Monday, October 3, 2011

Tory Euro MPs declare war on Cameron

The Tories being split over Europe is not exactly breaking news, but the most recent spat is breaking some new ground.  An unholy alliance of Tory and Liberal Democrat Euro MPs is hammering David Cameron over his latest bit of (in) action.

Some months ago the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to cut back on the amount of time they spent in Strasbourg.  The cost of the two seat arrangement, where once a month, the Parliament heads some 220 miles down the road to Strasbourg from its main base in Brussels,  and costs in excess of £150m per year.

This hasn't gone down well with the French government for whom Strasbourg has a symbolic significance (though losing the Parliament would cost the local economy too), and has taken the European Parliament to court.

You would have thought that with Cameron's pronouncement on the expense of Strasbourg and promises to reform the EU that he would have sided with the Parliament, but he hasn’t. The date has now passed when the UK Government can object to the French action and so a pretty vitriolic letter has winged its way from the Group of Tory MEPs to Downing Street accusing Cameron of ‘betrayal’.

Liberal Democrat MEPs are also unhappy and are backing the Tories on this issue. This is very uncommon, as Tories and Lib Dems in Europe do not share the cosy relationship that they do in the UK, in fact quite the opposite.

None of this, however, comes as any great surprise to Labour MEPs.  After all, Tory Governments have form in this area.  Indeed, it was a British Tory PM, John Major who signed up under the Maastricht treaty in 1992 - to having twelve sessions a year in Strasbourg in the first place

As someone who co-signed the original resolution to restrict the times we upped sticks and moved lock stock and barrel to Strasbourg, I'm disgusted at Cameron’s timidity to do the right thing, but not as surprised as his own MEPs seem to be.

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