The new group will be called European Conservatives. It is unclear who will join it from other countries, and I hope the group leadership will be very careful about who it invites to join. They must share the values of the modern Conservative Party. Gadflies and fruitcakes need not apply. This probably means that it is unlikely the group will get the requisite representation from six (or is it now seven?) countries to enable it to qualify for massive funding. So it is ironic that UKIP will benefit from EU funding through its membership of the IndDem group, whereas the Conservatives may not. It's a funny old world. Going it alone may not be as bad as it might first seem. Dan Hannan was expelled from the EPP last year but has found it a truly liberating experience. It hasn't affected his chances of being called to speak, or indeed his membership of committees. The hope must be that the European Conservative group may start with a limited membership but within a year will have attracted others. We'll see.
I did have to laugh at a quote given by the Minister for Europe, Caroline Flint this morning...
William Hague needs to come clean on who he has invited to join the Tories' fringe group in Europe, who has already turned him down and who he will pledge never to work with. The Tories would put Britain on the fringe of Europe, hurting our standing in the world and undermining British businesses.
This would be the same Caroline Flint who, when I was at university with her in 1983, was all in favour of pulling out of Europe altogether!