Cameron climbs down over plans for centre-right European alliance

David Cameron will today announce a partial climbdown in his controversial bid to form a new centre-right grouping in the European Parliament, by postponing the plan until after the next elections to the Parliament in 2009.

The move follows months of negotiations in which the bloc of Tory MEPs failed to find suitable allies. Mr Cameron is expected to announce that his plans to form a grouping with the Czech centre right Civic Democrat Party (ODS) will go ahead only after 2009. Last night the Shadow Cabinet was discussing the decision, with a press conference expected today, possibly with the ODS leader and prospective Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek.

It remained unclear last night what would happen to the 26 Conservative MEPs in the interim period. One option is that they quit their existing centre-right family, the EPP-ED, which is judged too integrationist by Eurosceptic Tories, and sit with non-aligned MEPs.

While that would split the group, so would any decision to remain within the EPP-ED. A compromise might be to allow the MEPs to choose where they sit. The fate of the Tory MEPs is seen as an important test of Mr Cameron's leadership following his pledge to quit the EPP-ED last year.

Postponing the breakaway would anger hardline Eurosceptic MPs. Some say they voted for Mr Cameron as leader because of his pledge. But he is also under pressure from pro-European Tories, who argue it would be foolish to lose influence in the Parliament and walk away from its biggest group when it has a major figure on the EU stage in Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, was charged with drawing up allies who, under the European Parliament's rules, need to come from five different nations. One potential set of allies, the Polish Law and Justice party, are regarded as a potential liability because of the homophobic views of some of their leading politicians.

Law and Justice also courted controversy by breaking a pledge not to nominate Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the identical twin of President Lech Kaczynski, as prime minister.

On Monday it became clear that Mr Hague's preferred partners, the Czech ODS, had deferred their plans to form a new group until after 2009 because they are engaged in coalition negotiations in The Hague. Jan Zahradil, the leader of the parliamentary delegation of the ODS said: "We have decided to delay our involvement in long-prepared talks over a new eurorealist group in the European Parliament in a bid to ensure that they do not collide with the Czech government coalition negotiations." In a statement for the MF Dnes daily, he added: "This is not about us abandoning our autonomous priorities but about expression of our responsibilities."

Geoff Hoon, the Europe Minister, said: "This is a fiasco completely of David Cameron's own making. The pressure is mounting on David Cameron. This week we have seen his pledge to withdraw the Tories from the EPP-ED descend into chaos."

He said the Czech ODS's decision was a snub to Mr Cameron because two weeks ago he flew out on a secret mission to persuade them to join with the Tories.

A Tory spokesman said: "David Cameron's pledge regarding the EPP will be fulfilled."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones