The Brussels Summit was, above all, about enlargement of the European Union. The British Conservative Party has argued strongly and consistently in favour of the enlargement eastwards of the EU since the Berlin Wall fell thirteen years ago.
Indeed, the Manifesto on which I and my colleagues were elected in 1999 stated quite clearly the reasons why we support this process so enthusiastically. I quote from my Party's manifesto.
"Enlargement is an historic opportunity to advance the principles for which Europe should stand: free trade, free markets, deregulation, and co-operation. It will also mean more trade, more stability and more prosperity for the existing members of the European Union. Furthermore, the European Union simply cannot ignore the moral duty which it owes to the countries of central and eastern Europe."
At Brussels, significant progress was made towards achieving agreement on the entry of ten applicant states at the Copenhagen Council in December. My Party warmly welcomes this. Europe will be a better place as a result of enlargement. I congratulate the Danish Presidency on the skill and commitment it has displayed in reaching this point.
However, given the fact that we have waited thirteen years for this historic moment, I wish to reiterate that there must be no foot-dragging, no more delay, no last minute vested interests allowed to stand in the way.
On no account should we allow budgetary discussions to be derailed by reopening issues that have already been settled. In particular, the continuation of the British budgetary abatement was agreed unanimously by Heads of Government at Berlin in 1999. The budgetary abatement is both fair and justified. Any attempt to use it as a smokescreen to disguise unwillingness to reform the CAP must be dismissed as political opportunism.
Mr President, I regret that those Member States which advocate CAP reform, including the British Prime Minister, were so comprehensively outmanoeuvred at Brussels. I hope they recover their negotiating skills in time for Copenhagen.