Author Archives: Giles Goodall

Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.

A day of ignominy

Today will go down in history. Not as a day of progress, joy, or unity, but as a day of ignominy.

It is the culmination of state failure on a massive scale, exposing the gaping holes and inadequacies in Britain’s shoddy political system and constitution, our dishonourable media, and our flawed political class.

Put together, the combined errors of decades have culminated in three full years of tragedy and farce. They have also seen the birth of the EU’s largest pro-European movement, with great passion, courage, and vigour – but it all came too late.

The world looks on, scratching its head in bemusement, at how such an apparently accomplished nation can conduct such an evident act of self-harm, simultaneously undermining the world order it helped establish and subverting its own foreign policy goals of centuries.

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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.

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Opinion: EU court gives lie to Cameron’s free movement scaremongering

It’s probably fair to say that the European Court of Justice is unused to tabloid adulation. But this week’s ruling in Luxembourg on the case of a jobless Romanian woman in Germany led even the arch-anti-EU Daily Express to hail ‘a rare outbreak of common sense’.

The judgement by the EU’s highest court that the right to free movement does not equate to a right to free access to benefits was warmly welcomed all round, including in Germany – which has higher rates of migration than the UK. Even David Cameron called it ‘good news’.

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Opinion: On immigration, let’s keep out of this race to the bottom

If there’s one area of political debate where perception triumphs over reality, it’s immigration. While the public rate it as the number one issue facing Britain, it tumbles to 12th place when they’re asked what concerns them most at a personal level, behind the more pressing issues of pensions, health and household finances.

This is the ‘disconnect’ between what people hear about in our debate on immigration – fanned by political opportunists and their media allies – and the reality they experience in their daily lives. It’s the doorstep charge of “well there are just too many of them,

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Opinion: Liberalism and tolerance win the Eurovision Song Contest

Conchita Wurst, Mario Soldo-2208There’ll no doubt be a lot of the usual ‘why do they hate us’ headlines in the UK following our disappointing showing in last night’s Eurovision Song Contest. 17th place was indeed below par for one our strongest songs in years and a polished performance on the night by 27-year old Mollie Smitten-Downes.

But such introspection – rather typically for Britain on matters European – misses the bigger point. Far more interesting was the winner: a gay, bearded transvestite from Austria called Conchita

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Opinion: Why I joined the Lib Dems 20 years ago – and am still proud to be one

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKNext month marks my 20th anniversary as a Liberal Democrat. Could it really be that I’ve spent two decades – and my entire adult life – as a member of Britain’s (still) third party? And more to the point (as some friends would no doubt ask me), why?

I signed up in the dying days of John Major’s government, shortly before we won our first ever MEPs at the 1994 European elections – as well as the first …

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Opinion: Lib Dems help end roaming charges, UKIP back higher phone bills

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 18.00.12Another week, another success for Lib Dems in the European Parliament. This week it was hammering the final nails into the coffin of mobile roaming charges in Europe. From the end of next year, the extra fees for using your mobile phone in another EU country – already reduced significantly in recent years – will be scrapped entirely.

It’s another practical, common sense measure which means good news for consumers – despite resistance from the telecoms sector.

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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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Opinion: Give British EU migrants back their votes

We hear a lot these days about ‘EU migrants’: those strange and threatening people queuing at our doors to milk our famously generous welfare state – if you believe the dominant, fact-free, UKIP-inspired narrative, that is. But what about British EU migrants?

Figures recently uncovered by Lord Oakeshott show that there are 2.2 million British citizens living in other EU countries – almost the same number as other EU citizens resident in the UK. In many ways, this is not a surprise. We are a famously outward-looking country with centuries of globe-trotting experience. And who can blame those who decide to move south for a bit more sun?

EU free movement is a two-way street. It’s also one of the biggest benefits of our EU membership, both economically – being an inherent part of the single market – and in terms of personal freedom and opportunities. These are both things that we, as liberals, hold dear.

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Opinion: Putting the facts into Britain’s fraudulent EU migration debate

New Year’s Day 2014 has become an almost totemic date in the British political and media calendar over recent months. Well, that is when the whole of Bulgaria and Romania are due to turn up uninvited on Britain’s doorstep. Isn’t it?

Rarely has a single event been so buried in misconceptions, misunderstandings, and downright misinformation. It all started with the Eastleigh by-election, where UKIP claimed that ‘next year, the EU will allow 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians (i.e. the entire population of the two countries) to come to the UK’.

