European Commission: National Parliaments

Part of Deregulation Bill (Programme) (No.3) – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 5:28 pm, 10th March 2015

The hon. Gentleman may be right, so I hope that the British people have a referendum in which they may decide that they cannot live under such a regime without change. I would certainly vote to leave if flexibility cannot be built into the system along the lines that I have mentioned. He is a distinguished politician both locally and nationally, and surely he recognises that when we need fundamental change, we have to make the case for it and be optimistic.

I am not completely pessimistic because I do not believe that only Britain needs such a change. If this were just Britain being difficult—the island nation, on the edge of the European Union, whose traditions are old-fashioned and whose idea that Parliament really matters is now old hat because we have moved into a new world—I do not think we would win, but this is live, desperate politics for very large parts of the euro area.

The issue is live politics for what remains of the governing parties of the euro area because the path trodden by the two leading parties in Greece, whose jobs have been taken by Syriza, could be trodden by the two leading Spanish parties given the rise of Podemos and by the Italian parties given the rise of the Five Star movement and all the other pressure movements in Italy. Those countries are not immune to an insurgency challenge like the one in Greece. That sort of thing can start to concentrate the minds of other member states of the European Union and their Governments. One thing I have learned about Governments over the years is that they quite like staying in power. When they feel that there will be a very strong electoral challenge to them, they may begin by condemning it—saying it is irrational, unpleasant and all those kinds of thing—but if they think it is going to win, they have to do a deal with it, understand why people feel as they do and make some movement.

My strong advice to the whole European Union is that it needs to do a deal with the people who disagree with it, because the scheme is not working for all those people in the euro area. It needs to change policy, and it should do so before politics changes it. I do not want our country, which matters most to me, to get anywhere near such a point. I am pleased to have been part of the forces in this country that kept us out of the euro, which meant that we missed the worst—this country has a reasonable economic recovery that is completely unrelated to the continent, with its long recession and deep troubles in the southern territories—but as I see my country sucked into common policies on energy, borders, foreign affairs and welfare, I think that we might be sucked in too far and have exactly the same problems on those issues that the euro area is already experiencing on the central matter of economics.

I urge Ministers to take this seriously and to re-read the words of the Bloomberg speech. I urge the Opposition to join us, because they aspire to govern this country. One day they may come up with really popular policies and be elected on that basis, and what a tragedy it would be if they discovered that they could not enact those policies because they were illegal under European law. That could happen just as much to the Labour party as to the Conservative party.

These are not some private arguments among Conservatives in some secret club of Eurosceptics held in the privacy of the House of Commons; these are mighty arguments about the future of our continent and our country and about the nature of democracy itself. Accountability still rests with a national Parliament, not with the European institutions. If there is to be trust between politicians and the people, the national Parliament must be able to deliver when the people speak. We are in danger of that no longer being true, which is why a yellow card and a red card are not sufficient. It is also why we need to answer the question: how do the British people vote for what they want and how do an elected Government in Britain deliver it if it disagrees with European rules?