EURef Talking Points: being positive. Hope-mongering.

I have taken part in hundreds of debates, canvassing sessions and media interviews about Europe. At the moment I am doing several debates per week. My experience is that to be persuasive you have to be positive.

Leave campaigners try to suggest that we are campaigning in a negative, “scare mongering” way.  The best way to disprove this is to be positive.  Speak about what has been achieved and can be achieved in future by Britain in Europe.

This article sets out some words, phrases and points that I find work for me. I hope they may work for you too.


The risks and dangers of leaving Europe are important. But they are not the whole story. People want, and deserve, hope for a better tomorrow.

Many things in Britain and in the EU are not perfect. In Europe and in this country, better is always possible.


You can talk positively about what helping to create modern Europe and being in the EU has achieved for people:

  • Peace in Europe by bringing nations together and removing political and economic divisions that contributed to conflict;
  • The greatest period of prosperity in Europe. The largest economy in the world. 500 million people enjoying a standard of living that was once unimaginable.
  • Real progress on the environment. For example, beaches like the one I live near are no longer subject to obscene cross-border pollution as they once were.
  • Securing human rights for everyone in Europe. Burying the evil that fascism and communism inflicted on our continent. Protecting us all because a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.
  • Fighting cross-border crime.  Warrants from UK courts are now enforced across Europe, returning 100s of suspects every year to our court. Sharing data like previous convictions, so the justice system works better. Soon number plates will be shared too so police can better enforce road safety and save lives.  Fingerprint and DNA data to catch criminals is being shared too to enable our police to catch criminals.
  • Freedom for every Briton to live, work, study, retire anywhere in Europe with full, equal rights in every state because we are citizens of Europe. Where you live is an important choice and people are happier when they can choose where to live.
Immigration comes up in every debate. You can’t duck it.  Make the positive case.
  • Migration means more workers can come to this country where their skills and labour are in demand. 7 to 8 out of every 10 Europeans in the UK are working. Doing jobs of value for an employer who chooses to pay them a wage for a day’s work. Paying taxes which our public services and pensions need.
  • Unemployment in the UK is at a record low. But for young Britons looking for work, nothing would be gained by not having free movement in Europe. It would mean a loss of valuable revenues for our schools and hospitals. Right now the UK government is not passing on enough of this money to where it is needed but leaving will just mean there are even fewer resources.
  • We need the UK government to invest in education (especially at further and higher levels) to help young Britons get on in life. We need our people to work hard at school, be encouraged by their parents and take advantage of opportunities to learn.


All of the points that are so frequently made about risk of leaving can be recast as positive points about staying in. For example:


There is a risk to jobs is we leave. If we stay in we can create more jobs. This is because the single market can be expanded to all services in coming years.  80% of the UK economy is services so this is a huge opportunity that we should not walk away from. New products are invented all the time that we can sell into the single market. Europe is making new trade agreements with other parts of the world, on top of the 50 it already has.


HSBC say that if we leave the pound will lose 20% of its value. That’s big hit to the things we buy. To the value of our pension funds and other assets. HSBC and other banks say it is because investment will slow down if we leave. Less money will come into the country.

But if we stay in more investment will come in. That will put all our families in a better position and help us pay our bills and retire with security.


In Europe we can apply our combined resources to meet the twenty-first century with confidence. Europe has the economy to support unprecedented technological discoveries with research on a continent-wide scale. We can fund and benefit from the fruits of research. We can find new cures for cancer and other diseases that continue to plague our lives. Europe has to size to develop further benefits from space technology, building on the satellites we use daily already. We can develop cleaner energy and forms of transport.


Working together Europe has huge diplomatic clout. This comes from our combined economic size, our cultural influence around the world and even our combined military resources match any other. These can be used to bring peace to conflicts. To protect and promote the rights of women and human rights in danger. To encourage and support democracy throughout the world. This is not easy but the arc of history is long and we can push it towards justice. We can do more together in Europe than we could alone.


Do not be afraid to be positive about identity. Identity means a person’s sense of who they are and who we are together.

We are stronger together. We can achieve more. We have more in common that we often realise.

There is nothing wrong with Europe that cannot be fixed by what is right with Europe.

I am English, British and European. I am proud to be all 3. Each enriches the others.

I hope some of these words, phrases and points are helpful to you. I would love to hear any that you have.

* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in News.


  • We are no longer in government and this is not a referendum of our choosing. Although Paddy Ashdown was very combative and effective on Question Time last night, there are dangers if our most prominent voices are forced into this role.

    I fully agree that it should be for us to stress the positives and more than this, wherever possible seek to explain how democracy works in the EU and how Liberal Democrat MEPs have worked to improve policies that apply across the EU. No other multinational cooperation is subject to such independent democratic scrutiny.

    The positives I would highlight are:
    • Tackling environmental problems that can only be dealt with on a continent wide basis.
    • Business opportunities that are created by our support for economic growth and development in the newer member states.
    • Maintaining a sustainable community in terms of renewable resources and security as well as providing educated workforce able to cope with our future needs.
    • Cooperating as a geopolitical/economic group acting as a strong influential voice on the world stage.

