Fraser Nelson

Brown won’t get his Tory split on Europe

Brown won't get his Tory split on Europe
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William Hague was on Steve Richards' GMTV show at 6am this morning (amazing what baby care does to your viewing habits) and asked The Question ahead of tomorrow's debate: what would a Tory government do about a ratified EU Reform Treaty/constitution? He answered in almost the exact same words Cameron used on Marr last week. "In our view too much power would have been transferred from Westminster to Brussels, that it would lack democratic legitimacy for the reasons we have discussed, and that we would not let matters rest there and that is a position that Conservative MPs, as far as I can see, are very, very supportive of."

The Tory problem is that there is little agreement on what, precisely, should be done. The EU offers no reverse mechanism. Hague is implying the Judge Dredd approach to problem-solving ("if I can't find a way, I'll make one") yet given his problems over the EPP withdrawal, would the party trust him? From my inquiries, there points are clear.

1) A great number of Tories view resolving the Europe question as a fundamental, almost existential battle.

2) An equal number consider the issue toxic, and don't want to revive the monster they believe sunk Hague in 01

3) Crucially, both sides realise now is not the time to fight. Unlike Maastricht, there is no chance of a parliamentary veto for the Lisbon Treaty. The Lib Dems are not on side, and even if they were Brown's majority of 67 is enough.

Brown forgets that Major's 1992/3 battle was not a spasm. Rebels genuinely believed they could halt the EU process, as Major's majority was so thin. It was a practical mission, which just looked like a Tory suicide mission. There is no practical goal this time.

Brown plans 15 parliamentary days over the Lisbon Treaty, ie five weeks including recess, and his aim will be to push the Tories over this line that Hague and Cameron are carefully defending. He'll pray for a Major-style split. And my hunch is that he will be disappointed.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

Topics in this articlePolitics