Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): If the Prime Minister wants to strengthen Britain’s hand in any future renegotiation, it is important that he should be able to say that he represents the national consensus and that he has consulted other parties, business and the CBI, as well as the TUC, to set out clearly what changes he is after. What plans does he have to play this in the national interest rather than from a party political standpoint?

    The Prime Minister: First, on this specific issue there were detailed cross-party discussions to ensure that we all did everything we could to try to stop the conveyor belt of the leading candidates. We should build on that. I set out a very clear agenda in the Bloomberg speech, including deep engagement with business. The British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors supported what I did at the weekend, and we will go on talking to British businesses to ensure that we deliver what they also think is right, which is reform of the European Union.

    Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Given that my right hon. Friend’s position had the support of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats as well as of the Conservatives, was he not right to ignore the advice of those who urged him to turn tail as soon as some of our allies turned coat? He was right to stand his ground, and by so doing he has made it more likely that we will win real reform in future. I congratulate him above all on stating the British position with such conviction. As Mrs Thatcher said, the half-hearted always lose; those with conviction ultimately win.

    The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he has said. This is always important, because in the European Council there is always a temptation simply to go with the flow, to sign up to whatever is being proposed and to try to seek some sort of bauble or extra bit of leverage on the way. Indeed, I suspect that that is what happened in a number of cases. I was very clear that this was an important principle, that I thought Europe was taking a wrong turn, and that I was not going to turn away and do anything but oppose it.

    Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister not agree that any real attempts to get radical reform of the European Union will come up against a brick wall made up of people who lead Europe and who, whatever they say publicly, want ever closer union and a federal structure? Is that not the real issue? What the British people want has to be decided by a referendum as soon as possible.

    The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady is absolutely right that a referendum is required, because people have to see that Britain is absolutely serious about requiring reform in the EU. I totally agree with the premise of her question, which is that there have been and to some extent still are people who sit around the table and say endlessly that the euro is the currency of the European Union, forgetting that there are countries such as Britain with a permanent opt-out from the euro. We must get away from that thinking and from the idea of ever closer union and move towards the idea that this is not just about going at different speeds in the same direction, but that for some countries, Britain included, it is about going at different speeds in a slightly different direction. We are not going to join the euro, we are not going to join the Schengen no-borders agreement, and real flexibility needs to be hard-wired into the European Union if Britain is going to stay.