Tag Archives: european union

Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Lib Dems lead the opposition to Brexit

This week I was chatting to a (pretty senior) press person about the forces of gravity holding Lib Dem polling figures below the double-digit mark. 

Their response was that we were playing it too safe and needed to do something alarming. This was whilst waiting for the Commons’ votes on Monday night. Neither of us thought for one moment that that event might be our current leader and our former leader missing a Commons vote on a Jacob Rees-Mogg amendment designed to make the cobbled together Chequers agreement even less palatable to the EU. The Government won the vote by a whisker – just 3 votes in it. 

So, the fact that 17 Labour MPs went awol and 4 (if you include Kelvin Hopkins) voted with the Government, was lost in the excitement of Vince and Tim having been let off the whip by prior arrangement at a point when it had been deemed safe to do so, and Jo had been paired.

Of course, had it been realised that Labour were going to, unexpectedly, oppose the Government (a rarity when it comes to Brexit legislation) and the vote was going to be a close one, then our arch-remainer leader and former leader would have been in the lobbies. So, the expected, comfortable, Government victory margin was reduced to three. 

It’s a shame they missed this vote, but let’s not despair – we are nowhere near the end of the long Brexit road. There are opportunities aplenty coming up when Vince will be leading our Commons team trying to stop the Government taking a wrecking ball to our economy for a pipe dream.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that the only logical end to this sorry saga will be for the public to have the final say. This has been the Lib Dem position from the start.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

What more do we need to try to do to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the EU?

It seems to me that our position on Remaining in the EU is that people will see that we will be worse off outside the EU than in it. When they see the deal which is negotiated, they will have their ‘Road to Damascus’ moment and a significant proportion of the British will want to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU.

I don’t think that will be happen. The 2016 referendum was fought on a campaign which stated we would be much poorer outside the EU than by Remaining in it. That campaign failed to get a majority of the British people to vote to stay in the EU. I can see no reason why, if there was a referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, the result would be different. We would be doing the same thing as in 2016 and expecting a different result.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 54 Comments

Brexit is a luxury for the few – The EU is a necessity for the many

2018 is the year we need to #stopbrexit. Opposition to Brexit throughout 2017 was remarkably constant and evenly split. Private polling however suggests some ‘Releavers’ (effectively the softer remain half) have rejoined hard Remainers, and there is now a small percentage of ‘Bregretters’. Some leading pollsters argue 60% plus opposition to Brexit is needed for six consecutive months for enough Parliamentarians to start speaking out.

So the current direction of travel is towards Brexit even though some leading groups, notably half of EU27 ambassadors and High Commissioners in London, reportedly believe Brexit won’t happen. The May minority government has been longer lasting than many anticipated and to date has been able to progress Brexit legislation relatively unscathed. However, Brexit can still be reversed so the real question is how we might do so.

In this four part series, I shall briefly examine legislative developments and the upcoming timetable, prospects for the EU negotiations, mobilising public and political opinion against Brexit, and the prospects for a referendum on the terms.

To date in Parliament, there has been one significant victory with the narrow passage of Dominic Grieve’s Amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Clause 9 of the Bill is now “subject to the prior enactment of a (separate) statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal”. This presents Parliament with additional opportunities to shape the terms of departure, including possibly to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, and to provide for a referendum on the terms. The recently relatively quiet hard Brexiters could also cause trouble for the Government on the £40 billion settling of accounts. However, it appears the ideological EUphobes are ready to accept Brexit at any price as long as they secure their long-cherished ‘Independence’ day.

