Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

May’s hard Brexit is dead. Now let’s bury Brexit

Brexiters claim that 82% of voters supporting the Tories and Labour validated Brexit in last week’s General Election. This has a grain of truth in it. However subsequent polls found issues such as health, the economy, and security were more important to voters. Furthermore, the election marked a return to two party politics in which smaller parties, including ours, were squeezed. A vote for Labour was not necessarily a vote for its ambiguous Brexit stance, but arguably one for hope and an end to Tory austerity.

Shielded from many by her two former advisers and campaign managers, yet at the same time vulnerable to Tory ideological Europhobes, May’s closet premiership progressed an empty Hard Brexit. Instead of trying to unite a divided country after the 2016 referendum by reaching out to the 48% voting remain, May divided the country further by progressing a Hard Brexit which few voted for. Fully aware that half of voters wanted to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union as do most businesses, she seemed unbothered about harming the economy for the sake of meeting unrealistic immigration targets which were consistently missed when she was Home Secretary. Businesses could only engage with Government Ministers if they were enthusiastic about Brexit’s (unknown) opportunities. Her General Election bid for a personal blank cheque on Brexit (and seemingly everything else), possibly along the lines of the Canada-EU deal, left the electorate cold. So last week the people called time on her ‘bunker’ Brexit. So too it appears has business, her Cabinet, and parliamentarians.

A weakened May is now in discussion with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her minority Government. Meanwhile her Brexit secretary makes contradictory statements saying last Friday that the Government has lost its mandate for leaving the Single Market and Customs Union whilst implying the opposite on Radio 4’s Today. However, the DUP wants to avoid a hard Irish border, a demand which appears incompatible with the Tory manifesto pledge to leave the EU customs union. Similarly, the Scottish Conservatives want an ‘open’ Brexit, which appears to conflict with the Tory manifesto pledge to leave the EU Single Market. The two, with 10 and 13 seats respectively, effectively could each veto a Hard Brexit. But let us not forget the newly emboldened, but hitherto pusillanimous, pro-European Tories. Under the new parliamentary arithmetic, a handful of them could also frustrate Hard Brexit.

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ALDE Party Council review: meanwhile, in Europe…

On Saturday, the European liberal family gathered in the Slovene capital, Ljubljana, to compare notes and to start the process of preparation for the 2019 European Parliamentary elections. It offers your correspondent an opportunity for reflection and, if you’ll excuse me, more than a hint of regret.

But first, what will be happening? The ALDE Party Bureau have appointed Taavi Roivas, the former Prime Minister of Estonia, to chair a ten member Manifesto Committee, whose task it will be to gather evidence and ideas from across Europe and beyond the narrow confines of …

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Liberal International: meanwhile, in a small country far away…

Good morning, and welcome to Liberal Democrat Voice’s coverage of the 70th Anniversary Congress of Liberal International from sunny Andorra.

Liberals from around the world have gathered in the Co-Principality to talk about human rights, debate the big global issues of the day, elect a new Bureau and, most importantly, formally adopt a newly-updated “Liberal Manifesto” which aims to express how liberal values and ideas are relevant in a rapidly changing world. For, whilst policies are forever evolving in the face of events, values offer insight into the types of solutions on offer.

The …

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Macron’s victory speech in English

There was joy in the hearts of liberals across Europe on Sunday night when the French results came through. It was certainly worrying that more than a third of voters chose a far-right extremist, but it shows that populism can be beaten.

Tim Farron was quick to congratulate Emmanuel Macron and said that his values could win the day here too:

I would like to congratulate Emmanuel Macron on his election as France’s new President. This is not just a victory for France, but a victory for Britain and the liberal values we hold dear.

A National Front win would have posed a grave threat to our national interest.

Emmanuel Macron has kept the wolves from our door, but we must never be complacent in the fight against racism, fascism and the far-right.

The liberal values of tolerance, openness and free trade that triumphed in France today can triumph in Britain too.

Together we can change Britain’s future, stand up to Theresa May’s hard Brexit agenda and keep our country open, tolerant and united.

Ambafrance has an English translation of Macron’s victory speech. Here’s an extract.

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“Dear Mrs May…”, an open letter from Catherine Bearder

Dear Mrs May,

You called an election last week so that British voters can, you claim, by electing a large Conservative parliamentary majority, give you the “strongest hand” possible in the Brexit negotiations. But I am afraid Mrs May you have already decided on the direction you are taking this country in and I think you already know that.

