LEADERSHIP THAT RECOGNISES THE NEED TO 'CHANGE TO WIN'?
New Tory leader David Cameron has only been in Parliament since 2001. As his leadership campaign was high on imagery and low on specifics, some people question whether he is a Eurosceptic or a Europhile?
It's early days, but time will tell.
'WILL THE REAL DAVID CAMERON PLEASE STAND UP'
In his succesful campaign to lead the Conservative Party, David Cameron made one memorable commitment1: to remove his Conservative MEPs from the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament. .
EPP. European People's Party. A Europe-wide political party of 'Christian Democrat' (federalist) origins and a federalist 'Basic Programme' of policies. Firmly wants common electoral system, EU Constitution without national vetoes & EU income tax2.
EPP-ED. European Parliament group dominated by the EPP. Around 1/3 of the 27 Conservative MEPs might reasonably be regarded as particularly 'Eurosceptic'. Sir Robert Atkins MEP claims3 that Tory MEPs have complete freedom of belief and action within EPP-ED, although Martin Callanan MEP claims4 Conservative MEPs are still obliged to "follow the common policies of the [EPP] Group" - a group which believes in, among other things, a European army and police force, tax-raising powers for MEPs and a single EU seat at the UN" .
However this clashes with the stance of his predecessor, Michael Howard, which resulted in the MEPs having to make pledges to remain in EPP-ED. Some feel that this commitment might be difficult to keep - at least before the next European Parliament elections in 2009.
This will be an interesting early test - both of his authority as Leader, and of his 'Eurosceptic' credentials - some feel that the commitment might have been made for internal electioneering purposes. The task of 'negotiating' removal will probably fall to shadow Foreign Secretary Hague, who, as Party Leader willingly brought his party closer to the EPP.
Atkins adds3: "As William Hague put it in 1999, when he confirmed our associate membership of the EPP-ED Parliamentary Group - "I simply cannot afford to have my political opponents in the House of Commons suggesting that I am isolated from the mainstream Conservative parties on the continent of Europe."
New German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her CDU party are committed members of the EPP. She allegedly warned Cameron that she would freeze relations with him if he did not show up at the 'EPP Summit' just before the December 2005 European Council meeting. Cameron did not attend, but claimed a diary commitment in Northern Ireland.5
In his personal manifesto, Cameron offered 'bold and consistent leadership'6. To be consistent, he will have to review the position of Conservative members of the EU 'Committee of Regions' (COR).
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS?
The Group's Mission statement7 notes "As in any other political assembly, members and alternates of the Committee of the Regions form political groups reflecting their political allegiances.
The group's publication 'Your Guide'8 also confirms that the listed members of COR are "full fledged members of the EPP group in COR" [EPP-COR], adding that other individuals may join EPP-COR if they have "sympathy with the EPP's policy" (p7).
The EPP-COR group's Political Priorities (2002-6)9 reflect the EPP Basic Programme - which is unashamedly federalist.
The Group's integrationist stance is clear7: "The EPP in the CoR has openly said yes to a constitution which responds to the demand for a Europe which is closer to the people...and which paves the way for a real bottom-up European integration".
These committed 'democrats' and 'localists' call10 for pushing ahead with the rejected EU Constitution over the heads of Dutch & French voters.
EPP-COR's Political Priorities note (p15) that "COR members are willing to fully contribute to further European integration policy and to take a proactive part in areas where more of Europe is needed".
Other delights include calls for a 'common European educational area'.
EPP-COR regards the EPP party and the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament as 'strong partners'7.
The COR website11 lists the Conservatives as EPP members, two of whom are noted by 'Your Guide' as 'EPP Coordinators': Lord Hanningfield (RELEX, the regions' 'foreign policy' group) and Gordon Keymer (COTER, 'territorial cohesion' and transport).
On 6.12.05, Keymer12 was elected head of the multi-party UK delegation to the Committee of the Regions. He will lead the UK members of the EU body where local and regional bodies meet to discuss European legislative proposals for the next two years.
The EPP-COR working group on the Common Agricultural Policy is led by Sir Simon Day.
CLARITY ON INTENTIONS NEEDED
Cameron's personal manifesto6 said:
"We believe in national sovereignty. But not in isolation and xenophobia. Now is the time to fight for an open and flexible Europe, with a high growth, low unemployment future."
Confusingly, he also holds13:
"We should be proud of the fact that we are a leading member of the European Union".
When asked if he believed that Britain should pull out of the EU, he
"No. I believe that Britain has an enormous amount to gain through co-operation and free trade in Europe."
The 'Conservative Home' blog15 notes:
"Mr Cameron made very Eurosceptic pledges. Like Liam Fox he promised to take Tory MEPs out of the EPP. He also said that he would consider writing the supremacy of the British parliament into law".
David Cameron has made much of wanting to position his party in the centre. Sooner or later he will have to come off the fence, as he cannot realistically face both ways at once.
On BBC1 Question Time16, 3.11.05, Cameron said he wanted to see the UK take back some powers on social policy and employment policy.
However, if his wider view expressed then is that policies had to be "credible" with young people, he might take note of William Hague's interesting article on the younger generation.
In "The youth of today? They make me glad"17, Hague boldly states: "Their political views will come as a big shock to some of their elders: 80 per cent are against joining the Euro and 70 per cent don't even want to be in the EU at all. It would do Cabinet ministers good to go and listen to them more often".
Cameron is supposed to be against the 'federal agenda' of the EU Constitution being imposed through the back door13. The UK is already lumbered with 85% of it through the ratchet of the current Treaty that prevents the return of powers. Worse still, EU membership obliges us to accept the judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Apparently, legal precedents indicate18 that member states are bound to work to the intentions of any new Treaty (i.e. the other 15%) under the principles of 'good faith' and 'loyal co-operation'.
If Cameron became Prime Minister, he would be a big-time loser, as EU membership would restrict his freedom like a strait-jacket. If he was serious about his mantra 'Change to Win', he would have to think the unthinkable....
He might be haunted by his own words: "Why put off what needs to be done?"6