Opinion: It’s official – Lib Dems are “most successful and influential” in Europe

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiAhead of the second EU debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage this evening, a timely new report has found that Liberal Democrats are the most influential British party in the European Parliament.

The analysis of MEPs’ voting records from VoteWatch Europe over the past five years by think tank Policy Network, finds that Liberal Democrats are the “most successful coalition partner” in the European Parliament and “have played a central role in policy-making in both Westminster and Brussels.”

As part of the European liberal ALDE group, Lib Dems have been “on the winning side” of key European Parliament votes 87% of the time, ahead of Labour, Tories and Ukip, “a remarkable performance for a group consisting of 11% of all MEPs”.

The report continues:

“The central role of ALDE and the Lib Dems is well reflected by the prominence enjoyed by figures such as Sharon Bowles MEP, chair of arguably the most powerful and important committee in the EP.”

And while anti-Europeans may try to paint Lib Dems as poodles of Brussels, the voting records show instead that the party has been the best at standing up for British interests in the EU:

“Most winning votes were clearly in line with British long-standing preferences, be it for a liberal market economy or the opening of trade negotiations.”

Lib Dems in Europe also win plaudits for taking a strong environmental line, making them ‘the UK’s non-official green party” with a “striking ecological commitment.”

Meanwhile, Labour is characterised as “ambivalent” and “unpredictable” due to their regular differences with the European socialist grouping. The Conservatives, by leaving Angela Merkel’s mainstream centre-right EPP group “have gained in comfort what they have lost in influence,” and “cut themselves off from natural allies.”

Finally, for Ukip MEPs, “a striking feature is their absence and non-voting rates,” the report noting that “Nigel Farage himself was not present when the EP voted on important issues such as the EU budget, reform of agriculture policy and the banking union.” It sums up diplomatically that “their influence on EU decision-making is totally insignificant, an attitude that does not reinforce their governing credentials.”

So there you have it. Ukip are against national interests, the Tories have cut themselves off and Labour are at best ambivalent. The Lib Dems are now officially both “king-makers in Westminster and winners in Brussels.”

* Giles Goodall is a Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England.

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  • This is the sort of information that needs to be included in the MEP election campaign.

  • If you are swimming in the same direction as the river, that does not mean you control where the river is going.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Apr '14 - 2:02am

    It should be pointed out that it is not the job of MEPs to stand up for national interests: that is the job of the European Council. What are “British” interests in the EU anyway? MEPs form blocs based on ideology, and there is a point to this. A banker in the City of London and a banker in Frankfurt are likely to have similar ideas about what EU financial policy should look like. Likewise, British and German low-paid workers are likely to have similar interests in EU employment rights. We should not reduce everything about the EU to national interests, because these are not the only things that matter, otherwise all MEPs from a particular country would vote the same way all the time, which they quite obviously do not.

  • A banker in the City of London and a banker in Frankfurt are likely to have similar ideas about what EU financial policy should look like

    Actually I think you’ll find a banker in Frankfurt is likely to think that EU financial policy should be such as to encourage business to Frankfurt (for example, by imposing regulations that make it advantageous to do Euro transactions within the Eurozone), while the banker in the City of London will think that EU financial policy should be such as to encourage business to London.

    So actually their views on financial policy are likely to be not just not similar, but often directly opposed.

    Likewise, British and German low-paid workers are likely to have similar interests in EU employment rights

    Again, no: French low-paid workers, for example, might like their long lunches and holidays and so favour regulation that stops other low-paid workers from out-competing them by working longer hours, while British low-paid workers might like being able to use their extra productivity to their advantage by opposing regulations that would stop them from working any longer than the French.

  • “It should be pointed out that it is not the job of MEPs to stand up for national interests”

    I’m not sure you understand this whole “representative democracy” thing.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Apr '14 - 1:27pm

    @Tristan: My point is that MEPs do not represent nations. Formally they represent the regions in which they are elected, but except for the smallest countries (e.g. Luxembourg) this does not mean the entire nation. More generally they represent the people of the EU, who cannot be assumed to have identical interests just because they are from or live in the same country. A British MEP is no more supposed to protect “British” interests than an MP for a Cornish constituency is supposed to protect “Cornish” interests.
    And this brings me to @Tim’s post. There may be local cultural differences in the interests British and German bankers, say, but this can largely be resolved in domestic law. The European Parliament legislates for the EU as a whole, and as such decides matters that affect the whole of the EU, not the UK or Germany specifically. Whatever the regional differences in attitudes, it is safe to say that a banker, whether British, German or Italian, is likely to favour light-touch financial regulation at the EU level. A low-paid worker, regardless of nationality, will want the EU to protect their employment rights. And the corollary to this is also true: a British banker will not have the same interests in EU law (any more than for UK law) as a British low-paid worker.

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