    More generally our involvement in the EU is an expression of our commitment and belief in belonging to a proud and secure European culture.

  • The article mentions the ‘EU’ once, and after that you keep saying ‘Europe’. Here’s the thing,.. This referendum is not about leaving Europe. This referendum is specifically to rid ourselves of the ‘EU’,… which is a layer of unnecessary governance that is redundant to our needs, and costs the UK,… per week,.. a staggering membership fee, which is about the same cost as a newly built hospital.
    What we want is to be good trading neighbours with our friends and allies in ‘Europe’, and eager joint partners in projects that are mutually beneficial. Furthermore we want our sovereignty back from the grimy fingers of the *EU*, and the ability to decide for ourselves what we want that saved [£300 million a week] tax money spent on, and what laws we need to implement and abide by.
    I too am British, English and consider myself European. So please stop using the word ‘Europe’, when it is the ‘EU’ which is the focus of the problem?

  • J Dunn, whether we stay or leave, Britain (or England if we leave) would still have to pay the very low of cost membership when compared to other items of Government expenditure in order to remain in the free trade area. Leaving the free trade zone would result in an enormous cost in terms of import tariffs.
    Please refrain from spreading misinformation.

  • I am English, British and European

    You do realise that only 15% of British people consider themselves to be European?

  • George recons that :
    “Leaving the free trade zone would result in an enormous cost in terms of import tariffs.”
    First of all, your negative scare mongering makes no sense. Secondly, a tit-for-tat tariff war is not in the interests of anyone, especially given that [Fact], Europe needs access to the UK market far more than we need access to the EU market. Thirdly,.. how long do you think Merkel and Holland respectively, will stay in office if they tell their car manufactures and farmers,… “Sorry guys,… no more cars, fruit, veg and cheese to the UK without a 10% tariff.”
    Just not going to happen.
    Gravy train politicians might suffer some ego bruises, but trade between Europe and the UK will prevail. Why? Because it’s in everyone’s interests to trade, and no-one benefits from the ‘revenge imposition’ of tariffs. Fortunately, manufacturers, and farmers don’t suffer those same self grandiose afflictions as politicians. [Fact] Money exchanged for goods and services will trump ‘sad embittered bureaucrats’ every time.
    Please refrain from unfounded scaremongering.

  • Stevan Rose 22nd Apr '16 - 9:11pm

    J Dunn. You are repeating that Grayling nonsense. The French and German leaders will, rightly, blame the UK government for tariffs placed on their goods exported to the UK. We will, rightly, blame our UK government for the price of imported goods rising by 10%. If I were Merkel or Hollande I would be saying to Honda, Toyota, Nissan and BMW (Mini) start planning your new factories in Germany and France because your cars made in Britain will not be entering the EU tariff free. Far from losing votes I strongly suggest it would boost their electoral chances. The secret is selective tariffs. In the case of Norway, even with EEA membership, the EU punished them for not complying with the fisheries policy and tried to destroy their fisheries with punative tariffs. In revenge cheese was hit. Logic does not always come into it; sending messages often does.

    Europe absolutely doesn’t need access to the UK market more than we need access to the EU. 44% of our exports go to the EU whereas only 16% of the exports of goods from the rest of the EU come to the UK. We import few services from the EU but we export far more. The UK receives approx 8% of German exports, and 10% of our exports end up in Germany. A trade war would hit us at least twice as hard as it would hit the EU. In the case of cars, 77% of our production is exported. 57% of our production goes to the EU. The Germans and French could decide to destroy our car industry and grab the production for themselves. The loss of UK market share would be more than made up by EU demand not being fulfilled from the UK. Do you trust the Germans, French, and others not to do a smash and grab? It would be their duty to at least try. However, the more likely smash and grab target would be financial services where our vulnerability is greater and the justification for the Euro zone far more logical. And bankers don’t block roads.

  • Stevan Rose 22nd Apr '16 - 9:13pm

    Do not fool yourself and others by dismissing tariffs. They exist all over the world and Governments use them extensively to protect their domestic markets whatever manufacturers and farmers say. They use them extensively to further their political national interests too. Emmanuel Macron, a decent bet for the next French President, has been clear about the consequences.

    No-one on the Remain side can say for certain what happens in the event of Brexit. They don’t know. They can only point out a series of risks to our prosperity that Brexit would raise. Remain is all about avoiding the risks of change by staying in. It is not scaremongering to point out these risks and to ask what happens if the risk becomes reality. Brexit won’t tell us, they just deny it or dance around it. In effect they are saying that the risks won’t happen because we can trust all 27 remaining EU governments to see sense as defined by UKIP and the Tory right wing, let us keep all the beneficial aspects of the EU like free trade whilst we walk away from all the stuff we don’t like such as paying a membership fee and free movement of labour. Unlikely in the extreme.

