One thing that struck me most at the Conservative Party Conference was the apparent lack of any real policy towards the European Union. Don’t get me wrong, this is my first Conference as so I should probably wait before I should make such a judgement, but considering its importance it did strike me as odd. Not that it was completely ignored, with William Hague reaffirming the support for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but I still feel it was somewhat lacking. And I am not the only one on this train of thought; it was raised at both the Bruges Group event on Monday and at a dinner I attended with Martin Callanan MEP. Both times it was that the Conservative Party does not have a robust policy with regard Britain’s future with the EU.
Like all good Tories, I am Euro-sceptic and I am very much inclined towards a withdrawal from the EU and setting up a free trade agreement with them instead. I understand the need for a close relationship with Europe and the necessary trade-related issues plus other agreements but I despise the entire EU Constitution project and the protectionist policies it enforces, much to the detriment to us and other parts of the world. A withdrawal from the EU can achieve this aim, where renegotiation cannot, and it is futile to believe so. There are too many within Europe that are committed to the federal Europe project, and that is fine but Britain should not be a part of that Europe. That is also why all attempts at renegotiation will fail.
Of course, this is not encouraged by the Conservative Party, or rather David Cameron. I’m no admirer of the man, but I do see his potential to bring the Conservatives back into government after so long in exile. But Tory policy is whimpish at best, trying to please all sides and, as with all policies and ideas that try to appease both, it does not. The Euro-sceptics are unhappy, the Europhiles are unhappy, only David Cameron is happy. And it is important that the problem of Europe is addressed, for the current balance will not last forever.
And grumblings are already underfoot, as at the Bruges Group fringe. Euro-sceptic Tory voters are being encouraged to not back the Party at the European elections next year, and Nigel Farage MEP seemed eager to canvass them for UKIP instead. This ‘protest’ vote I feel would only damage the Party, splitting it along its old lines and bogging down the Party leadership once more. This ‘protest’ is aimed at forcing the Party leadership to adopt more radical policies towards Europe, and though I do agree with that, it is neither the time nor the place to act in this way. But it will be tempting to many Euro-sceptics who feel that the Party deserves no loyalty for its failure for a tough stance on Europe.
I, though not through loyalty to Cameron, will back the Party at the elections cause it is important that we stand united for the next General Election, whenever that may be. And we must not let the Europe question destroy us once more when we are so close to Number 10. And hopefully Cameron realises this, and that he will back his commitments on Europe so far, and ideally go further. It is necessary to appease the grassroots and prevent a possible pre-2010 upset. Let us just hope that this is unnecessary worry and the Party will remained strong, and stand behind Cameron, whether we like him or not with regards Europe. It is important not to let disagreements on policy destroy our chances of election success.