[Un-allotted Half Day] — European Union

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:18 pm on 13th December 2011.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe 7:18 pm, 13th December 2011

The terms that one is able to extract in the context of such a negotiation will be more favourable if one can negotiate as part of a bloc of 500 million consumers. What the EU was able to offer South Korea collectively was access to a market of 500 million. The UK on its own would have been able to offer access to a market of 50 million to 60 million consumers. That is not an insignificant number, but it is a tenth of the size of the European Union as a whole. That difference in scale means that European countries have greater weight and leverage when they are able to get their act together and negotiate en bloc.

The third reason why I believe it remains in our national interest to stay an active member of the European Union is that membership enhances our ability to influence events abroad. On issues where there is a genuine common European interest, where the national interests of the 27 member states converge, it makes sense for those member states to act together, pool our influence and speak with a united voice. One voice representing 500 million consumers is heard more loudly in Beijing, Delhi and Brasilia than 27 separate voices. However, it is equally the case that where EU member states do not agree, it is right and proper that, as sovereign nations with our own national interests, we speak and act independently. It is also right that foreign policy and security and defence policy should remain matters where unanimous agreement is required for a European position to exist.