Opinion: Four point plan for a liberal, democratic Europe

Europe is rising up the political agenda. It’s an issue that could bring down David Cameron or break-up the coalition. Yet the Liberal Democrats are strangely silent. The EU didn’t appear on the Brighton conference agenda and we no longer have a Minister in the Foreign Office. We need to develop a vision for a liberal, democratic EU and get smart about fighting for it.

Here’s my four point plan:

Mea culpa on the Euro

Like most Lib Dems I was sympathetic to the case for Britain participation in the single currency. I was wrong. Events have shown that monetary union cannot work without much deeper fiscal and therefore political union. This wouldn’t have been acceptable to the British people, even if the economic benefits were clear cut. Nick Clegg should spell this out to clear the decks and move on.

Speak up for a liberal, democratic EU

EU policy-makers are focused on the massive tasks of agreeing banking and fiscal union. This is obviously in the UK national interest, and the Tory Europhobes that flirt with undermining these efforts show their true colours. But the tectonic plates are shifting and changes to Eurozone governance do raise questions about the future role of the wider EU. So we should make the case for a liberal, democratic but more focused agenda. The EU should promote competition and human rights, and work together to tackle climate change and cross-border crime. We should also advance radical new ideas to tackle the democratic deficit, such as proposing that members of the European Commission must come from the directly elected European Parliament.

Build some alliances

Cameron is isolated within Europe because the Tories are seen as destructive not constructive, including his foolish decision to stop his MEPs working with mainstream centre-right parties within the Parliament. This creates a gap for the Lib Dems to fill. There are liberals in a third of EU Governments to start with, but we should also build relationships with others that the Tories have alienated. Influential Lib Dem voices such as Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell and Sharon Bowles should be empowered by Clegg to get out there and promote positive change. We should also work with British businesses which value the single market, and fear that a Tory-only Government may lead to UK exit from the EU. This may even unlock some much needed funding for the party.

Back an in/out referendum

David Cameron’s position on a referendum is all over at the moment, because it is difficult to define the question for which he could back a Yes vote, without splitting his party down the middle. We don’t have that problem and indeed this creates a political opportunity. Yet the Lib Dems risk being painted as an obstacle to the referendum that we should still be advocating. Let’s make it clear that we will ask the British people to support active membership of a reformed, liberal, democratic EU, or face an uncertain future on the outside.

* James King has been a Lib Dem activist for over 20 years, and is based in Hampstead & Kilburn constituency.

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47 Comments

  • Richard Dean 27th Oct '12 - 5:05pm

    Well I disagree with the first point, One the second, I don’t see how electing the commission would make it more liberal. On the third, I agree that Europe is all about appropriate cooperation for mutual benefit, which is something that Cameron and Osborne seem unable to understand – not consistent with public school perhaps?

    We need to celebrate Europe’s successes much more, and celebrate the benefits that acrue to use from being in Europe. I fully support referenda, but we need to have an In/Out question on the Euro rathert than on Europe, and we need to ensure that the electorate are properly informed about what this is all about.

  • Geoff Crocker 27th Oct '12 - 6:12pm

    James, I support the underlying pro-European thrust of your article, but disagree on the Euro and referendum. You and others present the Euro as requiring deep political integration. It doesn’t. Maybe some of its current members, particularly Germany are mis-representing this. It’s a currency union and requires only two main rules be applied to members. One is a common interest rate, which would happen through the convergence in competitive global markets anyway. The other is that each member state limits Euro currency emission to its GDP productivity. This is also what any sensible economy would do. So the Euro currency union is a club with two sensible rules.It’s the second rule which Greece has broken. Reinforcing it does not require EU fiscal government of member states or deeper political union. Member states should either abide by the sensible rule or leave.

    The reasons I am less in favour of a referendum are i) how often are Eurosceptics going to call for fresh referenda ? ii) the argument that we assume (but don’t know) has convinced the electorate has been entirely Eurosceptic (Murdoch press, Nigel Lafarge etc) and the pro-Euro argument needs putting with some conviction, iii) I prefer representative democracy above referenda (eg capital punishment :()

  • I agree with Richard Dean; it is not at all clear that the UK economy would have been worse off outside the Euro. The Euro is here to stay, it is the single market made real. It will do the UK no good to remain outside.

