“The fight is on; it’s time to pick a side” – Clegg launches European election campaign

Nick Clegg Q&A 19At a Town Hall style event in Colchester this morning, Nick Clegg launched the Lib Dem campaign for the European elections, which will see the party seeking to defend its 12 seats in the European Parliament.

Speaking at the event, Clegg framed the elections as a clear choice between internationalism and isolationism:

The election on the 22 May is about one thing: do you think Britain is better off in the EU, or do you think we should be out? Finally the big question at the heart of the European debate is being addressed. At long last someone is taking on the Eurosceptic establishment – and it’s us.

Ukip and others have been allowed to peddle their myths unchallenged for decades, claiming that all of our problems would magically disappear if the UK just left the EU. But it’s a dangerous fantasy. It’s the surest way to jeopardise jobs, risk our fragile economic recovery, and it will leave Britain alone and diminished in the world.

And he was unsurprisingly emphatic about which party those who believe Britain is better off in the EU should support:

If not us, who? The Labour Party? The Conservatives? Where are they? What are they doing to stop the populists and the xenophobes? Nothing. Ed Miliband and David Cameron are now officially Missing in Action – saying the bare minimum in this debate because they are too scared of losing votes to Nigel Farage; because they’re so desperate to cover up the deep divisions in their own camps.

Well the Liberal Democrats aren’t scared to speak up. We are Britain’s party of IN and we are standing up for staying in Europe – loudly, passionately and unequivocally – because that is how we keep this nation stronger, safer and richer too.

We are IN for jobs. For the millions of businesses who rely on trade with our neighbours.

IN because it’s how our police cooperate with their European counterparts to put more criminals behind bars.

IN because we need to work with the rest of Europe to protect our environment and tackle climate change.

IN because Britain is always at its best when we are open, outward-facing and engaged, a leader on the world stage.

Anyone who agrees that we are better off IN – whether that’s businesses, the crime fighting agencies, progressive voters and people who care about the environment: make yourselves heard. If you are holding back, ask yourself: what are you waiting for? The fight is on. The threat is real. It’s time to pick a side.

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41 Comments

  • Oh dear, it has taken us a fortnight for our polling ratings to recover from Nick Clegg’s last European outing/drubbing. At this point, it would be easier for us to let Nick have a break and for the party members to take on the job of getting our existing MEPs re-elected, because frankly we are likely to do a better job.

    These messages have been tried and failed in the public arena. Merely repeating them is simply going to compound the damage. We need a radical re-think on our Euro campaign because the “party of in” slogan and the underlying message that everything is basically OK with the EU has failed.

    And I say this as someone who is broadly supportive of many of the things Nick Clegg has done, including going into Coalition with the Conservatives. Nick, it’s time to give you a break. Can’t we send you off on a nice holiday somewhere sunny until the Euro-elections are over?

  • Oh dear. I thought Nick had launched our campaign once with his triumph in the debates with Nigel Farage. Perhaps it was so good the first time, Nick wants a second go!

  • Give me strength. The last thing we need is another leadership effort to convince the public to stay in. Most are bored stiff with the matter and will not be voting, and the more we put our head above the barricade the more credence it gives UKIP. Best thing is shut up, keep your head down, accept the reality and then after the disastrous result next month quietly resign as leader and give us all a chance for 2015.

  • No, RC, and no, David Evans. So far as fact-based argument was concerned, Nick Clegg trounced Nigel Farage in their debates, and Nick Clegg is entirely right to continue along those lines. If I may use a historical analogy, there was a wave of popular enthusiasm for Disraeli’s Jingoist foreign policy in the 1870s, but that did not for a moment stop Gladstone arguing against it, and the Liberal party was to win a smashing victory at the ensuing general election.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Apr '14 - 12:48pm

    Hugh, the difference is that Nick is trying to make the EU elections about EU membership. I doubt Gladstone would have tried to make a national election about a single issue. Nick needs to be held accountable for this disastrous move.

  • 1200 people were at the Sage Gateshead last night to listen to Nigel Farage, all paid £2 for the privilege, half were members and half were non members. All 900 tickets have already gone for his talk in Derby next month, and other venues across the country are showing a similar support.

    How many people were at the launching of the Lib Dem EU campaign this morning?

    This is the politics of the people in action, you might not like people driven politics, but that is the future, you are on a one way journey to the buffers if you insist on defying the mood of the country.

    What on earth is so important about the EU, that you would seem to br prepared to sacrifice your party on its altar. You might be full of educated and clever people, but you seem to be completely lacking in any modicum of common sense, you have not only lost the battle, you have lost the war, learn from that an move on, or you will be the harbinger of your own destruction. You are with us, or you are against us, there is no middle ground anymore.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 2:11pm

    Amongst other things, being part of the EU provides

    > security against military threats
    > opportunities for beneficial trade
    > future expanding markets
    > consequential employment and economic development
    > economies of scale in developing technical, social and other standards
    > economies of scale in research – the future for developed countries
    > strength in negotiations with other large trade blocs
    > security against internal threats of withdrawal of freedoms and rights
    > beneficial exchanges in information and intellectual property
    > improved ability to fight crime
    > eased access to nice holiday destinations!

    and much more. As far as sacrificing the party on an altar, it’s better than what UKIP are doing, sacrificing a country on the altar of their ignorance and prejudice.

