Tag Archives: eu referendum

Opinion: What does Nick do next?

Given our new position in parliament with eight MPs, we’ll be handing out multiple portfolios to whoever can possibly take them – and I suspect, Lords, AMs and MSPs as well, where necessary. This is by no means a bad thing. We have fantastic members in all parliamentary institutions, and the devolved ones in particular could do with being taken more seriously. The only issue being they cannot then hold their respective ministers to account. The main question that strikes me now though is with a more or less inevitable EU referendum and being the most unapologetically pro-EU party – who takes the EU portfolio?

It has been suggested that Nick could lead the ‘In’ campaign in such a referendum, I assume doing a similar job as Alistair Darling did for Better Together. On paper, I can’t imagine anyone more qualified despite the fact I don’t think any such unified campaign being a good idea. For the purposes of this article however, I’ll work with the idea. For the merits that are pointed out in the above article;

Throughout his time in government he was an enormous asset to Cameron in international diplomacy, especially – but not exclusively – with Europe. Foreign policy was never Cameron’s forte, either as leader of the Opposition or during his first term as PM. “Abroad” was where Cameron made most of his misjudgements – all by himself.

There are few people better qualified on foreign policy and in particular Europe than Clegg. I’m hesitant to mention Tony Blair, setting aside one major caveat, perhaps a close rivalry. For obvious reasons, Blair doesn’t even make the short list for such a hypothetical position.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 31 Comments

Opinion: Politics as if we were in the 21st century

 

So, we’ve had a bounce of new members. The fight back begins and we’re planning how to make the Lib Dems strong again. All great stuff.

But hold on a minute. This is the biggest opportunity in my lifetime to change progressive politics for the better, and drag parties that were born in the 19th and 20th centuries into the 21st. But if we’re to grasp that opportunity, surely we need to think beyond just our own party?

I’ve written elsewhere about how the Liberal brand is weak – see: The Lib Dems need to appeal to people’s hearts, not their heads  – but more fundamentally, politics is weak. About a third of people don’t vote at all whilst many (a majority?) view politicians as self-serving, elitist or irrelevant to their lives. Even those who vote often do so without enthusiasm. Will all this be changed by a resurgence of the Lib Dem party alone? I doubt it will be sufficient.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Catherine Bearder MEP writes…The fight for Britain’s future starts now

As the dust settles from the elections and we lament the loss of so many talented and dedicated Liberal Democrat MPs and councillors, there will inevitably be discussions over what went wrong and how it could have been avoided. As a party we have a lot of hard thinking to do about how best we rebuild. But there is no time for a protracted period of introspection. The country stands at a crossroads: one way leading to a strong and united Britain at the heart of the EU, the other to a little England isolated from its neighbours at home and abroad. The voice of the Liberal Democrats and liberalism is needed now more than ever.

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Baroness Kishwer Falkner writes… A Lib Dem red line over an EU referendum: Yes or No? The choice is appealingly straightforward isn’t it?

So posits Andrew Duff in his letter to the Guardian warning that ‘If we Lib Dems accept this referendum as part of a new coalition pact, we will bring ruination on ourselves’. Well that’s clear then, isn’t it?

There are two reasons of principle why we should not be seduced by this simple hypothesis, and a third to do with pragmatism.

First, there is the argument that complex issues cannot be dealt with through referendums, and the proposed in/out referendum is somehow alien to our own thinking or political philosophy. The Lib Dems have never subscribed to this Burkean view of the relationship between the electors and the elected. In this period of Government alone we have departed from it three times by holding a referendum on the Alternative Voting system, legislating in the European Union Act 2011 for a referendum should there be a fresh transfer of powers to the EU, and in granting a referendum for a yes/no vote in Scotland. Given that the last issue had the potential to breakup the Union and was the subject of much deliberation, an anti-referendum stance is not one of principle.

Posted in Op-eds | 23 Comments

Nick Clegg wins out on EU referendum – but what will the party think?

EU Flag at the European Parliament at Strasbourg. Photo credit: Some rights reserved by European ParliamentToday’s Guardian reports that Nick Clegg has won the backing of MPs over whether to support a change in the party’s policy on an EU referendum:

The deputy prime minister, who has faced direct calls from ministers for a change of stance on the EU, won the agreement of the Lib Dem parliamentary party to stand by the current policy. This is to hold a referendum only if UK sovereignty is passed to the EU. The Tories

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 60 Comments

Principle and Realpolitik: why the Lib Dems should back an EU in/out referendum

EU Flag at the European Parliament at Strasbourg. Photo credit: Some rights reserved by European ParliamentMy co-editor Caron Lindsay has asked the following question, amid reports senior Lib Dems want the party to commit to an in/out EU referendum in the next parliament: “What do you think? Stay as we are or shift our position?”