    As for a referendum; I had thought an IN/OUT referendum was already Lib Dem approved. In any case the issue has become so toxic and damaging (not referring to the Tory party here), that a referendum seems inevitable and the only way to put the issue to bed (for another 20 years or so – the loonies will not give up).

    Asking that Commission members come from MEPs, seems interesting and in fact they can do so but not continue to hold both posts. This suggestion misunderstands the system of checks and balances in the EUand the obvious conflicts of interest could be far too great.

    Commission members are put in place by the governments of each state. How democratic this is depends on each member state. In the UK, the democratic credential is weak, so Catherine Ashton, who hardly anyone had heard of before and certainly had never voted for gets put into the Foreign affairs Post. Other governments are more pluralistic and the proposed member of the Commision has to enjoy wider support.

    I would certainly welcome ideas for systems for electing the President of the Commission (from all the Commission members) and for electing the President of the Council of Ministers and the Foreign Affairs Representative.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Oct '12 - 6:48pm

    James King doesn’t propose “electing the commission” but that “members of the European Commission must come from the directly elected European Parliament”, which I read to mean MEPs as Commissioners. I’m not sure this is a good idea, as there is separation of powers between the two bodies (and with the Council of Ministers also), and this proposal might compromise the independence of the European Parliament by creating a “payroll vote” (like in our national parliament), and create a cabinet-style government in which the Commission is sure of getting its own way because it commands a majority in the EP (ditto). Or maybe I misunderstand, and he means having the European Parliament elect individual commissioners, which I think is a sensible idea. The European Parliament should vote on candidates for each Commission post, but Commissioners should not have any other mandate, and once they are elected both the Commission and Parliament should continue to exercise their separate mandates.

    I think jeedibeeftrix is right in pointing out that ideologically the Tories fit in very well with ECR and not so well with the federalist EPP. As the parties in ECR are a crazy right-wing bunch, from a purely partisan perspective I think the Lib Dems should be making a lot more of the company the Tories keep in Brussels and Strasbourg, especially for the European election in 2014.

    And in the European Parliament the ALDE (liberal) group already works with both the other mainstream groups (EPP and S&D) as well as the Greens from time to time; as no one group forms a majority, and there is no “government” and “opposition”, it has ‘dynamic coalitions’: coalitions formed between the groups on an issue-by-issue, vote-by-vote basis. Being the ‘centre’ bloc, ALDE is part of the winning majority more often than the other groups.

  • A single European currency is good in theory, and the principles still hold, but in practice the illiberal, egotistical and corrupt politicians who designed it made massive mistakes which either actively or subconsciously sabotaged it – saying you want to build a house and then constructing a shell won’t make it a habitable permanent residence either before or after winter storms!

    I also strongly disagree that a single currency requires a single centralised interest rate, or that it can be imposed by the introduction of one. That is to look at the matter from completely the wrong perspective. And that is where Jedi’s argument falls down – demanding is not the same thing as doing.

    Europe will not happen until there is a discernable European will. This requires a common political voice. Again this does not come from top-down imposed elections, but from a wellspring of agreement on issues and policies which comprise the basis for unified political parties.

    So, until continental party political manifestos can be produced, EU-wide elections for a President, commissioners, or even national referenda will inevitably be destructive to the European cause and pro-Europeans will be fighting a losing battle against narrow-minded populists.

    As liberals we lead the way on Europe, so we should be more forceful in promoting the links forged within ALDE to create the first Europe-wide political party in order to present a clear unified platform for our ideas and leading voices.

    I would also encourage other groups to follow our example and do likewise.

