EXCLUSIVE / 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).
“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,“ said Dirk Hazell, leader of the newly formed 4 FREEDOMs Party (UK EPP).
“People are coming through tough times. Britain’s route to a better future is to lead, not leave Europe,” Hazell said in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV.
Conservative MEPs left the European People’s Party group in 2009 to create the Eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.
The EPP never wanted Tory MEPs to leave the EPP group, explains Hazell, but, after his injudicious pledge during his 2005 party leadership campaign, Cameron ordered his MEPs to create the Eurosceptic alliance.
“Too often in Britain, particularly when it comes to Europe, internal party politics have prevailed over the national interest,” he added.
A British EPP voice in the European Parliament is essential to building a stronger Britain in a reformed Europe, insists the 4 FREEDOMS founder.
Since leaving the EPP in 2009 and moving away from the mainstream European centre-right, Britain’s Conservatives have taken a decidedly euroseceptic stance and marginalised themselves in the European Parliament.
Independent European Parliament voting database Votewatch shows that since January 2013 the Tories’ group has voted with the UK Independence party (UKIP) in every two votes out of three: “a tragic waste of British talent and influence,” says Hazell.
In a bid to shore up support for David Cameron’s re-negotiation strategy, UK ministers are organising trips for MPs to European capitals.
If he wins next year’s elections, the prime minister could face open warfare with his own MPs halfway through the next parliament, as he campaigns for his vision of Britain at the heart of a reformed Europe, while many in his party campaign for the UK to leave altogether.
The European trips are an attempt to head off such a situation, and are focused especially on those considered to be in the centre ground of Tory opinion, writes the Financial Times.
The new party, which will initially campaign in London, says it wants 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,” Hazell said.
According to the founder, 4 FREEDOMS 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,” he insists, adding that British politicians must not get away with blaming “Brussels” for housing shortages, educational shortfalls, archaic transport, and other domestic problems for which British politicians are alone responsible.
“We must challenge UKIP’s anti-EU fear mongers and their fellow travelers in the militant UKIP-Tendency: their distortion of the past and present, their oppressive view of the future,” said Hazell.
“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 will hold open the EPP’s door,” he ended.
To read the full interview, please click here.
The next European elections will be held on 22-25 2014 May across all 28 EU member states. Members of the European Parliament are elected to represent voters for a period of five years.
These elections are the first to be held under the Lisbon Treaty, which grants the European Parliament the power to vote on the president of the EU executive, the European Commission. Parties have taken things into own hands by nominating their own candidates for the top spot.
Eurosceptic parties have shown their determination to weigh on the European debate. The controversial Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders and leader of the extreme-right Front national in France, Marine Le Pen, have led the initiative to form a new group in the European Parliament, together with like-minded parties.
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