Dana Peters, National Organiser for the Conservative Group for Europe, explains the organisation’s beliefs.
The Conservative Group for Europe is presently the most active pro-EU
movement in the party political scene. Founded over 30 years ago,
the CGE exists to promote Britain’s active and positive membership of
the European Union; a Europe built on Conservative principles of a
free-market, business and individual opportunity and a responsible
engagement in world affairs.
The CGE upholds the Party’s pro-European spirit within a framework of
serious discussion and debate on the issues affecting the nature and
shape of the European Union and importantly, Britain’s place in it.
Indeed there is no doubt that the future direction of the European
Union will have a major impact on the political landscape of the UK:
Completion of the single market, enlargement, climate change and
security are some of the salient challenges which Member States will
confront over the coming years and we as British Conservatives should
be at the forefront of those advocating sensible and workable
Conservative enthusiasm for the European project is very much in keeping with the Party’s past: having led the campaign for Britain’s membership of the EC in the 1960s, secured the UK’s entry into the Community in the 1970s and subsequently spearheading efforts to bring about closer European cooperation through the 80s and early 90s, the Tory tradition of supporting and strengthening British-EU ties is longstanding.
While inherently supportive of the EU, we are not blind to its shortcomings. On the contrary, our activities are designed to provide an open forum for the exchange of ideas, analysis and criticism, and the Group represents a broad range of opinions on a raft of matters. Attitudes towards the Reform Treaty vary widely; some members support parliamentary ratification while others are convinced that it must be put to the public vote. Equally there are varying degrees of enthusiasm for such issues as the Euro, the extent of political integration and whether Turkey should be welcomed as a full member. These are complex and controversial questions that inevitably engender strong feelings. Our job is not to formulate or pressure for a uniform position but to provide a constructive ‘debating chamber’ for these issues to be discussed.
What unites us, however, is our belief that the EU has been a success for our country, and that it is firmly in our national interest that the EU, with Britain as a committed and central player, should develop the capability and collective will to proceed to further challenges.
Surveying the global scene, it is increasingly apparent that contemporary challenges require solutions at European level. Be it the environment, CAP reform, the next budget negotiations, relations with burgeoning powers such as China and Russia – the CGE stands firm in its conviction that these can only be addressed clearly and effectively with our EU partners.
The EU is a subject which can arouse passionate feelings of support or suspicion; it is certainly one of the most polarising political issues in the UK today irrespective of party affiliation.
Despite this, most of us will agree that Britain’s future lies in the EU and that the UK should continue to be a powerful force in Europe.
The only way we can maximise our influence is if we are perceived to be pursuing our interests by positively engaging with our European neighbours.
It is our hope that the next Conservative Government might be willing to restore the Party’s European credentials and embark on a pragmatic course which would strengthen our hand, as a Party and as a Country, in the European Union.
As Leon Brittan recently stated, ‘the extent of our influence in Europe is directly dependant on our commitment to Europe’.
For further details about the CGE and its activities, including fringe events at Party Conference, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cge.org.uk