Catherine Bearder to Nigel Lawson: Pulling out of the EU would mean losing power and influence over our future

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has written to the Times (£) to respond to Nigel Lawson’s article which argued that the UK should leave the EU:

She wrote:

Sir, Lord Lawson’s argument for EU exit may be eloquent but it is fanciful. It is true that the 19 countries of the eurozone are going to have to move closer together. But that makes it even more imperative that Britain, as the financial capital of Europe, defends its economic interests in the EU’s single market as a whole.

Half of our exports go to the rest of Europe and even if we were to leave, UK businesses would still have to follow EU rules to sell there. Crucially the financial services industry, which forms the bedrock of Britain’s exports, relies hugely on rules that are shaped at European level, not least by our current EU commissioner, Lord Hill of Oareford. Pulling out of the EU would mean losing power and influence over our future.

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  • Bearder, worried she’ll lose her handsome salary and perks. Democracy is the way forward, not being run by a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who answer to nobody.

  • Sue, I couldn’t agree more.

    Why should the financial capital of the world (to quote Ms Bearder) in the 5th Largest economy be ruled from Brussels, give up control of our borders and be unable to make our own trade agreements and pay £55 million per day for these disadvantages?

    When you export to another country it is normal to satisfy their trading conditions. It doesn’t mean you have to hand over sovereignty to them.

  • Catherine Bearder is of course right about the importance of England remaining inside the body that sets out the regulations and trading standards on which European trade will operate whichever way the referendum goes.

    But, the In campaign must realise that the economic case is only part of the answer. If we only talk about numbers and the economy, then people like Peter will throw in spurious factoids about however million pounds a day and whatever percentage trade deficit with whoever, and will gain a certain amount of traction out of it by relying on truthiness and Farage-style bluff.

    Europe is currently going through three major crises, any one of which would have had all of us deeply embroiled in yet another great war if Europe was still organised as it was less than a century ago. Being part of that peaceful process of negotiation and shared sovereignty is hugely important for England, yes, but it is also something that offers a wider narrative than increasing van exports by 7% or whatever.

    We should remember that the crises of today would crop up anyway with twenty eight fully independent sovereign statelets. We should also be under no illusions about how much chance those twenty eight (or twenty nine, or thirty, depending on how successful the recent spate of separatist movements end up being) have of solving any of the crises acting alone. And we must realise that the insulation from any crisis implicit in being an island might have offered great security in the days of sail, but that here in the twenty-first century a few miles of seawater isn’t really much of a shield.

  • Douglas Downie 2nd Oct '15 - 6:10pm

    Oh dear. So there are Little Britain xenophobes on LDV .

    As if the UK Parliament doesn’t need reform.
    As if an unelected upper house is any form of democracy.
    As if the EU is incapable of reform.
    As if being a country of 60m up against the US (340m) China 1.4bn and India 1.3bn is going to get us anywhere.

    Get real

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Oct '15 - 6:17pm

    For many businesses and professionals the idea of the EU is attractive. It is a pain if as soon as you are dealing with someone outside of the UK the rules are very different. Sometimes you have to give clients up if they move abroad because the rules are too different and you don’t want to make a mistake or spent the resources on it.

    I don’t believe in saying “never leave”, but the consensus is that it is better for the UK to stay.

    The morning bulletin from British Influence is interesting today. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are meeting in Paris and the UK is just sidelined, the so-called Normandy Format to solve the Ukraine crisis.

  • @Douglas Downie : Some of those “Little Britain xenophobes” are members of your own party. A little civility never hurt anyone.

    Trade is governed by international trade rules. Yes EU rules control half our trade (or rather less than that as the EU declines), but international rules govern *all* our trade. WTO, GATT, and TRIPS are more important to the UK economy than they have ever been before. Pooling our influence there with nations like France that simply aren’t trying to achieve the same things we are doesn’t expand our influence, it shrinks it.

    I’d love to be part of a pluralistic, diverse, democratic EU. I’d love to stay in Shengen. But the UK *loses* power and influence the longer it is forced to assent the will of protectionist, pro-regulatory, anti-business governments like those of France, Spain, and Italy.

  • The UK would be free to forge its own trade deals outside the EU. The EU itself would be desperate to trade with us, since we are its biggest customer. We would have a much stronger financial future outside of the EU which has been in terminal decline since introducing the Euro.

