LibLink: Ed Davey – The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party in British politics

It is fair to say that quite a lot of Liberal Democrats were a bit worried by Ed Davey’s comments on Andrew Marr at the weekend that “we are not a rejoin party.”

In an article on the party website, he sets out his thinking. Rejoin is not an issue for now, but the Lib Dems will make the pro-European arguments and hope to persuade people that we can rejoin in the longer term.

He also warns against Scotland repeating the mistake of Brexit with independence.

The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party in British politics. We truly believe that we are stronger together, and internationalism will always be one of our core values.

That hasn’t changed now that we have left the European Union.

I am proud how we Liberal Democrats campaigned tirelessly against Brexit, and proud that last month all Liberal Democrat MPs voted against Johnson’s dreadful EU Trade Deal – already proving so disastrous to small businesses, fishermen and the wider economy.

And I’m determined the Liberal Democrats remain a pro-European party committed to the UK being members of the European Union again.

But we are realistic. We get that we lost the battle to stop Brexit.

It’s also a simple fact that the UK won’t be rejoining in the immediate future because the Conservative Government has a majority of 80.

So for now we must make the case for a close relationship with the EU and for the merits of free movement of people and highlight the huge problems caused by the chaotic Brexit.

That’s how we will win our historic pro-European case.

The motion on Europe the party agreed at the last conference has it spot on – making the positive case for Europe to win people over to our longer goal of EU membership, whilst campaigning on our other priorities such as carers, small businesses and mental health.

The chaos of Brexit over the last four years should be a stark warning for Scottish Nationalists who want to break Scotland from the U.K. Breaking long term economic partnerships has proven to be costly and damaging so we should learn the lessons of Brexit not repeat them with independence.



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  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jan '21 - 4:28pm

    Is mention of the EEA still out of bounds?

  • A commitment to seek to return to the Single Market or Customs Union is the only point missing. Everything else I can accept. But we must not forget all other policy platforms because if not we will be seen as a obsessive EU-can do no wrong party.

  • James Moore 21st Jan '21 - 4:48pm

    “And I’m determined the Liberal Democrats remain a pro-European party committed to the UK being members of the European Union again…..It’s also a simple fact that the UK won’t be rejoining in the immediate future because the Conservative Government has a majority of 80.”

    Yes, we all know we can’t rejoin now – but will support for rejoining as soon as possible be in the next manifesto in 2024/5?

    Last weekend the leader said we weren’t a rejoin party – this statement says we are.

    I’m afraid that this response is typical of the leadership – confused, directionless, reactionary.

  • Paul Barker 21st Jan '21 - 6:10pm

    Its fair to say that I was more than a little worried by Eds remarks, I was furious.
    My temper is not helped by Ed kindly pointing out that we cant Rejoin while the Tories are in power, I dont like being talked down to.
    At the Weekend Ed tried to unilaterally rewrite Our Policy, a straight apology is required not more weaseling & attempts to muddy the waters.

  • John Marriott 21st Jan '21 - 6:16pm

    Yet again, some of you are still assuming that the EU, as it is now or as it hopes to be, will go on forever. Can you be THAT sure? What if it starts to break up in the sense that we end up with a ‘fast Lane’ and a ‘slow lane’ EU? What if it just collapses? We just don’t know. We are where we are. We could be in for a really rough ride. Things are already happening with our trade. On the other hand, what if the EU blinks first? So, stop obsessing about the EU and let’s try to get our act together on the outside, because that’s where we are and are likely to be for a long time, perhaps for ever.

    Oh, and don’t forget there appears to be some kind of virus out there.

  • I would aim for a rejoin referendum in 2028 which means it needs to be in the manifesto for 2024 therefore it should become policy now.

    If rejoin isn’t achievable then EEA is the next best option. The point about remain/rejoin is that it gave us economic credibility as our proposals have us an extra £50bn to spend. EEA membership provides that but is perhaps harder to explain to the electorate then the simple “rejoin”.

    We do need this distinctive position because as I said on another thread, since 2019 we have lost 14% of the vote among remain voters but gained no support among leave voters.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jan '21 - 6:34pm

    John Marriott

    It depends what happens with the EZ. In due course that will need full blown integration and some probably would balk. With virus I fail to see how the EU can look at convergence as a realistic principle.

