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William Hague should stay away from the opening of "Europe House" in London tonight

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 2 The FT (£) this morning carries a report about the official opening tonight of "Europe House" - the expansive new London offices of the European Parliament and European Commission at 32 Smith Square, which was for decades Conservative Central Office.

The EU has spent around £30 million purchasing and refurbishing the five-storey property - home to CCO between 1958 and 2004 - at a time when it ought to be looking for ways of cutting spending. Indeed, the British Conservatives tabled (unsuccessful) amendments to the European Parliament budget to cut spending on these very kinds of external offices.

The FT report suggests that even senior EU figures are "uneasy" about splashing the cash on this London mini-embassy: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, has now found an urgent engagement with Iranians in Geneva to avoid attending tonight's opening, whilst Commission President José Manuel Barroso is also not coming.

All of which makes me all the more concerned to read on the website of European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek that he will be formally open "Europe House" tonight "together with Siim Kallas, Vice President of European Commission, and William Hague MP, British Foreign Secretary."

For Mr Hague to dignify the event in this way would be to endorse this profligate use of taxpayers' money. I hear from Brussels that the new leader of the Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, has pointedly refused an invitation to attend and that other Tory MEPs are unnerved about the idea of the Foreign Secretary playing a part in tonight's proceedings.

Apart from the issue of the money being spent, let's face it, there is also an element of the EU cocking a snook at Conservative eurosceptics by buying the former Tory HQ, where the European flag now flies next to the window from which Margaret Thatcher celebrated three general election victories.

I hope William Hague will think twice about attending tonight.


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