The Conservative Party, and more notably Prime Minister David Cameron, is set to fall on the wrong side of German Chancellor Angela Merkel after it emerged that their European Parliamentary grouping has grown beyond control and allied with one of Merkel’s domestic opponents.
What was once the Tory-controlled group at the European Parliament, now in line for €7.2m (£5.8m) in political funding, has “taken on a life of its own,” Christopher Howarth of the Open Europe has told Breitbart London, and David Cameron has “lost control” of it.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group was formed by Britain’s Conservative Party in the last parliament because Prime Minister Cameron wanted the Tories out of the pro-federalist European People’s Party (EPP) group; a sop to the eurosceptic wing of the party.
But after the beating the Conservatives took in the European elections last month, the Tories are now a minority in the ECR with just 19 MEPs out of what is likely to be a total of 62.
This could lead to “problems for Cameron in political relations” in Europe, especially with Germany, since today the group has admitted a German party which Chancellor Angela Merkel considers an arch-enemy.
Moreover, the Tories seem determined to annoy the smaller eurosceptic parties on whom the group now depends. The Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, an ex-LibDem MEP who has denigrated eurosceptics by calling them “anti-EU Taliban,” was chosen as the group’s nominee for president of the European Parliament before two eurosceptic, anti-immigration parties, the Danish Peoples Party (DPP) and the Finns Party, were officially admitted and could vote.
In the last parliament, the Tory leadership of the ECR group rejected these anti-immigration parties as “unacceptable.”
Asked yesterday by Breitbart London how the ECR could now accept them, Karim said that controversial statements by the DPP and others were just from “individuals” and made “years ago,” and the parties now “regret it.”
However this week, Morten Messerschimdt, an MEP and member of the DPP which has a history of anti-Islam, anti-immigration policies, was showing no “regret” on his Facebook page: “Only through a group can [an MEP] have an impact. Does this mean that we must compromise on positions? No… Change the Danish people’s party policy as to sit in the group with these people? No.”
Today the ECR has agreed to sign up the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party with which Angela Merkel considers a painful problem for her domestic political aims.
As recently as February, David Cameron stood next to Merkel at a press conference and when asked about the Tories working with the AfD in the European Parliament replied: “In terms of the parties that are going to join [the ECR], we have a sister party in Germany, the CDU/CSU [Merkel’s conservative union]. We’re not looking for a new sister party. So I don’t anticipate that situation arising at all.”
As Open Europe points out: “Merkel wasn’t happy when Cameron left the EPP-ED group to form the ECR in 2009. Now, joining forces with her arch-enemy will be like chucking a tank of fuel onto the fire.”
Cameron needs Merkel if he is to have any success in the reforms he says he wants before the UK’s referendum in 2017 on EU membership.
After announcing his party had joined the ECR, AfD leader Bernd Lucke said: “Our successful admission is a victory against those who put huge pressure on members of the (ECR) group because they wanted to prevent, for domestic political reasons, the AfD from being recognised and strengthened,” according to a Reuters report.
A Conservative spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that the AfD have been admitted to the ECR against our wishes.”
Yet admitting another party will give the Tories in Brussels and Strasbour that much more taxpayers’ money to spend.
The rules of the European Parliament force national parties to form a group of at least 25 MEPs from at least seven countries in order to get onto parliamentary committees, receive full speaking time in debates, and receive millions of euros for staff, policy development and political activities.
These millions, calculated on the size of the group, are separate from the €96,246 annual salary paid to MEPs and their €51,588 a year General Expenditure Allowance.
According to estimates made by Open Europe’s Howarth for Breitbart London, the three separate strands of funding the ECR will attract with 62 members will total €7,248,713 (£5,829,165).
Howarth calls this “wasting money promoting supranational democracy,” but the money is a fixed pool at the European Parliament and if the ECR do not apply for it, “their opponents will get it rather than the taxpayer.”