John Redwood’s contribution to the Third Reading of the European Union Bill, 8 March 2011

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I, like my right hon. and hon. Friends, welcome the two aims of this legislation. The first, to hold a referendum on any future transfer of power, is vital to try to secure some democratic legitimacy for what might happen next. The second, to assert that this House and Parliament in general is sovereign, even over European law, is excellent, but I hope that Ministers will take away from this debate the great sense of unease among many colleagues, who feel that the Bill does not deliver what Ministers say it intends to.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) just said, we face a large transfer of powers in all sorts of areas at the moment-in criminal justice, in City and business regulation, in the External Action Service and, soon, in economic governance. Any one of those areas would deserve a referendum, but the whole lot together would make a good package for testing out the Government’s new enthusiasm for democracy and the debating skills of the Opposition, who say that that is exactly what the British public want. What is stopping them, other than fear and the belief that, perhaps, the British public would not vote for such measures after all?

I am also worried about the assertion of the parliamentary sovereignty clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) has probed and tested it, and there are legal dangers on the route that we are now taking. Sovereignty is something that we have for a period if we are prepared to use it, but it is also possible to let it slip away or to lose it, and we cannot make this Parliament sovereign by a single clause in a piece of legislation. It means nothing. This Parliament will be sovereign again only if it wishes to be; this Parliament will be sovereign again only if it has some political will; this Parliament will be sovereign again only on the day it says to the European Union, “We disagree with you on this. You will not give us what we want by negotiation, so we are going to legislate for ourselves.” Ministers should not pretend that this Bill has resolved the problem.

Let us take the issue of fish. I have heard Ministers, from all parties that have been in government, say to the House that they, like me, thoroughly disagree with the discard policy, think that it is wrong and intend to negotiate a better answer. No better answer has been negotiated. We gave the European Union 20 years’ warning. Why do we not simply legislate now to take ourselves out of the common fisheries policy and show that this Parliament is sovereign and works in the interests of the British people and a great British industry.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Redwood: I do not have time, otherwise I would be very happy to.

Mr Davidson: You have the support of Labour’s Back Benchers!

Mr Redwood: That’s great; I am very glad that I have the support, from a sedentary position, of Labour’s Back Benchers.

If this Parliament is never prepared to legislate against the views and wishes of the European Union, people will rightly conclude that the European Union is now sovereign. I mentioned in earlier debates on this legislation that the Crown remained sovereign for a long time in our country, and that Parliament whittled its powers away. There is no precise date on which people all agree that the Crown ceased to be sovereign and that Parliament replaced it, but the situation illustrates that, if we make too many concessions, make too many mistakes and grant too many powers on lease, one day we will not be able to get those powers back. The Crown discovered that it had given away too many powers and lost too many battles, and perhaps power finally resolved to Parliament on the day when they murdered-or killed-the King. That was a fairly definitive act, but it took place after a long series of battles and struggles when power had been ebbing away from the monarchy-and the monarchy was invited back.

I want no such violence in resolving the issue with the European Union, but I do want some political strength and some political substance. Surely, the European Union now does so many things that rile the British people that we should take matters into our own hands.

As my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will always want to be diplomatic and to negotiate, I give them this final thought in the few minutes that I am allowed. The Germans, for their own reasons, think that they need a treaty change to accommodate the bail-out activities and the huge increase in economic governance powers that they intend to take over the other member states of euroland. They need our signature on that, even though we are not a member state of euroland.

I do not believe for one moment that we will be exempted from many of the requirements for information and common policy formation and negotiated solutions, even if we are opted out for the time being from the power of the fine. We will be dragged into the situation. I wish the Government would not only say, “We have no intention of being dragged into it and seek clearer language,” but to confirm that, say, “As proof of good faith, we want economic powers back.” The latest language from the Government suggests that we are going to keep control over the main elements of our taxation system, not our taxation system as a whole-a red line that the previous Government always said that they had attempted to preserve. We can see the drift in economic powers and economic governance.

The British Government must stand up for British interests. They will have no better chance than the new treaty that is about to be negotiated-so please, Government, use it, don’t lose it.


  1. Sue
    March 9, 2011

    What’s the point of all this now? Duff (with Cameron’s support apparently) is being the ultimate (pro European) and if he gets his way, will completely nullify all of this!

    We are the “British Problem” doncha know? I’d love to meet this man. I’m not a violent person, far from it, but I’d “Duff” him up

  2. HK
    March 9, 2011

    JR: “The latest language from the Government suggests that we are going to keep control over the main elements of our taxation system, not our taxation system as a whole”

    Please could you spell these details out in a later post? I thought I had been paying attention, but I must have missed the change in nuance that suggests this.

