A group of pro-Europe British Conservatives has decided to launch a new party to stand in the upcoming European elections as an alternative to David Cameron’s Conservatives, and Nigel Farage’s eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP). EURACTIV spoke to its founder, Dirk Hazell.
Dirk Hazell is Leader of 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP). He spoke to EURACTIV’s Editor-in-chief Daniela Vincenti
You have launched a new British political party under the EPP family. Why did EPP support your party with their “brand” and values, at the risk of upsetting the Tories, their traditional partners? Who took the decision at EPP?
People are coming through tough times. Britain’s route to a better future is to lead not leave Europe.
Britain’s best political vehicle for that route is the EPP, Europe’s leading party and the natural home at the heart of Europe for both the centre ground and the “one nation” Tory centre-right.
As you say, 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) is a new British political party: political endorsement came from the EPP’s leadership under the guidance of the late President Wilfried Martens.
The EPP never wanted British Conservative MEPs to leave the EPP Group but, after his injudicious pledge during his 2005 party leadership campaign, David Cameron ordered his MEPs to create a new Eurosceptic alliance. Too often in Britain, particularly when it comes to Europe, internal party politics have prevailed over the national interest.
4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will of course always encourage the return to the EPP of the political heirs to Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and indeed Jo Grimond.
Will this facilitate Merkel/Cameron relations once the big issue of “UK in Europe” is being negotiated?
A British EPP voice in the European Parliament is essential if we are to build a stronger Britain in a reformed Europe.
Unlike Britain’s hard right, we believe in the British people’s ability to advance to a better future, not simply retreat behind a fictional past.
Since leaving the EPP Group in 2009 and moving away from the mainstream European centre-right, British Conservatives have made themselves increasingly ineffective and marginalised in the European Parliament. VoteWatch’s independent analysis of this growing isolation notes that since January 2013, the Tories’ group has voted with UKIP’s group in every two votes out of three: a tragic waste of British talent and influence.
To complete the Single Market, create and safeguard good and sustainable London jobs in financial and other services, protect consumers, combat climate change, and grow our economy through education and new skills, we must work within Europe’s mainstream.
4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) MEPs will guarantee this British input into EPP support for jobs, prosperity and security. Even one British MEP in the EPP will be worth more to Britain than UKIP’s entire delegation.
The new party name UKEPP could be pronounced like UKIP. Could that create confusion? Are both parties “squeezing” Conservatives from both sides, the Eurosceptic right and the pro-European centre?
4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) says what we are. We believe in the four freedoms in President FD Roosevelt’s iconic 1941 State of the Union speech: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. We also support the four fundamental EU freedoms of movement for people, goods, services and capital, which rebuilt Europe from the devastation of 1945 and today make Europe’s economy the world’s largest.
To keep freedom in a globalised world, it is essential to empower people with far more local say over local decisions impacting so directly on our lives.
That is essential but not sufficient. Only by working together in Europe can we protect our distinctively European way of life, including freedom, prosperity, security, solidarity, environmental protection, cultural excellence and tolerance. In 2014-19, the European Union must focus on policy areas where we are stronger together and which will deliver jobs.
What is the vision of the party, and how different is it from that of the Tories in terms of manifesto for the elections?
We want neither a centralised Europe nor a centralised UK micro-managing people’s lives. Safeguarding Britain’s local and regional identities matters more to us than to the Tories.
British leadership helped to make freedom, security and prosperity the European norm. Echoing Chancellor Merkel’s speech to the British Parliament, we should all again work together to make Europe even better.
The Social Market is fundamental. “We are all in it together” must be public policy, not just a glib government sound bite.
4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) wants responsible government, where the free market serves the common good and the talents of small firms can thrive. By far the best way to secure good jobs for future generations in the City is for the economy to serve the people, and not the other way around.
It is a harshness sapping the soul of society when billionaires are richer than ever, while food banks have become a tragic need for the vulnerable. Homeless people sleeping rough a block away from the House of Lords is homegrown failure of public policy, whether housing, drugs or neglect of veterans.
British politicians must not get away with blaming “Brussels” for housing shortages, educational shortfalls, archaic transport, aircraft carriers without planes, substandard cancer care and other domestic problems for which British politicians are alone responsible.
The EPP is determined to reform and improve the EU. Working together, and overwhelmingly with the agreement of British governments, Europe has, for example, already promoted much better environmental policies, clearly labeled food, massive inward investment to revitalise British manufacturing, overwhelming European commercial leadership for London, lower air fares, and greater equality for women and minorities.
4 FREEDOMS PARTY (UK EPP) policies are founded in our belief in people: every person has a unique spiritual value. Everyone should get a fair crack at fulfillment, with help for the vulnerable. Our young deserve the best possible educational and training opportunities, securing and then flourishing in good jobs. People should be free to work at home and abroad, achieving their full potential without needless bureaucratic interference. The retired and vulnerable in our society should be free to live in dignity and safety. We – not the fear peddling demagogues – are the hope for this achievable and positive future.