Today the leaders of the 27 EU countries will meet to finalise their negotiating guidelines, for what Guy Verhofstadt described to Liberal MEPs this week as probably the shortest Council meeting ever. Why? Because …

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Social Liberals: winning against Populism because we have “street force”

First of all, on behalf of the tens of thousands D66 party members (over 25.000; and we’re gaining members every week for the past year,  our heartfelt congratulations to the Lib Dems on passing the 100.000 members threshold. And you’re not done yet, I know.

If we look to our Spanish and French social-liberal, pro-EU sister parties, Ciudadános and Macrons movement “En Marche”, they too are booking spectacular results in gaining members, and getting members active on the street. According to the French Wikipedia and the Economist, En Marche (EM) claimed 88.000 members in October 2016, and  250.000 now.  The Economist reports about EM-activists canvassing the British way in Strassbourg streets (and elsewhere).

That is the big difference I noticed in the Dutch European elections (2014) and our recent General Elections (March 2017):

  • whereas D66 activists were visible on the (high) streets and at train station entrances handing out leaflets months before (and until) election day,
  • other progressive parties (PvdA/Labour, GreenLeft, and old-style Socialists\SP) were strangely absent, where they dominated the scene until about ten years ago,
  • the center-right parties (VVD/NatLibs and CDA/Christian Democrats) and PVV never were very active in that way.

D66 has also started canvassing the British way in “friendly” neighbourhoods, talking to people on the doorstep; but we seldom hear that from other Dutch parties. Only PvdA/Labour appears to do that, and the Socialists/SP say they do it.

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Join @timfarron for Euro campaign photos at conference

I’m really proud to be the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit Spokesman for the South East.  Working with Nick Clegg, our national Brexit spokesman, to hold the government to account and fight for the true national interest could not be more important.

One of the most successfully ways to communicate a message is visually. Pictures speak loudly.

I would like to mention two opportunities, if you are coming to party conference this weekend, to join photos that you can use at a local level.

First, we know that hard Brexit is putting our future under the axe. No-one voted for the Brexit axe to fall on family …

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Yabloko: Keeping Russia’s Liberal flame alight

Last September an all too rare event could be seen at the exits of some Moscow metro stations: young people were dishing out leaflets in a campaign for candidates in the municipal elections of that year. They stood before stalls and banners emblazoned with a green circle intersected by a red wedge: the emblem of the Russian United Democratic Party – Yabloko.

Whilst ever more stereotyped as a `centre of illiberalism`, the Russian Federation can boast its own liberal heritage – and one that culminated in the short-lived provisional government of early 1917. Yabloko might be viewed as the contemporary legal and constitutional heir to that facet of Russian history.

Yabloko (`apple`) emerged in 1993 and became an official political party eight years later. They adopted a unique stance of supporting the post-Soviet democratic reforms yet criticising Yeltsin’s authoritarianism and his so called `shock therapy` privatisation drive. Without doubt, they are something of a voice in the wilderness in the climate of sociocultural conservatism in Russian society.

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That extra special relationship

The Anglo-American Special Relationship is becoming the EXTRA Special Relationship – and not for the right reasons.

The Special Relationship is based on a shared historic, legal, cultural, and philosophical root buttressed by military and political alliances, a shared outlook of the world and intelligence services which are joined at the hip and just about every other part of the political anatomy.

The Extra Special Relationship is based on a shared pariah status, siege mentality and Britain and America’s  common need for friends in an increasingly friendless world.  The Brexit vote has isolated the UK from its former partners in continental Europe. Trump’s style plus his anti-Islamic, anti-EU, anti-free trade, anti-Nato, anti-Chinese and pro-Russian and pro-Israeli rhetoric has done the same.

On top of that, Prime Minister Theresa May needs a big trade deal to show that Brexit can work to Britain’s advantage. Trump is offering a massive bribe—the trade deal.

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ALDE Congress preview: day 3 – it’s make your mind up time…

The final day of Congress is when the decisions get taken – electing Bureau members, determining policy, agreeing statute changes. Everything builds up to a frenzy of voting, as delegates are asked to vote for or against as many as twenty-five resolutions in one rather manic one hour session.

