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John Redwood doesn't like what William Hague isn't doing about the EU

By Paul Goodman

John Redwood That John Redwood dislikes the European Union isn't news.  But the item on his blog posted earlier this morning surely is, which is why I put in today's newslinks.  Headed "Time to speak for the UK, Mr Hague", it mentions the Foreign Secretary in its text three times, accompanied on each occasion by the words "We did not like". (The "we" in question being "many British people".)  The urgency in the writing's so palpable that the relevant section's worth quoting again in full -

"It is time Mr Hague went to Brussels and tackled some of the issues which feed our sense of unfairness. Many people in the UK are fed up with power seeping away. We did not like Mr Hague’s acceptance of an enlarged EU diplomatic service. That is more cost for the member states, seeking to undermine our own Foreign office and diplomatic service. We did not like Mr Hague’s opting in to more of the EU’s movement into criminal justice affairs. We do not wish to see the UK have to pay out £150 million for a technical infringement, at a time of public spending restraint. We would like the EU to cut its budget to help with our spending review, and would like to see EU spending cut back rather than important domestic programmes."

It's a striking entry because Redwood usually finds ways of disagreeing with his colleagues without criticising them.  Of course, there's little love lost between the two men: as Welsh Secretary, Hague saw it as his mission to calm some of the feathers than Redwood had ruffled, and their differences over the single currency (Redwood wanted entry ruled out in principle) were a significant feature of the 1997 leadership election.  Hague dropped Redwood from his front bench three years later.  By the way, the opt-in to the Criminal Justice proposals was dealt with in the Commons by Theresa May, not Hague.

But there's far more to this matter than personalities.  Redwood is a passionate Euro-sceptic.  He strongly supported the repatriation of powers plans in the Party's last election manifesto.  I read his piece this morning as signalling that while he believes that the loss of those proposals is worth the gain of a Conservative-led Government, a line must now be drawn.  He describes the fine on Britain for not displaying the EU flag on projects which received " 'EU' money" as "the last straw".

It isn't as though Redwood's simply an isolated if gifted backbencher.  Or even simply the Chairman of the No Turning Back Group.  He's now the elected Chairman of the Party's backbench Economic Affairs Committee (a fact that his blog biography's been updated to record) - a post to which he was returned unopposed after two other contenders withdrew.  So he now has a new and strong string to his bow.  Party Managers should note Redwood's combination of exasperation with Hague - and his use of the words "last straw".


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