    I am yet to hear any rejoin argument address the single currency.

  • “And I’m determined the Liberal Democrats remain a pro-European party committed to the UK being members of the European Union again.”
    Perfect! This is all I needed to hear. I said in the thread on here the other day that I was concerned after the Marr interview, and that he needed to clarify the position. Credit where it’s die: he has now done that, and this statement is 100% right for me. Now he just needs to make sure he makes it equally clear every time he does an interview on national TV!
    I put it down now as an early(ish) leadership slip-up. Not helpful, sure. But he’s cleaned it up, and hopefully will learn from it. All good, move on. As a pro-rejoin party that is focusing for now on the immediate crisis issues facing the country.

  • Richard Underhill. 21st Jan '21 - 7:12pm

    We should read what Shirley Williams wrote about the 1975 referendum, in which she took part. The voters did not initially believe that they were being told about democracy. caring more about evidence of prosperity, and pictures of a car designed by an Italian called the Mini.
    Tories such as Ted Heath were opposed in principle, because it set a precedent, but campaigned in favour, jointly with Liberal leader David Steel and Labour deputy leader Roy Jenkins, THE EUROPALS!
    Margaret Thatcher wore a dress made up of the flags of all the nations, which todays Tories tend to forget, to their shame. The BBC showed us. We should “Live in the truth” as Vaclav Havel advised, although he smoked too much.

  • I think the 2 big problems of Rejoin/EEA are as follows

    1. Freedom of Movement, whilst it may be popular amongst the Twitterati and the Metropolitan Liberal Elite Twitter =/= the rest of the UK. I don’t see the rest of the UK ever voting for Freedom of Movement.
    2. The EU, they will not want a Hokey Cokey rejoin, where the UK is in out in out in out in out etc. If Brexit harmed the UK that would be nothing compared to the Uk rejoining then leaving again. I can’t see them allowing the UK to rejoin unless there is a settled majority wanting it. It would not surprise me at all if the EU required a supermajority of 60% plus

    That said I do feel that the Lb Dems should become a explicitly Rejoin party as there is a significant minority of the electorate for whom this is the No 1 issue and they and they need a voice

  • Richard Underhill. 21st Jan '21 - 7:24pm

    At federal conference there were approximately 600 voting delegates unanimously in favour, and a brilliant speech from a friendly Liberal, but where was OUR enthusiasm?
    Borough Councillors from Winchester were reluctant to be seen out of their wards. This was a constituency with a Lib Dem MP following an excellent election win. He spoke at the NLC. He wanted to be leader.
    Stand up for what you believe!

  • I don’t want to be a party pooper at this time when Ed seeks to mend fences with his party grass roots on the thorny issue of rejoining the EU. But can anyone here give this Leaver reasons for rejoining, bearing in mind that the conditions will probably include Eurozone membership, fiscal union, more political integration and corresponding loss of sovereignty.

    The Brexiteers offer the world and its growth as a new trading opportunity. Does the EU offer more inward looking protectionism full of bureaucratic regulation or what?

    Other benefits include freedom to act (eg Covid Vaccines), own assets (e.g. fish) and freedom to decide on our own priorities.

    Barnier recently admitted that having an EU ambassador meant the EU was effectively a country with the implication that France, Germany, etc need not exist. Where is the party on that?

    What can I look forward to in the next twenty years as a citizen of the EU? (apart from its collapse).

  • John Marriott 21st Jan '21 - 7:42pm

    No, ‘getting our act together’ does mean not offending the neighbours; but it’s much more than that. It means equipping our citizens with the kind of skills we have neglected for years, something to which the Johnson is now at last threatening to pay attention – start with the 2004 Tomlinson Report, fellas. It means producing and consuming more of our own food. It means offering bursaries for people to train in areas of skills shortage, such as nursing and medicine. I could go on. Are we up to the challenge or do we just want to keep complaining how unfairly we’ve been treated? We’ve made our bed.

  • @ Richard Underhill. I’m not sure whether it’s you or Shirley William not up to speed in recent modern history, but whichever wouldn’t be much cop in a pub quiz.

