Tag Archives: eu referendum

Conference Countdown 2015: How to learn lessons and not blow the EU referendum

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Willie Rennie has finally written a frank and fascinating assessment of the flaws in the Better Together campaign. He draws a number of important conclusions which need to be learned if the EU referendum is not going to fall foul of the pitfalls that beset not only Better Together but in starker and disastrous form the incompetent Yes To AV campaign in 2011. All the articles are well worth a read.

Posted in Conference, Events and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 23 Comments

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
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 29 Comments

The EU referendum puts our free movement rights at risk. Everyone affected must have a vote

One of the most positive aspects of the #LibDemFightback since May has been the enthusiasm among our influx of new members to fight for a Yes vote in the forthcoming EU referendum.  A recent survey found this was their number one reason (quoted by 84%) for joining the party. With the government gearing up for a vote as early as June next year, there is no doubt that Liberal Democrats must play a central role, both in the campaign and – crucially – the passage of the Referendum Bill, which defines the question, timetable, and franchise.

Incredibly though, the government looks set on excluding from the referendum the very people whose lives will be most directly affected by the result. Britain is now home to around 2.4 million citizens from other EU countries – who are, incidentally, among those who contribute most to our economy and society. Meanwhile, an estimated 2.2 million British citizens live in other EU countries. Both groups owe their residence to the free movement rights which stem directly from EU citizenship – yet under current plans, neither will have an automatic say in the referendum which will determine where they are allowed to live and work.

Posted in Op-eds | 59 Comments

The No campaign’s grim blueprint for a Britain out of Europe

European FlagLeaving the European Union would be a big deal. It would mean slamming on the brakes, crunching the gears and setting out on a new course, and, in the run-up to the EU referendum, the No campaign will argue that we should do just that. They want us to break with the past and follow a new path. So, what would a No victory mean for the future direction of Britain?

photo by: rockcohen
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 56 Comments

EU “No” campaign: It’s all about Nigel

Yesterday was a good opportunity for someone leading the EU referendum “No” campaign to make a mark. You know the sort of thing, a bit of EU bashing and announcing a countrywide campaign. A bit of “no brainer”.

Incredibly, Nigel Farage decided to take a really peculiar tack on Today and other outlets:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 23 Comments

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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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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 12 Comments

Opinion: We need votes at 16 for the EU referendum

I’ve recently become increasingly aware of some of the comments passed by the Tories and UKIP regarding the minimum voting age on the upcoming EU Referendum, which seems likely to be set at 18. They’re quite worrying to say the least.

John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham, accused 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds of not being interested in voting and critics of trying to hijack the referendum by suggesting that they should receive suffrage, whilst numerous UKIP politicians have argued that we have been close to “brainwashed” through the education system by the Liberal Democrats in particular.

Speaking as a young person, I feel that these comments are hugely belittling and insulting. I would have hoped that the active participation of young people in last year’s debate in the run-up to the Scottish Referendum would have proved that we are more than capable of fairly assessing political situations and choosing for ourselves what will be best for our own future.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 19 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 54 Comments

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 | 25 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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 4 Comments

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

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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 …

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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 …

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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

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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, …

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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:

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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 …

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