LibLink: Tim Farron: The EU is bloated and bureaucratic but it just needs reform

You can’t say Tim Farron isn’t brave! He’s written for the chiefest of the Brexity newspapers, the Daily Express.

The comments under his article are in the main as you would expect. When the nicest thing you can see is a comparison to Ashley Peacock from Coronation Street, you know it’s not going down well in some quarters.

However, as we know, commenters do not always reflect the opinion of the majority of readers. We need to win people over to the Remain cause  and we’re not going to do that by snuggling up to passionate pro-Europeans.

Here’s what he had to say:

There is no doubt in my mind that to work alongside those countries who share our interests and share our values, we need to remain.

And there is no doubt in my mind that to be the beacon of hope and freedom, in a turbulent and dangerous world, we must vote to remain.

We are a proud nation that stands tall in the world. We are home to freedom, ingenuity, creativity.

He then goes on to tackle the sovereignty issue:

One of the most principled arguments on the  side is that if we leave Europe, we take back control of lots of areas of public policy.

For many people, me included, the EU needs reform, there are sensible things we could do, some very quickly. Where it has become too burdensome, bureaucratic and bloated.

But let’s reform the things it does so well, to create opportunity, drive prosperity and open our eyes to the world.

Let’s complete the single market, and drive forward the digital economy. Let’s give small business much greater representation in Brussels.

But those who want to leave then say let’s ‘wrest back control’, helpfully forgetting that we pool sovereignty in all manner of other areas from the World Trade Organisation to NATO. This won’t change no matter the result of the upcoming referendum.

Even the Commonwealth, many of whose leaders think we should remain within Europe.

We pool sovereignty – we do that because it is in Britain’s best interest. Both in terms of security, support for key allies and friends and economically.

You can read the whole thing here.

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  • nigel hunter 18th Jun '16 - 11:15pm

    I have read the comments under the site. They are full of bile and unconstructive arguement, only the last one seems to have any sense of a discussion.

  • Conor McGovern 18th Jun '16 - 11:39pm

    It’s not just a matter of a deeper market and cutting waste – the changes needed are far bigger than that. There’s a massive democratic deficit, economic injustice and a fawning attitude to the banks, where the people of Greece or Spain have been shafted. But is it reformable? History shows it’s highly unlikely if not impossible. I see the EU as yes, bloated, but also thoroughly illiberal and a net negative so I’ll be opting for Brexit.

  • So, Conor, how do you deal with the international / cross border issues that need democratic input?

  • Also, aren’t the issues you speak of fundamentally political? So is it not down to political input from everywhere to deal. You speak of “fawning attitudes” to banks. Yes, we have seen this in the approach to Greek debt write-off, but do we not see this in a domestic political context (in relation to the failure to take needed and quick action with banks following the 2008 / 9 crash)? In what way will any Brexit deal with that. How also do you deal with fawning newspapers, a persistent problem for the left in this country in particular!?

  • Connor – you ask the most important of all questions “Is the EU reformable”.

    Everyone, including Tim Farron, seems to agree that reform is essential. Some people suggest Britain could be the leader of this reform but I don’t believe our influence in the EU is as strong as pro-Remain politicians claim. Just consider the power of the French veto which scuppers reform that, as I understand it all other members want, in regards to the travelling Parliamentary circus. Just one example of how progress can be spiked by a selfish nation.

    Other EU countries probably see the UK as a selfish nation with politicians manipulating deals to suit Britain. If we stay or if we leave, our popularity is unlikely to increase. Just by holding a referendum we have challenged the status quo but is this enough to kick start the much needed reform? I doubt it.

    After much thought, my vote to Leave was posted a couple of weeks ago. I have read or heard nothing since that causes me to regret the way I voted.

  • But Jedi I thought you believed in direct democracy. What the EU has brought to us – one of the first experiments, if you like, is a form of supranational democracy. Cooperating and collaborating has an extra dimension if the people are involved in the big decisions that affect them, and when so many huge issues are supranational, surely it is right for people to have their say? The other dimension, of course, and I have noticed this in the debate around the referendum, is that democracy frequently involves being defeated. people often describe things as “not democratic” when a “wrong” decision (for them) emerges. People sometimes wish to describe “corruption” etc when the main issue is that more people disagree than agree with them. Of course that can happen at supranational level.

    Worryingly, democracy in a genuine policy-related way seems to be being restricted to more and more trivial and increasingly parochial issues, with the big things being left to technocrats. I find this incredibly frustrating.

  • Alfred Motspur 19th Jun '16 - 12:39pm

    It’s frustrating how the Liberal Democrats haven’t been emphasising their commitment to democratising the EU in this campaign – and how, from what I’ve heard and seen, they appear to have joined the mainstream bandwagon of praising Cameron’s renegotiations as one which asserts more parliamentary sovereignty.

    The unique message of the Liberal Democrats in wanting to promote a more liberal and democratic Europe is totally the correct and measured response to Brexiteers who are angry about the EU’s democratic deficit – and we can’t pretend this doesn’t exist or isn’t important: the MEPs which we elect can’t propose their own laws and the commissioners are not directly-elected by the electorate. Tim might argue about us pooling sovereignty with other organisations, but even he himself has said that this is not a justification of the EU’s democratic deficit – and just a reason why not to obsess over the EU’s democratic deficit.

