David Blackburn

Europe rears its head once again for the Tories

Europe rears its head once again for the Tories
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One of David Cameron’s chief successes has been to marginalise Europe as an issue. But the expulsion of Edward McMillan-Scott MEP from the Conservative party, for refusing to withdraw allegations he made against Michal Kaminski, the leader of the controversial Eurosceptic grouping of which the Tories are members, has disinterred the fractious European problem. The Europhile McMillan-Scott launched a pointed attack on the Tory leadership and its European policy on this morning’s Today programme. He said:

“I think David Cameron has got most things right on Europe, but this partnership (the grouping) matters...What we will see is the party becoming much more Eurosceptic than it seems now. If all European parliaments and the Irish vote in favour of the Lisbon treaty, we pledged not to have a referendum, I fear that will change. There are a number of Europhobes near the leader who are influencing his thinking... and that is why I have been expelled. It’s no disgrace to have the whip withdrawn, but to be expelled on a point of principle is disgraceful... people with a pro-European view, like me, deserve to be heard without being expelled. It’s clear he (Cameron) is clearing the decks ahead of the party conference.”

McMillan-Scott’s soothsayings may prove as accurate as Nostradamus’s, and there has been no commitment on a possible Lisbon referendum; but it’s clear that the Lisbon treaty is regenerating age-old tension. Ken Clarke’s interpretation of ‘we will not let matters rest there’ caused widespread furore and today’s Times reports that Lord Tebbit has warned Cameron that he will cede ground to UKIP unless he provides the electorate with a “satisfactory assurance” that there will be a referendum regardless of the Irish result. Senior Tory figures suggest that the leadership views Afghanistan as its foremost foreign policy challenge and wishes to avoid confrontation with or over Brussels at all costs. There was a clear case to expel McMillan-Scott; but by doing so, Cameron has unleashed a potential monster.