European Liberals adopt 2019 manifesto, express regret over Brexit

Liberals from across Europe gathered in Madrid this week to debate and fine tune a document designed to be the focus for liberal campaigning in the run-up to next year’s European Parliamentary elections.

The document is divided into key themes as follows;

  • For a united Europe ready for the future
  • A Europe of innovation and opportunities for all
  • Opportunities and innovation through small and medium-sized enterprise and free trade
  • Digital innovation that benefits and unites us
  • A Europe that leads on the global stage
  • A responsible Europe that works better for you
  • Making every Euro count: investing wisely

It is a document which is ambitious for a liberal Europe, and is ideas driven, rather than detailed – it runs to just twelve pages. However, it is a document that, I suspect, most Liberal Democrats could readily sign up to.

Of perhaps more immediate salience, it has this to say about events in the United Kingdom;

We regret Brexit and call on the EU and Britain to make every effort to avoid a ‘no deal’ scenario which would have negative consequences for all concerned, and Ireland in particular. We hope a positive and close partnership and ongoing cooperation will be maintained between the EU and the United Kingdom if she ceases to be a member of the EU. If the United Kingdom decides to reverse its decision to leave the EU, we will welcome that decision and work to ensure the re-establishment of a refreshed and stable relationship.

The Belfast Agreement must be upheld in full, including the rights of citizens in Northern Ireland to EU citizenship if they so wish, and we want a workable and operable guarantee to be included in the withdrawal agreement that ensures that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

And yes, Liberal Democrats may well regret the lack of overt support for a second referendum, but our sister parties are understandably loathe to be seen to be trying to influence British opinion, as Vince Cable found out in the Spring. Indicating that there might be a positive response to a change of mind by the British public is one thing, suggesting that they change their minds, quite another.

For more details, including a downloadable version of the manifesto, go to the ALDE Party website.

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee.

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13 Comments

  • John Marriott 12th Nov '18 - 9:04am

    But not, hopefully, a ‘United States of Europe’.

  • And the Spanish member of ALDE, Cuidadanos, is well known for their outright opposition to any sort of referendum anywhere…

  • The manifesto for me is a disappointing document it doesn’t really address the economic imbalances of the EU and reducing the causes of economic migration both across the EU and into the EU.

    I would have been surprised if it had included allowing member countries to restrict the free movement of people from member countries which have a GDP more than 20% lower than theirs. It supports the free movement of people across the EU.

    However, it could have included abolishing the Stability and Growth Pact and replacing it with a Full Employment Pact to ensure all countries at least keep their unemployment rate below 5% and make this the goal of the European Central Bank. (Instead it wants more automatic sanctions on countries which break the Stability and Growth Pact.) It could have included a call to increase the budget of the EU to provide extra funding to assist the poorest 40 Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) regions. It could have made the Council of the EU more accountable to each member country’s Parliament by ensuring that ministers are delegates from their country’s Parliament and can only vote the way they are mandated by their Parliament.

    It could have talked of encouraging EU countries to give economic aid to countries outside the EU to reduce the pull of economic migration for the people of those countries.

    I am surprised it includes a desire for more countries to join the EU, when the EU hasn’t yet sorted out the unbalanced economies of the existing member countries.

    While I accept that a call on the last page for ‘a Europe’ where no one lives in relative poverty would be far too radical, something about building ‘a Europe’ where no member country is more than 20% poorer than the wealthiest could have been included or even no Nomenclature of Territorial Units is poorer that 25% of the average.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Nov '18 - 1:36pm

    Votes at 16 has been Lib Dem policy for decades.
    It was conceded by the Prime Minister for the 2014 referendum.
    Committee chair Hilary Benn has said today that the committee he chairs on Brexit has proposed that the government’s forthcoming “meaningful vote” on its proposed deal with the EU27 should be capable of amendment to find out the extent of support for various alternatives, including another referendum.
    Politics Live 12/11/2018.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Nov '18 - 1:44pm

    Process: what could Labour do? If the “meaningful vote” defeats the government Labour could move a motion of no confidence in the current government. They may remember that happening in 1979 when first the SNP then the Tories votes against and defeated the Callaghan government by one vote (while one MP from Northern Ireland abstained).
    The DUP would not be afraid of a general election, Tories might be.

  • Laurence Cox 12th Nov '18 - 2:35pm

    It is rather disappointing that ALDE say nothing about opposing the spitzenkanditaten system that brought us Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission with the support of less than 13% of the electorate (29% of those who voted) and could yet lead to a populist from the far right succeeding him.