This is only possible because the big arguments take place in working group sessions on day 2, where compromises are reached and recommendations made to the plenary session the next day. For Liberal Democrats, this is a source of some wonderment, especially for those who have been to too many Federal Conferences. …

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ALDE Party Congress preview : Day 2 – an energised delegation hits the dance floor…

Another snowy dawn in Warsaw, made rather brighter by news from home, and whilst some of our delegation are paying the price for staying up to wait for the result from Richmond Park, there’s a definite spring in our step.

And so, what do we have to look forward to today?

It’s all about policy, with working groups looking at a range of resolutions, as well as the proposed reforms to the Party statutes (think constitutional amendments on steroids). Our delegation will be active participants, discussing Brexit, aspects of European democracy, economics, environmental issues and civil liberties.

In terms of the big, set-piece stuff, Congress is formally launched with speeches from the likes of Cecilia Malmström and Margrethe Vestager, two of the Liberal Commissioners, Guy Verhofstadt.

There is also a plenary debate on “Brexit and the Politics of Fear”, which includes our Willie Rennie, which may be slightly different in tone after last night’s success.

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ALDE Bureau elections: the runners and riders

alde-congress-2016Yes, it’s election time again, as the ALDE Party elects different positions in alternate years, the Presidency and some Vice-Presidents in odd-numbered years, the Treasurer and a few more Vice-Presidents in even-numbered years.

This year, there is no British interest, with Ros Scott having been safely elected as a Vice-President last year. As for the Treasurer, it looks as though there will be a intra-Slovene handover, with outgoing Treasurer, Roman Jakič, expected to be replaced by the sole candidate, Gašper Koprivsek from SMC (Modern Centre Party).

There are five candidates for three Vice-Presidential slots;

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ALDE Party Congress preview – day 1: a gentle warm-up before the drama commences

alde-congress-2016Welcome to Warsaw, where the cranes are busy bringing new skyscrapers to the city’s skyscape (don’t try to say that quickly…), and a thousand liberals from across Europe are meeting over the next three days.

To some extent, the event is dominated by Brexit – our sister parties are keen to adopt a common position on a European negotiating position, whilst simultaneously showing their support for pro-European forces in the United Kingdom (that would appear, given the Labour Party’s dithering on the subject, to be us). The welcome so far appears to be …

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ALDE Party Council preview – rewriting the rules, but not in triplicate…

Yes, it’s that time once again, when liberals gather from across Europe to renew old acquaintances, make policy and debate the burning issues of the day. Hang on, wrong introduction, that’s the one I meant to write for the Congress taking place alongside it.

It is fair to say that the Council meeting isn’t as exciting, focussing as it does on rule changes and membership applications.

First, the rule changes. There have been some concerns expressed that the way that individual parties are represented in the ALDE Party is not as fair as it might be. Accordingly, a small group of crack diplomats has been assigned the task of coming up with a new system. Needless to say, it combines a complexity that makes it hard to explain with a lack of salience to our readers that makes trying to do so fairly futile. I’ll give you a summary though…

The new system rewards successful parties and national influence, whilst rebalancing the membership dues system to ease the burden on small parties from small countries, something that, as a member of the Financial Advisory Committee, I had attempted to do a few years ago. Obviously, I support that. Whether or not the new allocations of Council and Congress delegates achieves the stated aim is another matter.

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Postcard from India – monumental bank note upheaval

cow-mini-market in Goa by Paul Walter
Paul Walter is now back at home. As is often the case, this postcard arrived after the sender returned to Blighty!

We’ve had an enrapturing holiday in Goa, India. The welcome from the Goan people was wonderful. The beauty of the place was breathtaking.

By coincidence, we arrived just a couple days after a major monetary change by the government. To wrong-foot terrorists and criminals, there has been a monumentally huge exercise called “demonetisation”, going on across this, the second most populous nation in the world. All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes have been withdrawn from circulation at two hours’ notice.

In the Times of India, Santosh Desai wrote: “86% of the currency in circulation becomes illegal virtually overnight”. That relates to an estimated $210 billion worth of money notes. $210 billion! That is a mind-boggling figure.

