LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union has lost its way and needs to refocus its efforts towards the economy, the Conservative party will say on Wednesday.
The traditionally eurosceptic Conservatives command a significant lead over the ruling Labour party in polls, which suggest they could take power in the next election, expected in 2009, after more than a decade in opposition.
And in their most explicit statement on European policy since the revival of their political fortunes over a year ago, Conservative shadow finance minister George Osborne will say the EU has got it plain wrong.
"The European Union has not understood that it needs a complete change of direction. It hasn't understood that today the primary challenge we face is an economic one, not a political one," Osborne will say, according to an aide.
"Europe has to wake up and realise: it's the economy, stupid."
Chancellor Gordon Brown, almost certain to take over from Prime Minister Tony Blair within months, has also castigated Europe for being too inward-looking, saying the more important issue is meeting the economic challenge of countries like India and China.
The Conservatives, Osborne will say, would drive for free trade within the EU by completing the services directive; insist the EU's central external objective is to break a deadlock over world trade talks; and reform the Common Agricultural Policy.
He would also want Britain to reclaim control over issues of social legislation and work together with the EU on issues like the environment.