  • “Back an in/out referendum”
    This was the best bit James. Won’t happen of course whilst Liberal Democrats are around. Why? Because Liberal Democrats don’t believe in democracy. That said, a party calling itself Liberal Democrats who aren’t democratic, won’t be the first miss selling scandal.
    In 1975 we were sold something called the EEC. It was a good idea, and I voted for it. Little did I know that it would morph into the sovereignty sucking monster we have today. Given that it is 37 years since that original miss selling of Europe, is it not time that we had another say in the matter of our integration with Europe?
    Geoff Crocker writes:
    “The reasons I am less in favour of a referendum are i) how often are Eurosceptics going to call for fresh referenda ?”
    Well it’s been 37 years since the last one Geoff. And given that the Eurozone has changed so much since then, how about a new fresh referenda to give voters a (democratic), say, and set the UK/Euro position straight, and I promise not to call for another referenda for 50+ years?
    It’s sad that Geoff and other LibDems either can’t stomach, or are afraid of democracy. Fortunately, other parties are more democratic on the issue of Europe. Remind me again, where are UKIP in the polls ?

  • I seem to have attracted criticisms from both passionate Eurosceptics and deep Europhiles, which I will take as a good sign 🙂

    Don’t have time to respond to all the comments, including the curious suggestion that currency union shouldn’t have gone hand in hand with monetary union/common interest rates, but two quick points:

    Alex Macfie – On selction of the Commission from the Parliament, I am open to ideas about practicalities. Key issue is that we should recongise there is a real issue with the lack of legitimacy and accountability of key decision-makers in the Commission. I am not sure it is a big problem that some members of the Parliament might behave differently if they aspired to become a Commissioner – at least the European electorate could dismiss them if they are seen as doing a bad job (either as an MEP or Commissioner). They can’t do that now.

    Geoff Crocker – I am not perusaded by your arguments against an in/out referendum – which in short seem to be, we had one in 1975 (the year I was born!); we might lose (if so, Britain will have made a bad choice and so be it, but I think we can and should win) and you don’t like referenda in general (I agree, so they should be restricted to significant constitutional changes but the reality is that the EU of 2012 is fundamentally different to the EEC of 1975).

    I should add that I think in future all referenda in all countries on changes to the EU or the eurozone (effectively now another tier of governance) should be in/out affairs – voting against a Treatry change while remaining in the club is a luxurios blocking mechanism which is not viable now the club is so big and complex (rather like a ‘devo-max’ free lunch option but that is another blog!).

  • Geoff Crocker 28th Oct '12 - 4:43pm

    John Dunn, it’s deeply offensive of you to say that I or anyone else can’t stand democracy. You need to revert to reasonable argument not statements of this sort. I support representative democracy, which is the way we generally govern the UK.

    James – I accept that you might not be persuaded by my arguments against a referendum, but you don’t give any reason for this, or any argument in favour of a referendum. Are we to have one every 37 years? Could we have one on whether England wishes to remain in the UK? And on what other subjects, and how often?

  • the test of a democrat is to accept the decision of the majority when they find themself in the minority, and understand either they made bad arguments or didn’t make them strongly enough.

    I wonder, on which basis is John Dunn criticising our democratic credentials?

  • Geoff Crocker 28th Oct '12 - 7:47pm

    A difficulty is though, Orangepan, that there is very unequal access to offer a point of view to the majority for their consideration. Murdoch has it all. It’s why the politicians have known it’s him they have to persuade. A rather asymmetrical democracy?

  • Geoff,
    the complaint from John Dunn was that the party is undemocratic, he didn’t talk about society.

    It’s unreasonably immoderate to try to score points against friends or potential allies.

    Asymmetric democracy? This raises an interesting point – I’ll agree that the democratic geometry of the UK is largely uncharted, but that’s because it’s a fluid dynamic which creates stratification as pressures push and pull in different directions.

  • When you look back on ‘Tulip Mania’, circa 1636, it is obviously absurd. And yet at the time, rational people invested their life savings in this irrationality. It is in fact, just one of history’s many irrationalities.
    But the question arises. How could otherwise rational individuals not see the obvious stupidity, of investing all their savings in a field of tulip bulbs?
    So it is with Europe. Since its well intentioned beginnings, in or around 75, it has morphed into a distended, undemocratic, corrupt, un audited, opaque, sovereignty destroying, unsustainable monster. Not everyone sees it yet, but your tulip moment WILL come.
    I find it deeply offensive that a political party has Democrat in its name, but will deceitfully, and shamelessly, move heaven and earth, to stop the democratic right of people to choose if they want, what Europe has become, since our last vote in 1975.
    And as James King point out, given he was born in 75 he didn’t get the choice. It’s time we gave him and other generation X and Y a say in the matter. If the referenda vote goes to stay with the Eurozone project, I will make my peace with the result, and forever Shut the Hell Up.
    How about you Geoff.? Are you for or against, giving James a say over Europe?

