For liberal, independent voices

This is a liberal site, a place for discussion amongst liberals, and those who are supporters or members of the Liberal Democrats. But it is an independent site, and welcomes those with different views , as long as there is respect.

On the most important decision and issue for many, currently, it is the moment for liberal and independent voices.

The decision and display of and by Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, to push for, as a declaration of intent for coalition, ” a united States of Europe ” has changed the nature of this debate for Liberals and any of an independent disposition. He goes so far as to , more than imply, but to encourage those states who do not agree to leave the EU. This attitude and all that goes with it, spells the destruction of the EU as it is, and changes the naysayers of Brexit, and those who voted Remain, myself included, to reconsider.

I am no Europhile. Nor am I a Eurosceptic. I am a Europragmatist. I have, as one of part Italian and Irish origin, a view,  in no way as sentimental, in favour of the EU project. It is  in my view, a project. It is not, nor should it be a state, super, or not. We cannot be supporters of individuals and nations, of localism in our Liberalism, and back the creation of a superstate, a continent as a country, a Leviathan.

We are not Lilliputians, if we think otherwise than that such a project for the view of Schulz, and many who agree with his stance, is and would be a disaster, but that to push for it with arrogance and disdain for other views and ideas, is worse than that. It is illiberal and undemocratic. Martin Schulz is showing us why there is a difference between common sense and common values, and a lack of both, writ large. You cannot have three hundred million people of one mind!

To advocate what he does and do so now,, proves that Brexit is inevitable. We as a party should now be speaking up  uniquely, for a Brexit that is flexible, and that is viable, that reaches out,  not looks inward, that respects people, not power, that is for everyone, not elites, that is liberal not laughable!

We have a divided country led by a divided government, with a divided opposition party.

The one area Labour are united is in fudging Brexit. This party has done otherwise. It is time to do so by again, not fudging Brexit, but advocating a liberal, democratic, Brexit. I yearn for more debate on this amongst Liberals of independent hue. I want an Exit from the rhetoric of an “exit from Brexit.”

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

45 Comments

  • Nom de Plume 9th Dec '17 - 5:51pm

    I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what Schulz says. There have always been federalists. The LibDem MEP, Andrew Duff, was one. They have their own organizations e.g. http://www.federalists.eu/ or http://www.spinelligroup.eu/ . Whether the EU goes down this route is an open question. Various nationalist and national movements are pulling in the opposite direction. I would much rather that the UK was there shaping the debate, although that does not look like it is going to happen. Perhaps it does not matter: the present UK government doesn’t seem to have much to contribute. No need to panic.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Dec '17 - 6:03pm

    All is not lost, Lorenzo, though it is a topic certainly well worth considering. Herr Schultz’s party did badly in the German elections, I understand, and at first were not prepared to join Frau Merkel’s new attempt to form another coalition. His views, though apparently the same as Herr Juncker’s, may not be those of a majority of Germans. Nor may it be the majority view of the 27 states – and in fact it seems unlikely that all will be prepared to give up national sovereignty in that way. To be in the Eurozone, as not all are, is a different matter, and there are some strong divisions among the states which would seem to rule out ‘a united states of Europe’, whatever that may mean. Even a European army, if co-ordinated with NATO defence, would surely not necessarily be a disaster?

    In any case, my friend, since ‘ever closer union’ has been an ideal for the EU for many years, I cannot see why it is arrogant and disdainful, or illiberal and undemocratic, for Herr Schultz to declare for it. It is surely possible that the proposal of Brexit has increased the sense of insecurity in the EU, and therefore a greater desire for the states to stay close together. My own reaction is, we have then even more reason to stay in if we can, and later probably advocate a looser arrangement of the states, perhaps being in an outer tier as I think Nick Clegg has suggested.

    Finally, can you really see Eire consenting to be in a united states of Europe?

  • Richard Underhill 9th Dec '17 - 6:10pm

    Germany has a fair electoral system, so the SPD has been able to go into ‘Grand Coalitions’ with the CDU-CSU. They lost support by coalescing with their centre-right opponents. To their left is Die Linke which includes the rump of the former communists from East Germany and Die Grune, like our greens but stronger, partially because of the electoral system. All parties have to cope with German history, so in Germany ‘More Europe’ means constitutional politics and more democracy (which Margaret Thatcher failed to understand when former Chancellor Helmut Kohl tried to explain it to her). Angela Merkel is an ‘Ossie’ and can speak to Putin in Russian. The countries in the euro remain committed to ‘an ever closer union’ despite occasional outbursts from British MEP Nigel Farage.
    The British interest now would be to be part of an outer circle of democracies not in the euro, which is an option not available to voters in June 2016. This is consistent with UK history, such as founding EFTA during the premiership of Harold MacMillan.

