THE EUROPEAN UNION – 1 December 1999

Dr Julian Lewis: I first met my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr Viggers) in the early 1980s, when he was appointed by the Prime Minister to co-ordinate the efforts of those groups that were working with the Conservative party to undermine the movement for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the west. No-one is more qualified than he to draw attention to the dangers to the North Atlantic alliance of what is being proposed by the creation of what is effectively an independent European defence policy separated from the United States. I warmly endorse the timely warning that my hon. Friend gave the House in his speech.

I recall that, at the time when my hon. Friend was leading that campaign to preserve our defences, I read a book by the late Ian Greig, called They Mean What They Say. It was an attempt to warn democrats in the west that they should not disregard the rhetoric of Soviet leaders. I say that that also applies to the rhetoric of pro-federalist leaders in Europe today. They do mean what they say. What are they saying? I shall quote a few more examples for the record.

The German Finance Minister, Hans Eichel, who was hailed as a moderate when he replaced "red Oskar" Lafontaine, has said:

"I cannot imagine that Europe can successfully compete ... without the prospect of a uniformly acting political union ... The euro is not European unification, but it is one important step towards this end."

The German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, has said:

"My goal is to turn the EU into an entity" –

that is, a single thing –

"under international law."

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, has said:

"National Sovereignty will soon be a product of the imagination."

He has also admitted that

"The introduction of the common European currency was ultimately by no means only an economic decision. It was an original political act to hand over sovereignty over one of the most important areas of national authority to a European authority ... For this reason alone, monetary union requires of us Europeans decisive advances in the field of political integration."

I mentioned in an intervention that the chief economist of the European central bank, Dr Otmar Issing, has said:

"There is no example in history of a lasting monetary union that was not linked to political union."

Wim Duisenberg, the president of the European central bank, has said:

"The process of monetary union goes hand in hand, must go hand in hand, with political integration and ultimately political union. EMU is, and was always meant to be a stepping stone on the way to a united Europe."

I come right up to date with The Times of 4 November 1999. It reports the President of Germany, President Rau, calling for the European Union to be transformed into a "European Federal Union" complete with its own constitution. The Times states:

"He said the imminent enlargement of the EU meant that there must be 'decision-making procedures which guarantee Europe's capacity for action'".

At least, the president of the European Commission, President Prodi, is honest enough to admit that. According to The Times of 27 October, he wants the European Commission henceforth to be described as the "European government". The Times reports:

"Asked to justify the term 'government of Europe' Signor Prodi said: 'But what is the Commission? We are here to take binding decisions as an executive power. If you don't like the term government for this, what other term do you suggest? Consultative commission? I speak of a European government because we take government decisions."

Funnily enough, in the middle of last month, the Prime Minister was quoted as saying that the reason he objected so strongly to the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr Livingstone) being Labour's candidate for the mayoralty of London was because of what the hon. Gentleman had done in the 1980s. The Prime Minister said:

"In the Eighties, when he was in charge of the Labour Party in London, we" –

that is to say the Labour party –

"were a byword for extremism ... we were unelectable as a political party."

That was certainly true, and the Prime Minister should know all about it because he was part of that extremism. He stood for election to the House in 1983 on the following commitment. In his electoral address, he stated:

"We'll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs."

That is where the Prime Minister stood at that time. Yet he has the impudence to describe those of us who want to be "In Europe, not run by Europe" as "extremists". If we are extremists, we are extremists along with 64 per cent. of the British people.

I have commissioned ICM to ask a simple, single question at six-monthly intervals over the past year. That question is:

"Do you think that Britain should replace" –

it does not use pejorative words such as "abolish" –

"the pound with the single European currency?"

When I first asked that question in October 1998, the results were 32 per cent. "Yes" and 56 per cent. "No". By March of this year, those in favour of the euro had fallen from 32 per cent. to 30 per cent. and those in favour of keeping the pound had risen from 56 per cent. to 60 per cent. It was exactly 2:1 against the euro.

