Ed Davey: It would be incredibly difficult to work with the Tories due to their views on the EU and green issues

The Observer reports

The Liberal Democrat energy secretary, Ed Davey, has hinted strongly that he would oppose a second coalition with the Tories because their policy on Europe amounts to “economic and environmental irresponsibility of the highest order”.

Davey, seen as a likely contender in any contest to succeed Nick Clegg, told the Observer that, by contrast, the Lib Dems and Labour shared many views on the environment, although he feared that Ed Miliband’s policy of regulating energy prices would drive away investment.

In a significant intervention in an increasingly tense debate within the Lib Dems, Davey said he found another deal between the Lib Dems and Tories that would involve backing an in/out EU referendum “incredibly difficult” to envisage. The UK had made huge progress in the last five years on green issues and was now a respected international player, but a British government prepared to entertain the idea of leaving the EU would lose influence in climate change negotiations, including crucial talks in Paris at the end of this year.

Davey said: “The Conservative position on Europe is potentially economic and environmental irresponsibility of the highest order. Overall our voice in the debate will be dramatically reduced if at the time we are trying to renegoiate our membership of the EU club before a referendum.”

Hopefully, Ed’s comments will pour some cold water over the “source close to Nick Clegg” who was talking about cuddling up to the Tories again.

You can read the full article here.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 10:58am

    At last someone has the courage to attack the Tories

  • John Barrett 29th Mar '15 - 12:24pm

    It is also time to rethink our post election strategy which commits the party to negotiating with the largest party first, rather than the party which shares or can deliver on most of the issues, policies and principles we believe in.

  • Short of an upsurge in Lib Dem support, I think this is as close as it will get to saying there will not be a post election coalition involving Lib Dems. So far as Europe is concerned, I would reckon that Clegg agrees.

    An official rejection of a coalition would be untenable, we are after all the party that advocates political plurality, nor would it be any more credible to to the SNP thing of handing support to Labour come what may. In any case, I strongly doubt that a coalition with Labour is on the cards for both practical and party-political reasons (we do not want to be further pulverised).

    If we suffer a sharp loss of seats across the country at the election, I expect Nick Clegg to come forward sooner rather than later to say he and the Party respect the voice of the electorate and will stand aside. Though I put the odss on a Tory win around about 50/50, if the outcome is No Overall Control, the Party could say that they will not stand in the way of the formation of a minority government.

    The most difficult outcome would be Labour just ahead in seats, but not in votes and Lib Dems behind SNP in seats. Cameron as PM, would have the right to carry on, but could be brought down by Labour and SNP. I am not sure who could claim a mandate. I suggest that Clegg (remaining a interim leader) would be exhorting Cameron and Miliband to work together to ensure stability.

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Mar '15 - 3:47pm

    John Barrett 29th Mar ’15 – 12:24pm
    “It is also time to rethink our post election strategy which commits the party to negotiating with the largest party first, rather than the party which shares or can deliver on most of the issues, policies and principles we believe in.”

    I will once again state my desire for us not to enter into any coalition until we have a new leader and decided whether we are going to return to our traditional position of preamble social justice Liberal Democracy.

    Beyond that, I totally support John’s eminently sensible proposal.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Mar '15 - 3:59pm

    The article should have stated that in return for accepting an EU referendum, which we believe would be an unnecessary cost, we would want concessions on other constitutional issues, such as Lords reform.

    If it is not put like this it makes the Lib Dems look soft on the EU and as pre-occupied with constitutional tinkering as the Tories. it is embarrassing to have PR in local elections as a major priority for accepting a Tory government and the welfare cuts that would follow.

  • It might be incredibly difficult, but it may also be incredibly difficult working with Labour with Nicola Sturgeon in the backseat (but I’m not sure if SNP do do a deal with Labour whether a Spitting Image cartoon with Ed as the glove puppet won’t be too far from the truth). The fact of the matter is that under the fixed term system and with what is looking like a minority government, politicians may have to face up to an incredibly difficult working environment, where they join with one group over one matter and another on a different matter.

  • The only reason for going into Coalition is because it is in the national interest. If the Tories cannot take seriously the need to tackle climate change, then this really should be a deal breaker. I am pleased to see that Ed Davey has got it.

  • Although the article refers to the EU, but I sense the same applies to climate change as well.

  • Nick Collins 29th Mar '15 - 8:05pm

    Let’s hope that “those close to the LibDem Leadership” will be a long way from power after the election.

  • So Ed Davey is against the Lib Dem position on the EU, which is that we should have a referendum at the next major treaty change? Since such a referendum would be “potentially economic and environmental irresponsibility of the highest order.”

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 11:04pm

    @Tristan the referendum would be on whether or not to accept the treaty change- quite a different question from the Tories want to pose (“should we leave the EU?)”. I suspect Ed follows the party line here.

  • Rolson Davies 30th Mar '15 - 10:06am

    I am very pleased to hear Ed’s comments. I think that tensions in the party have been so great the past five years having to be in ‘Bed’ with a party such as the Tories it is almost unthinkable if we do it again.

  • Tristan: There is no prospect of a treaty change within the next few years. Certainly not by any time in 2017.

    Ed Davey has not contradicted the Party line, however, I do not think the Party line makes that much sense if it is promising a vote on a treaty, since treaties are the result of detailed give and take negotiation. If every party to a treaty took it to a referendum there would be a high chance that one would reject it and quite possibly motivated by spurious domestic politics. When this happened with Ireland, the treaty ratification process stalled, Ireland was invited to make proposals and eventually, with an economic crisis closing in, decided to put the question back to the electorate.

    The only referendum that makes some sense is an IN/OUT referendum following a treaty agreement, but it does not look realistic to hold one after every treaty agreement.

    There is one possible rationale for a referendum if you count the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. As EU members the UK will be bound to this agreement and could only repudiate it by leaving the EU. The difficulty is that no vote would stop the agreement and leaving the EU would decrease the UK’s ability to exert influence.

    The only way to ensure influence on treaty agreement is to be there and active from the start. The UK did this in the late 80s, the 90s and early 00s which had the result of a greatly enlarged EU. Ironically, the consequences of EU expansion has been used to argue for an opportunity to vote to leave the EU.

  • I’m very glad that Ed Davey has put a shot across the bows of the centre-right coalitionists who seem to want to hang on to some power at all costs. I’m also glad his choice of words is so measured.

    As I understand it, the Party’s position on an EU referendum is that it should happen if any major constitutional change in the EU is proposed. But actually I disagree with Ed here: the so-called Euro-sceptics (a misnomer since they’re not sceptical, they’re passionately anti) have created so much uncertainty around our membership that a referendum might be the best way of clearing the air.

  • David Evershed 31st Mar '15 - 3:03pm

    Not so long ago it was a Lib Dem policy to have an IN/OUT referendum as a once and for all decision – rather than a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which was only about that issue.

    Now the leadership is saying we are violently against an IN/OUT referendum but in favour of a referendum on any individual treaty changes.

    In the circumstances agreeing to an IN/OUT referendum (after renegotiation) should not be a deal breaker for a future coalition between Lib Dems and another party.

  • Philip Thomas 31st Mar '15 - 3:20pm

    @David Evershed- sorry I misunderstood party policy above- it is clear from Nick Clegg’s remarks this week that the referendum on the next treaty change would be an IN/OUT referendum and not limited to the treaty change as I mistakenly thought.

    I agree an IN/OUT referendum should not be a deal breaker- I think we should be willing to agree one if we can have the same franchise as the European elections.

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