Tag Archives: europe

@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 …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 271 Comments

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 …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

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?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 40 Comments

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.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

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 …

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

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 …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 11 Comments

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 …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

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?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 21 Comments

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

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

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…

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

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

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

William Wallace writes: Could Brexit split the Conservative party?

 

How deeply could Brexit divide the Conservative Party, as the contradictory choices involved in negotiating an alternative relationship with the EU become clearer?

Media focus since the Referendum outcome has been on the widening divisions within the Labour Party.  Press comment has praised the self-discipline of the Conservatives, by contrast, in resolving the issue of leadership so quickly – though in reality it was resolved by the implosion of ‘Leave’ candidates, one after the other, leaving Teresa May in command of the field.  But the divide between practical Eurosceptics and ideological Europhobes is wide, and often bitter.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 22 Comments

Deadline extended for motions on Europe for Autumn Conference

agenda2106Given the fast moving political context, members have been allowed more time to construct a motion on Europe for Conference. A 90 minute slot has been allocated on the Monday morning for a debate, but the deadline for submission of motions on Europe will be 1pm on Monday 5th September.

The text of the motion that is selected will be published in Conference Extra, which is published during the week before Conference. You can then submit amendments right up until 5pm on Thursday 15th September.

Posted in News | Also tagged | Leave a comment

Speech: Jim Wallace – Progressives must come together to work to heal our fractured country

Jim Wallace delivered this speech in the House of Lords on Tuesday. We thought readers might wish to read it in full.

My Lords, as I expressed during our discussions last week, I was devastated by the result of the referendum. I, along with many Noble Friends and many Liberal Democrats, have a profound and deep-rooted commitment to partnership with our European neighbours. Internationalism is in our very DNA. Our commitment is not to an institution in a particular form; rather it is a commitment to the beliefs and ideals of the wider European undertaking– of a peaceful, prosperous and united Europe, kindling a spirit of reconciliation and mutual cooperation among members.

This is something that I and many Noble Friends have striven for our entire political lives. So the result of the referendum last week is felt very personally on these benches.

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

EU Referendum: a vote to define ourselves

It has been affirming, in recent weeks, to meet so many people working together, making sacrifices small and large for the “Remain” campaign. We are united of course in our bemusement at what we perceive to be what The Washington Post called the “insanity” of the Brexit case; our case feels hard, in large part, because I think it is. But when the dust has settled and tempers cooled, however, I wonder if we might better understand their apparent eccentricity by recognising some of it within ourselves.

Because, at the personal level, few of the sacrifices make obvious sense – meanwhile, some of our own ideas are sometimes too firm. Whilst it has been heart-stirring to see people stuffing envelopes and giving money and travelling across Europe to help, it can also be head-scratching, too. In Casablanca, Rick Lane’s character makes a common declaration of apparent cynicism “the lives of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world” –it is echoed in politics often. Whilst voting is easy, it is still a sacrifice of time: as big a mystery as the millions voting for Brexit, are the millions voting at all.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Je Suis Européen

The EU has been the greatest institution in history for empowering countries. Rather than a sovereign state, or even entity, it only has what it has been given by the sovereign power of its member states. The collective recognition of sovereign states, pooling their power together in a supranational institution for the collective benefit of all them. What they have achieved is an institution that pools sovereignty for the collective benefit of those involved, the power of the EU, is the collective power of 28 member states. The power they ‘give away’ is power they now have across an entire continent.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 1 Comment

Nick Clegg writes…Europe makes Britain great

Unlike many of our neighbours, Britain did not join the EU as a way of embracing a new, modern identity. For the Germans, French, Italians and the Benelux countries, European co-operation represented the victory of peace over war. For Spain, Greece and Portugal, membership signified the victory of democracy over fascism. For many newer members, it was about throwing off the tyranny of Soviet communism.
Not us. Joining the European Community was a pounds and pence calculation of what was good for us, done with a shrug of the shoulders and an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ acceptance that the age of empire was over.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Europe’s Liberal family grows

aldeLiberal Democrats campaigning hard to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union can perhaps take heart from the fact that the European Liberal family, as represented by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE Party), continues to attract new member parties, showing that European and Liberal Democrat messages still resonate on the Continent.

