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My Lords, it is high time that pro-Europeans made a stronger and more forceful case for Britain’s membership of the European Union, for, as matters now stand, Britain is sleepwalking towards exit. The blame for this situation, in my view —and I say this in no partisan spirit and with great regret—rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of our Prime Minister. I have come to the sad and rather depressing conclusion that our membership of the European Union is no longer safe in David Cameron's hands.
I admired his Bloomberg speech of January 2013. It presented a well argued case for reform of the European Union that had wide resonance on the continent. While I thought that the commitment to an “in or out” referendum was a mistake, it seemed then that Mr Cameron was committed to a positive result. I remind your Lordships of what he said then:
“And when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul. Because I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it. Over the coming weeks, months and years, I will not rest until this debate is won”.
Yet, since the summer, the Government's European policy has hardened beyond recognition. In a “Today” programme interview in September, Mr Cameron proclaimed that he cared,
“a thousand times more strongly”,
about the break-up of the United Kingdom, had the Scots voted yes, than about Britain's membership of the European Union. I can give him five times, or maybe 10 times, but a thousand times? There is not much room left there for heart and soul commitment.
In his recent conference speech, the man who at Bloomberg had talked with great emotion about an open Europe looked straight into the television camera and declared that limiting immigration would be at the heart of his renegotiation strategy. Let us remind ourselves that in the Bloomberg speech the Prime Minister’s only reference to migration was to warn of the loss of freedom of movement rights for the over 2.2 million British citizens who live on the continent. That comes from a Written Answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, to the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, earlier this year, so 2.2 million is the figure. Now, in the stampede to sound ever tougher on EU migrants, the consequences for our fellow citizens living on the continent are frankly forgotten and never get a mention.
No. 10 has licensed no less a person than the Foreign Secretary, as well as other Ministers, to talk up the possibility that the Government might recommend a no vote if their renegotiation objectives are not met. The whole focus of the Government’s European policy has become not persuading our partners of a credible reform agenda that would receive general backing in Europe but chasing after potential defectors to UKIP. The whole exercise is so pointless, for as your Lordships know there is no way you can “outkip” UKIP.
If we end up leaving, it is not as though there is a great public wave of indignation about our membership of the European Union. The latest Ipsos-MORI poll showed 56% opting in a referendum to stay in and 36% to come out. It is worth underlining that in a poll that YouGov took after the Rochester by-election, only 22% of UKIP supporters actually think that Europe is one of the main issues facing the country. Yet what we have now is a Prime Minister so desperate to win the next general election that he will say anything to win over UKIP votes and prevent further defections by Conservative MPs, and in the process will set renegotiation objectives that are incapable of being achieved. In the next Parliament, if he remains Prime Minister, he will find himself cornered by his own anti-Europeans in the Conservative ranks to recommend a vote to leave Europe because of the consequences of what I can only describe as recklessness and opportunism.
The sleepwalking nightmare will be upon us, and the nation will realise what a disaster its craven leaders have allowed to happen only when it is far, far too late. That is why we need to make a stronger case now to try to prevent the slide to populism, which ends up with parties making promises they will never be able to keep. Of course, as a Labour man, I want to see a Labour Government. As a pro-European, I commend my leader Ed Miliband for resisting the enormous pressure to concede a referendum. However, even if there is a Labour-led Government in the next Parliament, there may be in a hung House of Commons a majority for an EU referendum, so we have to start making the case now—and a better case than we have made so far.
The traditional British case for Europe is about growth and jobs. It is a strong one: 3 million jobs dependent on the single market, inward investment coming to Britain because of unimpeded access to that single market, and international companies relying on the scale of Europe’s home market that is the EU single market to win new global markets overseas. But I think we have failed as pro-Europeans to get across to the public the complex nature and full economic significance of the single market.
Many people I meet think, “Why can’t we rid ourselves of the encumbrance of all the EU regulation and cost, and trade freely with our EU partners?”. Pro-Europeans have to start challenging the pullers out—because that is what they are—with hard and difficult questions about their alternatives to our EU membership and the consequences of those alternatives.
Broadly, there are two. The first is to be a Norway: in other words, be outside the EU but accept all its rules, pay up to finance its budget and continue to allow the free movement of people that EU laws require. That Norwegian option gets us out of the EU but denies Britain any say whatever over the key rules that shape our economic future, so that is not much of an option, is it?
The second option is to abandon those EU rules and to say, “We’ll make our own way without them”. What will happen then? We will find that our products and services are discriminated against in EU markets because they do not meet EU approval standards. We will see the flight of foreign banks in the City to Amsterdam or Paris to avoid that discrimination and to be in the single financial area. In the case of the car industry, the most successful manufacturing renaissance that this country has seen, British producers will face a 10% tariff in order to enter the European market, with untold consequences for vital jobs in many of the deprived regions of our country. That option—that dash for the restoration of national economic sovereignty —would inflict an economic wound of massive proportions. We have to spell that out.
Of course we should fight within the EU for EU rules to be proportionate and to see unnecessary regulation abandoned. But again we should always challenge the pullers out who complain about EU regulation. What do they actually want to get out of? Do they want, for example, to get out of and have no UK equivalent of the working time directive, which guarantees British workers four weeks’ paid holiday a year? Do they want out of it or not? Similarly, on environmental laws, do they want out of the regulations that require clean rivers and beaches and not have them in Britain? Or on consumer laws, do they want to end the regulations that provide for cheap air flights and that end rip-offs in mobile roaming charges? Is that what the anti-Europeans want? If they do not want that they are going to have to comply with EU laws and regulations. Pressing the pullers out on their alternatives to EU membership will be the equivalent of the currency question in the Scottish referendum, which the nationalists could never satisfactorily answer.
