Opinion: From a friend with love – Let’s have an honest debate on the EU and UK

When Alexander Stubb, Finland minister of European Affairs and Foreign Trade, was going to give a talk about the debate on the UK membership of the EU entitled ‘The UK and the EU: sovereign illusions in an age of interdependence‘ at the London School of Economics, you knew it was going to be interesting, for two reasons. First, through his wealth of experience in the European Parliament as MEP in 2004 and in the European civil service, Mr Stubb knows the EU modus operandi like few do. Second, it is sometimes good to have the perspective of a foreigner – albeit in this case a Europhile with strong British ties – a view from the outside, to see what a debate is missing or how it is perceived.

And it was unsurprising then that Mr Stubb deplored the tone of the debate, the misinformation around the EU, and the overall negative portray of the EU depicted.

When I look at the British debate on Europe I sometimes wonder where these qualities are. Pragmatism seems to have surrendered to ideology, openness to barriers, confidence to mistrust. Britain is one of the most civilised countries in the world, with arguably the most uncivilised debate on European affairs.

He called for the UK to have an honest debate about the EU membership where the both sides of the membership are explored. He deplored the great attention given to the negative side of membership.

So, Britain has a decisive influence on the EU and its policies and it seems to benefit from being a member. But looking at where the British EU debate is going, this positive foundation seems to have a limited impact.

The contribution of the UK to the EU is immense and important, in his opinion, on values that are the corners stones the EU such as the internal market, free trade, competitiveness and financial services.

As ‘the Party of IN’, the Liberal Democrat must keep being the champion of the positive aspects of the UK membership to the EU. The EU does not only provide jobs for three million people in the UK and represent around 50% of UK’s exportation; it also does much more that impact our everyday life in ways we sometimes don’t even know or see.

It is so easy to forget THAT! So easy to take thing for granted!

Let us keep reminding everyone that the UK would be a much different place without the EU. Let us rectify the facts about the EU! Let us create the condition for a fair and honest debate about Europe! We owe it to ourselves.

Because in the end, as Mr Stubb remarked, this is a decision “for Britain and the British people alone.”


* Samuel Sigere is a graduate student at King's College London in Ancient History, who lives in London. French from birth, British by heart, he is a new party member and is looking forward to getting involved in the party.

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  • Well said, Samuel. For far too long we have let the devil have all the best tunes.

  • “The contribution of the UK to the EU is immense”.

    Indeed, everyone should be celebrating the opportunities we have given to three million people from the EU to come here for jobs. I hope that we will keep plugging away so that eventually everyone will come to agree.

  • Shirley Campbell 10th Mar '14 - 6:52pm

    Thank you Samuel, your sentiments have lifted my spirits. I glean that you are multi-lingual which, in my eyes, is a force for good. Furthermore, education and enlightenment must be the way to break down barriers. I wish you well.

  • Giles Goodall 11th Mar '14 - 9:23am

    Thanks Samuel for highlighting this, Stubb’s speech was excellent and well worth reading in full. Goes to show that our friends and allies in Europe are crying out for a change of direction from the UK in the EU!

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