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Is This The Week When The Euro-Sceptic Movement Itself Began To Split?

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Euro-scepticism is a contested term, but those Conservatives that huddle together under its banner divide into at least two camps.

First, there are those that want to leave the EU outright – and usually want an In/Out referendum?

Second, there are those that want to stay in the EU – but renegotiate Britain’s membership.

A big question for the latter group has always been: so what’s your view if the relationship can’t be renegotiated? In or Out?

A recent answer from them is that renegotiation is now more likely – since, given the crisis in the Eurozone, the EU may be in the process of transforming itself to a German-led inner core – the EU proper – and a loose, diverse outside ring: a wider “European Community”.  This was the prospect sketched recently in the Times by Lord Owen.

However, it may well be that this two-zone Europe doesn’t happen and the EU somehow or other keeps much of its present shape.  In which case, the question will continue to be put to the individuals and groups who make up the Conservative “renegotiationists” – which stretch from older MPs such as John Redwood and Bill Cash to members of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs.

The Fresh Start Group, which is aligned with the Open Europe think-tank, is the leading renegotiationist force in that intake, which looks to dominate the Conservative Party in the medium-term.  The two are working closely together, and with Labour MPs who take a Euro-sceptic view, through the new European Reform Group.

Fresh Start also has good relations with the party hierarchy, the Foreign Office – and, notably, the Treasury: George Osborne is taking a close interest in the group.  Earlier this week, it carried out a media operation to accompany an Open Europe pamphlet on the EU and trade.

The MP George Eustice wrote about its contents in the Guardian and Christopher Howarth of Open Europe – a former aide to Mark Francois, the former Tory Shadow Europe Minister – did so on ConservativeHome. The pamphlet was called “Leaving the EU would raise more questions than answers.”

Open Europe was careful to say that the pamphlet was concerned only with trade, but two points struck me about it.

First, that it took the fight to the “Outers” on trade, most of whom suggest that Britain should leave the EU and adopt the Swiss or Norwegian model.  “Norway adopts 75% of all EU legislation but has no say in its formulation,” Eustice wrote. Turkey has access to the single market in goods, but it is not in the single market for services.”

Second, that since economics has traditionally mattered to voters more than sovereignty in relationship to the EU, the report’s conclusion has implications: “While acknowledging that the cost of EU membership remains far too high, the EU continues, on a purely trade basis, to be the most beneficial arrangement for Britain.”

Conservative MPs who argue that in the last resort Britain must stay in the EU tend to keep their heads down.  To date, they’ve been mostly confined in any event to the older generation of Tories of which Ken Clarke is the best known: the Conservative Group for Europe even re-badged itself as the more discreetly-named Conservative Europe Group.

Is it possible to see a gradual coming-together of that older generation and a younger one, united in the view that since trade and prosperity matter most to voters, Britain has no choice but to remain in the EU if it stays much as now?  I don’t know, but I thought this week’s events were interesting – and wonder if the Treasury knew of the pamphlet in advance…

By Paul Goodman




Mark Field MP: Christians are being ethnically-cleansed from the Middle East’s hollow new democracies
“The forced repatriation (in a process that might now be called ethnic cleansing) of my mother’s family and millions of other civilians from groups whose nationality would in future be inextricably linked to their ethnicity, was largely overlooked in the euphoria that swept the world as formal hostilities ceased at the end of World War II. If we wish to avoid a similar scale of civilian displacement, we must ensure that the banishment from their homelands of Middle Eastern Christians over the years ahead is not a dark derivative of this surge in Arabian people power.” Read more:

Tim Montgomerie: Osborne can still prosper but he must choose between being Chancellor and general busybody
“Tory activists shouldn’t give up on Osborne. As well as his instincts on Europe and energy bills he is the author of the Coalition’s hugely popular welfare cap. As I blogged a week ago he was not a supporter of the 45p “half-measure” but was disastrously over-ruled by Clegg and Cameron. He has found more money for Gove’s schools reforms, rightly recognising that a new generation of technical colleges are vital for Britain’s economic future. His weaknesses are also well known but he deserves the opportunity to first steady the ship and then plot a course to a safe harbour.” Read more:

Tom Waterhouse: The challenge for the Conservatives in London
“Two years ago Labour had strengthened its grip on the capital, with the Conservatives’ net gain in parliamentary seats in London masking a more significant development. Having the general election on the same day as local elections meant much higher turnouts…Labour gained control of 10 more councils, while the Tories lost control of three. Despite enjoying a net gain of seven parliamentary seats, the Conservatives still trail Labour 38 to 28. This is the stark reality in London – have a look at the difference in political control of councils between May 2006, and May 2010 above it. From this you can see why the Boris campaign was at a disadvantage on the ground, especially as Labour could also tap into the 670,000 trade union members in the capital.” Read more:

Martin Callanan MEP: Europe seems destined to hold jobs summit after jobs summit, growth debate after growth debate, dinner after dinner – but delivering little more than words
“Thankfully, at least for the moment, Europe is not about to rush back to a new wave of Keynesianism. Instead, we seem destined to hold summit after summit, debate after debate, dinner after dinner, talking about the need for growth and jobs – but delivering little more than words. The only growth to come out of the European Council is the growth in the £280 million new headquarters being erected next to it – complete with a ‘humane gathering place’ and ‘diversity carpet’. Sometimes I really do wonder what planet they are on.” Read more:

The Deep End: The Eurozone crisis – it’s worse than you think   “So just to be clear: without directly lending so much as a single cent to another government, joining the Eurozone automatically and massively exposes each member state to the consequences of a run on the banks in any other member state.

But, hang on, this isn’t just about Greece, is it? The banking systems of other countries like Spain are also in trouble…Why haven’t we seen the shamefaced resignation and departure from public life of every single senior politician, economist and journalist who did everything in their power to drag us into this mess?” Read more:

Paul Goodman:  Reforming his department. Defending Britain’s interests. Satisfying the Treasury – the circle that Philip Hammond must try to square. “Mr Hammond reminds me of the sort of old-fashioned bank manager – from the days when there were old-fashioned bank managers – who would politely refuse you a loan, explaining with a wintery smile that it’s all for your own good. To this dry figure falls the task of reconfiguring his Department, fighting for his budget (or at least being seen to) and pleasing the Treasury, all at the same time…Even a man of the Defence Secretary’s talents will find this a hard circle to square.  Real debate about the future of defence policy has been postponed for too long and it is poised to happen on Mr Hammond’s watch.” Read more:

Bruce Anderson: The BBC’s Jubilee coverage was a calamity. It should be scaled back to an operation worthy of Reith.   “This is more than just a matter of idleness, ignorance and stupidity – though there was plenty of all three. The BBC is in the grip of a corrupt culture. When John Birt became Deputy Director-General of the BBC, he diagnosed the problem. At its lower and middle levels, the Corporation was full of flaccid Lefties who never met anyone who did not share their views. That is still true. Most of those in charge of the BBC’s coverage would have been shocked to discover that millions of their fellow-countrymen were devout monarchists. A BBC which makes such a crass misjudgement does not deserve the Licence Fee.” Read more:

by Paul Goodman

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