Nearly 24 hours ago I posted a report on William Hague retreating on the EPP pledge. This morning three national newspapers carried similar reports. I’m now reliably informed by a frontbench Conservative that there is no wobble, no u-turn and that David Cameron’s commitment to take the party out of the EPP will be met.
It is perfectly possible that my post of yesterday was wrong. It is also possible that the firestorm generated by ConservativeHome and by this morning’s newspapers has helped convince the party that David Cameron’s EPP pledge has to be kept.
What matters is, of course, that we have ended up in the right place. David Cameron’s credibility will be intact and Conservative MEPs will leave the EPP. William Hague will make an announcement next month.
ConservativeHome understands that the spat between the Czech ODS party and Poland’s Law and Justice party is being repaired and that a new Eurosceptic, pro-reform group will be possible. For the first time in the history of the European Parliament there will be a substantial grouping in the Parliament, dedicated to loosening and reforming the Brussels apparatus.
Consideration had been given to announcing ‘exit’ next month but delaying actual exit until the next European Elections. That option has been shelved because, as one Polish politician told the Conservative Party – you can’t announce that you are divorcing your wife in three years’ time and still expect her to cook your dinner every evening. [The Poles have a very traditional view of marriage!] A pre-announcement would be unacceptable to EPP partners.
The EPP fears that the departure of the UK Conservatives will be the beginning of the end of their grouping. A pivotal moment may come at the end of this year when Hans-Gert Poettering leaves the EPP leadership to assume the presidency of the Parliament. With no obvious successor to Herr Poettering a power struggle inside the EPP may cause the group to fracture. At that point the new Tory-ODS-L&J grouping may be able to attract Civic Platform (Poland), Moderate Coalition (Sweden) or the People’s Party (Spain).