  • Geoff Crocker 29th Oct '12 - 6:04am

    Jedibeeftrix, this is a proposal by ECB head Mario Draghi, not current reality. Draghi is right to point out that nations have lost sovereignty to financial markets, as has the UK. We had Steve Webb warning us at the last party conference that we have to obey them, and cannot wheel back on austerity. Why do commentators prefer ceding sovereignty to such financial markets over which they have no say, rather than to an EU union in which we do have a say? But Draghi is wrong to say that what is needed is interference with member states fiscal budgets. All that is needed is to enforce the rule he points out has been broken, ie that member states restrict their Euro emissions to match their GDP/productivity. This is reasonable and unobjectionable.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '12 - 7:11am

    A sovereign state probably can’t exist long-term in the no-state land between In-the-Euro and Out-of-Europe. We live in a delegate democracy, which is a step up from a representative one. We elect leaders who we expect to have sense and some expertise, and we follow their advice providing it causes us to benefit. So it makes sense for parliament to decide. There is no harm in a referendum but no fundamental constitutional reason to have one. The reason we need one is to is to demonstrate to the Euroskeptics that their cause is truly lost.

  • In today’s Telegraph by Ambrose Evans Prichard :
    “Greece must carry out a further 150 reforms, some involving a drastic loss of sovereignty. Troika payments will be held frozen in a special account under creditor control.” What was that, ( a drastic loss of sovereignty !!??).
    Wow,… didn’t see that coming.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9639512/Germany-rattled-as-taxpayer-losses-loom-in-Greece.html
    Exiting the Euro will be short term painful, for Greece. But Greece needs to get control back of her own future, instead of being played with, like some gigantic pawn in a game of chess played by a bunch of Euro psycho’s.
    As it happens I think another credible possibility, is that Germany has been counting its gold (assuming it is still there in New York !), to see if it has enough to back a new Deutschmark , and has been sneaking out early morning to put towels on the seats on the lifeboats.
    Interesting times.

  • Geoff Crocker 29th Oct '12 - 12:22pm

    John Dunn, I’m in favour of giving James the right he has now to vote for the Parliamentary candidate of his choice who best represents his views on Europe et al. This has the huge benefit of taking place regularly and allowing each new generation to participate every 5 years. You appear to prefer gold standard madness over tulip investment madness, but I assure you the Germans are not that mad, or quite as bad as you make out.

  • Geoff :
    I didn’t say the Germans were bad. But they are pragmatic, and in the end will do what is best for German interests. They would rather stay with the Euro, but if jumping ship proves the better option for them, they will be in those lifeboats by Christmas.
    You say:
    “I’m in favour of giving James the right he has now to vote for the Parliamentary candidate of his choice”.
    Well that is very noble of you, to give James his right to vote for an MP. What I can’t follow, is why you think it is within your authority, to deny James and the rest of the UK, their right to a democratic say over Europe?
    Where did you get those powers of authority Geoff, to tell us, lesser individuals, what we can and can’t do?

  • Geoff Crocker 29th Oct '12 - 5:47pm

    Jedibeetrix, therefore we’d be better in these institutions arguing our point, rather than being sidelined in voluntary isolation where David Cameron has taken us to please his leary nationalist wing. We’ve lost so much sovereignty of UK infrastructure and industry to global ownership, and in financial markets to bond traders and credit rating agencies, and retained one sole sovereignty, ie over our currency which is a mythical sovereignty. I’m no nationalist, but if given the choice, I’d far rather UK owned its airports and power stations than its currency.

  • Liberal Eye 29th Oct '12 - 7:16pm

    I’m glad to see this issue raised; it’sa welcome change to the usual LD policy of saying as little as possible while suporting the status quo. That said, there are some things to take issue with.