    The main reason for wishing to leave the EU is to restore democracy and accountability. Only the other day a Commissioner stated that he didn’t care what the people of the EU thought, he didn’t have to be elected. It sums up the contempt for democracy.

  • Only in Eurosceptic discourse does running a trade deficit with a partner put one in a position of strength. Well, to be fair, I suppose it comes out of Monetarist economics holding that a deficit of that sort is a sign of economic strength. This is partly true, it is a sign of there having been economic strength in the past, strength that you then run down to support the trade deficit. And of course, throwing up trade barriers will hurt the consumers on the deficit end before the producers on the surplus end notice anything.

    And, Peter, let’s engage with what’s actually being said. If we do that, the quality of the debate might just improve somewhat. The Commissioner in question called on the democratic leaders to be bolder and not worry so much about reelection – if they succeed, they’ll get reelected anyway, and if they fail, they weren’t fit for the job in the first place. One flaw with democracy is that it can sometimes lead to timid officials fixated on polls rather than action, and pretending that it isn’t so is the best way to make sure that flaw goes unaddressed.

    What I think we have here is a conflict between the Republic and Democracy, often misunderstood as being the same thing under different names. The European Institutions, and the Union as a whole, function as a Republic, which since Lisbon is mandated democratically rather technocratically. In recent years, the Eurosceptic movement has clothed itself in the mantle of direct democracy, which is appropriate really – direct democracies quickly fall to the tyranny of the majority, lacking any semblance of good governance and usually collapsing quickly in the face of better organised outside challenges.

  • ” The EU itself would be desperate to trade with us, since we are its biggest customer. ”
    Can we be sure of that for the next decade? Or more?
    It’s partly a question of whether you think the UK is influential and powerful enough globally to sustain its position (in negotiations, trade etc) by itself, or if you think the UK is a middling power that could benefit (push its interests better) by aligning its interests with like minded countries and persuading its formal allies. That’s not to say the EU doesn’t need reforming. But let us answer the question of whether the UK can go it alone and maintain its current standing. The In/Out decision is being twisted by the likes of Farage to mean you cannot accept that you can stay in and also want reform, therefore if you want the EU to reform, you must also want out.

  • Conor McGovern 3rd Oct '15 - 2:20am

    In the early 1900s, those who rejected Imperial expansion were called Little Englanders. I don’t see much evidence, with TTIP, Greek punishment or European austerity that anti-EU liberals are xenophobes. I know we’re a minority. I know we’re seen as contradictory and misplaced, or mot likely not noticed at all. I know it’s because I love Europe, it’s because I love the people of Europe INCLUDING us, because I’m a liberal and a democrat, that I want a fresh start from the EU.

  • @Peter 2nd Oct ’15 – 7:10pm

    “The UK would be free to forge its own trade deals outside the EU. The EU itself would be desperate to trade with us, since we are its biggest customer.”

    And on what terms would those deals be? Everyone on the Leave side seems to think we wouldn’t be in anyway affected by leaving. They seem to expect that France, Germany and Italy would happily give us any terms we like and we wouldn’t even notice the difference.

    What is far more likely is they would, if the UK leaves, have an opportunity to attract international businesses away from the UK by not accpeting trade terms with the UK on the same level as for trade within the EU. Why? Because it is better for them to do so, I’m sure Frankfurt would love to attract finnacial services and France car plants. Afterall, it is the companies in thsoe sectors who are arguing that the UK should stay in the EU – if it leaves, why wouldn’t they move operations as soon as they could to the free-trade zone in which they wish to operate?

    The sheer idea that we leave, we get £55m a day back and everything else is hubnky dory is a dangerous fallacy.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Oct '15 - 11:16am

    Please also see
    The link to the Times states:

    “As chief minister of Gibraltar I represent some 22,000 British Gibraltarians who will be voting in the same referendum with the UK. I am confident that almost all of them will vote in favour of remaining in Europe. Our membership, through Britain, has given us access into the EU’s 520 million consumers. By meeting the common standards that … “

  • The UK could be part of the EEA even if it left the EU. Alternatively the UK could have a series of bilateral agreements as the Swiss have done, but this would take a long time and due to the larger size of the EU possibly longer than it did for the Swiss.