In common with some Tories, we know London’s future requires completion of the single market, with freedom to supply services at which London, as a magnet for talent, leads the world. We support the manifesto objectives of organisations such as the CBI, TheCityUK and the Federation of Small Businesses. But who is more likely to deliver: an MEP with an indifferent voting record in a marginal group, or an assiduous MEP sitting within Europe’s mainstream centre-right EPP family?
Traditionally, voters who dislike both Labour and Tories and are in favour of EU membership vote Lib Dem. And the liberals have helped the coalition avoid a completely Eurosceptic course for the country. Isn’t this launch “dividing the pro-European camp”?
Whatever Lib Dem voters wanted in the 2010 General Election, it was not a coalition government denigrating the European Convention on Human Rights, sending vans around the streets of London urging migrants to go home, sharply increasing student tuition fees, thwarting the introduction of proportional representation, and bringing us to the brink of Brexit.
We must challenge UKIP’s anti-EU fear mongers and their fellow travellers in the militant UKIP-Tendency: their distortion of the past and present, their oppressive view of the future.
From Winston Churchill to John Major, successive British Conservative governments fought for Europe’s freedom. On 9 November 2014, we will mark the tearing down of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, when finally Europe breathed with both her lungs.
The Conservative Party battled then for freedom and launched Europe’s Single Market. Today it is captured by militants from the UKIP-Tendency: already over 100 Conservative MPs and candidates have pledged support for Britain to leave the EU after next year’s 2015 General Election. This is no longer rebellion: it is takeover.
You have been a member of other parties, namely both the Tories and later the Lib Dems. Why did you not try to run on one of their lists? Would you not be more influential within an existing party?
I was a member of the Conservative Party for longer than, for example, has been the anti-EU Daniel Hannan MEP: in the party I joined, such people were kept under control, not allowed to dictate European policy to the Prime Minister.
As a patriot who profoundly loves Britain and the best of what we share with the world, I take no pleasure from the state of either the Tories or Lib Dems. It is difficult to see a positive time ahead for the Lib Dems in their current form: coalition with Tories is always dire for Liberals.
For the May European Parliament elections, voting constituencies are regional. Which is for smaller parties easier than local “first past the post” for MPs, but more difficult than the national proportional elections of most countries’ MEPs. Where will you field candidates and how many do you expect to win?
As our first step, 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will stand in London. Londoners consistently support full membership of the EU without renegotiation, or a dodgy mystery deal. Europe’s leading city urgently needs to recover our powerful voice within Europe’s leading political family: the mainstream centre-right EPP.
Outside some media and political circles, EPP is not known in the UK, it needs to be strongly promoted. Who is financing your campaign? How many people man your campaign office?
The EPP’s name may not yet always be on the tip of every Londoner’s tongue, but many recognise and respect mainstream EPP national leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, Ireland’s Enda Kenny, Poland’s Donald Tusk, and Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt. By voting for 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP), Londoners will restore an essential link within this mainstream centre-right EPP family.
The EPP is providing no financial support for 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP): the support is political. Our structure is typical of new modern parties. The internet and social media allow us to reach out: our www.4freedomsparty.eu website empowers everyone to join our journey as we campaign together to renew British strength in a reformed Europe.
We understand that you hope for support from European expats living in the UK, who do have voting rights for European (and local) elections. What is your appeal to them?
EU residents have the right to vote in the European and municipal elections on Thursday 22 May if they register with their local authority to vote before 6 May. Around 2.5 million EU citizens live, work and study in the UK. About 2 million Britons live in the rest of Europe, with just over one million British expats in Spain. We see legitimate mobility as defined by the Treaty as an absolute right that benefits people, the economy, culture and society.
Coming back to UK citizens, why should they vote for you? If you, yourselves, get elected, what differences would you make at the European Parliament?
We will ensure that all who lawfully live, work and study in London have equal access to and are heard clearly in EU Institutions. We will bring people together, not drive them apart. We will go into overdrive to safeguard Londoners’ jobs. We endorse Chancellor Merkel’s comment in her Address to the British Parliament this February when she said “we need to renew the political shape of Europe time and again so that Europe can continue to fulfil its second promise, the promise of freedom”.
The European Parliament will play a decisive role in Europe’s renewal and reform. As British EPP MEPs from 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP), we will punch well above our weight. We will transform for the better the way the job is perceived. We will secure reform from inside, not by threatening from outside.
If your party is not successful, and there is a successful institutional negotiation that helps keep the UK in the EU, then is there a chance that Tories would “re-join” the EPP in one parliamentary group?
Anti-EU “Tory” militants like Daniel Hannan belong in UKIP. Pro-British, pro-Europe Conservatives belong back in the mainstream EPP centre-right family: 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP) will hold open the EPP’s door.