Opinion: Will the EU miss us if we leave?

clegg merkelIt was central to David Cameron’s EU bargaining position: the assumption that ultimately the EU would do everything it could to avoid our exit. It would yield to every request placed upon it because, after all, the UK is important. It is a bargaining position that has been fatally undermined by Angela Merkel as she suggested that the UK has reached a “point of no-return”, and that if the UK maintains its pressure on allowing curbs on EU migration she would be prepared to see the UK leave. In other words, the principles of the EU are more important than one individual member.

This rationale, although likely to frustrate sentiments of British Exceptionalism displayed by some, is not wholly surprising. Rewriting fundamental aspects of any political settlement does not come easy, perhaps precisely because relenting on one aspect of an institution undermines the ability to stand up to other requests for substantial renegotiation.

The question this raises is whether the EU will really miss if we go. It is worth pointing out that the UK has the third largest EU economy in terms of overall GDP. What’s more, in terms of the EU budget we are a net contributor, adding over €3 billion to the purse every year. However, when you consider GDP per capita, we fall to a fraction above the EU average and we continue to hold one of the highest net deficits of any member state, against EU advice. Our size gives us a relatively strength in Europe, yet the macro picture demonstrates that other nations are more productive.

As tempting as it may be to think of contributions to the EU as purely fiscal, it is worth considering the spirit of cooperation apparent in the EU. When we contemplate this facet it is easy to see whey the UK may be construed as a thorn in the side. In the European Barometer Survey in 2012 found that the UK had the lowest trust in the EU of any member state, with over 75% stating that they distrust the institution. This is manifested in many of the views of leading politicians. In 1962 Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell promised “the end of a thousand years of history”, his apocalyptic vision of the then Common Market. It is this sentiment of EU calamity that can be traced all the way through to Nigel Farage’s tirades in the debating chamber in Brussels. Since the inception of the EU many politicians have already been running to the exit doors.

Given the manner by which some in the UK have sought to denigrate the EU it is perhaps little wonder that Merkel seems unfazed by the thought of a UK exit. The man caught in the middle is David Cameron. Initially he sought renegotiation as a means of keeping the UK in the EU; increasingly he appears to be the Prime Minister who will lead the UK out.

* Scott Stables is Secretary for Edinburgh North East and Leith Liberal Democrats and blogs at Slant and Sensibility

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36 Comments

  • The EU will miss us massively if we leave. And we will miss them if we leave.

  • Whilst Angela Merkel is no liberal she is absolutely right in resisting changes to the free movement of people. It is one of the founding principles of the European Community that we should be able to buy goods without restriction from any member state, set up businesses anywhere within the community and sell our labour anywhere within the community.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 3rd Nov '14 - 1:48pm

    Not surprising trust is so low. We only ever hear the economic advantages of membership and none of the political advantages. Until that happens we are doomed to be cynical…

  • Presumably most of those calling for us to leave the EU would put us in EFTA which would defeat the whole object?

    Unless of course they are TTIP fans and want us in NAFTA, which would just swap the complaints about unelected comissioners to unelected corporations calling the shots?

  • In short, Europe would greatly miss the UK, but the UK would miss the EU even more.

    The reality is dangerous for both: a Brexit would cause economic turbulence on both sides, but would be much worse for the UK. Angela Merkel, like most EU politicians, is a realist. If she sees a strong chance that the UK may well stumble out of the EU, she will take steps to mitigate the negative effects for the EU and her own country. Already politicians are discussing where the UK will be outside the EU. Jacques Delors has openly suggested a Swiss/Norwegian model of semi-detachment, whereby the UK pulls out but then negotiates a relationship with the EEA to which the UK would have to make financial contributions, which are used to develop and sustain growth.

    Others are eyeing up the opportunities for bringing the City of London’s financial services into the Euro area.

  • I think the EU will miss the UK much more, we have kept a balance in the EU and if the UK leave I think it will be the start of the breakdown of the EU as a whole. I don’t believe there will be mass unemployment for the UK, after all the EU has much higher unemployment that the UK right now even after mass immigration to the UK. We might suffer economically for the first few years, but after that we will prosper, and will do our own deals with other countries for our exports and imports. We rely to heavily on the EU, and when the EU has an issue the UK suffers. We need to broaden our horizons. We will still trade with the EU, they need us to keep buying their goods, especially Germany.

    Overall though, there are a lot more things we could do to limit immigration before a brixet, one is to make sure people have a job before coming into the UK, something I am really surprised wasn’t a condition years ago.