    I emphatically do not agree that it is ‘obviously’ in the UK’s interest to move towards banking and fiscal union. If someone was making a sensible and well argued case for banking and fiscal union on its merits and taking the time to get it right that would be one thing but that’s not the case here. The push towards such a union is being driven by a panicky and completely off-the-rails response to the financial crisis that has predictably followed the establishment of the euro and the innapropriate interest rates and financial imbalances that followed (greatly compounded, it must be said, by a combination of foolish banking and bad regulation). And to make things worse, this ‘solution’ is being advanced by the very same people who drove the Eurozone into the ditch in the first place and whose judgement is, to say the least, highly suspect.

    So the primary goal is not to create an enduring union based on strongly equitable principles; rather it is to save the skins of a handful of people who found themselves on the wrong side of the financial meltdown. Thus the main reason for the bailout ‘help’ extended to Greece has been to anable German and French banks to get their money out and dump their unpayable loans to Greece onto unsuspecting Eurozone taxpayers.

    I don’t support that and I don’t support the politicians and eurocrats that have enabled it. I especially don’t support it given that, far from being a step forward into a deeper and more democratic EU it actually increases the unaccountable and undemocratic power of eurocrats. For a view on just how bad the thinking is watch this brief clip (from a German source but in English).

  • Geoff Crocker 29th Oct '12 - 8:29pm

    John Dunn, I don’t have or claim any authority as you strangely put it. I simply have a point of view. It happens to be very different to your own.

  • Geoff Crocker 29th Oct '12 - 8:39pm

    Liberal Eye, you talk of banking and fiscal union in a sweeping way. I claim that there is a good case for joining the Euro based on the elimination of exchange rate uncertainty on major UK investment to supply the EU market. The only requirement of being in the Eurozone is not to cede sovereignty, but to accept a common interest rate, which competitive global markets lead us to anyway, and to limit our currency emissions to our GDP productivity which is sensible economic management anyway. The Euro hasn’t had any greater ‘financial meltdown’ than the $ or the £ before them. It can even be argued that it has weathered the storm better. The current problems with misguided austerity policy are of course not at all unique to the Euro. It’s actually because the Eurozone is adopting ill considered British austerity policy rather than US reflation strategy. All this talk about supposedly guilty groups of people (Eurocrats are the current group for vilification) is too spooky. It sounds like a Vince Cable speech.

  • “John Dunn, I don’t have or claim any authority as you strangely put it”
    Then it’s only fair, to let James, who didn’t have the opportunity back in 1975, to have his say on Europe. It is surely his, (and his generations ), right, to have a say, given that they have many more years of engagement with Europe?
    And if James, and his generation, decide that they want to be part of the European Project, (despite the fact that I think it is a mistake), I will accept it, and live with it.
    It’s called democracy.

  • Pooled sovereignty is one of the achievements of the EU and has allowed the EU to be an important ‘soft’ power in the world. If you are against this you are opposed to the EU, so jedibeetrix is going round in circles because he is against the concept of the EU. Perhaps he thinks he can nudge the Lib Dems towards a more anti EU stance.

    Incidentally, and this deserves a separate article, Blair has given a speech in Berlin where he has said that the EU needs to have an EU wide vote for the President of the Commission or the President of the Council of Ministers. Whilst reluctant to offer Blair ‘the oxygen of publicity’, I do think this idea needs to be taken seriously. What it needs is a leading Europhile politician who can master half a dozen languages and who understands the workings of the EU. – I can think of at least one suitable candidate from the UK.

  • Jedi,
    you are talking in circles!

    “only if you accept the legitmacy of common governance…………. which i do not!”

    The legitimacy of governance is derived from it’s equal application, according to the measure of commonality.

    Either you support the principle of pooled sovereignty, or you think some people should have more votes, and some less, than you. Either you support the concept of democratic debate and participation, or you think all humans are islands.

    The question of the levels at which sovereignty is structured and how it is organised is entirely separate. Sovereignty is not a synonym for independence, it entails a communicative relationship with constituted commitments executed via institutions. Recognition of shared interests (such as on the environment, or for cross-border crime etc) implies a need to work together for common benefit.

    It’s no good looking at, say, a stereotype of a striking French lorrydriver blockading access to channel ports, without understanding the impact this has (in this example) on freight haulage and tourist traffic through those same ports and then establishing a democratic case for exerting political influence to resolve this problem.

