Author Topic: European Union Bill | Safe Standing (Football Stadia) | Commons debates  (Read 2382 times)

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European Union Bill | Safe Standing (Football Stadia) | Commons debates
7 December 2010, 10:21 pm

As my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) said, this Bill comes at a very interesting time in our history, particularly the history of our relations with what is now the European Union. I was very much taken with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who described Britain's relations with the EU as being the opposite of a flirt. I beg to differ with him on that. My view of Britain's relations with the EU is quite simple: for years, we said no, then we said "Can we come in?", and then we said yes.

Frankly, in treaty negotiation after treaty negotiation, we have been the thorn in the side of other member states. I think particularly of the drawn-out negotiations that took place at Maastricht and, indeed, after Maastricht, where Britain secured some important opt-outs, notably on economic and monetary union, which then became the euro, and the social chapter, into which the last Labour Government wrongly brought us. It is interesting that the Labour Benches are largely empty. That is symbolic of Labour Members' attitude to the EU, which is a mixture of ignorance, indifference and their completely supine nature in negotiations on Europe.

I do not stand here as somebody who could be described as a dyed-in-the-wool Eurosceptic. In the tradition of my party, I would be described as pro-European Union. I make no apology for that whatsoever. It is because I am pro-European Union that I support this Bill, because I am also pro-democracy and transparency. The age in which the great and good could decide and determine the future of Europe in smoke-filled rooms-or air-conditioned rooms, as I should now call them-is, I hope, long gone. This Bill represents the beginning of the end of that sort of approach, because it brings transparency to proceedings.

I was interested in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Witham, who spoke eloquently about clause 3. She was right to make the point about ministerial discretion, but the clause makes it a conjunctive condition that an Act of Parliament has to be passed by this House. That is important because it will bring fairly and squarely before this House the sort of details that all too often in the past would have been the subject of covert negotiation. That is no longer acceptable to the people of this country. They no longer want decisions to be imposed upon them; they want to have an active role in decisions and to ensure that their elected representatives or they themselves have a direct say in important transfers of power to Europe. I support that, because as a pro-European Conservative who has taken part in many debates within my party-I concede that I have lost more than I have won-I am a firm believer in democracy.

Any institution that seeks to impose its will on its people without consent deserves to fail and the European Union is no exception. The great divide in Europe is no longer between member states; it is between its leaders and its people. That is why the Bill represents an important step forward and I am happy to support it.

Source: Robert Buckland's recent appearances (TheyWorkForYou)