Now the gap is even greater. At the end of September this year, the results were 27 per cent. "Yes" in favour of the euro and a massive 64 per cent. "No" against it. That is almost identical to the figures that we used to get for comparable polls on the issue of unilateral nuclear disarmament in the early 1980s when the Prime Minister proudly wore his Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament badge and when he wanted, and called for, withdrawal from Europe in its entirety. Its policy on nuclear defence was an electoral albatross to the Labour party then, and its current policy will be an electoral albatross to it now, because two-thirds of the British people disagree with it about abandoning the pound and replacing it with the single currency.

Mr Gapes: Given the hon. Gentleman's great interest in opinion polls, has he seen those that point out that the majority of the British people think that this country will join the single European currency? Is he aware that an interesting development is taking place in Europe whereby this currency will be established over the next few years? Will he tell us – yes or no – whether he wants that currency to be a success or a failure?

Dr Lewis: It is my view that the single currency is bound to be a failure, because it will force the states that subscribe to it to join together in a unified political entity, as all those quotations illustrate.

As to the point about polls showing that people who oppose the move nevertheless believe that it will happen, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the more people come to realise that they are the silent majority against joining the euro – a majority which is getting greater month by month – the more confident they will be that the battle will be won by those who want to preserve the pound and our sovereignty.

I shall make only one more point because I wish to leave time for two colleagues whom I believe want to speak. It was the great fallacy of Marxism that all politics is about economics. Marx tried to define politics in terms of economics, and I regret to say that the Government are doing precisely that in setting the criteria for whether this country should ever join the single currency. They say that the only criteria that they will apply are five economic tests.

I first raised that matter with the Prime Minister on 15 December 1997, when I asked him whether his position meant that

"no loss, however great, of political sovereignty would deter him and his Government from entering economic and monetary union, provided that what they regard as economic conditions alone were right".

His answer was very revealing. He said, "No," because of course he could not possibly agree with me, but he went on to confirm that it was precisely what his position meant. He said that

"it simply means that we should judge whether we enter monetary union according to our national interest, and" –

wait for it –

"that is defined by the economic tests that we have set." – [Official Report, 15 December 1997; Vol. 303, c. 36.]

I returned to the subject on 10 November, just three weeks ago, when I asked the Prime Minister at Question Time:

"What factors other than economic ones will determine whether Britain joins the single European currency."

He replied only:

"A decision will be taken on the basis of what is in Britain's best national interests."

I knew that he would say something like that, so I had asked it as a closed question. I was then able to respond and point out that he had not answered the question though he had known for a fortnight that the question was not about economic tests but about whether there were any political tests at all that would influence whether Britain should sign away its economic, and therefore its political, independence.

In reply to my pressing him, the Prime Minister said:

"The national interest of course includes the economic conditions that we have set out, but ... we believe that the national economic interest should be the determining factor in whether Britain joins the single currency ... Our policy is the sensible one – leave the option open and determine it on the British national economic interest." – [Official Report, 10 November 1999; Vol. 337, c. 1120-21.]

The Prime Minister is saying that, if the single currency works as it is intended to, and does not implode – as it may do, and as the exchange rate mechanism did – and creates a politically united Europe, he will want this country to join that structure and lose its independence forever.

I conclude by reference to the remark of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr Gapes) about whether it is inevitable that Britain will join the single currency even though two-thirds of the British people are manifestly opposed to it. There is only one way that it could happen, and that is if the country could be brainwashed by a tidal wave of propaganda, funded by Government money, to convince the people that there is no alternative.

All the signs are that this wretched Government will try to do that. They will try to rig the referendum by coming up with a complicated formula to ensure that millions more pounds of public money are used to brainwash people into thinking that they have to join the euro than can possibly be used to demonstrate that the euro is, in fact, a disaster waiting to happen.

The Government think that their strategy will work; it will not work. The British people will defeat them on that and force them to change their policy, just as they defeated Labour on its mad unilateralist policies in the 1980s, when the current Prime Minister was arguing for the extremist position – which is not the position of the Conservative Party – that we should come out of Europe altogether.