Beyond these questions of national self-interest, I believe that pro-Europeans have to make an emotional argument—to use another Scottish parallel—that we are better together. Harold Wilson once dismissed the sovereignty argument against Europe with the quip that he regarded the gradual pooling of sovereignty as part of the advance of human civilisation, and he was right. In a world of interdependence, if we want to tackle problems that reach beyond national borders, we need international co-operation that is effective. For all its many problems and frustrations, there is no better example of this in the world than the EU.
Think of the world that we are now in, with China, the world’s largest economy, pursuing a national strategy of aggressive state capitalism, with the return of nationalism in Russia, barbarism and fanaticism in the Middle East, and chaos and heart-rending human tragedy in north Africa. We in Europe are surrounded by these multiple threats to our contentment and civilisation, and either we hang together in addressing them or we hang separately. Without the co-operative framework of the European Union, we cannot begin to tackle the problems of climate change, energy, migration, disease that crosses borders, terrorism and threats to peace.
But the antis now say that none of this counts for anything, because they are managing to successfully define the greatest challenge of our age as immigration. They are making the claim that as long as we remain EU members we cannot control our borders. I believe profoundly that it is the responsibility of political leaders to lead on this issue. The facts are clear: EU migration has been a huge economic benefit to Britain. The populists blame migration for overcrowded schools, for long waits for GP appointments, for housing shortages. Of course there are areas of stress, and I think that what Labour is putting forward—that there be a migration fund as part of the social and structural funds—is a good idea. But the fact is that without the tax revenues that EU migrants bring to the Exchequer, we would find it much more difficult to tackle these problems and to find the spending to address these stresses than otherwise.
Yes, I agree that exploitation in labour markets has to be tackled and that benefit abuses have to be stopped, but free movement is a fundamental founding principle of the European Union, which successive Governments have solemnly signed up to since we first thought about entry in the 1960s, and from which millions —2.2 million, to be precise—of our citizens benefit. We cannot, with our integrity intact, cross the line into quotas and blatantly discriminatory policies.
Some 16 years ago I attended the ceremony when Helmut Kohl got his freedom of the City of London. At the end of his speech he talked about his boyhood days in Ludwigshafen, when he used to need a pass to go from one zone of the town to another because they were in different zones of Germany. He contrasted that with when he went on summer evenings to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Spanish Steps in Rome and our own Trafalgar Square, where he met so many young people of different European and other nationalities, mixing together enjoyably and at peace with each other. The miracle of the European Union has contributed to that to a very considerable degree.
It underpins our prosperity and contentment. As we remember this centenary, the horrors of the First World War and what came after, we cannot cavalierly throw away one of the greatest historic achievements of European civilisation.
My Lords, although the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has just launched a number of sharp and critical arrows at the coalition Government and the Prime Minister—indeed, one might say a few howitzer shells—I am, in a strange sense, heartened by the way the debate on the European Union and Britain’s position in it is going. I believe that underneath a great deal of the rhetoric and partisan exchanges there is a clustering of opinion around the concept of reform of the European Union, of which Britain’s relations with the rest of the European Union is a part—it is certainly a part, but it is only a part. Indeed, official policy of the coalition Government is “renegotiation with a reformed Europe”. My question for all of us to ponder is: how is that reformed Europe going to come about that we can negotiate with?
If I have reservations, they are these. First, it seems to me extremely important that we should get away from the idea that negotiations will be purely bilateral between the UK and Brussels, with maybe one or two side discussions with individual member states. The issues being raised are far from being ones on which Britain is isolated. The smart pro-European think tanks are quite wrong in asserting all the time that there is no appetite for reform of the European Union around the rest of Europe. There is, it is very considerable and it was expressed at the European parliamentary elections with great vigour. It is not true that the whole political class in Europe is against all reform and regards Britain’s demands as eccentric and separate.
Secondly, to do that, we have to build up alliances very strongly. I would like to see much more of that diplomacy going on, so that we can focus on the fact that even the red-hot topic of immigration, which the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, mentioned, is not a uniquely UK issue. Almost every country throughout Europe—even the countries losing migrants—is concerned about the effects of the totally free movement of labour doctrine applied to the modern Europe, which is quite different from the one in which it was originally formulated.
Thirdly, it seems to me that if negotiation with a reformed Europe is the aim, the reform part of it should, in a sense, come first or certainly go very closely with the negotiation. We could otherwise end up finding ourselves negotiating—as we did yesterday—with a changing body: something that does not exist anymore and is being changed before our eyes.
Fourthly—and I think many people throughout Europe recognise this—we must address the fundamental issues. Even the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, who I gather wants to be president again, said the other day that, unless 50% of the competencies of the European Union are returned to the nation states, the system will explode. He is just one voice among many who recognise that the system is overcentralised; it is an EU model for the 20th century and we are in the 21st. New technologies are challenging the very nature of the single market through new supply chains, global value chains. All kinds of new technologies—machine-to-machine, digital fabrication and so on—are changing the nature of trade totally, and therefore the nature in which the single market has to work. Thirdly, unemployment throughout the eurozone is much too high. Fourthly, there is the chronic euro problem, which is by no means solved. It is currently a dilemma between those in Germany who want a unified political system to run the euro and those, also in Germany, who do not want to pay for it. That is far from being resolved.
We are told that there cannot be any treaty change to meet those fundamental needs, but I say to your Lordships that treaty change is inevitable and that, in due course, a new intergovernmental conference will have to be convened. I hear that view coming from all quarters. I have even heard it from the excellent think tank that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, operates in, the Policy Network, which has called for change in the treaty. I hear it from my good friends behind me, the Liberal Democrats. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, said that he wants to see some kind of gathering to examine the fundamental role of things. I even hear it from very strong Europe builders such as Herr Schäuble, who says that we have to revisit the whole configuration, architecture and constitution of Europe. I hear the call for reform from all sides.
