Tag Archives: europe

What now is our “Path forward” to rejoin the European Union in the future?

Following today’s debate on our European position and deciding as I had hoped that we would move away from an undemocratic “revoke line” which did us as a party no good, and also stepped away from an immediate “hostage to fortune” rejoin line which would also bury us deep into oblivion, and yet we agreed to the strategic and wise move to hold back, listen to the voters not to our hearts and steadily rebuild our support on the matters of today – Covid being the most important to all our lives with a long term commitment to be a Member of the European Union in the future.

However, as a party we now have to build a message which will in time change hearts and minds on the value of our European membership. That means, emphasising from January onwards when we will have according to the withdrawal treaty properly brexited and on January 1st 2021 when we have to interlink the things we have lost to Brexit and gradually bring those issues to people’s attention.

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Speeches that got away – Supporting the Europe motion

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Over the years, our party line on the European Union has been consistent and resilient. Indeed, of all of our policies, it’s the one for which we are most known. Our credentials on Europe has led us to becoming the principal pro-EU party of the UK in the eyes of many. Our MEPs proudly wore anti-Brexit messages to the European Parliament. It is codified in our party’s constitution that we affirm the values of federalism and integration within the EU. Our dedication to pro-European values is not under threat.

But what is under threat, conference, is our message. Our presence in the minds of the public, already tenuous, may well be moribund should we neglect to represent those who would be hurt by a no-deal outcome. Conversely, should we abandon our commitment to Europe, I worry that it will be perceived as yet one more breach of trust. It is our steadfast and durable commitment to the anti-Brexit movement which sets us apart. That is why I believe that we should oppose no-deal now, and not rule out rejoining the EU in the future.

This is bigger than us as a party, and it is more than just our place in Europe that is under threat. It is the lives and livelihoods of Europeans in Britain, and Britons in Europe. It is our voice on the world stage. It is our poorest and most left-behind communities. Our values. Our security. It is even our human rights. That European values fall so closely to our own, conference, ought to encourage us to seek as close an alignment as possible with our friends on the Continent. That our future lies with Europe ought not to be under question.

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Ten former MEPs write….Why now is not the right time to campaign to rejoin the EU

This weekend at our party conference we will debate our Europe motion, clarifying the party’s policy on our relations with and towards the EU.

The main focus of debate between members is likely to be around  ‘r’. Not the COVID ‘r’, which we have all become used to, but the Brexit ‘r’ word – rejoin. 

We all remember the joy we felt last May when our representation in Europe went from one solitary MEP, Catherine Bearder, to a surprisingly fulsome group of 16 from right across the country – several of whom had not expected to be elected. 

It was a symbol of how strongly people felt about Brexit, and, thanks to a proportional electoral system, their commitment to EU membership was reflected in our election result. 

I can honestly say no one in the party, or outside it, regrets our departure from Europe more strongly than the 16 of us. 

But the world has changed since 31st January beyond what any of us could have imagined.

Hard though it is to accept, for those of us who fought tooth and nail to stop Brexit, most people’s attention is now far more  are now far more focused distracted by on COVID and the implications it is having for their families and jobs, the economy, education and our health and social care services. 

As a party, it would be wise for us  to focus on the fact that only 2% of UK voters now think Brexit is the most important issue facing us. We are back to the sort of numbers seen before the EU referendum was even a thing. Remember that? When no one ever talked about our relationship with Europe – except the Daily Mail!

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A Belgian, liberal perspective on handling the pandemic

Leading Belgium’s #COVID19 task force, Federal Minister Philippe De Backer from our sister party, Open VLD, has shown leadership and resilience in the face of crisis. I thought that our readers might be interested to see a liberal response to this crisis.

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Europe and democratic consent

Although the text is yet to be chosen there will be a policy debate at our virtual conference (have you registered yet) on our Europe policy going forward.

The question is whether to adopt an immediate ‘rejoin’ policy, in the spirit of our ‘revoke’ policy at the last election on the simple grounds that we regret leaving the EU and would like to rejoin it, or whether it is a better idea to seek a closer relationship with the EU as a short term goal and to leave rejoining for a time when the prospects of success are better.

I …

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Daily View 2×2: 7 May 2020

2 big stories

Who’d have thought it? The achievement of the testing target on 30 April is already looking deeply shady, with the inclusion of posted tests included in that figure, plus allegations that even those posted weren’t actually usable. And now, subsequent data shows that the numbers are going backwards, not upwards. The solution, a new target. The distraction from failure – some relaxations in terms of going out and about.

