AMSTERDAM TREATY DEBATE – 2 December 1997
Dr Julian Lewis: I wish to touch on three topics – two briefly and one in more detail. I shall say a few words about economic and monetary union, then a few words about the human rights provision of article F.1 and, finally, and in more detail, I shall speak about a common foreign and security policy.
On economic and monetary union, I have no difficulty with the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir Ray Whitney). I believe that, in principle, a single currency is wrong. It will not work and I cannot envisage any circumstances in which I would support our joining it. However, there is always the possibility that all one's predictions in economic and political forecasting may be proven by events to be wrong.
If, over a decade, everything that people believe – as I do – is wrong with the single currency were tried out by other countries in the European Union and, against all our expectations, all our fears were shown to be groundless, we would have to admit that we were wrong; but we do not expect that to happen. That is why it is possible for people who believe – as I do – that we should never join the single currency to live quite happily with the formula propounded by the Conservative Opposition: that we should oppose the single currency in this Parliament and the next.
Even someone as certain as I am that the single currency will prove to be a disaster for the countries that enter into it would have to admit that we were wrong if at the end of this Parliament and the next our fears were shown to be groundless. I am happy to give that hostage to fortune because I do not believe that we will be shown to be wrong. I believe that EMU will turn out to be an implosion on an even greater scale than was the implosion of the exchange rate mechanism in 1992.
It is rather strange that people – not necessarily hon. Members who are present for this debate – increasingly refer to European monetary union rather than to economic and monetary union, which is what EMU stands for. The distinction is important, because the term economic and monetary union recognises the fact that there cannot be monetary union without economic union. We cannot have a single currency without creating a single economy. I have said before – and I shall never tire of saying – that we cannot have a single economy without creating a single Government, and we cannot have a single Government without creating a single state. It therefore follows that those who oppose the creation of a single state of Europe must oppose the introduction of a single currency for Europe, because the one leads directly to the other.
I was interested in the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Kenneth Clarke). He said that he is not in favour of a single state, but that he is in favour of ever closer union, by which I take him to mean ever closer political union. My logical faculties may not be up to the task, but it seems to me that that argument is like saying that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. I remember a philosophical paradox that goes something like this: if a person starts out a certain distance from a fixed point and always moves towards it by covering half the remaining distance between him and that fixed point, he will move forward without ever reaching the fixed point. That is what my right hon. and learned Friend seems to have in mind: it is fine for us to go on having ever closer political union, but heaven forfend that we should end up with a politically united Europe.
People who believe in ever closer political union should have the courage of their convictions and say that they want a politically united Europe. They cannot say that they want one without saying that they want the other, because the one will inevitably lead to the other.
Conservative Members have gone into the human rights provisions in great depth and I do not intend to repeat their arguments. I shall merely point out that, in response to a question from me during the debate on 12 November, the Foreign Secretary said that he was willing to give me
"an undertaking that, so long as the Labour party is in power, it will not be possible to find 14 EU states that will agree that the Government are in serious and persistent violation of democracy or of human rights." – [Official Report, 12 November 1997; Vol. 300, c. 912.]
Much has been made of the example of the Greek colonels and much has been said about what we would do if an undemocratic regime came to power. My fear about the provision is not so much that it will be used directly against this country as that it could be used indirectly.
Suppose this country were in a minority of one, not over a human rights question but over some other matter such as our budget rebate or the beef crisis. Would it not be tempting for other EU states to invoke the clause on a completely separate issue, such as discrimination on grounds of gender or homosexual rights in the armed forces, not so as to overrule us on the matter of the human rights that allegedly we were persistently abusing, but to deprive us of our veto so as to overcome the fact that we were the sole member state blocking progress on the other issue? My concern is not about direct application, but about the indirect leverage given by article F.1, which would enable others to deprive this country of its protection, its veto and its voting rights.
The main purpose of my remarks is to deal with common foreign and security policy. It may come as a surprise to Labour Members –
Mr David Faber: Both of them.
