David Cameron on track to form alliance of Eurosceptics
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 21.13 BST
Timothy Kirkhope, the newly elected MEP for Yorkshire and Tory leader in the European parliament, is to hold talks in Brussels this week with prospective partners, Conservative sources said, with a view to an announcement soon.
The move to cut 20 years of cooperation with the European People’s party of continental Christian Democrats is being criticised as perverse, since the EPP’s collective resounding victory across Europe will strengthen its domination of the assembly and includes the government leaders of Germany, France, Italy, and Poland.
“There will be some movement in the next few days in Brussels,” said a Tory source. “We’re pretty confident we’ll get them all there. It’s just a question of finalising things. This will be a sizeable group, one of the largest in the parliament.”
The Conservatives need 25 MEPs from at least seven countries to form an official caucus in the parliament. Their Czech partner, the Civic Democratic party or ODS, won the election with nine seats. Their Polish partner, the Law and Justice party or PiS, came second with 15 of Poland’s 50 seats. The Tories have 25, plus possibly one from Northern Ireland.
The seat numbers are comfortably there but the Conservatives are being coy about the other four partners, and want to have eight or nine countries in the group to prevent it being held hostage by one party which could threaten to leave and have the group collapse if there were only seven.
It looks as though the Tories will muster the countries, although their proposed partner in Bulgaria failed to win a seat.
Two Latvian parties which won three seats between them are candidates. The ethnic Polish MEP in Lithuania will probably join. The big winner in Estonia, Indrek Tarand, an independent and TV talkshow host viewed as a libertarian, could also sign up.
The fiercely anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic Danish People’s party, which won two seats, is a further contender. And in Flanders in Belgium, the rightwing libertarian List Dedecker (one seat) would bring the number of participating countries to eight.
In public, the Tories speak only of their alliance with the ODS in Prague, failing even to mention the Polish party despite the fact that Cameron appeared at a Warsaw rally last weekend with the PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, to proclaim the coalition of “modern conservatives”.
Konrad Szymanski, a newly re-elected PiS MEP, said the Tories had more than enough offers for forming the caucus.
The Tories are also hoping that the Independence/Democracy group, a small caucus of Eurosceptics and anti-Europeans including Ukip, could fall apart, leaving others clamouring to come into the Cameron camp.