By Aaron Newell
Foreign Secretary William Hague demanded Britain build its influence in Europe last Tuesday, yet the Conservative party’s main fault line has long savaged Britain’s influence in the world’s largest single market and emerging military power.
In a move to placate the party’s Euroskepticism in 2009, David Cameron removed the Conservatives from the European Parliament’s largest and most powerful grouping, The European People’s Party. And with that, he removed the Tories’–formerly one of the grouping’s largest members–ability to get that grouping voting one way or the other.
Why does this matter? Isn’t the European Parliament powerless? No, it is not. The European Parliament can reject the Commission as a whole or its proposals; reject budgets; reject legislation favoured by the European Council; and, on most matters, if the European Parliament does not agree on something the EU cannot continue.
The Tories have now thrown away the ability to guide this power to appease British Euroskeptics. Yes, to appease those who worry about Britain having little influence in Europe, the Tory party has thrown away Britain’s influence in Europe.
William Hague may worry about a declining number of British civil servants in the European Commission, but the Tory party have thrown away their power in a much more powerful institution, The European Parliament. No wonder Hague is focusing on non-EU engagements: the Tory party’s main fault line prevents Britain from becoming a powerful European actor.