This week’s Conservative Party Conference is a challenge for party leader David Cameron and shadow foreign secretary William Hague, who try to postpone any meaningful announcement on a Tory policy on Europe.
The promised referendum on the Lisbon Treaty hangs on a thinning thread. After the Irish referendum, the amending treaty has been approved in all 27 member states. Despite the undoubted democratic legitimacy of the treaty, two presidential signatures are still needed for formal ratification.
Disregard for the democratic decisions of the member states of the European Union can hardly claim the moral high ground, and it will win no friends in the European capitals.
If the Treaty of Lisbon is finally ratified, as it should be, the Tory leadership has promised not to let matters rest.
Is the Manchester conference going to let the party leadership escape without saying more than previously?
Initiating negotiations for British opt-outs from the EU’s employment and social policies (and the Lisbon Treaty reforms) may be unrealistic, and would probably be resisted by the other member states, without satisfying increasingly secessionist opinion among the Tory MPs and grassroots.
The European Citizen blog wonders “Does time heal all policy wounds?” (4 October 2009). The Tories’ European policy can easily be identified as Euroskeptic, but it is harder to see the actual goal of the policy. Cameron has to make a choice. He will be dogged by the issue if he can’t deliver.
The Next Left blog of the Fabian Society looks at anti-EU opinion among top UK Conservative blogs in ”Tory blogosphere would get Britain out of EU” (4 October 2009). Many Conservative high profile voices see a battle over the Lisbon Treaty as just one skirmish in a wider war on UK withdrawal.
David Cameron and William Hague must establish a real EU policy, because the European Union is not going away.
Hiding behind a Lisbon referendum is no substitute for a real policy.
It is questionable if enough top-down pressure can be applied to keep the party conference patiently waiting.
Even if the Conservative party leadership manages to leave Manchester unscathed, it will at best be a short reprieve.
The UK Conservative Party cannot in good faith ask for the keys to government without a credible policy on the European Union.