Fringe Meeting, Austin Court, Tuesday Oct 5th, 9:00 a.m.
Back in July we were voting in the Strasbourg Plenary on the proposal to set up the EEAS — the European External Action Service, or EU Diplomatic Service (under the wise and guiding hand of Baroness Ashton). And looking down the voting list, I and a couple of colleagues saw that we were whipped to vote in favour.
It had to be a mistake. As a Party, we’ve always opposed the EEAS, and we opposed the Lisbon Treaty which provided its legal basis (or at least we opposed Lisbon until it was ratified). But clearly we would not actually be voting in favour — would we?
I turned round to our Foreign Affairs Spokesman (at least we still regard EU issues as foreign, even if Brussels regards them as domestic), Charles Tannock MEP (London), two rows behind me, and I shouted “Hey Charles, there’s a mistake. We’re down to vote YES on EEAS!”. To which he replied “That’s right. Instructions from London”. Shocked, I immediately voted NO anyway, as did Nirj Deva and Dan Hannan. And to their credit, several other colleagues, although caught by surprise, at least had the presence of mind to abstain.
So which way now for euro-sceptics in the Party (which is most of the membership)? I have written to William Hague requesting an explanation of this volte face, but to date have received no reply. There’s more to this — much more. So come and hear Nirj and me talk about it at our fringe meeting in The Freedom Zone (co-sponsored with The Freedom Assn) at 9:00 a.m. (if you can make it that early!), in Austin Court, right alongside the main Conference venue (but outside the security zone).