I agree with right hon and hon Members from both sides of the House when they

I agree with right hon and hon members from both

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I agree with right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House when they say that it is really important that Europe can grow up with its population—its population has been running ahead of it. People are concerned about the way in which some aspects of the bureaucracy in Brussels operate. Anyone who has served as a Minister, whether they were a Conservative Minister or a Labour Minister, will know how difficult it is sometimes to deal with that. The treaty seeks to give more power to those countries that can co-operate, for example on QMV. Maastricht extended QMV. If hon. Members look at the figures on the application of QMV, they will find that when it is used in the European Council, the UK is on the winning side 90 per cent. of the time. That means that the rest of Europe is following our agenda. When Labour first came into power in 1997, we were on the fringes of Europe. Because of the actions of this Government over the past 10 years, we lead the agenda in Europe. People listen to and have enormous respect for what the British Government say when they speak at European Council meetings. If we reject the treaty, we will throw that respect and influence away, and that would be totally wrong. 11 Mar 2008 : Column 196 Mr. MacNeil: I hear what the right hon. Gentleman is saying about respect and leadership, but is he seriously telling us that since we went into Iraq five years ago respect in the EU for the UK has been enhanced? Keith Vaz: Absolutely. In 1997, this country was on the fringes of Europe. We were not even consulted on issues. We were put on the sidelines because of the strong relationship between France and Germany. It is simply not possible in a Europe of 27 for France and Germany to run the EU. Many of the countries that have come in, such as Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria—all the eastern and central European countries— look to the UK as their champion. We are the champion of enlargement and we led the enlargement process. Mr. Clappison: The right hon. Gentleman is making a sincere and well-argued speech. However, is not the credibility of what he says shot down on both counts—on the transparency of the EU and on the Franco-German relationship—by the way in which the treaty came into being? It was railroaded through by the German presidency and all the other countries were kept in the dark, allegedly until 48 hours before the convening of the intergovernmental conference? Keith Vaz: I have huge respect for the hon. Gentleman as a fellow member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I know that he thinks very carefully about these issues. We
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cannot sit on the sidelines. We have to influence what is happening. We cannot allow this huge, monolithic body, which has 27 members and affects 500 million people, to be run by rules and regulations that were invented 30 years ago. The whole thing would grind to a halt. Enlargement has meant that we need the treaty.
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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