  • John Critchley 3rd Nov '14 - 4:30pm

    Some of the discussions at the moment are worrying. The idea that the free movement of people is something that could be changed is naïve, but I know people who say they would be in favour of it.

    I don’t think the problem is seen as people coming to work. It’s mainly whether they come to draw on our welfare state, although in some areas there does appear to be pressure on housing and services which doesn’t help.

    Our welfare system in the UK seems to be different to many other countries (contributions, minimum period of work, etc) and that appears to be where some of the issues reside. It apparently means that people coming to the UK can draw on the system quickly (restrictions currently subject to an EU court case?) whereas in other countries they cannot.

    If we applied a ‘minimum period of work’ rule that applied to everyone in the UK would that be acceptable? That seems to be the way the EU is pushing us,

    I believe that Germany, Austria and the Netherlands also feel that some changes are necessary in the EU, and I’m sure we could be good allies if we worked together instead of antagonising each other. I also think that Germany wants us as an ally. Is working together impossible?

  • matt (Bristol) 3rd Nov '14 - 4:51pm

    I don’t like to admit it, but there is a pragmatic argument for slightly more controls on migration to and access to benefits within the UK than those that apply to the Eurozone countries; as a large economy outside the eurozone, when the eurozone economies are slower than ours, we do not want sudden shifts in population in our direction. However, this will only be achieved if:
    – arrangements are reciprocal and we allow the same restrictions to apply to our citizens moving the other way
    – we make this a uniform, jointly bargained arrangement with all the other major non-eurozone nations who do not wish to join the eurozone.

    The unilateral, Britain-is-special-and-you-can’t-do-without-us-so-give-us-what-we-want approach pursued by both the Tory leadership and UKIP is not going to deliver this. Cameron’s approach will naturally birth Farage’s, as he has no interest in the other EU countries as anything other than short-term pawns in his negotiating game.

  • Surely the problem is that what people voted for in 1973, which was the freed trade area of the EEC has changed into an ambition to create the United Sates of Europe. This was the aim from the beginning but Wilson, Heath and the FCO did not warn the British people. The people who warned about the loss of sovereignty included Foot and Powell who were on the political fringes.

    No politicians has tried to explain the implications of the various treaties; consequently large parts of the population feel we have been hoodwinked by them .

  • David Allen 3rd Nov '14 - 6:26pm

    Merkel is playing brinkmanship. It is actually a slight sign of weakness that she should feel it necessary to resort to such tactics. A Brexit would be a massive political failure for Merkel, as well as being a disaster for the UK.

    What Merkel is aiming to convey to Cameron is that she can’t possibly budge on the basic principle of free movement, for reasons which in truth are not terribly good ones. Her voters have got too used to driving across Western European borders with carefree abandon. Coupled with this is the inertia factor – since free movement is enshrined in the treaties, it would be hard to change things.

    One of these days, Europe as a whole will suddenly wake up to the fact that change is needed. It will depend on events. Maybe the Balkans will erupt again, or there will be mass expulsions of Roma, or Ukraine will split into two. Then there will be mass flows of refugees, and the whole of Western Europe – not just the British – will race to set up border controls. Humanitarian principles will be thrown out of the window – and in all probability, things will be a lot worse than they would have been if we had had some sort of properly planned European internal border controls already in place. Belatedly, it will be recognised that what works for free movement between Belgium and Holland is not viable for movement between the very different countries of Western, Southern and Eastern Europe.

    In the mean time, Merkel is steering Cameron toward the acceptance that he will only gain concessions that can be portrayed as leaving the free movement principle intact. The concessions might be, for example, some sort of exceptional restrictions on new EU members. Any agreement Cameron might think to reach before the election will of course be rubbished by UKIP as inadequate, irrespective of what the agreement is. Therefore, Cameron will settle nothing until after the election.

    UKIP is grossly exaggerating the immigration problem for its own political purposes. The Lib Dems are playing into their hands by insisting that they can’t see any problem at all. In the eyes of the majority of voters, this just makes the Lib Dems look myopic.

  • stuart moran 3rd Nov '14 - 6:48pm

    Charlie

    It is all there in the Treaty of Rome…..why is it you plead ignorance as an excuse? Do you sign a contract without reading it?

    It has always been clear (to me at least) that free trade equals free movement of people within Europe

    Anyway, how do you know that people were ‘hoodwinked’ and didn’t know about this?

    Thatcher reiterated it in 87 in the Single European Act as well…..