To my mind, that task is what the best brains, the diplomats and those outside government, in business, should concentrate on—disregarding Brexit and all that nonsense and bringing the 20th century European model into the 21st century. The best brains of Europe should be concentrated on that task.
My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend Lord Liddle has brought this debate before us. It is a debate that will dominate our politics for the next few months and perhaps for the next few years. Apart from the argument that has just taken place in Scotland, this is perhaps the most important debate of our generation.
My position is clear: I believe that leaving the European Union would be disastrous. Some of us have just spent the last two and a half years in the referendum campaign in Scotland, alongside Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, arguing against Scotland leaving the union that is the United Kingdom. We all did so in spite of our totally different politics. We did so with passion, commitment and sincerity against a well funded, well organised and highly emotional separatist campaign. At the end of the day, we won the debate and the referendum. The three parties which believed in the union campaigned—occasionally uncomfortably—together.
What did we all say during that whole campaign? “We are better together”. That was our slogan and our powerful case to the people of Scotland. We spoke of years of successful integration in a union that works for all of us. We all argued about the costs of breaking up and going it alone in a complex, multilayered and interdependent world. We all warned about creating new barriers and borders when our single market was so integrated. During the referendum campaign, we all echoed the statements made by small and large companies across the land attacking the break-up of the union and the effects it would have on jobs in Scotland which depend on the big market of our neighbour. During the campaign we all said that we had the best of both worlds—decision-making in all key areas at home but part of a bigger unit where we had an equal voice. We repeated that separatism would leave our country outside, isolated, when all the big decisions were taken elsewhere. These decisions affect our citizens—their companies, their jobs and their future.
Together, we used all of these arguments relentlessly, though some of us had never really agreed on anything else before. We all of us denounced and derided the nationalists who said that the European Union was essential but that our union should be destroyed. We made all these arguments consistently and constructively, with passion and effect, and every one of them applies to the European Union that we are part of today. Because we took the argument out, despite the fact that we were campaigning for a no vote we avoided the negativism that would automatically come from arguing for no. Very few people who heard Gordon Brown’s speech in the last stages of the referendum, and very few of the millions who watched it on YouTube afterwards, could fail to see the passion for this union.
Maybe there is not the same degree of passion about the European Union and maybe there is a disenchantment creeping in sometimes with something as big as that, yet the arguments remain the same. Those arguments succeeded in Scotland against the nationalist bandwagon and persuaded people to come out in a campaign where 97% of those eligible registered to vote and where the turnout was 84% across Scotland but over 95% in some areas. Those arguments penetrated into people’s minds and, despite the ocean of yes posters and the near hysteria of the yes campaign, people listened carefully to our constructive arguments for the union that we are in and that we benefit from.
If we make the arguments for the European Union cogently enough and face people with the alternatives to what we are in at the moment, I have no doubt that the British people will come to the same conclusion as the Scots.
My Lords, I welcome this debate, initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and I have pleasure in taking part. I also look forward very much to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Smith of Newnham, who is a considerable authority on EU affairs. I remind the noble Lords, Lord Liddle and Lord Howell of Guildford, and the House that the comments directed towards coalition policy should, in fact, be directed towards Conservative Party policy. Government policy, as expressed in the 2010 coalition agreement, is that:
“We will ensure that the British Government is a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century”.
I can but agree with my party leader, Nick Clegg MP, who yesterday described as “idiotic” the suggestion by
Mr Owen Paterson MP that the Conservative manifesto should commit them to an exit—a Brexit—from the EU. Mr Clegg said:
“It would be an act of economic self-harm to jeopardise 3m jobs in that way”.
Perhaps I have set the record straight.
It is staggering that Europhobes should see the EU as the graveyard of sovereignty but would be quite happy to be like Norway, having to follow all EU rules but with no say in them. It would be the ultimate expression of powerlessness: EU regulation without representation. We cannot win all battles in Brussels but we can have a decent chance if we have a voice. It is the basic Liberal Democrat contention, which we have consistently followed for seven decades, that Europeans are better together. I had written that before the two previous speakers, so great minds think alike. My party has been consistent on this. We not only have peace but greater prosperity, security and stability by being part of a union which has, at its heart, a guarantee of the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The 20th century surely taught us that. We cannot meet the threat of cross-border crime and wider security threats unless we co-operate with our European partners. As my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said, as a Liberal Democrat, in a speech at Chatham House, these threats,
“are shared with our neighbours and partners—they’re not challenges to Britain on its own”.
We cannot meet those threats through “exit or isolation”. He insisted, not only that,
“any foreign and security policy which denies the central importance of European engagement will have a large hole at its core”,
but that that security co-operation should encompass energy, the environment, conflict prevention and many other matters, as well as cross-border policing.
Yesterday, I read something which shocked me to the core. A Daily Mail article deplored the lack of welfare regulations on duck farming—presumably in the light of the bird flu incident—and, specifically, the lack of EU legislation on duck farming. You could have knocked me down with a feather; a duck feather, of course. Even the Daily Mail recognises that sometimes we do need EU-wide standards to safeguard health, security, the environment and free trade. The serious point is, of course, that the mantra should be “Europe only when necessary”. I am proud that Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, working with the Government, helped to secure an exemption from EU accounting rules for 100,000 smaller British firms, saving them hundreds of millions of pounds in administration costs. Liberal Democrats insist on effective and objective impact assessments before new proposals by the European Commission or European Parliament amendments are put forward. Much could be done to tighten up the scrutiny of new EU regulation. National Governments should stop policy laundering through Brussels and gold-plating on implementation. It is a great pity that the European Commission pressed on with the European public prosecutor proposal after 14 national Parliaments rejected it.
