Share Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Email Debate Date of Proceeding: 10.11.2010 Reference: 518 c380-1 Member: Lilley, Peter Title: European Union Economic Governance Description: The question that this House must face is this: do these measures and the possible treaty change that they presage constitute a threat to the sovereignty of this country or an opportunity for us to regain a little sovereignty? If the measures envisage a substantive transfer of sovereignty, restricting our fiscal and economic freedom, then the issue is clear: we should veto them or seek a full exemption from them. If the Government were to contemplate accepting them without a full exemption, there would have to be a referendum. Indeed, the very prospect of a referendum would be enough to gain us full exemption. My hon. Friends have concerns, which I fully understand and respect, that although limited to giving information and possibly signing up to targets that we could not be compelled to meet, these measures may be the thin end of a Trojan horse-if I may mix my metaphors. We have seen in the past how wording that has been glossed over has led to the transfer of powers. So far, I am not persuaded that the measures and what is envisaged in the treaty changes would result in a substantial transfer of sovereignty. However, I shall listen closely, and advise others to inspect thoroughly and scrutinise deeply. If at the end of the day we are signing up just to the sort of surveillance that we already receive from the IMF, that would not worry me too much. Indeed, then I would say to myself, “This is an opportunity.” If the measures solely concern the members of the eurozone, but none the less require our assent before they can go ahead, we should say to them, “We will let you do to yourselves what you want. We will give you the necessary approval, if in return you let us do some things that we want to do, which won’t concern you, by repatriating some powers.” We on the Conservative Benches were elected on a manifesto that said:”“We will work to bring back key powers over legal rights, criminal justice and social and employment legislation to the UK.”” We have a target, and this is an opportunity, so we should seize it. However, we are, of course, a coalition Government, so we should seek modest returns of powers that are compatible with the objectives of the whole coalition. Liberal Members in the west country expressed their hope for a return of powers over fisheries; indeed, they stood at the election on it. Fisheries are not a big issue in my inland constituency, but I would be prepared to work with those Members for a return of powers. However, the coalition agreement is quite specific. It says not only that we will”“ensure that there is no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament,”” but that we will”“examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.”” I therefore have a simple question for the Minister, which I hope he will answer in the affirmative in his winding-up speech. Will we be using this opportunity both to meet the objectives laid out clearly in the coalition agreement and, in return for our consent to such measures, to seek to limit the application of the working time directive to the United Kingdom?