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Surely the moment to publish Roger Helmer's EPP briefing from his website. OK Editor?

(I am not claiming to be Roger Helmer N.B.)

The EPP issue

December 14 2005

There has been a lot of coverage in the media about David Cameron's decision to take Conservative MEPs out of the EPP group, and a great deal of misinformation. Now Roger Helmer and Chris Heaton-Harris set out the facts as they see them.


The need for consistency

You may have seen the recent press coverage concerning the Conservative MEPs’ relationship with the ultra-federalist European People’s Party. David Cameron has been attacked by several Euro-enthusiasts for promising to end this unhappy link.

It is usually the way in politics that, when a change is proposed, its opponents become hyper-active while its supporters sit back and take things for granted. I hope, though, that, on this issue, those who support the leader’s line will give him public backing. If you are one of the overwhelming majority of Conservatives who would like to restore honour and consistency to our position in Brussels, please tell our new Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague. His email is [email protected] You might also like to copy in the leader of the Conservative MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope([email protected]), and David himself: camer[email protected] I am sure they will appreciate your support.

For those unfamiliar with the issue, there follows a short briefing note.


What is the European People’s Party?

The European People’s Party (EPP) is a union of Centrist and Christian Democratic parties founded in 1976 to promote European integration. Its Basic Charter commits it to “compete for the realisation of a United States of Europe”. Its current manifesto advocates:

• A European police force and army

• Single EU seats on the UN, the IMF and the WTO

• A European president and foreign minister

• The abolition of the national veto

• A pan-European income tax, to be levied by the European Parliament


Isn’t the EPP the main Centre-Right grouping in Strasbourg?

No. British journalists keep calling it “Centre-Right”, but the EPP itself angrily rejects the label. It insists that it is “the Party of the Centre”, steering a middle course between the command economy demanded by the Socialists and the free market supported by the Liberals. According to its Basic Charter, the chief goal of economic policy is “social solidarity, so that the fruits of economic success many be evenly distributed”. The EPP campaigns for a high minimum wage, strong trade unions, a larger EU budget, a barrage of “anti-discrimination” measures and an extension of the Social Chapter.


Why do some Tory MEPs want to sit with the EPP?

It is largely a generational divide. Many of the MEPs elected during the 1980s have a view of Europe not very far removed from that of the EPP. Their careers have been built within the EPP, and some of them now enjoy positions in consequence. They fear that, outside the EPP, they would have to start all over again. The Conservatives would still have the same per capita entitlement to committee posts, overseas delegations and so forth; but there is no guarantee that the same people would hold them, since the Tory Euro-philes would be the minority in a Euro-sceptic Group.


Are there logistical advantages to being part of a large bloc?

No; quite the contrary. The British Conservatives are entitled to staff and financing in proportion to their numbers. But all such resources go through the Groups. As things stand, the EPP “top-slices” the Tory financial quota and spends it on various pan-European projects—such as a campaign in favour of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It even supported the “Yes” campaigns in the recent referendums. It is a similar story when it comes to employees. The British staff are paid by, and answerable to, the EPP. Many of them were hired during the 1980s on the basis of their commitment to federalism rather than any Conservative leanings and, far from answering to the Tory MEPs, they sometimes work directly against Conservative interests. Outside the EPP, the Tories would, for the first time, have significant resources with which to pursue their agenda.


Where would Conservative MEPs go?

They could either sit as Independents or form a new Group with like-minded parties. This is easily done: the rules of the Parliament stipulate that a Political Group must contain at least 19 MEPs from at least five member states. There are already 27 Conservative MEPs, and it would be a straightforward matter to attract respectable, Atlanticist parties from four or more other nationalities. In particular, many of the free market parties from Central and Eastern Europe have repeatedly sought to create a new Group under Tory leadership, and cannot understand why the Tories themselves are reluctant to leave the EPP. It is worth stressing that there is no question of sitting with extremist parties, or with parties that have a colourful past, such as Italy’s “post-fascist” Alleanza Nazionale (which is, incidentally, negotiating to join the EPP). It is also worth pointing out that several of the parties currently in the EPP are tainted by sleaze or extremism: Chirac’s UMP was involved in a number of funding scandals, while many of Silvio Berlusconi’s allies have been accused of corruption.