  • Christopher Haigh 9th Dec '17 - 6:21pm

    Lorenzo my friend do not despair ! The eurozone countries definitely require closer political union. As Richard comments the Bruegel Group ‘Continental Partnership’ structure proposed by the Bruegel Group and recommended on here by Bill le Breton ,and that Mrs May seems to be working towards could work out best for everyone in the end.

  • Andrew Smith 9th Dec '17 - 7:09pm

    Brexit predicated by the EU rearranging itself into a superstate could be conducted in the national interest we would be able to leverage a negotiating position strengthened by other nations leaving under the same terms. Brexit predicated on a poll designed to settle an argument in the governing party of the UK outside the normal EU treaty change cycle is a Brexit that will be dictated by the EU, the terms set out in in the agreement with the EU will make the UK in terms of regulation a client state of the EU there will be nothing to debate.

  • Sean Hyland 9th Dec '17 - 9:21pm

    The German constitutional court would have a large say in preventing Martin Schultz achieving his dream. I agree there are a core within the EU machinery who would favour a US of E but as others have said it is difficult to see a number of countries making this ultimate step. A large degree of closer political union will have to occur, however, within the Eurozone countries if the Euro is to survive.

  • Red Liberal 9th Dec '17 - 11:23pm

    Schulz is known to support a federal Europe (I saw him speak in the European Parliament back in 2009 and can attest that). His declaration was speaking to SPD members and centre-leftish voters in Germany generally rather than any solid declaration of policy. Anyway, there’s realistically very little chance that he will be SPD chancellor candidate in 2021. I’m actually surprised that he’s still able to continue as SPD de facto leader with his plummeting popularity.

    And the idea that LibDems should be backing Brexit? I’d cut up my membership card immediatley if that ever happens. I would genuinely refuse to ever vote in this country again if all there is to offer is pro-Brexit parties. Never Brexit.

  • The only reference I could find to Martin Schulz calling for a Federal EU by 2025 and those countries refusing to sign up being expelled was the Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/07/german-spd-leader-martinschulz-seeks-united-states-europe-2025/. Has anyone listened to Martin Schulz’s speech to check if he really said what the Telegraph stated he said?

    The only governments which should logically agree would be five of the original six (Italy not included) and maybe Austria. However, I don’t understand how any German politician can advocate a Federal EU when the German population don’t believe in giving financial assistance to member countries. Every country in the EU would need to agree a new Federal constitution for the EU and this is not going to happen by 2025.

  • Richard O'Neill 10th Dec '17 - 1:04am

    This does flag up a serious issue. By arguing for continued membership of the EU what are we letting ourselves in for? Will the centralising federalist movement really want a reluctant Britain, kicking and screaming, inside the tent.

    And on what terms will Britain be a member of the project? Cameron’s renogation, the pre-Cameron status quo or a more intense membership including the Euro and Schengen. If we suddenly withdraw Article 50 what will be offered? I really wish there had been a more generous offer originally and then there probably wouldn’t have been a Brexit vote.

  • I want a new constitutional treaty to establish the United States of Europe. A Europe that is no threat to its member states, but a beneficial addition.— Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) December 7, 2017

    A convention shall draft this treaty in close cooperation with the civil society and the people. Its results will then be submitted to all member states. Any state that won’t ratify this treaty will automatically leave the EU.— Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) December 7, 2017

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Dec '17 - 1:49am

    Thanks for your views.

    All I seek to do is encourage independent minds within our Liberal Democratic party and argue that it is healthy, and is refreshing.

    There are no no go areas for an independent view, especially one that is mainstream and moderate, though to express that as all about are saying something else, can be radical.

    I am not in favour , nor herein do I call for support or backing for Brexit, especially not , any old Brexit, no matter what.

    I am asking and suggesting , we accept, as with Sir Vince an his twenty percent possibility it can be avoided or pulled back, it is likely to happen. First, the stage one , concluded, then, stage two, all to be seen.

    It is at this point we could, on trade and those areas we have credibility, make an impact.