  3. Christopher Ekstrom
    March 9, 2011

    Well done Mr. Redwood! Use it or lose it; that’s a phrase lots of MP’s can understand…

    Time is not on our side. The WWII generation would never have voted away Parliment.

  4. lifelogic
    March 9, 2011

    Excellent contribution you ask “What is stopping them, other than fear and the belief that, perhaps, the British public would not vote for such measures after all?”.

    Clearly there is no other reason than this belief and that they clearly wish to continue the current course to a big state, socialist, undemocratic superstate. There is no other sensible explanation.

    1. lifelogic
      March 9, 2011

      Now that all sensible countries and even Obama has abandoned the great green /carbon pricing agenda. I wonder when the EU will finally turn too. Anyone wanting a good laugh should listen to the link on James Delingpole’s blog to a radio interview with an EU “expert” on carbon markets for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action.

      Very funny if you forget about all the billions of our money they are just tipping down the green drain and rendering UK businesses unable to compete at the same time.

      1. lifelogic
        March 9, 2011

        Just after the half way through the link.

  5. J leslie smith
    March 9, 2011

    I wonder how many voices of Honourable Members of the House support you in the Lobbies on this critical issue of our Sovereignty. I have never voted for ANY MP to give my sovereignty, to anyone. You are there to represent us for about four years, nothing more, nothing less. MP’s have no right to commit to any Legislation, or Treaty, which gives away, or dilutes my sovereign rights. It is fundamental to any Representative Democracy that this principle be upheld and honoured. Would you not agree Mr Redwood?

    1. lifelogic
      March 9, 2011

      I certainly agree.

      Otherwise it is like directors giving away a company without the owner shareholders having a proper say – thinking about it due to week company law and controls this happens to a degree quite often in companies. Directors taking or giving away shareholders assets like MP’s and voters.

  6. ferdinand
    March 9, 2011

    Here we go again. Burke, where are you now ?

    “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

    So right Mr.Redwood, we are fast approaching no return, yet when talking to people I hear no one who wants us to move further towards Europe.

  7. alan jutson
    March 9, 2011


    Good to see you are putting your points across in such a manner that even a chink in the total Labour EU support maybe shifting towards the Eurosceptic view (or realistic view of Europe and our position) albeit a very small chink.

    Unfortunately I also listened to Prime Ministers Questions today, when Cameron was asked directly if he would give us a referendum on Europe, and he replied with a No, as he thought we were better off in Europe.

    Time will tell for him, if in future negotiations if he cannot stop the juggernaught.

    Use it or lose it. I like it. !

    What a shame the front bench still do not get it.!

    1. lifelogic
      March 9, 2011

      Cameron might well think we are better off in but it is what the people think that matters he is just a short term director and was only voted in on a false prospectus .

      How can we have a referendum on relatively minor things like AV and in Wales but non on this overriding issue. Put the question on the same AV paper and it need cost nothing.

      He know he will loose simple at that.

    2. sm
      March 10, 2011

      ‘Cast Iron Dave’….. now says no!

      What was he in Egypt for? a reminder and lessons in democracy? Are they waiting for the results of the census (where are you from) before they risk the wrong result?

      Is it possible for someone legal aid funded (please) to petition the ECHR to make a ruling that they hold a referendum here? That may be prove stimulating.

  8. Scottspeig
    March 9, 2011

    The worrying sense I get, is that you shouldn’t have to be saying all this! All our MPs should be of the same view and vote accordingly. If only more were as you are. Unfortunately, there are some who would seek to remove any negotiating power – the Libdem MEP Andrew Duff for example –

  9. forthurst
    March 9, 2011

    “What is stopping them, other than fear and the belief that, perhaps, the British public would not vote for such measures after all?”

    Don’t forget the BBC: an organisation with an intense hatred of the English and any expression of their independence from the diktats of their chosen betters within and without this country.

    Most of BBC output is about grooming rather than informing or entertaining so assume that in any referendum, the BBC would not be shy in flaunting its Cultural Marxist treachery.

  10. sjb
    March 9, 2011

    The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries proposed an end to discarding fish but the plan has not found favour with the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation.

  11. Richard
    March 9, 2011

    Thankyou for yet another excellent contribution to this most important subject.
    I thought that Jacob Rees-Mogg also made a very good speech later in the debate.

