In response to a question by Mike Gapes Prime Minister David Cameron has praised the role of the British EU Commissioner Catherine Ashton. But the PM failed to explain why he wants other countries to join the EU while many in his party want the UK to leave
Here is their exchange in the statement on Afghanistan and the EU Summit on Tuesday 2 July 2013.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to praise the skill, persistence and dedication of the European Union’s High Representative, Cathy Ashton, and her staff in securing the welcome agreement between Serbia and Kosovo on normalisation on 19 April? Will he also take this opportunity, while he is supporting further enlargement of the EU, to explain why we are in favour of other countries joining the EU, but many members of his party want us to leave?
The Prime Minister: Let me first pay tribute to Cathy Ashton and the very good work that she does in the European Union, which I see at first hand. We work very closely together, and I know that she works very closely with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. While some of the dossiers for which she is responsible must be immensely frustrating—I am thinking particularly of the Iranian negotiations—there is no doubt that she can take a huge amount of credit for the opening of accession negotiations with Serbia and the completion of the process of accession for Croatia. I made that very clear at the European Council meeting.
As for the hon. Gentleman’s comments about my party, let me point out that the Conservative party has always been in favour of the widening of the European Union. We have been arguing for that for decades. Indeed, we were arguing for it, and delivering it, in the 1980s, when the hon. Gentleman’s party stood on rather a different ticket.