Lib Dem members’ views on the European Union (more divided than you might expect)

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 550 party members responded, and we’ve been publishing the full results.

85% back EU membership… but 51% reject move to ever closer union

LDV asked: Which of the following options would be your ideal future for the UK and the European Union?

  • 48% – The UK should remain a full member of the EU and work towards ever closer union, economically and politically.
  • 37% – The UK should remain a full member of the EU but reject working towards ever closer union, economically and politically.
  • 12% – The UK should secure substantial renegotiation of its existing relationship with the EU but remain a full member.
  • 2% – The UK should leave the EU altogether and instead negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU.
  • 1% – Don’t know.

The Lib Dems are traditionally identified as the most pro-European of all the parties, so it’s interesting to see the different views among our sample of party members here. Although the single most popular answer (with 48%) is the most pro-integration response, not many fewer (37%) believe that the UK’s position within the EU should remain the status quo, with no further push towards ever closer union. In total, 14% believe the UK is already in too deep, though full withdrawal is advocated by just 2% of Lib Dem members.

There are two ways of looking at the figures. On the one hand, a massive 85% of party members back the UK’s membership of the European Union. On the other hand, however, a bare majority of the party membership, 51%, believes the UK should resist any moves towards closer ties.

Here is a selection of your views:

  • The UK should remain a full member of the EU but refuse closer union UNTIL such time as the EU has been restructured into a less bureaucratic and more Liberal form.
  • Alone, the UK represents only 1% of the world’s population, but, together, the EU is the world’s largest economy and can help create a multi-polar world where European states are not sidelined by the USA or China.
  • A network… multi-speed Europe would be better than trying to move all the chess pieces at the same time. The right to decide what sovereignty is pooled remains an important one and should sometimes be reversed. We do not for example still need a coal and steel community or agricultural policy.
  • The UK should join the Euro. Malcolm Bruce’s historic case for this remains valid. Investment in UK manufacturing will decline if costs are in £ and revenues in Euros and exchange rate fluctuations could wipe out any profit.
  • Closer union must come with increased accountability and reform.
  • We should work towards reform of CAP. We should push for more democracy in EU decision making. We should make every effort to avoid too much legislation coming from Brussels.
  • It seems that the UK is not really playing a proper role therefore we should step back and re-negotiate the pressing points, like money, Common Agricultural Policy.
    • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 15th September.
    • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
    • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
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    This entry was posted in Europe / International and LDV Members poll.
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    10 Comments

    • Don Lawrence 3rd Oct '11 - 9:51am

      Great, so now only 48% believe we should join the “let’s pay out even more of our money to allow Greek civil servants to retire at 50 and enjoy the Mediterranean sun” club. I gather the Germans are getting a bit tired of it so an extra contribution will be welcome! After all it’s cold in Northern Europe so we all need to work harder to keep warm.

    • With the Eurozone in its current state and the general air of scorn whenever the EU is mentioned in many circles, to be labelled “pro-European whatever happens” is not an intelligent posture.

      The EU is not obviously a very liberal body.

      Most of its aims are laudable, though “ever closer union” is a quicksand phrase. The EU’s achievements of common purpose cannot be denied, but are currently under threat. And it is hard to defend practices which have become unthinking habits.

      For such an enormous body, it is vital that the areas of sovereignty which are pooled are appropriate, and they must be given with the knowledge and general consent of the constituent nations.

      If you fear that you can’t keep people with you and therefore just stop trying, or actively hide the implications of what is proposed, that consent is unlikely to be given. And if you don’t hold a referendum because you know you’re going to lose it, or hold it again because the first answer was the wrong one, you’ve lost the argument.

      We shouldn’t need referendums for everything, because our representatives should be trusted to act in our interests. But they are not. The EU is just a very large elephant in a room full of such pachyderms.

      The UK was probably in a better position to join the Euro from day 1 than Italy, but I’m very glad we didn’t. Most of that sentiment has of course developed with hindsight, but it has been disturbing for years to see the French and Germans openly flouting the rules of the club.

      The EU is going to change in the next couple of years. The only questions are: in which directions and with what measure of control?

    • Bernard Salmon 3rd Oct '11 - 12:15pm

      Where do you get the 85% from? By my maths, it’s 97% backing continued EU membership, albeit with 12% of that figure wanting a substantial renegotiation of the existing relationship.

    • paul barker 3rd Oct '11 - 3:17pm

      As one of the 48% who want “ever closer union” I have no problem with a Multi-speed Europe. I would rather we were in The Inner Core but that is not what most British voters want right now. Our present position in the 2nd layer seems a reasonable compromise.

    • I used to support the EU until it lead to people being handed over to jails in eastern Europe without evidence just because the Poles or whoever asked for them.

      I’d now like to leave the EU.

      Nick Glegg refused to back a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that we really needed a ‘EU are we in our out referendum’. Well, now it looks like he’s got the chance to give us a referendum on membership of the EU!

      Awesome!

    • Old Codger Chris 4th Oct '11 - 9:54am

      I’m amazed that some members still think the UK should join the Euro. I’m no expert – so clearly I’m well qualified to be a senior banker or finance minister! – but I believe there’s general agreement that the EU must either move to greater economic integration or allow Greece to default.

      Greater economic integration will be politically impossible – and it’s not only we Brits who would oppose it. Surely businesses usually protect themselves against exchange rate fluctuations by Hedging?

    • john stevens 4th Oct '11 - 5:45pm

      I fear the Party has ceased to be an effective, trusted or credible force in the coming battle, including a referendum, on where Britain belongs in the world. This could be upon us quite soon, certainly by the next election. The euro crisis will most likely lead to a situation in which the options we face are not those you offered, but right in, or right out. This will break much of British politics, including, very likely, the Union, to say nothing of the economic upheaval. Everyone has been found wanting. But the continentals, in the core at least, remain masters of their fate. Our entire government economic policy and thus our future as a Party is now in their hands. Such impotence is invariably the reward of sitting on the fence.

    • I wonder what Lib Dem voters think?

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