As the Minister explained, the Bill is narrow and specific. It is very short, but very important. I should like to say a few words to put it in a broader context. I was a Member of the European Parliament for 10 years. I was elected in 1989, so I saw the completion of the single market. I well remember Lord Cockfield, Commissioner for the internal market from 1984 to 1988, arguing forcefully for the completion of the single market. I also remember the Cecchini report, which was essential in winning the necessary ideological battle for progress to be made on the single market.
At that time, many of us in the socialist group at the European Parliament had reservations about how it was envisaged that the single market would develop and concerns about the widening gap between the rich and poor parts of the European Union. The response then was to enhance the structural funds. In particular, the cohesion of funding was brought forward to address initially the concerns of the four poorest member states and it expanded in size to encompass some of the new countries coming into the European Union. As we all know, the Maastricht treaty was in many ways the logical conclusion of what people saw as a journey from the creation of the single market into a fully fledged economic and monetary union.
Britain, of course, had its famous opt-out and that was probably right. That was certainly recognised by the Labour Government elected in 1997. The five economic tests came forward. A judgment had to be made on joining economic and monetary union. Would it provide the United Kingdom with higher growth, stability and a lasting increase in the number of jobs? It was decided that those criteria would have to be met if Britain were to join EMU.
It is important to stress that although there were economic concerns and reservations, there was a tremendous political impetus in favour of economic and monetary union. That was clearly demonstrated when Greece was allowed to join EMU in 2001. Everything was okay as long as the world economy, and the eurozone economy as it developed, were doing well. But the chickens came home to roost with the monetary collapse of 2008 and the consequences that emanated from it. With the benefit of hindsight, many people would probably argue with the way in which a single currency was created and the speed at which that movement was made, and with the fact that many countries, particularly Greece, were allowed to join it without proper economic consideration being given to that. Nevertheless, the political impetus was there.
Now, of course, the question is how we deal with the problems that have arisen in recent times. It would be a huge mistake if the voices of the Eurosceptics were taken seriously and we stepped back into splendid isolation and not only refused to participate in the European venture but wished the end of the eurozone. I say that not because of any ideological commitment to the idea of the eurozone but because I realise pragmatically that a successful eurozone is important for the British economy and the British people.