By Martin Banks - 25th March 2009
The British Tories are "well on track" towards forming a new, multi-national political grouping in the next parliament, it has been claimed.
The 27-strong Conservative delegation aims to create a new group after recently announcing that it will sever its links with the EPP-ED group after June's European elections.
On Wednesday, Tory MEP Struan Stevenson said the group was currently holding talks with political parties from nine member states.
He expects the new group to comprise "at least" 60 members, half of whom are likely to be British Tories, said Stevenson.
"The people we are talking to are either in government or aspiring to government so they can be considered credible partners," he said.
The nine countries include Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium and the Netherlands.
"Despite what the doom and gloom merchants are saying we are on track to forming a serious group," said Stevenson.
"It will be a substantial group which, while it will not compare in size in the EPP, will be the sort of group which people will want to come across and join."
Some Tory members are thought to be incensed at party leader David Cameron's decision to opt-out of the EPP.
Christopher Beazley, who is not standing again in June, announced this week that he had applied for full membership of the EPP group.
He said, "I cannot watch and say nothing while the Tories walk away from their allies. I cannot watch my country head for the rocks."
One Tory MEP, who did not wish to be named, described Beazley's decision as "foolish", adding, "He actually said in the recent past that he had no intention of leaving the Tories."
Stevenson, though, said he was confident the new group will hold several senior positions in the new parliament, including a "serious" committee chairmanship, one vice president post and chairmanship of a delegation.
"Several Tory MEPs are not seeking re-election and are likely to be candidates in the next UK general election. It means there are likely to be about 10 new Conservative MEPs after the election.