    1. The Mini was introduced in 1959 sixteen years before the Referendum. It’s designer, Alex Issigonis was born in Greece not Italy.

    2. The Liberal Leader in June, 1975 was Jeremy Thorpe not David Steel.

    3. Ted Short, not Roy Jenkins, was Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1975. Jenkins was Home Secretary.

    3. Margaret Thatcher wore flags on a jumper not a dress.

    Apart from that………..

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jan '21 - 8:07pm

    Didn’t he call himself Alec Issigonis? Or is my memory failing?

  • Paul Fisher 21st Jan '21 - 9:14pm

    Leadership is about clarity of vision. Rejoin, European, shall we shall we not? As clear as mud.

  • nigel hunter 21st Jan '21 - 9:44pm

    Bursaries. The Tories cut it in the 1st place. Are you saying they can now bring it back.? We have never been able to feed ourselves and will always need overseas supplies.
    The Tories will do whatever is to their advantage.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jan '21 - 9:12am

    Mr Issigonis also designed the Morris Minor, didn’t he? The Traveller version is a much sought after classic. Wood (in this case ash, I believe) was an integral part of its construction. It once occasioned a remark by ‘Dame Edna Everidge’ on a visit to Stratford to her friend ‘Madge’; “Look, a half timbered car!”.

    By the way, I’ve only got one response to Mr Davey’s statement in the title and it would be a question “And?”

  • Kathy Erasmus 22nd Jan '21 - 9:19am

    Ed Davey is like the tin Man in Oz, looking for a heart. The Libdems have a heart we spent almost 5 years fighting for our place at the heart of Europe. Now is not the time to parrot Keir Starmer’s”time to move on” which roughly translates as “we are all little englanders now”. Europe and Britain are like a large family, occasionally we fall out but we always make up.

  • David Garlick 22nd Jan '21 - 10:08am

    so soory to read the histerical stuff still being sent to the slow and sure progress Ed is making. We should have expected the terrible defeats we have suffered as soon as we sign up to the coalition and did we suffer!
    We have to start the road to ‘return’ by becoming electable again and we will not do it if we allow the media to portay us as stuck in the past dreaming of victories that we have already lost.. A portrayal that they would love to put out there.
    If we are not looking at the issues that the voters are looking at we will get nowhere and fast.
    Climate Change is the area where we have good credentials and a Leader who has moved the dial for the UK reducing its carbon footprint. (Sadly the Conservatives are trying to take the credit for that dial shift.) Floods and other extreme weather events should be at the top of everything we do and say. Sadly but honestly a return to the EU falls a long way down the list of top priorities.

  • “The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party in British politics”. Ed Davey.

    ‘Methinks thou dost protest too much’, Sir Edward. From my vantage point in the Lothians, and given the stance of the Scottish Greens and the Scottish National Party, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    More than that, The Times reports, 30 Dec 2020, “Scottish Labour has put itself at odds with Sir Keir Starmer by announcing plans to oppose the Brexit deal when MSPs vote on the trade deal”, and the sole remaining Labour M.P. Ian Murray has said, “I voted to remain in the European Union because I am passionate about the huge cultural, social and economic benefits we get by being part of a union of nations and peoples”.

    The current position of the Scottish Liberal Democrats appears more Victorian Liberal Unionist than Liberal – and they merged with the Tories back in 1912 (the year the Titanic sank). I do know a fair number of SLD members (including a former Lib Dem Westminster MP) share this view.

    I’m afraid Sir Edward (and the party) are getting themselves in a bit of a pickle.

  • David Garlick – The greens own climate change and always will (even thought they can’t exploit it). We certainly can’t.

    What is being said is not hysterical. It is objective. Europe is the only national policy we are known for (except by ourselves). Electors are increasingly aware of the massive problems with Brexit. Do you want us to be ignored on the one issue we get some publicity for?

    And it’s not playing for “a return to the EU” which I agree “falls a long way down the list of top priorities”. It is playing for the only chance of a future our party has.

  • David Raw 21st Jan ’21 – 7:52pm:
    1. The Mini was introduced in 1959 sixteen years before the Referendum. It’s designer, Alex Issigonis was born in Greece not Italy.

