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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 October 2007, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Conservative perspective
On Sunday 21 October Andrew Marr interviewed William Hague MP

Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

William Hague MP
William Hague MP

ANDREW MARR: Let's now go over to William Hague who joins us from Darlington.

Good morning Mr. Hague.

Now we all understand why the Conservative Party doesn't like this treaty and why you want a referendum.

What we don't understand is what you're going to do if this goes through Parliament and becomes law, and you're returned to power.

Are you then going to pull Britain out of this treaty that you regard with such distaste?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well there's a lot of water to flow under the bridge before that, Andrew, first of all there are all the parliamentary battles, and they are going to be real parliamentary battles, about this treaty which is the EU constitution, despite everything that Jim Murphy has just said, this is the EU constitution in disguise, and nearly everything that was in the constitution is back in it.

For the future, we have already said that a Conservative government will change the law, we will change the 1972 European Communities Act so that not only our government but any future government that signs away more powers to the European Union would have to hold a referendum by law.

Then there is the additional question which you refer to as what would we do about this specific treaty if it had already become law, and already been ratified by all countries.

Now that is something that we have to discuss, but we have to see what happens over the coming weeks and months in parliament. We have to maintain the pressure for a referendum. So we haven't yet decided what we would do in those future hypothetical circumstances.

But we don't rule out a referendum in the future, and our discussions will take place against a background that this treaty, if passed without a referendum, will lack democratic legitimacy and it will mean that the process of European political integration has gone too far.

ANDREW MARR: I suppose the reason I'm pressing this is a lot of people wonder whether there is a reverse gear in any of this, or whether it's all one-way. So, if this takes Europe, in your view, too integrated, makes Europe too integrated, is there any way back?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I think there are ways back, and in fact even before this treaty we have said that we would like our social and employment laws, the right to make those laws, to be returned exclusively to this country. And so we do have find a way back.

However, that is a discussion for the future, that is something we would have to set out at the next General Election, or before, well before the next General Election campaign. At the moment we don't know when this ratification process will be completed. We still want to fight for a referendum on this particular treaty, we don't know when the next General Election will take place, so there are a lot of ifs in this whole scenario.

But we will have to find a way to reverse some of the things that have happened in recent years and that will be an important political priority for us. What the government don't tell you, and what Jim Murphy hasn't been explaining there, is this is a process that they have set up, a process of continuing integration.

For the first time this treaty has a self-amending nature, it contains the ability to remove the remaining vetoes, national vetoes, without any further treaties. So they've set up a process of continuing political integration.

ANDREW MARR: The Prime Minister says however that this is the end of a process, that he's not going to come back with another treaty over the next five or ten years.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I think this is the latest piece of deceit really, from the government that brought you the election that was called off because even, it was going to be called off even if they were well ahead in opinion polls, and the government that brought you an inheritance tax review that it had apparently been working on for months, and that is now refusing to hold a referendum when it solemnly promised one.

The latest piece of deceit is to say that this is the end of European integration and they will stand out against it for the next decade. In fact, the creation of a permanent president of the European Council, and the creation of a European Foreign Minister, is designed to accrue more power to the centre in the European Union, so it is very much part of a process, and they have now signed us up to that.

And in addition, the legal protection that they claim to have won on justice and home affairs, one of these opt-ins, that protects our position for five years - once five years is over this country is subjected to unlimited fines if we do not then choose to opt in, one of the worst pieces of negotiation we've ever seen from the Foreign Office.

ANDREW MARR: But I come back, if this is all the case why does the Conservative Party not say when we are returned to power we will undo it?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well we've already said how we will change the law on referendum...

ANDREW MARR: But that's looking ahead, that's a different issue.

WILLIAM HAGUE: ...and it is vital we focus our efforts on getting a referendum now, and on this treaty.

ANDREW MARR: Your people have done the numbers in the House of Commons. It's very unlikely that you will able to defeat in the House of Commons because of the size of the Labour majority and because of some cross-voting between the parties. You know that, you can make all the arguments, you'll be well supported across much of the press, but you're not going to win.

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well it is unlikely, and I've said that myself. If Liberal Democrat MPs also break their solemn election commitment as well as Labour MPs, then of course that would be difficult, to make it difficult for us to win a vote in the House of Commons. Although those in marginal seats will have to remember that their breach of that promise is something we will remind their constituents about in some detail at the next General Election.

There will also be debates in the House of Lords, those are very difficult to forecast. And there is public pressure to bear on the government, after all this is not a government that sticks to a chosen course of action, looking at the next few weeks. So it is very much worth fighting for a referendum now. And that is a debate that we will intensify over the coming weeks. I suspect the government would like us to instead start talking about what will happen in a few years' time. We've got to focus on this breach of promise, this breach of commitment, and then we will address what happens after that in due course.

ANDREW MARR: This argument is clearly going to sprawl across the winter. Is that a good thing for the Conservative Party given that Europe is still, what, 14 or so on people's list of concerns? Way, way below health and education, all the things you were talking about?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I think we have to look at what is right for the country. This is a major treaty. This is signing away 60 national vetoes, that's the answer by way, to the question Jim Murphy wouldn't answer. 60 national vetoes setting up a permanent president for the European Council, creating a treaty with a self-amending nature, it's got to be debated in great detail.

It isn't the Conservative Party that has brought this up, it's not us banging on about Europe, it is Gordon Brown who promised a referendum on this issue at the last General Election, and is now in flagrant breach of that promise is the latest instalment of this cynical, manipulative and deceitful government.

ANDREW MARR: The Conservatives have come up in the opinion polls sharply, heavily at the cost of the Liberal Democrats. Do you have any thoughts or words you'd like to say to Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne as they eye that job? Are you concerned at all about that?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I think, I think the Liberal Democrats have given a lot of blame to Menzies Campbell, and I think their problem is bigger than Menzies Campbell. The Liberal Democrats are usually the protest vote and their vote goes up and down in General Elections according to satisfaction or otherwise with the two main parties.

Once people develop some support and enthusiasm for one of the two main parties, as they have done in recent weeks, then that protest vote goes down. And that means that the Lib Dem problem is much bigger than Menzies Campbell, as I hope they recognise.

ANDREW MARR: All right, a chilly forecast then, from William Hague. Thank you both. Thank you very much to Jim Murphy as well in Glasgow.


NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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