Dr Lewis: As my hon. Friend observes, the Labour party is represented in this important Committee by fewer than the proverbial contents of a telephone box. I have a confession to make. It may come as a surprise to such of those dedicated Europhiles as are present on the Labour Benches to know that I am a Johnny-come-lately Euro-sceptic.
Mr Bercow: My hon. Friend took far too long.
Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I can even name the day on which I became a Euro-sceptic: it was 22 March 1995. I read an article in The Times, which was headed:
"Santer seeks right to shape foreign policy for Europe".
"Brussels should have the right to shape Europe's foreign and security policy, a power currently jealously guarded by the governments of the European Union's 15 member states, Jacques Santer, the President of the European Commission, said yesterday."
The article said that he had addressed the institutional committee of the European Parliament and had called for
"a strengthening of the European Commission as the guardian of the European treaties. He said the Commission should be given the right of initiative in foreign and security policy."
I have another confession to make. One does not often hear a politician say, "I was wrong," but I was wrong in my assessment of integration theory, about which I learnt when I studied international relations. Integration theory was developed more than a score years ago. As undergraduates, we were told by our lecturers that if states could not directly be persuaded openly to coalesce and to become a single nation state, they could indirectly be lured into doing so by a process of functional integration. The idea was that common patterns could be created through a particular sphere of activity so that states would be drawn together and, before they knew where they were, they would be irreversibly interlocked.
In my naivety, I thought that that would never work because states have a hard-headed understanding of their national interests. I thought that they would be drawn part of the way along that slope, but that they would see what was happening, would turn round and would retreat from it. I confess that I underestimated the power of functional integration. The process of creeping federalisation has undoubtedly been far more successful than one could possibly have anticipated.
Mr Bercow: I am following closely the logic of my hon. Friend's thesis. Does he agree that the people of Britain will never knowingly consent to being governed by those who do not speak their language, live in their country or depend on their votes?
Dr Lewis: I agree with my hon. Friend, but I am not saying that that will not happen because the operative word in his intervention was "knowingly". The methods that have been adopted bear a frightening resemblance to the methods that were used by other philosophies in the past. During the cold war, I often had to look at Marxist doctrine and the speeches of Soviet leaders. The people who delivered those speeches tried to cram as many words as possible into the smallest amount of thought. They tried to deaden the perception of people who were attempting to establish the propositions that were being conveyed by obfuscating them with massive amounts of jargon. In the end, people gave up rather than continue to try to tease out the meaning in the small print.
Not only has the technique of trying to bore people into not knowing what they are being lured into been used; people have tried selectively to misquote history. I have in mind the attempts to cite Winston Churchill and his Zurich speech in 1946 as if he were recommending that Britain should be part of a united states of Europe. I shall read a few brief extracts from his speech of 19 September 1946. He said:
"I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral leadership of Europe."
Later he said:
"Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of UNO."
The United Nations organisation. He continued:
"Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe . . . In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust, Soviet Russia – for then indeed all would be well – must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine."
That was under the aegis of a world body because in 1945-46 the United Nations was seen primarily as a "world security organisation". The phrase was often used interchangeably with "United Nations Organisation". In that context, it was possible to envisage regional groupings and alliances for collective self-defence.
It was greatly to the credit of the post-war Labour Government that they signed the treaty of accession to NATO in April 1949. The treaty contained vital provisions, especially in articles 3 and 5. Article 3 stated:
"In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this treaty, The Parties, separately and jointly by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."
Article 5 stated:
"The Parties agreed that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all".
When there is such a superbly strong, successful and impossible-to-improve NATO treaty, why is it necessary to create a common foreign and security policy? The answer is spelt out in article B of the Amsterdam treaty, which states:
"The Union shall set itself the following objectives:
"– to assert its identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defence policy".
That is not an intention to replace the NATO treaty or to improve the security of Europe's nation states. The aim is to assert the identity of this creature, the European Union, on the international scene. If there were ever a case of poor motivation for a dangerous act, that is it.