Meanwhile, the European Union is predicting that its economy will shrink by 7.4% this year, the worst performance since World War II, with the economies of Southern Europe worst …

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Ode to something less than Joy

There was a time, not so long ago, that any news interview conducted outside the Westminster Parliament would be punctuated by a loud and long cry, “Stoooopppp Breeeexiiiit”.

Brexit was not stopped. December 2019 saw a Tory government returned to power, transformed from a handcuffed minority to a stomping majority. The Liberal Democrats did not benefit in any huge way from the Stop Brexit stance, lost one seat overall, and a certain person did not stand before us as the next Prime Minister.

We could focus on a post-mortem – all the events that led to that outcome – refining …

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Where we go from here

Embed from Getty Images

On Tuesday I visited the European Parliament building for the first time.

I was awed by the beautiful modern glass buildings in the Place de Luxembourg, which merge together to form an impressive (and somewhat confusing) web of corridors and doorways.

The Parliament is the epicentre of the European Union and is where over 7,500 staff and 751 MEPs work. Sadly, from Friday, this will be reduced as our UK contingent leave Brussels – just 8 months into what should’ve been a 5-year term.

But my visit to the Parliament wasn’t just to marvel at the impressive architecture. I came to meet with our MEPs, and to represent Wales at an event entitled “Brexit: What next for the Nation States”. I was joined by the indominable Sheila Ritchie MEP, representing Scotland, and newly elected Alliance MP Stephen Farry, representing Northern Ireland.

I spoke of how there are so many people who feel behind in Wales, with little sense of being connected with the centres of power that made decisions.

Even though Wales received £680million per year from the EU, making it a nation that benefitted far more than it contributed, there is a huge disconnected between areas of high poverty and the actual financial advantages membership of the EU brought for their communities.

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Brexit – it’s time to accept that we’ve lost. There’s a new battle to fight…

I’m a pro-European. I’ve been involved in European politics as an active ALDE Party member for some years now. And it grieves me to say this but… we’ve lost. Complain about the voting system, about the lies, the sheer injustice of the thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Conservatives got their majority and will end the debate about our membership of the European Union in seven weeks. They’ve got a mandate, like the one we would have claimed had we won.

I’ve received a number of invitations to join a group seeking to campaign to rejoin the European Union, and there may be a case to be made for that in the years ahead. But looking backwards gives you neckache, and liberals have a new task ahead, to make the case for liberal values and persuade the British public that our outward looking, inclusive stance isn’t just good in itself, but can actually being benefits to those who have felt failed by the political system.

And yes, that means making the case for a stronger, more secure relationship with our neighbours, holding the Conservatives to account when their choices are bad for our country, its people and the economy. It means having a vision for how that relationship will look, and a willingness to argue for it. What are the benefits to voters in Sunderland, or Lowestoft, or Truro, of a closer trading relationship with Europe? And what are the concessions we might have to make?

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28 May 2019 – today’s press releases

Winning is, it has to be admitted, so much better than losing, but the ramifications of the European Parliamentary elections keep coming. A block of sixteen MEPs are a significant factor in choosing who leads Europe for the next five years, and Liberal Democrats have an opportunity to be heard at the top table, with seven Liberal members of the European Council.

And today’s press releases give you a flavour of the possibilities…

  • Corbyn remains a block to Labour support for a People’s Vote
  • Catherine Bearder elected to lead Lib Dem MEPs
  • Prime Ministers meet to discuss election result

Corbyn remains a block to Labour

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What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – the economy

Given how little coverage there has been in the British media of the work of the European Parliament, it comes as no surprise that few voters know what it does. Luckily, the ALDE Group in the Parliament have produced a guide to their achievements since the last European election in 2014, and I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight some of them today.

More stable financial markets

Scandals around the manipulation of the LIBOR and foreign exchange benchmarks, as well as the alleged manipulation of other indices, has highlighted the importance of benchmarks and their vulnerabilities. ALDE led negotiations …

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LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt writes about the need for a new politics in Britain

We seldom consider the view of British politics from beyond our shores, something even Liberal Democrats are poor at. So, here’s a perspective from someone whose view matters, regardless of what his opponents might say…

Guy Verhofstadt has written for Project Syndicate on what he sees as being necessary for Britain to move beyond Brexit. He starts with a précis of the current position;

The populist revolts in the United States and the United Kingdom have each reached a critical juncture. At the start of his third year in office, US President Donald

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Towards a Referendum Programme for Remain

The original remain campaign was negative and defensive. Nigel Farage, in his debate with Nick Clegg, has been described as “pushing on an open door”. Is all we can offer negatives – there is no European Army – there is no federal state – Turkey is not going to become a member – when all of these things are partly untrue?