Why can’t the whole question be left to the MEPs?

It never has been before. Every past leader—from Margaret Thatcher onwards—has recognised that this is a question to be settled by the Westminster leader. The question goes wider than seating arrangements in Strasbourg: it encompasses the Tories’ relationships, as a whole, with other parties. Those who are currently taking this line strenuously argued the opposite when it suited them. When, in 2004, Michael Howard reversed IDS’s decision to leave the Group, pro-EPP Tory MEPs insisted that the question was up to him as the national leader.


Isn’t leaving the EPP at odds with David Cameron’s modernisation agenda?

On the contrary, nothing could be more modern than breaking with the 1950s federalist Euro-dogmas of the Christian Democrats. In forming a new Group, the Conservatives would be turning their backs on Old Europe and embracing New Europe. David Cameron has stressed the need for the party to change. It is striking that his fiercest opponents on this issue are palaeo-Tories of an earlier era: Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine etc.


When should the break come?

Immediately. That was David Cameron’s pledge during the leadership contest. Suitable foreign allies are lined up and ready to go. If the issue is postponed, they may start to lose interest.


Does any of this much matter?

Yes. Leaving the EPP was the one firm commitment that David gave during the leadership campaign. He has since repeated it in public on at least four occasions. If he doesn’t deliver on the one thing that is in his gift as Opposition leader, voters will be reluctant to believe that he would deliver on his manifesto as Prime Minister. It is, as David himself has repeatedly said, a question of consistency and integrity. The Conservatives cannot say one thing in Britain and do another in Brussels.




R UK: Thanks for posting that. Good sense and clear argument from RH as usual.

Spoke too soon on the other thread obviously.

I hope that Roger will very soon be reinstated in the Conservative group of MEPs where he belongs.

He's right you know. Dave can't afford to fudge this pledge.

Roger Helmer showed yesterday the sort of politician he is... a very, very good one. Which Conservative MEP was on the news last night? I didn't see one. I did however see Roger all over the news. Roger is one of the few people left in politics who is genuine. Roger became an MEP to expose what happens in Europe and he does this on as many occasions as possible.

It is a disgrace the way Roger has been treated by the Conservative Party, a Party that he has been a loyal member of for many years. Roger came out for Cameron and this no doubt helped to sway a few more people Camerons way. What better way for Cameron to repay this support by welcoming Roger back into the Conservative fold and then with the help of Roger and others, pulling us out of the ghastly EPP-ED.

Worrying about the European Parliament funding is a complete distraction, particularly if the best marketing ploy the MEPs can come up with is a sarcastic advert in the Independent.

Worrying about the European Parliament funding is a complete distraction, particularly if the best marketing ploy the MEPs can come up with is a sarcastic advert in the Independent.

Richard has a good point where were the Tory MEP's yesterday when UKIP's Mr Farage and Mr Helmer took the news slot.

When Blair said You sit with our country's flag, you do not represent our country's interest".
not one representative of the majority of the MEP's elected by the people of the UK to represent us appeared to speak!

Blair comes out with the most absurd rhetoric that doesn't even count as argument.

Especially with his "this is 2005 not 1945" hissy fit.

Was *anyone* suggesting we wanted to go to war? What a pathetically irrelevant line of abuse.

And it demonstrates how weak the europhiles' position is that they so often have to resort to this kind of cheap retort. They can't beat the eurosceptics at an argument, so they try to hurl abuse at them to portray them as extremist nutters.

Aren't people tired of that kind of thing yet?

In defence of our MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope was also on the news saying that Blair's term as EU President had achieved nothing.

