Friday, June 16, 2006

Will they, won't they?

It really is extraordinary the extent to which The Daily Telegraph, prop. Daniel Hannan, Esq, is pursuing the EPP agenda, even to the extent of devoting the main leader to the strident call: “Cameron must keep his pledge to leave the EPP”.

The decision, we are told, is David Cameron's “most important of his leadership so far”, not least because his commitment to leave was the one promise he made before being elected leader. “If he fails to fulfil it,” says the leader writer, a.k.a Daniel Hannan, “he will confirm Labour's smear - that he is a flip-flopping lightweight without firm principles - and irreparably damage the electorate's growing sense that here, at last, is a different sort of politician.”

Reading between the lines though, there is a different story. The self-proclaimed Eurosceptic Hannan, in a move that represented a triumph of hope over experience, pitched his weight behind the “flip-flopping lightweight” David Cameron during the Tory leadership election, on the promise of leaving the EPP – given in haste by the Boy King when he saw that Liam Fox might erode his lead.

Now, as we see, the chances of this actually happening are receding by the day, the young Hannan has large dollops of egg smeared all over his face, having not only supported the Boy King but actively campaigned for fellow Eurosceptics to join the band wagon.

In fact, leaving the EPP group mid-parliamentary term was always going to be difficult, as the groups are set up at the beginning of the term and, once settled, MEPs are always reluctant to change. The right time was immediately after the Euro-elections, but that opportunity was lost, making William Hague’s task an uphill slog, even without the active resistance of the leader of the Conservative Group in the EU parliament, Timothy Kirkhope.

In fact, prior to the elections, the deal had all but been done and it was the failure of the Tories to deliver then – not a little due to the actions of the Boy King himself – that soured many of the potential members from the accession countries.

The idea, as we have written before, was to set up an alternative right-wing group, one that would be free-market, eurosceptic, atlanticist, the EPP being none of these things but part of the European project, as Hannan’s article points out. With the influx of supposedly like-minded East European MEPs this seemed an extremely good idea. But it was not to be. All that is now past history and the groups, if not carved in stone are, at the very least, set in hard to shift clay.

In any case, is there really any point to this agonizing (beyond fulfilling the one and only promise the Boy King had made during his election campaign and saving the career of one or two eurosceptic MEPs)?

The leader in the Telegraph gets almost apocalyptic. Leaving the EPP, it explains, will change the entire politics of the European Parliament:

“Indeed, the effect of establishing a new group would be to create, for the first time, a real opposition in the European Parliament - for every current major group, including the EPP, is formally committed to the integrationist project.”
There is, as it happens, a group in the European Parliament, the Independence/ Democracy Group, which is, roughly speaking, in opposition to the European project or as much as any group can be within the Toy Parliament. Surely the writer of the leader must know that the way in which the Toy Parliament and, indeed, the whole EU legislative process functions prevents any form of genuine opposition at any time.

A new grouping, the article goes on, would solve many of the problems Europe (and the European Union) face:
“All over Europe, voters are crying out, not for ever-closer union, but for a Europe of independent states, trading and co-operating on the basis of national sovereignty. Britain's Conservatives are the largest party in the European Parliament to hold this sentiment. They could lead the reform of Europe - but they cannot do so from within the EPP.”
The idea that Britain’s Conservatives hold a consistent sentiment about the EU or European developments from one day to the next is laughable. Most of the MEPs, as it happens, are happily federalist.

In any case, exactly how would a new grouping in the European Parliament achieve that “Europe of independent states, trading and co-operating on the basis of national sovereignty”? Does Mr Hannan have any practical ideas on the subject or will it happen about the same time as Mr Hague reforms of the Treaty of Rome?

[This is a joint posting by the two editors of EUReferendum.]

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