They were effectively testing their electoral masterplan: tying a dull but …

Posted in News | 30 Comments

Liberals launch new European network for LGBT rights

Giles Goodall at ALDELast weekend, over a thousand European liberals met in London for the annual ALDE congress, hosted by the Lib Dems and opened by Nick Clegg. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – the European family of liberal parties – became the first to adopt their joint manifesto for next May’s elections to the European Parliament.

But a second historic event took place at the congress: the launch of a new European liberal campaign for LGBT rights: Liberals for Equality. LGBT rights are human rights, …

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Opinion: The Sun’s correction to “benefit tourists” claim goes viral

sun benefit tourists correctionLast month, the Sunday Telegraph ran a scurrilous story claiming there were ‘600,000 unemployed EU migrants living in Britain’. On closer inspection, it turned out that the real number of (non-British) EU citizens claiming jobseeker’s allowance was just 38,000, according to DWP estimates. But the story had in the meantime been replicated by the usual suspects (the Sun, Mail and Express), leading me to write a piece to correct some of the most common myths about EU free movement.

I’m pleased to report that in a minor …

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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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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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How UKIP managed to lose 45% of their MEPs


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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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Opinion: Tories soft on crime, Lib Dems tough on Tories

If ever there was a fault line in the Coalition, it has been over the two parties’ attitudes to Europe. The possibility for a mass opt-out by Britain from a raft of EU measures in justice and home affairs opened up a rift between the Tories and Lib Dems which has rumbled on for more than a year.

Liberal Democrats insisted that the government heed the overwhelming advice of the police and security services to maintain effective crime-fighting measures which help keep Britain safe. Time after time, law enforcers lined up to ask the government not to jettison the EU …

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Opinion: Referendum debate is a sideshow: the countdown to Britain’s real EU vote starts today

In or out?  With or without? Will they, won’t they? The sound and fury over a referendum on Britain’s EU membership has become almost deafening over the past few days. It is a confused debate driven by a small and virulent band of anti-Europeans. Their success lies in a dual strategy of shackling the issue to others of much wider public concern (such as immigration), while simultaneously blackmailing one of Britain’s great pro-European parties (the Conservatives) into adopting ever more anti-European positions – against their own traditions, intuition and better judgement.

Around Europe, the ‘British question’ is also furrowing brows – …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 27 Comments

Opinion: Ironically, the rise of UKIP makes Britain a more European place

UKIP logoUKIP’s relative success in the English local elections and South Shields by-election this week has met with predictable reactions across the political spectrum: from copycat politics and jealousy on the Tory right, to handwringing and downright despair on the centre left.

But while UKIP has succeeded in hoovering up disenchanted Tories by the thousand, its appeal is clearly much broader. In fact, the rise of UKIP’s populist anti-politics replicates a pattern played out across Europe since the crisis hit, from the Danish People’s Party to Italy’s Beppe Grillo. Ironically, with …

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Opinion: Freedom to travel and work is the essence of the EU and we should embrace it

Another week, another attack on EU citizens living and working in the UK. This time it didn’t come from that familiar old grouch Nigel Farage, but from the Prime Minister himself. In a speech which was clearly playing catch-up with UKIP after the Eastleigh by-election, David Cameron ratcheted up the rhetoric, calling for new curbs on the rights of EU migrants to claim British benefits and social housing. He wants to stop our benefit system being a ‘soft touch’ and end the ‘something for nothing culture’, in language which could have been copy-pasted from any front page of

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Opinion: Dead parrot bites back – again

Eastleigh HQ leafletsAt the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth in 1990, Margaret Thatcher famously used Monty Python’s ‘dead parrot’ sketch to mock the Liberal Democrats’ newly-designed bird of liberty. After a series of name changes and a derisory 6% of the vote at the European elections in 1989, the Lib Dems had been virtually written off. But the Eastbourne by-election gave the party the opportunity it needed to defy its media critics and get back into the game. This week, the dead parrot bit back – again.

Mike Thornton’s stunning …

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Opinion: Cameron is wishing for an EU that already exists

The prime objective of David Cameron’s Europe speech was always to placate anti-European critics on his right flank rather than to set out a bold vision in the national interest. And in that sense, his ‘red meat’ pledge of an in/out referendum after 2015 may succeed in sating his own party’s Eurosceptic appetite, at least in the short term. But there are at least three reasons why his strategy is not only mistaken, but risks deeply damaging the national interest.

