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Seven observations on successfully leaving the EPP

Jonathan has already posted on the formal announcement of the new grouping of MEPs within the European Parliament: The European Conservatives and Reformists.

Here are seven quick fire observations:

  1. HannanSpeaking This is a historic moment - the federalist cartel in the Parliament has been broken.  At long last there is a serious opposition to the idea of 'ever closer union' within the European Parliament.  As Dan Hannan MEP wrote on ConHome last year: "At present, every political alliance in Europe – the Communists, the Socialists, the Liberals, the Greens, the Christian Democrats – supports the euro, the constitution, a common foreign policy and an EU criminal justice system. Indeed, the EPP goes further than the others, demanding a single EU seat at the United Nations, a European army and police force and – my particular favourite, this – a pan-EU income tax to be levied by MEPs. Once there is a mainstream conservative bloc positing a different kind of Europe, the cartel will be broken. From that moment, Euro-federalism will cease to be inevitable, and become one among a series of competing idea."  The inevitably ended today.
  2. Many people deserve credit for this - particularly David Cameron.  Owen Paterson is at the start of my list for initiating many of the key relationships seven years ago. Liam Fox for first suggesting leaving the EPP during the 2005 leadership contest and encouraging David Cameron to match his commitment.  Mark Francois and William Hague for jetting across Europe to build the new alliances. Geoffrey Van Order MEP for leading the work from within the European Parliament.  And, of course, David Cameron for delivering on a pledge that many said was impossible.
  3. The members of the 'ECR' appear to be Eurosceptic, transtalantic in outlook and socially conservative.  Download a PDF from CCHQ which profiles the ECR's members.
  4. Picture 1 The Tories are very anxious about the way the BBC, Independent, FT and Guardian will present this new alliance.  These media outlets, abetted, of course, by the Labour Party's machine, want to present the European Conservatives and Reformists as somehow inconsistent with David Cameron's overall modernisation of the Conservative Party.  This has led news of the alliance's formation to be "buried" on the day on which the Commons is choosing a new Speaker.  We mustn't forget, of course, that our old allies in the EPP and the bedfellows of the European Socialists are far from pure (see Iain's comment earlier).  The Parliament's rules on group formation make imperfect alliances necessary.  Lots of rebuttal will be necessary and my attention has already been drawn to this piece should unfair accusations of anti-semitism be repeated against Poland's Law & Justice Party.
  5. Cameron_merkel_2_2 There'll be lots of huffing and puffing from EPP national leaders but there'll be no turning away from pursuing a good relationship with David Cameron.  It is true that Sarkozy and Merkel are strongly opposed to the UK Tories leaving the EPP but talk of Britain being isolated in Europe if David Cameron becomes Prime Minister is greatly exaggerated.  Although the Parliament matters the real action remains the the Council of Ministers.  The Tories are already pursuing working parties with Sarkozy's party and Merkel's CDU as signs of serious co-operation.
  6. Now the group is formed others will certainly join.  Those involved in creating this group found many potential allies reluctant to sign up to something that they feared might never happen but, in the proces, upset their existing alliance partners.  The group launched today will grow considerably in the years to come.
  7. This is an important milestone towards delivering more freedom from Brussels but it cannot be enough.  Although this commitment has been a massive and exhausting undertaking for the participants it must not be used by the leadership as an excuse for not renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU - particularly if David Cameron comes to power with Lisbon ratified.

Tim Montgomerie


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