FOREIGN AFFAIRS – THE LISBON TREATY – 18 June 2008

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The hon. Gentleman is waving at me in such a tempting and charming way, I feel that it is rightful that his should be the last intervention.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the gracious way in which he yielded the Floor.

It is rather hard to understand how there can be any purpose whatsoever in a country continuing with the ratification process if the treaty can come into effect only by unanimity. If I had £5 every time I heard, in the past 10 years and more, integrationists saying that the high watermark of integration has been reached and that the sea will now recede, I could retire from this House tomorrow and live very comfortably – [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Sadly, Labour Members will have to put up with me for a lot longer than that.

[Mr Miliband: It is clearly becoming fashionable among those on the Conservative Benches to resign one's seat. I hope that I speak on behalf of all my hon. Friends, when I say that I hope that the hon. Gentleman is one of the last in the long line of Opposition Members who are about to consult their electorate.]

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Dr Lewis: One aspect of the treaty that most people did understand was that if it had gone through – or if, heaven forbid, it still does – it would have been the last time that any question would have arisen of anybody having to have a referendum before making any further constitutional changes. That was the ratchet effect that it had. May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the very interesting Early-Day Motion 1828, tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West (Ian Davidson), which quotes the German Interior Minister as saying that

“a few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans”?

It looks as if some people thought that the treaty had already gone through, when, of course, that was the objective of putting the treaty through – to make sure that it could never happen again.

[Mr William Hague: Once again, my hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Early-Day Motions from the hon. Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr Davidson) are, when they are on this subject, full of wisdom. Indeed, I was going to make the same point – that it has been said that a country of 4 million cannot hold up a continent of 500 million, which is an extraordinarily revealing argument. The EU is a union of sovereign and independent nation states; it is not a sovereign polity in its own right, in which a single state's objections can be overridden by the majority of a federation. The fact that that argument was made – it was made in this House in response to the Foreign Secretary's statement on Monday – is indicative of a mindset that sees such a polity as the ultimate goal of the processes of the EU. That argument is not only wrong conceptually; it ignores the most salient fact that only those few million have had the chance to vote on the treaty – on this version of it – and that if others were offered the chance to vote, many more would reject it as well. Among those many, there is every indication that the vast majority of voters in this country would be included.]