The big picture is that the UK has a huge stake in the EU single market. We must be constructive and engaged in pressing for the opening up and liberalisation of these half a billion consumers to British businesses, especially digital industries, the energy market, transport and other services. We cannot do that if we are simultaneously trying to unravel a key element in the single market: the right of free movement to work, not to claim benefits. In an increasingly multipolar, globalised world, the UK and its EU partners have the collective strength to promote our values and secure respect for them around the world, including in Washington. An active and engaged UK in the European Union is the best commitment we can make on the centenary of the First World War.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for securing this debate, although I enter it with some trepidation in such company. I am constrained to do so by the story of Coventry, from where I come, and by the originating Christian contribution to the possibilities that some form of common life might have for Europe and, thereby, for the world. When in your daily life you see the scars of warfare upon a city, when you hear the testimony of those who lost homes and families on one night in November 1940, when each year you are joined by Germans in the commemoration of your city’s 500 dead, and when you join them as they remember their city’s thousands of dead, you know that peace counts and that reconciliation is indeed a precious gift, and you give thanks for the project which has had peace as its fundamental purpose.
I am not qualified to proffer an economic cost-benefit analysis of the UK’s membership of the EU. However, as a citizen of Coventry, I should like to register the deep thanks of my city to those who sought to make war in Europe, as the Schuman declaration put it,
“not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”.
I should like to go further and say that somehow the debate about Europe, if it is to reinspire the generations, will need to appeal to something higher than money.
“Self-interest can never be a satisfactory foundation for a permanent alliance of nations”,
argued Bishop George Bell, who, even in the early days of the war, began to spell out a vision for a reconciled Europe. “Without a vision, the people perish”, said the ancient Jewish prophet.
The originating vision for Europe involved both a sense of responsibility for other peoples and nations within Europe and a responsibility for the world beyond Europe. “What can Europe do for me?” is a legitimate question but it is too small a matter to ignite the human spirit. “What can I do in Europe and through Europe for a more peaceful and prosperous, free, fair and better world?”. That is the sort of question that I would like the debate about Britain’s membership of the EU to be addressing, such as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle.
None of this is to suggest that we should take an uncritical view of Europe as it has become. Certain characteristics of European integration—not least its democratic deficit—remain matters of profound concern, and the unease evident in many parts of Europe about its present form is an indication that a rebalancing of national sovereignty and European authority is necessary. But even here it is worth reconnecting with the original vision for a reconciled Europe, which was of “a community of communities”.
Behind that proposal lay a rich seam of Christian theology known technically as the doctrine of koinonia, or communion, in which people and churches place themselves in an ecology of interdependence, which, in promoting the common good of the whole, also serves the particular good of the parts. Indeed, I venture to suggest that this theology of, if I may put it in this way, the “covenanted mutuality of the autonomous” that is shared by Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox churches may at this point of European history complement the more distinctively Roman Catholic notion of subsidiarity, with its implication of organic unity that has been so influential on the development of Europe up to this point.
I conclude with two hopes for our national debate. The first is that it will be lifted from an exercise in accountancy to matters of higher human importance—virtues such as peace and reconciliation, responsibility and mutuality that can put the soul back into Europe. The second is that, learning from the Church of Scotland during the referendum debate, there might be a role for the churches of the UK to create the sort of safe and neutral spaces in which informed and serious debate of this kind can take place.
“to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy”—
I would say not just around the economy—
“but around the sacredness”— the transcendent dignity—
“of the human person, around inalienable values”,
so that Europe can be,
“a precious point of reference for all humanity”.
My Lords, our identity is defined by our culture, not by institutions. This morning I was fortunate enough to go to the National Gallery to see some of the glories produced by that extraordinary Dutch artist, Rembrandt. It was a small reminder, among so many, that we Europeans have been the most successful peoples in the history of the world. Indeed, for 2,000 years we were the world. We bound more books, we parsed more poetry, we made more music and, in the process, we framed more freedoms than anyone else.
However, recently something has gone wrong. We have lost our sense of purpose. Why is that? President Juncker has an answer. For him, it seems, it is the fault of the people. This is what he said recently:
“We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it”.
Those are haunting words. They imply an appalling lack of leadership and a serious disconnect with the peoples, which puzzles me because, if the EU is not for the peoples, who on earth is it for?
Tragically, the single most powerful factor propping up the current hopelessly arthritic structures of the EU right now is not ambition, and least of all is it success. It is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of admitting failure, and fear of what might happen if the nettle is grasped and the eurozone is reorganised, yet fear of endless economic stagnation if it is not. But fear is a pretty miserable basis for building the future. Surely we can do better than that.
In a remarkable intervention today while on a visit to Strasbourg, the Pope, as we have heard, described the EU as,
“a ‘grandmother’, no longer fertile and vibrant”.
It might also be described as a bit of a dinosaur—all muscle-bound body and a tiny head, but with one idea echoing inside it: that of ever closer union. However, the dinosaur has entirely forgotten what that means. It was an idea launched through the treaty of Rome, which called for an ever closer union,
“among the peoples of Europe”.
I repeat: the peoples, not the institutional fixtures and fittings. In that ambition, at least, the EU seems to have succeeded. It has united the people—in dismay and growing disenchantment. The EU must change or it will be changed by the peoples.
Earlier this year I asked this House to consider an EU referendum Bill, and I recognise some familiar faces. It was never going to pass—not through this House —but the debate was necessary in order to throw light on this mighty issue. And it worked beyond my wildest dreams. Labour Members of this House rose as one to deny the people their say. They did not even wait until the white vans had pulled up in their driveways. They said, definitively, “No”. I shall be eternally grateful to a noble friend on the Liberal Democrat Benches who, at the time of the crucial vote, rose in his place, cast aside his party’s habitual coyness, pointed to the Division Lobby and cried, “This way to kill the Bill!”. His party, to a man and a woman, were counted through.
And so, through the fog of confusion, came clarity. This side of the House, the Conservative side, demands a referendum; every other party opposes it.
