Martin Horwood: the real issue facing Europe today is an unprecedented economic crisis

Earlier today, we ran a guest post calling on the Liberal Democrats to back the forthcoming Parliamentary vote on a European referendum. Here is the press statement issued today by the party’s International Spokesman, Martin Horwood MP:

The Conservative right and UKIP seem hell bent in stoking a row which will threaten our stability.

The real issue facing Europe today is an unprecedented economic crisis. For Britain to start a constitutional argument at this critical moment would be fantastically irresponsible and could damage Britian’s ability to influence.

Billions of pounds of European investment in Britain is at stake as we watch an economic fire spread through the Eurozone, this referendum debate is a squabble that could do lasting damage.

As we said in the liberal democrat manifesto, we fully support an in/out referendum  the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU. An argument we made at the time of the Lisbon Treaty. But for the sake of the country, now is not the time.

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13 Comments

  • Steve Comer 22nd Oct '11 - 7:49pm

    A good post from Martin, but I fear the policy is a hostage to fortune. Martin and I will have one view of what constitutes a ” fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.” I suspect the like of Nigel Farage, Bill Cash, and Bernard Jenkin will have another!

    BTW, as I understand it post Maasticht, we are all classed as EU Citizens (and my passport clearly says ‘EU’ on it). Would a withdrawal of a country from the EU strip us all of our rights as EU Citizens automatically?

  • Simon McGrath 22nd Oct '11 - 8:42pm

    I am baffled by this:
    “As we said in the liberal democrat manifesto, we fully support an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU. An argument we made at the time of the Lisbon Treaty.”

    That is absolutely not what we said at the time of the vote on the Lisbon treaty which was a fundamental change. At that point we said that we wanted an In/Out vote instead.

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd Oct '11 - 11:27pm

    Would a withdrawal of a country from the EU strip us all of our rights as EU Citizens automatically?

    That would depend on the details of how the withdrawal was organised. There would have to be an immediate pile of new treaties signed with various countries, to preserve trade, visa, and residency agreements, in which we would be negotiating at a large disadvantage. Almost anything could happen. The worst case scenario would probably involve a bit over a million UK citizens being deported from their EU residences and shipped back here, where they have no homes or jobs.

  • The Conservative right and UKIP seem hell bent in stoking a row which will threaten our stability.

    That is funny, I thought our stability was threatened by Brown’s profligacy, Greece’s stonking debt burden, the bursting of Ireland’s property bubble, Burlusconi’s inability to concentrate on Italy’s financial problems preferring instead to keep himself busy with bunga bunga parties and our dear and recently departed former Defence Secretary who decided to run his own private foreign policy inside Iran with a “friend”. Given all of that going on, do we really need to run so scared from UKIP?
    The EU has weathered plenty of unfavourable referenda in the past and its still the august body that it always was. If we can’t have a referendum on this, how about the Government promises to hold a referendum before putting the UK’s cash on the line for any further international bailouts? Greece and Germany both need to leave the Euro. Without the weakest and the strongest the rest can prosper.

  • A sensible article that we should all take note of. I heard this on Radio 4 this morning. “A divorcing couple should not be seeking marriage guidance when their house is on fire” Apologies for it not being an exact quote as I was half asleep at the time but it does make a strong supporting point to this excellent piece.

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '11 - 11:32am

    “A divorcing couple should not be seeking marriage guidance when their house is on fire”

    Erm, no. They should both get the hell out of the house. Possibly not the best metaphor for the anti-referendum argument…? 😉

  • Speaking of the Euro Zone and Europe, I can’t believe how lightly Clegg has got off with saying he and his MPs should deny the people a referendum on membership of the EU when he was calling for such a referendum not that long ago.

    Of course, Clegg only said he wanted an ‘in or out’ vote to use that as an excuse to worm out of supporting a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

    This is a prefect example of why people don’t trust the Liberal Democrats.

    As for the Euro, it just doesn’t work. A single currency without a single economic policy wont work. They should go back to having their own currencies and let Greece default.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    That worse case is nigh on impossible. Business and Social networks pay less attention to international borders now than they ever have done in the past. A country trying to deport another’s citizens like that would find it’s reputation, economy and government damaged. Not even the Tory right or UKIP is talking about rounding up Eastern Europeans despite the common complaint that immigration from Eastern Europe has been too high. Are you seriously suggesting the governing parties of our partner states are more nationalist than our own fringe parties? And if they are how is remaining in a union with them a good idea? Wouldn’t they abuse our trust in order to benefit themselves?

    As for the negotiating disadvantage, there’s isn’t any, especially now the Euro is in crisis, we’re a major economy and our trade is incredibly valuable to the continent, and besides that 93% of our trade with them is protected by the WTO.

  • Andrew Suffield 24th Oct '11 - 7:53am

    Are you seriously suggesting the governing parties of our partner states are more nationalist than our own fringe parties?

    It’s not about being nationalist, it’s about needing to direct attention and rage somewhere else and not having any particular reason to cut us some slack.

    (I don’t think mass deportations are likely; several EU nations would threaten and bluster, but not go through with it. They’d just settle for screwing us over on trade tariffs)

    Not even the Tory right or UKIP is talking about rounding up Eastern Europeans despite the common complaint that immigration from Eastern Europe has been too high.

    Because currently we have EU treaties explicitly forbidding it, so that cannot happen. And anyway, as soon as we exited the EU, by law all the people who had moved into or out of the UK on the general right of entry for EU citizens must be deported. UKIP knows this, what did you think they were talking about? They would refer to it as a “temporary measure”, just “following the rules”, but that doesn’t mean they want it any less.

    And if they are how is remaining in a union with them a good idea?

    The EU restrains individual governments from such sillyness. If we’re the ones who quit, the other nations aren’t going to feel obliged to restrain themselves.

    As for the negotiating disadvantage, there’s isn’t any, especially now the Euro is in crisis, we’re a major economy and our trade is incredibly valuable to the continent

    The euro isn’t in crisis yet, our “major economy” is competition which France and Germany would very much like to not have, and while they’re happy for us to buy their products, they resent having to let us sell in their markets without slapping import tariffs on major sectors to boost their local industry. Both of them would jump at the chance to price us out of the EU market.

  • To

    Malcolm Todd. Unfortunately I fear your solution to the metaphor of a ‘burning house’ that I used in a previous posting only passes the problem to someone else. I believe in dealing with problems as they arise and according to their capacity to damage Britain. We have far more important things to worry about at present than a few daft tories getting their knickers in a twist over something that’s taken nearly 40 years to get this far.

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