My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made full written statements to the House following the negotiations at the Foreign Affairs Councils on 7 March, 8 March, 15 March and 22 March. I made a written statement on 25 March. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made an oral statement to the House yesterday on the outcome of the negotiations on the institutional implications.
No, I do not accept that at all. It was very important to get this matter clarified. The House has heard already from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that the Commission has confirmed that health and safety measures will be brought forward on the right treaty base and that Britain's opt-out from the social chapter will be respected in full. This is a side issue to the main issue of majority voting, but the fact that the Opposition regard it as unimportant shows their true attitude about the social chapter.
Is it not interesting and encouraging that the four countries joining the European Union, subject to final ratification, are intensely patriotic countries, proud of their ancient sovereignty and their ancient culture, yet all accept fully the acquis communautaire and all the provisions of the Maastricht treaty and future developments? Can we follow their good example, bearing in mind the fact that they have no significant opt-outs in any major constitutional areas?
My hon. Friend is right. We know that those four states, which I hope will all accede on time on 1 January next year, will not agree with us about everything, but that, in the main, they will be our allies in ensuring budgetary discipline and keeping the Community diverse and outward-looking. They believe, as we do, that the nation state is the foundation and the building block for European Union.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, since the United Kingdom liberated France during the war and the French voted no against us for 10 years because of their interests, it would not have been the end of the world if we had asked our friends in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Austria to wait two years until we had served our interests?
Yes, but we have been able to do both. We have protected British interests and secured the accession of the four states on time next year, if that is agreed in their referendums.