Our opponents will say that “remain in the EU as we were before” would be to ignore the previous result; to betray the people’s vote, to disillusion the country and cast doubt on democracy itself.

The Remain …

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Brexit: are the young being taken for granted?

The deadline is fast approaching for the end of negotiations and commencing of the transitional period after the 29th March. To many, time is running out for the government to bring back a deal that would minimise the economic uncertainties that are seen to ensue after Britain withdraws its membership from the European Union. Moreover, the government have had two years to devise a plan that suits the interests of all, but in that time it can be seen that they have merely delayed the process for as long as possible in hope that the EU would make compromises. In …

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The Liberal Democrats are part of ALDE, and will stay a part of ALDE

Two weeks ago liberals from across Europe gathered together in Madrid to debate policy, receive training and pass a new manifesto for next year’s European Parliament elections. This new manifesto reflects the commitment of liberals from across the EU to our shared European values. It is a manifesto which seeks to bring all Europeans together; and because of the efforts of European Liberal Youth (LYMEC)’s delegation, it reflects the views and aspirations of young people from across the continent. Indeed, there were few delegations as active or as well prepared as LYMEC’s.

At …

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Party Leadership change at D66: Veteran Pechtold hands over to young talent Jetten

The coalition government has always been difficult for Dutch social liberals; but that never discouraged us from taking responsibility in the national interest. Both the VDB of the years 1901-1946 and my party D66 (founded 1966) have suffered electoral losses because they participated in coalition governments (and Dutch politics always have those), limiting their ability to build profiles on all possible subjects.

Another similarity is that the VDB was the first in the 1930’s to attack principle the pro-Nazi party NSB, and under the party leadership of Alexander Pechtold (2006-2018; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Pechtold ) we were and are the first, and the most insistent and principal attacker of both islamophobe Geert Wilders and Jared Taylor-racism adept Thierry Baudet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thierry_Baudet ).

In 2003-’06 we suffered in a coalition with VVD and CDA (they used opposition Populist MP’s to press rightist measures) resulting in significant losses (locally and nationally) in 2006. Former cabinet minister Pechtold became party leader and re-energised and professionalised our party organisation. He attacked Wilders and tried to get necessary but unpopular measures (raising the state pension age; environmentalism; Europeanism) through parliament. These activities resulted in a spectacular resurrection of D66 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democrats_66 ) from then on.

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The inspiration for European integration is part of British history too

Two years on from the EU referendum and Walter Benjamin’s haunting observation that “the very past itself is at stake” seems appropriate.

What sort of future Britain will have depends, to a large extent, on how a working majority of voters and politicians understand her past. For, as the UK’s former judge on the European Court of Justice, Sir Konrad Schiemann, noted in a 2012 lecture on the EU as a Source of Inspiration, “what you find inspiring depends to a degree on where you come from and what you’re looking for”. Born in 1937, Schiemann was probably the last CJEU judge to have experienced the Second World War. Growing up in Berlin hiding from British bombs and then, via Poland and the Lancashire Fusiliers, landing up as a law student in Cambridge, Schiemann is clear where his generation were coming from and what they were looking for. His generation of Brits (and many of those that followed) understood the preamble to the European Coal and Steel Community as being part of their history too, despite Britain not having been a signatory to it.

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@ALDEParty Council Report: and now, the end is near?…

The sun was beating down in Sofia, the sky was blue, there wasn’t a cloud to spoil the view. But there was Brexit in our hearts…

Yes, it was time for the Spring Council meeting of the ALDE Party, hosted by our Bulgarian sister party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. The key items of business were the continuing work towards the 2019 European Parliamentary election manifesto and the adoption of the 2017 audit. In truth, the latter was never going to be an issue – finances are healthy, and likely to become …

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Keep the faith: our party should not consider any merger

There is a lot of talk about a possible new centrist party forming, given the deep divisions in the two main parties and the lowly position of the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls.

People can’t seem to decide whether we are more pro-Tory, on the basis of our Coalition involvement, or more pro-Labour, on the basis of our commitment to social justice and community. We have some claim to be different from either of them.

But we lack a cutting edge to seize public imagination. Is that because we don’t have any passionate commitment to good causes? What do we care most about? What makes us tick?

