Jump to content

European Communities (Amendment) Act 1986


Recommended Posts

Mr. Speaker,

I rise today to introduce to the House The European Communities (Amendment) Act of 1986.

Britain’s relationship with Europe was fundamentally changed in 1973 when the government headed by my friend the Right Honourable Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup brought the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. Two years later the British people gave a full throated endorsement of membership in a national referendum. Since that time successive Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries have sought to strengthen the bonds of connection with Europe while also protecting national sovereignty I am pleased to say that the European Communities (Amendment) Act of 1986 represents a strengthening of the institutional systems and a positive step towards increased democracy and transparency in Europe, while it enshrines national sovereignty.

This act will be the first substantial revision of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community with the goal of transitioning the common market to a single market by 1992. By implementing many of the recommendations of the so called Dooge report, the aim is to reduce barriers to trade and investment, streamline policy making and create what is essentially a free trade block within the member states. This legislation would also provide the necessary legislative and regulatory reforms to implement the proposals by the target date.

At a very high level when considering what this act would achieve it can be condensed into a few words: prosperity, transparency, accountability and sovereignty.  

The goal is to expand prosperity and reduce barriers to trade and investment. Freer trade has been the backbone of our economic policy for generations and rightly so as a rising tide lifts all boats. We want to encourage free flow of goods and money between member states so as to promote economic growth, reduce prices and create wealth at all levels. Unemployment across the whole of Europe has remained stubbornly high when compared to other industrialized countries and this is one of the tools available to us to put more people to work, more goods on the shelves and more money in the pockets of ordinary people. The European project had been spoken of in the abstract for many years. Yet now need only look around us to see it for the tangible reality that it is in places as simple as market and shop shelves.

This act would expand the powers of the European Parliament, increasing transparency and accountability by subjecting decision making to a greater deal of scrutiny. Not just more accountability, but through a more democratic means as well as for the first time the European Parliament’s members would be directly elected and be given real, meaningful powers to block proposals and agreements to serve as a legislative balance in the community. Issues such as membership expansion would require review and approval. Multiple readings of policy proposals may be required by the European Parliament – giving the opportunity for many voices and perspectives to be heard. Representatives of the people elected by the people acting in the interests of the people is something that everyone – supporter and opponent alike should be incredibly proud of. In order to ease decision making through collaboration and broad consensus, the Council of Ministers would move away from unanimity in decision making in many areas towards qualified majority voting in areas spanning from health and worker safety, to environmental concerns, economic cohesion and other areas. This shift encourages further cooperation and discussions between member states and through a series of give and take individual states such as Britain can forge consensus to achieve its aims even in the face of some opposition.

It has been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. I am a subscriber to this belief. By throwing open the doors of our institutions to inquiry, allowing representatives from member states small and large to bring forward their concerns for consideration and by amplifying the voices of citizens and their representatives we clear out smoke filled rooms and amplify the importance of the individual and the public interest. Mr. Speaker, that is one of the great aspects of creating institutions from the ground up through consensus – we’re empowered and emboldened by the freedom to create solutions and prevent problems.

Lastly but perhaps most importantly this act would protect vitally important national sovereignty by retaining our effective veto on matters related to taxation, the free movement of people and employment rights. Parliament is sovereign and it is right and fair that on the most important issues the ultimate power on decision making in the most important areas comes from this place, reflective and representative of the will of the people through their elected government. The argument made in the previous decade was that by giving up some sovereignty in limited areas we would see substantial economic benefit, increased cooperation in Europe and an increased likelihood of a lasting peace. That argument remains the same today and is strengthened, not weakened by this act.

This legislation represents a carefully considered and thoughtfully negotiated initiative to achieve a more prosperous, more democratic, more transparent and more accountable European community working in the interests of individual citizens and individual nations. Through our shared values and common purpose we can and will achieve the hope of a better, stronger and indeed ultimately safer tomorrow.

I look forward to the debate ahead and consider it a high honor and distinct privilege to present this legislation to the House.

Rt Hon William Carlisle MP PC

Deputy Prime Minister

Foreign Secretary

Member of Parliament for Devizes (1964)

Conservative Party

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. Speaker,

It disappointments me that the members on the benches opposite have nothing meaningful to contribute whatsoever to this very important debate. The future of our relationship with Europe is being considered and they have nothing to add? Extending meaningful powers to the European Parliament is not worthing of discussion? Firming up the single market, reducing barriers to trade and investment and paving the way to reduce unemployment in Britain is met by deafening silence? Absolutely shameful for Labour to be absent. 

Rt Hon William Carlisle MP PC

Deputy Prime Minister

Foreign Secretary

Member of Parliament for Devizes (1964)

Conservative Party

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. Speaker,

It is customary for the Foreign Secretary to jump the gun. He did so on the Anglo-Irish agreement, though jumping the gun and accusing these benches of 'deafening silence' when I can guarantee that's not what he will be presented with is less consequential at least.

Mr. Speaker, in the press the Foreign Secretary said we had provided 'complete endorsement' of his proposals. I would not go quite far, though on these benches we do believe broadly the right tone has been struck, Mr. Speaker. It would be no lie to say those of us in the Labour Party, including myself, have been on somewhat of a journey in regards to the European question. However, following the comments from Mr. Delours we have found a reason for excitement for the European project. The Labour Party understands that a single market gives the United Kingdom opportunity to raise, not lower, standards for workers and consumers. And while we have little faith in the government to take those opportunities, it is not one we can turn down.

