An in/out EU referendum? Lib Dem members say no, by 55% to 36%

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

55% of Lib Dems oppose in/out EU referendum

The next Conservative election manifesto will include a pledge to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union. Do you think the next Liberal Democrat manifesto should include the same pledge?
(Figures compared to last time we asked this question in March 2013).

    36% (+2%) – Yes, it should

    55% (-3%) – No, it should not

    9% (-2%) – Don’t know

I first asked this question last December: then, committing to an in/out EU referendum was opposed by a 2-to-1 margin, 63% to 32%. It has narrowed noticeably since, now standing at 55% to 36%, but that’s still a significant majority against. There is little appetite within the party it seems for bending to Tory back-benchers’ whim on this topic.

The party’s autumn conference in Glasgow will have a debate on Europe in September, including a policy motion which will commit the party to an in/out referendum — but only “when the EU Act triggers a referendum” (ie, the next time further powers are to be transferred).

Here’s a selection of your comments:

I do think that being an influential member of the EU is where our future lies although reform of the EU is essential. However, there is a growing desire of the UK population for an in-out referendum and as a Democratic party I think we should offer that option. My main concern would be that both sides of the argument would not get equal funding or coverage.

I think the point has come where it is inevitable, and fighting it would only look like distrust of the people.

Support, provided we make it very plain that we believe our place is right at the heart of europe

Our current policy – to have one when a treaty changes our relationship with the EU – is the correct one.

In theory we probably should. But I don’t trust the UK electorate to make an informed decision on this.

For goodness sake let’s get the question asked and answered now. This shilly-shallying around is bad for everyone. Logically we need to be in Europe. Emotionally a lot of people resent their influence on us. Let’s decide now.

We had one years ago, that’s it, end of issue.

Yes – In the event of a treaty change or other significant transfer of powers or change in fundamental relationship between the EU & UK

No it shouldn’t, because we have a parliamentary democracy, and the MPs have the power, a referendum is irrelevant… but Yes it should, because the media have already wound people up to the point that they want and expect one. We should insist on a booklet of audited facts to be supplied to every registered voter.

I voted ‘Yes’ to go in and I am still very much pro Europe. However the way in which the EU has dealt with its weaker members is worrying. I am also not clear on how we will work in the EU as the members of the Euro move, by necessity, closer together.

I think our existing support for an in/out referendum where there is a major treaty change is a mistake.

We have demonstrated an appalling inability to sell ideas that the press doesn’t like. I think a government should protect jobs and businesses and the people of the nation. Letting them commit economic suicide is a dereliction of duty. BUT people want that vote, so we have to take the plunge.

Very reluctantly and with the trigger being the EU Act and NOT some supposed renegotiation of terms of membership.

I think the manifesto should argue for a fact based discussion of the benefits and problems of membership rather than the current emotional slanging match.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    11 Comments

    • Clear Thinker 13th Aug '13 - 11:04am

      What a piece of mis-direction this is! Talk about magic. LibDem members did not say no to a referendum, they said no to including it as a pledge in our manifesto.

      And by the way, 600 respondents is not “LibDem members”, it’s a tiny sample of LibDem members, possibly not representative as most LibDem members are not on Tall’s LDV list. Is everyone on the list a member?

    • Peter Watson 13th Aug '13 - 12:34pm

      @Stephen Tall “So you think Lib Dem members want an in/out referendum but don’t want to pledge one?”
      Members might have found the question very confusing since for many Lib Dems the meaning of “pledge” is uncertain to say the least!

    • The first question to ask about any prposed referendum is “Does it come in the top 2 or 3 issues voters think are important?” There is regular, unpromted polling on the importance of issues, the last time I looked Europe was on 4%. Thats 4%, 1 in 25 who named Europe as in their top 3 concerns.
      Ask the voters questions they dont see as vital & they will answer some other question that they do. ” Are you happy with the state of Politics/The Economy/Your Bank balance ?” might be examples.