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The EU Parliament Takes A Principled Liberal Stance

Despite the claims of British politicians, which in turn are echoed by their diplomats, the UK is not “within touching distance” of agreement on citizens’ rights.  Following a reiteration of this claim by UK ambassador John Marshall, at a public meeting on Wednesday in Luxembourg, MEP Charles Goerens outlined the European Parliament’s position:

  • Any application for ‘settled status’ should be a simple, cost-free and automatic process, that can be made by families as a joint declaration.
  • Applications should not depend on complex conditionality and

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Topping up your suntan – and your favourite soap

 

I’ve just got back from a holiday, replenishing my Vitamin D in the Canaries. Although I had a wonderfully relaxing time I didn’t want to cut myself off completely from things happening back in the UK.

Like most hotels across the world, we were offered just two English language TVchannels – BBC World and Sky News – which was a bit limiting. Unlike business hotels, holiday hotels  took a while to realise that their customers would value free Wi-Fi anywhere on site, but that is now pretty standard. So I could also listen online to the radio live and on catch-up whenever I wanted through the BBC and other channels. But that did not apply to TV programmes.

Whenever I tried to access www.bbc.co.uk, I was redirected to www.bbc.com, so I wasn’t able to watch UK based BBC television programmes live or on catch-up. This didn’t exactly spoil my holiday but I was rather keen to see the final two episodes of Apple Tree Yard, which had left us with a cliffhanger. No doubt other holidaymakers would have appreciated a chance to follow their own favourite soaps and series, as well as news from their home towns.

Posted in News | 3 Comments

What would you do if you were the Mayor of Calais?

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Inside the Jungle in Calais

I was part of a Local Government Association delegation last week to the ‘jungle’ in Calais.

The ‘camp’ is essentially a shanty town with tents and shacks (including ‘restaurants’) built from scrap materials. It is set in sand dunes next to an industrial estate and alongside one of the key roads heading towards the Channel Tunnel. Its occupants are mainly male and there are over 800 residents classed as children – including many teenagers. The bulk are Afghan, fleeing Taliban conscription and in places combat zones. There are some Syrians as well as Eritreans and Somalis.

The authorities are clearly hostile to the camp: residents feel that the inhabitants are responsible for nuisance and crime. The response to this in March was partial demolition –which meant that 127 children simply disappeared. Meanwhile the CRS (the riot police in other circumstances) harass the inhabitants – confiscating phones, destroying SIM cards – and using plastic bullets, which can cause life-changing injuries.

The camp does not officially exist. Nevertheless, provision has been made for some inhabitants to go into adjacent freight containers – adapted to provide a form of accommodation, aimed at women with younger children, because of the dangers posed by people traffickers in the main camp.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

The government’s EU “remain” booklet hits the doormats…and it is spookily reminiscent of its 1975 counterpart

P1010392 (2)Here’s the very booklet I received yesterday from Her Majesty’s government. It’s a rather dry looking document, but the message is clear, as it is repeated, more or less, three times on the cover of the booklet:

Why The Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is in the best decision for the UK.

…on the front and:

The Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK.

and

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Leaving Europe so we can adopt Aussie-style immigration rules won’t solve a thing

 

Nigel Farage told the media last year, “I am saying that if we have an Australian-style points system, immigration would not be a problem.” He made the point again earlier this month, speaking to Sky News.

The fact that inside the European Union we can’t adopt a more restrictive Australian-style points immigration system is for many the single biggest reason there is to leave the EU. Rid ourselves of the shackles of Brussels, crack down, and, as Farage himself said, “immigration would not be a problem.”

It’s a point summed up by their migration spokesman, Stephen Woolfe MEP: “To restore Britain’s borders, we need to leave the EU & implement a fair & ethical Australian style points based system.”

Well, I’m on holiday in Australia this week, and I’ve been reading the papers. And one thing I can definitely say is that an Australian-style points system is no silver bullet when it comes to immigration.

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Putting in a good word for Turkey and the Turks

I couldn’t believe the UKIP Party Political Broadcast (PPB) earlier this week. It really is a new low for a PPB to comprehensively denigrate an entire country and its people.

