Tuesday, 5 October 2010


For 5 years Nick Clegg and Roger Helmer represented the East Midlands region as Euro-MPs. On the one hand was Clegg, an utterly pro-European Liberal Democrat who despite his years as a Commission insider is a pragmatist who condemns the absurdities of some EU practices. On the other hand was Helmer, a frothing-at-the-mouth Conservative Europhobe who wants Britain out of the EU immediately if not sooner. Their different views were reflected in the debates they had in the letters' columns of local newspapers.

Helmer has had his triumphs. He has seen his party grown to be dominated by people of like instinct. He has seen the Tory Group pull out of the European Peoples' Party and form an alliance with a handful of fellow sceptics. And in the May general election he saw his party become the largest in the House of Commons.

But from that moment it has all gone downhill.

New Europe Minister David Liddington is proving another pragmatic soul who gets on with the work in hand. His statement on the Coalition Government's European Policy is one I can endorse. Essentially it says that the UK government will not agree to any further transfer of powers from member states to the EU without there first being a referendum, but that there will not be a referendum in the next 5 years. (I don't approve of referendums so I am glad that there will be none). Changes in EU rules that do not involve a transfer of power - such as the accession of Norway or Croatia - will be put to a vote in the House of Commons.

The statement did not make reference to the big change it represents in the Tory position: there will be no attempt to repatriate powers from the EU.

I think I heard Nick Clegg sum up the compromise agreed as "we lower our ambitions, they drop their nonsense." It means that the government will just get on with the business of Britain in Europe, dealing with the issues as they arise.

But for Roger Helmer this is terrible stuff. "I start to despair for my party and my country," he told a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference yesterday.

Eat your heart out Roger. On Europe, Clegg has won.

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