    Schulz is a reason too. My view of his stance, so rightly a quote shared, by Jeff , is it is illiberal and undemocratic, because Liberal Democracy , should not be all, or nothing. We back him or we leave, is his stance.

    Mine is not we disagree with him so we leave. It is that with friends like that who needs enemies.

    We can and should advocate for a referendum on a deal, because a deal might be dreadful.

    But so too is an imposed or domineering push for a union nobody has ever voted for. A European Superstate.

  • Andrew Horsfield 10th Dec '17 - 8:06am

    There is a question that keeps presenting itself to me as I read articles on this site about the EU and Brexit: what do we actually want? The arguments against Brexit are generally cast in terms of fear of negative outcomes: this only tells me what we do not want. What is the positive vision? If we can articulate a positive position, is it something that can only be achieved under present arrangements in the EU? Or does it require reform of the EU? Or can it in fact be better achieved by creating a new European structure (c.f. EFTA, or the proposed outer ring)? My guess is there will be as many answers as there are contributors to this site, but it would be interesting to hear them.

  • Beyond its results, the EU is a commendable procedural example in today’s world. Independent countries collaborate based on consensus. This includes introducing radical ideas into the discourse, such as a common currency, joint armed forces, even an evolvement towards the US of E. The consensus-principle makes such proposals possible and triggers a profound discussion, because no country can be forced. It can never be illiberal to introduce radical ideas into a non-hierarchical discourse. Suppressing or running away from it undoubtedly is.

    This civilized approach to societal development is healthy, and the resulting low speed and administrative bodies are a price worth paying. Its contrast to Trump’s bullying, Putin’s nationalistic aggression, China’s rule-breaking is a remainder to the world that there is a peaceful and civilized way beyond the survival of the fittest.

    Of course Hungary, Poland, Greece, or the UK drive me mad: they are torn between the consensual and the individualistic model, and it is tempting to wish for a more homogenuous EU without them. But that would kill the competition between conflict-resolution-mechanisms, and with it one central purpose of the EU: proving the superiority of collaboration towards win-win outcomes.

    In that spirit, the response to Juncker, Schulz, Macron should not be condemnation or running away, but to engage in the discourse. The UK could contribute so much to it.

    In a world of free competition with the US, China, and the EU, the UK would have very little to contribute. A completed Brexit would provide the ultimate proof to the world (at the expense of millions of Britons) that alignment, not individualism is the only substitute for strength.

    The current UK-internal debate is a national copy of this competition of systems: Brexiters use anything but sound arguments, open discourse, or democratic mechanisms to advance their cause: their methods (including funding) are replicating the methods of Trump, Putin, and Xi Jinping.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Dec '17 - 10:51am

    Lorenzo, thank you for writing this article, and for opening a discussion on these issues. As a party we must not be afraid to have this discussion – indeed, this discussion is inevitable, sooner or later.
    There is a well known quotation, which is often attributed to John Maynard Keynes – although there seems to be some doubt about whether or not he ever actually said it. According to one version, he said “When the facts change, I change my views. What do you do?”. Or in another version “When events change, my views change. What do you do?”
    There are some liberal values that will never change, however much events may change. Freedom, justice, equality – these are fundamental, essential, unchanging moral values, which are not dependent on any specific facts or events.
    But there are some specific Lib Dem policies that may need to be reconsidered as facts and events change.
    The party cannot continue unquestioningly to support an institution, like to EU, if the nature and direction of that institution has changed fundamentally from what it was at the time the party first supported it. There must, at least, be a discussion about whether or not its new direction is one that we can support.
    The EU of today is certainly not the same institution as the Common Market that the British people, in 1975, voted overwhelmingly to remain part of. That is why it was right that there was another referendum, in 2016, on whether the British people wanted to remain in the institution that the EU had become.
    And perhaps the EU of today is no longer quite the same institution that 48 percent of people in June 2016 did still want to be part of, and which the Liberal Democrat party committed itself to remaining part of.
    I am sure that the majority of the 48 percent did not want a United States of Europe, or an EU army. If these things had been known to be real possibilities, there would almost certainly have been an overwhelming, rather than a narrow, vote for Leave. Most of the 48 percent just wanted to keep the status quo. But it is becoming obvious that, if we did Remain, what we would have in a few years time, would not be the status quo of today.
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Lib Dem MP support the idea of a United States of Europe, or an EU army, and few party members want this. So why is the party committed to remaining in an institution that clearly seems to be moving in that direction?

  • Christopher Clayton 10th Dec '17 - 10:58am

    Richard Underhill’s comment underscores the importance of reading and understanding political statements in their own context. Schulz’ comments are not to be seen as undemocratic ; he has not suggested abstracting all power or indeed supremacy from all more local authorities, be they national, regional or yet more local. Central government in Germany has to contend with powerful regional (Land) institutions and will be rapidly seen off by a powerful constitutional court if it oversteps its proper authority.
    Brexiteers make great play of returning power to the nation state. Where, in the regional context in Britain, does that leave Brexit-supporting areas like the north east, and the South West ? It leaves them under the thumb of an artificial majority in Westminster created by an unfair electoral system with more centralised power than most other European national models. Liberals and democrats should be working all out to remain within the constantly evolving – and potentially devolving!-European Union, for cooperation and uniformity where it is in everyone’s interest (trade regulations, security matters, climate issues and environmental protection ) and REGIONAL autonomy -yes, autonomy, on a genuinely federal model-where desirable (education, transport, housing) modelled on current devolved administrations such as those in Scotland, Bavaria, the Alto Adige.

  • Nom de Plume 10th Dec '17 - 11:26am

    @Andrew Horsfield

    If one’s central contention is that Britain’s interests are best served by being in the EU and th UK is in the process of leaving, any discussion about what type of relationship one would want is academic, in the worst sense of the word. It is an important discussion which should have happened, and never did in the UK. It has been almost completely absent. In my opinion, because certain sections of the society are simply anti-EU. In large part I blame certain sections of the press and Westminster. Westminster should have made clear the nature of the UK’s relationship to the EU; what they liked about it and what they would want to change. It is a large country. Instead they held a referendum which has not solved the problems and quite possibly created a lot more. The relationship of the UK to the EU is now less clear than ever before. In my opinion the present situation has come about from a lack of political leadership.

    As an organiszation, the EU has evolved over time, with the treaties which underpin it, a compromise between the interests of the members. It will evolve further. I could give a personal list of things I dislike or like, find stupid or would want to change. It would reflect my limited knowldege and personal interests (I have mentioned some of them on this site before). The range of EU activities is large. A proper, public debate would involve all the interested parties of which there are very many. I remember following the work of the LibDem MEPs, when there were more of them. I was impressed. It was hardly mentioned in the UK and is now somewhat irrelevant. Unfortunately, this is all far removed from the experiences or interests of most people. A political failure (or perhaps intentional?). At least with Brexit, there will be a debate and an examination of the UK’s relationship with the EU. A brutal approach.

  • Steve Trevethan 10th Dec '17 - 11:39am

    Can a discussion about the possible futures of nations and federations of nations etc. be efficient without reference to the US Empire?

  • Richard Underhill 10th Dec '17 - 12:24pm

    Steve Trevethan 10th Dec ’17 – 11:39am: Probably not. The European Union does not wish to be identical to the USA. The geography is different, the history is different. The USA has not, yet, reached a situation where all of its citizens can vote for their President on the basis of equality. The electoral boundaries of the House of Representatives have been arranged to provided elected members with continuity of careers. First past the post is a disproportionate system.

  • paul barker 10th Dec '17 - 1:16pm

    I would like to make 2 points here:
    firstly, the World in Mid-Century is likely to be dominated by 4 Powers : India, China, The USA & The EU. 3 of the 4 are broadly Democratic but Indias politics are currently dominated by Nationalist & Sectarian trends; we all hope that present events in The USA are an aberration but we cant depend on that. The EU are likely to be the standard-bearers for Liberalism, mutual co-operation & the Rule of Law, the stronger & more united we/they are, the better for The World.
    Secondly, The EU is restricted to spending 1% of European GDP, lets say 2.5% of European Goverment spending. Can you imagine Washington getting by on that ? The EU can never be anything but a very loose Confederation in practise, whatever we call it. Money means Power, if Westminster was resticted to spending only 2.5% of UK Revenue our country would look very different.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Dec '17 - 1:18pm

    Very many god comments.

    I want us to debate this in a way that various and alternative views are heard and the issues given nuance as well as conviction.

    Christopher Haigh and Katharine , I appreciate the considered approach.