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Liberal International’s African Reach

When Liberal International was founded in Oxford nearly 70 years ago it was very much a European affair. With the noble exception of Canada, Liberal parties and values were largely confined to northern Europe, but since then the picture has changed dramatically. As we in Britain lick our wounds from the double whammy of the Brexit vote and the triumph of Donald Trump in the United States let us take comfort from the fact that the Liberal family is growing worldwide. This was dramatically illustrated by the Liberal International (LI) Executive in Marrakesh, at which five new African parties – …

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Perhaps the world needs Donald Trump. But we will have to learn our lessons the hard way

Just how much of a shock was Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election? As we had seen with the UK general election in 2015 and, to a lesser extent, this year’s EU referendum, the polls and last minute predictions were confounded. But, for this observer at least, the sense of shock has worn off.

Trump’s success not only corresponds with the widely documented social unrest of white Americans (working class or not – https://i.redd.it/dei5tr2kuatx.png), it fits into a far wider picture which we have seen develop across the western world in recent years. Trump’s use of Brexit to further his own campaign is, of course, no secret. But the trend goes beyond this. A world which has seen the rise of the Front National in France, Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, UKIP in the UK and the New Flemish Alliance in Belgium to name but a few, appears to have been hurtling towards this moment – towards what Trump would call the liberation of the white working classes, or the reclaiming of national identities.

As we witnessed in the aftermath of the EU referendum, such groups will be heartened by Trump’s triumph. They will perceive his presidency as an opportunity to further their own ambitions and to ride the wave of his success in their own countries. Indeed, we have already seen the triumphant response of members of the Klu Klux Klan to Trump’s win. Many comparable groups around the world will feel vindicated by the US public’s apparent acceptance and endorsement of Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and minority groups. It appears inevitable that their power and influence, in the US, the UK and beyond, will only increase over the course of Trump’s presidency. No one can say what the world will look like by the time of the next US election in 2021.

But the purpose of this article is not to scaremonger. Quite the reverse.

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Why oppose Brexit?

I was asked recently to come up with some points which might be helpful when campaigning against Brexit. I wrestle constantly with finding a compelling narrative which cuts through a mind set which seems to trap half the population. I hope nevertheless some of the following (probably familiar) wording why Brexit is bad for Britain may be of use:

To preserve and promote British prosperity: The pound’s 15% collapse since the referendum is forecast to result in 3-4% inflation next year affecting our living standards.

To preserve and promote British exports: Outside the EU, our access to our major export market will be impaired by tariff and non-tariff barriers. Foreign investment (and jobs) will gradually decline as profit margins are eroded. As part of the EU, we have the best trade deal. The Nissan ‘sweetheart deal’ must be extended to all firms. Alone the UK, now the world’s seventh largest economy with 2% of global GDP, will have less weight in international trade negotiations with our far larger partners.

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Tim Farron: ‘Unless the government agrees to a referendum on the final Brexit deal, the party will vote against Article 50’

Tim farron photo by liberal democrats dave radcliffe

This morning, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has laid out a red line on Article 50 and said unless the government agrees to a referendum on the final Brexit deal, the party will vote against Article 50 in the House of Commons.

Tim Farron said:

Millions of people are deeply worried by the government’s handling of Brexit.

So my position is very clear: the Liberal Democrats believe that the people are sovereign.

They must decide whether or not they agree with the deal that the government reaches with Brussels, which means

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Tim Farron responds to the election of Donald Trump

Commenting on the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said:

Liberal values of moderation, freedom, respect for the rule of law, openness and concern for one another can no longer be taken for granted. In the United States last night, those values were defeated.

But those values are vital if we are to live together in peace, prosperity and freedom.

Those of us who care passionately for those liberal values need to fight for them, to win the arguments, to inspire new generations to the great and historic cause of

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ALDE MEP Charles Goerens proposes EU citizenship for members of former Member States

It looks as if it isn’t just the Liberal Democrats who are keen to remain within the European Union. Charles Goerens, a member of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament from Luxembourg, has suggested that there might be scope for those British citizens who wish to be part of the Union to obtain associate citizenship.

He has submitted an amendment to a draft report from Guy Verhofstadt on “Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union”, which reads;

Advocates to insert in the Treaties a European associate citizenship for those who feel and wish to

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European liberals to debate what comes after Brexit

alde-congress-2016Yesterday, members of the Party’s delegation to next month’s ALDE Party Congress in Warsaw, Poland, met to discuss the draft resolutions as submitted from liberal parties across the European Union and beyond.

