Cameron EU view ‘incompatible with green issues’

David Cameron is the most “anti-European Tory leader” ever and his opposition to the EU means he will never live up to his environmental image, Ed Balls has said.

The economic secretary to the Treasury, who is also Gordon Brown’s closest aide, attacked the Conservatives for promising to be the greenest party but rejecting the international cooperation that tackling climate change needed.

“David Cameron’s problem is not really that his chauffeur drives his shoes and shirts to work while he cycles for the camera,” Mr Balls told the Fabian Society this evening.

He said: “His real problem when it comes to the environment is that while we know that international cooperation is the only way to tackle climate change, he rejects that cooperation in Europe and internationally.”

Mr Balls noted Mr Cameron’s decision to pull the Tories out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European parliament by 2009, in favour of an alliance with right-wing eastern European groups.

This proved he was “the most anti-European Tory leader they have ever had – much more so than Margaret Thatcher”, the Normanton MP continued, which in turn meant he would never be able to agree to deals the world needs to tackle climate change.

Britain’s membership of Europe would be a “central dividing line” in politics over the next ten years, he said, but argued Labour would no longer accept the “false choice” that you were either in favour of everything the EU did, or rejected everything.

“Instead, in 2006, the mainstream view is pro-British and pro-European – a hard-headed Europeanism which puts our national interest first but understands that we are stronger by cooperating with our European partners,” he said.

Britain must be able to take part in key debates on issues such as the common agricultural policy and enlargement, Mr Balls said.

In a clear reference to Mr Cameron and the EPP, he warned: “We will not stand up for British issues by leaving the table or withdrawing to the extremes and anti-European fringes of the big European debates.”

The Conservatives under Mr Cameron are currently leading the polls as the most trusted party on the environment, although the government has now agreed to Tory and Liberal Democrat demands to introduce a climate change bill in the Queen’s speech this month.