European Community

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:51 am on 12th November 1982.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:51 am, 12th November 1982

The Minister and the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major) have both given a long, wheedling apologia for the unjustifiable. This trawl for excuses has become so strenuous that those who make them lose all credibility in the process.

We are told that the Common Market provides a coordinated approach to foreign policy. On the one major foreign policy issue that we faced, the Falklands crisis, we were stabbed in the back by the Common Market. We are told that we have a fishing agreement. It is an agreement that effectively gives the nation providing two thirds of the fishing stocks less than one third of the total catch in EEC waters. We are told that the EEC is the most stimulating development since the war. Essentially, it has reduced us to a continuous series of commercial haggles in which the odds, unlike those for the French, are loaded against us because of the terms on which we went in. We are told that the EEC co-ordinates trade with the outside world, but at the same time the flood of imports from the Common Market destroys our jobs.

Most ludicrous of all, the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire tells us of the virtues of free trade and stresses the need to defend it, but the EEC is the agricultural protection society par excellence. Conservatives seem to want one law for agriculture and another for industry. If free trade is a valid argument, it is as valid for agriculture as it is for industry.

We are in a relationship that does not suit us with an institution that does not suit us. The relationship should be ended. We shall never see clearly the fundamental problems facing us as long as they are obscured in the mist of double talk and deceit in which the Common Market's defenders indulge.

We are essentially in the situation of a one-legged man whose friends tell him to join a squash club because the cold showers will be good for his health and will produce new energy and vigour. After 10 years he finds that not only can he not play squash very well but the showers give him pneumonia. He asks the committee for changes in the institution, perhaps a chess room and reduced subscriptions. The committee is entitled to ask him to hop off. He knew the terms and conditions when he entered and the institution cannot be changed for one person.

Our key problem is industrial decline. British industry is suffering from anorexia nervosa. The dwindling decline has become more rapid over the past three years. Because industry is the base on which all else rests, if it declines the economy is locked into a remorseless decline. Since June 1979 1½ million jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry, on top of the long-term loss of about 3 million jobs since the mid-1960s. The workshop of the world has become a net importer of manufactured goods. An increasing share of our market internally has been taken by imported manufactures.