LibLink: Nick Clegg: This is no time for division. It’s what the extremists want

The appropriate response to events in Paris is the subject of Nick Clegg’s Standard column this week.

With ominous predictability, populists from Nigel Farage to Marine Le Pen are already using the attacks to pursue their long-held ambitions — to turn countries inwards and away from each other.

We must not let that happen. We must bottle the spirit of defiance and generosity seen at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night and hold it tight. We must not turn on each other. The murderers of Islamic State are no more representative of Islam than the Ku Klux Klan are of Christianity. Unchecked, a mixture of fear and populism will place an intolerable strain on already threadbare public support for the European Union itself.

Where do you find that balance between liberty and security, though?

I believe most people, even in the face of such violent barbarism, accept that open, free societies come with risks: we could make London the safest city on the planet by imposing a 9pm curfew but then it would no longer be a free, vibrant city — it would be a vast prison instead. Some degree of vulnerability is inevitable in any open, democratic society.

The solution requires more co-operation with Europe, not less:

The mess on Europe’s borders understandably enrages people: you can either have strong external borders and no internal borders within Europe; or strong internal borders and no external borders; what you can’t have is none of either. Yet that is what now appears to be the case as the borderless Schengen area — and with it the principle of free movement itself — comes under unprecedented strain. So the imposition of properly policed external borders should now be a priority for EU governments, if necessary deploying internal controls temporarily until those external checks are in place.

He looks back at Europe’s response when the Berlin Wall came down and calls for something similar now, before admitting a past mistake:

Europe desperately needs to rediscover a similar ambition towards the Mediterranean. If the EU can preside over post-war reconciliation between France and Germany, extend its membership across the continent, create the world’s largest borderless single market and create a new (if presently wobbly) currency, surely it can lead an international effort to bring stability to the Mediterranean? This should be the single most important project for the current generation of European leaders.

Europe responded in woeful fashion to the Arab Spring five years ago. Britain failed to provide meaningful backing to Libya in the wake of our air strikes there, a military intervention I supported as Deputy Prime Minister. We must learn from our mistakes.

His experience should inform our thinking on military action in Syria, what it’s for and what the endgame should be.

You can read the whole article here.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary in print, on air or online.

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