  • Great stuff Antony! In Europe we can do more because together we can tackle problems that cannot be met by individual countries. By adding a little bit of our sovereignty to the common pool we actually increase our power to change the future. he sum of the whole is greater than he parts. his is an increase in our overall Sovereignty. Britain is Greater as a Member of the EU than it will be if we choose to Leave. As for our friend J Dunn does he ant a continent at war or at peace? A continent that is economically poorer or richer? A cleaner environment or a polluted environment. These things do not respect arbitrary lines drawn on maps – the EU an dEurope are in many very real ways one and the same.

  • Thanks very helpful … have cribbed to use on the campaign.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Apr '16 - 9:36am

    Why do we have to be so positive about the EU?

    The only way Anthony can be so positive, as a commentator above has written, is to conflate Europe and the EU and to hop from the use of one with the other in a mentally sloppy or even disingenuous fashion.

    Here’s the rub: There seem broadly to be three large groups within the EU.

    First, the so-called PIGS grouping – Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, whose economies are being destroyed by membership of the Eurozone – the political consequences in countries where the economies are so depressed is very worrying, because when economies are doing badly inequalities multiply. Already 61% of Spaniards say ‘their voice is not heard in the EU’.

    Then there are the eastern countries that were part of the Eastern bloc where right wing governments are already following the Putin trail; characterized by Simmering nationalism and increasingly authoritarian and nasty regimes such as those in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania.

    Finally there are those countries with strong economies and which, under the influence of the European Central Bank policies, are reforming their own economic activity – becoming ever more efficient and in so doing increasing further the gap between themselves and the first group and within them the gap between the haves and the have nots.

    The UK is part of this group, but, able to manage its own monetary policy and manage its exchange rate, it is likely not to keep pace with the drives for efficiency in countries like Germany and Austria.

    The vested interests that run the EU are not going to be able to reform and adapt to prevent these tensions continuing to escalate dangerously. So all the positives that Anthony lists I see as potentials, but most unlikely to be realised because the EU is an out dated strategy designed to cope with a post war situation that has past.

    If, then, Brexiters are dreamers and idealists, so too are the Inners.

    Where is the third and Liberal way? The way that acknowledges and explains the difficulties and dangers and which begins to sketch a v practical proposal for the necessary reforms required to meet the crisis that is developing for ‘Europe’ as an whole?

    We might need a Churchill, and we have a Boris. We might need a Gladstone and we have a Cameron.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Apr '16 - 11:18am

    My greatest anger is towards David Cameron who unleashed this problem on us for party management reasons.

    I feel, as those I know feel, uniquely unqualified to make such a momentous decision that will have such far reaching consequences. All we do know is that neither option will lead to nirvana.

    Once upon a time we could opt out by voting for the outcome that those politicians and institutions we most trusted recommended, but trust is at an all time low The ‘don’t vote for the sort who recommend x’ , or vote for those who recommend ‘y’ doesn’t work anymore given the mixed- bag who are lining up for both options . The woman in the QT audience who expressed confusion spoke for myself and many others.

    I believe that for most of us, when we put our cross in a box, it will be like sticking the tail on the donkey, but thanks Bill le Breton for your refreshing honesty.

  • I am very grateful for what Brother Hook has written and may well find it useful as I seek to organise some debates in Chesterfield. Our Labour MP is for REMAIN but a number of his normal supporters are for LEAVE. UKIP has done well here lately and LEAVE are making the running. I am temperamentally in favour of staying (and have a son and his family living in France, where we have just been with them. They think it is ludicrous for Britain to think of leaving, but I feel that there are serious problems with the EU and more with EUROLAND. TTIP looks like an undemocratically done deal. If we stay, can we exercise an influence on future developments and correction of undemocratic imbalance, plus the appalling under-reporting of all things European in our media?

  • Richard Underhill 28th Apr '16 - 10:40am

    Bill le Breton 23rd Apr ’16 – 9:36am Winston Churchill’s finest hours came when we were already at war in 1940. His experience as a soldier and as First Sea Lord were highly relevant. His strategic vision came from discussions at the highest levels. Roy Jenkins was unimpressed with Churchill’s performance as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The EU was founded to make war between the member states impossible.
    Gladstone’s successes were more as Chancellor than as PM, averse to combat, but with widespread education, a universal franchise and modern communications technology there is less need to place so much trust in one person.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • David Allen
    Not all wars are like WW2. Some, like Korea, end in stalemate. Others, like Afghanistan, end very badly. In WW2, the Allies didn't only reject appeasement....
  • Chris Rennard
    It is sometimes claimed that we “underperformed” in 2005 when I was Chief Executive and Charles Kennedy was Leader. But electing 62 MPs, tripling our Westm...
  • David Raw
    Michael Bukola hits the spot. My advice to Sir Edward would be to avoid any interview with Andrew Neil under any and every circumstance....
  • Chris Rennard
    I do not think that those people seeking to see a sharper focus for us on some high profile issues are seeking for us to be a “think tank”. Whilst I would ...
  • David Raw
    @ Paul Fox. Some good and interesting points, Paul, and of course Paddy had charisma, an interesting hinterland, and could make an inspiring speech....