    • David Allen 13th Aug '13 - 1:29pm

      “So you think Lib Dem members want an in/out referendum but don’t want to pledge one?”

      I’m not very worked up about this topic, but I just hate to see the sophistry that goes on here. Our official policy is that we would have a referendum under certain circumstances. So if you asked an official spokesperson if we “want to pledge” a referendum the answer would clearly be “no”. If you asked an official spokesperson if we “want” a referendum the answer would have to be “it depends”.

      Then again, a hypothetical member might be much in favour of holding a referendum, but could still say “no” to the question about pledging one, because of very understandable concerns about the pitfalls that can happen when one goes around pledging things! (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry…)

      Clear Thinker is right. If you ask a specific question, you get answers to that question. You didn’t ask whether your respondents said “yes” or “no” to a referendum. You shouldn’t claim that you know how they would have answered it.

    • I think we should have a referendum on whether to have a referendum or not, then we can find if people want to vote…

      🙂

    • Martin Lowe 13th Aug '13 - 7:16pm

      Stephen,

      I agree with Clear Thinker and David Allen – asking Lib Dem members about a manifesto pledge regarding an in/out referendum is different to asking about a referendum.

      Those two questions get two different answers from me – and I’d be surprised if I was the only one who felt like that.

    • Agree with Clear Thinker, David Allen and Martin Lowe , the question asked was about making a referendum a manifesto commitment.

      Also Stephen if you look at your December poll, you’ll see you asked a very different question, to that asked in March 2013 and now. Hence the question to ask is: whether the changes between the March and August 2013 polls are significant.

    • Thinking further, I would be interested in the response to the question as to whether there should be a referendum/vote on further integration and whether this should also be a manifesto commitment.

      I’m thinking that a manifesto commitment to a straight in/out referendum could be a hostage to fortune, as it makes it difficult to oppose an in/out referendum called by either a Labour or Conservative government (or even a UKIP government!), whereas a vote on further integration potentially allows for opposition to a straight in/out vote.

    • Clive Sneddon 14th Aug '13 - 1:04pm

      I agree with Roland in that a vote on further integration as a manifesto commitment would give voters a positive choice, but more to the point it allows both the Liberal Democrats and the voters to start thinking about what is likely to be happening in Europe at some point in the next UK parliament. Several EU partners have said that a long-term resolution of the structural problems of the eurozone is likely to give rise to a treaty in 2016 or 2017 involving greater integration, and that if the UK rejected this, it would de facto be leaving the EU. Since in terms of the Coalition’s existing legislation the UK would have to hold a referendum on such a treaty, what the Lib Dem manifesto must contain is a vision of a future EU and Britain’s role within it, so that the next Government can, if it has Liberal Democrats in it, start negotiating to realise that vision, and can argue against the media barons, some Tories and UKIP that there is viable way of ensuring the UK retains and builds on all the economic and political benefits of its present EU membership.

      And what might that vision be? We will certainly want to work with all our EU partners on issues that can only be progressed by international cooperation, such as climate change, or trafficking. But what chance do we have of securing more ‘subsidiarity’, and how do we see the relationship of the CAP and Fisheries Policy to the Single Market? If the UK is to avoid simply reacting to the next EU treaty negotiated for the needs of the eurozone and for those countries who want greater integration as part of their European project, would it be possible to argue for a framework treaty which makes the Single Market the core of the EU, and thus allows all previous treaty policies to be reviewed in the light of their relationship to the Single Market including at what level such policies should be implemented? Would such a treaty also be able to provide for collective decision-making on all cross-border issues, such as climate change and dealing with international crime, and provide under one chapter for those member states that sign up to that chapter to progress to ever closer union, which if fully realised would mean the creation of a new single state within the EU? In those circumstances, member states deciding not to sign up to that chapter would not be de facto excluded from the EU, but could continue to work together. The big advantage of such a treaty framework would be that it would make it easier to change policies that no longer worked, if in some cases they ever did, but which are currently enshrined in treaties and in the doctrine of the acquis, which both make difficult all sorts of necessary change.

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