As grateful as I am to the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for securing this debate, he and I could argue for a thousand years, I suspect, until we were old men, and still, I fear, we would never agree.
My Lords, the noble Lord said that every other party opposes a referendum. I restate, for the sake of clarity, that the Liberal Democrat position, as expressed in the European Union Act 2011, is that there should be a referendum if there is a significant transfer of powers to the European Union. The Liberal Democrat spin on that is that that should be an “in or out” referendum, so we are in favour of a referendum under certain conditions.
I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. We hear the words—we have always heard the words—and yet we saw what they did when the time came to put their necks on the line.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for this debate. We need these debates. We need to clarify the issue. It is time to take this agonising issue—because we do not agree and we will never agree—out of the hands of us agonised politicians and give it to the people to decide. It is their future, and it must be their decision.
In 2011, during the passage of the European Union Bill, which has just been mentioned, I moved an amendment whose purpose was to lay a duty on Ministers to put the case for British membership of the European Union. I did not really think that it would be passed, but I said that because, with honourable exceptions, Ministers had, over many years, been extremely hesitant about arguing the case for Europe. Indeed, that criticism can be made about Labour Ministers as well as Conservative Ministers.
When I was speaking, I exempted two then Conservative Ministers from my strictures. I shall quote one of them because what he said then is still relevant. David Lidington is, miraculously, still Minister for Europe. He has lasted a very long time and he is an excellent one. He wrote, in answer to a PQ—when got at, I think, by Eurosceptics—that, first, British membership gives access without barriers to the world’s most important trading zone. Secondly, it underwrites employment for about 3.5 million UK workers, who are reliant upon exports to EU member states. Thirdly, it enables the United Kingdom to influence developments within the EU. Fourthly, it gives the UK greater leverage and negotiating power. I say: well said, David Lidington.
On the last, very important, point, at a time when the Prime Minister is calling for greater impetus behind the far-reaching TTIP—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—negotiations between the EU and the USA, we should remember that we are represented at the negotiating table only because we are a member of the EU. That is a very important point, which I think Mr Cameron has forgotten.
As Prime Minister, Mr Cameron has a special responsibility to sustain our membership, but unfortunately for this country, instead of making the case for British membership, he has behaved like Ethelred the Unready offering danegeld in the vain hope of winning the support of Eurosceptic Back-Benchers and of impressing UKIP voters and members that he is on the right track, although there is a fat chance that he will be able to do that.
Of course, there were good things in the Bloomberg speech, but the Prime Minister unwisely promised an “in or out” referendum on the basis of renegotiated terms if the Tories won the election. That has cast a dark cloud of uncertainty over the British economy and British politics. Now the Prime Minister, feeling threatened by UKIP by-election successes, has raised expectations about curbing EU migration into Britain, which is just not realistic but infuriates our partners and therefore risks making Brexit more likely rather than less likely.
I end by quoting a leader in the Financial Times of
“The Prime Minister needs to start leading his own party and stop following another”.
He can begin by making a positive case for British membership of the European Union. Yes, reforms are needed, but, Mr Cameron, we are better together and we need to say so loudly and clearly.
(Maiden Speech): My Lords, I have recently completed a three-year collaborative research project on national parliaments and the European Union after Lisbon. Two chambers stood out in our findings—the Folketing, renowned for holding Danish Ministers to account on European issues, and your Lordships’ House, which is internationally recognised for the depth of its expertise on European matters. It is thus with some trepidation and humility that I stand today to make my maiden speech. It is only the kindness and friendship that have been extended to me since I arrived five weeks ago that make me think maybe it will be all right, really.
I am taking the risk of speaking in this Chamber on Europe today partly because my first political memory is of the 1975 referendum. I went home from school at lunchtime and saw on the news that there was to be a vote on whether we should stay in the Common Market. I am not sure I really understood what that meant, because I was only six years old. That memory—staying in the Common Market—stuck with me, as, I am afraid, did wine lakes and butter mountains. The key thing about that debate is that it was intended to put an end to the question mark over British membership of the European Community.
That issue remained with me, and Europe has become a key part of my professional and political life. I cut my own political teeth in the 1980s, campaigning for an inspiring and committed pro-European, Shirley, now my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, whom I was privileged to have as one of my supporters when I was introduced into your Lordships’ House. At that time, Britain’s membership of the European Community was again contested because the Labour Party was committed to withdrawal.
I am delighted, therefore, that today the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has brought this debate to the House, talking about the case for British membership. Thirty years on, the official position of all three main parties and the Green Party is that we believe that Britain is better off inside the European Union, even if there should be some reform of it, and even if public debate sometimes belies this position.
In my case, the study of languages at A-level and politics at university led to a doctorate on elections to the European Parliament, supervised by my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, my other supporter when I was introduced to this place. So, academics and politics came together. I spent some time then living in Germany and in Hungary before pursuing an academic career following the European Union. As an academic, I am acutely aware of the enormous benefits to research and innovation and, especially, to higher education that accrue from Britain’s membership of the European Union.
My own university, Cambridge, has seen research grant income from the EU rise from £14.4 million in 2007-08 to £52.8 million in 2013-14. That is 13% of its research grant income. The UK secured £5 billion in Framework Programme 7 funding from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, the UK higher education sector received £1.2 billion, according to Universities UK. Moreover, the UK hosts 23% of all European research council awards, more than any other member state. The Russell group of 24 leading research universities alone hosts 18% of those grants, more than Germany.
I apologise to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry for talking about the economic side of things, but there are also the political and collaborative aspects which European funding seeks to bring about. Networks are important to academics to develop research links and an understanding of the foibles of other member states—their laws and individual approaches, their strengths and weaknesses. That is important because collaborative research is often an iterative process, not a one-shot game. Trust, respect and reciprocity are essential, but they must be earned, not demanded. As in academe, so in politics: it is vital to develop networks and alliances to build relations with like-minded colleagues in like-minded countries, irrespective of party. To have influence in Europe, it is essential to engage and build up effective relationships with partners on whom one can rely in a crisis or when seeking a reform that this country richly desires.
