Many Eurosceptic MEPs are increasingly of the view that David Cameron will not take British Tories out of the EPP but will propose a new, strengthened ED sub-group as the way forward. Charles Tannock MEP was recently seen to pave the way for a compromise option when, on CentreRight.com, he argued against Tory MEPs sitting on their own. But could we believe in a new deal with the EPP...?
When Michael Howard decided that Conservative MEPs should remain with the EPP in 2004, he negotiated one important new condition: that the “European Democrats” should be allowed to recruit other parties to their pillar without fear of an EPP veto.
The EPP reneged on its part of the bargain when it expelled Roger Helmer from the EPP-ED despite the opposition of British Tories. In other words, far from being able to bring new MEPs into their section, the British Conservatives could not even decide on which of their own Members to keep.
Now, the EPP has abandoned any pretence of respecting an autonomous ED component. Lars Wohlin MEP, a former chairman of the Swedish Central Bank, who sits as a Swedish Christian Democrat, has asked to be reassigned from the EPP to the ED section, on grounds that he opposes the euro and the European Constitution.
The EPP-ED Rules of procedure are quite plain on this point: if that is what an MEP wishes to do, he may do it. But the EPP leadership have said that such a thing cannot happen without a vote of the whole Group; and, so far, they have refused to schedule such a vote.
Until now, supporters of the EPP link have argued that Conservatives have a moral obligation to remain with the federalists because that is what they agreed in 2004. But, now that the EPP has comprehensively abandoned that deal, why should the Conservatives remain bound by it?
Lars Wohlin told ConservativeHome:
“I wished to collaborate with the British Conservatives, because I am more comfortable with their vision of a Europe of nations than I am with the EPP’s commitment to a federal Europe. If anyone in Britain still doesn’t understand why David Cameron has promised to take his MEPs out of the EPP, I hope they will look at my case and reconsider.”