    I am not sure what the point would be, but it is certainly a possibility and one that many in the EU would be OK with and might even in some respects prefer.

    It is difficult to envisage other possibilities: geography and a land border with Ireland make it impractical for the UK to turn its back on the rest of Europe.

    In terms of jobs there would be pluses and minuses. There would be more bureaucracy to do both for government and companies that depend on export trade. I imagine that the financial services sector might have to concentrate more on trade outside of the EU.

    For Liberals the difficulty is that Liberals tend not to be enamoured of the nation state and welcome either devolution or pooling of sovereignty. Others are more smitten by romantic notions of a nation state. The idea of contributing to and being representative of a geo-economic group and a a shared cultural heritage is much more appealing.

  • Denis Loretto 3rd Oct '15 - 4:02pm

    Reforms will undoubtedly be implemented in the EU and they will go well beyond anything Cameron manages to extract in the next couple of years in order to deal with his self-inflicted referendum problem. We need to be in there to wield continuing influence, as Catherine says.

    The UK does not have enough clout to redefine the fundamental principles on which the EU is based. However the UK is very important to Europe and certainly has enough clout to ensure that it is not forced into the Eurozone unless and until that is the clear wish of its people by future referendum. That is not going to happen anytime soon and may not happen at all. Therefore the EU will go forward on two levels – eurozone and non-eurozone. As the European Council has clearly acknowledged,this means making proper provision to fully protect the interests of both these categories. Coupled with the increasing evidence that the call for sensible reforms in current EU practices and institutions is becoming more widespread there is every reason for the UK to work with others to achieve sensible reforms. The only way to do that is by enthusiastic commitment from the inside – not threatening to leave and threatening British industry by doing so.

    In the meantime we have this beneficial situation –
    1. Full and equal access to the single market – bearing in mind that even if we were to attempt renegotiation of such access after exiting the EU we would have to conform to all its rules – like Norway..
    2. Unquestioned continuance – and probably extension – of lucrative third country industrial investment. Ignore current warnings from Nissan et al at your peril. They only manufacture here to gain access to the EU market – they can and will go anywhere they want.
    3. Almost certain maintenance of London as the premier financial centre of Europe.
    4. Freedom for our citizens to settle anywhere in the EU or to roam with minimum restriction – millions of expatriate Brits across Europe must be deeply worried about the prospect of Brexit. Concomitant problems concerning immigration must be tackled in any case and like most other problems better tackled at European level.
    4. Freedom to set our own interest rates and all the other powers accompanying the maintenance of a separate currency .

    To argue that we should leave and then try to negotiate some sort of accommodation with the rest of the continent of which we will still be part makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Denis Loretto 3rd Oct '15 - 4:06pm

    My last bullet point should of course be numbered 5. Apologies.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Oct '15 - 8:56pm

    At conference we were told about Article 51. If we leave our negotiating position with the remainder of the EU would be very weak. We would not be present while the other 27 decided what would happen over two years. We should ignore what Nigel Farage MEP says about Iceland and China, our position would not be comparable in several different and important ways.

  • jedibeeftrix 3rd Oct '15 - 9:45pm

    And yet…. is this minor catastrophe comparable to the position of a notionally independent britain inside the eu and subject to a swathe of economic and legal matters decided by qmv, and orchestrated by a eurozone caucus.

    Perhaps not to worrying if your ambition is to see britain meshed into all those governance structures, which is fine, but would anyone elect a government on that position?

  • Perhaps not to worrying if your ambition is to see britain meshed into all those governance structures, which is fine, but would anyone elect a government on that position?

    Well indeed and that’s why I’m tending towards voting ‘leave’ after being on the fence: because all those saying ‘remain’ seem to be the kinds of people who would actively like to see Westminster become a subsidiary of the European Union, like a level of local government, rather than a sovereign state which has, in order to advance its own interests, joined an international organisation.

    It’s as if they see a sort of model of government where you have parish councils, and then district councils, and then county councils, and then Westminster, and then the European parliament, in a sort of hierarchy. So Westminster becomes just a local area administration within the European Union rather than a sovereign state which once ruled one of the greatest Empires the world has ever seen.

