Leading article: Cameron's isolation in Europe

Share

It has been said that David Cameron does not consider "foreign affairs" to be his strongest suit. We are beginning to understand why. Yesterday, the Tory leader announced he was delivering on his pledge to pull Conservative representatives out of the large centre-right grouping in the European Parliament known as the European People's Party. He also hailed the establishment of an exciting new parliamentary group in Brussels, led by the Tories, called the "Movement for European Reform".

Yet it did not take much probing to realise that what Mr Cameron was actually outlining was rather less substantial. For a start, the Tory withdrawal from the EPP will not take place until 2009. Last December, Mr Cameron said the break with the EPP would happen in "months not years". Now it seems we are back to years. As for the Tories' grand new coalition, it turns out that the only other participant is the little-known Civic Democratic Party of the Czech Republic. And even this hardly counts as a strong partner. We are told that its leader, Mirek Topolanek, was keen to delay the two parties' withdrawal from the EPP because he will need the support of pro-European Czech politicians to form a government. Such weakness is an inauspicious basis for the sort of revolution in European politics that Mr Cameron was talking about yesterday.

The Tories tried to sweeten the pill for those who hoped for immediate withdrawal by pointing out that Conservative MEPs committed themselves at the last European election to remain within the present grouping for the duration of the parliament. But this is disingenuous. The real reason for the delay is that the Tory foreign affairs spokesman, William Hague, failed to persuade any other centre-right parties to leave the EPP along with the Conservatives. Honouring the pledge immediately would have meant asking Conservative MEPs to sit alongside delegates from the UK Independence Party, who Mr Cameron once memorably described as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists".

Withdrawal from the EPP was always a foolish pledge. No doubt Mr Cameron, who made the promise in the heat of the Tory leadership election, gave little thought to how it would actually be achieved. The Tory leader has learnt the hard way that serious European parties do not share the Tories' parochial obsessions with "creeping federalism". He has also had a taste of how isolated the Conservatives would be if they fail to work together with the respectable centre-right parties of the continent.

Instead of proceeding with this charade of creating a new European politics, Mr Cameron should admit that he made a misjudgement and get down to work within the present arrangements.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor