European Council and North Africa — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:12 pm on 7 February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy) 8:12, 7 February 2011

I believe that we are no longer selling firearms or weapons of any kind to Egypt, but I would certainly have to double and treble check that in every aspect, because-who knows?-there may be some channels where that is not absolutely secure.

On the second part of the noble Lord's question, I think that his words are a shade impetuous, if I may say so. We are watching a very rapidly changing pattern-a wind of change, as some have said, blowing through the whole of this area. None of us knows what will happen. Anyone who claimed that they knew exactly what would happen next or what pattern would be involved inside Egypt, Tunis and other areas, including Yemen, would be putting forward a false prospectus and making claims about which they could not be certain. There are doubts and debates in Washington policy circles; we can see that-it is perfectly obvious, as I have said to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. In the European Union countries there are the same concerns. We want to see a balanced democratic pattern emerge in these countries; we want to see prosperity, stability and an orderly transition. Who can lay down exactly what the path should be-which leaders should stay in authority, which should hold or surrender power or how it should be done? We pray and hope that it is done with minimum bloodshed and maximum concern for individual freedom and democracy and all the things that we value.

In the noble Lord's first question, I think that he is referring to the much commented-on Franco-German competitiveness pact, which does not seem to be very widely supported by other EU members. Certainly, the idea of a single pattern of corporation tax or some of the other suggestions, such as harmonisation of detailed aspects of labour markets and wages, did not go down at all well at the European Council meeting.