EU Enlargement

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th July 2010.

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Photo of Gordon Henderson Gordon Henderson Conservative, Sittingbourne and Sheppey 2:30 pm, 6th July 2010

What recent assessment he has made of the prospects for enlargement of the European Union; and if he will make a statement.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

We strongly support further enlargement of the European Union but also believe that countries that want to join must clearly meet the membership criteria. We welcome the progress made during the Spanish EU presidency, including the decision to open negotiations with Iceland, and the progress on accession negotiations with both Croatia and Turkey.

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Photo of Gordon Henderson Gordon Henderson Conservative, Sittingbourne and Sheppey

Rather than encouraging an enlargement of the EU, will the coalition Government consider helping to reduce its size by holding a referendum that would allow the British people the opportunity to decide whether we remain a member of the EU?

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

The Government believe that British membership of the EU is very much in the national interests of the UK, and- [Interruption.]

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Can I just say to the shadow Minister for Europe that I want to hear my constituency neighbour?

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

Thank you, Mr Speaker. We believe that EU enlargement, which has been championed by the Governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, as well as by the Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Mr Brown, has entrenched democracy, human rights and the rule of law in central and eastern Europe in a way that was not achieved throughout the 20th century.

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Photo of Frank Roy Frank Roy Opposition Whip (Commons)

Three months ago, air traffic was brought to a standstill throughout the EU because of the Icelandic ash cloud. What appraisal has been made of the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the services given to travellers during that period?

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

The matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised relates very much to the work of our consular department rather than to the enlargement process, but I will take advice from consular officials and write to him about the detailed matter that he has raised.

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