    Red Lberal

    It is not to be promoting or keen on Brexit, to understand it is happening. We can take the values forward in and with the new reality. You are correct to stick to principles, yet policies can adapt to the circumstances.

    Martin

    I appreciate your commentary as you are a strong advocate for the EU. I feel that a United States of Europe is not supported by the vast majority of this continent, in the way you rightly explain federalists advocate. Thus , and I am too, those against any closer and centralised tiers or powers, realise we need to strengthen the Eu by making it less centralised, less bureaucratic, less pooled in decisions, more local, more flexible, more varied. I favour such an EU, but it is not happening nor shall it ever if two or three dominant countries push an agenda that is not in the tradition of so many , from Britain, through Denmark, to Poland via Holland.

    Catherine

    Here’s one for us , from a liberal Democrat, I am a Marxist, a supporter of Groucho !

    He said, in a joke, as a character ,

    ” These are my principles, if you don’t like them, I have more !” The real man was a man of principle. This fact and fictitious character , who said that in a movie, illustrate that point you make, that some things change, others do not.

    I would like the Liberals and open minded to support and promote a new and exciting idea of a very different and light touch EU , all the stronger for the nature of it’s respect for difference.

    Schulz is a social democrat or democratic socialist. The up side of this is a feeling for the needs of the underdog.
    The down side is it often in effect means one size fits all.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 10th Dec '17 - 2:52pm

    It’s not that a United States of Europe would necessarily be wrong in itself. The point is that it could only be acceptable, if a majority of people in every one of the countries involved actually wanted it. But the reality is that not only do the vast majority of people in Britain not want this, but almost certainly a majority of people in most, and quite possibly all, EU countries, do not want it either. Before any decision about greater union, there should be referendums in every EU country. But as far as I know, Shultz has not suggested this.
    Even if a United states of Europe did work reasonably well for a while, it seems likely that a few years down the line it would all break up acrimoniously, as member nations decided they wanted independence again.

  • Red Liberal 10th Dec '17 - 3:34pm

    @Richard O’Neill “centralising” and “federalist” are polar opposites.

  • Macron has already called for closer integration, not just Schulz. The issue that is pivotal in all of this is the stability of the Eurozone. Germany’s exports benefit from the relatively weak Euro while countries such as Greece are subjected to endless poverty because the Euro is overvalued for uncompetitive economies.

    Germany is under pressure to create a more even distribution of wealth but the electorate would be outraged to see more of their taxes be poured into corrupt and lazy countries, as they see it. Many believe that the solution is to have a finance minister, a treasury, central control of budgets and central taxation. This would provide the necessary control of the likes of Greece. Germans would still be the main contributors but they would also have more control.

    Brexit may accelerate this step towards federalisation because more countries will become liable to pay the EU bills. If central control leads to Germany distributing more of her wealth, this might persuade reluctant Eastern countries to support federalisation.

    This would bring the shared currency into line with the UK where the Westminster government spreads wealth from London and the South East to the poorer regions and the US where the Federal Treasury spreads wealth to the poorer states.

    The United States of Europe has always been the ultimate aim of the project. The EU usually uses some crisis or other and financial leverage to force cooperation by member states. Lorenzo is right to raise this subject.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Dec '17 - 8:08pm

    Thank you to colleagues again for good ideas .

    Peter

    Appreciate your piece, all that is needed is awareness of the different priorities and personalities. Macron, has canny ways of plopping into other issues, those he also likes to mention, he is a good politician, not sure he is a visionary leader, I like him, but we shall see, I prefer pragmatism to anything from the France and Germany alliance of mutual interest.

    Martin

    If you were at the helm of pr for that union, we those who support remaining in it, might have won !

    I do not share your level of support, but admire the way you convey it.

    If your aims were those of some other leaders I would not be writing this article.

    What gets me angry is the like it or ….off attitude oblivious to different countries needs. The quote from jeff says much , from the spd leader.

  • @ Jeff

    You have posted Martin Schulz’s tweets. I wonder whether these desires he tweeted are the basis of a false story that these desires are part of his proposed deal for a German coalition government.

    I don’t understand how any politician can suggest member states agree to their proposal or be expelled from the EU. That is not how the EU works.