Richard's earlier comments were spot on. Roger Helmer is one MEP who Conservatives can be very proud of. Unless he is reinstated soon, members will quite rightly be angry.

I thought exactly the same as you, John. And yet Blair's "outburst" - and that was exactly what it was - was dismissed by the media as Blair "giving it as good as he got."

Excuse me?

First of all, the "representation of our country's interest" line was way off, seeing as they are (technically) MEPs we've elected purely to represent what _we_ (the British public, who PUT Mr. Blair there) perceive to be our interest. Perhaps Blair's getting confused in his old age and has become so obsessed with the EU gravy train that he's got bureaucracy on the brain.

And yes, the "2005 not 1945" line was just cringeworthy.

Once again, Tony knows best and anyone who dares disagree with him gets a hissy fit in return. That wouldn't be all bad if he was an effective leader, but he's just.... not.

An excellent letter by RH; combined with Christopher Heaton-Harris they should make a formidable team.

Remember it was the BBC who came with 'gave as good as he got'line.From them that was about as good as we could expect.
Much more disappointing was the Standard that had a headline 'Blair 3 Farage 0'.

"Especially with his "this is 2005 not 1945" hissy fit.
Was *anyone* suggesting we wanted to go to war? What a pathetically irrelevant line of abuse. "

John it wasn't a hissy fit and it wasn't irrelevant. The war ended in 1945. Your above comment would have been more accurate if he said "this is 2005 not 1939".

The point he was making was that we don't need to be hostile to other European countries just because we need to look after our own interests.

If we're going to criticize this government, we have to do it in a logical and rational manner.

Not just throw a strop everytime Blair opens his mouth.

.....If we're going to criticize this government, we have to do it in a logical and rational manner......

I agree. I just wish the Europhiles were able to do the same. Unfortunately the only argument they have is the pathetic one that Our Dear Leader used.

I think I must be slow.

You're going to have to explain to me what difference it would've made if he'd said 1939 not 1945.

But he followed this line by saying; "We're not fighting each other any more." So hostility was definitely his main point. And it was irrelevant.

John,
You said "Was *anyone* suggesting we wanted to go to war?"

By that comment, you are making the very same mistake that you're accusing TB of, i.e. assigning to your opponent, an opinion/position which he never took in the first place, so that you can look like you have the upper hand or moral high ground.

You say no one was suggesting going to war, as if TB implied conservative MEPs made that suggestion.

He didn't, as the war ended in 1945.

In 1939, the war was well under way, and if TB said 1939 and not 1945, you could say that he was implying Roger Helmer and Co wanted us to be at war with Europe.

There was still however, a lot of hostility between European countries at the end of the war in 1945, and that is the situation TB refers to in his comments.

Countries which are no longer fighting, but very hostile to each other.

Elena, the comment was not irrelevant because the position that Roger Helmer took was extremely hostile and he was pointing this out with a reference to historical hostilities which no longer exist.

It is outbursts like Roger Helmer's that make the Tories look like the nasty party while Blair comes out smelling like friendliness and roses.

No, I don't think that's how I interpreted it Biodun. Nor do I think many others did.

He chose 1945 because it rhymed with 2005 and the 2nd World War was being fault in 1945. I don't think he was talking about post-war hostility!

fought*

Well if he was talking about "countries that were no longer fighting, but were hostile to each other" perhaps the phrase "We're not fighting each other anymore" wasn't the correct term to use.

I don't think it painted the Tory Party as the "nasty party" at all. The criticisms were perfectly justified. Blair just chose to react in a grossly excessive manner.

What you say also implies the country is nasty, since most of the people of this country share the criticisms that were made about Blair.