My own view is the party has nothing to lose by offering a referendum in the 2015 manifesto. As I’ve pointed out before, the Lib Dem line on an EU referendum has been remarkably consistent over the last few years – far more so than the Tories (remember David Cameron’s cast-iron guarantee?) or Labour (remember 2004 EU referendum U-turn prior to their 2008 U-turn?).

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged | 42 Comments

Is Nick Clegg about to change position on an EU Referendum?

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiToday’s Times reports that Nick Clegg may be about to change his position on the circumstances on which a referendum on EU membership could be held. The Coalition has legislated for a referendum if there is any further Treaty change. The Times (£) suggests that this could be altered to a “material change”:

Liberal Democrat MPs were due to meet last night to discuss whether to shift their position of holding a vote only if there is a “material change”

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

“The EU has provided us with the best Europe we’ve ever had”

That was the claim in this very interesting essay by Robert Cooper – a visiting professor at the London School of Economic and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations – in last week’s New Statesman. In it, he mounts a staunch defence of parliamentary democracy as the best way of deciding such matters rather than referendums:

The sovereignty of parliament is a good principle because it allows maximum space for political decision-making and maximum opportunity for debate on issues that are always complex.

It was his three reasons for continuing to support British membership of the EU which …

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged , and | 14 Comments

Danny Alexander MP writes: We shouldn’t fritter away our EU influence when we can lead drive for jobs and growth

As the House of Lords debates the EU Referendum Bill, you may be forgiven for thinking that the Coalition Government has already legislated for a referendum. In fact we did – in 2011 Parliament passed the EU Act which holds that there will be a referendum if there is a transfer of powers from the UK to the EU. This is a sensible approach which means that the British people will get their say in a referendum when our terms of membership change.

At the time, Conservative Ministers strongly supported the EU Act and rejected attempts by their own backbenchers to …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 22 Comments

Opinion: Pro-Europeans should not fear an EU Referendum

James Wharton’s EU referendum bill finally passed through the Commons on Friday. Whilst this is seen as a significant victory for the Conservative Party and indeed all Eurosceptics, there is still some way to go before a 2017 EU referendum is enshrined in law. The bill must now get through the Lords, and even Wharton seemed unconvinced that it would pass, at least not without significant amendment. However, the Tory MP for Stockton South warned the Lords, ominously stating “For an unelected House to deny the British people a say on a bill which has been passed by the …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 27 Comments

Opinion: Nick Clegg to set out patriotic case for a reformed Europe

In January, I wrote for Liberal Democrat Voice just as British Influence, the cross-party umbrella campaign to keep Britain in Europe, was starting and Prime Minister David Cameron was about to fire the starting gun for an in/out referendum on our EU membership.

Tomorrow in London, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will throw his weight back into the debate with an important speech setting out our party’s stall on the pro-European agenda, including our own commitment to an in/out referendum.

Lib Dems will fight the European Parliament elections next year on …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 12 Comments

An in/out EU referendum? Lib Dem members say no, by 55% to 36%

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

55% of Lib Dems oppose in/out EU referendum

The next Conservative election manifesto will include a pledge to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union. Do you think the next Liberal Democrat manifesto should include the same pledge?
(Figures compared to last time we asked this question in March 2013).

    36% (+2%) – Yes,

Posted in Europe / International and LDV Members poll | Also tagged | 11 Comments

Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood socks it to the Tories over their “dramatic flip-flopping” on in/out EU referendum

martin horwoodWhile most of the country was enjoying yesterday’s sunshine, the Tory party indulged its own carnival of (to coin a phrase) banging on about Europe.

James Wharton’s private member’s bill legislating for an in/out referendum on the European Union to take place by 2017 (a pledge David Cameron has already conceded to his rebellious backbenchers, who don’t believe him) passed its second reading in the Commons by 304 votes to zero.

Only one Lib Dem MP made a speech: Cheltenham’s Martin Horwood. It’s a punchy tour de force which details …

Posted in Europe / International, News and Parliament | Also tagged , , , and | 45 Comments

Will Ed Miliband “do a John Smith” and push for an early EU in/out referendum? There are advantages, y’know…

John Major and David CameronCould Labour be about to “do a John Smith” to the Tories over the timing of an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union?

