate in the free markets, to some extent, which has been of benefit to Germany.
Mr Cash: Absolutely right. Germany has gained much, but now the chickens are coming home to roost. The system is not working because the Germans have made investments in other countries. If we look at the Greek sovereign debt situation, an enormous amount of investment—by far the greatest amount—is from Germany, followed by France. So the sovereign debt question is now part of the overall problem of Europe as a whole, and the mess created, which many of us predicted, is now with us. Any sovereign debt default will become all the more serious the longer that the European Union attempts to sustain the euro. Economists such as Tim Congdon and others have made that case, but it is absolutely clear that the situation will get worse the longer that the European Union tries to put sticking plaster over what is a clear case for complete renegotiation of the treaties to get some sanity back into the situation.
The idea that those of us who are eurorealists and who have argued this case for so long would take any satisfaction from the fact that the situation might implode is complete rubbish. Of course we do not want it to implode; we want to get stability back, to reduce our deficit and to increase growth, but none of those things can happen if we have over-regulation, too much integration and too much governance from European institutions, which prevent oxygen reaching our small and medium-sized businesses. That is an issue not only for this country, but for other countries, which all face greater and greater unemployment. I therefore strongly urge the Prime Minister to sort this out at the next summit.
We cannot create growth unless the money to pay for the public sector comes from reasonable taxation on private enterprise. It must be reasonable taxation, because growth must come from the development of small and medium-sized businesses. There is no way we will reduce the deficit if we continue trading as we are with a Europe that is bankrupt, with the exception of Germany. Incidentally, while we had a £53 billion trade deficit with the EU in 2010—that went up by £40 billion in one year—we had a trade surplus with the rest of the world of £7 billion, and it could be much more if we made the big strategic change that I am proposing. That, too, underpins my resistance to the idea of fiscal union.
Fiscal union will lead to greater implosion, greater sovereign debt, more defaults and more trouble. It might also—I say this cautiously—lead to the rise of the far right, because that is the consequence of implosion in democracies and of their being forced into situations where their people start saying, “We’re not going to put up with this any more.” One has to be careful about what is done. That is the dangerous crossroads we are at, and the Prime Minister must make the right call.
Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): As I understand it, the Chancellor is rather keen on fiscal union. Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman opposes the Chancellor’s point of view?
Mr Cash: The answer is yes. I did not say it so emphatically, but I said so when the Chancellor made his announcement in the House. I said that even Edward Heath would not have done what we were seeing now, so that probably sums the situation up quite well.
In my exchanges with the Prime Minister about fiscal union—I understand that these things can come out of the blue, but I wonder about the extent to which that was the case—he said:
“Of course, it will have an effect on us, but the clear rule for a referendum…is whether we are transferring power from Britain to Brussels.”
I do not agree that that is the basis for a referendum. It would be under the European Union Act 2011, but where a European decision, treaty or other legal instrument —in this case, there will be a mixture of those—applied on the face of it only to the eurozone, there would, under section 4, be no referendum.
That is why I have introduced a Bill saying we should have a referendum, and that Bill is supported by no less than six Select Committee Chairs, plus some distinguished Members, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood), and members of the new intake who have taken a great interest in these matters. As I have said, the Bill has been presented, and the good news is that there will be a ten-minute rule Bill debate in October—the Leader of the House is here, and he knows that already. The Bill is intended to advance the case for a referendum on fiscal union.
In the Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister seemed pretty confident that there would not be a treaty. When I said:
“you are implying that there might not be a treaty” ,
he said—this was on 6 September—
“There is an important point on the issue of the treaty…Let us be clear: no one in Europe at the moment is currently talking about a new major treaty to put in place deeper fiscal union or changes in the eurozone. That may well happen in future…and if it were to happen, there would be consequences for Britain. Britain should think carefully about how to maximise our national interest”.
My answer to that is, first, that we now know that there will be a treaty, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced it from Marseilles. Secondly, I do not see how Britain can maximise its national interests when the new treaty, by its very nature, will erode the heart of those vital national interests.
There will be consequences for Britain, which raises another issue. We know there will be a treaty. As Mr Barroso said this morning—the Prime Minister has said this, too—it will be dealt with through a mixed bag of measures. Part of the process will no doubt be dealt with through enhanced co-operation, although the legality of that is very questionable indeed, and the European Scrutiny Committee will certainly look at that. Part of the process may also be dealt with through European Council decisions and intergovernmentalism, if those involved can get away with it. However, the bottom line is that the policy and the judgment are wrong, and we should not promote them. The best thing that I can suggest, therefore, is that we go to the next summit, put down a clear marker and insist that we will refuse to accept the treaty for fiscal union.
Henry Smith: Would our position as a country not be further strengthened in the negotiations if other EU members knew that any decision would be subject to a referendum in this country? The worst time to make irreversible treaty changes is during a crisis.
Mr Cash: I could not agree more. That is why I am making the plea that we get ahead of the curve now, although it is almost too late. We should get ahead of the curve now, get things right now and make sure that the crisis that we are in is remedied in good time. We will then be able to make sure that we get things right. However, that will involve turning the current treaty arrangements into an association of nation states. It will mean abandoning the current concept of the institutions, directly in opposition to Mr Barroso’s proposals today. The crisis is very great, but our ability to grow our economy and reduce the deficit—the very raison d’être of the coalition agreement, which said that that was the way to proceed—will be totally undermined unless the proposals that I have set out are pursued with vigour now.
Mrs Brooke, I am glad to have been able to make some of the arguments, and I hope that you will listen to the rest of the debate with pleasure.