Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, dudring the debate on the outcome of the December EU Council
I want to thank the statement by the President-in-Office. I can't help thinking that he comes here today somewhat battered and bruised. I want to begin by welcoming the statement on the accession talks with Turkey and Croatia. But, thereafter, I cannot welcome much else about the record of this Presidency.
In June, he impressed this Parliament with his rhetorical prowess. He told us that he wanted a debate on the future of Europe in the aftermath of the 'No' votes in France and the Netherlands. He waxed lyrical on the need for measures to be taken to modernise the European social model. He spoke passionately about the need for the European budget to be reformed.
At the time, I said we should judge the Presidency not on the rhetoric, but on results. Six months later, we can do so. There was no leadership on the future of Europe without the Constitution. There was no leadership on reforming the social model. There was no leadership on achieving a properly reformed EU budget.
And, worse, the Prime Minister has failed to protect the British interest. I agreed with him in June when he said that there would be no negotiating away the British budget rebate. He had my support on that. And, what happened? He did not negotiate it away. He gave it away. Seven billion pounds of give away to be precise. The British people have been deceived. And what has he got in return? Nothing. A vague promised that farm spending will be 'reviewed' in 2008. It was not his finest moment as Prime Minister.
History will judge this Presidency as a series of wasted opportunities. There is so much that could have been done. Instead, there has been drift, indecision and an absence of leadership. For Europe this has proved what we in Britain have known for some time - that the Prime Minister is long on rhetoric, but sadly lacking in substance. And, for Britain, the budget rebate give away will be a lasting testimony to the yawning gap between his rhetoric and the reality.