Euro Realist

From The Times
December 14, 2005

Cameron’s first big bloomer
By Caroline Jackson

Mr Cameron will miss a wonderful opportunity to attack Tony Blair on the budget and CAP reform when he deliberately forgoes the opportunity to meet leaders of the EPP and their allies at their pre-summit gatherings. He needs to get to know people like Merkel, de Villepin and Berlusconi.

God knows who his alternative allies are. Aides are said to be shaking the hedges of eastern Europe: so far the only possibles may be Polish and Czech peasant nationalists, three eccentric Swedes, a French protectionist Eurosceptic, and two MEPs from the Netherlands’ extreme Christian party, which wants to stop Sunday bicycle riding. Mr Cameron has vowed to work with the Government in the British national interest. How can he do so as part of this barmy army? Then again the Cameron strategy ignores the fact that MEPs make European laws — are these laws of “second order” importance? Working with the EPP we can win crucial votes. We will be a lot less use to those we represent, lined up only with assorted Estonian Rightists and Slovenian Woolgatherers.

When and if Mr Cameron enters No 10 he will find that European politics involves building alliances. Oddly, he seems not to understand the Tory party’s relationship with the EPP, to which he says repeatedly that his MEPs “belong”. In fact we sit as allies with the EPP in what is cumbrously called the EPP-ED group, and vote according to our own whips when we wish. Although the EPP core is federalist, this is not a label that can be applied to other EPP-ED allies: the Scandinavian Conservatives and Gaullists.

If Mr Cameron does withdraw the British Conservatives from their alliance with the EPP I am certain that he will be back again in a few years, trying to negotiate readmission. So whatever happens I intend staying with the EPP to keep the place warm for my party when it returns to its senses.

The author is a Tory MEP for the South West of England

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