Tories appoint 'Euro-realist' Lidington to symbolic post of Europe Minister - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Tories appoint 'Euro-realist' Lidington to symbolic post of Europe Minister

Friday, 14 May 2010
While many Europhiles in the UK and leaders around Europe uneasily greeted the confirmation of well-known Eurosceptic William Hague’s appointment to the Foreign Office, it seems the pro-European Liberal Democrats have managed a major concession.

David Lidington MPOn its frontpage today, the Guardian says the appointment of David Lidington, pictured left, to the symbolically important post of Europe minister, one of the most senior jobs outside of the cabinet, “signals the end of more than a decade of Tory hostility to Europe”.

In a move that they believe will be welcomed in chancelleries across the continent, the appointment of the former Foreign Office adviser Lidington could be interpreted as a sign of the former MEP Nick Clegg’s influence over David Cameron since he takes up the job earmarked for Mark Francois who was the Eurosceptic shadow Europe minister.

It was Mr Francois, ironically with a French-originating surname, who was instrumental in orchestrating the Conservative MEP’s controversial split from the main centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament to found the new ECR group on the sidelines.

Lidington will hopefully seek to balance the fiercely Eurosceptic Hague, who, in 2001 ran a strongly nationalistic election campaign as Tory leader in which he warned that Britain was turning into a "foreign land".

But Lidington, who according to the Guardian is seen as “a Euro-realist rather than a pro-European”, does has strong relations with Mr Hague after having served as his parliamentary aide for the first two years of his leadership of the Conservative Party.

However, one look at his voting record shows that he has consistently voted very strongly against EU integration.

Welcoming Mr Cameron into office in a manner only French President Nicolas Sarkozy could do, he made himself abundantly clear that he hoped to open a new chapter with the Tories when he said he looked forward to "strengthening the very close cooperation and exceptional ties woven between our two countries".

On the sensitive issue of Europe, the Conservatives have been publicly advocating (uncharacteristically) in recent months prior to the election that they would be adopting a less confrontational approach to the EU. David Cameron indeed dropped his pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and Mr Hague said in March that they had made a strategic decision not to pick a fight with the EU.

In order to prove that this new appointment is not just symbolic of appeasement towards Europe, firm and plentiful political actions will have to be made to prove the intention were good in the first place. After all, who can actually be sure of the Conservative’s real policy towards Europe following the leaked letter outlining its ‘hardline’ stance should they win office…

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