Euro Realist


Deciding to take British Conservative MEPs out of the mainstream centre-right EPP-ED Group risks becoming David Cameron’s clause four moment in reverse, as modernisation and change is sacrificed to Eurosceptic pressure from the right-wing of this party. The Conservative Party should choose allies abroad with beliefs that are consistent with Tory policies at home – otherwise David Cameron’s modernising and caring agenda for change in Britain will be overshadowed by the actions of a motley bunch of populists, nationalists and social authoritarians in Europe.

Some on the right may feel comfortable with the kind of partners described in this note, but few compassionate Conservatives will readily do so. That is one important reason why Conservative MEPs should have remained part of the largest political force in the European Parliament – working to shape Europe’s agenda with established friends and allies rather than choosing to side with fringe fanatics and marginalised mavericks.

It is hardly surprising that, in the past, both William Hague and Michael Howard concluded – in 1999 and 2004 – that the EPP-ED Group link was the best alternative available for the Conservatives in the European Parliament. In 2006, David Cameron deferred delivery on his commitment to pull the Conservative Euro-MPs out of the EPP-ED Group when he found insufficient new allies to put together an alternative political group without generating reputational damage to himself.

There are very few, if any, serious political parties that want to create a new conservative grouping outside the EPP-ED Group. Nearly all parties that fit the bill of being simultaneously “decentralist, Atlanticist and free-market” are already in the EPP-ED Group and plan to stay there. Instead, the British Conservative Party is left talking to prospective partners who are both out of touch and out of power – a selection of unhappy bed-fellows, who represent losers not leaders.

Even if a new Group is finally formed, its sustainability would be doubtful, given the flimsy nature of most possible partners. Why does the Conservative Party look at various peculiar parties, with embarrassing associations that could readily prove a political liability in London? The status quo relationship with the mainstream centre-right EPP-ED Group remains the only option on offer that is free of personal reputational damage for David Cameron.

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