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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Defections underline Tory Brexit divisions

I don't suppose the Tories care much for what happens with their MEPs, after all they plan to abolish them within the next few years. However, what happens with the Conservative group in Brussels is important, if only because it highlights problems within Theresa May's party itself.

It is worth noting therefore that two British members of the European Parliament who were originally elected as Conservatives have defected to another, pro-EU parliamentary group allied with EU president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Independent reports that Julie Girling and Richard Ashworth, who represent south west and south east England respectively, said they were leaving the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) “with immediate effect” to join the European People’s Party (EPP).

The EPP is the main centre-right group in the European Parliament and is allied with politicians such as German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Juncker, who was the EPP candidate for Commission president. The two MEPs say that they wish to remain members of the Conservative Party in the UK, but that the EPP best represents where they sit politically in Brussels.

Of course all the mess that led to David Cameron's disastrous decision to hold the Brexit referendum can be traced back to his decision to take the Tories out of the EPP in 2009 because of its pro-EU leanings and instead set up the ECR in a bid to appease eurosceptics within his party.

This short-term tactic was part of his campaign to become Tory leader and had nothing to do with any sensible strategic decision making either for the Conservative Party or the country. How big a mistake the decision was is best highlighted by the fact that the ECR group has received sustained criticism since it was set up for including unsavoury parties from the extreme and populist right.
Are we likely to see either of them on Question Time any time soon?
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