    As you say, “If this Parliament is never prepared to legislate against the views and wishes of the European Union, people will rightly conclude that the European Union is now sovereign”

    How can we be “at the heart of Europe” or “good Europeans” if we never ever assert ourselves as a member nation.

    Why are we so afraid of a little temporary controversy that we will not do what would be so popular with domestic voters and just say we will not agree to obey the stupid EU fishery laws, as just one example of many I could pick.

    The EU would be shocked but in the long run it would become a better and more democratic institution if memeber nations developed a teenage style behaviour phase and just refused to comply.

  12. Duyfken
    March 9, 2011

    Good spirited speech presented forcefully – congratulations on a sovereign performance (or should that be “Sterling”).

  13. Alan Wheatley
    March 9, 2011

    A search of the BBC’s web site for “European Union Bill” and “Third Reading” brought forth but a single hit, and that was in a blog of the previous week predicting a busy week ahead in the Commons. So that is what the BBC think of the issue – nothing in news and current affairs.

  14. Javelin
    March 9, 2011

    Would have been nice to have heard the words Democracy, Transparency, Accountability and Responsibility used.

  15. Martin
    March 9, 2011

    I have to disagree with your comments about fish. Heath & Wilson’s governments followed a policy of “all allowed to fish up to the 3 mile limit” to try and protect the then huge deep sea fishing fleet (based at Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood and Aberdeen) that fished off of Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the White Sea.

    This doomed policy weakened Heath’s entry stance regarding fish and the then EEC. Countries like the USA wanted a 200 mile fishing limit and supported Iceland etc. We lost our deep sea fishing fleet and weakened our inshore fishing fleet because of a failed policy that assumed Britannia ruled the waves.

  16. Mr Ecks
    March 9, 2011

    Well done on your part Mr Redwood

    What reply did you get from your front bench “right honourable” friends?.

    In my minds eye I can see the smirk on Cameron’s face.

    I’d like to get a set of brass knuckles and carve “Property of the EU” in relief on the striking surface. That is a legend that would look so apt on Camerons giant plastic forehead-don’t you think?—-feel free to censor that last bit John. Brazen traitors make me a little crazy.

  17. English Pensioner
    March 9, 2011

    You must be an incurable optimist if you think there will be any change. Both in opposition and now in government, the Tories at the top have shown themselves unwilling to ask, let alone fight for changes. With the LibDems fervently in favour of the EU I cannot imagine anything will be done which might cause any upset in the coalition.

    If they had genuinely wanted change, surely they could have flatly refused to agree the EU’s demand for a budget increase, and insisted on a reduction. This would not have been so “earth shattering” as to break the EU, but would have put a very firm “marker” in place. But they just caved in, and in not doing anything, they have demonstrated to me, that as with Labour, they are all talk. No wonder UKIP is making gains, getting more votes in Barnsley than the combined parties of government.

    Nevertheless, I am very supportive of your actions, I’m trying to find out if my own MP took part in the debate.

  18. Mark
    March 9, 2011

    Use it or lose it!

    Not advancing your cause. Scrum down, opposition ball.

    It is all very well for Cameron to claim that we are better inside the EU changing things than out – but it is absurd then to leave matters rest there without taking action. We need to turn round and say boo on energy policy (as the Dutch are doing), we need to regain control over employment law and taxes, we need to make our own decisions about justice and rights and much else besides. In fact, by the time you examine the list, it’s easy to conclude that we may be BOO rather than risk being sunk with the EU battleship.

  19. J leslie smith
    March 9, 2011

    Methinks, that John Redwood could well be a future Candidate for Leader of his Party once more, as the Political Pendulum of Europe goes your way. If your Bloggers agree with you, we being a “Microcosm of the British Nation” then the Government are clearly out of touch with our views.

    We are incensed by wasted taxpayers hard earned cash, whether it be on the European Union, the MOD Civil Servants, benefits to immigrants, but particularly Overseas Aid, to Countries such as China and India who are expanding their Military and Nuclear Capabilities day by day. Pakistan is another crazy example of us paying to a Nuclear Power UK Aid, using BORROWED MONEY.

    We need every penny we can get to support the vunerable, the Aged and the sick in our own Country. We need to support of Soldiers better, particularly when they return “shell shocked” from War Zones. We need to channel more to Education and away from Fat Cat Town Hall Pension Funds. Its either David Davis, or John Redwood for my money. This Government is going to get very rocky in the Polls very soon now. Miliband only needs to keep grinning and keep his mouth closed.

