LibDem EU Liaison Councillor Scheme

At the Spring Conference in York, one of the Saturday lunchtime fringe debates, hosted by LibDem European Group (LDEG), focused on developing links at local government level between the UK and the EU. As several speakers pointed out, whilst we were still members of the EU, numerous channels existed to keep these channels open. But not anymore – which is yet another example of things that we once valued, lost through Brexit.

For the past year I have been holding discussions with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) to find a way for the UK – initially led by the LibDems – to participate in the informal network of local councillors, which is being set up across the member states of the EU, responsible in their local communities for keeping up to date with EU affairs, sharing relevant information with other councillors in their community and informing constituents via newsletters, social media posts, surgery-style meetings or engaging with them on the streets or in cafes and other places where the local community comes together.

As the relationship between the UK and the EU develops over the coming years, helped hopefully by the policies the LibDems are crafting ranging from education to science to trade and farming, we will be reconnected with our European neighbours, and it would help our cause to offer our fellow citizens a source of contact offering factual information from trusted people in their community, that would help to foster greater awareness of the benefits to be gained from a closer relationship with the EU and lead eventually to the UK regaining its star as a member state.

We have a long way to go before we achieve our final goal, but starting at rebuilding those connections at a local level is an important first step. It is widely recognised across the EU that LibDem Councillors are best placed to take on this role in the UK, as we are the party that views the relationship with the EU positively and constructively. On a practical level the scheme could be used to help develop twinning relationships, promote exchanges between local schools and businesses and offer knowledge of how to access grants.

We are formulating how the ‘LibDem EU Liaison Councillor Scheme’ – we might have to come up with a catchier name – will be used in practice, but judging by the initial interest from councils and councillors across the country, who were present at the debate in York, this project could really take off. We have already had discussions with ALDC as it how the scheme could be incorporated into their training schedule. In the first instance we will probably start off with a pilot project involving at least one council from every region of England, and one each from Scotland and Wale – with training sessions at the Autumn conference.

I know right now that we are all focused on the local elections on 4 May, which should see many more Lib Dem Councillors elected, resulting in more LibDem run Councils across the country, but if you are interested in taking part in this scheme, or would like to find out more information, please drop me a line on [email protected]. I can see the ‘LibDem EU Liaison Councillor Scheme’ becoming a real electoral asset for our party, which only we can can turn into reality.

* David Chalmers is Chair of Federal International Relations Committee.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • David Franks 14th Apr '23 - 12:01pm

    It’s time the Liberal Democrats had a leader who is not afraid to mention Britain’s relationship with our EU neighbours. The Party has a very clear policy decided at conference and now has an opportunity to own political territory which is highly visible and different from the other two parties.

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