In the 1990s, Labour wrought havoc on the fourth-term Tory government by (cynically) teaming up with the right-wing ‘Maastricht rebels’ to inflict damaging Commons defeats on their common enemy, John Major.

Could Ed Miliband try and do the same to David Cameron? That’s the hint in today’s Guardian:

Labour is considering backing an in-out referendum on Europe as early as

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , and | 5 Comments

Lib Dem MPs to abstain on Tories’ EU in/out referendum bill?

EU flag - Some rights reserved by European ParliamentOn 5th July, Tory MP James Wharton’s private member’s bill — laying out Conservative plans for an in-out referendum on the EU in 2017 — will get its second reading.

The Tories are on a three-line whip to support it (very unusual for a private member’s bill). Labour has confirmed they’ll shun the vote, branding the bill “a gimmick, a political stunt”. The Lib Dem parliamentary party will decide its position in a couple of weeks’ time, but is likely to abstain with …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: Have we changed our policy on an in-out referendum?

In Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics interview with Danny Alexander, Neil asserted that we have changed our policy on an in-out referendum. Is he right?

Our position in 2008, when we walked out the Commons after being refused a debate on an in-out referendum, was that we wanted a referendum to decide whether the UK should stay in the EU in the light of the Lisbon Treaty. The Conservative position was that a referendum should decide the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty itself. The difference was perhaps subtle, but it was important. If the public voted no in the Conservative referendum, …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Why Cameron is now the ‘Yes to the EU’ campaign’s best hope

cameron-europeThere are two very good reasons David Cameron didn’t want the Tories endlessly to bang on about Europe. First, because most of the public just aren’t that interested. Secondly, because the Tories are irreconcilably split on the issue and not even a referendum will settle matters.

That’s why for seven years as Tory leader Cameron tried to quell discussion, and then when that failed sought to steer a mid-course with gestures of Euroscepticism, such as December 2011’s faux-veto. In the end, he couldn’t hold out any longer. The …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 27 Comments

LDVideo: Clegg – “Overwhelming priority of the British people is jobs, growth and a strong economy”

Caron Lindsay reported here earlier today Nick Clegg’s initial reaction to David Camern’s announcement there will be an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Here’s what he told the BBC:

And here’s the transcript of his interview with Sky News:

Posted in YouTube | Also tagged | 3 Comments

The Independent View: Cameron’s European vision and the Liberal Democrat opportunity

Not sallying forth to Amsterdam, but in the more functional surroundings of Bloomberg Europe in London, David Cameron has finally given forth his vision for the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU. Despite the context of the speech as a necessary manoeuvre to shore up support for Cameron from his hardline eurosceptic backbenchers and head off a UKIP challenge, the prime minister clearly made a great effort to ensure he sounded reasonable and moderate. Who could disagree with a vision of a more efficient, effective and accountable EU?

In this, Cameron made an astute address, in terms of his …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Nick Clegg: Renegotiating EU membership is not in the national interest

The BBC reports Nick Clegg’s reaction to David Cameron’s speech on the EU. The Liberal Democrat leader made it clear that he thought it was not in the national interest to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership. He said that the biggest challenge facing Britain was a fragile economy and that the Liberal Democrat priority was to build a strong economy in fair society. Yes, that phrase again. Something tells me we’d better get used to hearing it.

He added that it was up to David Cameron what went in the Tory manifesto, but that his priorities were reforming …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 15 Comments

5 initial thoughts on David Cameron’s Europe speech

David Cameron - License Some rights reserved by Statsministerens kontor David Cameron delivered his long, long-awaited speech on Europe this morning (text here). Caron’s rounding up the reactions from Lib Dems here – but here are my five initial thoughts…

This is the speech Cameron didn’t want ever to have to give.

Let’s be clear, David Cameron is making this speech now to try and keep the Conservatives together. The threat from Ukip and the party’s right has proved too powerful to withstand. Offering a referendum was no longer …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 37 Comments

What Lib Dem members think about an in/out referendum & the future of the UK in Europe

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

By 2:1 majority, Lib Dems reject new EU referendum

EU flag - Some rights reserved by European ParliamentDo you think the Government should or should not call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union?

    32% – Should

    63% – Should not

    5% – Don’t know

And 92% would vote to remain

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 11 Comments
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