David Cameron is correct those people elected as Tory MEPs must leave the EPP. Roger Helmer has done a brillent job - he has put his country before his career in the EPP. This contrasts with Christopher Beazley MEP's letter to the Daily Telegraph last Friday when he states that he has no intention of leaving the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament. Perhaps the time has come to remove the Tory Whip from Mr Beazley and remove him from the candidates list. This would no doubt help with the modernisation of the candidates list !

Speaking of which, has anyone heard any further details about the withdrawal yet? When is it going to happen? I hear one of the Czech parties from the European Democrats is thinking of joining us. If we make a bold move soon, we may be able to form a new, centre-right, "Eurosceptic" Party committed to opposing further integration. No matter what Blair says, I hear that there's a fair few parties who are tempted to join such a new group.

Do we have a timetable for withdrawal yet? Are we negotiating? I've heard very little so far.

The most important thing to solve the EPP-Ed issue is to take a critical look at MEP reselection. But that will need a change to the procedures.

I don't know what other people's experiences were but in London it worked like this: we had x MEPs and so the first x places on the list were reserved for incumbent MEPs standing again - we could affect their priority but they still had a better chance of being returned than any newcomers, ie impossible to deselect them.

Fortunately, in London I doubt anyone wanted to deselect any of our MEPs, who were all sound - but unless this rule is changed we'll be stuck with EPP-thinking MEPs, even if we aren't in the EPP.

People in 1945 were weary of war. People in 2005 have little idea what war is.

The EU is creating unnecesary hostility between nations. By creating an economic quagmire, anger is being brewed up - not just Blair's but everyone's.

The EU is clinging on somehow despite its universal unpopularity with nearly all its members, not to mention the rest of the world. When it cracks, the pressure will burst with unpredictable consequences. Much better will be to deal with the problems now if we can.

Stop creating Europe as an unaccoutable corrupt centralised bureaucracy with a false democracy. This is destroying us, and most other economies in the EU. In an era of enormous world growth, the EU is stuck in a time warp - it may as well be 1945 - where growth is impossible.

Even our once thriving economy has been dragged down to Euro levels of stagnation. The anger is building in Blair, Brown - not Mandelson of course - he loves it all - the EU's completely corrupt just like himself.

Blair just wants a nice safe job as EU President and he's spending our billions to get it. The EPP wants to add 3.5 in the £ to our rate of income tax. Council Tax could double. Road charging is planned. That's just the beginning.

We must bring forward David Cameron's idea of a modern Europe of free trading independent democratic nations, quit the EPP, get the EDN Europe of Democratic Nation states up and running, and fight to save the European continent from itself once again.

Hopefully by extricating the nation states from the quagmire, we can prevent the next war. But staying in the EU as it is, is creating anger. Anger between nations is dangerous stuff. Taxation without representation is also known to be toxic to peace.

Blair's legacy will be anger. Cameron's job is to stop that anger by getting back to peaceful business-building and job-creation....outside the EPP and quickly. He will need all of our support.

May I add that the Europe of Democratic Nation States - the EDN - is just a working title. What would you call the new grouping? Any ideas?

Does anyone think, by the way, that Blair is looking to head the Commission in 2009? (if there is still a commission, of course). Or would that not be possible seeing as he wouldn't be head of government in 2009?


I suspect Blair will do something much more akin to Clinton's "global initiative" establishing his Blair Foundation and being a roving ambassador for his interests. I wouldn't be as unkind as to suggest what they may be!

Did you spot the EPP logo (bottom left) of the ad?

Our "partners" wanted an even bigger concession than Blair conceded.

What stinking hyprocisy!!

Did you spot the EPP logo (bottom left) of the ad?

Our "partners" wanted an even bigger concession than Blair conceded.

What stinking hypocrisy!!

Some suggested names for a new MEP grouping which we would feel comfortable in joining, and which would reflect the real values on which the European Union is built:

(1) the Flexible Union for a Multi-speed Europe (FUME)

(2) the Voluntary Organisation for a Multilateral International Treaty (VOMIT)

(3) the Alliance for Resisting a Super-state Europe (ARSE)

(4) the Political Organisation for Increasing Subsidiary for Our Nation-states (POISON)

(5) the Democratic Reform Initiative to Build Better Liaison in Europe (DRIBBLE)

Actually, what's wrong with "Conservative"? Or would that be written-off as a joke title?