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‘Make the case for Europe yourself and stop hiding behind business’ – Farron

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s European referendum speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said yesterday:

The Prime Minister is calling on businesses to step up and join the campaign to remain within the European Union. I call on him to step up and make the case himself and not hide behind businesses. He needs to lead, not follow.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party united in the case to remain. Together the EU has created the world’s largest free trade area, delivered peace, and continues to give the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely. History shows that Britain is better when it is united with Europe.

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The UK and the EU have a chance to stand up for drug policy reform

 

Nick Clegg made a big announcement on Thursday 1st October that has as yet gone unreported on LDV – he’s going on a jolly around Europe. Well no, not quite. He’s actually going on a tour of the EU to try to convince its leaders to stand together on the subject of international drug policy reform. Nothing like a challenge, eh Nick? But this is a serious issue, and at an absolutely crucial time. In April next year, the UN General Assembly will be holding a Special Session (UNGASS) to debate how to approach global drug policy over the next ten years and beyond, at a point where different parts of the world are diverging ever more rapidly on the issue of how to tackle the problems associated with drug use.

If the EU stands together united at UNGASS in calling for certain reforms to the UN conventions, and I sincerely hope Nick succeeds with his mission and it does, it has a much greater chance of making a positive impact. But what reforms can the EU agree to stand on? At one end countries like France and Sweden do not endorse any kind of change to their (relatively) strict drug laws, whereas countries like the Netherlands and Portugal have lead the way on liberal, evidence-based drug reforms for years. In the middle we have countries moving both ways too, with both Germany and Italy making noises about reforming their cannabis policies, Ireland voicing its support for drug decriminalisation and supervised injecting rooms and the the UK… well the less said about that the better. In fact, it has been noted that the EU can be seen as a near-perfect experiment for comparing the efficacy of a spectrum of subtly varied drug policies on relatively similar populations.

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The No campaign’s grim blueprint for a Britain out of Europe

European FlagLeaving the European Union would be a big deal. It would mean slamming on the brakes, crunching the gears and setting out on a new course, and, in the run-up to the EU referendum, the No campaign will argue that we should do just that. They want us to break with the past and follow a new path. So, what would a No victory mean for the future direction of Britain?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 56 Comments

Opinion: The UK is dead – long live the EU

The English are the last on this sceptred isle to realise that Britain is dead.

It’s hard to remember that the nation-state is a modern invention: the Treaty of Westphalia gave birth to the conception of crown and country. Britain herself was an elaboration on 18th Century statecraft.

Each of our constitutional nations brought their talents to bear on Britain’s great endeavour: the British Empire. A merchant empire defended with regiments of Welsh and Scots infantry and English seamen; managed by a ruling class composed of feudal aristocrats and nouveaux riche industrialists and merchants.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 60 Comments

LibLink: Tim Farron says the deaths this week are a wake-up call. We need a change of direction

Tim Farron MP speaks at the rallyIn an article for the New Statesman Tim Farron writes:

The tragic deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean this week must force us to change direction.

Immigration is one of the major issues of this election and Labour and the Conservatives continue to portray all immigrants in a negative light. But immigration is not an issue which can be solved by Britain on our own. Or by oversimplifying and stoking fears based on one stereotype. The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto will not ignore the plight of refugees playing a lottery with their own survival.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 25 Comments

Opinion: Europe is the solution to Britain’s concerns about immigration, not the cause

 

That statement has perhaps never been as boldly underlined as it was this week, with the continent-wide consciousness being collectively appalled at the unfolding horror in the Mediterranean. The horrific events have mobilised a pan-European discourse of outcry in a way that other EU issues often fail to do, primarily because it highlights the need for European collaboration, and the human cost of our failure to do so. It is also perhaps because it underlines to us the extent to which Europe is viewed as a single entity, or collective, by the rest of the world.

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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

Opinion: All for one and one for all

flag-russiaRussia has been busy in the Baltic recently – they have been harassing their neighbours and it seems to me they are acting as if the Baltic is their ‘mare nostrum’ as it were. The Polish Defence minister noted that Sweden seems to be the main object of Russian attention.