In switching back from demanding action on poverty and inequality to a renewed focus on fighting Brexit, I wondered, why does that seem so natural to me? What links my fervour for Europe with my concern about the increasing hardships endured by fellow citizens today?

Perhaps strangely for a social liberal, I think it is pride in my country.

I am proud of Britain being still at the centre for world affairs: a member of the UN Security Council, able to intervene militarily in the Middle East struggles against evil movements, at the same time donating 0.7% of national income to UN development projects. I am also proud that we have had a place in European history that stretches from sharing Roman civilisation to running an Empire to taking a lead in defeating Nazism and Fascism, and that we are still one of the big players in Europe at a time when the Continent needs to stand up to the big powers of the USA, Russia and China.

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Was Corbyn right to sack Owen Smith, after he advocated a referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal?

One answer is horror: there’s a compelling case for asking the British public whether the Brexit that is negotiated is what they actually want — not least because the dishonest and contradictory messages from the Leave campaign mean that many who voted Leave will find a large gap between the deal that is offered and what they thought they had voted for.

But an Exit From Brexit means healing the deep divisions that it has exposed, not just a narrow vote the other way in a referendum. That means bringing across many of those who voted Leave, and engaging …

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The dream of a wonderful Brexit

Much has been written about the negative feeling which drove Brexit, but it easy to forget that there is a positive and indeed a romantic aspect too. We fondly cherish the wartime image of Britain carrying the torch of liberty, standing alone against the dark forces which were engulfing the continent.

Beyond that, Britain still retains a dim but influential memory of its empire, of the great and global power we once were. The pens I used as a child at school were inscribed “empire made”, and it was an empire on which the sun never set. Europe, where was that? You might learn a little French if you were lucky but certainly not German, and in any case everyone should speak English.

In those days, just after the war, all Germans were regarded with suspicion and it was not until I was older and travelled to Germany that I realised they were normal human beings. The crucial experience for me came in my early twenties, when I took part in an international workcamp. For the first time, among young people from all over Europe, I realised what it meant to be British.

But for many who voted Leave, the opposite holds true: you can only be truly British by keeping the other nationalities at arm’s length. Why is that? Perhaps because sadly, there are millions of older Britons who have never had the opportunity to go abroad, unlike the modern generation. Why go abroad anyway, when Britain is the only country that matters, and Brexit will restore all our past glories?

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LibLink: Dick Taverne: The MP who beat Eurosceptics to hang on to his seat

A passionately pro European MP faces deselection by an anti-European local party. What happens then?

You could imagine this scenario unfolding for a fair few MPs today, but one person actually had this happen to him  and he survived. In 1972, Dick Taverne’s local Labour Party in Lincoln deselected him or voting for us to join the then Common Market.

It wasn’t the end of the world for him. He resigned as an MP and fought the subsequent by-election as an Independent and won.

He writes about his experience in this week’s New European to give moral support to any MPs in a similar situation today.

What also swayed a lot of votes was my appeal that politicians should put country first, constituency second and party third.

Burke proved popular. Indeed Roy Jenkins, not a natural populist, temporarily became a popular hero and told me that taxi drivers would wind down their windows if they passed him and shout: “You stick to your guns, mate.”

Are circumstances less favourable for a deselected dissident today? They are probably more favourable. At that time, party loyalties were much stronger than now. When I announced I would stand as an independent, the general view in the media was that I had committed political suicide.

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Debating Europe from first principles – a new force in Romanian politics

Sometimes, opportunities come along unexpectedly, and when, two weeks ago, the opportunity to go to Timişoara came along, I grabbed at the chance, without really stopping to consider what I might find when I got there. And Eastern Europe does, beyond the classic cities such as Budapest and Prague, have a bit of an image problem given the effects of war and communism on the architectural heritage.

I was there because a new Românian political party, the Uniunea Salvați România (Save România Union), was hosting a conference entitled “The Future of Europe is …

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Meanwhile, in liberal Europe… October’s election results…

Whilst British politics is dominated by Brexit, elsewhere in Europe, life goes on. And yes, the question of “what Europe?” is playing a key role in the changing scene, but it is not the only issue.

Earlier in the month, the Austrian Parliamentary elections saw the triumph of the shiny new leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), Alexander Kurz, aged just thirty-one. Talk of a coalition with the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ), led by Heinz-Christian Strache, was somewhat curtailed when, once all the votes were counted, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) limped into second place by less than 1%. Putting …

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ALDE Party Council review: meanwhile, in Europe…

On Saturday, the European liberal family gathered in the Slovene capital, Ljubljana, to compare notes and to start the process of preparation for the 2019 European Parliamentary elections. It offers your correspondent an opportunity for reflection and, if you’ll excuse me, more than a hint of regret.