Sir Raymond Whitney: I am listening to my hon. Friend with great interest, not least because he and I have collaborated in the past on many ventures. On this issue our views are somewhat different. Is he not satisfied that the Amsterdam treaty clearly secures the role of the Western European Union and its relationship with the European Union rather better than was done by the Maastricht treaty, which I am sure my hon. Friend would also condemn? Surely that was, from his point of view, a step forward. The close relationship between the WEU and NATO is not challenged or threatened. My hon. Friend is concerned about the potential loss of sovereignty. He spoke about our NATO defence obligations. Does he agree that to some extent our membership of and commitment to NATO are a derogation of our sovereignty?
Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend makes two points. I warmly remember our joint ventures against the unilateralist policies of the Labour party in the 1980s. I could not have had a more staunch colleague in those battles. He was from the front rank and he held ministerial office during that important period for NATO as a whole. He asked about the pooling of sovereignty. I have another conceptual problem about that which is analogous to the one about closer political union without ever having a united political society. One cannot pool sovereignty any more than one can pool virginity. One either has it or has lost it. In the context of NATO, one must ask whether the loss of sovereignty is parallel to the loss of virtue.
Mr Bercow: Does my hon. Friend recall that, in the past, he likened the process of European integration to the process of seduction? He has observed to me and to others that the outcome in both cases seems to be the same.
Dr Lewis: I recognise my words of wisdom from the past, but I do not wish to be distracted from my words of wisdom in the present. On whether one has pooled sovereignty or lost virtue, the issue of NATO is a case in point. Nothing in the NATO treaty is irreversible, but the European treaties are irreversible. If there were a parallel with the NATO treaty, rather than a treaty from which one cannot withdraw or whose provisions cannot be reversed if they work out badly, I would be far more relaxed about these matters.
I am getting signs that I am using up my allotted time very quickly. The WEU is a useful political prop to NATO, but it could turn into the Achilles heel of the alliance because, naturally, the WEU does not have the involvement of America. The more that is done to build up the parts and aspects of NATO that exclude America, the more is done to undermine the basic security of Europe, which depends upon American involvement.
Mr Damian Green: I am worried that my hon. Friend's characteristic eloquence is masking an illogical position. He says that the European treaties that the United Kingdom has signed are irreversible and that it is impossible to pool sovereignty, which is like virginity; but this country has already lost its virginity and sovereignty, so all his arguments are a waste of time. On his own terms, his argument that we cannot pool sovereignty and that it is like virginity must be wrong.
Dr Lewis: With respect, that is not true; we are being asked to abrogate each aspect of sovereignty and we either keep that function or lose it irretrievably. Just as there is more than one person in a country, so there is more than one opportunity to lose one's virginity irrecoverably. There is no chance to recover subsequently each one of the functions that is lost.
Mr John Wilkinson: May I challenge one aspect of my hon. Friend's admirable speech? He says that the acquis communautaire is in essence an irretrievable process – an irrecoverable process. As a sovereign Parliament, could we not, if we had the support of the British people, abrogate the treaty on union, as we could any other treaty? We could make a unilateral declaration of independence at any time of our choosing.
Dr Lewis: We could do that at present but, as I have explained, the idea of economic and monetary union is to have a situation in which we could no longer do that because we would be subject to the authority of a single Government. We would be in no position to abrogate any of the treaties that we had been drawn into over previous years.
I wish to place other Amsterdam treaty provisions on the record. It says:
"The European Council shall decide on common strategies to be implemented by the Union in areas where the Member States have important interests in common.
"Common strategies shall set out their objectives, duration and the means to be made available by the Union and the Member States . . .
"The Council shall ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of action by the Union . . .
"Joint actions shall commit the Member States in the positions they adopt and in the conduct of their activity ...
"The Council shall adopt common positions. Common positions shall define the approach of the Union to a particular matter of a geographical or thematic nature. Member States shall ensure that their national policies conform to the common positions."
The treaty fulfils the aim that Jacques Santer set out in that speech in March 1995. He intended that the intergovernmental conference should do for foreign and security policy what Maastricht attempted to do for economic policy. I fear that the treaty will do that. I wholly oppose it and support the amendment.