30th Sep 2023

Leak exposes anti-EU feeling in UK's Tory party

A confidential memo drafted by the British foreign ministry has indicated the depth of anti-EU feeling in the British Conservative party.

The paper was written last week by UK officials in the form of a letter from the Conservative shadow foreign minister, William Hague, to the party's leader David Cameron, outlining what Mr Hague would tell EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday (10 May) if the Tories had won the UK elections on 6 May.

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The letter says the UK wants to undo its previous commitments on EU criminal justice, social and employment legislation and to rule out ever joining the single currency.

"Rest assured that we seek engagement, not confrontation. But our aim is to achieve these commitments during this parliament," it says.

"We will never join the euro."

"The British relationship with the EU has changed with our election," it adds. "You will find us firm but fair, playing a leading role, fighting our corner, practical and straight-talking."

The Observer newspaper, which obtained the text, said it was written after briefings between Mr Hague and foreign ministry officials.

The foreign office in a statement said it was written on its "own initiative as part of the civil service's normal and private contingency planning for a possible Conservative government" and that it was "not shown to any representative of the Conservative party." The Conservative party said it knew nothing about the memo.

The leak could complicate the Conservatives' attempt to create a coalition with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives got the most seats in the 6 May election but did not win a clear majority. Other scenarios include a Conservative minority government linked to a Liberal promise to co-operate on selected issues, such as the economy and the environment. The Liberals could also create a coalition with Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Welsh separatists, Plaid Cymru.

Coalition talks have so far concentrated on British electoral reform and on the economy, with the UK set to post the highest budget deficit of any EU country in 2010.

But the EU is likely to become a big topic if the Conservatives take power.

"Let's start with a referendum on EU membership," senior Tory MEP Daniel Hannan wrote in his blog on Saturday. "If the Lib Dems want a plebiscite on the voting system, fine: referendums are always and everywhere a good thing, serving to remind politicians that they work for the rest of us. But it would be preposterous to hold a referendum on how we handle the few powers that Brussels has left us, without first holding a vote on whether EU law should have primacy in the United Kingdom."


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