John Redwood on the foreign policy aspects of the Lisbon Treaty

<strong>During last night’s debate on the foreign policy aspects of the Lisbon Treaty, John Redwood raised a number of issues arising from the treaty in relation to Britain’s relationship with the wider world.</strong>

<strong>Mr. Redwood: </strong>It is now quite obvious that we will not be able to debate the second set of amendments, which is what we really wanted to debate. I had stepped out in case we got on to them, but with a vote that will not now be possible. Once again, it is extremely difficult for the House when important and weighty issues such as the defence of the country cannot be debated, because another important group of amendments on foreign policy still need to be disposed of.

Earlier in this debate, the Government’s position lacked clarity. It is quite possible for the Government to come to the House and say that they really think it better to have a common European foreign policy on all the main issues, rather than a British foreign policy. That is not a proposition with which I agree, but it is a perfectly respectable and understandable position. If that is the Government’s position, they will of course want Britain to make compromises and to work more with our partners. They will also want that common foreign policy to be expressed by a single president, high representative or Foreign Minister of Europe and they will want that policy to be represented around the table of the UN Security Council.

As the United Nations begins to understand that that is perhaps the way in which the Government wish to operate, other member states of the United Nations will ask, “Why should these people have three representatives around the table, when there is effectively only one country from the foreign policy point of view and when they’ve tried to get an extra seat by the back door?” The Americans, the Chinese or the Russians might ask, “Wouldn’t it be neater and more sensible to have just the one representative representing the common European policy, rather than the French and British view as well, which should be the same on these occasions?”

For those who wish to see the position clearly, the difference in House is quite simple. There are those who think that having most of this country’s major foreign affairs policy positions agreed with our partners by compromise is the right answer. There are others of us who think that, while we can do that on some things, there are enough differences between our country and the other member states that it is much better to keep things intergovernmental, not to assume that there is nearly always going to be a common foreign policy, not to put Britain under constant pressure not to be the odd voice out or to be different, and to allow the British Prime Minister and the British Foreign Secretary, on all those issues where we have a different view or we have an interest and the other member states do not have a strong interest, to be able to carry on doing what we have always done and to be a senior country in world affairs, because of our history and, most importantly, because ours is one of the few countries that systematically stands up for freedom, decent rights and democracy, and is prepared to back that up with the lives of its young men and women, and with the money of its taxpayers.

We make a large contribution in world affairs, along with our American allies, our French allies and some others who sit around the UN table.

<strong>Mr. Cash: </strong>Does my right hon. Friend agree, as I suspect he would, that there is something utterly pathetic about the situation we have arrived at in this debate? The question whether our young men are to be sent off to war really should be debated. The question of how a common foreign and security policy is being developed is being ignored by the Committee thanks to the means that the Government have employed to frustrate debate—

<strong>The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means: </strong>Order. We must return to the debate. I call Mr. Redwood.

<strong>Mr. Gummer:</strong> On a point of order, Mrs. Heal. Is this not a suitable moment for the Government to announce that they will introduce an extra day of consideration on which we may deal with the second part of the debate?

<strong>The First Deputy Chairman:</strong> That is not a point of order for the Chair. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman’s comments will have been heard.

<strong>Mr. Redwood:</strong> Thank you for those wise words, Mrs. Heal.

Part of the argument on this group of amendments is whether there should be at the UN Security Council table a representative of the EU view. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the other UN member states would want that, unless that high representative or that president of the EU was backed by some effective European force. The whole point of the UN Security Council is the main powers—those countries that can use their diplomacy and influence with other countries—trying to form a common view that the General Assembly will accept. More importantly, the main powers form the most important part of any force that might have to be used by and in the name of the UN to enforce such a common strategy, if one or two other states in the world do not agree and force is unfortunately essential.

In this debate, we have not had enough clarity on the important issue of how on earth the EU could expect to be taken seriously in that seat without having such a force, which we are told would not exist as, we are told, there will be no common army. At the same time, I find it difficult to understand how we could avoid other UN member states making the perfectly reasonable point that, as we were moving towards that common position, and therefore the common use of our military forces, there should be only the one representative around the Security Council table.

There is a perfectly good solution to the problem whereby we will sometimes have a common policy and at other times not—that is, the current situation. If there is a common policy, we have France and Britain with seats. For some time, Germany has held a seat under the elected system. In relation to the position that they are adopting at the Security Council, those countries can pray in aid the additional strength that lots of other European countries agree with them. It is even better if we can join with a big country such as India.

There has been a lot of discussion about India. I happen to think that India is getting close to the point where it should have a seat on the UN Security Council. I hope that there will be discussions and negotiations, and if India wants to assume the responsibilities of a big world power—it is becoming a formidable economic power—I would be happy for Britain to see that take
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place. I am not happy to see this double banking and double-hatting through the EU, with all the muddle that that implies.

There needs to be a clear decision about whether these matters remain intergovernmental, in which case France and Britain would retain their seats, or whether we are in transit towards a world with a country called Europe that has a single foreign policy on all the things that matter. Then, of course, the balance of arguments would switch heavily and other UN member states would probably take a rather different view.

I hope that the Government will be more honest with the public and with Parliament about just how far the pressures will build for a common foreign policy under the Lisbon treaty as drafted. It is all very well for Ministers to say that the main decisions will remain subject to unanimity; that is true under the text that we are being asked to approve. But we all know what will happen: because the treaty also says that we have to show solidarity and loyalty and form common positions, there will be remorseless pressure on every major foreign policy issue to produce a common position. If it is not in Britain’s interest to agree with the rest, we will be put under pressure and made to feel bad until we agree.

There are four different types of issue. There are ones where we naturally agree with our leading allies in Europe, in which case we can have a common position. There are ones where we care a lot and they do not, where we should be able to do what we want. There are ones where they care a lot and we do not, where they should be able to do what they want without us stopping them, as long as they do not do it in the name of the European Union. Finally, there will be areas where we disagree; in those areas, Britain must retain her independence, and that is not compatible with having a president and a European seat on the Security Council.

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3 Comments

  1. mikestallard
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Alleluia!
    When I turned on the TV to watch the Parliamentary debate, there were 5 Labour members of parliament lounging on the seats while Bill Cash, MP, was speaking. One of them was the foreign secretary who spent most of the time looking at the door. At the end of the speech he disappeared and Patricia Hewitt came in.
    The conservative benches were much fuller.
    Meanwhile, sandwiched between America and Russia, Europe has no troops that are allowed to fight, no realistic support for Nato and no government with a popular mandate.
    It is a push over.
    I am so glad that just one person can put this into parliamentary language as clearly and firmly as you did.

  2. Freeborn John
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    There are many valid points expressed here. Particularly of note is that the UN Security Council exists for a purpose, namely to act as the sword of justice that the League of Nations lacked. Membership therefore implies both a military capability (which the EU cannot bring to the table without the creation of an EU army) but also responsibility such as not to shirk difficult action when it is truly necessary. It seems to me that the pacifist political culture of many EU member states is such that the EU would tend towards vetoing even necessary military action and in staying the hand of the UNSC sword would reduce the UN to the impotent talking shop that was the League of Nations. The consequences for the future security of the planet would then be grim.

  3. Posted July 27, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both–a philosopher.FriedrichWilhelmNietzscheFriedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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