Liberal Democrat MEPs have been responding to David Cameron’s speech promising an in/out referendum on Europe once he has renegotiated the terms of the UK’s membership. This is, of course, incumbent on the Conservatives winning a majority at the next election. That sounds like a pretty powerful motivator to Liberal Democrat activists to ensure the Tory leader does not have control of the Commons.
I will update this post during the day with further comments. First off the marks were Sir Graham Watson and Sarah Ludford.
I was quite surprised to see the words “looks good, sounds good” in Sir Graham Watson’s speech, but soon realised there was a bit of a caveat. The South West MEP said:
The Prime Minister raises some valid points, but too often his criticisms are old and out of date and his attacks are aimed at Aunt Sallies which he has set up. Moreover, his suggestion that the EU has no ‘demos’ shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the last 20 years of European history. My main concern is that this speech will sow doubts into the minds of multi-national investors on whom so many UK jobs rely. David Cameron’s vision of Europe is rather like Boeing’s Dreamliner. Looks great, sounds great, but once you try to use it you find there are hidden safety problems.
Sarah Ludford said that the PM had made some good points but was playing with fire:
Much of the first part of his speech – the part delivered as Prime Minister – was sensible in calling for reform of the EU to achieve competitiveness, complete the single market and secure openness. His sound rejection of ‘doing a Norway’ – implementing all EU rules with no say – was also correct. He showed he had listened to President Obama in saying that EU membership strengthens our relationship with the US.
But he undid most of that good work by his remarks as Tory party leader pitching to the Eurosceptic gallery. He played with fire in talking up the possibility of a ‘Brexit’ if a unilateral repatriation exercise failed, and cannot even guarantee his own ‘Yes’ vote. He created utter confusion in recalling the current UK effort to pull out of EU policing and criminal justice measures in the same breath as - rightly – stressing the importance of European cooperation on crime and terrorism. He gratuitously insulted directly-elected Members of the European Parliament by ignorantly saying that only national parliaments are democratic.
The most damaging impact is the prospect of 5 years of delay, which will discourage investment for jobs in Britain - while a ‘new settlement’ is supposedly negotiated and put to a vote. Far better to work with our like-minded EU partners in campaigning for legitimate reform for a relevant, more focused and better-value EU than alienate them with a wearying and distracting negotiation with an uncertain outcome.
Edward McMillan-Scott, writing at Politics.co.uk said:
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the event at Bloomberg’s London HQ was Cameron’s refusal to acknowledge to media questions that he would be as prepared to campaign for a ‘no’ in a referendum as for a ‘yes’. He blandly stated that Britain would be ‘better off in a changed EU’, referring not only to his Harold Wilson-style ‘renegotiation’ but also to the more federalised Eurozone structures to come. Many serious people are beginning to feel that a changed EU would be better off without Britain
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings