International Office to host busiest conference programme yet in Bournemouth

International Office_with text

With European and International affairs dominating the political agenda in the UK, this year’s Autumn Conference is set to be one of the most ‘internationalist’ of recent times. With this global agenda as a backdrop, the International Office is hosting its most extensive conference programme yet!

With the EU In/Out referendum expected within the next two years, and neither of the two major parties willing or able to take ownership of the ‘Yes’ campaign, there is a unique opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to take charge and lead the fight for our continued membership of the EU.

In this spirit, the International Office is hosting a ‘Europe Evening’ from 21:00-23:00 on Sunday 21 September, offering Liberal Democrat members the opportunity to hear from the leading voices in the Party on Europe and to meet and discuss how they can become involved in the referendum campaign in the coming months.

The ‘Europe Evening’ will open with a debate entitled ‘Battle for a Better Europe’, with speakers including Sir Graham Watson, President of the ALDE Party, Catherine Bearder MEP, Andrew Duff, former MEP, and Lucy Thomas, Campaigns Director for Business for a New Europe (BNE). The debate will cover the vital reforms needed in Brussels and Strasbourg to improve the EU and reconnect it with European voters, the need to understand and engage with British Eurosceptics in order to win a ‘Yes vote’ and how we can communicate the EU’s many achievements and contributions to the British voter. We envisage a lively debate and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions from the floor.

This debate will be followed by a networking reception with the opportunity to meet and speak with the Party’s key European spokespeople and those who will be at the heart of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign to keep the UK in Europe.

The International Office is also hosting a fringe debate entitled ‘Rise Like a Phoenix: International Perspectives on Rebuilding a Liberal Party’, with opening remarks by new Party Leader Tim Farron and speakers from our sister liberal parties, including Wolfgang Gerhardt, the former President of FDP (Germany), Julie Cantalou, European Affairs Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Annelou Van Egmond, Board member Communication & Campaigns at D66 (Netherlands) and more to share their experiences rebuilding after a challenging election result.

In addition to our public events, the International Office is hosting an exclusive programme of private briefings for the diplomatic community, as well as a ‘Youth Leadership Programme’ for eight young candidates and activists from liberal parties around the world.

In addition to the International Office’s programme of events, Catherine Bearder MEP is hosting a referendum campaign rally with the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG), Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and Business for a New Europe (BNE) at 13:00 on Monday 21 September, while the Liberal International British Group (LIBG) and Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) are hosting a debate on Dealing with a Resurgent Russia on Tuesday evening, with speakers including Sir Nick Harvey, Jacqueline Minor from the European Commission, the Polish Ambassador and many more.

With a significant percentage of our 20,000 new members since polling day citing international issues, and the EU referendum in particular, as a reason for joining the Liberal Democrats, it is fitting that our international programme is more extensive than ever, and slots in with an array of other fringe events hosted by the international bodies in the party which cover a host of important European and international policy areas and campaigns!

Note: Our ‘Europe Evening’ takes place at 21:00-23:00, Sunday 20 September, in the Hardy Room, Hermitage Hotel, while our fringe ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ will take place at 19.45-21.00 on Monday, in the Granville Suite, Trouville Hotel. For more information on the International Office’s conference programme, please contact [email protected] .

* Harriet Shone is Head of the Liberal Democrats’ International Office.

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  • Although the International Office may be mounting a good fringe programme and other organisations like Lib Dem Friends of Palestine will be holding meetings on international affairs, the preliminary agenda for the conference shows debate on only two questions: refugees and Trident. While these are very important it seems a pity that the FCC has declined a motion that takes a broad approach to a new ethical foreign policy. Furthermore the Commons spokesperson on international affairs (Tom Brake) is not one of those slated to make a speech.
    As Ross Fifield said in his piece about engagement yesterday
    “We don’t pick our fights wisely. We argue on the specific rather than the substantive. Sure, we may have demonstrated success by opposing Labour’s war in Iraq, but we haven’t established how a Liberal Democrat-controlled Government will view and respond to the world.”

    John Kelly is Vice Chair of Lib Dem Friends of Palestine

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '15 - 7:55pm

    Battle for a Better Europe recalls WW2.
    Better Europe is what the EEC, the EC and th EU have achieved, peacefully, despite history.

  • @John Kelly: There is also a motion on the EU, which is understandably dominating the FP agenda at the moment due to the upcoming referendum campaign. Certainly agree that more foreign policy debate would be welcome though!

    @Richard Underhill: I completely agree – selling the success of the European project in keeping peace after a period of unprecedented conflict is the best answer to Eurosceptism in my opinion. The level of peaceful economic and political cooperation between erstwhile enemies in Europe is an amazing achievement. Our event chooses to focus on both how to engage with Eurosceptics who might not have understood this point and to look to the future and how we can support positive change in the EU which will improve its chances at longevity and also make it the best it can be for its member states and their citizens. There is always room for ‘better’!

  • Steve Bradley 27th Aug '15 - 10:28am

    Can you clarify if someone is coming from ‘our sister party in Ireland’ – and if so, which party and speaker. Thanks

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