Lib Dem members say ‘No’ (just) to holding in/out EU referendum in next Parliament

At the start of the week, Lib Dem Voice invited the members of our private discussion forum (open to all Lib Dem members) inviting them to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions about the party and the current state of British politics. Many thanks to the 200 of you who completed it; we’ve been publishing the results on LDV over the last few days.

Back in December, it became clear that the party had yet to decide whether the Lib Dem general election manifesto would promise to hold an in/out referendum on the European Union – though that had been the party’s official position during the Lisbon Treaty debates.

So LDV asked: Do you think the Lib Dems should include in the party manifesto a commitment to hold an in/out referendum on the European Union in the next Parliament?

Here’s what you told us:

  • 41% – Yes
  • 54% – No
  • 5% – Don’t know

A slim-but-decisive majority in favour of dropping the party’s commitment to an in/out referendum – though it’s safe to say that if an EU-related referendum were to be held in the next five years, we’d revert to our view that it should be on the Big Question, rather than the tangential minutiae.

Here’s a sample of your comments:

  • The less attention we draw to Europe the better. Most people don’t care about it; let keep to taxes, education and crime
  • I agree with this commitment when we first made it, but it’s now not important.
  • We said we would do it. We should honour our commitments.
  • Yes, if only because it neutralises any anti-EU stuff on the doorstep.
  • It is highly likely such a referendum would be lost. The real issue is which kind of EU should we have.
  • We should support referenda on major issues. No one under 50 has ever had a chance to have a say on the EU. Given the overlap between the major parties on Europe, a real say is justified and needed.
  • It’s been policy for some years, so why would we want to drop it?
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    This entry was posted in Europe / International and LDV Members poll.
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    7 Comments

    • Keith McBurney 14th Feb '10 - 1:28pm

      Questions of Union
      An in/out referendum on the EU is a stark choice which excludes other practicable outcomes. Suggest the real issue is what relationships we would prefer to have with the EU and, whilst we are at it , within our own Union. Although the answers for either might differ, the questions which accommodate all preferences for both unions appear to be:
      In or Out?
      If “In”, incorporating, federal association or non-incorporating, confederal association?
      If “Out”, fully detached, or semi-detached (eg EFTA in the EU context)?

    • Andrew Suffield 14th Feb '10 - 5:55pm

      My own position (which I suspect is fairly common) is not predicated on the nature of the relationship with the EU, but rather on the nature of the EU. In a soundbite, it is:

      “In to a reformed, democratic EU with clear and strict limits on its power and finances that aren’t a disaster area; out to the current mess”.

      I don’t have an issue with being in the EU while progress is being made; the Lisbon treaty is a good start in some respects, but there’s still a lot more to be done. However, my requirement for this is an acceptance of the problems with the EU, and a commitment to pursuing solutions to those problems.

    • David Allen 14th Feb '10 - 8:07pm

      For some while, very many people both inside and outside our party have argued that the way out of “the current mess” must include “a reformed EU … with limits on its power”. However, recent events have shown that Europe needs much MORE centralised power, not less. This comes as a complete shock to me personally, and I don’t feel very comfortable about making a this posting. But we need to face the facts.

      Europe got ignored at Copenhagen. Obama and Wen Jiabao were just not interested in dealing with a disunited group with no single spokesperson able to make a deal.

      Europe has no idea how to deal with the PIIGS currency crisis. What happens if a George Soros makes a speculative attack to force a devaluation crisis or kick Greece out of the euro, while Europe’s leaders squabble about whether to bail Greece out or force Greece to make savage cuts?

      We’ve been saying for years that no, of course we don’t believe in a United States of Europe, that’s an unrealistic Utopian ideal. It has suddenly stopped looking unrealistic. It has started to look like the only long-term alternative to break-up.

    • It isn’t up to this country “what kind of EU we should have”, it’s up to them.

      I am quite heavily Eurosceptic because I simply cannot see a way of squaring the circle. Even Europhiles whinge about the CAP/CFP & similar, but never manage to explain a way around it.

      I do not see these “reforms” adding up to much so I would consider withdrawal.

      But of course I am non-partisan so my views will be taken accordingly.

    • I would have to agree with David Allen. On so many issues, we will see european, or British, (or English, or whatever unit you want to chose) influence decline – unless as a continent we can get our act together. Copenhagen was an embarrassment that really should be causing a lot more action than it is – Europe is already irrelevant.

    • Andrew Suffield 15th Feb '10 - 4:04pm

      To clarify, ‘strict limits on its power’ does not necessarily mean more or less power. The pre-Lisbon situation was that the EU could do anything it could scrape up a consensus on. Now it can do anything within a given list of policy areas, subject to the charter on fundamental rights (which it previously had the legal right to ignore). That’s a good start on this point.

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