James Forsyth

Europe hasn’t gone away

Europe hasn’t gone away
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The Tory party’s acceptance of a 2.9 percent increase in the EU budget has persuaded Steve Richards that ‘Europe has ceased to be a toxic issue in British politics.’ As Steve acknowledges, this is in part because the Euro-sceptics have won the argument over the single currency. But it is also because the Tory parliamentary party has accepted that the coalition means nothing positive is happening on the Europe front for the next few years.

One thing, though, needs to be borne in mind: the Tory party is more Euro-sceptic than it has been in living memory. Talk to new Tory MPs, who are mostly hardcore sceptics, about Europe and you’ll hear the same thing over and over again, ‘I won’t rock the boat now while the government is dealing with the deficit. But when that’s done, it’s back to Europe.’

Now, it is, obviously, easy to promise to be brave tomorrow. But I sense they mean it, that once the fiscal situation has eased they will push on Europe. Compounding this, as Tim notes, is the fact that the Tory leadership is always hinting that it would love to act on Europe and the like but just can’t because of the coalition. When the political situation changes, those Euro-sceptic Tory MPs who have stayed quiet, will expect — even demand — action.