ALDE Party Congress – the Brexit resolution…

At the end of the week, liberals from across Europe come to Amsterdam to meet, debate policies, attend fringe meetings and elect new members of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) Party’s Bureau. There’ll be approximately one hundred Liberal Democrats present, and Liberal Democrat Voice will be covering events as usual.

Our coverage this year starts with a review of the resolutions to be considered, and it will come as no surprise that one of the subjects for debate is Brexit, and that’s where we’ll start.

It might surprise readers to discover that the resolution is not a catch-all one, covering the whole issue of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the remaining twenty-seven member states, but is instead focussed entirely on the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland, and comes from Fianna Fáil, our Irish sister party. The resolution was written and submitted some time ago, but given the possibility of a snap General Election in Ireland as I write, it would be valuable reading for any British politician.

It calls for the following;

  • the EU to make every effort to avoid a ‘no deal’ scenario which would have negative consequences for all concerned;
  • a time-limited transition period to be agreed to allow for an orderly transition;
  • the unique position of the island of Ireland to be recognised in the final agreement;
  • a hard border to be avoided on the island of Ireland which is pivotal from an economic, social and political aspect and is essential in terms of safeguarding and maintaining the Peace Process;
  • the maintenance of existing bi-lateral agreements and arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland, including the Common Travel Area, an agreement which predates both countries membership of the EU, and all its associated rights and benefits to be maintained in full;
  • the Belfast (Good Friday Agreement) which is an internationally binding treaty to be upheld in full, including the rights of citizens in Northern Ireland to EU citizenship if they so wish;
  • consideration to be given to the development of a Special Economic Zone for Northern Ireland and the border counties to help offset the negative consequences of Brexit;
  • support to be given to sectors that are particularly exposed to the negative consequences of Brexit;
  • national parliaments to engage more with its citizens on EU affairs to address the disconnect between EU, its institutions and citizens.

In other words, you would be hard pressed to get a cigarette paper between the positions of the two major Irish political parties.

I have sought an abstention from the Liberal Democrat delegation on the resolution, as I tend to the view that we shouldn’t have a potentially decisive say over the stance of the other twenty-seven member states, but I’m pretty sure that it will pass and pass clearly regardless.

And a note to the British Government. The ALDE Party, amongst its ranks, includes seven Prime Ministers, with a possible eighth on the way, as coalition talks in the Czech Republic continue. There are more liberals than socialists on the European Council, so a vote on the resolution has potential consequences…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Party’s International Relations Committee, and covers the activities of the ALDE Party for Liberal Democrat Voice.

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11 Comments

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Nov '17 - 10:20pm

    Puzzling in many ways. Is the word ‘are’ missing from your second line, perhaps, and would the final starred line intend to suggest that national parliaments engage more with ‘their’ citizens rather than with ‘its’ citizens? Puzzling altogether that last starred section, which sounds laudable but seems applicable to all the states, not just Ireland. And what may be these sectors particularly concerned with the negative effects of Brexit?

    As you say, it does seem strange that there is no mention of the UK as a whole, but perhaps it was up to our own Lib Dems to propose a resolution? It will still be interesting to have reports from the Congress, which I am guessing is an annual event. Could any member of ALDE go, and vote on resolutions? And where is it taking place?

  • Our government I think has handled negotiating Brexit badly. I don’t understand why the money is such an issue. You start with the amount and subtract the rebate and all money paid from the EU to the UK and then allocate sums to everything else the EU does and then decide if we will still be involved in these areas and pay to be in them. Then there is the pension issue and the projects for the years until the budget period ends.

    However the EU also seem to be hopeless at negotiating the best deal for both sides. If the EU wants there to be no border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland then they need to negotiate a trade deal where there is no border between the whole of the UK and the whole of the EU. It is totally in the hands of the EU.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Nov '17 - 11:34pm

    Thanks for the extra information, Mark, but it’s still the case that the final starred sentence only makes sense if it reads, ‘national parliaments to engage more with THEIR citizens’, or possibly, ‘each national parliament to engage more with its citizens’. I suppose I should be grateful as an ex-editor that at least there was no apostrophe misplaced in ‘its’! Oh, but my name still as always has an ‘a’ in the middle not an ‘e’, please note.

  • The answer to the question of whether any one can go to the ALDE Congress is that they can go to the Congress which is in Amsterdam this year if they join ALDE as an individual member. They cannot vote unless they are elected as a voting delegate by the individual members. Full details are on the ALDE website. In any case it is worth looking at the website and considering whether to join ALDE as an individual member.

  • @ Mark Valladares

    It amused me to be called a Brexiteer, even if just by implication, but not enough to lift my depression. I voted Remain in the referendum and would do so again if the referendum was held again tomorrow. However I think the EU is a poorly run and constituted body which needs reform and we as a party have never advocated the reforms necessary to make it less unpopular at home and to work for counties like Greece.

    Perhaps I worded what I meant badly. I can’t understand the position which states the UK must set out the relationship Northern Ireland will have with the EU while at the same time refusing to negotiate the relationship between the UK and the EU. To me it is madness. If the EU wants a “borderless” relationship with Northern Ireland the answer is simple have a “borderless” relationship with the whole of the UK. The best result for the EU is a trading relationship with the UK which is unchanged.

    Can you think of any barriers to trade between the EU and the UK which will make the EU better off?

  • Given the positions set out by our Brexiter government, a hard border in Ireland is the inevitable consequence. No, it didn’t need to be so but that is a result of the government’s positions.

    Therefore as the resolution fails to recognise this it should be seriously questioned, if not, voted against. Pretending that the border in Ireland is not a “real” international frontier just isn’t good enough when it is almost a hundred years old.

    Ask the delegates what is their position if, as our government has stated, the entire U.K. will exit the Customs Union as a single entity? What happens then in Ireland? Why, in that case, should Ireland NOT implement a full border with customs etc and also join Schengen immediately? Why should Ireland get an exemption on these issues when they are at least as big an exemption as David C was asking for when he wanted one on FoM?

    Remember the decisions to be taken in the next couple of months are not temporary ones for a week or two. Those decisions are ones that will be there in twenty or more years time. It is not the job of either the Lib Dems or the other ALDE parties to help out Brexiters by providing them with an easy out in Ireland.

  • Red Liberal 29th Nov '17 - 5:21pm

    Have to admit, I’m still a bit bewildered that the LibDems are affiliated to ALDE, a grouping of pretty much all parties of the centre-right. (Pro-European centre-right, so that’s something in common, at least.)

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Nov '17 - 7:42pm

    That’s an interesting observation, Red Liberal, as one surely might have thought of the Tories as being the main British pro-European centre-right party until they succumbed to the Brexiteers. Now, because 600,000 extra votes went to Leave rather than Remain, this Government proceeds to lead the country to the self-harm of Brexit. And the Labour Party has upheld it in what appears continually to be a cynical self-serving deliberate act of fence-sitting, from which it may ascend too late to save us. So only we Liberal Democrats in England and Wales truly represent now the 48% of Remain voters. It behoves us therefore to stick together, not to find fault with or hold grudges against fellow party strugglers, because we have thousands of silent, disconsolate and almost despairing fellow-citizens to represent and work for in the immediate future.

    You are surely right, though, Paul, to see the Irish border question as insoluble, if the Government is determined to abandon the Single Market and the Customs Union. One of our rallying cries should be that Brexit should be defeated for the sake of Ireland. It may be that our unprincipled Government will have to bend over this. But if we stay in the Customs Union, as far as I understand it, we can’t negotiate independent trade deals with the rest of the world. So perhaps the Government’s only options will be, before long, either to call another General Election, or another Referendum.

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