EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about the role of the UK Conservative Party in the European Parliament was published by EurActiv on 1st June 2010.

Despite persistent rumours, the ruling British Conservative Party denied suggestions that they would eventually return to the mainstream centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament. EurActiv spoke to a leading party representative yesterday (31 May).

Geoffrey Van Orden, a leading Conservative MEP, dismissed suggestions by former Commissioner Chris Patten that Tory leader David Cameron would return to the mainstream European centre-right.

Patten’s statement is an “unsurprising personal view” and “in no way reflects Conservative policy,” Van Orden made clear.

In a surprise decision, the British Conservatives left the European People’s Party (EPP) in 2009 to form an alternative, Eurosceptic group in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

The move was criticised by political commentators in Britain, who argued that the Conservatives were isolating themselves from the Brussels decision-making machine.

Chris Patten, himself a Conservative and the president of the Tory Reform Group, an organisation promoting “progressive Conservatism,” told the BBC that it would be “sensible” for the UK Tories to rejoin the European People’s Party (EPP), an umbrella organisation bringing together parties led by Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France, among others.

He added, however, that this would not happen in “one day” as the issue was not a priority at the moment.

Cameron’s first foreign trips were to Paris and Berlin (EurActiv 19/05/10).

Rumours that Cameron would return the Tories to the EPP have been spreading since the Conservatives were forced into a government coalition with the pro-European Lib Dems (see ‘Background’).

The rumours were further fuelled by the recent election results in the Czech Republic, where the ODS party, which is allied with the Conservatives in the European Parliament, is set to form a coalition with two smaller parties seen as more pro-European (EurActiv 31/05/10).

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