We in the UK need to persuade our partners in Europe of our strong bilateral contacts across Governments, parliaments and parties, and we need to persuade people that the UK’s membership of the Union is important. I look forward to working with colleagues in all parts of your Lordships’ House to ensure that the case for British membership of the European Union is made, and that it is made effectively.
My Lords, perhaps I may take the opportunity to congratulate the noble Baroness on her incisive and informative maiden speech. I am certain that her knowledge of European affairs will not go unused in this House as Europe is one of the subjects that has the capacity to get the blood flowing in the veins of your Lordships—as they may have noticed already. The noble Baroness enjoys a distinguished academic career. Having studied at both Brasenose College and St Antony’s, Oxford, she now holds the significant post of director of the European Centre at the University of Cambridge. Lecturing in international relations allows the noble Baroness to bring contemporary knowledge to your Lordships’ House for the many debates and discussions we have on this subject, and today is no exception.
The noble Baroness has two more distinctions that I wish to mention. She is the seventh “Smith” to be a current Member of this House, and I can assure her that she is in very distinguished company. She is also a serving city councillor in Cambridge, and as a former city councillor myself, I welcome the expertise that local representatives add to our deliberations. I have absolutely no doubt that the noble Baroness will bring her widespread experience at the local government level to our debates as well. We wish her good fortune as she branches out on a new and, I hope, rewarding part of her career.
I turn now to the debate secured for this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. I always listen carefully to his contributions, but I must say that I was somewhat dispirited by his passionate promotion of the objective without any apparent recognition of the collateral damage that the passage of time has done to the initial ideal. Anyone who was around at the end of the war could not but have realised that things had to change. Europe had been laid waste in the 20th century and our predecessors naturally had the instinct to do something to ensure that it did not happen again. To a very large extent, that particular objective of our predecessors has, so far and thank God, been achieved.
However, the EU is like any bureaucratic organisation —something to which the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has just alluded. When we initially entered into the relationship, we were dealing with six nations of a very similar nature to our own. They were close by, they were developed countries, and there were a lot of similarities. The European Union of today is a totally different creature. It is vast in its expansion and the differences between one nation and another have grown dramatically, so the idea that you can simply apply the same rules today that were applied at the EU’s initiation is just not realistic. It is like applying the same rules to trains when they were steam driven as we do to our modern electric ones; it does not work. The disparity between the nations is such that what we are actually doing is taking young and perhaps qualified people out of the underdeveloped parts of the Union and bringing them here and to other developed countries. That cannot be consistent with the objective of levelling everyone up instead of levelling them down.
My anxiety is that to dismiss, as some seem to be doing, the vast movement of populations that has taken place—millions of people, not thousands—and to imagine that that has had no significant impact on the ordinary people of this country is totally unrealistic. I think that that attitude is the recruiting sergeant for the UKIPs of this world. It is what encourages them and helps them to gain ground. Let us look at some recent elections. Those who stood on a solidly pro-European platform have been almost obliterated. If we genuinely want co-operation—I want to see co-operation between the peoples of the European Union—it has to be done in a way that brings the people along with it. It should not be a source of division. If we want it to work, it should be a source of pride and achievement. But this country has a vast deficit with the rest of the European Union. We have hitched our wagon to a star that unfortunately is not rising at the moment because the European Union economy is stagnant and is becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of our trade. Sadly, when this country joined the European Union, we treated our former trading partners such as New Zealand and the Caribbean countries shamefully. We swept them aside overnight, and that is a source of worry for me.
My final point is this. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, must reflect on the fact that last week his own party spokes -person, the shadow Home Secretary, made a speech about immigration in the other place. But she must remember that she was part of a Government who took the decision to allow free and open access to this country by the accession countries. That fuelled massive levels of immigration that we have not been able fully to absorb. If you fill a place up, what happens is that services become pressurised, and that starts agitation. We can see it happening in other countries. Marine Le Pen did not exist as a political force a number of years ago, and yet it is clear that in her party and others throughout the European Union there are the stirrings of the very forces which led us to the position in which we ended up in 1939-40. This debate has to be treated seriously. We cannot dismiss the concerns of the people in an arrogant fashion. We have to listen and realise that there is a problem, and we should put our minds to how to resolve it.
My Lords, as one of the other seven “Smiths” in your Lordships’ House, I join in the warm congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, on her fine maiden speech. It was deeply felt and knowledgeable, and I hope that we will hear much more from her in the House over the coming weeks and months.
I want to reflect in the short time allowed on the vital importance of our membership of the European Union to our environmental protection, stewardship and improvement. Some two and a half months ago I stepped down as chairman of the Environment Agency here in England. It is responsible for overseeing much of the framework of environmental standards and protection that we have. Overwhelmingly, that framework rests on a series of European directives that drive better performance, endeavour to keep standards high, and have largely been responsible for the improvements we have seen in our environment here in the United Kingdom over recent years. Quite frankly, we would be lost without them. It would be little short of an environmental catastrophe if, heaven forbid, we were to leave the European Union.
Of course, not all European directives are perfect. Would I have drawn up the rules governing nitrate-vulnerable zones in precisely the way that has happened if I had been seeking a truly common-sense approach to a worthwhile purpose? Of course not. There is certainly scope for improvement—but, taken as a whole, the range of environmental directives in place are powerful tools to enable real benefits to be achieved for people. Safeguarding the environment is, after all, every bit as much about people as it is about birds and insects and fish. It is about the air we breathe, the land we live on and the water we depend on for life.
