Sunday, May 09, 2010

Tory-Lib Dem coalition threatened by secret hardline memo on Europe.

Hopes of a pact between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have been dealt a serious blow with the leaking of a letter written by William Hague, assuming that the Tories would have achieved an outright victory in the election, and detailing the relationship the Conservatives wanted with the European Union.

The document, obtained by the Observer, is headed "draft letter from Foreign Secretary to Prime Minister" and was written last week. It assumed an outright Tory victory and spelt out how Hague intended to adopt a tough approach to Europe at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels tomorrow.

In the letter, compiled by civil servants but written in the first person, Hague tells Cameron how his message would be that "the British relationship with the EU has changed with our election" to one firmly against any further integration.

Exposing the massive gulf between Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the Conservative leadership on Europe, Hague says he would demand the right to repatriate powers over criminal justice as well as social and employment policy during the first term of a Tory government – demands many EU leaders say they would resist.

Hague planned to tell his EU counterparts: "Rest assured that we seek engagement, not confrontation. But our aim is to achieve these commitments during this parliament." He would also tell his first foreign ministers' meeting "we will never join the euro" and conclude: "You will find us firm but fair, playing a leading role, fighting our corner, practical and straight-talking."

Last night the Tories said they had no knowledge of the letter.

The language of the letter exposes the gulf between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, but most of us always knew that anyway.

Quite how Clegg, who thinks Europe is vital to fighting cross-border crime and meeting the environmental challenges of the 21st century, can think of getting into bed with people who have this attitude to Europe is beyond me, and I am sure there will be many in his own camp who are as puzzled as I am by the bedfellows he appears to be seeking.
Yesterday the Social Liberal Forum, which represents left-leaning Lib Dems and includes a third of the party's MPs, issued a set of "red lines" which it said the party must not cross, including any measure that would increase the gap between the rich and poor – ruling out supporting the Tory pledge to cut inheritance tax. Three other red lines were any suggestion of cuts to frontline services in the current financial year, any worsening treatment of asylum seekers and any watering-down of the human rights act.
Quite how these two camps can ever reconcile their differences and agree to an agenda which will make them both happy has always been beyond me.

I simply can't imagine how this will, in practice, work.

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have the Tories in power with the Liberal Democrats holding them back from their worst excesses, but I simply can't get my head around how they are going to agree on anything.

Hague's radicalism when it comes to Europe is only one area where we learn that the Tories failed to come clean with us before the election about just what they had in mind.

Cameron avoided telling us what the Tories planned to do once elected, and if this letter is any indication of their intentions in other areas, they didn't tell us because they were afraid that we would reject their radicalism.

Click here for full article.

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