Nucleus is a welcome step forward for the Tory Party on Europe

Labour Party

Congratulations to Nucleus, the Tory-led group recently formed to maximise Britain’s influence in Europe. Dubbed “euro-realists” by Mathew Barnett on Tim Montgomerie’s Conservative Home website, Nucleus will undoubtedly play an important role in the Conservative Party’s future views and policy on Europe.

Headed by former Conservative candidates Peter Wilding and Rob Marr, the Nucleus mission statement sets out its beliefs:

“By seeking to maximise its influence in Europe, Britain can better defend Europe’s single market from protectionism and protect British influence”

“By promoting areas where Britain’s interests coincide with those of France and Germany, Britain can work effectively to achieve these aims within Europe”

“That the future must be a globally-focused Britain which leads in the places where global policy is made. Without this, Britain will be sidelined by the USA, in the EU and within international institutions. Moreover our US allies and others want Britain to play a full part creating an outward-looking European Union shaping the developing global world order.”

Nucleus will, apparently, have offices in London and Brussels and provide daily bulletins to MPs, and from April will prepare briefings for journalists, think-tanks and business figures. From next month they will host quarterly visits to Brussels. Interestingly the daily bulletins are being written by David Gow and David Seymour, formerly of the Guardian and Mirror respectively.

The Nucleus website also features a blog offering “opinion pieces following in the footsteps of this country’s greatest Euro-realist; no less than Sir Winston Churchill himself.” At last there are people in the Tory Party willing to face up to their hero’s legacy.

Nucleus sounds to me like a very good thing. The Tory Eurosceptics have had it all their own way for far too long. Politics and democracy require debate, discussion and healthy disagreement. It is very heartening indeed to see members of the Conservative Party standing up for these cherished principles.   

Cameron loses comprehensively to Merkel

Labour Party

Mrs Merkel has, it would seem, well and truly smashed the dream so carefully cherished by the Conservative part of the Con-Dem coalition that their beleaguered government would gain a resounding victory over the EU.

Until Cameron’s ill-fated meeting with Chancellor Merkel, there appeared to be many who believed the Tory propaganda. The British people were on the verge of thinking powers could be repatriated back from Brussels to London. All it needed was a treaty change requiring unanimity. Britain would then threaten to veto whatever was proposed and miraculously the other 26 member states, and most significantly Germany, would agree to the UK’s demands.

David Cameron, naïve and ignorant of the EU, obviously expected the Anglo-German talks last week to lead to Germany accepting the British government’s position. Instead Angela Merkel has sent him away with a flea in his ear. The German Chancellor has, in fact, rejected Cameron’s plans to repatriate powers over social and employment policy.

The “Sunday Times” yesterday reported that Merkel had said Britain would only be allowed a special protocol so that it and other non-Eurozone countries would be exempt from any fresh changes. Should Britain refuse this offer and stick to its repatriation demands, the Eurozone would set up a separate treaty leading to the creation of a two-tier Europe, essentially the major Euro players and the rest. The most significant member of the rest would obviously be the UK.

Cameron and the Tories in the Cabinet really don’t want this version of German real politik. It would mean that the Eurozone – Germany, France et al – would make decisions on financial services without the UK being involved. Not only would this be extremely detrimental for the British economy, it would also be very bad news for Cameron and all those Conservatives in the City.     

So where now for the Tory pledge to take powers back from Brussels? Unfortunately the days when Mrs Thatcher could wave her handbag and win concessions are well and truly over. We are all in it together and the only sensible view is to be in there and work to make the EU as good as it can be, as democratic as possible with public involvement at all levels of decision making.

David Cameron has now has to face up to the Euro demon in his own party. Arch-Tory Tim Montgomerie put it well on the Andrew Marr show yesterday morning. Cameron’s choice is between his pro-EU Lib-Dem coalition partners or the Eurosceptic majority in the Tory Party.

So will it be Government or will it be Party? It’s been a long time since a Prime Minister has faced such an impossible choice, a choice largely of his own making.