    Similarly the Eurozone crisis is massive for Britain because it hurts the ability of our closest neighbours to trade with us, and this directly impacts jobs and finance arrangements here.

    We cannot thumb our nose at foreigners because the world is a global community where an earthquake in one place creates a tsunami on the other side of the ocean… and we know earthquakes can happen anywhere!

    If, as you say, you don’t accept the legitmacy of common governance then it is senseless to attempt to influence others – which, from your continual waves of comments here, you’re definitely attempting to do!

  • Geoff Crocker 30th Oct '12 - 6:26am

    Agreed, Martin and Oranjepan.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Oct '12 - 8:48am

    James King; I agree that there is a democratic deficit in the Commission, but I would be very reluctant to do anything that would interfere with separation of powers. The European Parliament should be able to select, veto and recall individual Commissioners, rather than only having the option to reject all of them as at present . And the President of the Commission should be elected by the European Parliament in a formal contest. This, as well as giving democratic legitimacy to the Commission, would make European elections more European: each European party would put up a candidate for the post of President, and could promote Europe-wide manifestos based on this candidacy.

  • ‘Pooled sovereignty’ is an oxymoron. It’s like saying partially pregnant.
    On the issue of votes for prisoners, either the EU is right (has sovereignty), or the UK parliament is right (has sovereignty).
    It’s possible to compromise. But then, that gives the illusion of joint or pooled sovereignty. In the event of compromise, it means that sovereignty has not been tested, because two competing authorities have each backed off sufficiently, until one reviewed position closely matches, the other’s reviewed position. So in the same way that two dogs might growl at each other and walk away, (each still believing they are top dog), sovereignty was actually never tested.
    The idea of pooled sovereignty is absurd.

  • Just phoned HMRC. They think I should pay tax at 20%. I think I would be willing to pay at 15%.
    So I asked them if we could pool sovereignty on this issue, and set it at (say), 17%?
    Phone went dead !! ??

  • Geoff Crocker 30th Oct '12 - 11:45am

    John Dunn, is referendum the only form of democracy you recognise? James can easily vote for UKIP at the next election if he wishes. And then new generations of voters can vote for UKIP every 5 years, instead of having to wait another 37 years. It’s called democracy.

  • John Dunn, why do you continue to perpetuate that the EU has had anything to say about votes for prisoners? There is no structure within the EU competent to express any opinion on this, whatever the merits.

  • Geoff asks :
    “John Dunn, is referendum the only form of democracy you recognise? ” No, but why do you and the Lib Dem party, refuse to recognise it as a very valid form of democracy? I don’t know if James intends to vote UKIP or not, but many will in 2014, and by 2015, Lib Dems will be consigned to a footnote in history.

    Martin says :
    “There is no structure within the EU competent to express any opinion on this, whatever the merits.”
    I have absolutely no idea what that means. The statement is either highly intelligent, and way way, above my comprehension level, or purposely designed to be convoluted, abstract and without any real meaning in order to distract, from the sovereignty issue that I did make, and which you have still not addressed?

  • Jedi,
    no, I didn’t misunderstand your position. At best you mis-stated what you meant.

    But now let me be explicit.

    I’m not pro-EU or anti-EU, I recognise that a world without order is a world in conflict with itself. Independent sovereign nations do not provide the institutional infrastructure to resolve conflicts in any policy area, the only way sovereign nations can create any semblance of order is through conquest, and all conquest is temporary.

    Britain is proud of our military record, but we have not won a war in more than 500 years except via cooperative alliance with other nations. These cooperative alliances set the foundations on a practical level for permanent peace as the victorious command structures transfer into permanent political institutions.

    The European Union is the legacy of Allied victory in Europe in WW2. If you do not support the principles on which the EU is founded then you wish for a return to the devastation of the 20th Century.

    John Dunn,
    ‘pooled sovereignty’ is certainly not an oxymoron, it is the prize, as anyone who plays or has won the football pools will tell you!

