If the likes of Ken Clarke and Jeremy Lefroy think that the relaunch of European Mainstream is going to convince the Great British Public that the UK should remain in the EU, they’ve got another think coming.
Founded last February, European Mainstream is a fringe group of Conservative MPs who believe Britain should remain in Europe. However, the meeting was undermined in an article by one of European Mainstream’s members, Jeremy Lefroy, the MP for Stafford. Mr Lefroy claims it is the British government, not the EU, who really control public spending in Britain.
Although the figures themselves are credible, his analysis does not take into account the cost to the economy of our EU membership and misses out the cost to the British taxpayer of regulations like the Working Time Directive, which also inflict a cost to the economy. In other words, most of the costs involved in being a member of the EU are in the economy, not in the annual budget.
The Tory grandee Ken Clarke, well known for his pro-EU views, is a high profile member of European Mainstream. He apparently told a meeting of Conservative backbenchers at the launch of their new pamphlet that most government ministers are in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union. The Minister without Portfolio said:
“It’s certainly the case that in the ministerial ranks of the Conservative Party, the pro-EU sentiment is in the majority, Damian (Green) and I may be outliers, but we are not by far the only ones inside and outside the cabinet.”
No it isn’t the case Ken. While there may be a few dyed in the wool Europhiles in the Conservative Party, they are very thin on the ground – and one swallow does not a summer make. The truth is that there are in fact far more people in the Parliamentary Party – both government ministers and backbenchers – who are opposed to Britain’s continued membership of EU. More to the point, the group European Mainstream is only 62 members strong – out of 303 Tory MPs – so has limited political clout and influence on government policy.
Dominic Kirby, Research Executive