    I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that the ‘renegotiation’ must contain unequivocal and explicit statements that (a) ‘ever closer union’, at least as far as the UK is concerned, is dead, dead, dead, and (b) any and all powers the European Parliament exercises in respect to the UK are delegated to it by Westminster and can be returned at any time, rather than all powers belonging to it and some being delegated to Westminster (which seems to be the assumption now), or I will be voting ‘leave’.

  • Long term commitment to EU membership entails joining the failed EZ, loss of sovereignty, legislation imposed by others, erosion of national identity and culture, the NHS opened up to the single market, foreign policy and defence policy determined by Brussels, the end of democratic accountability and de facto dictatorship by Germany.

    No thanks, it is not for me.

  • Denis Loretto 5th Oct '15 - 1:13am

    Jedibeeftrix, Bim et al

    On one hand you regard the UK as so strong and important that we can readily contemplate making our way quite alone in the big bad world while on the other hand you regard the UK as so weak and unimportant that the other EU countries will not do anything to accommodate our wishes, even try to force us into the eurozone against our will. As to “ever closer union” look at the clear statement in the conclusions of the European council meeting in June 2014 – “The UK raised some concerns related to the future development of the EU. These concerns will need to be addressed.
    In this context, the European Council noted that the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries, allowing those that want to deepen integration to move ahead, while respecting the wish of those who do not want to deepen any further. ”

    Note this does not merely allow differing timescales in achieving ever closer union. It recognises the likelihood that the UK (and no doubt some others) will [perhaps never] want to deepen any further but to stay in the EU . There is everything to play for.

  • @Denis Loretto
    I agree with your assessment of the changes planned within the EU. The “slow lane” will probably be called Associate Membership, a concept proposed years ago by Andrew Duff. Mr Cameron will probably hail such status as a triumph of his negotiating skills.

    Unfortunately I view AM as the waiting room for the Eurozone and potentially many years of wasted time when we could be forging new trading opportunities with the rest of the world. The EU is in decline and is a concept that belongs to last century. Trade is now negotiated at the global level where the UK would be welcomed back as a sovereign nation once more.

  • A Home Office minister has just admitted that governments use the EU to bypass national democracy and push through laws that national parliaments would not accept.

    The sooner we leave this disgraceful organisation the better.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '15 - 7:54pm

    In most EU countries ministers are constitutionally accounable to their national parliament over the positions they take in the European Council. If this were the case in the UK they would not be able to “use the EU to bypass national democracy”. The problem is not the EU per se, it is one of domestic parliamentary accountability.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '15 - 7:58pm

    @Sue: Are you aware that Catherine Bearder is elected? In order to keep her “perks”, she needs to make sure she is elected each time.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '15 - 8:07pm


    European Parliament exercises in respect to the UK are delegated to it by Westminster and can be returned at any time

    The European Parliament is elected separately from the national parliament seated at Westminster. I expect it to act independently of national political bubbles, and in particular independently of the ministers in the European Council, otherwise there would be frankly no point in it existing at all. What I would like to see is for our ministers and civil servants in the Council to be directly accountable to our national Parliament over the positions they take in Council meetings. In some EU countries the national Parliament can compel the minister to take a particular position. Some aspects of “EU reform” are under the direct command of our domestic government, and do not need any negotiation with other EU countries to achieve.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '15 - 8:16pm

    but of course the government won’t do this because the last thing they want is to be accountable to Parliament for their decisions. They find it very convenient to use the EU to launder policies by arguing for them in the Council then claiming it’s the EU’s fault they have to implement same. They talk of “EU reform” to score political points, but will never agree to any meaningful reform, especially when it’s up to them alone to implement it.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Oct '15 - 9:07pm

    The European Parliament should meet in one place.

  • wherever you find politicians you also find devious practices and sometimes corruption. You very likely find wastage of taxpayers’ money. All of that is found at Westminster and also in Brussels. At least we can kick them out of Westminster.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Oct '15 - 8:26am

    @Peter: You can kick MEPs out of Parliament as well. Also MEPs can sack the Commission. It is worth noting that when they vote to sack or reject the Commisison (as they have done on several occasions) , it is in the face of pressure from national governments to be loyal to their respective countries’ commission nominees. It tends to be the European Parliament that holds the EU to account, while the nation states resist reform of any kind.
    @Richard Underhill: Absolutely, and the main obstacle to this is the French government.

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