Cardiff European Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 11th June 1998.

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Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Shadow Secretary of State 5:48 pm, 11th June 1998

The Foreign Secretary is entirely wrong. I never mentioned the length of the meeting. The criticisms of the way in which the meeting was conducted go far deeper than its length. That is made perfectly clear in the quotations that I have cited. The right hon. Gentleman does not need to take it from me. If the Austrian Chancellor says that this was an example of how a summit should not be run, he should be listened to with some respect.

I understand why that little flurry of interventions was designed to divert the attention of the House from the Euro X committee. It was the committee over which the Prime Minister fought such a public battle last year. As usual, he claimed a great victory. He said that he had got exactly what he wanted, that we would not be excluded from the committee's meetings and that all his aims had been achieved. What happened? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer turned up to chair the meeting, he was allowed to stay for an hour and then he was asked to leave. He was not even invited to dinner. Officials of the European Commission referred to him as a "gatecrasher".

That humiliation is the reality behind all the Government's claims to be leading in Europe. That is the reward for all those sacrifices of our sovereignty at Amsterdam. That is the background against which the Cardiff summit will take place.

In the past couple of days, we have witnessed an attempt by Chancellor Kohl and President Chirac to hijack the agenda for the summit. We have seen the patronising text of their letter to the boy Blair. We have seen how, under cover of lip service to subsidiarity, they make calls for further moves towards political union.