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Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Published at 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK

UK Politics

Tories secure centre-right deal

The Tories doubled their number of MEPs to 36

The Conservatives have secured a new deal to allow them to sit with the centre-right group in the European Parliament, but still vote according to their own manifesto.

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The deal will allow Conservative MEPs to vote according to the promises on which they fought the recent euro elections, in which they doubled their number of representatives in Brussels to 36.

The Tory MEPs were formerly associate members of the European Peoples' Party in the European Parliament.

Now that group will be renamed the Group of the European People's Party and Conservative Allies in the European Parliament.

The new grouping will be the largest in the Strasbourg Parliament, with about 230 members.

[ image: William Hague: Tories will
William Hague: Tories will "stick to their principles"
Mr Hague hailed the deal as "a new deal" for the Tories.

He said: "Our MEPs will join an enlarged coalition with centre-right parties and will work alongside allies old and new.

"This means Conservatives will stick to their principles and have influence. Conservatives in the European Parliament will be absolutely committed to the manifesto upon which they stood.

"If that means voting differently from our partners on issues such as the single currency that is what we will do."

The group will include for the first time the British Conservatives, the French Gaullists, and Italy's Forza Italia as full members.

The Tories and the Gaullists have agreed to work together "to achieve the aim of Europe as a partnership of nations .. not as a federal supertstate".

The Conservatives are hailing the deal as a triumph which will allow them to maximise their influence, and build alliances, without sacrificing their principles.

[ image: Edward McMillan-Scott:
Edward McMillan-Scott: "A real check"
Much of the flexibility of the new deal was available in practice under the previous arrangements, but this new agreement is intended to safeguard the Conservative Party against the charge that it is allied to a grouping whose principles it does not share.

The leader of the Tory MEPs, Edward McMillan-Scott, said: "The objective of being 'in Europe, not run by Europe' will be our watchword.

"It's vital that Europe's centre-right should be as cohesive and effective as possible in opposing Euro-socialist governments, now 13 out of 15, and in providing a real check on the European Commission.

"We believe that the best chance of achieving our political goals lies in working with our political allies wherever there is common ground."

Labour said the deal was a "shabby proposal which demonstrates the extent to which William Hague's extremism has isolated his party".

Campaigns co-ordinator Margaret Beckett said: "Mr Hague was faced with the choice of signing up lock stock and barrel to the EPP and swallowing their pro-euro federalist views or allying his MEPs with some unsavoury right-wing groups.

"He has been unable to choose either option."

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