Tag Archives: eu

What being in the EU has meant for my family

What has Europe ever done for me? It’s a question that the impending referendum has caused me to ask myself. I had always been supportive, but throwing myself into the campaign to remain meant I needed to be clear in my mind why I was supportive and what the benefits were. And having helped so far at street stalls in Truro, Plymouth, Taunton, Yeovil, Bristol and Stroud, it has proved a useful exercise as voters have rightly demanded to know what good the EU has done.

And the way I thought about it was to think about the generations of my own family. How have their lives been different because the EU exists and because we’re in?

Take my father, for example. He was a Royal Marine in the Sixties and Seventies. My brother too served in the armed forces, in the Eighties and Nineties, and his daughter – my niece – too. And my brother-in-law is a serviceman today and has been so for about 20 years. All of them have seen active service, but none of them thankfully were thrown into a conflict on the European mainland. Indeed, in the case of my father and brother, they once stood ready to defend our country from communist dictatorships in eastern Europe that are today our democratic friends and allies.

It is true that Nato helped prevent war between the West and the East during the Cold War, and stands ready to defend us today should Putin get a bit too trigger-happy. But there is a difference between an absence of war and a culture of peace. And it has been the European Union that has made it the boring, day-to-day norm that European countries talk with each other and work with each other on the big issues facing our continent. And it was the pull of EU membership, not the defensive military alliance of Nato, that helped embed democratic government and civil liberties in those eastern Europe countries that joined the EU a decade or so ago.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 19 Comments

#Intogether’s National Day of Action to make positive case to remain in the EU

Black long with hashtag-2With the local elections behind us, the time has come to turn our full attention as a Party to the upcoming Europe Referendum which is just 6 weeks away. On 23rd June, Britain must decide what kind of country we want to be: inward-looking and cut off from the world or proudly leading from the front, at the heart of Europe.

Tonight, Tim Farron, speaking in London, will make the positive, progressive case for Britain remaining in Europe, recognising the future benefits of close relations with our neighbours and natural partners, and how investing in each other’s economies and sharing in prosperity can make Britain even greater than it is now.

This Saturday we are hosting our first National Day of Action of the #INtogether campaign and the response from local parties has been overwhelming! We have 199 street stalls planned across the country, with well over 150 local parties taking part.

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The liberal case for Leave

The party whose membership card I currently have sitting in my wallet, our party, is without a doubt a broad church, but I think it reasonable to presume that the vast majority of Liberal Democrats would profess to value liberty and democracy – at any rate, the two are described as ‘fundamental’ in the Preamble to the party’s Constitution. In the light of such principles, strong support of the European Union seems a little bizarre to me.

Movement towards centralisation and ‘ever closer union’ contradicts aspirations for increased dispersal of power and encouragement of diversity. I would expect us Liberal Democrats to aim for government to be as open, accessible and close to people as possible, but we seem willing to allow our lives to be brought under the purview of Brussels bureaucrats, with most UK citizens having little idea of how policy is made or who represents us. A brief study of the EU’s history reveals how many times constituent nations have tried and failed to reform it, and, worse, how many times those in charge have ignored referenda which have gone against their wishes. Rather than by the people, for the people, the EU is first and foremost government by elites for the furthering of an agenda most UK citizens do not support.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 122 Comments

Roaming charges reduced from tomorrow thanks to the EU

There is good news for smartphone users heading to the continent this bank holiday weekend. From tomorrow (April 30th), new EU rules will cap the cost of using your phone when abroad in Europe at 4p per minute, 2p per text and 4p per MB of data (excluding VAT), around four times cheaper than current limits.

Three UK’s rate is dropping from 16.6p per minute, 5.2p per text and 17.4p per MB to 4.3p per minute, 1.5p per text and 4.3p per MB. Tesco Mobile has announced it will drop roaming charges altogether in more than 30 European countries between May and September this year. From July 2016, all phone companies will be required to scrap roaming fees for phone users travelling within the EU.

That’s good news for my brother-in-law who is currently in Mallorca to compete in the marathon cycle ride, the Mallorca 312 tomorrow. That’s 312 km, a lot of it on the massive mountain ridge that covers the west of the island. I thought my leaflet delivery schedule for the next few days was punishing, but this is quite some feat of endurance, so  good luck, Jamie and team-mates.

This adds to a growing list of reasons to vote to remain in the EU. It maybe isn’t the biggest, but it does show that the EU is working to break down unnecessary barriers for the benefit of its half billion people.

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It must be possible to be 100% pro-EU, but still question how things are run

 

I’m half Danish and consider myself to be a European. I have never really felt particularly English or British at all and if Denmark is playing England at football it’s a tough call, even though I’ve lived in the UK almost all my life and spent a total of only two years in Denmark.

I have always been pro-EU. I believe in political co-operation and the European ideal – and have often considered other European countries to be more enlightened when it comes to matters such as social justice and environmental protection. Without the EU, I am sure we wouldn’t have had Blue Flag beaches or the equivalent, tighter car emission regulations (although they’ve been flouted badly in recent years) and proper food labelling. Whereas, in my experience, Danish Governments of whatever shade tend to want to ensure the quality of life and wellbeing of their populations, that enlightened approach sadly hasn’t been a particularly strong feature of British life – although it does appear to be something Scotland wants to follow (hence no tuition fees and prescription charges).

Whilst agreeing with the provisions of the Single Market in terms of the free movement of goods, service and people, this doesn’t stop me asking certain questions about the efficacy of the EU and what we might be able to do better. All institutions need to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances and the EU cannot be an exception to that.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments

We need to challenge some of those Brexit statements

 

Well, the ‘official’ EU referendum campaign has finally begun. Funny, it appears to have been going on for months already.

I was interested to see the images of the two official campaigns juxtaposed the other day in the BBC report on my TV screen. The ‘Leave’ campaign was illustrated by old footage of Tories Grayling, Gove and Whittingdale etc. manning the phone lines, whereas the ‘In’ footage showed Tory, Labour and Lib Dem politicians, including the Prime Minister, doing the same thing. For an organisation that has tried so far to be unfailingly impartial in its reporting of the campaign in its ‘phoney war’ stage, I have a feeling that the BBC has possibly given the ‘In’ campaign a visual leg up, by showing its multi party nature. Now, whether we get politicians of different parties actually sharing a platform as we did in 1975 is a different matter.

So far, the arguments for and against have been pretty well rehearsed. We should park immigration for a moment, which could be the deciding factor, but which will still pose problems for us whether or not we stay in the EU. As an EU pragmatist, who thinks that, on balance, leaving the EU now would be a massive gamble, I do have to say that some of the arguments being put forward repeatedly by the Brexiters need challenging.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 51 Comments

Contrasts of Cologne and Kent

Tim Farron in CologneLast month I accompanied Tim Farron on a visit to a British Red Cross centre in Gravesend, Kent to learn about the projects they run for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs). Home to the British end of the Channel Tunnel, Kent has always had a high proportion of UASCs, but 2015 brought an unprecedented number, with over 1000 new children entering into the care of the Local Authority. During our visit we met young people from Sudan and Eritrea who spoke about their experiences both in transit and since they’ve arrived in the UK.

In many ways it was similar to the visit I took with Tim and Catherine Bearder to Cologne in February, but there were also startling differences, and the starkest difference was in access to language courses and education.

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