  • Daniel Walker 12th Nov '18 - 4:22pm

    @Laurence Cox Junker got a majority (not a plurality) of the votes in the European Parliament, i.e. he had the “confidence of the House”, which is how the UK (and most of the rest of the EU) selects its Prime Ministers.

    I can see an argument for direct elections of the Commission President (presumably by AV or similar, otherwise your 29% plurality could still result in an election), if that’s what you mean, but the Spitzenkandidat process doesn’t seem undemocratic to me. (Given a single grouping is most unlikely to get more than 50% of the Parliament, any leading candidate will have to persuade at least one another group to support them, but that’s hardly unusual in a PR system, or even in FPTP recently. I can’t see many of the other groups supporting a far-right candidate even if EFDD get a plurality, which doesn’t seem likely on current evidence)

  • Wow! The manifesto really draws a clear line in the sand with those groupings that will be campaigning for the opposites – things like ‘A Europe of stagnation and no opportunity’ or perhaps ‘Digital innovation that harms and divides us’; in fact anyone opposed to motherhood and apple pie. [/sarc]

    To be fair there are one or two useful items, in particular under the heading ‘A responsible Europe that works better for you’ where the opening paragraph reads:
    ’We believe that decisions should be taken at the appropriate local and regional, national or EU level that serves you best and most directly. We support initiatives to re-evaluate and re-negotiate of the division of competencies between the European Union and its Member States, strongly keeping in mind the principles of simplification and subsidiarity. The Union of tomorrow must be based on decentralisation and diversity, not on burdensome bureaucracy and over-regulation.’

    Absolutely right. But why so limp and passive ’We support initiatives…’?

    Why not something along the lines of, ’The existing institutions do not reliably deliver subsidiarity and have no viable mechanism for re-negotiating the division of competences… we will change that’?

    A good policy along those lines would, at last, be in line with long-standing Liberal principles and would offer a path towards breaking the ‘ever-greater union’ ratchet that is one of the core drivers of Euroscepticism.

  • Does nothing to address the concerns of EU citizens who feel uneasy about further integration and thus being forced to vote for populist parties.

  • David Becket 12th Nov '18 - 8:51pm

    The weakness with this manifesto is that it is trying to find policies that would appeal to Liberals from all 38 countries. (I am surprised that the welcome move from Strasbourg got through.) This is one of the weaknesses of the EU, finding policies that will suit every country, and is why a move towards a United States of Europe will never happen

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Nov '18 - 10:24pm

    Liberalism as keen on Europeanism, is inconsistent, there more you remove from the local regional and national to the EU the more illiberal in that decisions are remote, misunderstood and undemocratic in not being engaged with.

    The whole project is deeply suspicious in this drive to integration, a loose federation is what we need, Brexit as an answer could be avoided but the pro EU lobby in the EU, this country and this party have failed to make that case. This party shall be in the same state unless it wakes up to the mood of the vast majority, not forty eight per cent, people who are moderate supporters of the EU but dislike the arrogance of the increasingly delusional Macron.

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '18 - 2:01pm

    Michael BG,

    “However, it could have included abolishing the Stability and Growth Pact…..”

    I had wondered why the EU was making such a fuss about Italy’s 2.4% planned deficit when the rules of the so-called Stability and Growth Pact allowed for a 3% deficit. It turns out that 2012 saw the birth of Son of SGP a.k.a.European Fiscal Compact. It isn’t an improvement!

    Many EU countries need an expansionary budget to be able to grow their GDP and escape the negative cycle of persistently high unemployment, especially for youth, and all the problems that accompany that situation – flat wages, increased poverty rates, and precarious jobs. This induces a tendency towards fascism in the working and middle classes so continues to endanger the European project.

    Any manifesto, from ALDE or anyone else, which ignores the reality of what’s happening in the EU is , frankly, just not worth anyone’s time in reading. Brexit isn’t the real problem for the EU. It is just a symptom of a wider malaise.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Fiscal_Compact

  • Steve Comer 13th Nov '18 - 2:42pm

    I don’t agree that we need a “loose federation” but there clearly is a case for not having one size fits all 27/28 which is what Emmanuel Macron and others have been saying for some time.

    As I see it there should be three levels of integration:
    1) Those countries in the Eurozone, Schengen, and common defence and security
    policy
    2) EU countries who are not in one or more of those, but are still full EU members
    3) Countries who are in the EEA/EFTA but not EU members

    It should be possible for countries to move from ‘ring’ 1 to 2 or vice versa, but they could only move at the start of a budget cycle.

    I also think the EU (and ALDE) hace to axxept that the boundaries of European nations have always be fluid, and it should be possible for a properly constituted and recognised region to be able to remain in the EU if they vote to secede from their parent nation state.

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