    If you listen to politicians on the other side of the English Channel, it is clear that there is a hunger for liberalising and democratising reform. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of ALDE, is one such voice with his calls for a United States of Europe – and he is seconded by some voices on Europe’s left and right alongside (I dare say) some of the new anti-austerity parties like Syriza and Podemos. I disagree that there is no possibility for these reforms that Brexiteers want to see; in fact, it seems to me as though the establishment in Brussels is mostly in favour of them.

    Why have these liberalising and democratising reforms not happened, them? One can point to Nick Clegg’s argument in the Orange Book – “In the absence of a European demos, it must be accepted that the primary source of meaningful political legitimacy in the EU remains the nation state”. In other words, until turnout to European elections improves and until MEPs are more accountable to their constituents at the polling stations, the establishment in Brussels has no mandate to enact these reforms, so the ultimate power has to remain with parliaments and unelected commissioners.

    Brexiteers should look less to Brussels for hope of liberalising and democratising reform and more to the polling stations in their own local towns. In my view, it’s disheartening that nobody has emphasised this in the campaign.

  • Conor McGovern 19th Jun '16 - 3:15pm

    Tim13, I’ll be the first to stand up and voice my support for greater cooperation, greater cross-border reform on the big issues like corporate power, peace and the environment. I think a looser alliance of European nations could work better and would be desirable. We don’t need a centralising bureaucracy for that, do we?

  • Conor McGovern 19th Jun '16 - 3:17pm

    I’m a fan of the Swiss model of direct democracy but looking at this referendum and others in the past, a lot of it’s done simply to reinforce the status quo.

  • Katerina Porter 19th Jun '16 - 9:52pm

    The problem lies with the media which hardly ever reports what the EU does, or what the EU parliament does so at elections for MEPs there is minimum interest and it is difficult to achieve accountability when nobody asks questions. The Commission, which is the civil service of the EU, does not decide. It is the councils of ministers who decide, and the parliament which is directly elected The commissioners are appointed by their elected governments, the ministers are members of elected governments. The Commission is hardly bloated at about 30.000 for 28 countries. After all Leicester city council is at 14,000. I do not know if that figure includes translators and interpreters as every country needs to have its own language to be sure of the exact meaning of treaties etc. I have also heard comments that members of the Commissions are much easier to deal with than Whitehall.

  • Simon Hebditch 20th Jun '16 - 10:25am

    There is a huge irony and dilemma at the heart of the EU. In one sense, Liberals should be strong supporters of radical reform which both democratises the union and sees the desirability of moving towards a United States of Europe. The present eurozone is caught in the middle between a properly federal system on the one hand or more individual country decision making. It is the worst possible position to be in. Either we should support “ever greater union” or return significant powers to individual countries and regions. We ought to have an affinity to the campaigning work of DIEM 25 lead by Yanis Varoufakis. I am a member. Is anyone else from the Lib Dems?

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Jun '16 - 12:50pm

    Katerina Porter

    The problem lies with the media which hardly ever reports what the EU does, or what the EU parliament does so at elections for MEPs there is minimum interest and it is difficult to achieve accountability when nobody asks questions.

    Indeed. What we have now is like the AV referendum, but on a bigger scale. I remember asking people running the AV “Yes” campaign “Why haven’t you produced some simple material showing how AV actually works?” and the reply was something like “Oh no, voters find that very boring, we ad-men know how to do catchy stuff that attracts attention leave it to us”.

    With the result that the ridiculous and innumerate assertions about what AV could do pushed out by the “No” campaign went out without challenge, while the “Yes” campaign seemed vague as if it was hiding the truth. As an example, the claim that AV would lead to candidates no-one really wanted who were in third or fourth place ending up winning was often made, whereas of course an aspect of AV is that it can never do that due to those candidates getting eliminated before the second and third preference votes get to them.

    Does anyone outside a few people deeply involved in it know how the EU is run? Or what aspects of legislation it is actually involved in? No, and it hasn’t featured in the campaign apart from ridiculously exaggerated, and often quite false, claims from the “Leave” side, which the “Remain” side haven’t refuted because they seem to think it is boring to talk about details.

    I don’t think establishing common sets of standards on goods and services is quite the same as an army marching into our country and setting up a dictatorship, no matter how much the “Leave” side suggest it is. I don’t think people in other countries in Europe are so different from me that what they would want in such standards is going to be hugely different from what I would want. As usual, these things get called “Red Tape” by the Daily Mail et al, until some bad thing happens because of inadequate standards, and then the Daily Mail et al switch from “Nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty rotten politicians for inflicting red tape on us” to “Nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty rotten politicians for not doing anything to stop it”.

  • Katerina Porter
    “The problem lies with the media …”
    I’m no big fan of the media, but you can’t lay it all at their door I think. After all, when the UK Parliament passes a law do they make if clear where it came from (i.e. did it originate here or from the EU). The media tend to report on what is happening here, if they don’t know where the law originates then they probably won’t report it.
    P.S. The EU Commission is actually the Executive.

  • Katerina Porter 21st Jun '16 - 12:09pm

    Sorry about “Executive”.
    Something interesting for the future: Anatole Kaletsky in June edition of Prospect wrote article with title “”After Brexit we’d envy Europe”. I quote from memory – Draghi has managed to circumvent some Maastricht rules and as from January 2015 the Eurozone has built same growth as UK,US, better job creation, better lowering of unemployment, admittedly from very low base.
    Also Graham Watson gave talk to Kensington and Chelsea Lib Dems -4 1/2 pages of information which have been handing out and people accept it saying they want to know, do not know enough.

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