How do we help Sweden, and Finland for that matter? Finland and Sweden are in a slightly odd position – they are members of the EU but not members of NATO. In the Cold War they were ‘neutral’ but whatever that meant then it means even less now. What does Britain and other EU/NATO countries do if Finland and Sweden are threatened or even attacked by Russia? Finland and Sweden not being in NATO, Britain is not bound by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty (an attack on one is an attack on all) but it seems inconceivable that we would stand idly by if these two countries were in danger.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 24 Comments

Lord (Dick) Taverne writes… Cameron heads for Brexit

David Cameron - head in handsIf Mr Cameron becomes Prime Minister again after May, he is likely to be the Prime Minister who will lead the UK out of the European Union.

From time to time Mr Cameron has expressed enthusiasm for Britain being at the heart of the EU. In his Bloomberg speech in January last year, he declared:

“I believe something very deeply, that Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a Union is best with Britain in it….There is no doubt that we are more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi because we are a powerful player in the European Union. That matters for British jobs and British security.”

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ALDE gather in Lisbon: setting sail for a new, more liberal world?

Sailing in Lisbon by Pedro Ribeiro SimõesOnce again, liberals from across the European Union and beyond gather this week for the Annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE). And whilst Portugal might not be the most obvious place, given the absence of a liberal party in Portuguese politics for some years now, the emergence of the Earth Party as a serious contender – it won two seats (out of twenty-one) in this year’s European Parliament election – makes Portugal an interesting place to be.

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

LibLink: Vince Cable on why we need the EU and immigrants

Vince Cable Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterWriting in the Mail to coincide with Remembrance Sunday, Vince Cable made a heartfelt plea for tolerance of a united Europe and immigration, citing personal experience:

I am astounded when people say they have never been allowed to talk about immigration and that politicians ignore it. I remember it differently: a continued, sometimes angry, political debate going back to the 1950s. There was not an immigration issue as such. Until the late 1990s, net immigration was negative. More people left than arrived. But those leaving were white and most arriving were black or Asian.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 20 Comments

European Arrest Warrant: I’m a sceptic (but not a Eurosceptic)

As I write, the House of Commons is debating the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Well, sort of. In fact, the Speaker, John Bercow, has already pointed out that “there will not today be a vote on the specific matter of membership of the European arrest warrant”. But Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling say there will. In the Tories’ Alice in Wonderland world, when they use the word vote it means just what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

As with any debate involving Europe, there is a danger of it being used as …

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Opinion: Let’s tell the truth about EU budget surcharge

Euro by Alf MelinOver the last couple of days I have been disappointed that the Lib Dem leadership has seemed to go along with the Osborne/Cameron version of events with respect to the ‘reduction’ in the £1.7 billion owed to the EU.

On Friday, Osborne claimed that through his tough negotiations the UK would only be paying £850 billion.  However reports later on explained that the only deal done was over the timing of the payment, and that the reduction was simply due to the UK’s EU budget rebate being applied.

Posted in News | 32 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 36 Comments

UK decision to stop migrant rescue operations attacked by Teather (“unethical”) and Ashdown (“inhuman”), defended by Clegg (“Italian decision”)

Conservative home office minister James Brokenshire defended the Government’s decision to withdraw support – along with all other EU member states – for future search-and-rescue operations for migrants in the Mediterranean. The BBC reports:

James Brokenshire told MPs the change would “save lives rather than putting them in peril.” About 3,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. That is out of an estimated total of 150,000 to have made the trip by boat across to Europe. Mr Brokenshire said operations to rescue migrants encouraged more people to make the “perilous journey” across the Mediterranean in the hope of being granted asylum. He said the “despicable work” of human traffickers had made the problem much worse, and must be tackled. On the new approach, he added it was “inconceivable to suggest that if a boat were in peril, that support would not be provided”.

