Cameron is a step closer to his pledge to pull the Conservatives out of the European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament.
In one sense this is an honest move from Cameron. Instead of continuing the charade that his party have any sort of support for the European project, he is being honest and admitting that they would rather be on the fringes, detached from the mainstream of European centre-right philosophy. The EPP is far more federalist in direction than the majority of the Conservative Party would ever be, and they will be more happy detached and isolated from their former group.
However, it is also a disaster in the making for British politics, particularly should the Conservatives win the next General Election. Presuming that they will refuse to link up with the likes of the French National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen and their ilk, the Conservatives are going to be struggling to find enough partners to create a legitimate group. The new rules coming into play for the Parliament require a group to possess at least 25 members from 7 member states in order to be recognised and funded. The number of members should not be an issue, but finding parties from 6 other nations may well force the Tories into working with parties who, while not as extreme as the obvious far-right parties, still possess very questionable views.
One possibility is also that the Conservatives will not manage to find enough partners - they would then either have to beg the EPP to let them back in, or sit on the sidelines completely devoid of influence or input. As well as making a mockery of their party and indeed the country if they were to form the Government, it would also be a betrayal of their voters, who would effectively lose their Conservative representation.
I had thought that Cameron might quietly drop this position in his desire to gain the keys to Number 10 - such a move is hardly going to build up positive relations with other European leaders, and I doubt will be viewed with great respect by other nations such as the US. An isolated UK Government, at the very time when interaction between nations is most required, could have incredibly serious repercussions for the country. It is fascinating to imagine what Ken Clarke is thinking just now. Whilst he might be willing to surpress his own views on Europe in the interests of party stability, will he able to stomach such an abdication of responsibility on the behalf of the Conservative Party, a move which many of their own MEPs have opposed.
Of course, the move might result in some more seats for the Tories at the European elections - anti-European voters will be able to keep their vote with the Tories rather than transferring to UKIP or its ilk. However, the inevitable result will be a decline in the standing of the Conservative Party on the European stage and severe question marks about the appropriateness of David Cameron to lead UK in relations with our European neighbours.
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