Where wounding barbs are concerned, one can usually rely on Jacob Rees-Mogg to be the deliverer of such. From Hansard:
It was very reassuring to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary tell us earlier that he is a Eurosceptic and explain how successful the renegotiations were from his Eurosceptic ivory tower. That is encouraging, but I thought it might be worth looking at what the renegotiations achieved compared with what Her Majesty’s Government set out. In the Conservative party manifesto, it was “an absolute requirement”, according to the opening of the paragraph, that child benefit not be given to anybody whose children are living abroad. It seems to me that that has not been achieved, so our Eurosceptic Foreign Secretary has failed in that regard.
The Conservative party manifesto stated that we would
“reform the workings of the EU, which is too big, too bossy and too bureaucratic”.
The workings of the EU post the renegotiation remain too big, too bossy and too bureaucratic, so my Eurosceptic friend has achieved nothing.
In the Conservative party manifesto we made to the British people a pledge and a promise, on which we campaigned in, I hope, good faith. We said that we would
“reclaim power from Brussels on your behalf”—
not yours, Mr Deputy Speaker, but that of the British people—
“and safeguard British interests in the Single Market”.
We have not reclaimed a single power, so, in that, my Eurosceptic friend the Foreign Secretary has failed to live up to the Eurosceptic credentials of which he boasts—and with which I credit him, because the Foreign Secretary is an honourable man.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that what we needed was fundamental and far-reaching reform. We have not achieved fundamental and far-reaching reform; his Eurosceptic Foreign Secretary has, in that regard, let him down. In the renegotiations, we have not achieved anything of any great substance. On the free movement of people, we have nothing. We have so little on the issue of benefits that the great mass migration will continue. It was announced today that 257,000 people came from the European Union in the last year, 55,000 of them from Bulgaria and Romania. My Eurosceptic friend has done nothing to change that.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his Bloomberg speech:
“Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.”
But that plague is to continue, and the renegotiations have done nothing to stop it. They have not summoned Moses back to try to deal with it, as I seem to remember he finally got rid of the plague of frogs that afflicted Pharaoh. On immigration, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that he thought it was essential to
“restore a sense of fairness”
“to make our immigration system fairer and reduce the current exceptionally high level of migration from…the EU”.
Nothing has been done to achieve that.
Not only is the renegotiation a failure because it has achieved so little—it has failed to tackle the problems that we promised the British electorate we would solve—but, worse than that, we have given away our negotiating card when the European Union comes to a fundamental treaty reform of its own. The document that was settled last weekend states:
“Member states whose currency is not the euro shall not impede the implementation of legal acts directly linked to the functioning of the euro area and shall refrain from measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of economic and monetary union.”
The Eurosceptic Foreign Secretary—the honourable man to whom I referred—has managed, with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to give away our most powerful negotiating card. When the European Union needs to develop the fiscal union that it has asked for, we have nothing to say because we have promised that we will do nothing.
And so, we have left ourselves still on the path to a European superstate. That state has been getting bigger and bigger since we joined it in 1972—a state that has a flag; a state that has an anthem; a state that, because it is greedy, has not one but five Presidents; a state with a Parliament that has not one, but two seats of operation; a state with the symbols of statehood and the powers of a state. It has legal personality to conduct treaty negotiations. It has the legal power to make laws, and those laws are senior to our laws.
My right hon. Friend the famously Eurosceptic Foreign Secretary said that the treaty is legally robust, but he phrased himself very carefully, with the pedantry that one would hope for and expect in somebody from the Foreign Office. He said that it was robust in terms of international law. That gives it no justiciability in the courts of the European Union; it is merely taken into account.
We have a pretty worthless agreement, and we have scare stories to tell us why we should not vote no. If it was dangerous—if he thought the world would collapse on the day we voted no—why did the Prime Minister offer us a referendum? Is he some hooligan or some Yahoo who thinks it is safe to risk this nation’s future by trusting the people? When he said he ruled nothing out, surely he meant it. Surely he was not saying that, in fact, he was always going to go along with whatever our friends in Brussels said, because the Prime Minister is a most trustworthy figure, who negotiates in good faith. That is the problem with all that underlies this negotiation.
To which all one can say is: ouch! To really understand how ‘ouch’ that speech was, it is necessary to hear Rees-Mogg’s intonation during his use of our language (starts 16:08).