Italian officials have made clear they intend to scale down their government’s current operation, known as Mare Nostrum, as the EU introduces a new operation known as Triton. Triton will focus more on border control – tasks such as vetting asylum seekers once they are ashore, and coastal patrols – rather than search and rescue in international waters. Mr Brokenshire said that 28 EU member states had “unanimously agreed” to the new proposals, and criticised those attacking the policy for seeking to “politicise” the issue.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather was not impressed by the minister’s defence:

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , , , , and | 32 Comments

Opinion: In for a cent, in for a Euro?

Euro by Alf MelinThis is probably a stupid idea.

I thought I’d get that in before you do, because it probably is, and even it’s not you’re probably still going to think that it is. Nevertheless I’m going to say it anyway because frankly right now British politics is somewhere up a creek and Nigel Farage is running off with the paddle.

How about we hold an in-out referendum on European Union membership on the first Thursday in February?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 50 Comments

Opinion: Confused Britain

Map of the European UnionEU citizens should have the right to live and work in the UK:
36% Yes, 46% No.

British citizens should have the right to live and work in the EU:
52% Yes, 26% No.

These results from ComRes were presented by the Guardian Data Editor Alberto Nardelli, alongside the title “Confused Britain“. However, in many ways it summarises an increasingly predominate view on the European Union. It seems vast swathes of the public are happy to have their cake and eat it when it comes to the EU.

It is a choice that has been presented to people by many Eurosceptics. Conservatives are increasingly discussing the notion of quota systems on EU migration, even though Angela Merkel has stated that such an impingement on free movement would be non-negotiable. Ukip have often stated that trade between the UK and the EU would be made easier, not harder, through removal from the free market area. Presented with such options, it has become popular thinking to believe that the UK can have a pick ‘n’ mix agreement with the European Union.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 61 Comments

Opinion: Britain is the mother of parliamentary democracy, yet on Friday its Prime Minister voted against it

cameron-europeFor political historians, the 27 June 2014 may go down in history as the day a British Prime Minister voted against parliamentary democracy. For that is what the Juncker nomination was really all about, and which many commentators in the UK fail to understand. Comments such as “two-faced EU leaders”, “Europeans fed up with the UK”, etc, as read in several articles this weekend, reveal a lack of understanding of the process that has been building up in the EU in the past two years.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 139 Comments

Opinion: Thoughts about Europe

European FlagAll political parties have their blind spots. When policies are not particularly close to their hearts, parties can afford to be critical – examining, debating and ‘stress-testing’ those policies before approving them.  But some policies are too close to the heart; they are ‘Articles of Faith’, not to be questioned or examined too closely. Articles of Faith sometimes do not get exposed to critical examination, and when contrary evidence is unearthed, it can be pushed aside. It is not surprising that when ‘Articles of Faith’ are put under the spotlight, …

Posted in Op-eds | 38 Comments

Opinion: I’m voting Lib Dem in spite of, not because of, our ‘Party of IN’ campaign

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.37 IN Europe EU European UnionIf you believe the messages sent out from ‘The Party Of In’ during this Euro-election campaign, then you might think that my current political position is logically confused and that I simply misunderstand the options before me on May 22nd. However, I intend to vote Lib Dem in the Euro-elections in spite, not because, of our on-going commitment to remaining in the European Union.

I do not pretend to be an expert on European matters – and I do not claim to be …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 29 Comments

Opinion: Smog and why we need the European Union

Smog from Primrose Hill LondonWe have suffered poor air quality across south east England for days. The authorities warned older people and people with cardiovascular problems to stay indoors. Ambulance call-outs in London rose by 14%, and David Cameron abandoned his usual morning jog, describing conditions as, “Unpleasant, but it’s a naturally occurring weather phenomenon.”

Although worse in urban centres, poor air quality has been a concern for years in some villages on major roads in West Sussex; air pollution is widespread.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments
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