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Banking Union and Economic and Monetary Union

Part of Free School Meals (Children Over the Age of 16) – in the House of Commons at 6:19 pm on 6th November 2012.

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Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay 6:19 pm, 6th November 2012

Like many other Members, particularly on the Government Benches, I have a healthy respect for the Ministers sitting on the Front Bench this evening—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend Greg Clark and the Minister for Europe, my right hon. Friend Mr Lidington—but I believe that they are trying to defend the indefensible. I find it hard to understand how a Government who are prepared to use the veto, and who have used it in defence of City interests, can be prepared, by passing these regulations unamended, to enter negotiations without being able to assure the House that cast-iron guarantees are in place to ensure that qualified majority voting will not be allowed adversely to affect the City.

I have asked the Minister at the Dispatch Box where those concrete guarantees are. Unfortunately, I have not heard anything to convince me that they actually exist. The idea that the European Central Bank would not be allowed to overrule or override non-members of the eurozone is, I am afraid, not a strong enough guarantee. I do not see where that stands up, particularly given that the legal opinion that has been sought and confirmed brings that sort of red line very much into dispute. There is no guarantee there at all. I very much look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about what other concrete guarantees exist in defence of the City. Going into negotiations or allowing these regulations to pass without a clear idea of what the guarantees are could, I suggest, turn out to be a fool’s errand.

We all know how the eurozone has got into this mess. The eurozone went for monetary union, courtesy of the single currency, but we all know that there cannot be monetary union without fiscal union, so now it is playing catch-up. Easy credit and easy money have led to Governments borrowing too much, and the eurozone is trying to sort out this mess.

I have to say to the Minister, if he is listening, that having just returned from Germany with the Foreign Affairs Committee and having asked about the possible solution, I know that fiscal union or fiscal compact is definitely on the table—despite the fact that most members of the fiscal compact that is coming into effect next year have already broken the parameters of the financial limits set. The universal answer, whether one spoke to politicians of the left or the right or to trade unions, businesses or lobby groups, was more integration and more political union in order to make the fiscal compact work. We are on a collision course with the proposals that are now coming out of the eurozone.

My suggestion is that that is fine: let the eurozone members get on with it; we wish them well in their endeavour. I doubt whether it will succeed, because the economics do not stand up and time does not allow any further exploration. Let them proceed, but my concern as they do proceed along that journey is what damage they will do to our interests. My deep concern is that, if we are not careful, we are going to walk into negotiations without having the ability to call upon cast-iron guarantees if they are needed, and that our interests will be adversely affected as a result.

We all accept that in this country we perhaps need to rebalance the economy somewhat and to get manufacturing up. We cannot, however, ignore the importance of the City to our economy. We have been prepared to use the veto in the past, and it makes no sense for the Government’s proposals to proceed without those cast-iron guarantees in place. There is little doubt that if we enter into negotiations without those safeguards in place, we will stand a real risk of allowing others adversely to affect the City’s interests and, in the end, our prosperity as well.

I look to hear from the Minister what those concrete guarantees are. If, as I believe, they are not forthcoming, I will have no hesitation, having put my name to the amendment of my hon. Friend Mr Cash, in supporting him in the Lobby—[Interruption.]