In the late seventies and early eighties, the ED was the third-largest group in the Parliament.
However, the group saw its membership fall sharply in the late 1980s, as many centre-right members moved to the rival European People's Party group, dominated by the German CDU and the ideology of Christian democracy in general. The ED had been somewhat further from the political centre and less europhilic than the EPP. Largely isolated, even hardline eurosceptics like Margaret Thatcher conceded that the British Conservatives could not be effectively heard from such a peripheral group. On 1 May 1992 the ED (now largely composed of UK Conservative Party members) dissolved, and its remaining members were accorded "associated party" status in the EPP group; that is, being part of the parliamentary group without retaining actual membership in the EPP party organization. This was considered essential for the Conservatives, as the EPP was generally seen as quite favourable to European integration, a stance at odds with their core ideology.
Today, ED remains a more eurosceptic subgroup within the broader EPP-ED bloc that contributes slightly more than 10% of its total MEPs. It has thus far resisted the trend of incorporating as a European political party.
SIR - David Davis (Letter, November 10) is sadly misinformed about our Conservative MEPs' relationship with the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. He claims that "Conservatives are members of the European Democrat group, which forms an alliance with the EPP". In reality, though, the ED does not exist. It has no staff or money and is, in effect, a discussion group within the EPP. […] Far from being a symbolic step, as Mr Davis suggests, leaving the EPP is the one hard, bankable commitment to have come out of this leadership campaign.
It was reported that the Czech Civic Democratic Party, the Polish Law and Justice party and the French Rally For France party were interested in joining a breakaway group, formed under the Movement for European Reform. Sir Reg Empey, Leader of the UUP has committed his party to a new group Its position would be that the European Union should exist; however, it should be a looser supranational organisation than the current structure. This would make it more eurosceptic than the EPP, and less eurosceptic than the Union for Europe of the Nations and the Independence and Democracy group.
Some members from the above parties founded a new organization, the Alliance for an Open Europe, in the midst of this debate, with broadly similar objectives. It remains to be seem if what relationship would be anticipated between this body and a new Parliamentary group.