At the ALDE Council meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, the other day, hosted by the city’s Liberal Mayor,Remigijus Šimašius, no fewer than four newbies were welcomed into the fold: three as full members and one as an associate member (a stepping stone to full membership).

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

Words I can’t mention

 

I learned a valuable lesson on LDV last week and that is that there are some words so emotionally charged that their mere mention provokes a pre-programmed response more incendiary than the sight of a cat to a Staffy. So while I wanted to talk about the Lib Dem take on populist green causes I naively opened my piece with a discussion of the F-word and at that point lost my audience. I won’t make the mistake of stepping on that particular land mine again, you know the one I mean, the issue of vulpine persecution, Basil Brush meets the Hound of the Baskervilles?

Another topical tantrum trigger, one that is splitting Corbyn’s Labour party this week is the T-word – Neptune’s toasting fork (7 letters). No, I can’t say it for fear of unleashing a figurative Armageddon on the terrors of the real thing and blowing any chance of getting to the punch line.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 26 Comments

Baroness Ros Scott writes…Up for the new challenge

Liberals from across Europe have been meeting in Budapest for the annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe,  including a sizeable delegation of Lib Dems led by Party President Sal Brinton.

ALDE has 55 member parties from across the continent,  49 members of the European Parliament, 5  European Commissioners and 7 Prime Ministers. There’s also a local government group in the shape of Committee of the Regions, and a network of Liberal Mayors.

A recent decision to trial an individual membership scheme has gone from strength to strength, with over 1,500 joining up already.

On Saturday, after a intense campaign, I was lucky enough, and honoured, to be elected as one of the new Vice-Presidents of ALDE,  which means serving as a member of governing body, the Bureau.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

The EU already gives us more than anti-Europeans are promising

Inside the EU we have better access to the European marketplace than we could ever have outside. And the clout of such a massive bloc means we strike better trade deals now than we ever could on our own.

For years anti-Europeans have churned out stories about Brussels banning schoolchildren from eating yoghurt and the Queen from appearing on our passports. More recently they latched onto immigration, with Brexiteers offering up conflicting numbers of how many millions of foreigners are on their way.

With the referendum approaching however the time has come for them to stop complaining and start explaining. What assurances can they give, for instance, to people in Swindon who earn a living building cars for Honda? How secure are their jobs going to be if trade barriers go back up?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 2 Comments

Russia, ISIS, globalisation and the EU – Norman and Tim answer foreign affairs questions

LDV recently put some questions on foreign affairs to the two leadership contenders. Here are their responses.

1. Can you summarise in around 100 words what a liberal foreign policy looks like in your view?

Tim Farron:

Liberals are proud and passionate internationalists because we believe in the rights of all people – no matter what they look like, what they believe or where they are – to live in peace, free from poverty, ignorance and conformity. We understand that only by working with other countries through strong international institutions can we make that a reality and build a fairer, greener, freer world.

It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.

Norman Lamb:

Our Party is proudly internationalist. Our leaders have often been lone voices, Paddy demanding rights for British citizens from Hong Kong, Charles opposing the Iraq War, Nick in taking on Nigel Farage‎

I share these courageous liberal values‎. Liberal values are universal – they do not respect borders.

For me Britain should play a global role and prompt Europe to do more for peace, in tackling poverty and climate change, and in standing up to oppression.

We must also be able to defend those who need our protection, our allies, and ourselves. Enduring adequate funding for our armed forces means debating Trident’s future when our world is far more threatened by terrorists and cyber attacks than by nuclear war, and pursuing reform to make sure our forces are effective and efficient.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 22 Comments

Opinion: 200 years on from Waterloo: democracy not dictators, unity not barriers, peace not war.

WaterlooThis week’s 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is a reminder of how far Europe has come.

At Waterloo, 65,000 men were killed or wounded in one day.  In contrast, we have now had 70 years without war in Europe.  Long may peace continue.

