Page last updated at 22:14 GMT, Monday, 21 January 2008

In quotes: EU treaty debate

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has opened what is expected to be 20 days of debate on the Lisbon Treaty - which was drawn up to replace the failed EU Constitution, on which the government had promised a referendum. Here is a selection of quotes from the opening Commons debate:

DAVID MILIBAND, FOREIGN SECRETARY

The treaty will improve the way the EU works, it will adapt the EU's institutions to a union of 27, it will ensure the voice of Europe's nations is heard more loudly in foreign policy. It brings national parliaments into day-to-day decision making to strengthen subsidiarity, and it focuses the EU on the big external challenges from climate change to migration.

TORY FORMER MINISTER JOHN REDWOOD

Why won't he give us a referendum when your party promised us one and when all the powers we were worried about transferring in the constitution are being given away needlessly and recklessly in this document?

LABOUR MP FRANK FIELD

A number of committees of this house have reported that there is no substantial difference between what was a constitution and is now a treaty. Apart from those other governments who also don't want to face their electorates and test their views, what other bodies of equivalent standing has the government got on its side?

MARK HENDRICK, LABOUR MP FOR PRESTON

The commitment to a referendum was based on the European Constitution, the Constitutional Treaty. What we have now is an amending treaty. A constitution would have replaced all existing treaties - effectively re-founding the European Union. But the Reform Treaty doesn't do that and therefore it's not a constitution.

TORY FORMER MINISTER JOHN GUMMER

Is not the real issue that people in Britain who are in favour of the treaty do believe that the government has gone back on its word?

WILLIAM HAGUE, SHADOW FOREIGN SEC

[The treaty] flies in the face of that British aspiration to create an outward-looking rather than inward-looking Europe. In a Europe which needs greater flexibility it moves more power to the centre, and in a Europe where nations need the freedom to compete it will narrow down those freedoms. In a Europe committed to democracy it will take more decision-making away from democratic control.

NORTHERN IRELAND FIRST MINISTER, IAN PAISLEY

He [David Miliband] has listed many people that are foreigners but the government of Scotland and of Northern Ireland are not foreign - surely they should be listened to in this United parliament?

KEN CLARKE, TORY FORMER CHANCELLOR

[Mr Miliband] could save himself all this theological nonsense of trying to claim that the present treaty is different to the former treaty if he would accept that his own genuine view is that the previous prime minister made a mistake when he came along and told us all to our complete surprise that he was going to have a referendum on the treaty that he then had.

EDWARD DAVEY, LIB DEMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The case made by [William Hague] that the treaty is unnecessary and somehow threatens the sovereignty of the United Kingdom is frankly absurd. An EU of 27 member states and growing can't operate on the same basis that only just served the needs of an EU of 15 states. Arguments for trimming the bureaucracy and making the institutions less cumbersome ought to be self-evident.

CHARLES KENNEDY, FORMER LIB DEM LEADER

I have always taken the view there would have to be at some point in British politics a further redefining referendum on the European issue. Whatever the issue, a referendum to lance the European boil one way or another in British politics cannot, it seems to me, be indefinitely diverted. I am surprised it has not happened already.

AUSTIN MITCHELL, LABOUR MP FOR GREAT GRIMSBY

If it looks like a constitution, if it smells like a constitution, if it reads like a constitution, so far as I'm concerned it's a constitution.

DAVID CURRY, CONSERVATIVE MP SUPPORTING THE TREATY

I simply don't believe that there is some covert agenda which is going to overwhelm the British ability to state her interests or her identity.

LABOUR FORMER MINISTER GISELA STUART

I find fault with our treaty and I find fault with the organisation but I absolutely refuse to be labelled a bad European for that reason.


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