[Mr Christopher Chope in the Chair] — National Parliaments and the EU

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:57 am on 16th July 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 9:57 am, 16th July 2013

That is absolutely correct, and is not disrespectful or a criticism of those countries. In the past month I have been to Lithuania twice, and I have great affection for that country. One has only to look at the way in which it has been brutalised for 150 years by successive dictatorships—the Nazis, Russians and Soviet Union—to realise why it would want the security of working within the framework of something bigger. The same applies to Estonia, Latvia and many other countries in central and eastern Europe, so there is an understandable reason for their wanting to play safe, as it were. However, it is not playing safe that is the problem, because the price that people will pay for allowing that democratic system to be so much at risk will be another collapse of those countries if the democratic freedom that they fought for disintegrates as a result of the European Union’s failures.

The fact is that tinkering with the treaties is not the only thing required. It is about the very foundations of the EU, which brings me on to the question of ever-closer union. Certainly that was embedded in the early treaties, including in the treaty of Rome. However, it was not capable of being implemented, unless and until the genie was gradually eased out of the bottle as a result of successive treaty changes. People are cynical about the 1975 referendum, and I understand why. There is plenty of reason to believe that, in fact, it was done with some cynicism by the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. However, the reality is that people such as Tony Benn and others, who were involved in arguments on the other side, challenged whether it would ultimately lead to political union.

Although I freely state that I voted yes in 1975, it was because, as far as I was aware, it was going to be a common market. It was not only that, however. It could only become more of an integrated, ever-closer union as a result of further treaties, which is why I most emphatically put my foot down on the Maastricht treaty—I tabled about 200 amendments, or whatever it was—and fought the arguments right the way through from beginning to end, because that was about the creation of European government. There is no disputing that, and I am very glad that the present Prime Minister stated in the

House the other day that he thought that there should have been a referendum on the Maastricht treaty. He was right.

We do not need to go into the past too much, but the Maastricht treaty remains at the epicentre of the Lisbon treaty, because the Lisbon treaty is simply a consolidation of all the others. Anyone who cares to get those treaties out can see that, although I have to say that there are not many people who would. Sometimes even I have a great disinclination to get out the consolidated treaties and plough through them, although I notice that the Minister has them on his desk, with lots of little yellow flashes so that he can immediately leap to one article or another. However, I do not think this is about individual articles, nor is it about the intricacies of bits and pieces. It is about the fundamental structure.