Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian today skewers the main parties on Foriegn policy. Though coming from a different position he sets out the Tories European problems very well.
Shouldn't we have a chance to vote for getting out of Afghanistan now? Or for drastically reducing our defence spending? Or for radically changing our relationship with Washington? Or for leaving the EU? That option is, of course, offered by the UK Independence party.
And here's the rub. Hague & Cameron's Finest Fudge cannot conceal the fact that many Conservative voters instinctively sympathise with the Ukip position. Their prejudices are reinforced every day by the Eurosceptic press. The new intake of Tory MPs will be even more Eurosceptic than the outgoing lot. Last summer, the conservativehome website surveyed Tory candidates in Conservative-held and top target seats. While only 5% wanted "wholesale withdrawal" from the EU, 38% sought "a fundamental renegotiation" and 47% the repatriation of some powers.
To be sure, there is no new Lisbon treaty in the offing, but there are hard choices coming down the track. Within the first weeks of a new government, Brussels will produce a directive on hedge funds. Britain's new leaders will need all the friends they have in Europe – or no longer have, in the case of the Tories and the EPP – to make that directive compatible with the vital interests of Britain, which is home to most of Europe's hedge funds.
By the end of this year, there will probably be something called the European investigation order, joining some 90 other agreements covering terrorism, serious crime and illegal immigration to which Britain has already "opted in". Will the Tories put their ideological hostility to "Europe" before doing what is needed to combat terrorists, murderers, paedophiles and illegal immigrants? Then there's a major EU budget negotiation; the future of the eurozone; European defence procurement – every one of them touching vital British interests. And anyone who has spent time in Washington knows that our heft in the United States today depends on the extent of our influence in Europe.
So for all the invisibility of foreign policy questions in the campaign launch, for all the consensus, for all the Conservative leadership's change of tone on Europe, there is a big foreign policy choice in this election. It is the one that has haunted Britain for 50 years. It affects everything, from the economy to the environment, from crime to our relationship with Washington, and it will determine our destiny. Ignore the Tories' muzzling at your peril. That dog will soon come back to bite them – and you.