Callanan: Conservatives and their ECR allies can deliver European reform

Speaking to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Martin Callanan MEP, leader of the ECR Group in the European Parliament, said that Conservative MEPs are already working with their allies from across Europe to deliver radical reform of the EU.

Speaking to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Martin Callanan MEP, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, said that Conservative MEPs are already working with their allies from across Europe to deliver radical reform of the EU.

He said that increasingly governments and parties across the Continent are coming round to the Conservative agenda of reform. And he reminded the conference that only Conservative MEPs and Conservatives in government are able to deliver change followed by a referendum on British membership.

He said:

“We don’t go to Brussels to be popular. I don’t. My Conservative colleagues don’t.

“We go to defend the interests of our constituents and our country. Sometimes that means standing alone.

“But over the last four years, things have changed. We’re on our own less often. Other Europeans – decent people who love their countries and believe in democracy – have joined us. We’ve gone from being a solitary voice to being a growing official opposition.

“It was David Cameron who started this change. In 2009 he joined with like-minded leaders from across the EU and formed the European Conservatives and Reformists Group that today I am proud to lead in the European Parliament.

“We have allies in 13 countries. Many of them are here with us today

From the Czech Republic, from Poland, from the Low Countries and the Baltic States, from the Balkans and the Caucasus, from Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Scandinavia.

“They are my friends; they are our party’s friends, so let’s welcome them here to our Conference.

“It turns out that we weren’t on our own after all. We may be the minority in Brussels. But we’re not the minority in Europe. In country after country, people have the same concerns that we in this hall do. They think that the EU is too powerful, too remote and too expensive.

“A recent poll in Germany showed that, by two to one, people want powers back from the EU.

“Some of the core, founder members are now lining up with David Cameron to demand change.

“In the Netherlands just a fortnight ago the EU spokesman of the governing VVD party said “We want less Brussels in several domains, to return whole policy areas”

“Would you believe his Party sits with our Liberal Democrats in Europe?

“What a pity that our Liberal Democrats are not as sound as their Dutch counterparts.

“Two weeks ago at their Party Conference we heard repeatedly that the Lib Dems are the Party of “In”.

“Well just for once I agree with Nick.

“The Party of “In”?

“Incompetent, indecisive, inept, incoherent, in the sh… in the shambles they are in because of their inconsistency on Europe.

“It’s worth remembering that every single Lib Dem MP was elected on the basis of a commitment to an In/Out referendum. But when the time came, they refused to support it.

“Only we Conservatives will trust the British people with a referendum on EU membership.

“But we mustn’t be too mean about the Lib Dems because the PM is here and he has to deal with Cleggie every single day – the things you do for your country David!

“A few months ago in the European Parliament we held a debate with Francois Hollande, the French Socialist President, and I was able to thank him for two things:

“Firstly, for kindly using his country as a test case: a grisly picture of how a Miliband-led Britain would look: over-taxed, exhausted and bankrupt.

“Secondly, for using his punitive taxes to drive many excellent French businesses to London and – rather more importantly, as I hope you’ll agree – some excellent French football players to Newcastle United.

“Then a few weeks ago we had the dubious pleasure of Jose Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, telling us that anyone who didn’t support closer European integration somehow wanted to go back to the trenches of the First World War.

“In response, I told Mr Barroso that he was speaking for the vested interests in Brussels, not for British voters, and certainly not for British taxpayers.

“What he did next was fascinating. He responded by talking up Ukip.

“It was a little bit like Godfrey Bloom supporting MumsNet!

“So why would Jose Manuel Barroso want UKIP to do well at our expense?

“I’ll tell you why. Because, although he loathes UKIP, he doesn’t fear them.
– He knows they can’t deliver a budget cut.

– He knows they can’t deliver the repatriation of powers.

– He knows they can’t put a stop to cross-border social security claims.

“But the Conservative Party? It’s not just that we can do these things, we’re already doing those things.

“Above all, Barroso knows that UKIP can’t do the one thing he fears most of all – giving the British people a say in a referendum. Because only our Party can deliver that.

“It’s no wonder he wants to talk us down.

“In the European Parliament Conservative MEPs have defended the interests of every part of the UK from John O’Groats to Lands’ End, we never forget about our fellow Britons in Gibraltar.

“So let’s build on our new Group’s successes by returning even more Conservative MEPs next year.

“Because there is only one Party that can deliver radical reform, can deliver renegotiation and a referendum and that’s our Conservative Party.”

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