Thursday, January 05, 2012

"Pragmatic" eurosceptics

When the europhile Independent gives pride of place to a Tory MP, lauding her as the new "Iron Lady", one might have suspicions about her.

This is Andrea Leadsom, also described as the "incoming head of Tory eurosceptics". She is a member of the "Fresh Start" group, which has the support of 120 Tory MPs including George Eustice and Foreign Secretary William Hague. She is also co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on European Reform, heavily supported by the reformist Open Europe.

As MP for South Northamptonshire, though, she is recorded as having voted strongly for more EU integration and, most recently, strongly supported The Boy's supposed use of the veto.

We are now told that, as part of the Fresh Start group, Ms Leadsom is drawing up a "shopping list" of functions that should be handed back to the UK by the European Union, set out in an alternative "White Paper" in July. They could include "control of employment laws; health and safety measures; farming and fishing; justice and crime; and structural funds for poor areas".

And, according to the Independent, this move shows that Tory MPs, "while welcoming Mr Cameron's decision to veto a new EU treaty designed to rescue the euro, will press him to go further – even though that would increase tensions with the Liberal Democrats and Britain's UK partners".

But what it does actually show is that the europlastics are running the show in the Tory party, people who have nothing in common with the ethos of the Maastricht rebels. They are running the "same old, same old" repatriation agenda, which has no realistic (or any) chance of success, but which serves to hide europhilic tendencies under a veneer of euroscepticism.

Oddly, some would have us stand alongside the Independent and support these people, on the grounds that something is better than nothing, and that the Leadsom agenda gets us closer to the final objective of leaving the European Union.

However, we see in the reformist/repatriation movement a rearguard action, designed to offer concessions to uncommitted eurosceptics, in the hope of watering down the push for withdrawal, and thereby diminishing the force of any referendum that might actually be held. There is also a strong electoral motivation. The Tories have finally woken up to the damage done by UKIP, and are seeking to claw back votes.

Nevertheless, the "RR" agenda is indistinguishable from the traditional Tory stance on the EU, which basically supports Britain's continued membership of the EU, but argues for some degree of "reform". Go back forty years and you will see exactly the same sentiments, with no better ideas being offered as to how the mythical repatriation of powers should be achieved.

Returning to this agenda is "fishing", but there is no hint of the strategy which we concluded must be followed – a declaration of unilateral withdrawal, followed by a proposal to enter negotiations on issues of mutual interest – on our terms.

And to confirm the europlastic credentials of her group, Leadsom "insists" that the vast majority of Tory MPs want to remain in the EU rather than pull out. Hers is a grouping of "pragmatic" eurosceptics which, with William Hague's support, is being advised by Foreign Office officials on which powers might be returned to the UK.

"We are looking in a very detailed way on what could be done differently," says Leadsom. "The Government is keen on that. There is no wedge between the Government and [Tory] backbenchers on this."

So there you have it. As Helen over at Your Freedom and Ours observes everybody is a eurosceptic now. But, it would appear, we must learn to call Tory europhiles "pragmatic eurosceptics".

This is a hijack in progress, so you will not see any support from this quarter. These people are not our friends. They are not our allies. They are not eurosceptics in any shape or form. They are europhiles in disguise, and form as much a barrier to EU withdrawal as their predecessors.