Has the Coalition lost the plot on the EU?

Earlier today I spoke to a packed Bruges Group fringe meeting in Birmingham, and I posed this question: Has the Coalition (and the Conservative Party) lost the plot on the EU?  I’m afraid the answer is YES.
 
As a Conservative, I have for years received e-mails from constituents asking how I as a eurosceptic can remain in a party so obviously committed to the European project, and I have replied that the Party needs a bit of Eurosceptic ballast, that I’m trying to keep it honest, that if all the sceptics leave then the pro-EU trend will get worse.  And I’ve said that I hoped that Conservatives in government would prove the doubters wrong.
 
So where are we after five months of Conservative-led Coalition government?  Last week Vince Cable told a Brussels audience that the EU institutions had been “pleasantly surprised” by the Coalition’s engagement with, and commitment to the EU project.  And for once Vince wasn’t wrong.  The truth is that we’ve been handing powers to Brussels under the Coalition arguably faster than Labour did before us.  No wonder that the sound Shadow Europe Minister Mark François was replaced by the plausible and managerial David Lidington.
 
A couple of months back, we Conservative MEPs were whipped to vote in favour of the new EU diplomatic service, the EEAS, on “Instructions from London”, despite having been elected on a 2009 Manifesto that explicitly committed us to opposing it.  We had opposed the Lisbon Treaty that provides a legal basis for the EEAS, we had opposed the EEAS itself, and we were right to do so.  The structures of a single country called the EU are being put in place around us, and we are now whipped to vote in favour on the specious basis that we’ll have to work with it, so we’d better pretend to like it.
 
Theresa May has voluntarily signed up to the EU Investigation Order, so that a Bulgarian prosecutor can demand your bank details or your DNA, and the British police are obliged to obtain these data and pass them to Bulgaria.  No checks, no balances, no safeguards for the citizens (just as with the scandalous EU Arrest Warrant).  The police are already protesting about the additional work-load at a time of major cut-backs.  And what happened to data protection?  This is a gross infringement of individual liberty – and the Coalition bought it without a fight.
 
Then there’s the new EU regulatory structure for financial services.  The City of London has the lion’s share of the EU’s financial services business, yet we’ve agreed for it to be regulated from Brussels and Frankfurt.  Companies and high-net-worth individuals are already buying tickets to Switzerland in consequence.  I pay credit to my colleague Vicky Ford MEP who has fought tooth-and-nail, and with some success, to modify the proposals and limit the damage.  But we have conceded the principle, and that’s a gross dereliction of the government’s duty.
 
So what about the Referendum Lock?  It is a meaningless piece of spin.  They talk about referenda on new Treaties, but because of the passerelle clauses in the Lisbon Treaty, Brussels doesn’t need new treaties.  It can pursue “Ever Closer Union” within the existing Treaty framework.  Our Referendum Lock plans refer to the ratchet clauses, but leave so many grey areas that, given the current attitude to Brussels, we can have little confidence in them.  Not so much a Referendum Lock – more a stable door slammed when the horse is long gone.
 
Why are they doing this?  Weren’t Cameron and Hague of a broadly sceptic disposition?  Well their first priority is, quite rightly, the deficit, and so their second priority is to keep the Coalition on an even keel to deal with the deficit.  For these reasons they don’t want to be distracted by a huge row with Brussels, nor do they want a huge row with the Lib-Dems.
 
But the underlying problem is that they regard Europe as a separate issue in a separate box, and moreover an issue way down the voters’ priority list.  It’s something that happens “over there”.  They’ve failed to grasp the fundamental nature of this threat to our independence, our democracy and our liberty.  Sometimes, I despair for my Country.

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13 Responses to Has the Coalition lost the plot on the EU?

  1. Brilliantly and concisely put.

  2. Alfred says:

    Chris, I agree.

    I went to listen to David Cameron before the election and was struck by only one thing. He didn’t mention the EU. I failed to get my question in so submitted a written one – I never did get the promised reply.

    Sadly, the Conservative Party is now the EU loving party that some of us feared it would become.

    I’m not a UKIP fan, but at least the party is honest in what it wants to do and why.

  3. Malcolm Parkin says:

    Our absorption into the EU jungle was inevitable, and Edward Heath knew that when he did the deal in 1973, but perhaps he did not realise how labyrinthine and oppressive the jungle would become. When William Hague led the Tories in opposition he campaigned on a strong anti EU platform, and found that nobody – most of all the electorate – was interested. That is still the case. Many people in the UK support our EU involvement, and are quite happy to see Britain disappear as an entity. The BBC are also partly EU funded, so will remain either silent or supportive. The problem is the electorate. They just don’t see it as an issue.
    UKIP are a waste of space. Apart from sideline carping, they have no actual concrete course of action for removing the UK from the EU. And as individual MEPs they can make themselves rich during the term of one EU parliament.
    So my advice is to just grin and bear it. We are EU fodder of the first order.

    Malcolm Parkin

  4. Daniel1979 says:

    Roger,

    I have every respect for you and your tireless work. I too voted Conservative many times and did so partly in the belief that they were EU Sceptic and at the very least would fight tooth and nail for radical reforms and hoped that I could lend my voice to those who want what is really needed, a UK in/out referendum.