Naturally, there will be much discussion on the future of the European Union post-Brexit, and resolutions on the subject have been submitted not only by the Liberal Democrats, but by our sister parties in Germany, the Czech Republic and Sweden, amongst others. It is noteworthy that Liberalerna (Sweden) call for;

a balanced deal for both the EU and the UK… which does

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Only liberals can stem the tide of ethnic nationalism in Bosnia

International Office_with textOn the surface of it, you couldn’t be blamed for feeling pretty grim about the results of the recent local elections which took place on 2 October in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In both semi-autonomous regions, the biggest winners were the large, ethno-nationalist parties who managed to maintain and entrench their positions as the major political force in their region. Perhaps most symbolically of all, the city of Srebrenica, where the infamous genocide of over 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska took place in 1995, has elected its first Serb mayor since the end of that conflict, triggering alarm amongst the Bosniak population and a resurgence in public expressions of Serbian nationalism.

Bosnians were voting for mayors and municipal councils in Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous regions – the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation. These regions have their own governments, presidents and parliaments, although they remained linked by shared federal institutions. The regions were empowered to largely run themselves after the end of the Bosnian War to maintain relative peace between the two largest ethnic groups in Bosnia.

In Republika Srpska, the Serbian nationalist party, the Independent Social Democrat’s Party (SNSD), successfully shored up their support through a nationalistic – and since declared illegal – referendum campaign for keeping the date of January 9th as the national day of the Republika, which took place just days before the election. The SNSD’s pro-Serb rhetoric has only strengthened, with incumbent President Milorad Dodik campaigning on a promise of Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia. The results show that such nationalistic rhetoric still holds a lot of power, with the SNSD winning 11 more mayoral posts and 30% more municipalities since the 2012 local elections.

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Is sovereignty just another source of likely disappointment for the Brexiteers?

Whilst there is a suspicion amongst the more ardent Remain supporter that Brexit was simply about immigration, there were those who claimed that, by voting to leave the European Union, we could reclaim our sovereignty, taking back control, as they put it.

Now, I’m in a sense relaxed about that, in that if that was their genuine wish, then it is at least philosophically consistent. Yes, the question of cost was never really discussed – like the Scottish independence campaign, the supposed benefits were in the headlines, the price in minuscule type, if it was ever mentioned at all. Fair enough, one might suppose – there is yet to be the political salesman that raises the relative drawbacks of their product.

But the problem is that sovereignty is a concept that, in a complex, inter-related world, is becoming increasingly blurred. Do nation states have the ability to “take back control” any more?

In his recent Ditchley Lecture, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer spoke of the increasingly complex nature of jurisdiction, noting that the United States has signed more than 800 international agreements, most of which defer supervision of some element of our lives to transnational, unelected, unaccountable bodies – the internet being the most universal of its type – yet which go virtually unnoticed by the general public.

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International Relations Committee report

Editor’s Note: This report was actually filed just after the meeting ended at Conference but we waited until we were all home to put it up.

Amidst the talk of Brexit and of our future place on the world as a nation, International Relations Committee met in a spirit of determination to do our part.

At the top of the agenda were opportunities to discuss the impact of Brexit beyond our shores, courtesy of Kerstin Lundgren, the Foreign Affairs spokesperson for Sweden’s Centerpartiet, and Joseph Garcia, Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Leader of the Gibraltar Liberal Party. It was apparent that, whilst our Government is attempting to work out what its negotiating stance might be, there are parallel processes going on already within other national governments.

Naturally, from the Gibraltarian perspective, concerns about the border with Spain, crossed by 12,000 Spanish workers onto the Rock each day, are uppermost, along with the implications for the flourishing financial services industry. Indeed, there has been talk of entry into Schengen for Gibraltar.

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Zambia: one too many close calls for democracy?

Zambia 1Democracies in the developing world must often overcome a number of hurdles on the road to maturity and development as a stable state. Peaceful elections, a vibrant civil society, regular transfer of power, and fair service delivery are all key indicators of democratic development. No doubt, differences in the maturing of democracies should be considered based on local realities, and a so-called Western roadmap must not be the only lens through which we view this development.

But has the southern African country of Zambia, rich in copper and with plentiful tourism potential, had one too many close calls in its democratic development? Does Zambia and its people need to rethink their political path?

The most recent August 11th elections certainly give that impression.

