LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt thinks that David Cameron would be wrong to leave the EU…

In a piece for the Huffington Post entitled “The UK Is Sleepwalking to the EU Exit. It Is Time to Wake Up”, Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) Group in the European Parliament, gives a glimpse of the difficulties facing David Cameron in seeking to renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union. He warns;

Cameron will not succeed if he attempts to hold his European partners to ransom, exchanging acquiescence to EU treaty change over the eurozone for a unilateral repatriation of powers.

and notes, in language that Liberal Democrats would endorse;

In fields as diverse as the single market, foreign policy, trade and enlargement, the UK has shown that it can play a leading role. Crucially, Britain’s liberal instincts have helped ensure that the EU remains competitive, outward looking, and a force for peace and trade liberalisation throughout the world. It has achieved this not through blackmail, but by building alliances and pushing for EU-wide reform.

But perhaps the best quote, or at least, the most barbed, is his description of David Cameron’s negotiating style;

Some have said Cameron is not going to get his way by pointing a gun at everyone else’s head. I believe a more apt metaphor would be that of a madman, threatening to blow himself up unless he gets his own way.

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20 Comments

  • Peter Hayes 18th Jan '13 - 4:05pm

    The comments are not very encouraging, not many supporting him.

  • Cameron’s ability to make a total mess of all international relations is absolutely amazing. But then his party just want him to give johnny foreigner what for and he’s too weak a leader to tell them where to get off.

  • Mark Argent 18th Jan '13 - 5:18pm

    What Cameron seems immune to is the idea that agreements go both ways… who is to say that the rest of the EU would agree to what he wants… and I could understand our partners suggesting that a negotiation should start from the neutral position of a nation state with no opt-outs…

  • Paul McKeown 18th Jan '13 - 5:19pm

    @Chris

    Agreed.

  • >>an angry little man
    Characterisation of Tory backbench MPs? It’s a little harsh on Cameron

  • Why does what Guy Verhofstadt thinks, matter?

  • Not sure about “angry”, but I do think Cameron is cornered. ‘Desperate’ would be more apt.

  • Interesting that we should be using quotes from Guy Verhofstadt to champion the cause of Europe. The only problem is that he is also one of the backers of a move to a fully federal Europe with its own constitution.

    To quote: “It will have to be approved through a referendum in all countries by a double majority (majority of states and of citizens). Any states that reject the constitution will then have to decide, also by referendum, whether they wish to remain in this new federal Europe or withdraw from it”.

    http://www.europolitics.info/institutions/verhofstadt-and-cohn-bendit-propose-constituent-assembly-for-2014-art343140-33.html

    So basically he is telling us: sign up to political union or get out. And we are listening to him as a supposedly impartial judge on the UK’s interests in Europe?

  • I want a Federal Europe.

  • The EU is basically an international confederate structure (with quite a few parallels to the Swiss confederate structures). I am not sure what RC has in mind by the term ‘constitution’ nor how it relates to anything Guy Verhofstadt may have proposed.

    RC if you link to pay sites, could you also supply your login and password details? Otherwise find an alternative solution.

    Of course, since the Treaty of Rome and even before, the EU has a detailed procedural constitutions, so perhaps this refers to a more visionary and literary constitution statement. Giscard d’Estaing’s efforts in a flawed hybrid constitution was derided on this score and then became side tracked by religious objections.

    Nonetheless, I would support a constitutional statement of European Union principals, if something suitably brief and literary could be created: it would need someone with vision. Would it be possible to select extracts from existing agreed texts (ever closer union comes to mind)? Jean Monet and other founding fathers were better at this sort of thing.

  • Can I raise an issue which I have not as yet noticed as being discussed. We understand that David Cameron is intending to renegotiate our terms of membership of the EU at some time during the next parliament and will put the renegotiated terms to the UK electorate in a referendum. So far, fine (if you agree with his intended policy). But in order for the renegotiated terms to be properly legal, they must be incorporated in a new EU treaty in which there will no doubt be other provisions meeting demands from other EU countries.
    Does this mean that in the event the UK electorate approves Cameron’s renegotiated terms in an initial referendum, we will have to have a second referendum on the EU treaty proper ? Or is it his position going to be that there should be no initial referendum, but the referendum should be that on the actual terms of the new EU treaty ? Or is it his position going to be that since the UK electorate has approved the renegotiated terms in an initial referendum, there is no necessity to hold a referendum on the EU treaty itself ?
    Can any one knowledgeable advise ?

  • @Martin:
    Sorry but I managed to access the site without encountering a paywall.

    “I am not sure what RC has in mind by the term ‘constitution’ nor how it relates to anything Guy Verhofstadt may have proposed.”

    He and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the Greens, are proposing the following: “After the European elections in 2014, the European Parliament will proclaim itself a constituent assembly, in agreement with the Council of Ministers, the other legislative chamber, and draft a European constitution that will not be an overhaul of the current treaties, as was the case in 2004”.

    How about:

    The democratic will of the peoples of Europe is expressed through the will of their national parliaments and cannot be expressed by pan-European voting for individual political posts, there being no such thing as the European “demos”;
    The competencies of the EU are strictly limited to those functions where all nations agree to cede sovereignty and where, performing those functions at a European level is more efficient at international rather than national level;
    Every 15 years, these functions shall be reviewed with regard to the effectiveness with which they have been performed and if a majority of nations decide that these would be better undertaken at national level, they should be devolved back there.

  • RC: thank you for the reply.

    the European Parliament will proclaim itself a constituent assembly, in agreement with the Council of Ministers, the other legislative chamber, and draft a European constitution that will not be an overhaul of the current treaties, as was the case in 2004

    This sounds sensible, so far as it goes. Agreeing on a good text would be hard (I bet the religious would want to stick their oar in), which is why I would suggest going back to extracts of previously agreed texts.

  • Hugh p: You are right the contradictions and impediments have been glossed over. Unless a government actually wanted to leave the EU, a referendum will not happen.

    What would happen if Cameron negotiated something, double referendum or not and this went to a new treaty that was rejected in another EU country, because the people opposed special consideration for the UK? I would have thought that this could well happen. How effectively could Cameron campaign in Ireland for example? He might not go down too well.

  • Guy Verhofstadt is the leader of the ALDE, the Group to which our Lib Dem MEPs belong. A position once held by our Graham Watson, also recently and controversially in the news! In a very real sense he was putting forward views signed up to by Lib Dems – I have heard Graham Watson express similar views several times.Thank goodness I wasn’t, but had I been giving views on the Cameron position on Newsnight, I would have said more or less the same.

    Surely, the ideas of “the founding fathers” were that the European “demos” would develop over time – it is a pity that the majority of the UK media are so opposed to this happening in Britain. We know that with an ever smaller world we need international agreements, and if we also accept that some sort of representative democracy is the best compromise on governance, then it is but a very short step to saying “Of course we should develop forms of international democracy, of which the European Parliament is an example”.

    Jbt Guy is not an angry man, he always seems a very good humoured man, but he was expressing forcefully the difficulties and contradictions in Cameron’s position.

  • No-one it Britain seems to take any notice of the fact the growing unity of the Continental nations has preserved the peace in Western Europe since 1945, whereas disunity in the prior generation caused two disastrous civil wars which ruined every country who participated. Including Britain, though of course no-one said so at the time.

    We leave in a highly dangerous world, and small unimportant nations like France, Germany or Britain will be helpless unles they pull together. However, it is obvious to me Britain begged to join the European football club and then said ”Oh no, we want you all to play rugby”. I would be happy to see the U.K. leave, and let the rest of Europe proceed. witht the agenda they had ever since the 1950s. I write this as a person of 100% British origin, though I am glad I do not live there.

  • No-one in Britain seems to take any notice of the fact the growing unity of the Continental nations has preserved the peace in Western Europe since 1945, whereas disunity in the prior generation caused two disastrous civil wars which ruined every country who participated. Including Britain, though of course no-one said so at the time.

    We leave in a highly dangerous world, and small unimportant nations like France, Germany or Britain will be helpless unles they pull together. However, it is obvious to me Britain begged to join the European football club and then said ”Oh no, we want you all to play rugby”. I would be happy to see the U.K. leave, and let the rest of Europe proceed. witht the agenda they had ever since the 1950s. I write this as a person of 100% British origin, though I am glad I do not live there.

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