  • John Roffey 3rd Nov '14 - 6:56pm

    David Allen 3rd Nov ’14 – 6:26pm

    “UKIP is grossly exaggerating the immigration problem for its own political purposes. The Lib Dems are playing into their hands by insisting that they can’t see any problem at all. In the eyes of the majority of voters, this just makes the Lib Dems look myopic.”

    An extremely insightful post in my view. If the Party wants to start appearing relevant to the majority of voters, recognising that a referendum on our membership of the EU is an essential first step for a number of reasons – but essentially, given how we became to be members and the significant impact of joining – it is simply the right thing to do.

  • I just thought it appropriate to mention in the article it mentions the average productivity in the UK vs the EU is not all the much better. Perhaps one reason for this is as the number of people moving here has decreased our productivity while the dip in the number remaining in the home country would improve productivity

    As far as I understand it the UK government will help employers with NIS payments on new staff appointments in my opinion this has led to employers increasing the workforce so that for example holiday and sickess is covered, the downside is when all are at work not enough is about in workload to occupy the size of workforce.

    The overmanning also has a negative effect on low paid who before the NIS initiative at least had some overtime which is now gone, the pension acrual is now reduced as the gross pay is less and finally the workforce have no disposable income.

    If you had a job like that how sympathetic would you be with the level of EU workers arriving on our shaws, this is not about benefit tourism it’s about the ease employers can find a cheap workforce

  • Tsar Nicolas 3rd Nov '14 - 8:22pm

    There are winners and losers from globalisation, and the winners tend to be concentrated in the upper tiers of society.

    The free flow of capital and labour does not ultimately benefit ordinary people because it puts a squeeze on wages and allows capital to re-locate to places where wages are lowest.

    The losers were cushioned for some decades by the expansion of the world economy permitted by abundant cheap energy. as we move into an era of scarcity more attention will have to be paid to those who lose out.

  • Stuart Moran,
    Peter Shore in his “Separate ways ” explains the process. K Clarke admitted h had not read the treaties . At no point has a politicians explained the various treaties and their consequences .

  • John Critchley 4th Nov '14 - 7:36am

    I’m with Charlie on this. I think that almost no-one knew the direction of the EU in 1973. How many of us read The Treaty of Rome? For that matter how many understood the other treaties when they were agreed? For instance how many people even involved in this knew what subsidiarity was? Does anyone really know now, or does it mean something different to all the parties? Federal in the French sense, or the German sense, or the way the UK would like it? Could we all even agree?

    For me it is vital that we stay in the EU alongside Germany. We both understand that reforms are necessary to improve the economies of the southern members including France. I’m just not sure that this is what Cameron is inclined to deal with but he should. I don’t think for one minute Merkel is trying to push us out. She wants us there, but we have to want to be there.

    The Single Market (Maastricht?) doesn’t operate in some countries and these should be taken to the European Court for blocking trade. I spend a lot of time in France. It obviously chooses what it wants to go along with or ignore from Treaties. Protectionist and isolationist, they will hold back progress unless the Northern countries flex their muscles soon.

    I know that we talk a lot about economies and not the way of life but a country needs a good economy. Many Brits think that life in France is wonderful. It is. Or at least it can be. There’s a lot of poverty, especially in the rural areas. People work hard for less money than the UK. There’s no working tax credits. There’s not enough work. There’s no doubt in my mind that France does have to change. It may have to be pushed!

  • John Critchley
    Merkel is a weather vane. She has inherited one of the strongest economies in the World. Her formative experience is in a communist country where one had to be sensitive to the slightest change in policy to survive. Cameron is poor judge of character , especially women. Merkel is known to conduct vast numbers of opinion polls and will be sensitive to views of German employers who want cheap labour. Basically German employers want Germans for skilled well paid work and cheap foreigners for casual , unskilled and semi-skilled work.

    The free movement of labour is basically to enable employers to recruit un and semi-skilled foreign labour: Germany employed Jugoslavs and Turks for this reason. Working in agriculture and construction often requires enduring the cold and wet which many Germans prefer no to do . Hotels and catering require large numbers of unskilled people working long and unsociable hours and employers want women from countries with low wages such as Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy. The free movement of people to undertake un and semi-skilled poorly paid work such as construction,agriculture and catering/hotels is a form of outsourcing.

    The German welfare system is very different from the UK’s , as all other countries in the EU and therefore does not attract welfare migrants. The problem is that though all European countries have welfare states and health services , the way they operate are very different. Britain’s offers tax credits, housing benefit and access to flats for unmarried mothers which largely does not occur in most European countries. In most European countries there are forms of medical insurance which are cheap because costs are funded or controlled by government in some form. In most of Europe there are strong pressures to prevent 2- 3 generations of families living on welfare.

