Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hague outlines Conservative thinking on the European Union

Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has given a wide ranging interview to ‘The Times’. With the European election imminent, it is worth highlighting what Hague has to say about the EU.

David Cameron’s ‘deputy in all but name’ has particular responsibility for Conservative policy in this area, and he has been entrusted with the task of building a new group in the European Parliament in which his party will play the central role. The policy which Hague outlines is policy which voters in Northern Ireland can endorse, by voting for the 'Conservatives and Unionists' candidate, Jim Nicholson.

Perhaps the biggest issue in EU politics at present is the Lisbon Treaty. The Tories are committed to holding a referendum on the treaty, in the United Kingdom, if it has not been ratified before a new parliament. In these circumstances Hague’s party will recommend a ‘no’ vote. Additionally, the shadow minister has indicated that, even if the treaty were to be ratified, prior to a general election, the Conservatives will consider holding a poll anyway, on the grounds that ratification would not have the democratic endorsement of the British people.

The Conservative position is that the EU should continue to operate as a cooperative organisation of independent states, sharing a single market. The party does not agree with the French / German urge towards further integration and it views Lisbon as an unacceptable expedient aimed at realising the integrative vision. Mr Hague is determined that Conservatives will be, “active, energetic and engaged members of the EU”, promoting their favoured EU model.

To this end, new Conservative MEPs (hopefully including Mr Nicholson) will join like minded colleagues, after the 4 June election, in forming a new group within the European Parliament. They will leave their current group, the EPP, which broadly supports greater integration. Hague confirms that a name has already been decided and he is confident that members from the requisite seven nations will be found.

The group will not be, by any description, anti-European,
“On issues such as climate change, energy liberalisation and the single market they (are) “great enthusiasts”. “Our difference is that we are not in favour of the institutional aggrandisement of Brussels,” he said.”

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