Christopher Howarth of Open Europe has written an eminently sensible* piece for Conservative Home about how David Cameron needs to get his EU policy sorted out. Howarth’s case is that Cameron should appoint a Europe Secretary – one minister in Cabinet with the responsibility for policy towards the EU. The crux of the piece is this:
Firstly it is unclear who is in charge. We have a Europe Minister, David Lidington, who is likeable and capable but not in the Cabinet, and not a part of the Number 10 decision-making circle. In Number 10, there is no one person in control of ‘Europe’; William Hague, George Osborne, Oliver Letwin, Nick Clegg and Ed Llewellyn contend with numerous other issues.
Better coordination of EU policy would mean Britain would gain greater leverage, the UK does have allies etc. – it’s just that no other EU countries know what the UK’s position actually is half of the time.
Then look at the comments underneath the piece and you see precisely why Howarth’s idea is unlikely to fly, for the idea is based on sensible engagement and a grasp of the responsibility of government that few in the Tory grassroots and even on the Tory backbenches have failed to grasp. It’s also interesting to see Open Europe’s ideas being branded as “going native”. Are they just becoming too sensible for the Tory Party I wonder?
* – Howarth’s idea is sensible if you view EU politics as an extension of international politics. If you view EU politics as an extension of domestic politics I am not convinced. I would rather departmental ministers were responsible for EU business. But that’s a debate beyond the scope of this blog entry.