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European Union Bill

Part of Safe Standing (Football Stadia) – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 7th December 2010.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform) 6:30 pm, 7th December 2010

It is a great delight to follow Tim Farron, who is a man of great integrity. I am sure that his integrity will see him through all the way to Thursday afternoon. He is absolutely right to say it is essential to British interests that we play a key role in the European Union, but the Bill will do nothing to assuage Euroscepticism; if anything, it is intended to enhance and inflame it. He said that the Bill is a coalition product as though that places some kind of trade mark on it. I look forward to the trade mark being planted on all coalition products, as it would automatically bring them into disrepute with most Conservative Members.

The hon. Gentleman referred to our having locked ourselves in the boot of a car with regard to Europe in recent years. It is very difficult to lock oneself in the boot of a car, but I think the Liberal Democrats feel a little as though they have managed to do that at the moment-or at least that they are being locked in the boot by the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to other Government measures.

I shall let the House into a very small secret: I am slightly pro-European. Indeed, I am almost ludicrously pro-European for the very strong reason that in my lifetime Europe has embraced countries that have lived under dictatorships in Spain, Portugal, Greece and across the whole eastern bloc. In those countries, there was no right to freedom of association or freedom of speech, the death penalty was used ubiquitously and there was political repression. In future, we will all recognise that one of the European Union's greatest successes is the fact that in all those countries there has been an aspiration for political freedom largely because of the EU's success.