EU Enlargement
Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office
2:30 pm

Photo of Gordon Henderson

Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Conservative)

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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David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)

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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Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Conservative)

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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David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)

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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David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)

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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Frank Roy (Opposition Whip (Commons); Motherwell and Wishaw, Labour)

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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David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)

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.