  • @ Richard Dean

    Since your first example is completely wrong, it is barely worth giving any credence to the rest of your list. NATO maintains the security of Western Europe, and the clue is in the title , North Atlantic Treaty Organisation , and it was NATO that stopped the slaughter in Kosovo, whilst the EU stood by and did nothing apart from posture.

    You can try and take the moral high ground if you like, accusing us of ignorance and prejudice, but it sort of sounds a tad fake with the 29st ghost of Cyril hovering in the background.

    So you are happy to sacrifice your party, that is fine by me, but don’t expect to get any thanks for it.

  • Charles Rothwell 24th Apr '14 - 2:38pm

    Why on earth does Clegg not make more frequent reference to the recent (November 2013) CBI Report on “Our Global Future” which, while certainly making it clear that MAJOR changes are needed within the EU, also makes it as clear as day that UK withdrawal from the EU would be a disaster for the UK economy? (http://www.cbi.org.uk/campaigns/our-global-future/)

    When it comes to credibility in economic forecasting, I think I would prefer to align myself with the primary body of British industry than with an ex-stockbroker who has sponged a living off the taxpayer for himself for over 15 years (and his wife as well for part of that time) and his Deputy who, as far as one can tell, apart from a few hours teaching part time in an FE and HE college has never done ANY work of any kind apart from that related to UKIP (again mainly funded by the taxpayer, of course) and yet has the gall to present himself as some kind of UKIP “business expert” in their TV broadcast a few days ago. (This ‘expertise’ largely amounts to calling for closer Commonwealth links (although I suspect he does not mean India, Pakistan, Lesotho and Tonga!)) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Nuttall)

  • > security against military threats

    Try telling the Ukrainians that.

    > opportunities for beneficial trade
    > future expanding markets
    > consequential employment and economic development

    The biggest and fastest expanding markets, and therefore the biggest opportunities for employment and economic development, are in areas outside Europe. Being in the EU actively hinders our ability to make trade agreements with (for example) Brazil, because our hands are tied by the protectionist interests of other EU members, such as the French.

    > economies of scale in developing technical, social and other standards
    > economies of scale in research – the future for developed countries

    The problem is that these cancel each other out: now there is an EU standard for mobile telephone chargers, for example, there is no point in anybody in Britain doing any research into better charger connection technology, for example, because even if they were to invent something seventy times as efficient as the current technology they wouldn’t be allowed to sell it as it wouldn’t conform to the standard.

    > strength in negotiations with other large trade blocs

    Which is cancelled out by having to worry about, for instance, the needs of the French economy that we don’t care about when making such agreements.

    > security against internal threats of withdrawal of freedoms and rights

    Translation: foreign activist judges telling us how to run our own country (telling us we have to let prisoners vote, etc).

    > beneficial exchanges in information and intellectual property

    Though we also have those with the USA, so presumably being in the EU is not the only way to get them.

    > improved ability to fight crime

    As if it were impossible to set up systems of international police co-operation without the whole edifice of the EU.

    > eased access to nice holiday destinations!

    Yippee-kiy-ay.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 2:44pm

    @Raddiy
    You might like to look at the list of member countries of NATO. You might even recognize some of them (a majority) as European countries!
    http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/nato_countries.htm

    Of course the inter-dependence that the EU represents is also as aspect of security – against wars between EU countries. Not a perfect aspect, but a lot better than before the EU existed.

  • Charles Rothwell 24th Apr '14 - 2:53pm

    Trying to “get” Fartage (as in the debates) is a waste of time. Even Le Pen in France calls him “charismatic” and is crying out for him to join her (which he has shown himself too astute to do just as, at an earlier stage, he refused to form any sort of alliance with the BNP in England). Much more effort needs to go into ‘revealing to the public’ the third-raters around Farage they would be voting to take part in his kind of taxpayer-funded lifestyle if they were to be elected to Strasbourg. Rational argument has lost against populist lies and UKIP’s successful transformation of “the EU” into the big, bad nightmare which is and has been the root cause of all England’s problems since the 1970s. When people are ‘beyond politics/reason’ (which UKIP essentially is), you need to fight back in any/every way which is going to bring success in showing them up for what they are; narrow-minded, uninformed, bigoted and, basically, consumed with hatred (much of it subconsicously towards themselves for having been ‘left behind’).

    (Re. Nuttall, by the way, he has “a Masters from Liverpool Hope University, specialising in British Edwardian politics”. I just thought UKIP wanted to go back to the 1950s, not the 1900s of Joseph Chamberlain and Imperial Preference!)

