During a Westminster Hall debate on EU-UK Relationship (Reform), Bill Cash made the following speech and interventions:
Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): (…)
I am going to talk this morning about the work of the Fresh Start project, which is a group of Conservative MPs who have spent the past year looking at all aspects of Britain’s relationship within the EU and at how we can get a better deal for British taxpayers.
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): I am listening to my hon. Friend with great interest. So far, she has not mentioned Mr Barroso’s speech of a couple of days ago. I wonder whether she appreciates that, however sensible her ideas may be on lists of functions and attitudes, the European Union does not have the slightest intention of entering any negotiations in that direction. That is the problem. I agree with most of what she says as a matter of aspiration, but the problem is we are not dealing with a European Union that is remotely on the same page.
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): My appeal is for all the Eurosceptic movements—the Euro-realists—to join together. The situation has now become critical. The Barroso speech sets out an agenda of more integration and a federal Europe, and we now confronted by the reality that they are not listening to us. They did not listen to us on Maastricht—it was our own Government who did not listen to us then. Fortunately, the Prime Minister himself has now said that he thought there should have been a referendum on that treaty, and that that would have sorted the matter out there and then. However, we are where we are. I am not seeking confrontation; I am seeking solutions. The situation is far too grave for us to be in a state of difficulty due to personalities or whatever else: we have unite around certain central principles.
I welcome the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom). She knows that I believe—I said so in an intervention—that time has run out. In the Liaison Committee the other day, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that he agreed with me that the situation in Europe was now unacceptable. I used the word “untenable”, but we came to an agreement. I suggested that we should have a convention so that we could get ahead of the curve and provide our basis, based on the principle of consent—on the fact that the people of this country, and for that matter the people of other countries, should decide, not the Euro elite and not the Governments who created this failed project, this undemocratic situation that has been allowed to develop. We need to get together. He said that that was a perfectly reasonable suggestion and that conversations were taking place in Europe. Unfortunately, the reality is that they have now been overtaken by the Barroso agenda. I fear that my right hon. Friend is, if I may say bluntly, in a contradiction: on the one hand, he says that it is unacceptable, but on the other hand he says we will not leave the European Union.
This kind of negotiation, or renegotiation, involves asking such fundamental questions about our relationship that other member states will not accept them. When they do not, our option will be clear: however much we might not want to, we will have to leave the European Union if that is the position that we have arrived at. The Barroso speech indicates that we are on a different page, so I call for urgency. We should have a referendum before the next general election. We should create the circumstances in which we are able to ask the British people, “What kind of Europe do you want?”
Mr Cash: One fundamental competence that I hope my hon. Friend agrees needs to be reviewed is whether the British people are able to govern themselves by their own consent in general elections. Does he not agree that that is the most fundamental democratic question that needs to be addressed on the European issue?
Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear that I will not answer that question directly this morning. I urge him and others, however, to engage positively and constructively with the forensic analysis of the balance of competences, which will feed into a national debate about the relationship that we should have with the European Union.
I want to be up front in ensuring that all hon. Members understand that the Government have been absolutely clear that there should be no further transfer of competence or powers from the UK to the EU over the course of the Parliament. That is in stark contrast with the Labour Government’s record. They were clearly wrong to sign the Lisbon treaty without consulting British voters in any way. They were quite wrong to give away £7 billion of our rebate and to get nothing in return, and they were quite wrong to drop out of our opt-out from the social chapter, which means that employment laws are decided in Brussels, not here.