The UK Presidency didn’t even begin well. Its flying birds logo seemed to be a rip-off of the Bruges Group’s logo. That small PR failure was an omen of the much bigger problems that have followed.
Goran Persson, the Swedish Prime Minister, has suggested that there is only a 50% chance of the Brussels summit agreeing to Tony Blair’s EU budget proposals. William Hague was on Radio 4 this morning criticising Tony Blair’s failure to defend the British rebate – famously won by Mrs Thatcher at Fontainebleau in 1984. Mr Hague recollected how Tony Blair had begun the EU Presidency with a commitment not to trade the rebate unless there was reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. No such reform has been forthcoming since Jacques Chirac used Bastille Day to bizarrely declare that the cash-guzzling Common Agricultural Policy was the future. President Chirac’s intransigence hasn’t stopped Mr Blair trading the EU rebate, however.
Radio 4’s Jim Naughtie used the interview with Mr Hague to press him on Angela Merkel’s letter to David Cameron about the EPP. Mrs Merkel had used a letter to the new Tory leader, congratulating him on his election, to pointedly warn him about his plans to quit the European People’s Party. In her letter, she wrote: "I look forward to good and intensive co-operation with you, and in particular within the framework of the EPP-ED.” The Europhile Independent also reports that Mr Cameron has caused further upset within Europe’s centre-right parties: “Yesterday, Mr Cameron kept his distance from centre-right leaders by staying away from their traditional meeting before the summit of EU countries in Brussels. Instead, he visited Belfast, which went down badly at the Brussels meeting.”
William Hague said that there would be no retreat from Mr Cameron’s position on the EPP. It was right, he said, to adopt a principled position and then argue for it. That was how Mrs Thatcher had won the rebate in 1984 and it was how the Conservatives would proceed under David Cameron’s leadership. The delay in executing Mr Cameron’s EPP exit is causing increasing frustration amongst Eurosceptics. They are increasingly concerned to see Ken Clarke, Douglas Hurd, Caroline Jackson and now the Chancellor of Germany being allowed to pick at an open wound.
A twelve point rebuttal of the case for staying in the EPP has been written for The Platform Blog by Dr Lee Rotherham.