This bill presents those opportunities. We also believe the appropriate safeguards are in place to safeguard sovereignty at home and transparency and accountability within Europe which would be crucial for further integration in the EU. There are further steps that can be taken to protect sovereignty and promote transparency. However, we are appreciative the government has taken that initial opportunity.

However, I do hope the Foreign Secretary can use his platform to continue to be a reforming voice within the European Union whilst protecting British interests. This legislation is a start, but our support for it should not allow the Foreign Secretary to feel he has a blank cheque. We sincerely hope he continues to push for a more democratised Europe, with more powers in the hands of elected representatives in the European Parliament; we hope he can reform CAP, which has not been written to advantage British farmers; and we sincerely hope the government will push for stronger workers rights and consumer protections within the European Union, using the single market as a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom. Should that be his vision for Europe, he will continue to have the support of the Labour Party. However, I do not remain optimistic that this will be the case.

Ruth Murphy.

Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton (1974-).

Opposition Whip (1982-).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr Speaker,

I rise today in a spirit of gratitude. My first reason for gratitude is to welcome what seems to be a new consensus in this body around the fact that our future is with Europe. Labour is now recognising that the European project provides a unique opportunity to raise standards and promote concerns of social justice; the Conservatives accepting that adversarial confrontation and go-it-alone obstruction is not in our nation's interests. The Liberal Party, and my distinguished friends in the Alliance, have consistently recognised these opportunities. It has, for us Liberals, been a logical end-point of our commitments to free trade and internationalism. To see the force of these arguments win the day, in spite of election results, is a good thing. That is one reason to be grateful for the relatively drama-free way in which this issue has been pursued.

There are voices on both the left and the right who have ardently fought against the European Community every step of the way. No overtures have swayed them - not the great political overtures of lasting peace in Europe and a guaranteed role for Britain in the future global order, not the more tangible economic benefits that come from free trade. This opposition has not just opposedn our entry into the European project, but all attempts to make it more effective and deliver much-needed reforms. I am grateful that such obstructionist views seem to have lost the internal arguments within their parties. I hope these parties now seize upon the imperative to make Europe work better, to continue these gains on democratic accountability and efficacy, and to seek further integration and common policies on areas where it would be helpful. I hope they prove, in short, not to be fairweather friends on this journey. I hope this proves to be a stable, lasting, and constructive consensus. I am grateful for the possibility that this hope now, for the first time in many years, now seems like a reasonable possibility. 

Another reason to be grateful is to be made in reference to other early decisions by this new Prime Minister. That the government is actually acknowledging the inescapable wisdom and limitless potential to be found in multilateral cooperation is a welcome relief. Many of us feared, following the jettisoning of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that this government would adopt such a cavalier attitude with all international agreements. It is a great relief that this government only has a selective reluctance to honour previous agreements - otherwise the damage to our international credibility would have been irreparable. Indeed, European membership presents one potential avenue through which constructive cross-border ties can be nurtured and protected, mutually beneficial discussions with the Irish Republic protected and solidified, and investments in peace secured. I am grateful that this avenue remains open. 

Throughout my career, I have always advocated for these sorts of steps as building a peaceful and more prosperous future. Britain's role in the world is to be advanced by closer ties with Europe, our collective ability to stand up for our interests and control our destiny enhanced by measures of this kind. Thus I posit that this kind of integration is to make us stronger, to protect our sovereignty in the long-term, to ensure that we retain our ability to influence global events and protect the needs and rights of British subjects in the years ahead. It allows us, in coordination and cooperation with the other economies of Europe, to compete with the economic powerhouses of the current age and, indeed, of future ages. Integration into a single market is a tremendous goal, and to accompany this integration with means of democratic legitimacy and sustained transparency is not just a political necessity but a moral requirement. That is why this bill has my unqualified support. 

The work does not end here, of course. We need more common policies on areas where European nations stand much to gain from standing together. This includes both diplomatic goals, such as the advancement of democracy and human rights both within and without the continent and in standing together to advance free trade and just development globally, and necessary economic and societal investments, in areas such as trade, infrastructure, energy, and social inequity. By working with our European partners, we can make great progress on goals such as energy conservation and the sustainable diversification of our energy mix; reducing the unjust scourge of youth unemployment and regional inequalities; and cementing Europe as a focal point for technological and industrial innovation. 

We need to be vigilant on political and institutional reform. As a first step, implementing proportional representation in the European Parliament will help ensure all voices are represented. Further steps, pursuing the goals of transparency, accountability and sovereignty that the Foreign Secretary highlighted, will of course be necessary. 

And we need to continue advocating for fixing the flawed structures of existing policies. The disproportionate weight put into the Common Agricultural Policy is grossly distorting and crowds out other priorities. 

Britain can play a constructive role in Europe. Europe needs the British contribution - in terms of expertise and ethos just as much as in terms of economic might - but Britain needs an effective Europe. That is the easiest way that we can invest in our future. I am glad the government is committed to that investment. 

Laurence Foltyn, Liberal MP for Colne Valley

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. Speaker,

I am delighted that the House is united behind this government's vision for a more democratic, more transparent and more accountable future in Europe. This rare unity behind our vision represents a consensus that Britain's place in Europe must be grounded in a relationship that strengthens our economy, protects our sovereignty and promotes British interests. 

Rt Hon William Carlisle MP PC

Deputy Prime Minister

Foreign Secretary

Member of Parliament for Devizes (1964)

Conservative Party

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...