by RAY FLEMING

HAVING given priority to relations with the United States last week David Cameron is playing catch-up with France and Germany today and tomorrow. His meetings with Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel will not be easy despite the warm welcome they are sure to give him. He will have to contradict almost everything he has said about Britain's relations with Europe since he became leader of the Conservatives, for instance that he would seek to repatriate powers already in the EU's hands as a result of the Lisbon Treaty.

But his most difficult task will be to explain why he insisted three years ago that Conservative MEPs should pull out of the centre-right European Peoples Party, to which both France and Germany belong, and instead create a new hard-right fringe group with Eastern European countries whose members the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg memorably described during one of the election TV debates as “a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny that climate change exists, homophobes”. That move made other right-wing parties in the European Union very angry, was opposed by several of Mr Cameron's own MEPs and reduced the UK Conservatives' influence in the European Parliament. Since Mr Cameron has been ready to made concessions to the Liberal Democrats he should consider making just one to Europe, by signalling that he is ready to see his MEPs return to the European Peoples Party where they belong.