POLITICS

Tory MEPs Dismiss Boris Johnson's 'Risible' Attempt To Abolish Them

29/04/2014 15:29 BST | Updated 29/04/2014 15:59 BST
PAUL ELLIS via Getty Images
London Mayor Boris Johnson addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, north-west England, on October 1, 2013. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson's suggestion that directly elected British MEPs be kicked out of the European parliament and replaced a delegation of MPs from Westminster has not gone down too well with Conservative MEPs.

On May 22 voters across Europe will go to the polls to elect the 751 MEPs that sit in the European parliament based in Brussels and Strasbourg.

In 2009 the Lisbon Treaty gave the parliament a raft of new powers, including over the EU's budget. MEPs also now have equal legislating power to national leaders on the EU Council and help choose the president of the European Commission.

On Monday Boris Johnson said the system of directly elected MEPs should be abolished. He suggested instead that members of the national parliaments should be sent as delegates to a new European parliament..

The London mayor, who is widely expected to make a return to the Commons in order to bid for the Tory leadership, said current centralising MEPs were too interested in "aggrandising the power of the Euro-parliament" at the expense of Westminster and were a waste of money.

But the suggestion has not gone down to well with Conservative MEPs. Julie Girling, Tory MEP for South West England, took issue with Boris' claim that national MPs "have the time" to also do the job of MEPs.

"His comments show a real failure to understand the role of the European Parliament. MEPs like me who are active in the legislative process work long hours and the idea that we could be replaced by MPs in a part time capacity is risible," she told The Huffington Post UK.

"If Boris believes they have that sort of time available he should be pushing for urgent House of Commons reform."

She added: "Boris is being provocative, his usual, very effective MO. If he does return to the House of Commons I'd like him to use his considerable talent and influence ensuring that MPs embrace their current powers of scrutiny and work more closely with EP colleagues to protect UK interests."

London MEP Syed Kamall, the leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, said while the idea had merit in theory, it was not practical.

"It would certainly strengthen the link between national parliaments and Brussels. However the European treaties would have to be rewritten to allow this, which is very unlikely to happen in the next few weeks," he said.

Writing in his Daily Telegraph column yesterday, Boris said: "Instead of holding these ludicrous pseudo-elections, where nobody knows who the hell they are voting for, we should appoint the British delegation of 73 from our already sizeable stock of parliamentarians."

"There are all sorts of attractions to this solution. First, we would save quite a bit of money: the cost of having all these extra Euro-MPs ultimately falls on the UK taxpayer. More important, it would mean that Britain’s delegation would be hard-wired to reflect the will of the British parliament, and the will of their local electors."

He added: "Euro-scepticism is rampant in large parts of Europe, and cynicism about the parliament is at an all-time high. I see no reason at all why Britain should not lead the way, and change the system of sending MEPs to Strasbourg so as to make them much more accountable and familiar to their electors. Other countries would soon follow suit. If we are going to remain part of the Euro-parliament – and it is a growing if – we might as well send a delegation that has a clear mandate from the people."

The European elections are likely to be bumpy for David Cameron, with the Conservative Party expected to come in third place behind Ukip and Labour.