This year’s General Elections resulted in the incumbent Edgar Lungu (Patriotic Front – PF) winning the presidential race by just over 2.5%, enough to avoid a second-round run-off. The liberal opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), led by Hakainde Hichilema, also lost the last presidential by-election by a mere 27,757 votes. Those early presidential elections were called after the passing of former President Michael Sata in 2014. On the surface, these results appear to be a sign of political maturity, with an election called upon President Sata’s death and an apparently democratic process in place for political succession.

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What would you do if you were the Mayor of Calais?

IMG_1210

Inside the Jungle in Calais

I was part of a Local Government Association delegation last week to the ‘jungle’ in Calais.

The ‘camp’ is essentially a shanty town with tents and shacks (including ‘restaurants’) built from scrap materials. It is set in sand dunes next to an industrial estate and alongside one of the key roads heading towards the Channel Tunnel. Its occupants are mainly male and there are over 800 residents classed as children – including many teenagers. The bulk are Afghan, fleeing Taliban conscription and in places combat zones. There are some Syrians as well as Eritreans and Somalis.

The authorities are clearly hostile to the camp: residents feel that the inhabitants are responsible for nuisance and crime. The response to this in March was partial demolition –which meant that 127 children simply disappeared. Meanwhile the CRS (the riot police in other circumstances) harass the inhabitants – confiscating phones, destroying SIM cards – and using plastic bullets, which can cause life-changing injuries.

The camp does not officially exist. Nevertheless, provision has been made for some inhabitants to go into adjacent freight containers – adapted to provide a form of accommodation, aimed at women with younger children, because of the dangers posed by people traffickers in the main camp.

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Tom Brake calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO

As the human rights situation in Turkey worsens, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Tom Brake has called for Turkey to be suspended from NATO and for the refugee deal between Turkey and the EU to be scrapped.

He said:

Erdogan’s ongoing purge of newspapers, academics, teachers and judges has nothing to do with Turkey’s security and everything to do with blocking any opposition to his increasingly authoritarian rule. Today’s news that dozens more media outlets have been shut should send shivers down the spine of any person who believes in a free and open society.

The preamble to NATO’s founding treaty refers to it being “founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law”, all of which are under threat in Turkey currently.

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Tom Brake fights for the rights of EU citizens in the UK

The 3 million EU citizens currently resident in the UK must not be bartered over in this country’s exit negotiations with the EU. They must not be treated as political pawns, or like children caught up in their parents’ divorce. So said Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake as he introduced his “EU Citizens in the UK (Right to stay) Bill to the Commons this week. The Bill has support from MPs from Labour, SDLP, SNP and Greens.

I’m glad to see Lib Dems calling the Brexit vote for what it is – a disaster. Someone needs to point out that we are on the edge of a massive precipice and the tanking of the pound is just the start. Already business is starting to feel the pinch as investors delay investing in the UK. The collapse of the travel firm Lowcostravel is just one example of jobs being lost as a result of the Brexit vote. People haven’t yet even begun to experience the effects of Brexit and when they do, they need to see who was speaking out from the start.

I’m very proud that it is our lot who are working to preserve the rights of people who are already worrying about their future. It is only fair that those who have made their lives here are allowed to stay and not have the goalposts moved. Imagine if you have moved here, fallen in love, established a social network, a family, a career, in this country. Would you like to be treated that way?

Here is Tom’s speech in full:

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Season 2: The state of play in Spain ahead of the election on 26 June

It’s often said that we no longer have The Thick of It because politics can no longer be effectively satirised in Britain. You could say the same about Spain (although there is a Catalan programme that makes a valiant effort.)

After the last round of post-election negotiations failed, it sometimes seems like you’re watching a particularly dramatic TV show. The polls have remained fairly static, and where there are variations in the number of seats in the new election on  26th June they will be reasonably small.

However, there has been one large development – Podemos and Izquierda Unida (IU) have formed an electoral pact (the Pact of the Beer Bottles) for this round. Iglesias has made no secret of the fact that his goal is to overtake the PSOE (Socialists) in seats, but his party was starting to drop in the polls. Alberto Garzón’s IU was benefiting from that, so those two will likely make some form of gain there.

In Britain, we know all too well that when the election results are uncertain and the system very polarised, more moderate parties lose out. In the same way that the Tories and the SNP fed off each other, the PP and this new Unidos Podemos (Together We Can) formation happily do the same. The PP paint themselves as the sole force that can stop the Unidos Podemos (UP) threat, which plays into UP’s hands in the same way that Cameron’s fearmongering played into Sturgeon’s.

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