UK Parliament debate on the EU Fiscal Treaty
A feel for the grave emergency represented by this Non EU Treaty has at least been recognised in one part of the Palace of Westminster! Not so for the opposition, whose benches were virtually deserted throughout.
The Hansard report has now started to appear and I will append my own notes recorded as the debate proceeded with links to that record as the evening progresses. It begins from here.
Bill Cash did his usual accomplished job of pointing out the dangers and legal pitfalls represented by the Treaty, planned to be signed by only 25 of the present EU member states, thereby not (yet) a full EU Treaty! The most startling revelation for me was the fact that the Foreign Secretary William Hague, in spite of having been urged to appear before Cash's European Scrutiny Committee, has refused do to do, and is not scheduled to appear until the end of March when it will be too late. A typically arrogant thumbing of the nose to democracy by this increasingly irritating non-entity, who has amazingly managed to make his two immediate predecessors appear vaguely competent!
Denis Macshane, unusually in my view made a good contribution to the debate. This passage seemed to me particularly effective:
Let us be clear: the Commission is not involved in this. The European technocracy and bureaucrats are not involved in this; they are utterly sidelined. This is about the raw politics of anger in Germany against Greece, and the raw politics in Greece against Germany. It is also about the raw politics of the Conservative party in this House, some of whose members rightly feel that all the pledges made by their leader, now the Prime Minister, on referendums, renegotiation and repatriation have not in any way been delivered. That is what is causing upset and concern in the House of Commons. I am sure that it was also raw politics in Ireland that led the Taoiseach to agree to the referendum there. We know that Monsieur Hollande has said that, if elected, he will renegotiate the treaty. We also know that Mr Rajoy, the new conservative leader in Spain, has said that he will not implement a Merkozy-type dose, because Spain could not take it.
We need a new approach in Europe, and in this country. I would have no problem if, after 15 years of wallowing in Euroscepticism, the Conservative party rejoined the real European world. I would like to see Conservative MEPs sitting with other centre-right MEPs, precisely to create the links that the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire mentioned. We need more engagement, and not in order to join some Euro-federalist nirvana—that is not on offer at the moment. We are living in not a two-tiered Europe but a multi-tiered Europe, and we have to be part of it. We are not at the moment, but I hope that the Government can change their course before it is too late.
Also from Labour Rhonda, Chris Bryant was impressive. Some quotes:
Undoubtedly the speech of the day came from Conservative MP for Wokingham John Redwood, which I thus quote in full. It appears in the Hansard report from 2:07 pm:
It is a shame that the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) is no longer in her place. I gather she is often referred to nowadays as the new iron lady—although I do not know who will get an Oscar for playing her in the future. I profoundly disagree with her that a multi-tier Europe is a good idea. During my four and a half seconds as Minister for Europe the BRIC economies—Brazil, Russia, India and China, and for that matter, Mexico—repeatedly told me, “It is essential that we know that we are dealing with a single market.” If we decide to cut up the single market, with lots of different tiers of different elements of legislative proposals, it will do us damage with the growing economies of the world. China is not interested in dealing with 27 different countries in Europe; it is interested in doing business in Europe. If it is going to be more difficult to do business in Europe, it will do business elsewhere—and we will have cut off our nose to spite our face.
I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash) about the danger of technocratic Governments being imposed on other European countries. There has always been an element of democratic deficit within the European Union. In a sense, it is almost inevitable—unless we choose to elect a single President and Government of Europe, to which I would be wholeheartedly opposed because I do not think that there is a single people of Europe.
This debate is about the future of democracy itself. There can be no more important issue. We are considering a draft treaty that presumes to take substantial powers of decision over how much a country can spend, how much a country can tax and how much a country can borrow from the democratic choices of the member state to a centrally imposed system, which it is hoped will make the euro work better. This matter is of vital importance to the United Kingdom because we wish our neighbours to live in democratic prosperity for their own sakes, because we wish to trade with them successfully and because we wish to make sure that there is no danger whatever that our cherished freedoms and independence as a member state that has deliberately kept out of the euro could in any way be damaged by this treaty, which presumes to use European Union institutions to enforce a non-European institution will.
The peoples of western Europe are right to be mightily worried about the bad state of health of their respective democracies where they have adopted the euro. We see daily on our televisions or hear reported on our radios dreadful scenes from Greece, Spain and Italy, which are struggling with the common economic discipline and policy being imposed today. The German-led new treaty says that such discipline is not strong enough, that there needs to be more mutually assured deflation and that there needs to be a madness imposed on these countries to try to see whether the euro will work.
Ministers rightly say that they must not say anything in public or be seen to do anything in public that makes the difficulties of the euro area worse. I fully endorse that approach. They should never normally comment on the euro, because it is too dangerous, it is too difficult and it is up to those in the euro to say what they wish about how their currency is developing. But how it develops is of grave interest to us, so I urge my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to ensure that, in private, when he is round the table, as he will be, with all the other leaders and with a right to a view, he speaks truth to their impotence. He should say to those assembled leaders struggling to get a grip on their recalcitrant economies and some stability into their very unstable currency, “This is not working.” He should tell them that, in truth, the treaty before us this afternoon cannot conceivably make the euro work. Other things can help to ease the pain of the euro, and in another debate we could discuss many other policies that could pull off the trick of getting many countries through and the euro out the other side, but this treaty is not the way to do it.