I will take just three examples: first, the industrial emissions directive. It is no accident that over the last 20 years sulphur dioxide emissions in this country have fallen by 70%. Nitrogen oxide emissions are down by nearly 40%. Even particulates, where we have made less progress, are down by 15%. These are real benefits and real improvements that have been brought about by sensible regulation that has driven better technology.
Secondly, the transfrontier shipment of waste directive has made it far more difficult for us to dump our waste, especially our electrical and electronic waste, on the developing world, where all too often in the past it fuelled crime, poverty, exploitation and injury. These are sensible rules applied across Europe and they matter globally because it is Europe that has put them in place.
Thirdly, the bathing water directives. Thirty years ago we were labelled as the dirty man of Europe. Beach after beach on many of the most popular parts of our coast were failing European standards because of raw sewage being discharged on frequent occasions. The directives have driven change. They have forced clean-up and have now delivered the cleanest beaches and bathing water we have had in decades. As a result, they have helped both public health and the tourism industry. So when people rail against interference from Europe, this—I would remind them—is interference that we have signed up to; it is interference that we have helped to put in place; and, in the case of this range of environmental directives, these are bits of interference from which we have substantially benefited.
Surely it makes sense to tackle these issues on an international, continent-wide basis. After all, the environment knows no national boundaries. Pollution of the air and water does not stop at the frontier. These are continent-wide issues and they require continent-wide responses. Thank goodness we have the structures in place and our membership of the European Union in place to enable that to happen.
My Lords, for the benefit of the House I remind noble Lords that we have a lot of speakers and that when the clock is at five that is time up. Even if all noble Lords from now on were to speak for just half a minute beyond five minutes, that would mean not only that my noble friend would not have her full time to respond to the debate, but the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, would have no time to respond, either.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for introducing this debate and the argument for making the case for Europe. We all appreciate him initiating this debate and, speaking first from our side, I also congratulate the noble Baroness, as her namesake did before me, on a most interesting and excellent maiden speech on what I think is her major topic—which was very convenient for her.
I make it absolutely clear, as somebody who has always supported our membership of the European Union, that I believe that this is the right time for a fundamental reassessment of the state of the European Union, our position in it and the importance of the negotiations on which we are about to embark. I believe, very much as my noble friend Lord Howell said, that this is not just a matter for us with a British interest; it is acutely in the interests of all the nations of Europe at the present time to stand and take stock of what is actually happening. I have found that there is huge ignorance about Europe really looks like at the present time. I have quizzed some of my noble friends on this Front Bench before on how many members there are now in the European Union—hardly anybody ever gets it right—and the developments that are taking place.
I come to this because for six years of my life I represented the United Kingdom in the Council of Ministers in Europe, because before I did Northern Ireland and defence I was doing environment, transport and employment. There I was, sitting in the Council of Ministers of nine member states, all really with a similar standard of living and level of economy, with the possible exception of Ireland. There was very much a feeling that Ireland, with a population of 3 million joining a European Union which at that time was getting on for 300 million, would have the advantage and that its economy would be brought more to the level of those of the other countries, which is exactly what happened.
Then I take stock of what has actually happened now. The enlargement started quite gradually. In 1981 Greece came in, Spain and Portugal in 1986, Austria, Sweden and Finland in 1995—but in 2004 came this vast expansion. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus, followed—as we remember well—by Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013. Waiting in the wings as candidates are Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and, if it remains as a candidate, the largest of all by far—Turkey. That is 28 going on 33 and undoubtedly, if one looks at eastern Europe, there is the possibility of one or two more.
I was brought up to believe that if Europe expanded, if we were going to move as we did and support the enlargement, it could not just be the same Europe that it had always been—and this is where the important point arises. Can ever closer union coexist with ever greater enlargement? I think the particular problem—a point made very clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Empey —is that it is happening at a time of quite exceptional international instability. We have stopped talking about the problems of immigration. The problem now is of almost mass migration out of certain countries. If you look at the membership of the boats that are sinking in the Mediterranean, are those people Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian or Libyan? Look at the refugees at Calais who are coming from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen—different countries that are practically ungovernable; almost completely failed states from which huge numbers of people are deciding to get out.
That situation, along with the very porous boundaries of the Schengen agreement—there is no doubt about how all these people are arriving in these different places —is putting an additional serious pressure on the national attitude to the European Union. Those of us who believe that there are considerable benefits from our membership of the European Union cannot just sit there echoing the phrases, “Not an inch” and “No surrender”—phrases that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, knows well—to your European policy, believing that that is the right thing to stick by. Unless people wake up and realise that there needs to be a fundamental renegotiation, in the interests of all the countries of Europe at the present time, popular attitudes will become absolutely demanding of far greater change than might be in the interests of the people of this country.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, on her excellent maiden speech. She will be a formidable addition to your Lordships’ House. It is a double pleasure to welcome another academic into this House—it is a triple pleasure to welcome another Cambridge academic —and not another deranged politician, as I think the noble Lord put it.
I speak as a strong and committed pro-European. The European Union has helped to bring peace and reconciliation to a continent with a history of devastation. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Empey, I believe that peace project is certainly not finished, and here I also diverge from the noble Lord, Lord King. One hundred thousand people died in the conflict that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia. The incorporation of Serbia into the EU is an absolutely crucial task for the near future. Russia might already be working to destabilise that process. Will the Minister confirm that the British Government absolutely would not consider blocking further EU enlargement as a way of advancing their agenda in Europe, as some papers have reported?
I am also a committed pro-European so far as Britain’s continuing membership of the EU is concerned. The world today is massively more interdependent than ever before. Britain can have far more real control—in other words, real sovereignty—over its affairs acting in concert with other EU states than it ever could acting alone, as 60 million people confronting a world of 7 billion.
