Tag Archives: european union

ALDE gather in Lisbon: setting sail for a new, more liberal world?

Sailing in Lisbon by Pedro Ribeiro SimõesOnce again, liberals from across the European Union and beyond gather this week for the Annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE). And whilst Portugal might not be the most obvious place, given the absence of a liberal party in Portuguese politics for some years now, the emergence of the Earth Party as a serious contender – it won two seats (out of twenty-one) in this year’s European Parliament election – makes Portugal an interesting place to be.

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LibLink: Vince Cable on why we need the EU and immigrants

Vince Cable Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterWriting in the Mail to coincide with Remembrance Sunday, Vince Cable made a heartfelt plea for tolerance of a united Europe and immigration, citing personal experience:

I am astounded when people say they have never been allowed to talk about immigration and that politicians ignore it. I remember it differently: a continued, sometimes angry, political debate going back to the 1950s. There was not an immigration issue as such. Until the late 1990s, net immigration was negative. More people left than arrived. But those leaving were white and most arriving were black or Asian.

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European Arrest Warrant: I’m a sceptic (but not a Eurosceptic)

As I write, the House of Commons is debating the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Well, sort of. In fact, the Speaker, John Bercow, has already pointed out that “there will not today be a vote on the specific matter of membership of the European arrest warrant”. But Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling say there will. In the Tories’ Alice in Wonderland world, when they use the word vote it means just what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

As with any debate involving Europe, there is a danger of it being used as …

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Opinion: Let’s tell the truth about EU budget surcharge

Euro by Alf MelinOver the last couple of days I have been disappointed that the Lib Dem leadership has seemed to go along with the Osborne/Cameron version of events with respect to the ‘reduction’ in the £1.7 billion owed to the EU.

On Friday, Osborne claimed that through his tough negotiations the UK would only be paying £850 billion.  However reports later on explained that the only deal done was over the timing of the payment, and that the reduction was simply due to the UK’s EU budget rebate being applied.

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Opinion: Will the EU miss us if we leave?

clegg merkelIt was central to David Cameron’s EU bargaining position: the assumption that ultimately the EU would do everything it could to avoid our exit. It would yield to every request placed upon it because, after all, the UK is important. It is a bargaining position that has been fatally undermined by Angela Merkel as she suggested that the UK has reached a “point of no-return”, and that if the UK maintains its pressure on allowing curbs on EU migration she would be prepared to see the UK leave. In other words, the principles of the EU are more important than one individual member.

This rationale, although likely to frustrate sentiments of British Exceptionalism displayed by some, is not wholly surprising. Rewriting fundamental aspects of any political settlement does not come easy, perhaps precisely because relenting on one aspect of an institution undermines the ability to stand up to other requests for substantial renegotiation.

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UK decision to stop migrant rescue operations attacked by Teather (“unethical”) and Ashdown (“inhuman”), defended by Clegg (“Italian decision”)

Conservative home office minister James Brokenshire defended the Government’s decision to withdraw support – along with all other EU member states – for future search-and-rescue operations for migrants in the Mediterranean. The BBC reports:

James Brokenshire told MPs the change would “save lives rather than putting them in peril.” About 3,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. That is out of an estimated total of 150,000 to have made the trip by boat across to Europe. Mr Brokenshire said operations to rescue migrants encouraged more people to make the “perilous journey” across the Mediterranean in the hope of being granted asylum. He said the “despicable work” of human traffickers had made the problem much worse, and must be tackled. On the new approach, he added it was “inconceivable to suggest that if a boat were in peril, that support would not be provided”.

Italian officials have made clear they intend to scale down their government’s current operation, known as Mare Nostrum, as the EU introduces a new operation known as Triton. Triton will focus more on border control – tasks such as vetting asylum seekers once they are ashore, and coastal patrols – rather than search and rescue in international waters. Mr Brokenshire said that 28 EU member states had “unanimously agreed” to the new proposals, and criticised those attacking the policy for seeking to “politicise” the issue.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather was not impressed by the minister’s defence:

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Opinion: In for a cent, in for a Euro?

Euro by Alf MelinThis is probably a stupid idea.

I thought I’d get that in before you do, because it probably is, and even it’s not you’re probably still going to think that it is. Nevertheless I’m going to say it anyway because frankly right now British politics is somewhere up a creek and Nigel Farage is running off with the paddle.