    The EU needs to reform. The migration of people across the EU for economic reasons is a bad thing. Just as it is a bad thing for the UK population to migrate to South East England for economic reasons. Regional development in the EU has not been sufficient. The EU has to have economic policies which target economic assistance including economic stimuli to the regions with the weakest economies and away from the strongest. To have both monetary and fiscal policies to benefit the weakest economies, even if there are costs for the strongest. To achieve this the stability pack needs to be abolished. The Eurozone has to be run for the benefit of the weakest countries such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

    It is only once the EU has a more balanced economic spread by region that its citizens would accept more Federalism because they can have faith that the Federal government will work for everyone, especially the poorest regions.

    Once we have left the EU, we should only re-join once it has sorted this out so the Eurozone works for the poorest regions. We should not as a party advocate re-joining the EU if we have to join the Euro unless it has been reformed.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 11th Dec '17 - 8:11am

    Martin, you say “I still do not understand why an EU army is such a bogeyman”. There are actually several reasons. Centralised command of armed forces, implies a common foreign policy. It also suggests that, at some point in the future, the EU might go to war against some non EU nation or nations. At the moment, the idea may be that an “EU army” would only be for defense, but we would have no guarantee of this. If Britain was still a member, we could find ourselves forced into taking part in a future war that we did not want.
    It is often claimed that the EU promotes peace. But it is not enough that EU countries are not at war with each other. If the EU is all about peace, it should also be promoting peace by building friendly, harmonious relationships with non EU countries, and the idea of *any* war should be out of the question. An organisation that is all about peace does not build an army to threaten other nations with.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland,

    your continued opposition to the mere thought of a European army confuses me.

    “If the EU is all about peace, it should also be promoting peace by building friendly, harmonious relationships with non EU countries, and the idea of *any* war should be out of the question”. That is a respectable viewpoint, but its logical conclusion would be to have no armed forces at all, not diluting their effectiveness.

    If, on the other hand, you insist on an autonomous UK foreign- and defence-policy, you must have conflict scenarios in mind which the UK could win without European support. I don’t see any.

    Or you must see military EU-initiatives which are approved by 27 nations, but not NATO (which I am sure you would strangely advocate to participate in), and not the UK. Again, a scenario outside any realistic imagination.

    So what is it? Don’t forget that effective UK defence is increasingly becoming a fiction, e.g. aircraft carriers without aircraft and the requisite support- and defence-fleet or Pensions counting towards the 2% of GDP-goal.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Dec '17 - 1:51pm

    We already have the kernel of a European Army, it’s called NATO. The idea behind a European Army is clearly a political one. If you attack one of us you attack us all (NATO current policy I think).The other driver would surely be of interest to the budget cutting fanatics. An EU army would cost a lot less than 27/8 different ones, significantly I should imagine. It could also be far better equipped if it had one command structure.
    I’m a pacifist, so I don’t warm to the ideas of the military whether in one union or 27/8 different countries.
    As to political decisions about its activities. In peacetime the countries of the EU would set common goals for the EU army and, God forbid, if a war did come about, then the EU, like each individual country now, would have a war ‘cabinet’ to over see strategic and battlefield decisions.
    The EU is a force for peace, so really the idea of attack rather than defence is inconceivable.
    However, better to have a strong united system of negotiation to make sure war never comes about would be far more to my taste.

  • I agree with Catherine. The Commission wants an army because it regards it as a badge of nationhood alongside foreign policy, a national anthem and a common currency. It is a bad idea for several reasons.

    The EU does not need an army. Many European countries already belong to NATO although it is true that most do not pay their fair share towards defence. NATO has the organisation, capability, intelligence and above all, the experience built up over decades. An EU army would involve duplication, complication and an unnecessary waste of resources. Its lack of experience could be dangerous.

    I also have a low opinion of EU foreign policy, which up to now has involved enticing former Soviet Union countries into the EU, seemingly oblivious to the increasing threat from the East. Putin, who is paranoid at the best of times, does not like to see his former buffer states turn into a major foreign power together with a military and the potential to station troops and missiles along his border. Many of the EU member states have not had democracy for long, never mind experience of foreign policy. Germany, the de facto leader, also has no modern experience in these matters for understandable reasons.

  • Arnold Kiel 11th Dec '17 - 3:52pm

    Article 42 (7) of the Lisbon treaty:
    If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power…

    Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty:
    The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

    In essence, NATO-support is optional in terms of means and degree, EU-support compulsory and requires full military engagement. Now add Trump and a Russian aggression to the picture…

  • I know which defence organisation I would prefer to act on my behalf.