But first, what will be happening? The ALDE Party Bureau have appointed Taavi Roivas, the former Prime Minister of Estonia, to chair a ten member Manifesto Committee, whose task it will be to gather evidence and ideas from across Europe and beyond the narrow confines of …

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Social Liberals: winning against Populism because we have “street force”

First of all, on behalf of the tens of thousands D66 party members (over 25.000; and we’re gaining members every week for the past year,  our heartfelt congratulations to the Lib Dems on passing the 100.000 members threshold. And you’re not done yet, I know.

If we look to our Spanish and French social-liberal, pro-EU sister parties, Ciudadános and Macrons movement “En Marche”, they too are booking spectacular results in gaining members, and getting members active on the street. According to the French Wikipedia and the Economist, En Marche (EM) claimed 88.000 members in October 2016, and  250.000 now.  The Economist reports about EM-activists canvassing the British way in Strassbourg streets (and elsewhere).

That is the big difference I noticed in the Dutch European elections (2014) and our recent General Elections (March 2017):

  • whereas D66 activists were visible on the (high) streets and at train station entrances handing out leaflets months before (and until) election day,
  • other progressive parties (PvdA/Labour, GreenLeft, and old-style Socialists\SP) were strangely absent, where they dominated the scene until about ten years ago,
  • the center-right parties (VVD/NatLibs and CDA/Christian Democrats) and PVV never were very active in that way.

D66 has also started canvassing the British way in “friendly” neighbourhoods, talking to people on the doorstep; but we seldom hear that from other Dutch parties. Only PvdA/Labour appears to do that, and the Socialists/SP say they do it.

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Trying (too hard) to curb EU free movement: A symptom of the EU-wide social democracy meltdown

Just as I was reading Nick Tyrone’s blog about Corbyn betraying the EU freedom of movement but wanting to have the EU cake nonetheless, another recently-elected Labour leader came on Dutch public radio. Note the date: Tuesday, January 10th, 2017.

I’m talking about former Amsterdam alderman and present Dutch minister of Social Affairs, the ambitious lawyer Lodewijk Asscher of the “Partij van de Arbeid”/PvdA, literally: “Labour Party”.

In the 1980s, when Labour under Michael Foot was going through its “Militant Tendency” phase, the then PvdA leaders, ex-prime minister (1973-’77) Den Uyl and coming prime minister (1994-2002) Wim Kok deplored that leftist populism and leftist political correctness gone wild. So both criticised it: British Labour, come to your senses.

Not today.

In the Dutch campaign that just got started for the General Election on 15th March, Mr. Asscher, who just two weeks ago won a party leadership contest, just said that he counted on “European Leftist support” (PvdA jargon: from fellow Labour and social democratic parties) to pursue his top-profile policy: curbing free movement of labour through the EU. When the radio presenter quoted a phrase Gordon Brown grew to regret: “Jobs for our labourers first”, Mr. Asscher readily agreed. And who does he expect to get support from?

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ALDE MEP Charles Goerens proposes EU citizenship for members of former Member States

It looks as if it isn’t just the Liberal Democrats who are keen to remain within the European Union. Charles Goerens, a member of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament from Luxembourg, has suggested that there might be scope for those British citizens who wish to be part of the Union to obtain associate citizenship.

He has submitted an amendment to a draft report from Guy Verhofstadt on “Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union”, which reads;

Advocates to insert in the Treaties a European associate citizenship for those who feel and wish to

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Video: something for the Liberal Democrats to try?

Our Norwegian sister party, Venstre, has always been creative in their approach to politics. Instead of going into coalition with the ruling Conservatives, they entered into a confidence and supply arrangement.

This week, they published their budget proposals and issued a video to support them…

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European liberals to debate what comes after Brexit

alde-congress-2016Yesterday, members of the Party’s delegation to next month’s ALDE Party Congress in Warsaw, Poland, met to discuss the draft resolutions as submitted from liberal parties across the European Union and beyond.

Naturally, there will be much discussion on the future of the European Union post-Brexit, and resolutions on the subject have been submitted not only by the Liberal Democrats, but by our sister parties in Germany, the Czech Republic and Sweden, amongst others. It is noteworthy that Liberalerna (Sweden) call for;

a balanced deal for both the EU and the UK… which does

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