How about we hold an in-out referendum on European Union membership on the first Thursday in February?

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Opinion: Confused Britain

Map of the European UnionEU citizens should have the right to live and work in the UK:
36% Yes, 46% No.

British citizens should have the right to live and work in the EU:
52% Yes, 26% No.

These results from ComRes were presented by the Guardian Data Editor Alberto Nardelli, alongside the title “Confused Britain“. However, in many ways it summarises an increasingly predominate view on the European Union. It seems vast swathes of the public are happy to have their cake and eat it when it comes to the EU.

It is a choice that has been presented to people by many Eurosceptics. Conservatives are increasingly discussing the notion of quota systems on EU migration, even though Angela Merkel has stated that such an impingement on free movement would be non-negotiable. Ukip have often stated that trade between the UK and the EU would be made easier, not harder, through removal from the free market area. Presented with such options, it has become popular thinking to believe that the UK can have a pick ‘n’ mix agreement with the European Union.

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Opinion: Britain is the mother of parliamentary democracy, yet on Friday its Prime Minister voted against it

cameron-europeFor political historians, the 27 June 2014 may go down in history as the day a British Prime Minister voted against parliamentary democracy. For that is what the Juncker nomination was really all about, and which many commentators in the UK fail to understand. Comments such as “two-faced EU leaders”, “Europeans fed up with the UK”, etc, as read in several articles this weekend, reveal a lack of understanding of the process that has been building up in the EU in the past two years.

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Opinion: Thoughts about Europe

European FlagAll political parties have their blind spots. When policies are not particularly close to their hearts, parties can afford to be critical – examining, debating and ‘stress-testing’ those policies before approving them.  But some policies are too close to the heart; they are ‘Articles of Faith’, not to be questioned or examined too closely. Articles of Faith sometimes do not get exposed to critical examination, and when contrary evidence is unearthed, it can be pushed aside. It is not surprising that when ‘Articles of Faith’ are put under the spotlight, …

photo by: rockcohen
Posted in Op-eds | 38 Comments

Opinion: I’m voting Lib Dem in spite of, not because of, our ‘Party of IN’ campaign

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.37 IN Europe EU European UnionIf you believe the messages sent out from ‘The Party Of In’ during this Euro-election campaign, then you might think that my current political position is logically confused and that I simply misunderstand the options before me on May 22nd. However, I intend to vote Lib Dem in the Euro-elections in spite, not because, of our on-going commitment to remaining in the European Union.

I do not pretend to be an expert on European matters – and I do not claim to be …

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Opinion: Smog and why we need the European Union

Smog from Primrose Hill LondonWe have suffered poor air quality across south east England for days. The authorities warned older people and people with cardiovascular problems to stay indoors. Ambulance call-outs in London rose by 14%, and David Cameron abandoned his usual morning jog, describing conditions as, “Unpleasant, but it’s a naturally occurring weather phenomenon.”

Although worse in urban centres, poor air quality has been a concern for years in some villages on major roads in West Sussex; air pollution is widespread.

photo by: Luton Anderson
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The Nigel Farage Paradox: the higher his public profile, the lower is public support to leave the EU

Nigel Farage

Here is the Nigel Farage paradox: the more that Ukip’s media profile, poll rating and party membership has grown over the last two years, the more that support for the party’s core mission – that Britain should leave the European Union – seems to have shrunk.

    Sunder Katwala, director of British Future (New Statesman, 3 April 2014)
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The Swiss Wheeze: the Better Off Out argument that’s full of holes

Swiss CheeseIf only we were Switzerland, eh? That’s the dream of the Better Off Out brigade, who long for its freedom as part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). And it’s a tempting offer: all the benefits of free trade with EU member states, and (if you believe Nigel Farage, Dan Hannan et al) none of the risks.

Except it’s not quite that easy, as The Economist highlighted when it investigated Britain’s options.

photo by: Filter Forge
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Opinion: It’s official – Lib Dems are “most successful and influential” in Europe

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiAhead of the second EU debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage this evening, a timely new report has found that Liberal Democrats are the most influential British party in the European Parliament.

