In Europe, not run by Europe. That’s what William Hague once said as leader of the Conservative Party. I happened to hear him on the Today Programme this morning advocating a similar sort of line in his current role as the Tories’ spokesperson on foreign affairs [BBC News story here]. He and David Cameron are in Brussels today for a launch conference of the Movement for European Reform – their joint initiative with Mirek Topolanek and the Czech ODS party. Apart from having a slick website, this whole thing looks like a lot of fuss about nothing.
It’s impossible to tell from the website what the Conservatives actually want from Europe. Hague blandly claimed on the radio that they are against the centralisation of power in Brussels. OK, but who is in favour of centralisation of powers? There’s also plenty of talk about countries cooperating on matters such as climate change and CAP, but intergovernmental cooperation on those sorts of things is not going to help – the French veto is the main reason CAP has not been reformed, and only institutional reform would find a way around that blockage. Only the Constitution is a no-no for the Conservatives as – they claim – it’s back to centralisation. Then if Europe is to do something serious about climate change, we need binding targets – if Cameron really is green he must surely understand this. It’s too easy to free ride.
So, while we have better presentation and smoother language, the message is essentially the same from the Conservatives: they do not have a consistent or sensible policy for the EU.