President of the EPP Party Wilfried Martens has just upped the pressure on David Cameron by asking for a clear decision by April from the Tory leader as to whether the UK Conservatives will sit in the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament after the elections in June. This is at odds with the Cameron position which is to take a decision on this matter after the EP elections.
The position for Martens and the EPP is quite clear – they reckon the EPP-ED will be the biggest group in the EP after the elections even without the UK Tories. With the election now a matter of months away they want to try to get together a manifesto, and without knowing the composition of the parliamentary group that’s no simple task.
So what about Cameron? Opinion polls look good for Cameron and the Tories, but the converse is the case for their likely awkward squad partners, ODS from Czech Republic who were wiped out in local elections in the autumn of 2008.
Then there is the thorny issue of political groups in the EP – in the new term a group will need 25 MEPs from 7 countries. 25 MEPs will be easy enough – the Tories will get that on their own. But will Cameron be able to find partners from 6 other Member States that share his uneasy mix of compassionate [sic] conservatism and euroscepticism? Law and Justice in Poland would surely not count as possible allies given their stance on gay rights.
We could hence see Martens and the EPP going ahead without Cameron and then, with a good result in the UK under his belt, Cameron appealing once more to the EPP to ensure his MEPs are not left without allies and influence in the EP with the other non-attached members.
It will be truly fascinating to see the fringe groups emerging from the June 2009 European elections, although it is hard to imagine an anti-EU tsunami of the proportions to sweep away the four constructive parties/groups (conservatives, socialists, liberals and greens) .
And yes, in my the Tories in opposition are a fringe group from a European point of view. It is harder to know how to describe their policies if and when they form the UK Government, but they have done precious little to prepare either British voters or other EU citizens for any constructive EU policy.
Hague (Tory shadow foreign secretary) assured Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight last tuesday (03 Feb) that the Tories will be leaving the EPP-ED group after the European elections, and they’re “on track” to do so.
He refused to say who else would be joining them in a new “centre-right non federalist”group, but insisted that there won’t be any fascists.
So I guess Martens has got his answer already – yes Cameron’s tories are leaving – but after the elections, not before. Doubt they’ll be campaigning together then!
“We could hence see Martens and the EPP going ahead without Cameron and then, with a good result in the UK under his belt, Cameron appealing once more to the EPP to ensure his MEPs are not left without allies and influence…”
… and fat wads of cash. Never forget the fat wads of cash. It’s difficult to rake in quite so much if you are not part of a grouping, eh?
The EPP demand seems fair enough. It is hardly fair play if the British conservatives stay in the EPP-ED parliamentary group long enough to man influential posts and then split.
Cameron has promised to take the Tories out of EPP-ED group. Let him announce clearly that he is going to keep his promise and then take the consequences.