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Cameron's Euro concerns

Nick Robinson | 10:55 UK time, Wednesday, 7 June 2006

What on earth you may wonder can go wrong for David Cameron? Six months into the job he's got a 10-point poll lead and is basking in praise from the most unlikely quarters.

I'll tell you what - the same thing that went wrong for Maggie and then Major. It's the issue that three times stopped Ken Clarke - the public's choice - from following them. The subject that the Tory leader has barely uttered a word on since his election. I speak, of course, of the cause of so much neuralgia for the party - Europe.

Today William Hague makes his first speech on the subject as Mr Cameron's shadow foreign secretary. The man who promised to save the pound has been given the task of putting a modernising gloss on Euroscepticism. Out goes any hint that the Tories are backward looking Little Englanders. In comes the idea that they are forward looking reformers urging Europe to pursue free trade and free markets and not new ways to run itself or Britain. (The Sun calls this "going soft" on Europe even though all Mr Hague will have changed is language and tone, and not policy)

What he won't mention though are three letters that are giving him and his party a political headache. They are EPP, and they stand for European People's Party. That's the name for the European movement of the centre right which includes the parties which run 10 European governments, including those in Germany and France and - albeit uncomfortably - has included the Conservative Party for many years too.

Eurosceptic Tories persuaded David Cameron to promise to do something that Mr Hague and indeed Mr Duncan Smith and Mr Howard did not do when they were leader - to get out of a grouping they regard as unreformably federalist. It's a promise that Mr Hague now has to deliver but which is enraging many in Europe.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel - a Christian Democrat - has refused to meet David Cameron because of his stance on the EPP. Merkel has though formed a close bond with Tony Blair and last week met Gordon Brown who hopes to do the same.

Many of Mr Cameron's Euro MPs are even less impressed - leaving a big group will rob them of the right to chair European committees. They say that they promised both their electorates and their European allies that they would stay in the EPP until the next Euro elections - and many will simply refuse to move. Their opposition is fuelled by the news of who their new allies might be - a Polish party they accuse of homophobia, a Lithuanian party they call extreme and a lone Irish republican and a campaigner for Italian pensioners' rights. Mr Hague has been counting on the Czech governing party to give his new group credibility but they are locked into tricky coalition building at home and may not be ready - yet at least - to break coalitions in Europe.

Some Eurosceptics urge the Tories to sit on their own in the European Parliament though that would allow Labour to have enormous fun at their expense. Witness Tony Blair last December:

"If the Conservatives withdraw from the EPP, Jean-Marie Le Pen will sit there, Mrs. Mussolini will sit here, the Conservative party will sit there and, worst of all, Robert Kilroy-Silk will sit there. Before the hon. Gentleman attacks my leadership in the European Union, he should start to exercise some himself."


  • 1.
  • At 11:30 AM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • steve wrote:

Only professional politicians will care about the EPP, this is hopefully the first step along a road to reclaiming sovereignty. The reality is that Europe is an undemocratic, unwanted institution. The concept is discredited anywhere you care to look; even the public dont want it!

Does anyone really think that a 26 member group of countries with only geography in common can really survive?

  • 2.
  • At 11:44 AM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Glen Green wrote:

And that is why the EU is as undemocratic as the Soviet Union was.
The EU's motto is "You are either with us, or you don't have a voice".

And even if you do have a voice, who's listening? All votes are assumed to be in agreement of any motion unless stated otherwise. This results in a small group of EU commissioners practically dictating new policies to us all.

David must go softly on this one as there are a number of Europhiles who would turn their backs on him if they felt he was turning his back on the EU super-state. On the other hand there are a number of Eurosceptics who would equally do the same!

In my opinion he is doing the right thing: he is showing his disapproval without making bold, UKIP-style statements.

  • 3.
  • At 04:14 PM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Manjit wrote:

As Ken Clarke said the policy is pretty much head banging. A case of Cameron trying to be all things to all people? Now where have we seen that characteristic in a leader before in Britain recently?

  • 4.
  • At 05:04 PM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Gary Elsby wrote:

First the President of the USA refuses to see the Tories and now you say the German Chancellor refuses to meet Dave.

What on earth is going on in this once great political party?

How can I possibly vote for them to lead this great country?


  • 5.
  • At 06:22 PM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Jim Mansfield wrote:

Steve, don''t kid yourself about "only professional politicians will care about the EPP", don't take my word for it just go and take a look on the Tory website the Tories are arguing about this like Ferrets fighting in a barrel and they are not all politicians.
Some are okay with it, others are talking about betrayal by Cameron who did after all make promises he looks like not being able to deliver, but then what do you expect from an apology of a man who does not have the courage of his own convictions. I watch Hague sqirm trying to worm his way out of this one on the news, he could not even look straight at the Camera his eyes were cast downwards and no wonder. What a shower, do anything say anything, just get elected at any cost. If one happens to loose all of their principals on the way, so be it.

  • 6.
  • At 10:55 PM on 07 Jun 2006,
  • Richard Patient wrote:

Yes, a few Conservative Euro MPs have gone native and think the world will come to an end if the Tories leave the EPP.

BUT, and it is a crucial but, there are many Conservative MPs who wholeheartedly support Cameron's stance to leave the EPP.

Cameron may have to break a few eggs to get his move carried out, but that is what he was elected to do, wasn't it?

  • 7.
  • At 09:41 AM on 09 Jun 2006,
  • Greg Hoover wrote:

"Merkel has though formed a close bond with Tony Blair and last week met Gordon Brown who hopes to do the same."

Gordon Brown hopes to form a close bond with Tony Blair? That's a scoop!

  • 8.
  • At 12:21 PM on 12 Jun 2006,

What makes you think that the UK is any more democratic than the EU?
Given the electoral system we have we end up with governments that have the support of less than half of the electorat. To me that does not seem very democratic.

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