Pro-Europe Tories ‘must wage war on Eurosceptics’
The time has come for pro-European Conservatives to fight back and make the case for keeping Britain in the EU, a Tory grandee has said.
Nicholas Soames said that Europhile Tories had “only themselves to blame” for allowing Eurosceptic colleagues to dominate. His intervention came as Liberal Democrats privately compared David Cameron to Neville Chamberlain, so frustrated are they that he keeps giving into anti-Brussels demands.
The Prime Minister has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe and hold an in/out referendum on the EU in 2017. He has also tried to enshrine the vote in law.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, is to say today that Europe will face further economic woes if it fails to cut welfare spending.
He will tell a conference run by the Open Europe think tank: “Make no mistake, our continent is falling behind. Look at unemployment, where a quarter of young people looking for work can’t find it. Look at welfare. As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of its economy and 50 per cent of global social welfare spending. We can’t go on like this.”
Mr Soames, a former defence minister, urged other pro-European Tories to start “vigorously making the case” for Britain to stay in the EU. He said: “Having won the European argument,about in the future. Pro-Europeans have only themselves to blame for being so wet in not putting the arguments forward vigorously over a period of time.”
He agreed that the EU needed to be “more relevant to the needs of modern states in today’s world”, but added that leaving would lead to disaster.
Frustrations with Mr Cameron on Europe led a senior Lib Dem to compare him to Chamberlain, blamed for appeasing Adolf Hitler in 1938.
“He’s become like Neville Chamberlain,” the Lib Dem said. “He gives a bit more, then gives a bit more. The problem is he does not seem to realise it will simply never be enough for the Eurosceptics. He needed to hold the line earlier on and stick by the speech in which he said the party needed to ‘stop banging on about Europe’. He should have let a small number cross over to UKIP and deal with the issue that way.”
The Tory MP Andrea Leadsom is among seven leading political figures, including representatives of German, Swedish, Danish, Austrian and Latvian parties, who call in a letter today for “less Europe”. They write: “We want to replace the emotional point-scoring with a policy-based discussion about how to achieve a Europe that works better for both democracy and growth.
“While our proposed solutions may differ, we agree on one thing: the status quo in Europe is not an option. If the EU is to thrive, it needs to embrace a series of bold reforms. Some of these will involve EU action, but where democratic and economic factors so dictate, this may also mean ‘less Europe’.”