Party’s new European policy – reaffirming our values

For the past few months via numerous zoom calls and countless redrafts, I have been heavily involved in formulating the Europe motion that was debated at Conference and fully endorsed the party’s new policy which was adopted overwhelmingly and stated our long term commitment to membership of the European Union unequivocally, that we believe Brexit to be wrong and that the EU is the UK’s natural home. I know for some that position probably doesn’t go far or fast enough, but as hard as it is to say – as someone who spent the past five years trying to prevent it from happening – we have to accept that we left the EU on 31 January

Right now, the British public has other priorities than Brexit. Yet we still must hold this government to account over its lies and its broken promises, to prevent no deal, and expose the true impact of Brexit – no more so than the loss of opportunity for our young people – and the damage, it is having on the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.

In less than 100 days we shall be exiting the transition period – deal or no deal – and with Coronavirus and the added threat of the climate emergency – the UK is about to face the greatest challenge of our lifetimes. People are rightly scared for their livelihoods, their way of life and their very lives, and we have to be seen to be caring about the immediate issues that are important to them – to be relevant and not distracted. If we want to regain political influence and power – by winning back seats at a local and national level – we need to rebuild our trust with the electorate.

At Conference’s LDEG Fringe debate we heard Sophie In’t Veld an MEP from our Dutch sister party D66 and Lisa Chambers the Brexit spokesperson for our Irish sister party Fianna Fáil speak of their deep sadness that the UK will no longer be there to work alongside them in the EU, at a time when the foundations of our liberal democratic societies around the world are under threat from populism. As a party with internationalism at its core, we can still help build the coalition to take on these forces and nurture contacts between individual members.

Seeking to develop those relationships and foster a greater understanding of the politics in each European country, LDEG as from next month will by hosting regular calls with our sister parties – each month focusing on a different party. In 2021 we shall be taking study trips to Berlin and the Democracy Festival in Denmark.

Let no one doubt, that in our new Europe policy, the Liberal Democrats have reaffirmed that European values, at the heart of the EU, are the same liberal values upon which our party is founded, and believing the EU to be our country’s natural home are ready at the appropriate time to lead the fight for us to rejoin.

* David Chalmers is the Mayor of Northam, Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group, a directly elected member of FIRC, Chair of its Sub Committee on Brexit and the EU and the Parliamentary Spokesperson for Torridge and West Devon

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  • Okay, okay, I might agree with you, but just banging on and on about Europe, submitting articles about it, does us no favours, it gets us no more votes, and let’s face it we have scantily few at the moment. Focus four square on a domestic issue which others are ignoring. Something that is day to day relevant. At the moment we are just plain boring and have not even set off for the race track, let alone the race itself. Apparently some are drinking coffee!

  • Thanks, David for that and the work you have clearly put in at all levels to get to where we are. I think, however, that one of the problems identified was that certain groups and high profile individuals spun the headline message away from the basic position we took. For the many who felt that we were the party of remaining in the EU, this spun message comes over as “we might do it some time, when most people agree with us” rather than we will continue with our attempts to ensure people understand what we are losing by leaving, and the so many positive things about belonging to the EU which got lost in UKIP / Tory propaganda over the years!

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '20 - 1:01pm

    “………the rights of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK…”

    How about a campaign to enable everyone to acquire citizenship, easily and cheaply, in their chosen country of residence? Australia allows all legally settled permanent residents to easily acquire citizenship subject to certain conditions. The fees for visas can be quite high but are much lower for residents, less than £150, wishing to become citizens. There is no requirement imposed by the Australian government that anyone needs give up their former nationality.

    You are perfectly entitled to hold an Aussie passport and still join in with the Barmy Army to support the England cricket team – if that’s your thing.

  • Peter Martin
    “How about a campaign to enable everyone to acquire citizenship, easily and cheaply, in their chosen country of residence?”
    Yes. Those from Hong Kong who want to escape oppression should be able to obtain full British citizenship more cheaply.

  • John Littler 30th Sep '20 - 9:45pm

    New Statesman – Why LibDems & Labour must co-operate to defeat the Conservatives:

  • My view of our recent history is that we will only make progress as a party if we build up enthusiasm in an ever growing membership.
    We need to look at the evidence as to what has happened. In my opinion two key points stand out. In the development of the coalition the broken promise about student fees was a disaster for us not because there was an upsurge of interest in universities but because our members and supporters found themselves in the position of having to defend something that they did not really understand. The austerity so called was in many people’s view simply a continuation of the Tory direction of travel since the nineteen forties, and before of course.
    Then we come to Europe. There were good results in the Euro elections. People were led to believe that they were voting for a party that would do their best to get a new referendum on EU membership. And then the policy changed. We were accused of being anti-democratic. This left the majority of our members who had not attended conference in a position of not understanding what is going on.
    My view is that we need to spread the truth about Europe. I found it very helpful during conference to be able to listen to speakers from Europe including the Irish Prime Minister. Technology presents us with a golden opportunity to communicate between ourselves as members to fully understand the reality of the organisation we are leaving.

  • Christopher Curtis 1st Oct '20 - 8:59am

    Tim13’s comment is perceptive.
    It certainly felt to me like there was and is a big gap between a thoughtful, carefully constructed policy statement and the “mood music” coming from Ed and what looked and felt like an orchestrated chorus from some MPs and other office holders. That’s why there was so much attention given to the meaning of words like “in the long term” and how we spelt out explicitly that we are committed to being members of the EU. It really was not helpful at all to be told that perspectives and commitments deeply felt by many members were “for the birds”.

    And it’s not “banging on about Europe”. Brexit is and always was a means to an end: to re-direct the UK from being an open, inclusive, progressive liberal democracy to being a nationalistic, exceptionalist, authoritarian and regressive regime that serves the interests of those who paid for it and will control it. Annie Applebaum’s analysis is convincing: Brexit has very little to do with the reality of being in the EU. It is really about a war within the long-term privileged elite to allow some of them to remove the sense of noblesse oblige and one-nation duty and the limits it imposes on their ability to do whatever they like and reap all the “rewards” for themselves and their circle. EU membership guaranteed rights they want to take away. It is that simple.

    If fighting that radical and cynical destruction is not a liberal imperative, I don’t know what is. Of course we must be on the side of those who need and give care, but we really have to be careful that we are not focusing on putting better sticky plasters on wounds instead of stopping those people and systems that are doing the wounding.

  • Antony Watts 1st Oct '20 - 11:55am

    What to discuss Europe. It’s not what you think. It’s about freedom. Or our loss of it, our sad isolation when we are globally weak and drifting.

  • Sadly Lib Dems seem to be drifting back to being an amorphous ‘nice’ party, all grandmothers and apple pie. Our policy on Europe, and a tendency to answer questions directly were, until recently, what distinguished us from the other parties. What is left now?

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Oct '20 - 3:36pm

    The quickest and easiest way for us to rejoin the eu is for a landslide victory for the Liberal Democrats on a manifesto pledge to do so, building on the work of our previous leader. It was the right policy at the wrong time. We have put our stick in the sand and people will remember.

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