First, while the ‘repatriationist’ wing of Cameron’s own party may be satisfied with the promise of a renegotiation of as yet …

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The Eurosceptic tide is turning. Lib Dems must be in the vanguard

We have become used in recent months to unrelentingly bad news about our relationship with Europe. ‘UKIP now the third party’, ‘Majority would say no to EU’ and ‘UK heads for the Brexit’ have become commonplace headlines. But while the current polls and general debate are still far from positive, several recent developments suggest the tide is starting to turn on the antis – and are enough to give cheer to pro-Europeans from all sides.

First – in case you missed it – the Obama administration has made clear in no uncertain terms to its concern about the UK’s Eurosceptic …

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Opinion: Norway? No way! Why a life on Europe’s periphery is not an option for Britain

Norweigan coastIn Britain’s recent EU debate, it’s clear that the anti-Europeans have been doing most of the running. When they’re not basing their arguments on wholesale lies, they fall back on a mixture of half-truths, assumptions and wishful thinking. One of the best examples is the common claim that Britain can leave the EU but keep trading with the Single Market, ’just like Norway’. A have-your-cake-and-eat-it solution that sounds like the best of both worlds. They highlight the non-EU country’s considerable oil wealth – irrelevant to the membership debate – to drive home their point.

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Three cheers for the unsung heroes of Brussels

A new survey by European news portal Euractiv has ranked Sharon Bowles MEP as the most influential Brit in EU policy-making, eight places ahead of David Cameron and thirty-three above Nigel Farage. The UK40 survey also features Lib Dem MEPs Andrew Duff and Sir Graham Watson in the top sixteen. National politicians such as Cameron, William Hague and Nick Clegg make the top twenty, but often lose out in the ranking to less well known Brits in the EU institutions.

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Opinion: A storm in a jam jar – my top 5 Euromyths

Those of us familiar with the EU are used to its complicated processes, obscure acronyms and often unfathomable procedures. We sometimes forget that it is still a hybrid project that no-one has ever tried before: a multinational, multilingual experiment in international cooperation where countries decide by common accord to pool decision-making in certain areas and under certain conditions for their own mutual benefit.

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Opinion: The Tories: tough on Europe, soft on crime

The news that Sussex teacher Jeremy Forrest has been arrested in Bordeaux on suspicion of abducting pupil Megan Stammers is a timely reminder of the value of EU cooperation to fight crime. The maths teacher, who now faces imminent extradition, joins a long list of suspects caught with a European arrest warrant and swiftly returned to face justice in the UK. But the Conservatives’ dogmatic opposition to all things European is now putting the safety of Britons at risk.

The European arrest warrant, in operation since 2004, has succeeded in cutting average extradition times in the EU from one

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Opinion: Europe’s moving ahead. Are we part of it or not?

In his annual State of the Union address on Wednesday, European Commission President Barroso issued a clarion call for a ‘federation of nation states’ to take on the challenges facing Europe. The only way forward is more unity and more European integration, said Barroso. But this must be accompanied by more democracy – placing the European Parliament in a central role – and subsidiarity – concentrating EU action on the real issues that need to be dealt with at European level.

There is much for Liberal Democrats to welcome in the speech. The emphasis on the European Parliament, national …

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Opinion: Brussels vs. the banksters

European Parliament building European Parliament building

Almost no-one in the UK would these days dispute the fact that the country’s banking sector needs a serious overhaul to correct the runaway behaviour which helped nudge Britain (and others) into the financial crisis. The Liberal Democrats have rightly been most persistent in demanding reforms, in particular a break-up of retail and casino banking, as recommended by the independent Vickers Inquiry.

The latest scandal about fixing the benchmark Libor interest rate plumbs new depths – even by the standards of Britain’s banks. Here were …

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Opinion: Standing by hard-won freedoms helps remind us what the EU is all about

European Commission President Barroso yesterday used uncharacteristically tough language to condemn the current political turmoil in Romania. Calling for “urgent action” by the country to win back the confidence of its EU partners, Barroso talked about the “exceptional events” which have been “a major source of concern to the EU” and “shaken our trust.” Barroso also announced that the EU was extending a special system of checks on Romania’s respect for the rule of law and judicial independence, instigated after the country joined the EU five years ago.

The unprecedented language from the EU follows a political crisis which has …

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