The EU referendum: a great opportunity for the Lib Dems

International Office_with textI am thrilled to announce that I have been appointed to manage our Party’s EU Referendum campaign!

With Britain’s future in Europe hanging in the balance, 2016 is a watershed year for this country. For Britain to remain an outward-looking, progressive and prosperous nation at the heart of the international community, we need to secure our future in Europe.

The Liberal Democrats are unique in being the only national party in the UK who are unequivocally in favour of remaining in Europe and have a long history of committed internationalism. This referendum is a challenge but also an opportunity for us to prove that liberalism and international are more important than ever before for Britain.

Where the broader ‘Stronger In’ campaign can reach out to the estimated third of voters who remain unsure how they will vote in a referendum, the Liberal Democrats can energise the third of the electorate who identify as positively pro-Europe and ensure that they participate in this campaign and turn out on polling day to protect our future in Europe.

If we do this right, this campaign is a great opportunity. We have the chance to identify and communicate with a future generation of Liberal Democrat voters and supports, to grow our membership and contact database, and to make a tangible and essential contribution to the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.

If you would like to know more about how you can get involved in the campaign, please contact the International Office on [email protected]

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Dave Orbison 7th Jan '16 - 10:59am

    I am not sure hijacking the cause to use as a recruiting sergeant is in the best interests of the nation. It may put some people off the Yes campaign and with all due respect to the LibDems I am more concerned about the outcome of that vote than the LibDems picking up a few hundred members.

  • Sadie Smith 7th Jan '16 - 11:27am

    Prefer all backgrounds campaign.

  • Tony Greaves 7th Jan '16 - 11:34am

    Learn the lessons of Scotland. The “all-party” campaign will be run by a collection of corporatist suits. Let’s have our own vigorous radical Liberal campaign and set out some visionary arguments we can be enthusiastic about.

    And if that gets us some more members and even more so some more activists, I won’t complain.


  • Peter Davies 7th Jan '16 - 11:44am

    It’s a good thing for the campaign if we are concentrating on voters with whom we share common concerns such as civil liberties and the environment. Recruitment in such circumstances is inevitable. It would also be a good thing if Alan Johnson concentrates on explaining to traditional Labour voters how Europe helps them because that’s where the business led pro-Europe campaign is failing.

  • Liberal Neil 7th Jan '16 - 12:09pm

    Tony Greaves is spot on here.

    Best of luck in this role Iain. I look forward to working with you on this.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Jan '16 - 1:04pm

    Peter Davies 7th Jan ’16 – 11:44am Alan Johnson has repeatedly said he will and has a strong background as a trade unionist. His book, Please Mister Postman, relates a lot of the realities of life. ISBN 9780552170659.
    The difficulty is that the Labour Party and the trade union movement need to defend aspects of social policy which many Tories would like to reduce or abolish, while, at the same time, their votes are needed in a referendum if the UK is to remain.
    The reality has been obvious for months that there will be separate campaigns to remain in by the SNP and by Labour (Gordon Brown was right about that). The Greens will campaign to remain, according to Caroline Lucas MP, pressing for environmental improvements.
    Therefore it is simply logical for Liberal Democrats to call for the UK to remain in, as we did at federal conference in Bournemouth, including specific calls for improvements, with the help of our Dutch friends in D66, as their leader promised us at Bournemouth. She got a standing ovation.
    Wikipedia is out of date on D66 and is appealing for money.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Jan '16 - 3:32pm

    Oh for goodness sake!

    Our Liberal campaign will complement and enhance the overarching one, not run counter to it. The problem is that the In campaign will be almost wholly negative [ what awful consequences will flow from leaving] as was the unionist campaign in Scotland and that was nearly lost. Our role is to be upbeat and push the positive, internationalist, case for the EU and shout from the rooftops the positive benefits that flow from membership.

    Why anyone should have a problem with that I just don’t know. The risk of us not doing it is that the one third of the population who are enthusiastic EU supporters will be put off voting by the (so far) utterly negative In campaign. Our role is to get them to the polls.

    And as Tony Greaves says, if that ends up recruiting more Lib Dem members and activists so much the better.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '16 - 6:52pm

    “Our role is to be upbeat and push the positive, internationalist, case for the EU and shout from the rooftops the positive benefits that flow from membership. Why anyone should have a problem with that I just don’t know.”

    It depends how it’s done. If (like Clegg v Farage) we tell the voters that Europe does not really need any reform and that unrestricted immigration is just wonderful, then we will be acting to undermine the main campaign and make a Leave vote more likely. If on the other hand we put the visionary arguments about ending a thousand years of war in Europe, building a family of nations that can stand up to the US and China, and saving the planet, then we will broaden the appeal of the Remain campaign.

  • Wish you best of luck, Iain!

    I’ll be working for this as best I can, but it will be winning the referendum that I will care about. One job at a time.

  • Stephen Booth 8th Jan '16 - 9:36am

    I wish Iain Gill well and agree with Tony Greaves’ comments about avoiding association with “corporatist suits”.
    We need no more than five simple clearly expressed reasons why we should stay in the EU. I would suggest statements around the following themes:
    – Ease of trade and the economy through common standards
    – Employees’ rights and working conditions
    – Protection and improvement of democratic processes
    – Maintaining a peaceful Europe
    – Maintaining critical links and forums for security (not just NATO)
    Beware the OUT campaigners who will muddle all sorts of things which are nothing to do with our EU membership like Human Rights laws.

    We need some simple slogans too:
    Europe – protecting jobs, rights and democracy
    Staying in is best for Britain and for you

    We could also do with a list of simple positive facts about the EU that perhaps people don’t know.