Federation of European United Democrats - FEUD?

Conservatives United to Nobble Treaties

Thanks Guys - that lot are superb!

Rerun CAFE - Conservatives Against A Federal Europe.

Tony Offers Rebate Yearly?
Blair Only Lets Lovers Of Chirac Keep Subsidies?

Speaking of name changes, perhaps the Liberal Demoprats should change theirs to Factions Undermine Charles Kennedy?

DVA's letting off steam again!!

For replacement EPP, why not drop the E?

making...
Independent Democratic nation States
IDS!!!

or my preferred option, (not tainted with the 'E' letter. Also the 'D' letter has been overused as in the CD, the LD, the ED and so on).

The Independent Nation States
The INS says it all.

It's possible that Gordon Brown could engage in a rebranding exercise of New Labour if/when he becomes their leader - Tony Is Too Stupid?

Many thanks (and a Merry Christmas) to all who have posted positive comments!

Blair says "It's 2005 not 1945", and says we need friends and allies in Europe. Of course he is right, and all sensible people would agree. But where he is wrong, wickedly wrong, is his implicit assumption that to have trade and allies in Europe we have to give up our independence and democracy, and to out-source our governance to unaccountable foreign institutions where we have no control and little influence.

Euro-philes constantly, and wrongly, conflate "cooperation" with supra-national institutions, and conclude that anyone who opposes supra-national institutions is therefore "isolationist" and against cooperation. This is nonsense.

Blair accused Farage and myself of being "reactionaries". But it is Blair who is the reactionary. As William Hague has said, the EU is a 1970s solution to a 1950s problem. And Blair clings to this last-century model of a centralised, protectionist trading bloc which is increasingly irrelevant in a globalised, internet-enabled 21st Century world.

A last point on Tories and the EPP. The reactionary tendency in the delegation, clinging to the status quo, argues that membership of the EPP leads to "influence". Indeed it does. But sadly, it is not Conservative influence in the EPP. It is EPP influence over the Conservative delegation.

As an independent, I was the ONLY Conservative MEP with speaking time in the Blair debate on the 20th. Others had to make do with a one-minute slot in the unpredictable "catch-the-eye" session that followed. As a result, I achieved perhaps the best and widest media coverage of my career. Now that's influence, and I wouldn't have got it in the EPP.

Bout time the nation heard about you Roger.

Here's a 21st Century suggestion to move on from the 1970's solution to the 1950's problem.

The INSE - The Independent Nation States of Europe...a suggested name for the EU new Conservative Home. Au revoir EPP. Allez Roger Helmer!!

Welcome Roger Helmer.

Roger,

Great to see you on this blog. Keep up the good work. It's great to have you and Chris H-H representing us in the East Midlands.

Roger,

A pleasure to have such infamous company on the site.

How many independent committee chairmen are there in the EP and what is the likely hood of you achieving a key committee post as an independent?

Great stuff Roger. Did you hear the Mirror journalist calling you a right wing nutter on the Sky News review at all the other night. Disgraceful comments but what can you expect from the Mirror.

For Frank Young: You are quite right. I will not, as an independent, become Chairman of (for example) the Unemployment Committee, on which I sit. But who cares? Only those MEPs who go native, and start to put the glittering prizes before the national interest. Personally (as Dan Hannan has said) I think there is quite enough EU legislation already, without my seeking to make any more of it. And in any case, Committee Chairmen have very limited influence on what gets through the committee, and as an independent, I have one vote just the same as any other MEP.

In any case, the intention is that Conservatives should form a new group with our allies. This new group will be entitled to these posts in proportion to its numbers. I will not be seeking such a post.

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