Geoffrey Van Orden

Brigadier Geoffrey Charles Van Orden CBE (born 10 April 1945) is a British politician and former British Army officer who served as Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament from 2019 to 2020. He was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the East of England region from 1999 to 2020.

Geoffrey Van Orden

Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament
In office
2 July 2019  31 January 2020
Preceded byAshley Fox
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Member of the European Parliament
for East of England
In office
10 June 1999  31 January 2020
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1945-04-10) 10 April 1945 (age 76)
Waterlooville, Hampshire, England
Political partyConservative
Alma materUniversity of Sussex
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Branch/service British Army
Years of service19641994
UnitIntelligence Corps

Early life and career

Van Orden was born in Waterlooville, Hampshire in 1945. He attended the Mons Officer Cadet School and was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps in 1964. He read politics at Sussex University from 1966 to 1969. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1966, Captain in 1970, Major in 1977, Lieutenant-Colonel in 1983, Colonel in 1988, and Brigadier in 1991.

He began his military career in Borneo during the Confrontation war with Sukarno's Indonesia. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) at the age of 27 for special duties in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, at the height of the terrorist campaign. He spent many years in Germany, including 5 years in Berlin where, in 1989, he was Chief of Staff of the British Sector and head of the military intelligence staff when the Wall fell. He was a member of the Cabinet office intelligence Assessment Staff. He attended the Indian Defence Services Staff College and was an instructor at the German General Staff College College (Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr) from 1985 to 1988 in Hamburg. His last military appointment was at NATO headquarters in Brussels where he headed the secretariat of the International Military Staff.

He resigned his commission in 1995 in order to enter politics. While seeking a parliamentary seat he became a senior advisor in the European Commission in the field of foreign and security policy issues. He held this post until 1999, when he was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Conservative Party.

European Parliament

Van Orden speaks at the European Parliament in 2019

Defence and security

Following his election to the European Parliament, he became the Conservatives' spokesman for Foreign, Defence and Security policy. He was one-time Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and remained a member of that committee and of the Security and Defence (SEDE) sub-committee. He has been the Conservative Defence & Security Spokesman for nearly two decades. He has led the opposition to EU defence integration and advanced the need for revitalisation of the NATO Alliance. He has been active in the promotion of Britain's defence industries.

Foreign affairs

He has long-standing experience of India, was a founder member of the Parliament's "Friends of India" group, Chairman of the Europe-India Chamber of Commerce and, since 2014, Chairman of the parliament's official Delegation for Relations with India.

He also chairs the "Friends of Sri Lanka" and "Friends of Zimbabwe", where he was a consistent and outspoken opponent of the Mugabe regime.

He was elected as the Co-Chairman of the Asia-Europe Political Forum, involving some 360 political parties from 52 Asian countries. During the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union, Van Orden was the rapporteur for Bulgaria in the European Parliament, and regularly reported on the progress of the country with regard to EU membership requirements. His final report in November 2006 confirmed Bulgaria's preparedness to join the EU.


He is Vice Chairman of the Special Committee on Terrorism.[1] His commitment to counter-terrorism has informed some of his involvement in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Israel and the Gulf states.

European Conservatives & Reformists

He was instrumental in the creation of the European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR) political group in the European Parliament, an event that had the aim of building support for conservative change in the European Union. He was its Vice Chairman for most of the time since its foundation in 2009, growing to become the third largest of eight groups in the Parliament, with members from 18 countries. He is also the Founding President of its think-tank, New Direction - the Foundation for European Reform, whose patron was Baroness Thatcher (her last major public event was to launch New Direction, in the City of London).

Political positions

Van Orden has said he is a eurosceptic[citation needed] seeking reform of the EU while trying to avoid a total break. He is opposed to European political integration. He believes in and facilitates the enlargement of the EU so as to make an ever closer union more difficult to achieve. He is opposed to British membership of the euro, the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and the Treaty of Lisbon. He had long campaigned for the Conservative Party to end their association with the European People's Party in the European Parliament, an aim which was finally achieved in 2009.

Van Orden was the last Conservative MEP to declare a position prior to the Brexit referendum.[citation needed] He opted to vote to remain for pragmatic reasons, in particular to avoid the UK suffering economic disruption and loss of influence, giving control of the continent to Berlin and Paris.

Van Orden is a founding president of the New Direction think tank[2] and is also a member of the Bow Group think tank.[3][4]

Personal life

Geoffrey van Orden married Frances Elizabeth "Fanny" Weir in 1974.[5] The couple have three daughters.[6] He is a member of the Countryside Alliance[3] and the BASC. He was a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies[6] and a Service fellow of King's College London as well as Freeman of the City of London and the Worshipful Company of Painter- Stainers.


  1. "Members | Home | TERR | Committees | European Parliament". Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  2. "About Geoffrey Van Orden". Geoffrey Van Orden. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  3. "Patron and Board". New Direction Foundation. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  5. Van Orden, Brig. Geoffrey Charles. Who's Who. A & C Black, London. 2001. p. 2124.
  6. "Geoffrey Van Orden". Conservative Party. Archived from the original on 5 April 2013.