Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Who governs? That is the fundamental question before us in this mighty debate today. At what point does a self-governing country have to say it is no longer self-governing because the body of European law and the wide-ranging body of European decisions are so fundamental that Ministers and this Parliament can no longer effectively govern the country?
Too many of us have watched and seen as Governments have given away mighty powers of self-government from these islands and from this once great Parliament to the European institutions, and we have worried greatly. This has been done in the name of the British people, but it has not been done with the consent of the British people. There has always been an excuse not to trouble the British people, and so often outside this House political parties have misled the British people.
The British people were told that they were joining a common market. It was very clear from the treaty of Rome onwards that they were joining a political, economic and monetary union in the making. They were told that they just belonged to a single market, needed to guarantee jobs in certain export industries. There were two misleading things there. First, we do not need to belong to the EU to export to the EU. Many other countries outside it export much more successfully than we have done from inside it. Secondly, it was always a far bigger and more noble venture in the eyes of its architects, its fathers and mothers, than a mere single market or internal market.
I ask Members of this Parliament to look around and see what has been done in their names—to see how difficult it is now for Ministers of the coalition, future Ministers, Conservative or Labour Administrations to do many of the things they would like to do or their electors wish them to do, because so many powers have been given away. The bigger the corpus of European law becomes, the more constrained are not just our Ministers, but this once-great Parliament.
Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the cars exported from the UK to mainland Europe today are a result of foreign direct investment to the UK because the UK is within the European Union, not outside the European Union?
Mr Redwood: No. That is a trivial point compared with the issues that I am raising, and it is entirely wrong, because there are many countries outside the EU that attract as much as or more inward investment than we do. I want, as does the hon. Gentleman, to keep those jobs, and we will continue to attract and support that inward investment as long as we have a satisfactory enterprise economy here and a decent market. We have a very large market of our own. That is why those investments come here.
The hon. Gentleman needs to look around and see how many powers have been taken away. We can no longer have an agricultural policy of any kind unless it is the approved one from Brussels. Our fishing grounds are completely controlled and regulated from Brussels. Our energy policy is greatly circumscribed by a large amount of European legislation, regulation and price control, and many more decisions coming along on climate change and energy, which means that it is very difficult to have an enterprise-oriented energy policy in this country.
We find that we do not control our own borders. We have no say over who comes here from the continent of Europe, and they have come in very large numbers in recent years. Many of them are welcome, but a sovereign country has the right to decide who comes and on what terms. We were always assured by Governments that we kept control of our welfare policy—that that was a matter for domestic consideration. We now find that the EU presumes to instruct us to whom we give benefits and what benefits we give them.
Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): This is a grand opportunity to ask the right hon. Gentleman, as I asked the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash), to outline what position he would take and on what issues he would vote to leave the EU—on a matter of emotion, or can he give me some specific issues that he says should persuade his party and his Government to vote no when it comes to a referendum?
Mr Redwood: I wish to help restore democracy in our islands and to do that we need to regain the veto. We should not have sacrificed 100 vetoes at Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. This Parliament needs to be able to decide whether a new law goes forward or not; otherwise we will find that in ever more areas—I am just beginning to illustrate some of them—we are a fax or an e-mail democracy. We receive the e-mails or the faxes from Brussels and this Parliament has to put through the measure, whether we like it or not. That creates a tension within our democracy. Successive Governments bring measures to this House and recommend them to this House. They are very fundamental measures, but they often sneak them through this House, or sneak them through upstairs, because they fear they are unpalatable to us. However, they know that there is nothing that the House of Commons can do once the agreement has been made in Brussels—and very often it is made without the wholehearted consent of the British Minister. In the case of this Government, it may often be made against the wishes of the British Minister, but this House is still expected to put through these measures come what may.
That is why we need a Government who resolutely negotiate a new relationship for us with our partners in Europe. Of course, I give no ground to anybody in wanting to maximise jobs and investment in this country, and my recommendations would increase that rather than reduce them, as we find with non-EU members already. However, I also wish to see the Prime Minister’s great speech used as a platform for setting out how we recreate a democracy and secure the right in this House to say no to European laws if we do not like them. We have waited a long time for a Prime Minister who would say honestly that this country does not share the aim of the treaties and of many of the member states of the European Union because we do not wish ever-closer union.
I have heard very few Labour Members say that they want ever-closer union, because they know that that means political, monetary, fiscal, economic and every kind of union known; it means the creation of a united states of Europe. Those who wish to join that, I wish well, but it was never Britain’s view that we wanted to be part of a united states of Europe. The British people, if asked, would say no to that idea. It is up to us now, at this late hour, to say that too many powers have gone and that they need to be returned if we are to restore this once-great Chamber to what it once was.
This Parliament wrestled power from over-mighty monarchs. This Parliament took on those who wished to dominate the continent of Europe and rejected the imperial ambitions of first Spain, then France, and then Germany. Because of the work of our predecessors in the House of Commons, we as a nation said to Europe: “We want a Europe of the free. We want a Europe of independent nations. We want a Europe where people’s sense of local belonging is respected. We are against a tyranny. We are against an over-mighty Europe. We do not believe that Europe can be governed as a whole.”
How proud that vision was, and how right it is that our Prime Minister has reminded us of the foundations of our beliefs: no to ever-closer union, yes to more democracy; no to restrictions and too much centralised government from Brussels, yes to greater freedom to breathe and to decide and to choose among all the smaller countries of western Europe. I suspect that many countries out there and many politicians in them respect that vision and are rather impressed by its boldness. We should all join together now in rallying the peoples of Europe to say yes to friendship, yes to trade, yes to co-operation, but no to centralisation and no to authoritarian interference.