  • Nom de Plume 11th Dec '17 - 5:40pm

    It does seem to me that Peter is trolling a bit. Nevertheless, it does illustrate some of the problems with UK perception of EU activities. Somewhere in the UK media the term “EU army” is used. Some then assume that something like a national army is being created. This is not what is being proposed. A few seconds of internet research and what you get is PESCO: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/31511/171113-pesco-notification.pdf

    It repeatedly states that it will be consistent with NATO commitments. As such it can be viewed as a subgroup of NATO. It may even, eventually have its own badge. But then, so does NATO.

    There is no suggestion of undermining national sovereignty; not any more than NATO does. From Annex III:
    “1.
    Participating Member States remain at the center of the decision making process while
    coordinating with the High Representative”

    Read it yourself, be sceptical of the UK press.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 11th Dec '17 - 6:06pm

    During the referendum campaign, when the question of an “EU army” was raised, people on the Remain side indignantly denied that this was a possibility, and claimed that it was a scaremongering myth put about by the Leave campaign. But now it does seem clear that it is a very real possibility

  • Catherine is correct the UK public are against an EU army as am I. In the recent past the UK has been involved in military operations in which some of the EU have not been involved in. Therefore we need to keep an independent UK army. This is the answer to Arnold Kiel.

    However, Non de Plume states there is no proposal for an EU army with one organisation and regiments comprising of soldiers from more than one EU country. There is just a command and control structure like NATO’s but applying only to EU member countries. This is therefore no EU army. It is an alliance structure which would assist if the EU went to war without the rest of NATO. If it had been in place in 1982 then every country of the EU at the time would have had to help us retake the Falklands Islands.

  • Peter Martin 12th Dec '17 - 1:25pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    If you are indeed “a Europragmatist” then you might want to consider the possibility that Martin Schulz is correct. Having made the decision to have a common currency the EU has to move to having a Federal System of Government. Nearly all economists, from both the right and left of the political spectrum, such as Krugman, Stiglitz, and Friedman, have sounded warnings about the impossibility of the euro functioning correctly with a government to be in charge of it. That government has to be the Federal EU govt.

    Here is Prof Wynne Godley explaining it all as long ago as 1992:

    “If there were an economic and monetary union, in which the power to act independently had actually been abolished, ‘co-ordinated’ reflation of the kind which is so urgently needed now could only be undertaken by a federal European government. Without such an institution, EMU would prevent effective action by individual countries and put nothing in its place.”

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v14/n19/wynne-godley/maastricht-and-all-that

    This is Milton Friedman on the subject:

    The drive for the Euro has been motivated by politics not economics. The aim has been to link Germany and France so closely as to make a future European war impossible, and to set the stage for a federal United States of Europe. I believe that adoption of the Euro would have the opposite effect. It would exacerbate political tensions by converting divergent shocks that could have been readily accommodated by exchange rate changes into divisive political issues. Political unity can pave the way for monetary unity. Monetary unity imposed under unfavorable conditions will prove a barrier to the achievement of political unit

    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-euro–monetary-unity-to-political-disunity

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Dec '17 - 2:33pm

    Peter

    A very good idea. To consider that which I do not like is Liberal. I have , and I still and as ever , don’t like it !!

  • Peter Martin 12th Dec '17 - 3:13pm

    @Lorenzo,

    I’m not sure I like it either!

    I might just add I think Martin Schulz is also correct to say that “the continent cannot afford four more years of German European policy a la Schäuble” when he referred to the austerity measures of the country’s conservative former finance minister. If the EU could ease those austerity measures then there would be much more time for a smooth transition to the Federal structure. This could give everyone more of a chance to learn to like it.

    We should also consider the possibility that Schulz is right in thinking that the EU has to become a Federal entity to properly function but that it’s never going to happen because most people, and not just in the UK, are like us and don’t much like the idea!

  • Nom de Plume 12th Dec '17 - 7:05pm

    @Peter Martin

    I tend to agree with Milton Friedman. It will be interesting to see how they try to solve this one, maybe they can find a novel solution. It is a well known problem.

  • “If you don’t want to call it a European army, don’t call it a European army. You can call it Margaret. You can call it Mary-Ann.”

    That was Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission talking about the planned EU rapid reaction force back in 2000.