    Migration should be of benefit on those living on less than average salary, in social housing and in deprived areas and not to their detriment. Migration should not benefit those on above average salaries , owning their own homes and living in wealthy areas and or left wing people playing race games who are trying to show that people who oppose immigration are racist. Race pimps have insulted the tolerant British people.

    A simple solution would be
    1. No welfare unless one has worked for 10 years paying taxes, unless handicapped.
    2. Any foreigner only to receive welfare of the same value of their own country, if health and education had to be paid for , likewise in this country. No access to property if owner had received tax money for construction- no access to social housing.
    3. Preference given to people born in LA .
    4. People from EU can come here to work, proof of permanent employment required.

  • Clearly both Britain and Europe will be seriously weakened if Brexit comes about. It is idle to debate which will suffer most. It is essential for all those who want us in to say so strongly and publicly.
    The “Britain-is-special-and-must-be recognised-as-such” attitude is summed up for me by a very recent ComRes opinion poll which on one hand asked “Do you agree that all citizens of other European countries should have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom” – answer “yes” 36% “no” 46%. – and on the other hand asked “Do you agree that British people should be free to live and work anywhere in the EU” – answer “yes” 52% “no” 26%. The same sample of 2000 people!

  • Cornelius Logue 4th Nov '14 - 10:12am

    Of course the one huge thing that everyone in Britain ignores in what passes for “debate” on UK membership of the EU is the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland will not leave the EU anytime soon, so will Little Englanders attempt what could not be done at the height of the Troubles and stupidly seal it off? Good luck with that.

    If I, as a member of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland would be angry at any disruption of movement between both parts of Ireland and between Ireland and Great Britain, how will everyone else react?

  • Igor Sagdejev 4th Nov '14 - 10:29am

    @Charlie

    I agree with the direction of your thoughts, but some specific suggestions, or numbers therein, are not quite realistic, and certainly not “simple”:

    1. No welfare for 10 years – normally, an immigrant is a permanent resident after 5 years, and, if they want to, a citizen after 6. You clearly cannot discriminate your own citizens (and it is questionable that you can do so with EU citizens for 10 years, if you allow this to local-born hereditory public charges). I would suggest a lower time limit, say, 2 or 3 years, and that would probably have to be for everyone.

    3. Again, “born in LA” is not the best formulation. Someone may have been born elsewhere, but lived here for 10 or 20 or 30 years.

    4. “proof of permanent employment” is not a good idea. Even people from many non-EU can travel to the UK. Do you want to only let in those with proof of permanent employment? Bye bye tourism. And why permanent? A, say, year’s contract is no good?

  • Igor Sagdejev 4th Nov '14 - 10:36am

    Ah, yes, the “treaty rights” are excercised by th following (so far as I remember from the guide to the citizenship application):

    1. Workers
    2. Job seekers
    3. Students (must buy their own health insurance!)
    4. Pensioners
    5. Self employed
    6. Self sufficient (must buy their own health insurance!)

  • @ Cornelius Logue

    Absolutely. In fact there is a LDV article waiting to be written sometime about the conservatives attempts to undo the Good Friday Agreement not just for the reasons you mention but also because they want to scrap the convention of human rights which was a fundamental part of the Good Friday Agreement.

  • @ Charlie

    “employers want access to unskilled labour”. Yes but not exclusively. For example large software houses like Logica want the freedom to bring in the best software engineers from anywhere in the world and here in the West Midlands we have recently been recruiting Greek nurses to fill a skills gap.

    You make a very interesting point about policy being tested first against its effects on those in poorly paid jobs, in social housing and so forth. The foremost liberal philosopher of the last century, John Rawls, made a very similar point in his “Theory of Justice”.

  • @ Charlie

    “Surely the problem is that what people voted for in 1973 [1975?], which was the freed trade area of the EEC has changed … No politicians has tried to explain the implications of the various treaties; consequently large parts of the population feel we have been hoodwinked by them” .

    Actually I can remember distributing a leaflet in 1975 which said that one of the advantages of a “YES” vote would be that you could travel around Europe without a passport. Of course that dream has not quite been realised. You have to have a passport to cross the UK’s borders but UK citizens can travel freely between France, Germany, Austria and Spain etc without passports.