The analysis of MEPs’ voting records from VoteWatch Europe over the past five years by think tank Policy Network, finds that Liberal Democrats are the “most successful coalition partner” in the European Parliament and “have played a central role in policy-making in both Westminster and Brussels.”

As …

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“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 …

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Opinion: Emerging markets could mean the end of the elephant, but it’s not too late

For some years I have been sponsoring an African Elephant called Grace. It was a birthday present that I have never had the heart to cancel. She is fortunate enough to live in a conservation area in Kenya. Grace is one of approximately 400,000 African Elephants still alive in the world, their population having been slashed by 50% since 1989, driven predominantly by the ivory trade. Despite an increasing shift in western attitudes very little has changed. Ever expanding globalisation and the economic crisis has resulted in several fluctuations in ivory demand, perpetuated by international ivory trade deals that have …

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LibLink: Tim Farron – EU: The Liberal Democrats as the ‘Party of In’

With 6 months to the European elections, the Lib Dems are stepping up the party’s drive to be identified as the most pro-European party – in contrast to previous campaigns when the party has tended to downplay its pro-Europeanism.

There are two reasons. First, the Lib Dems believe we’re better off in. Secondly, the party’s private polling shows that those who aren’t current Lib Dem voters, but would consider voting for us, are generally pro-European and like the party’s stance.

Party president Tim Farron published an article on the Huffington Post yesterday making the Lib Dem case. Here’s an excerpt:

Of course,

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Julian Huppert MP writes… EU budget boost secures UK’s position as world leader in science

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiI heard some good news this week. It may not have grabbed the headlines, but the UK economy was given a colossal shot in the arm thanks to the European Union.

Lib Dem MEPs on Tuesday voted for an EU budget, which was overall lower – a 6.5 per cent cut – but crucially included a 30 per cent increase in funding for research and innovation. This is important funding, and a clear sign of what can be achieved to help …

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Liblink… Vince Cable: Europe is an anchor for British business

For centuries, Britain has developed economically through being an open, outward-looking country. Today, the economy has a high level of global integration. The UK is the world’s fifth largest exporter of goods and services, and we attract more foreign direct investment than any other European country.

…Vince Cable, writing in the Guardian.

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Tim Farron writes… British businesses say we must stay in the EU. Let’s go out and make that case.

UKIP and the many Conservatives who say we should pull out of the EU might want to keep a low profile today. The CBI, which represents some 240,000 businesses up and down the country, has published a landmark report in support of Britain’s EU membership. It found that 8 out of 10 of its members would vote to remain part of the EU, including 77% of small businesses, and concluded that the overall benefits of EU membership massively outweigh the costs. In fact, each of us is thought to be around £1225 better off a year thanks to …

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The palatable truth about EU migration: 5 reasons why it’s good for Britain

Telegraph MigrationThe Sunday Telegraph’s disingenuous claim last weekend that “600,000 unemployed EU migrants are living in Britain at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS” sparked a chorus of protests about so-called ‘benefit tourism’ from the Mail, Sun and Express. Conservatives and Ukippers gleefully joined the feeding frenzy, with hard-right Tory MP Douglas Carswell upping the rhetorical ante from “waves of migrants” to a “tsunami of economic refugees”.

Fortunately, the European Commission, the NIESR and others were on hand to point out some facts. The Sunday Telegraph wrongly included students, retired people, parents on leave and some schoolchildren in its definition of unemployed. In fact, the Department of Work & Pensions’ own estimates state that fewer than 38,000 people from the other 27 EU countries claim jobseekers allowance in the UK. This represents approximately 2.6% of all claimants and is just 6% of the Sunday Telegraph’s front page ‘EU unemployed’ figure.

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Farron, Huppert & Sanders say: Time to take a tough stand on biofuels

Biofuel BusIt’s World Food Day and Tim Farron, Julian Huppert and Adrian Sanders have joined Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Lucas and other MPs in a joint letter to the Guardian to condemn EU policy on biofuels.

Taking land out of food production – which is increasingly happening in Africa – pushes up global food prices, while bringing new land into production leads to drained wetlands, ploughed-up grasslands and razed forests.

The writers are concerned that first generation biofuels, crops like wheat and oilseed rape, are being used for transport fuel. These crops are an essential food for a rapidly expanding global population. The letter gives a blunt message to the European Union, which is currently debating the cap on biofuel use in transport fuel.

