March 13, 2009
The Conservatives will leave the EPP-ED group after the June elections. Joseph Daul, leader of the European People’s Party group was formally informed on Wednesday, in Strasbourg, by a Conservative delegation led by foreign affairs spokesman William Hague.
The stated intention is to establish a new grouping in the European Parliament. There are currently 27 Conservative members among the 288 EPP-ED members in the 785 seat legislature. A new official group requires 25 MEPs from seven Member States. Within the EPP-ED group, there are seven Conservative group spokesmen – a disproportionately large number – as well as the Agriculture Committee chair.
If the Conservatives are able to form a new group, it will probably include the ODS-Czech Civic Democrats (founded by Vaclav Klaus) and the Polish Justice & Law party (the Kaczynski twins). Other possibilities are the Belgian right wing) Lijst Dedeker, the Danish People’s Party, Italy’s Northern League and a number of Latvian and Lithuanian MEPs, currently part of the Union for a Europe of the Nations group. If a group were formed, it would probably be the fourth largest.
David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, has expressed confidence that “many other parties” would join the new group, but there have so far been no signs of this. At best the likely next UK government will be supported in Parliament by a rag bag of eurosceptics.
The more likely outcome is that the Conservatives will sit ‘unattached’. In this case, Conservatives will not be able to serve as committee chairs or vice-chairs, table or negotiate resolutions, or submit amendments to legislation without collecting 40 signatures or authoring any significant reports.
This makes no political sense for the party or for the UK. It will necessarily undermine the UK’s standing inside and outside Parliament and, incidentally, make the EPP more integrationist. The result could also be that the Socialist group become the biggest in Parliament with greater influence, including over the appointment of the ne Commission president.
It is an astounding decision at a time when we all need closely to cooperate to cope with the economic and financial crisis. There are battles ahead on issues such as bigger or smaller government, Friedman vs Keynes, left vs right. Whatever the criticism of the European Parliament, it is a co-legislature.
Thus, the Conservatives quitting the EPP will hardly maximise their influence in the European Parliament. Sadly, however, it will satisfy party activists who viscerally dislike the EU. The Union needs to be reformed in several respects but no-one in their right mind would favour its termination. Therefore, the Conservatives should be lobbying within for the necessary changes. And any lobbyist will tell them that “Yes, but” is always preferably to “No”.
Author : Stanley Crossick