  • Peter Galton 4th Nov '14 - 11:54am

    I think that Europe would be quite pleased to wave us good bye as we drift off to nowhere. As far as they are concerned we are a pain in the backside. The whingers of Europe.

  • Angela Davies 4th Nov '14 - 12:05pm

    The EU will probably be glad to see the back of us. We have been a troublesome member from the word go. There are many things that could be done better by the EU and had things been better handled we could have done a lot of good. Our behaviour and attitude over the years has been very divisive and arrogant.

  • John Critchley 4th Nov '14 - 1:00pm

    Troublesome we may be but I think that most countries would not be pleased if we left the EU. France may be delighted for purely selfish reasons – it doesn’t like a lot of what we stand for – though oddly I think there’s quite a lot of admiration for us among the population.

  • Igor,
    The basic is one pays in more than one takes unless one is prepared to die for country. If one joins French Foreign Legion one i offered Citizenship after 5 years.

    Richard,
    Britain had the chance to develop the craft , technician and graduate scientific/engineering skills in the 1960s and blew it. . The lack of nurses , doctors and computer skills are because we spent vast amounts on social sciences and humanities in the 60s and 70s. Universities such as Sussex, Kent, Essex, LSE, UEA , Warwick , York had very small engineering/technology , small science ( and then it was pure ) and very large arts and humanities numbers . What was needed was a College of Advance Technology – Aston, Salford, Brunel , etc in each large conurbation /county producing people at HNC/B.Eng level through day release/night school to produce the skills we needed.

    Universities such as Bradford until recently had degrees in anatomy, biochemistry and physiology and could have easily been the basis for a department of medicine but it was stopped by U of Leeds. Medicine requires above average ability in chemistry, biology and physics combined with physical fitness( long hours) and practical common sense. Plenty of people e with adequate A levels are rejected by medical departments : they should be expanded and stop recruiting foreign doctors. Basically , the BMA reduces supply to increase salaries.

    By all means be free to travel, study( leave when finished ) but do not claim on the welfare state or disadvantage those on average salaries, living in social housing and deprived parts of the country.

    Britain is different because our past in different and therefore our character is different.

    A major aspect which is ignored is that in the 1930s , Britain had a democracy which resisted the Nazis and Communists . The vast majority of Europe fell into conflict between left and right ( 1000s of Roman Catholics were murdered by left wingers prior to the Civil war and France was in a state of political paralysis). Schuman et al wanted to create a bureaucratic state which did not allow the people the final word( Europe had endured the conflict between left and right prior to WW2) but were guided by those better educated than themselves. Schuman believed in a caste of Guardians( non-elected EU officials ) who were better educated than the common man and knew what was best for them. Schuman et al fear referanda because it is a clear statement of the peoples wishes. Schuman who was a catholic conservative , as were many founders of the EU want to re-create a modern day Carolingian/ Holy Roman Empire , hence leaders of Germany and France visiting Charlemagne’s tomb. Most of Europe fears it past, because of invasion, defeat, betrayal by fellow countrymen and capitulation. There is no official history of France in WW2 because too few French come out of it with any glory: until May 1941 the communist supported the Nazis and as late as October 1944 , French were betraying the SAS to the Germans. In Greece there was Civil War from 1944-47.

    Britain started rule through consent with Aethelberts Laws of about 650AD, by the time of Magna Carta in 1215, the English had been drafting rules under which they lived for 550 years. By 1298 AD, we had Parliament which combined with Magna Carta meant that the English had a degree of freedom that was unknown in Europe. Edward 1 said ” That which concerns all must be consulted by all” . The Continental monarchs believed in Divine Right of Kings which meant the political system was rigid and brittle: the monarch could not be argued with and did not need to consult. The British system relied on the Monarch consulting Parliament which gave it a degree of resilience. It would appear that many European politicians and un -elected officials have inherited a belief in the Divine Right of Kings and do not believe in consulting those whom the laws concern.

  • Kay Kirkham 4th Nov '14 - 2:21pm

    Charlie – I voted in 1973 and I understood what I was voting for. Indeed, I was and still am, a supporter of closer political ties ( insert the dreaded F word here ). Perhaps this is because a)my parents and grandparents spoke frequently about their experiences of ‘ the war’ ( 1914 and 1939) b) as a child, I remember the Cold War as very scary time.