This treaty is deeply offensive to many democratic peoples in the countries of western Europe that will face it. It reinforces a German view of how to make the economies of western Europe work that clearly is not working. If part of the medicine for a country that has borrowed too much is to spend less and borrow less in the public sector—that can be the right approach, and I can think of countries where that could apply—at the same time a series of policies have to be adopted to promote growth in the private sector, so that there is some hope, there are some new jobs and there could be new tax revenue coming in.
Where the EU is proposing tax rises, it needs tax reductions on enterprise, business and success. Where it is proposing a bigger monetary straitjacket, it needs monetary ease. It is now creating a very big monetary easing across the eurozone as a whole by tipping trillions of printed money into the system to try to make it work, but that new money cannot possibly help Greece or Portugal, because they have frozen and damaged banks, they are under the austerity cosh, and representatives of the European Union are going in and treating them as if they are damaged economies that cannot conceivably pull through.
The euro scheme is damaging the confidence that Greece and Portugal need in order to see light at the end of the tunnel; it is putting people off investing there. Why would someone go to Greece to invest through euros, if they think that it may be driven out of the currency and forced into a big devaluation? Why would they seek to do business in Greece when the banks are frozen and they are not benefiting from the liquidity injection that is helping the corporate bond market and the Government bond market, temporarily, in Italy and in Spain?
Above all, our Prime Minister has to secure and protect the British interest. We in this House should be very proud of what our predecessors created, obtaining control over how much is raised in taxation, how much is spent and how much this country borrows and prints. We are rightly out of the euro, because those in it cannot conceivably maintain democratic control over those issues. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) for raising this issue today before the summit, but we are worried that—inadvertently, I am sure—the Government might get us dragged into much greater supervision of our economy by the European Union, in a way that signs us up to the very mad policies that we are rightly warning them cannot conceivably work.
Europe is at risk: jobs are being destroyed; economies are being gravely damaged; the people are on the streets; and the main political parties in these European countries are signing up to exactly same policy, so even where a general election takes place the popular will is thwarted, as people do not have a proper choice if they stick to the main parties. In one or two countries Governments are even being changed by the European elite without a single vote being cast and without the democratic view of the people and their parties being consulted. Surely everyone in this House is ashamed of that. Surely we all unite in saying that the thing that brings us together is our belief in the power of the ballot box, the voice of the elected representative and the right of people to choose and to say that a policy is failing. We are told by the European establishment that only its policy can work. There is no evidence whatsoever that the policy is working, but there is massive evidence of the damage it is doing.
The final point I would like to highlight from the debate was made by Jacob Rees-Mogg with the important and concise penultimate contribution to the timed out debate from Richard Drax, herewith:
....a key part of the treaty may already be in breach of European Union law. I refer hon. Members to article 8, which states:
“If the European Commission, after having given the Contracting Party concerned the opportunity to submit its observations, concludes in its report that such Contracting Party has failed to comply with Article 3(2), the matter will be brought to the Court of Justice of the European Union by one or more Contracting Parties.”
What that says is that the European Commission may end up enforcing requirements under the stability pact in direct contradiction of TFEU—the treaty on the functioning of the European Union—126(10).....
A further aspect of the treaty concerns me. Article 16 says that the treaty will be rolled into the TFEU within five years, so it will become part of the whole package of European Union law within five years. It is currently thought, though others may think differently, that it would not have been possible for this treaty to be brought in under enhanced co-operation. However, there is a school of thought that maintains that the ESM treaty which is awaiting ratification by Parliament would allow enhanced co-operation to be used, in which case this treaty could be rolled into the European Union’s treaties without the say-so of the House, under enhanced co-operation. We should be deeply concerned about that, not least—going back to article 8—because it refers to how countries may be fined...
Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con):
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) for securing the debate. He stands up for everything in which I and a lot of Members on both sides of the House believe.
I simply do not understand why we all look at this huge abyss, this black hole, this legal and financial federalist nightmare, yet go on pouring billions of euros into it in the hope that it will somehow recover. It will not. The political elite in the entire eurozone are betraying the very people they say they represent.
We are going to have tears over this. We have, unfortunately, already had riots in Greece: God forbid that we have riots in this country one day when the people wake up to realise that we have been, dare I say it, disingenuous—I will not say untruthful because I am not allowed to use that word in this House—to our electorate. We have to be truthful, and we have to base our politics on common sense and the law. I want us to have jobs, growth, wealth and mobility, but we will not get them under the current EU federalist state. We must renegotiate and start talking. I urge those on the Front Bench, please, for our party and our country, to say at the meeting, “Enough is enough: let’s sit down and find a more common-sense approach for the future.”