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. Some 570 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.
Party members split over the future of Europe
LDV asked: Which of the following options would be your ideal future for the UK and the European Union?
46% – The UK should remain a full member of the EU and work towards ever closer union, economically and politically.
40% – The UK should remain a full member of the EU but reject working towards ever closer union, economically and politically.
10% – The UK should secure substantial renegotiation of its existing relationship with the EU but remain a full member.
3% – The UK should leave the EU altogether and instead negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU.
2% – Don’t know / No opinion
Though the Lib Dems are generally identified in the public’s minds as the most pro-European, it’s clear from our survey that party members’ views are more nuanced. Just under half, 46%, back ever closer political and economic union — but that leaves 53% arguing for a rejection of further integration between the UK and our European neighbours, including a minority who would like to see renegotiation or even the UK’s exit from the EU.
The results are broadly similar to when we last surveyed Lib Dem members in September, though with a small shift towards a more ‘eurosceptic’ position.
Almost three-quarters back new Eurozone rules
LDV asked: The Eurozone refers to the 17 of the 27 countries within the EU that use the Euro. The UK is not part of the Eurozone. In December, European leaders agreed new rules for the Eurozone which will mean that countries in the Eurozone will have to balance their budgets, there will be punishments for countries which run up deficits that are too large, and countries in the Eurozone will have their budgets monitored by the EU. Do you support or oppose these new rules?
73% – Support
15% – Oppose
12% – Don’t know / No opinion
Almost three-quarters of Lib Dem members we surveyed supported the new rule for the Eurozone countries, with just 15% opposed.
Cameron’s Euro ‘veto’ scores badly with Lib Dems…
How well or badly do you think David Cameron handled the negotiations on behalf of the UK at the European summit in December?
Very well – 2%
Well – 6%
Total well = 8%
Neither well nor badly – 8%
Very badly 51%
Total badly = 84%
Don’t know / No opinion – 1%
Well the Prime Minister’s so-called ‘veto’ may have wowed the right-wing media in December, but it didn’t win him plaudits among Lib Dem members — a net 76% of those we surveyed felt Mr Cameron had handled the negotiations badly.
… And Nick Clegg’s handling of the ‘veto’ gets a mixed response
How well or badly do you think Nick Clegg handled the Liberal Democrat response to the European summit in December?
Very well – 9%
Well – 36%
Total well = 45%
Neither well nor badly – 23%
Badly – 21%
Very badly – 9%
Total badly = 30%
Don’t know / No opinion 2%
A bit of a mixed result for Nick Clegg, with fewer than half of the members in our survey believing he handled the Lib Dem response well. Here’s a sample of your comments:
Hard position. Difficult to see how he could improve. Not worth destroying the coalition over
He took too long to make his stance clear, and there was some ambiguity as to what his stance actually was. Eventually, he was clear and right
His rhetoric was very anti-Tory but the substance was more measured.
Nick took two incompatible positions within the course of about 48 hours – he should be careful to avoid repeating this feat again in future.
Although the initial inconsistency was wrong, he took the right line.
Response could have been better, subtle reading may indicate that Nick Clegg behaviour was consistent throughout but that’s not what it looked like.
Started off badly but then improved significantly
Nick managed to claw back some respectability and influence. I wish he’d been negotiating for us.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.