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of ‘In’.”

This week the Lib Dems got #WhyIamIn trending on Twitter to launch the party’s campaign to show the positive benefits of British membership of the European Union. Nick Clegg takes up the cause in his weekly letter, making the point you’ll hear a lot between now and next May’s Euro elections: “Only the Liberal Democrats are, unambiguously, the party of ‘In’.” As I pointed out this week, it’s not just a cause the vast majority of the party passionately believes in — it’s also smart electoral politics. Here’s Nick’s letter in full…

libdem letter from nick clegg

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Opinion: 50 reasons #whyIamIN

nick clegg euNick Clegg’s passionate call this morning for everyone who cares about Britain’s future in Europe to speak out will have been music to Lib Dem ears – and those of many more beyond. As Nick said, the antis have had it their way for far too long. Their arguments do not stand up to scrutiny and the pro-European case is just waiting to be made.

As #whyIamIN started to trend on Twitter this morning, I started to think about just why we are better off in …

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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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The EU is cutting red tape – a victory for the Lib Dems

EU Flag and ScissorsOn Wednesday the European Commission unveiled a major set of proposals that will significantly cut unnecessary red tape, especially for small businesses, following a sweeping review of all EU legislation. Perhaps the most eye-catching of these was the decision to withdraw proposed health and safety rules that would have banned hairdressers from wearing jewellery and high heels at work. Unsurprisingly, this did not garner anywhere near as much coverage in the tabloid press as when it was first proposed.

Far more important though are the concerted efforts to simplify or repeal overly burdensome and unnecessary EU rules across the board. Commission President Barroso’s recent assertion that the EU needs to be “big on the big things and smaller on the small things” was more than just empty words. As we near the European elections, the Commission is beginning to wake up to the growing tide of euroscepticism and the widely held belief that EU regulation is overly meddlesome.

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Sir Graham Watson: Gibraltar will always have the Lib Dems’ backing

GibraltarOn Sunday 1 September, I was treated to what many of my constituents face on a daily basis, a border queue. I got off rather lightly with 90 minutes. Many Gibraltarians who dare to cross the frontier face delays of over four hours. But they are a hardy lot. They survived eighteen years under Franco with the border closed.

In December 2011, the Liberal Party of Gibraltar, our sister party on the Rock, was elected to office in coalition with the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party. At about the same time, a general election in Spain saw a moderate Socialist government replaced by the nationalist Popular Party, the party of former dictator General Franco.

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EU birth certificates myth swallowed whole by the anti-European press

It may be the silly season, but the latest Euromyth to ruffle right-wing feathers takes silliness to a whole new level. The Express, Mail, Sun and Telegraph unanimously announced at the weekend that Brussels wants to remove the royal crest from British birth certificates and replace it with the hated EU flag. The Mail declared Brits would be “stamped with the EU flag from the cradle to the grave” while the Sun led with the rather lame “B-EU-rths ‘n deaths”.

They gave generous space to Eric Pickles, who fumed:

This imposed Euro-law is part of an

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Martin Horwood MP writes… Balance of competence reports shows EU membership is crucial for UK jobs

The Government today published the long awaited first six reports of the review of the balance of competences between EU and national levels, due to be finalised at the end of 2014. The review has been overseen by a Ministerial star chamber with Lord Wallace of Saltaire leading impressively for the Liberal Democrats in the complicated process.

Contrary to the perception in Eurosceptic ranks, this review is not and was never about creating a wish list of demands for unilateral repatriation of powers. Liberal Democrats have been unwavering in our arguments that the EU needs reform to make …

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    Martin There is always scope to inflame latent racism by pointing the finger at those who can be singled out as outsiders, but it is...
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    Martin Do we what is the number or percentage you refer too Or are you saying that people should not consider the EU and that's...
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    @nevelope2003 "Even during the 2005 election I was told by workers that they were not going to vote " Mmm. What do you mean by...
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    Tsar Nicholas, we all knew what she meant because we all feel what we think she meant. The reason she should have resigned is that...
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    @Nigel Cheeseman - out in the real world there were two choices in the Rochester and Strood byelection, UKIP or Tory. The real choice was...
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    @ Paul Walter Please accept my apologies I got carried away. Both you and Brian Paddick did remember and mention the counting in and counting...