The rise of UKIP is not without its benefits for those of us who hold quite opposing views. Its success will force a public debate on Britain’s future in Europe, which is a debate that we absolutely need to have. Those of us who believe that the UK’s future necessarily lies in Europe should, as my noble friend Lord Liddle said, mobilise and put our case forcefully. He also said that we should do it with passion, and I support that. The rise of UKIP has coincided with a surge of support among Britons for staying in the Union and helping to reshape it; indeed, there may be some kind of causal connection there.
The recent Ipsos MORI poll that my noble friend Lord Liddle quoted actually had stronger results than he mentioned. It showed support for Britain’s membership at its highest level for almost a quarter of a century. If you look at those who actually expressed opinions rather than those who said “don’t know”, 61% of respondents who expressed a view endorsed continued British membership, compared to 26% who wanted to leave. That is an interesting and remarkable result.
A detailed and proper public debate will oblige Eurosceptics to say what they are for, not just what they are against. The risks are enormous. Were the UK to leave, this time it would almost certainly lose Scotland. The US would bypass this country and deal directly with the EU. Some say small is beautiful, especially in the age of the internet, or else they argue that we should turn to the Commonwealth. If that is so easy, why have we not done it already? Germany, which of course is in the European Union, has twice the level of trade with India that the UK does. Power and size do matter and the influence of geopolitics is still all too real. Without the European Union, we would live in a G2 world dominated by the United States and China. The UK should play its full part in providing that necessary counterbalance.
In conclusion, I was very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said—what he says is always interesting. As I took it, he was suggesting that there should be a more bipartisan approach at this point to the debate in this country. I think that could be really important for the national interest, and if that is what the noble Lord meant, I heartily endorse it.
My Lords, it is 40 years ago almost to the day when, on
However, in Volume II of The Official History of Britain and the European Community, Stephen Wall tells a story of how the British Foreign Secretary was less enthusiastic about Europe than the German Chancellor. On his appointment, Jim Callaghan summoned Michael Butler, the Foreign Office Assistant Under-Secretary responsible for European matters. After the preliminaries, Callaghan said, “They tell me, Michael, that you really care about Europe. Well, that’s all right, as long as you remember that I really care about the Labour Party”.
Now, 40 years later, the story has come full circle. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, strongly supports Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union and patiently leans towards David Cameron’s problems. But in turn, the Prime Minister lacks the strength to make it clear to the voters that it would be an unqualified disaster—the expression used by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, earlier—for Britain if the country were to leave Europe.
It is immensely sad that over half a century and more, with few exceptions and some ups and downs, the leaderships of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have never been more than half-hearted in campaigning for the European Union and its predecessors. Political parties now attach great importance to rapid rebuttal, especially at election time. But there have never been any rapid-rebuttal government procedures in answering the drip-by-drip critics on factual European Union matters. So, amid the disappointments and uncertainties, I welcome this debate and greatly applaud the content and tone of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. I hope it will echo round his party and that his party’s leader will listen.
There are many ironies arising from the parliamentary debates on Europe 40 years ago. It was said by the opponents of joining the European Community that membership of the six or the nine was not membership of Europe but of only a small part of Europe—by implication, a bigger Europe would be better. But now that we have 28 members of the European Union, opponents complain about the free movement of labour that was the essence of the original treaties and the anticipated consequences of enlargement.
Forty years ago, we lived in a bipolar world, dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union. We, the United Kingdom, knew where we stood. But today we live in an unpredictable, open world with sophisticated communications technology and growing, complex terrorism. It is inconceivable that Britain’s security at home and abroad would be enhanced by severing our relationship with the European Union.
To give him credit, the Prime Minister does not want to leave the European Union. But there are limits to what our partners in the European Union will stand, given unrealistic and unilateral demands. It is time for Cameron to swallow hard and tell the public unequivocally that he and his Government want to stay in the European Union, and to tell his partners plainly that that is his intention.
My Lords, I made my first speech against joining Europe in 1962. It was in Woolhampton, when I was the prospective candidate for the Newbury constituency—which, incidentally, I did not win. In that year, Hugh Gaitskell made a great speech at the Labour Party conference. This is part of what he said about joining the Common Market, as it then was:
“it does mean … the end of Britain as an independent … state … the end of a thousand years of history”.
Those were prophetic words indeed, because he foresaw that Britain would be joining what would eventually become a single state. That, in fact, is already happening: it already has the trappings of a single state. Its central policy is “ever closer union”. Of course, “ever closer union” means that Britain will become a province in a huge European country.
This issue transcends party politics. It is not about party, it is about our country and who rules our country —who governs Britain. That is the real issue, because without that we are simply a pawn in the European construct. It is not about Tory or Labour or Liberal, it is about—and I emphasise this—who makes the decisions. Is it our Government and Parliament or is it 27 other nations?
Those who support the Motion are largely those who urged the United Kingdom to scrap the pound and join the euro. They said that we would be sidelined, that we would hit the rocks if we did not adopt the euro. Of course, what has happened? It is the euro that is just about hitting the rocks. Fortunately we did not join. How wrong the people were who urged us to join, because it would have been a disaster for this country, a complete and utter disaster. Many noble Lords who have spoken have eulogised the EU. They have mentioned all sorts of good things that it has brought. However, we could have got those without being members of the European Union by negotiating with other countries.
Of course, it is also difficult to make an economic case for Europe. On trade, for example, the current account adverse balance for 2009 to 2013 is £280 billion. That means that Europe has sold £280 billion more to us than we have exported to them, so that is not very good news. Nobody else but the members of the EU have to pay for trading with the EU. Our contribution during this Parliament will be £52 billion net and about £85 billion gross, and rising. We are therefore not getting very much for our money.
I have already said this, but the big issue is who governs Britain. Is it Parliament, through institutions built up over the centuries, or is it a centralised empire, governed by an unelected bureaucracy and 27 other countries whose policies are often inimical to our own? Gaitskell believed in Britain and so do I. I believe that we still have a great place in the world outside the EU.