    Issigonis was born in 1906 in Smyrna then in the Ottoman Empire, now Izmir in Turkey. Of more importance to this discussion is that he was British by birth, his father having naturalised a decade earlier while studying engineering in London.

    Little Jackie Paper 21st Jan ’21 – 8:07pm:
    Didn’t he call himself Alec Issigonis? Or is my memory failing?

    He did. His name lives on as Alec Issigonis Way in the Oxford Business Park on the former site of the Morris Motors factory in Cowley.

  • Thank you for your interest, Jeff, and yes, we’re discussing Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis CBE FRS RDI (18 November 1906 – 2 October 1988).

    He was indeed born in Smyrna (/ˈsmɜːrnə/ SMUR-nə; Ancient Greek: Σμύρνη, romanized: Smýrnē, or Ancient Greek: Σμύρνα, romanized: Smýrna) a Greek city located at a strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia – and in the Ottoman Empire in 1906.

    After the end of the First World War Greece occupied Smyrna from 15 May 1919 and put in place a military administration. The Greek premier Venizelos planned to annex Smyrna and seemed to be realizing his objective in the Treaty of Sèvres, signed 10 August 1920 by amongst others the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. The treaty ceded large parts of Ottoman territory to France, the United Kingdom, Greece and Italy and created large occupation zones within the Ottoman Empire.

    The Greek occupation of Smyrna came to an end when the Turkish army of Kemal Atatürk entered the city on September 9, 1922, at the end of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). In the aftermath, a fire broke out in the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city on September 13, 1922, known as the Great Fire of Smyrna. The death toll is estimated to range from 10,000 to 100,000.

    Of more interest to Liberals is it led to the fall of the Lloyd George Coalition, the Tories fearing LLG would take Britain into another war. Now I’ve no objection to Joseph Grimond being known as Jo, I’m sure some Jeff’s prefer Jeffrey – but I don’t think Mr Richard Underhill would like to be a Dick.

  • On topic : How Sir Edward’s comments were reported in the Glasgow Herald :

    “THE Liberal Democrat leader has said his party is no longer interested in the UK rejoining the European Union. Sir Ed Davey said the party remained “very pro-European” and wanted to see the closest possible relationship with the EU after Brexit.
    However, he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show the LibDems are “not a rejoin party”.

    At the 2019 general election, the Liberal Democrat manifesto said every vote for the party was “a vote to stop Brexit and stay in the European Union”.

  • JONATHAN FOGELL 23rd Jan '21 - 6:05am

    However hard I try, I cannot imagine Farage and Co eqivocating over whether they should or should not leave the EU. Rejoiners clearly have to accept the result of the last undemocratic general election. The Libdem role should now be to expose the stupidity and wastefulness of Brexit and the advantages of rejoining, with passion and determination. Our message should be, if the Americans can rid themselves of Trump, we can rid ourselves of the curse of racist, divisive Brexit.

  • I believe the EU in its current construct will be self destructive, the tensions between the birth of the EU nation-state rather like the US, but with out its common ideology, language or goal which led to its formation, v the role of the existing nations. The Lib Dems approach to EU whilst not answering the fears of the leavers such as a role of the EU in modern life, the future and where lib Dems want the end EU to be. These resulted in the climatic loss in the election. I think a United Europe as the way it is going now is not a good idea. Power handed to the central to deal with emergencies as covid and currency crisis will result in a EU nation-state by default without the consent of the people. This locks nationalism in! Hence the rise of right and left wing populists. I think many on here will shudder at this thought, and condemn ourselves in not having the vision of how we want the EU to be. Lib Dems now have a chance to defeat nationalism throughout this country, especially English nationalism, by calling for equal voices around the States of the UK, with equal power in a federation structure with Scotland offered the chance of independence or full federation, this will give a counter or more moderate voice to those who feel ignored by Westminster, which is a complaint throughout the whole of the UK which is not the South East…. We can than go further by defeating colonial legacy as well by given Gibraltar, Falklands and other overseas territory the right to join a federation of UK states or independence. We should as our main plank and theme have international cooperation throughout not just with the EU but commonwealth nations and United Nations. This international approach and not EU centric approach will have far greater appeal to a wider range.

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