Tories face isolation in European Parliament: The Conservatives and their European allies are heading towards a divorce,

THE isolation of the Conservatives in Europe, and their internal divisions, are increasingly evident in the European Parliament. As the party conference opens, Euro- Tories face more difficult relations with the political group they sit with in Strasbourg as well as a growing internal rift.

The Conservatives are associated members of the European People's Party, the centre-right group dominated by the German Christian Democrats. They have never had much in common, but the differences came out into the open last week, as Wilfried Martens, the EPP chairman, mounted an outspoken attack on John Major's vision of the European Union in a speech.

'What room for manoeuvre is there for Major's government . . . when its current majority in the Commons is only 17 and it has more than 30 hardline anti-Europeans in its own ranks who will make the government's survival dependent on its policy in Europe?,' Mr Martens said in his speech. 'There is a very real danger that we shall not push ahead with the reforms that are urgently needed, preferring instead to allow the slowest to set the pace.'

Mr Martens added: 'It is time for the advocates of a federal Europe to speak out and go on the offensive again,' a message that was unlikely to set heads nodding even among Tory MEPs. There is now a solid block of Euro-sceptics among the Conservatives in the European Parliament, at least one of whom did not initially favour links with the EPP. There is talk of secession among the Tories.

Mr Martens and the EPP warmly endorse the plan for a hard-core Europe, laid out in a German Christian Democrat plan earlier this month, describing it as 'of the utmost political importance for the future of Europe'. John Major, in his speech in Leiden, in the Netherlands, rejected the German plan.

Tom Spencer, chairman of the Euro-Tories, wrote to Mr Major, complaining; others praised the speech. When the European Parliament voted on the German ideas two weeks ago, the EPP backed it wholeheartedly. The Conservatives, reduced to a rump at June's European elections, were split three ways.

Among the 18 Euro-Tories there is a group of about six which is fighting against the pro-federalist line. It includes MEPs such as Edward McMillan-Scott and Bryan Cassidy, as well as Graham Mather, a former director of the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs, and Giles Chichester, who initially opposed the link with the EPP.

The other Tories are broadly pro-Europe. Given that the sceptics are closer to the party line in London, while the federalists are aligned with the EPP, it is hard to say which is the mainstream. However, Mr Spencer and Lord Plumb, leader of the European Conservatives, are trying to reassert themselves.

Lord Plumb says in an article to be published this week in Euro Briefing, the Tory in- house magazine, that he firmly backs the EPP. 'Our leverage depends more than ever on an effective alliance with our conservative and Christian Democrat friends across Europe,' he says. 'What unites us is an idea of Europe with which Europeans feel comfortable, a Europe that is strong and free.' The message is unlikely to find much resonance.

John Major has tried to form a special relationship with Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, but Christian Democrat officials say it is 'a hopeless task'. Mr Martens is signalling his, and Mr Kohl's, impatience. In an apparent reference to Britain, Mr Martens said recently: 'There is one thing which no member state can escape: if it wants to be in the front rank of Europe, it must first set its own house in order, pursue a sound financial policy and not run after the pseudo-popular Euros-ceptics'.

Mr Martens is adopting a more ideological line than Leo Tindemans, his predecessor. His speeches are a call to federalists in Europe to press for radical steps when European leaders meet to rewrite the Maastricht Treaty in 1996.

Influential Tories, such as Chris Patten, once believed the party could become another in the band of Christian Democrat parties. That hope seems to have evaporated as the Euro-sceptics become more influential. Mr Martens warns against 'the populist lure of the safety and pseudo- sovereignty of the isolated nation-state'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions