Tag Archives: eu

Dutch economists & ex-ministers: Brexit so disastrous that Dutch government should campaign against it

Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte discusses the UK’s negotiations over EU membership with David Cameron

Two prominent economists who also were Dutch ministers and still are influential “public thinkers” about macro-economic, budgetary and fiscal affairs, have come out in their weekly column for a strong Dutch government involvement in the campaign against Brexit.

write in their Sunday column (15th November 2015) in the biggest Dutch newspaper The Telegraaf, that the OECD may predict a sunny future for the Netherlands, but that uncertainties like the slump of China and others Emerging Economies (see: The Economist) can scupper those rosy predictions.

But a second danger looms on the horizon: a Brexit can also harm the economic and political interests of the Netherlands. Vermeend and Van der Ploeg point out that with a Brexit

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Our best weapons against terrorism are unity, tolerance and compassion

Last Friday’s sickening Paris attacks shocked us all. They weren’t just attacks on France, but attacks on our shared values and way of life. Seeing such horrific tragedy being inflicted on a city that so many of us associate with joy, love and freedom has been deeply upsetting. At the same time, it has been profoundly moving to see the courage and resilience of the French people and the solidarity shown with them from around the world, including in the UK.

When emotions run high, it is important that our responses are made with great care and with a cool head. Most of all, we must remember that the central aim of these attacks was to sow division and conflict in our societies.

Provoking resentment against refugees and Muslims, as is being done by the likes of the Daily Mail with its despicable cartoon likening refugees to rats, is exactly what these terrorists want. This fosters a cycle of prejudice and hatred, playing into the hands of the far right and extremists across Europe. We as Liberals must not fall into this trap, but fight it at every turn.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: This is no time for division. It’s what the extremists want

The appropriate response to events in Paris is the subject of Nick Clegg’s Standard column this week.

With ominous predictability, populists from Nigel Farage to Marine Le Pen are already using the attacks to pursue their long-held ambitions — to turn countries inwards and away from each other.

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LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt – David Cameron wants a two-speed Europe


Guy Verhofstadt heads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament and is the former Prime Minister of Belgium. In the Independent he examines David Cameron’s stance on Europe under the headline “EU referendum: David Cameron should spell it out. He wants a two-speed Europe“. He writes:

This week, or so we are told, the Prime Minister will set out his Christmas list of EU reforms to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk. A broad agreement on the UK’s renegotiation package is envisaged at the December summit of European leaders. There will be battles and setbacks in the weeks to come, but there are reasons to think a deal can be found.

Many in continental Europe strongly agree with David Cameron that the European Union of today is not fit for purpose and is in need of fundamental reform. Most accept that the direction of travel has shifted towards some form of “two-speed Europe”, broadly based around eurozone “ins” and “outs”. And clarifying these two types of membership would surely be progress, compared with the chaotic multi-speed, hotchpotch EU of today. Maybe it is time for Cameron to be explicit and use the expression “two-speed”.

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Working together to stay in the EU


I was personally impressed by the article in last Wednesday’s Guardian by Labour’s Pat McFadden MP, which challenged the Brexiters to spell out just what life would be like for us if we chose to leave the European Union. Coupled with the recent sensible remarks from his party colleague, everyone’s favourite ex-postie, Alan Johnson MP, and the furious back tracking of Messrs Cameron and Osbourne, it gives me hope that all like minded people WILL bury their differences and show a united front against forces both political and popular that seem to think that we can throw our weight around as we did a hundred years or more ago.

As someone who has concerns about the current Lib Dem tactics on the upcoming EU referendum, which seem to be operating in a bubble, with no reference to political reality, the chances of politicians from most, if not quite all, parties sharing both physical and media platforms in the run up to the vote, whenever it takes place, makes a great deal of sense.

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Central Bank Independence


Support for multilevel governance seems a prerequisite for any Lib Dem. Devolution from the centre to the periphery, from Westminster to Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly is one example. There has also been devolution upwards to the supranational institutions such as the EU Statesman are no longer the preserve of government; governance is now very much a fixed concept.

However, there has been devolution or delegation to other institutions besides devolved bodies and the EU. The Bank of England’s independence is an interesting point in case. If LDV readers do support Central Bank Independence as a theoretical concept in the abstract, then its internal consistency should also have an external consistency when applied to the specific case of the Bank of England.

At this point, I would really like to start a debate on the following:

What should the size and scope of the Bank of England’s remit be?

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: When it comes to the EU, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. All forms of “Out” are as bad as each other

Nick Clegg is doing a lot of writing at the moment. Today, he has an article in the Independent busting the myths put about by Leave the EU campaigners that it would all be fine if we left as we could just be like Iceland or Norway and enjoy the benefits of the single market.

Errr, no, actually, we couldn’t says Nick.

The Outers want us to believe we can have our cake and eat it, effortlessly freeing ourselves from the shackles of Brussels while continuing to trade on equal terms with our neighbours across the Channel.

And that last point is the most deceptive of all. There is no access to the single market without adherence to its rules and regulations.

Out campaigners respond by talking misleadingly of a ‘free trade deal’ with our European neighbours – but a free trade agreement is a very different thing to accessing the single market.

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes: Europe is about more than the economy, it’s about opportunity

Catherine Bearder with Liberal Youth members October 2015At the official launch of the Stronger In Campaign on Monday it was great to see such a huge range of people, of all ages and from all walks of life, prepared to work together to secure Britain’s place in Europe. The board of the campaign represents all sections of society – students, the arts, business and trade unions – and almost half its members are women. This couldn’t contrast more with the male, pale and stale line-ups of the Vote Leave and Leave EU campaigns.

The challenge now for Stronger In will be to translate such a broad base of support into a coherent and positive message. We don’t just need to win over undecided voters, we need to make sure those who are broadly in favour of remaining in Europe turn up to cast their vote and play an active role in the campaign. Young people in particular are historically the least likely to vote, but the latest polls show 83% of them want to stay in the EU. They probably won’t get passionate about dry economic facts on the impact of Brexit on trade and investment. We need to develop a powerful and uplifting narrative about why Britain’s future in Europe matters to them and their everyday lives.

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The battle for a better Europe starts in Bournemouth

International Office_with textWith the EU-referendum likely to be less than a year away and the prospect of a Brexit a real and frightening possibility, the question of Britain’s role in Europe is more pressing than ever. The European Union was one of the most widely discussed issues at the conference, including the official launch of the Lib Dem Remain campaign.

In order to bring a more international perspective and explore the issues further, the Liberal Democrats International Office brought together a distinguished panel consisting of Sir Graham Watson, President of the ALDE Party and former Liberal Democrat MEP, Andrew Duff, Former Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP and Lucy Thomas, Campaign Director for Business for a New Europe (BNE). The event was chaired by Baroness Julie Smith, Lib Dem Spokesperson on Defence in the House of Lords.

Opening the debate in front of a huge audience in a packed room, Iain Gill, Head of the Lib Dems International Office, emphasised the importance of EU membership to the UK, and the crucial role that liberal networks such as ALDE and Liberal International will play in campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU.

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Charles Kennedy memorial debate tonight – how you can watch live

Charles Kennedy on HIGNFYI’m on my way o Glasgow to attend a debate to be held in memory of Charles Kennedy. The subject will be one which was very close to his heart – “This house believes that the UK should remain within the European Union.”

The debate takes place in the very Chamber where Charles debated as a student. During his lifelong association with Glasgow University, he served as the Glasgow University Union’s President and, much later, for an unprecedented two terms as the University’s Rector.

From the GUU website:

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Refugees – Europe’s failure to plan by consensus


To state the obvious, Europe is failing to tackle its long term refugee “crisis”.  Less obviously, I would argue that it is primarily a failure of analysis and planning, and above all, failure to seek consensus.

Ironically, Cameron gets closest to a coherent plan.  He plans a token effort, just enough to defuse criticism and satisfy shallow consciences.  Then he can retreat into military fantasy, and dream of the Pax Britannica he will impose in Syria, just as we did in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq (!)

Merkel’s plan, if more appealing, contains a gaping hole.  Germany blithely invites half a million refugees a year.  But when they come, Germany demands that other nations should also take a share.  Eastern Europe angrily refuses to play ball.

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder MEP: Cameron must wake up and join the EU’s response to the refugee crisis

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has written for Left Foot Forward to criticise David Cameron’s decision to take Syrian refugees, as long as they aren’t already in Europe.

Plans are being drawn up to take a limited number of refugees directly from camps on Syria’s borders, but much to the dismay of our EU partners, Cameron continues to rule out taking part in an EU response to the thousands of desperate refugees arriving on Europe’s shores. This may be politically expedient, but it is strategically short-sighted. Only by working together at the EU level can we address the biggest refugee crisis since WW2.

Like Tim Farron, Catherine has now visited Calais to see the camps there for herself:

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Not in my name: British diplomats who joked about refugee quotas disgrace this country

There have been many reasons over the Summer to be thoroughly ashamed of our Government’s response to the growing humanitarian crisis on our doorsteps.

We’ve all seen the news reports. We all know that people just like us are enduring incredible suffering. The difference between them and us is that we live in a part of the world that has seen relative stability and security these last 70 years since the EU came into being. For all it’s many faults. at least none of us has been put in the position of having to flee our homes because it is simply not safe to be there, because our government was gassing us with chemical weapons, because a brutally murderous death cult was trying to wrest power from a brutally murderous government. Imagine the fear and desperation these people are going through as they leave their home nation for a very uncertain future.

When even a UKIP supporting family friend says we should be helping these people, it is very clear that David Cameron, with his “n’owt to do with us” approach, is very much out of step with the feeling in this country. Hell, even Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson gets it:

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Europe or the world? It’s a false choice.

“Do you agree that the UK should leave the EU and trade with the world?” That’s the question on the front page of the UKIP website, and presumably how they want to start framing the referendum debate once they launch their own No campaign later this week. “Out, and into the world,” as it was put in the 1970s.

But that’s a false choice. We don’t have to choose between Europe and the world. We can have both.

Let’s start by emphasising just how important the European marketplace is to British business. Last year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the UK’s exports to the rest of the EU were worth £226bn – 12 times the value of the stuff we sold to China and 33 times what we sold to India. Between 2000 and 2014 the value of our exports to the rest of the EU rose by £80bn; the value of our exports to China rose by £16bn, and to India by just £4bn. China and India are important, growing markets with lots of potential, but let’s not forget just how important Europe is and will remain.

photo by: rockcohen
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Lib Dems are the natural party for Eastern Europeans in Britain

Britain’s always changing. That is one of the best things about our country.

Liberal Democrats, and before us Whigs and Liberals, have long supported outsiders seeking to make this place their home.

Whigs supported Huguenots – religious refugees from France. In the nineteenth century Liberals supported equality for Jews and Catholics, who were denied basic civil rights.

It is well documented in history that the arrival of new people has made our country greater. Immigrants have brought new talents and energy.

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Liberal Democrats should commit to abolition of all global borders

The upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is both an opportunity and a threat for the Liberal Democrats.  The party has an opportunity to define itself clearly as the most forward-thinking, internationalist force in British politics.  However, if it fails to do this then it risks looking like an irrelevant, also-ran defender of the status quo.

The 2014 European election campaign shows the threat that the party faces.  It was insufficient to simply argue that the European Union must be retained because it preserves jobs and helps our on-going effort to prevent climate change.  If we want to galvanise support then we have to offer a vision of the future, not simply a defence of the present.

Similarly, the Better Together campaign in the Scottish independence referendum ended up creating the impression in far too many voters’ minds that the Liberal Democrats and the other unionist parties were simply interested in defending the UK as it exists now.  That vote might have been won, but it was won in a fashion that did the victorious parties no good at all in Scotland.

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The EU consultation: all right as far as it goes…

Have you gone through the EU consultation sent out from Liberal Democrat HQ by Austin Rathe? I did, answering all the questions or clicking the right options just like a good Lib Dem should – I declared myself committed to staying in the EU, and chose all the suggested benefits of being in the EU: freedom of movement, greater prosperity, no war in Europe thanks to the EU, and so on.

Yet I found the whole exercise unsatisfactory and lacking in nuance. The consultation is full of leading questions. One can only answer as I did (with just a little scope for variation) because to do otherwise would be to take the stance of the Conservatives or UKIP – but this hardly offers a truly rounded assessment of the EU as it exists today.

I expressed my views as I did because, being a liberal, I do accept that the propositions in the consultation are more true than not true. That is why I expect to vote to stay in the EU regardless of what David Cameron manages to renegotiate. On balance, I think the EU is still a good thing and therefore I feel the UK should be in it, both as a matter of playing our part in the world and because it’s in our interest to be there. But do I think the EU is pretty much fine as it is? No I certainly do not – I think it badly needs a major overhaul.

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Opinion: Historia est Magistra Vitae: no Grexit, no Greece

The last few days showed the EU as a very resilient organisation: the Bundestag had just approved the Greek bailout, after Finland, France and Austria. But it also showed EU stretched to the breaking point: there is no Grexit but there is no Greece either.

Let us step back and look at the recent past from the future perspective through the prism of the UK. 100 years hence the history of the UK could read like this:

At the beginning of the 21st century the UK was the only state able to offer an alternative to the Franco-German concept of unified Europe. But, rather than introducing UK’s own concept based on liberal values, individual independence and social liberal policies, the UK spent its energy on questioning the EU concept (so called ‘opting out’) and fighting in-between themselves under the then Conservative leader Cameron. This meant that the UK was not offering any viable alternative and completely lost its direction. With the diminishing role of the USA, the Anglo-Saxon governance model, so prevalent during 19th and 20th centuries ceased to play any meaningful role as ‘the bureaucratic super-state’ took on an ever increasing role.

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Opinion: Has the EU just come of age?

It sounds a daft question, given the number of articles critical of the solution to the Greece crisis which have been appearing in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, but things are not always what they seem. Looking at unconscious processes in organisations, the things that people act out without naming tend to be the really important ones

My sense is that we might just have tipped into the space where the EU functions like a truly federal entity — albeit with a deep faith in subsidiarity — and the griping is the griping one has when a government makes a difficult decision, not when it is seen as illigitimate.

What first sent my mind in this direction was the Greek referendum. Far from being an “in/out” referendum, this was one that assumed Greece was inevitably part of the EU, woven in so tightly that this bizarre stunt could not cause them to leave. The “no” vote was strong, but so was the desire to remain in the Eurozone and the EU. For Alexis Tsipras to have made such a fuss about democracy, and then ignore the referendum could seem bizarre, but it makes more sense if I compare it with the antics of a 1970s-style shop steward garnering the support of the workers as a negotiating tactic, or the rebellions of Liverpool City Council at the height of the Militant Tendency. In both cases, quite extreme behaviour is possible because people assume an underlying unity — the shop steward does not want their members to lose their jobs, and Liverpool was not going to cease to be part of the UK. As with Greece in the EU, the strong behaviour is possible because they feel they belong.

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Guy Verhofstadt tells it to Greece and the EU like it is

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, has set out a potential solution to the Greek crisis in an article for Politico. He makes it clear that there are faults on both sides and both sides need to take constructive action to resolve the crisis fairly for everyone.

We are in this mess because the Greeks never made a real reform package, or a clear break with their mistakes from the past. But also because Europe has followed wrong policies — policies of pure accountancy that slowly but steadily choked the Greek economy. Everybody can make the wrong policy choices, but we have been clinging on to them far too long.

He implores people to stop the scaremongering:

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Opinion: Lessons from Greece: why Liberal Democrats need to rethink their enthusiasm for the Euro

I can’t help but sympathise with Greece. In responding to the Eurozone’s latest debt offer, its people found themselves choosing between a rock and a hard place. The referendum was a bit like asking a vegetarian to choose between beef or chicken. The overwhelming rejection of the Eurozone’s proposals is the act of a nation with nothing left to lose: vote ‘yes’ and you sign up to breathtaking austerity and misery; vote ‘no’ and you take a huge step into the unknown that may take you down the same path, but one which also causes your creditors some pain, too.

The whole debacle clearly underlines why currency union without fiscal union does not work. It was something that Danny Alexander seized upon during the Scottish Independence referendum when he rightly pointed out that Scotland would have limited control over the direction of its economic policy if it kept Sterling in a post independence scenario.

And so it has proven to be the case with Greece. Faced with a single currency, and member countries with varying credit ratings under their old currencies, the banks concluded that all member nations should be offered the same one as the higher-rated nations. The seduction of cheap credit proved too much for Greece, which borrowed way beyond its means. A credit crunch later, and the wheels have well and truly come off.

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Catherine Bearder MEP doesn’t need men telling her what’s important

I have to say that I am incandescent with rage at a profile of the only Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder which has appeared in the New Statesman. The implied conclusion of both the journalist and the several Liberal Democrat sources quoted seems to be that Catherine is a lightweight who needs the back-up of a group of men. She’s criticised for not pursuing their agendas and her own concerns, on massive issues like wildlife and human trafficking are dismissed by the journalist as pet projects.  Yes, that’s right, protecting vulnerable people from the brutal exploitation of modern slavery somehow is a niche issue? Not in my world.

The thing is, despite the drip-drip of patronising criticism that comes through the article Catherine comes out of it really well. What I get is an impression of a politician who, heaven forfend, is well-connected to her constituency and the people she represents. Heaven forfend! It’s hard to do that across a single UK Parliamentary seat. Across a region? That’s more challenging and Catherine does it well. That is just as important as legislative achievement.

Dave Keating, the journalist laments that the lack of political heavyweights:

The Liberal Democrats lost their Brussels heavyweights like Graham Watson, Andrew Duff and Ed McMillan-Scott.

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Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens #2

I sent a postcard from Athens to LDV six months or so ago as we waited for the Greek people to elect a new government – bringing to power the curious mix of Syriza (a collection of hard left factions that would make the People’s Front of Judea blush) and the Independent Greeks (representing the Greek chauvinistic right). This odd mix of nationalism and hard –left rhetoric has been colourfully described by one academic as “ethno-bolshevism”. Since then, it has certainly been eventful and I have been very much aware that political choices have consequences.

In the Greek election campaign, Syriza promised to free Greece to make its own financial decisions without interference form the much hated “Troika” (the IMF, the Eurozone and the European Union) while, at the same time, ensuring Greece could stay within the security of the European monetary union – even receiving debt relief from its other members. Greece duly voted to have its cake and to eat it.

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Opinion: The Commonwealth and the EU


Pro-Europe supporters are heading to repeat the same mistake as the Fair Votes referendum campaign by ignoring multicultural Britain’s perspectives. Should the race become neck-and-neck this could well tip the balance in favour of ‘out’.

A key difference from the electoral reform vote is that the EU ‘out’ lobby can see the value of attracting diverse communities for the Euro poll. UKIP, in particular, are pushing a pro-Commonwealth argument by claiming that Britain’s trade relationships can be switched from Europe to Asia, Africa and the Americas.

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Opinion: 200 years on from Waterloo: democracy not dictators, unity not barriers, peace not war.

WaterlooThis week’s 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is a reminder of how far Europe has come.

At Waterloo, 65,000 men were killed or wounded in one day.  In contrast, we have now had 70 years without war in Europe.  Long may peace continue.

We enjoy secure peace partly because every country in Europe now has an elected government. There are no more monarchs or dictators seeking out war for vanity or power. Most importantly, we have the European Parliament where modern opportunities and problems, which cross old national borders, can be discussed by MEPs we elect rather than fought over by armies.

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: Tories might pull their hair out but they’re not going to get a parliamentary veto in the EU

Former Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Edward McMillan-Scott has been writing or Politics.co.uk about the Tories’ efforts to ensure that national parliaments can veto EU laws that they don’t like.

Edward clearly knows a fair bit about how the EU works, arguably significantly more than your average Eurosceptic Tory backbencher. He’s been in on the organisation within the EU that actually does represent the rights of national parliaments and it has asserted itself in recent years.

He explains how the process works:

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Opinion: Looking forward to the EU referendum


With the legislation for the EU referendum now before parliament, that process is starting to feel real. I am thinking about what this might mean for Liberal Democrats, and the voice of liberal democracy.

In the General Election the consensus was not to campaign on Europe. That was probably wise, if counter-intuitive. Things are about to become very different.

In addition to the big question of which side will win, I had been thinking of the referendum in terms of its likely effect on the British political landscape — of the alliances that will form on both sides, and the possibility of splits in the Conservative party or defections leading to an early General Election, but am beginning to think more of this in terms of our distinctiveness.

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Tim Farron MP and Lord Wallace of Saltaire write…UK under threat from David Cameron and Tory Eurosceptics

Let’s not kid ourselves. What David Cameron is supposed to be asking for as he travels round other European capitals is for a package of reforms to make the European Union more open and efficient. But what many in his government and party want is a fundamental renegotiation: leading either to the position of Norway, of association with the free trade area but exit from the EU, or that of Switzerland, an international finance centre with a fractious but dependent relationship with the EU. The Eurosceptics who want the Prime Minister’s negotiations to fail are driven by myths of English exceptionalism, by a tea-party Republican vision of a shrunken state and a deregulated market, and a refusal to recognise the disastrous impact of exit from the EU on the future of the United Kingdom and its place in the world.

Britain belongs in Europe. NATO and the EU are the twin pillars of our foreign and security policy. We share political and social values most closely with our European neighbours: on human rights, on what the Germans have labelled the ‘social market’ economy, on civil societies and national communities in which all citizens have a stake. It’s also the framework through which our economic interests are best promoted: a continent-wide market into which British products and services are closely integrated, a trading bloc which enables us to bargain with the US and China on equal terms.

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Cllr Jill Shortland pays tribute to Charles Kennedy at the European Committee of the Regions

Liberal Democrat Councillor Jill Shortland, from Somerset, is Deputy Coordinator for Citizenship, Governance and External Relations in the ALDE Group of the European Committee of the Regions. Yesterday, she paid tribute to Charles Kennedy at a meeting of the Committee in Brussels. She said:

As a Liberal Democrat from the United Kingdom, I wish to use my 2 minute intervention to pay tribute to a former leader of my party who sadly and unexpectedly died yesterday.

Charles Kennedy had been a Member of Parliament for 32 years, and he was also President of the European Movement in the UK since 2008. Two years ago he wrote an article which I would like to quote.

He said: “At an age of continent-sized powers, with global ambitions, European nations are better off working together, pooling resources, joining forces.

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Opinion: Why should someone from Maputo get to vote in the EU referendum when someone from Mons doesn’t?

When we vote in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU,  it is important to understand that we will deciding on our citizenship. Currently, all holders of full UK passports are legally defined as EU citizens and if we leave, we will collectively be renouncing this citizenship and many of the associated rights, even if we manage to negotiate a Norway-style relationship within the wider European Economic Area.

The government’s decision on who will have the franchise in the referendum should be viewed in this context.

All Irish and Commonwealth nationals living legally in the UK will get a vote. The Guardian tells us there are 3.4 million people from 47 countries in this category which is certainly enough to influence the result. They include EU nationals from Cyprus and Malta by virtue of their countries’ Commonwealth membership.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAdam Boyden 27th Nov - 3:18pm
    This is very good to see Tim. The Govt need to be much more responsible for where our weapons of war end up, and who...
  • User AvatarHelen Dudden 27th Nov - 3:12pm
    The new MP for Bath Ben Howlett has just donated his pay rise to the homeless and hungry children, that's a positive start. Are any...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 27th Nov - 3:10pm
    Labour has been increasing its vote in by elections in the South and South East
  • User AvatarPHIL THOMAS 27th Nov - 3:06pm
    Looks like Labour are in melt down in Oldham. I suspect UKIP are likely to squeeze all the anti Corbyn votes. Watch out for a...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 27th Nov - 2:41pm
    The security industry is nearly all against airstrikes. From what I can see. They don't suggest many alternatives though. There is a lot of outrage...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 27th Nov - 2:34pm
    It is completely wrong to accuse Tim of being tokenistic or putting patients at risk. The current rules are discriminatory and limit the supply of...