European Union

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1994.

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon , Ashfield 12:00 am, 30th March 1994

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the European Union's enlargement negotiations.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

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.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon , Ashfield

Does the Minister accept that the so-called concessions claimed by the Prime Minister yesterday as a significant success on social policy questions were, in fact, no more than a reminder of well-established, well-known European Commission policy for 1994?

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

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.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

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?

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

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.

Photo of Ms Joyce Quin Ms Joyce Quin , Gateshead East

Given the confusion in the press today, does the Minister think that a reasonable delay is two months, as has been claimed by other countries in the European Union, or indefinitely, which is what the Prime Minister seemed to imply?

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

The only confusion is in the mind of the hon. Lady. No time limit is specified in the binding decision taken by the Council.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

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?

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

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.