  • Liberal Eye 30th Oct '12 - 5:29pm

    Geoff Crocker – As James King correctly observes “EU policy-makers are focused on the massive tasks of agreeing banking and fiscal union.” That’s a pretty big deal – far more so than the Lisbon Treaty and likely to be far more controversial in due course especially in view of how things have actually turned out so far. In a narrow sense one could argue that it doesn’t concern us as we are not in the eurozone but in any wider sense it does because the decisions made will irretrievably determine the overall future shape of the EU as a whole. More alarmingly, if the decisions are wrong they could trigger the collapse of the EU which is why I believe it’s crucial for LDs to have a positive input.

    As it happens I don’t think that the EU establishment has a cat-in-hell’s chance of getting their proposals through any sort of democratic process (eg referenda) that involves giving the peoples of Europe a free vote so stand by for further attempts at frustrating democracy in a long and dishonourable tradition.

    As for the Euro we will probably have to agree to differ. The UK proved unable to stay within the ERM so why would it be able to live with the Euro? The problem was not primarily that the Euro currency itself might ‘meltdown’ but rather that member countries might be crushed by the economic straighjacket involved – which was always part of the Maastricht deal. The late Wynne Godley put it much better than I could in a prescient article dating from 1992. Sadly, LDs chose to support the half-baked Maastricht plan rather than pointing out the flaws which would have been an immense service to hummanity and left us looking good, even perhaps looking ready for government without the Tories.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v14/n19/wynne-godley/maastricht-and-all-that

  • John Dunn you clearly have difficulty with at simple issue. In or out of the EU the UK would still be subject to Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights judgement on prisoners voting rights. The EU has absolutely NO say in the matter, nor is there any procedure within the EU which could have a say on the matter. If you cannot understand that then it is because you simply do not want to understand.

    The UK is subject to the European Court of Human Rights because it is a founder member of the Council of Europe (NOT the EU!). The Council of Europe comprises 47 member states (NOT 27).

    The only link between the ECHR and the EU is that as part of the democratic credentials for becoming a member of the EU, states are required to be signatories to the European Court of Human Rights convention. The EU does not have any involvement or influence on the European Court of Human Rights. No country has yet dissociated itself from the ECHR; if the UK were to do so, quite apart from the implications of membership of the EU, the effects would be politically cataclysmic and highly damaging to UK international relationships and its standing on issues of basic human rights across the world.

    In Luxembourg there is the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is the highest court of matters relating to EU law. This is the court we turn to if, for example, a country refuses to import another’s products (e.g. UK beef); if the UK left the EU there would be no access to this court.

  • Geoff Crocker 30th Oct '12 - 10:30pm

    Liberal Eye, thanks for the Wynne Godley article. I’m also a fan (and if you keep dropping hints like this I’ll soon be able to identify you!). Wynne opposed the monetarist vision of an economy run by money supply management and balanced budgets. He was an unreconstructed Keynesian, committed to demand management. His article in fact is in favour of European integration and coordinated reflation. But he wants fiscal management, at whatever level the economy is defined. So he wants it for Europe. He would however in retrospect have some difficulty explaining the success of the NICE decade with Maastricht and the ECB in place and no EU federal fiscal government. HIs analytic comes back into play when pinpointing the end of the same NICE decade in a sea of debt. Here a Keynesian view succeeds – demand is deficient because productivity has exceeded real wages and a fiscal stimulus is needed. It’s not a question of UK or EU – it applies whatever the extent of economic union or not.

  • Geoff Crocker 30th Oct '12 - 10:41pm

    John Dunn, yes I happen to support elections in preference to referenda. Elections include all the issues of a multitude of referenda, and so are a more efficient form of democracy. They allow voters to elect a delegated party or person to govern for them, and can unelect them later if they want. This flexibility is also lost in referenda. Then there is the difficulty of exactly what question is set in a referendum. Take the example of the Lisbon Treaty. How many voters will want to read this through in order to vote in a referendum on it? And what is the voting criterion to be? Should they vote in favour if they support 90% of it, or only if they agree with every jot and tittle? In the latter case, no treaty of any sort would ever win a referendum because most people would always object to at least one of its clauses, and so we would be unable to govern ourselves. And yes I do struggle with the case of capital punlshment, where it seems likely that a referendum would see it reinstated, a move I totally oppose and prefer to leave to Parliament.

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