  • Mick Taylor 8th Jan '16 - 5:16pm

    David Allan should read what I wrote. The EU campaign in 2014 was a disaster and Nick Clegg made a total fist of the message. Why does he think I would want to repeat that? I want us to do the vision thing, not pretend that everything in the EU garden is rosy. I also want our party to take up the many offers of help from our colleagues in the ALDE Party and not do as Clegg did and reject the offer of the most charismatic Liberal politician in Europe because he might be seen as a federalist!

  • David Allen 8th Jan '16 - 6:05pm

    Mick, I did read what you wrote. I agreed with most of it, but sought to distinguish in a bit more detail between the “good” visionary stuff (the real benefits) versus “bad” visionary stuff (pretending like Clegg that Europe is perfect and free movement has no downsides). Stephen Booth expresses what I meant pretty well.

    Above all, let’s not annoy the public with bombastic BS. Does Iain Gill recognise that problem? Well, he doesn’t say anything too terrible, but his article does rather tend toward the relentlessly upbeat. Ordinary people, who may not have a lot to be upbeat about these days, may be instinctively repelled by that sort of thing. Too much smiling optimism conveys in a semi-subliminal way that we’re a bunch of complacent fat cats. (And – thanks Tim for helping ditch that image!)

  • Simon Banks 8th Jan '16 - 6:16pm

    So far the stuff available from HQ has been useless to persuade people to vote (or how to vote) and has mainly aimed to use the campaign to recruit members. If we don’t move on from that, we’re being irresponsible. As several people have said, we need a campaign that’s distinctively Liberal in values, and as people who share our values will already mostly vote IN if they vote, persuading them it’s really important and getting the vote out are crucial.

    We should also be working, locally and UK-wide, on identifying groups and causes that would lose from leaving the EU and identifying and contacting their adherents. For example, environmental protection would be greatly weakened and we’d lose influence over European action on British migrating birds being shot. What would be the impact on the arts, on tourism, on fisheries, on relations with the Irish Republic?

  • I agree with all those who have said that although the message should be positive, it should also be unafraid of asking for reforms of the EU. I hate it when we get dismissed as uncritically pro Europe and that will do the campaign no good too. Good luck.

  • “I hate it when we get dismissed as uncritically pro Europe”
    But beyond hand wringing, that is exactly what your party is, pro Europe with no hope of change. All talk about the UK having ‘influence’, is meaningless. What on earth does influence actually mean if there is no statutory route to making those necessary changes in the EU?
    If I’m wrong, please tell me (1). What you see as needing change, and (2). By what democratic EU mechanism you see those needed changes occurring?
    ‘Influence’, won’t cut it I’m afraid.

  • J George SMID 8th Jan '16 - 7:45pm

    Tony Greaves – Completely agree Learn the lessons of Scotland. The lesson I learnt from Scottish Nationalists is how they used the referendum to collect canvassing data and when it came to the UK elections their vote targeting was perfect. We should then lead the EU Referendum campaign on cross party platform so we can also learn the voting intentions. After all, the people who are most likely to vote to remain are also the people who are (probably) closest to us politically.

  • Dean Crofts 9th Jan '16 - 8:29am

    Indigo – The Libs Dems are not pro europe with no hope of change. We are a pro europe party who would like the EU to work for all nations on issues that can only be resolved through co-operation – trade, international crime, environmental issues, common international relations policies, defence, fisheries, agriculture etc etc. We will have no influence if we cannot contribute to the conversation because we are not part of the EU nations having this conversation. We also want decisions made at the most local level possible. So devolution of powers to local communities but international issues resolved on an international stage, not the UK dictating on its own to everyone else what internationalism should look like – hat is colonialism.
    There is an EU democratic mechanism at the moment it is called the European elections which happen every 4 years. The unfortunate fact that these elections are currently used for anti-EU rhetoric and deemed to be insignificant elections needs to change also. The importance of these elections must be shared with others so that international issues can be resolved and progress made.

  • “There is an EU democratic mechanism at the moment it is called the European elections which happen every 4 years.”
    And every 4 years we have a vote on the EU MEP ‘sockpuppets’, who have zero power to instigate or even input any policy change in the EU. That is not democracy. Clearly Liberal ideas of democracy are a very thin, even homeopathic version of real democracy.

  • David Evershed 10th Jan '16 - 7:26pm

    Some above have said the Lib Dems should not be associated with “corporate suits”.

    As liberals we are very much in favour of free markets and corporations. So I hope the Lib Dem In/Our campaign will positively associate themselves with the CBI and other business representatives, the majority of whom are in favour of remaining in the EU.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 9th Jul - 1:29am
    The sad scandal of the unprotected care homes in which so many have died before their natural time will not be put right by any...
  • User AvatarMike Jay 9th Jul - 12:26am
    The article in "The Australian" that Peter referred to is behind a paywall. However, the article is freely available at
  • User AvatarMike Jay 8th Jul - 11:28pm
    I'm reminded of my undergraduate days back in the 1960s. The students' union repeatedly passed motions demanding that the US Government withdrew from the Vietnam...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 8th Jul - 11:01pm
    Michael BG, Torry is clear that a tax increases are only viable if the net disposable income of the great majority of taxpayers is increased...
  • User AvatarGraham Evans 8th Jul - 10:29pm
    It's all very well blaming the care sector for its shortcomings but you get what you pay for. Providing social care is extremely labour intensive,...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 8th Jul - 10:28pm
    Joe Bourke, In response to me you make a comment about the poverty trap and the people of Fife being in favour of a UBI....