In a small, but hugely significant move, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, David Cameron, has formally constituted a new parliamentary grouping in the European Parliament. The ‘European Conservatives and Reformists Group’ is the first European parliamentary party dedicated to a model of European governance that protects national sovereignty. Already comprised of 55 MEP’s from eight member states, the ECR includes former ministers of state and is set to become Parliament’s fourth largest grouping.
The British Conservative Party secured a crushing defeat of Gordon Brown’s governing Labour Party in European elections earlier this month. In fact, Labour suffered their worst election results since 1918, being forced into third place behind the Conservatives and United Kingdom Independence Party. The commitment of the Conservative Party to holding a referendum on the discredited Lisbon Treaty–the only mainstream national party to do so in the U.K.–gained traction with the British electorate, who has grown increasingly hostile to the centralization of power in Brussels.
The formation of this new political party demonstrates David Cameron’s commitment to finding a more suitable footing for Britain’s relationship with the European Union. In Denmark, Ireland, France and the Netherlands, the peoples of Europe have said ‘No’ to further European integration at one time or another, only to be ignored by EU elites. The EU is now asking the Irish people to vote once again on the identical text of the Lisbon Treaty which they rejected by large margin just one year ago.
By aligning the powerful (and large) British Conservative bloc with other like-minded legislators, David Cameron has openly bucked the European federalist cabal that has dominated Brussels for decades. The ECR party must continue to challenge the supranationalist status quo in Brussels and take forward their vision for a European Union of sovereign nation-states. They could do no better than draw on the model outlined by Lady Thatcher in Bruges in 1988, where she warned against the construction of a European superstate constricted by economic regulation and big government.