    However, I did not vote Conservative this year and will not again. They may have under Hague’s or IDS’s leadership if returned to power delivered on the EU question. But that is no longer the case, and everyone knows it.

    I accept your logic about staying in the party for the reasons stated, but I would say to you, that though that may once have made sense unfortunately that thinking may no longer be sound with the people at the head of the party acting exactly as many of us prior to the election suspected, and indeed openly stated.

    The handful of you left that have the guts to be open about your genuine concerns and who work hard to oppose the anti-democratic EU are now pawns being used by the party leadership; your purpose is to be visible for but a few weeks prior to election in ever dwindling numbers so that you can be pointed to on rare occasions as reassurance of Tory anti-EU sentiment. Your numbers are so small now that you can rely on just a single-digit turnout to back-door legislation slipped through Westminster and a similar number to go against “instructions from London” in Brussels.

    The Conservative Party may be the greatest political party in history but the fact is that today it is a lost cause on the matter of the EU, and has been since your leader dropped the pledge on the Lisbon referendum. The same action probably cost your party a slim Westminster majority and handed the exceptionally pro-EU Lib Dems a number of seats in Cabinet.

    The Party I grew up supporting has abandoned me and my core beliefs. I have neither hope nor expectations that the Conservatives will ever return to being the party that stands up to the EU, too many of its elected members are supporters now. It will never change whilst led by Cameron or anyone who will follow in his footsteps.

    Your hard work is appreciated by me and many others, but the Conservative trend is irreversible. By acting as ballast you are being used, and your hard work abused. The EU Sceptics in the Party have lost, The Conservative Party is a Pro-EU Political Party, that still attracts anti-EU voters because of a few members that break from the party line to tell it like it is.

    There is only one party in the UK today which is prepared to work for an in/out referendum. There is only one party that shares your distrust and dismay and the corrupt and encroaching EU. There is just one party that can and will deliver the people of the UK a referendum. Roger, it is not the Conservatives.

    You know better than I – Can you honestly promise that the Conservatives will deliver a referendum on membership? Can Cameron be trusted to stop the erosion of sovereignty? What instructions from London will be next?

    In my humble opinion Roger, the Conservatives will never deliver. If you want your hard work to count more directly to what we know to be your over-arching aims then you Roger would be best suited and I am sure made very welcome in UKIP.

    It was a hard decision as a voter to finally acknowledge that the Conservatives do not want my vote. But at the ballot box I walked away content in the knowledge that I voted for a whole party working against the EU, and for the UK. How many Tory voters can say that?

    As a trusted elected official the walk away would indeed be harder. But, you will no longer be a stooge for what is today a pro-EU party and if those last few of you who hold elected positions and similar thinking were to do the same it would deliver a hammer-blow to the notion that voting Conservative is a EU-Sceptic vote.

    I want that referendum, the only way I can ever envision that happening is for all the EU Sceptic voting Labour and Conservative to finally make the switch and vote for it, and they can do that by voting UKIP. You, Dan Hannan, Carswell and a few others give legitimacy to voting Tory because you are well liked and respected. But the facts are the facts, no referendum will be granted under the Conservatives so I hope people who share my desire for that referendum also realise that that the only way now is to transfer their votes to UKIP.

  5. Peter Adams says:

    Roger, you finish with “Sometimes, I despair for my Country.” Well I despair when I hear politicians like you who talk the talk but will not walk the walk.
    Have another read of the comments from Daniel1979. Stop being a phony anti EU front for Cameron and his cronies. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk away from the Cons who have told us since 1973 that they will reform the EU from the inside yet produced nothing but even closer integration. Come any join the only realistic party standing up for the UK against the EU, the UK Independence Party.

  6. Reg Amos says:

    Excellent post by Daniel 1979
    I used to be a party worker for the Conservatives.
    I am now a branch secretary for UKIP.
    Come and join us Roger

  7. RCS says:

    A very good post. It is what many of us feared: that the EU would simply go on acquiring power and the conservative party would, despite protesting themselves as eurosceptics, simply agree to any initiative from Brussels.

    I sense the situation is rather like that of climate change. “The science is settled”. The political future of Europe is settled so we should just accept it.

    Nevertheless, the EU is one of the most stultifying bureaucracies and has produced failed policy after failed policy, none of which appear to be reformable. It will continue to produce filed policies, including that of climate change, which will make the Euro pale into insignificance.

    Europe will simply decline and its peoples will suffer until the majority of population realise what the EU means to them personally.

  8. “Edward Heath knew that when he did the deal in 1973, but perhaps he did not realise how labyrinthine and oppressive the jungle would become.” You are being too tender to Ted.

  9. an ex-tory voter says:

    Like Roger I too walked away having failed to vote Tory for the first time in my life. It pains me greatly to see good men remain in the party whilst the party leadership completely eschews the principles upon which they supposedly stood before their election victory (?). It was a difficult decision for me personally, but having taken it I can at least look the world in the eye knowing that I did the right thing. As to the future, UKIP has my vote and will keep it until the Tory Party regains it’s senses, or another party offers a realistic prospect of our leaving the EU. Maybe that party will be UKIP, if so that’s fine and dandy by me. Meanwhile, despite there still being a few good men within it, DC and Co can put their party where the sun don’t shine.

  10. Rich says:

    As above. Was Tory then deceived by the Ski Sloped Forehead. I don’t respect him enough now to even address him by his name.

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