We enjoy secure peace partly because every country in Europe now has an elected government. There are no more monarchs or dictators seeking out war for vanity or power. Most importantly, we have the European Parliament where modern opportunities and problems, which cross old national borders, can be discussed by MEPs we elect rather than fought over by armies.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 10 Comments

ALDE Party Council preview: remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue…

Whilst most of you will either be at your count (and good luck to you all!) or sitting in front of a television set or a computer watching the results come in, your correspondent will be in a hotel room in Oslo. Yes, it’s time once again for liberals from across Europe to gather and tell the British how sorry they are for the result/share the love and tell us things will get better/express surprise at how well we did (delete as appropriate). And despite exhaustion and uncertainty, a small, depleted and wholly male delegation will be there to fly the Liberal Democrat flag.

So, what are we there for, apart from the joy of discovering that a second mortgage is required to buy a beer?

Council will be opened with a speech from the Prime Minister of Norway… who isn’t a member of our host party, Venstre, but is leader of the Conservative Party. That said, the ruling minority coalition of the Conservatives and the Progress Party has a confidence and supply arrangement with Venstre and the Christian Democrats in the Storting to ensure its survival (and you thought that British politics was complex?).

The agenda for Council itself is unlikely to generate much excitement, although the membership application from the Liberal Party of Gibraltar is a welcome one, especially given their performance in the European Parliamentary election last year (the Liberal Democrat list – Gibraltar is part of the South West England region – gained 66% of the vote). There will also be a rationalisation of the Slovenes, as three of the five member parties there are expected to disaffiliate (they have, effectively, ceased to exist).

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Opinion: L’Europe : le chien qui n’aboie pas*

 

* Europe: the dog that doesn’t bark

At the East Midlands Liberal Democrat conference in February Sal Brinton’s advice was not to make Europe a campaign issue. Subsequent events have proved her right.  My agent urges caution as UKIP did well in this constituency in the European elections. Ed Milliband ran it up the flagpole at the start of the short campaign by pointing out how destabilising a referendum would be for business, but but no-one saluted. Tony Blair mentioned it and had a similar non-response. On the doorsteps it’s barely figured. A handful of people have voiced strong anxiety over UKIP and been delighted when I say I’m their opposite: as many have said they are voting UKIP and slammed the door.

Even in the torrent of emails from 38degrees (and similar), the only thing even vaguely connecting to the EU has been TTIP,  where the anxieties are far from reality.

Yet  globalisation is moving quickly.  The single market was formed to increase our competitiveness on the world stage (also the primary reason for TTIP), and the associated changes to the institutions of the European Union were to ensure democratic control — directly through the European Parliament, and indirectly though national governments.

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats are the only party which can be trusted to get the European question right – we should say so

At some point during the next 2-3 years the British people will probably be faced with the most crucial decision to confront them since the end of World War II: that of whether or not to leave the European Union. The importance of this issue far transcends that of the individual policies listed in the emerging manifestos of the three main parties. The impact of these policies will be felt for, at best, the span of a single Parliament. The impact of our decision on Europe will be felt for decades.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 17 Comments

Tim Farron writes… Never has the political market been so crowded in the UK. Never has there been more space for a Liberal Party.

I cannot start this article without expressing my deep shock and concern for the families affected by the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is stark warning that we can no longer take for granted the liberal order which our predecessors fought for.

It is a great honour to be appointed Foreign Affairs spokesperson and I want to thank Nick for giving me this opportunity. I am very aware that it is rare for foreign affairs to be the defining issue for most voters. But this election, as in so many other ways, is not running the usual course.

UKIP has brought …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 13 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Raw 22nd May - 10:42am
    Suzanne Moore, reflecting on the wedding and sermon in today's Guardian, captures many of the contradictions and inequalities of modern Britain. If Liberal Democrats are...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 22nd May - 10:27am
    Ian Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May '18 - 9:49am. Switzerland also has a long history of referendums, partially affected by the Roman Catholic Church. Referendums around...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 22nd May - 10:10am
    Devolution in Scotland has produced the situation where the Scottish parliament has voted on the issue of what happens about powers returning from the EU...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May - 9:59am
    First let me express my sympathy with Elizabeth for what she went through, and to others with comparable experiences. I was in Dublin last week,...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May - 9:49am
    Switzerland has been mentioned (ironically with a total population close to my 5 million figure.) It has much less centralised structure than most countries. I...
  • User AvatarIan Sanderson (RM3) 22nd May - 9:42am
    To answer the question: Devolution- what is it good for? It can deliver more responsive and efficient government than trying to run 50 million people...