The Minister is of course free to leave but I do not think that that would improve the quality of our debate.
I was saying that I do not understand why the Conservative Party—on whose Benches I still sit, just—goes on saying that enlargement is a good idea. I had the privilege of sitting on your Lordships' Select Committee from 1992 to 1996, which I am no longer allowed to do. In those days, the position of the then Conservative government was entirely clear. It supported enlargement because it thought that "widening" would lead to "weakening" of the centre—the powers of Brussels and so on.
If we did not know before, we know for certain now—with the Treaty of Nice before us—that "widening" definitely leads to "deepening". It cannot be widened without increasing the powers at the centre—of Brussels. I am at issue with my party. I understand why it adopted that position but suggest that it is no longer tenable.
I accept also that the political classes at least in most of the new democracies of eastern Europe want to join the European Union—although my noble friend Lord Howell revealed that many of the peoples of eastern Europe and some of their political leaders are beginning to wake up to what joining the EU may mean. Why is it in their interests to have struggled so valiantly to escape communism, only to submerge their hard-earned democracies into what seems to be an emerging undemocratic EU megastate? I acknowledge that countries enjoy the EU subsidies that they receive while they are queuing to join and that the prospect of joining the EU has on a few occasions made some applicant countries—I have Romania in mind—behave better than they might have done otherwise. Neither of those two qualifications condones the colossal mistake that enlargement would mean for their emerging democracies. It is clear that those emerging democracies and emerging economies cannot afford the 80,000 pages of mostly labour and social-related legislation or the latest raft of stuff from Brussels—which particularly hits small businesses, as we debated on the first day in Committee. All those countries really need is free trade, which is denied them by our good partners in the European Union. They need also defence through NATO.
In earlier debates, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, has said that proper or sufficient enlargement of the kind that the Government would like to see is not possible without the Treaty of Nice, but it is. The EU has been enlarged on several occasions when new applicant countries have joined. Even with the Treaty of Nice, there will need to be a separate treaty of accession with each country that joins. If people want enlargement, they certainly do not need the protocol. Enlargement can be achieved country by country. Voting can be adjusted, as in the past, as each new country joins.
We Euro-realists love the Europe of nations—the continent of different cultures and glorious civilisations—but hate the Treaty of Rome, the European Union and everything that comes out of it. We believe that democracy is the guardian of peace in Europe and elsewhere. On the whole, democracies do not provoke conflicts but forced or premature conglomerations of disparate nations nearly always end in disaster. I could give the Committee many examples, including Northern Ireland, the Middle East, most of Africa, Yugoslavia and the Trans-Caucasus. The recipe for conflict and aggression is some form of undemocratic or even fascist leadership and a lack of true democracy.
If applicant nations from central and eastern Europe can keep their democracies and trade freely together and with their neighbours under NATO, we shall see peace and prosperity—and not run the risk of the European dream descending into the conflict that I fear lies ahead.