  20. zorro
    March 9, 2011

    Bit by bit…chip by chip….whittling away our influence and sovereignty…..the taxation system…then it will be economic control….At least Cameron has shown his true colours. He has no intention of ever holding a referendum on Europe. Apparently, the majority view of British citizens count for nothing.

    Cowardly actions…scared stiff of holding a referendum in case he upsets the EU. I could respect him if he had the courage of his convictions, but he is a charlatan. This will all end badly one way or another.


  21. Lindsay McDougall
    March 9, 2011

    Quite. Sovereignty means that we in the UK do things because we want to, not because we have to. You have given more than a hint that the Lisbon “Treaty” should be repealed outright. Because it is in reality a Constitution and not a Treaty means that its passage has been in breach of German law – and no doubt the laws of other Member States. It is therefore null and void, so there is no need to hold a referendum before repealing it.

    You will find your position enormously strengthened if (a) you abandon all hope of holding high office again and (b) you solicit the support of Labour MPs. Churchill said that he would make an alliance with the devil himself if it meant defeating Hitler. You won’t have to go that far and the support of Mr Davidson and unnamed Labour back benchers is very much to be welcomed. Only the Labour front bench is unspeakable.

    This whole European issue may evolve into a struggle to the death between front benchers and back benchers. Make sure that you prevail.

    1. Bazman
      March 11, 2011

      Breathtaking. Did Hitler never not need destroying? Just wandering!

  22. BobE
    March 9, 2011

    Well spoken John.

    Cameron wants to be deep into the EU because in four years time he will need a job there.

    UKIP is the only hope. Or we are all doomed!


  23. lojolondon
    March 10, 2011

    GO JOHN!! – thanks for standing up for us!

    1. Deborah
      March 10, 2011

      Well said.

  24. Bernard Otway
    March 10, 2011

    I knew you would censor me,all I did was tell people to rebel within the law,even the ANC didn’t censor me Shame on you

    Reply: I do not put up posts urging people to break the law, which is how your piece came across to me.

  25. Bernard Otway
    March 10, 2011

    I did not urge people to break the law I told them to “work to rule” which anti cuts unions are now talking about especially the police who can’t strike,are they breaking the law by saying what they say.I said withdraw your cooperation,by for instance Not sending in your tax return
    until the deadline,that is legal which is why there is a deadline,or do you break the law by NOT sending it in 6 weeks early.Sorry john you disappoint me I though differently of you,
    remember I fought Apartheid and one of the weapons was legal civil dissobediance no different to what Ghandi practised ,I told Pravin Gordhan about this in 2007 and it frightened him,a legal witholding of cooperation such as taking the full time to put your tax return in
    in his words would have caused chaos [He was commissioner at the time],he said they relied utterly on early returns to get their work done. You are getting as bad as Conhome

    March 10, 2011

    William Hague’s shame is not so much on errors over Libya as his failure to make the EU the centrepiee of UK foreign policy. As JR shows we CAN influence matters in Brussels given old-fashioned ‘nous’ and fortitude rather more directly than we can on the world diplomatic stage.
    It’s suddenly fashionable for the press to ask the question we posed several times last year beginning with his refusal to dispute our £150m fine from the EU …”What’s happened to Hague?’ (What happened to the fine incidentally?)

    We hardly blog these days as we feel so inclined always to take frustrated aim at this government’s oh-so-disappointing performance so far after fighting so hard with them to rid Britain of Labour. (And how dare the leader assume that he talks for the government with his No Referendum comment at PMQs)
    Both Cameron and Hague talked the talk in opposition but haven’t got what it takes to deliver in goverment.
    ‘Off with their heads’ we say and bring on the street smart, true Conservatives of yore!
    No wonder Camco opted for ‘The Big Society’ pap rather than ‘Common Sense & Competence’!

    1. sjb
      March 11, 2011

      The Essex Girls wrote: “It’s suddenly fashionable for the press to ask the question we posed several times last year beginning with his refusal to dispute our £150m fine from the EU …”What’s happened to Hague?’ (What happened to the fine incidentally?)”

      Another euromyth, ladies.
      “THE UK hasn’t been fined £150 million for failing to ‘fly the EU flag’ on projects co-funded by the European Union (Mail). The Commission hasn’t requested any repayment from the UK on this basis. In fact, the UK is responsible for managing these funds and has detected these and other irregularities itself. It is able to re-direct all or some of the money to other eligible projects rather than having to reimburse the European Union.” – per Jonathan Scheele’s letter to the Daily Mail, published in the newspaper on 22 September, 2010 – though not given the same prominence as their original story.

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