    It is not a new EU ambition.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Dec '17 - 3:32pm

    This whole discussion was and is one to continue with, Brexit needs , whatever the outcome, liberal, independent voices, like Matt who is a Brexiteer, I who voted Remain, welcome more views.

  • Centralised power is the wrong way to go
    People thrive most in societies in which power is distributed as thinly and widely as possible. In such environments they are happier, healthier, wealthier, freer, and they achieve more.
    The EU, by design, centralises power in Brussels.
    We are moving into an age of decentralisation and localisation. The EU is the wrong model for the times.
    The economic disaster that is southern Europe
    We now have youth unemployment of 43.3% In Greece , 38.7% in Spain and 35.1% in Italy. These countries are unable to do the things they need to do to kickstart their economies because decisions are being taken on their behalf; not locally, but in Brussels.
    I will not support an organisation that has inflicted such misery on its people. Reform of a bureaucratic organisation like that from within is an impossible undertaking.
    Further integration with the EU = economic decline for the UK.
    When Britain joined the Common Market in 1973, the EU (as it is now) produced 38% of the world’s goods and services – 38% of global GDP.
    In 1993, when the EU formally began, it produced just under 25%. Today the EU produces just 17%.
    What is the EU’s answer to that? Ever closer union between its members and protectionist policies that are not in our best interests but certainly suit Germany.

    There is no point in having a common market if the economies of the countries you’re in that market with are dying.

    Finally, what does confuse me though, It seems to me that a majority of Liberal Democrats are for more Europe, they would be quite relaxed to take us into Schengan, to see an EU army and even adopt the Euro, indeed it was even Liberal Democrat policy to hold a referendum on us adopting the Euro as the party believed in it so much. Since this is the parties’ ambition anyway, why not let Brexit go ahead and if it ends up the absolute disaster that some of you hope it will be, we would rejoin the EU and you will get all the things that you hope for anyway. Could it be that really, the issue is the hardcore remainers are more scared of Brexit being a total success?

  • Democratic accountability matters most
    The EU is not a democratically accountable body. I didn’t vote for the administrators and nor did you. I don’t know who most of them are. If we want to vote them out, what do we do? We can’t do anything.
    And if you want some idea as to the esteem in which they hold democratic process, how about this from the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker: “prime ministers must stop listening so much to their voters and instead act as ‘full time Europeans’.” Or how about another one of his remarks: “when it gets serious, you have to lie”.
    What exactly do you think he meant by that? That our prime ministers are there first and foremost to act in the interests of Europe. That’s not the kind of democracy that I want to live in. If a Minister in our Government came out with a statement like that I am sure it would be a sackable offence, and yet, the president of the European Commission can come out with such an outrageous statement like that and still remain in post.

    More integrated EU, NO Thank you

    What Confuses me even more is
    Liberal Democrats
    Believe in Referendums for AV and for joining Euro and for more EU like when more powers are transferred to the EU. But they against a referendum on membership of the EU
    On domestic government believe in more decentralisation, however, on the EU are happy for more EU and a United States of Europe, even if Britain sits on the fringes in an outer tier, as if that really exists…
    On domestic Government, calls for more accountability for example on the right of recall of parliamentarians whilst on the EU seem quite content with the lack of accountability of the EU Commission.
    I thought I was a conundrum of contradictions, but keeping up with the Liberal Democrat Party position is impossible

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.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

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 ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarVenetia Caine 21st Oct - 4:56am
    Three of us from Somerset, LibDems all, travelled independently, and I know there were more with other groups. So many there, we couldn't get nearer...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 21st Oct - 12:03am
    @Rhiannon - it was clear that you were born to lead chants, as well as organise Exit from Brexit campaigns:-).
  • User AvatarJames Marrs 20th Oct - 11:36pm
    Well im all for a peoples vote yet please dont forget the most effected like myself living in the EU many were DENIED a vote...
  • User AvatarJill Caudle 20th Oct - 11:31pm
    There were lots of Lib Dems elsewhere in the march too e.g. at least three members in our group from Salisbury for Europe (which covered...
  • User AvatarLiberal Neil 20th Oct - 11:21pm
    It was a great day and, as you say, lovely to keep bumping into Lib Dems from all across the country. Whether we win or...
  • User AvatarGlenn 20th Oct - 10:50pm
    Alex There is nothing technical about it. Whether or not other leaders would have done the same doesn't alter the reality that Mr Clegg was...