  • I was pleased reading that many think the EU would not miss us as the wingers of Europe one hopes that if a referendum did vote for exit that unlike many other EU states if the politicians never liked the vote it would be a neverendum a bit like Scotland nationist want. I still fail to see why Scotland could have a referendum but the UK can’t

  • Charlie:

    Robert Schuman was born and raised a Luxembourger. His father was from a the Lorraine a territory that was alternately German and French; his mother was from Luxembourg, a country that too was traumatised by invasion in two world wars.

    More than anything else he was an idealist. During the war his defiance of the Nazis led to imprisonment, but escaping before he could be sent to Dachau, he continued to be part of the resistance. He was a devout Catholic: that is about the only bit you got right in your misrepresentation of Schuman. The abiding motivation for Schuman and other founding fathers of the EU was to create an interdependence and cooperation that would render future war unthinkable.

    Lest we forget.

  • Martin 4th Nov ’14 – 3:09pm
    ” …Robert Schuman …….. …was a devout Catholic: that is about the only bit you got right in your misrepresentation of Schuman. ”

    Well at least Charlie got one fact right this time. His forays into history are usually imaginative and sometimes even entertaining but few would ever accuse him of the crime of historical accuracy.

  • Kay Kirkham,
    You may have understood but even K Clarke has admitted to not reading treaties.

    Martin,
    Nato stopped war. Nato kept the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down . The European Coal and Steel Community Treaty stopped war as well , because one cannot build a war machine without vast amounts of high grade steel. When asked by Roosevelt what name should be given to the war, Churchill said ” The avoidable war”. When Kohl supported Croatia leaving Jugoslavia it was the start of civil war. The rise in muslim terrorism is in part because The West protected Kuwait but allowed Christian Serbs to murder muslim Bosnians.

    The road to hell is pave with good intentions. The non -elected EU officials , politicians and judges has reduced the ability of Britons to decide how Britain is run and this has never been discussed in general. It is only politicians such as Peter Shore who have attempted to explain how the various treaties have reduced British sovereignty. As Jefferson has said ” if you sacrifice liberty for security, you will have neither”. The Founding Fathers of the USA commented extensively on the relationship between freedom, responsibility and security. Interdependence and cooperation does not necessarily increase in security but it often does reduce freedom. If one depends upon a weak nation, then under pressure they are likely to buckle and cause one problems. The Saxon shield wall only worked when all were equally strong, skilled and brave. The economies of Portugal, Greece , Spain and Ireland are the shields which buckled.
    What will reduce war more than anything is a confident people who love liberty and who are free from self loathing and an inferiority complex. The rise of the National Front in France and Golden Dawn in Greece show a rise in those with inferiority complexes. Those who wish to impose their will on others largely have an inferiority complex, be they Nazis, Communists or members of ISIS.

    A continent with free trade in goods and services with an absence of tariffs and barriers would enable countries to develop at their own pace. The Italians had a very good white goods industry but the Euro has increased their prices in comparison to German products. I would suggest that if one looks at quality, German white good are value for money , whereas Italian are over priced but they used to be value for money.

    If Germans had sold their manufactured goods in DMs, they would have been 20-40% more expensive , the PIGS had used their own currencies; there would not have been such massive trade imbalances. The Euro has created conflict over trade which did not exist before.

  • JohnTilley: Thanks, I keep forgetting that when “someone on the internet is wrong” I really should avoid responding!

  • Martin 5th Nov ’14 – 12:13am

    Martin, I think you were absolutely right to correct Charlie on his collection of mirsrepresentations of Schuman.

    I just think that if you have to correct Charlie on every one of the historical inaccuracies that he regulalry packs into his comments you will be taking on a heavy workload.

    It is not entirely unusual for someone with an interest in history to exaggerate the facts or in some cases fill in the bits they do not actually know with something from their own imagination. It is just that Charlie seems to have made an artform out of such an approach. For example his suggestion that nobody knew what they were voting for in the 1975 referendum. This is his invention not a historical fact. I know because I was there for the 1975 referendum, I voted, and just like Kay Kirkham I knew exactly what I was voting for.

  • Indeed JohnTilley: I spent many hours traipsing round Oxford delivering leaflets: Cooperation, ever closer union and neutralising conflict were all important issues. It was a time when the Northern Ireland troubles was very much in the news; one hope was that with both the UK and Ireland in the Community, the conflict would be dissipated. I think that common membership of the EU did make it easier to reach the Good Friday agreement .

    There certainly was criticism that the EEC was ‘a rich man’s club’; this was answered by those who stressed the communitarian aspects. Very few of whom I knew at that time were voting for ‘a rich man’s club’, yet today the right wing like to pretend that that is all we were voting for: au contraire!

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