  • You might like to look at the list of member countries of NATO. You might even recognize some of them (a majority) as European countries

    The point, though, is that NATO membership is what gives us security (nominally — NATO isn’t doing much for the Ukrainians either) and while membership of the EU and NATO overlaps, they are independent (and the North Atlantic Treaty was signed eight years before the Treaty of Rome)…

    … but most importantly, we could leave the EU and still be a member of NATO, so leaving the EU would not reduce our military security one tiny little bit.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 3:30pm

    @Tim
    What a disappointing response. How about facing some facts?

    Let’s start with Ukraine – not in NATO and not in the EU! Not even a “potential candidate”
    http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/index_en.htm

    Do you think Brazil will prefer trade with the UK compared to trade with a much bigger EU? If someone develops better connection technology then consumer power will change the existing standards and the developers will have a larger market for it. We do care about the French if some of our cheapest component suppliers are in France. Prisoner voting is (a) a pretty minor rights issue compared to some, and (b) not a cut-and-dried issue: many in the UK welcome the EU’s opinion on it. Everything including police cooperation might be done without the EU, it’s just a lot easier and more effective when done in it.

    Although I haven’t read it, I expect the following book would enlighten: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1496146670/?tag=libdemvoice-21

  • Regarding the whole NATO Vs EU security debate, it should be pointed out that at the insistence of the UK, NATO-style defence arrangements are left to NATO by the EU member states.

    When the UK vehemently opposes the EU developing NATO-style defence arrangments, it is deeply hypocritical of anyone here in the UK to criticise the EU for not having them in place.

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Apr '14 - 4:41pm

    Personally, I think that David Cameron and Ed Miliband are displaying greater wisdom in refusing to give Nigel Farage a platform.

    I think that the team on “Have I got news for you’ made a better fist of pricking the bubble of Nigel Farage’s credibility.

  • @Tim – “foreign activist judges telling us how to run our own country (telling us we have to let prisoners vote, etc).”

    First up, the prisoner votes issues is nothing to do with the EU or its court, the ECJ.

    Second, the judges of the court concerned – the ECHR (of the non-EU Council of Europe) are doing EXACTLY what Parliament here authorised them to do, namely to pass judgements on the laws of the UK (and the other members) to ensure they meet Human Rights standards.

    Third, if the only judgements the judges of the ECHR can hand down in relation to our laws is “Wow, all your laws are perfect”, there is no point in being a member of it or indeed ANY comparable international body that uses similar courts. Indeed, the logic of this would be we should presumably abolish courts WITHIN the UK lest we have the judges here “telling us how to run our own country”, in which case we’ll presumably have to leave judicial decision making to Parliament and the lack of wisdom in that should be obvious to all.

  • When the UK vehemently opposes the EU developing NATO-style defence arrangments, it is deeply hypocritical of anyone here in the UK to criticise the EU for not having them in place.

    No one is criticising the EU for not having defence arrangements; simply pointing out that it is unnecessary for the EU to have defence arrangements, and therefore ‘defence arrangements’ are not a reason for being in the EU.

    First up, the prisoner votes issues is nothing to do with the EU or its court, the ECJ.

    True, but one of the things stopping the UK from withdrawing from the ECHR is that membership of the EU is conditional upon subscribing to the ECHR. So the two issues are related. If we want to withdraw from the ECHR we must leave the EU first.

    The ECHR was meant to stop totalitarian foreign governments from abusing the rights of their citizens as was done in Germany in the ’30s. We signed up to it as a gesture of good faith. It was not meant to turn around and start telling us how to run things!

    we should presumably abolish courts WITHIN the UK lest we have the judges here “telling us how to run our own country”, in which case we’ll presumably have to leave judicial decision making to Parliament and the lack of wisdom in that should be obvious to all.

    No, we should leave judicial decision making to judges and legislative decision making to Parliament. What we don’t want is judges making (rather than interpreting) law, especially foreign judges.

    A judge’s job is to apply the law, not to decide what that law ought to be.

  • And if you want an example of the ECJ acting dictatorially ultra vires, see the utterly breathtaking last year to blatantly disregard the UK’s opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

    The ECJ is supposed to enforce EU treaties, but instead it seems to have decided to rewrite those treaties to suit what it thinks they should have said, rather than what was actually agreed between the governments.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 5:26pm

    We don’t want to withdraw from the ECHR. The ECHR and its institutions provide valuable services. Including helping counter totalitarianism, whether in the UK or elsewhere. And including providing expert opinions that can help us improve our laws. That’s why we helped set it up and it’s why we were one of the earliest signatories.

  • David Allen 24th Apr '14 - 6:03pm

    Charles Rothwell said:

    “Why on earth does Clegg not make more frequent reference to the recent (November 2013) CBI Report on “Our Global Future” which, while certainly making it clear that MAJOR changes are needed within the EU, also makes it as clear as day that UK withdrawal from the EU would be a disaster for the UK economy? (http://www.cbi.org.uk/campaigns/our-global-future/)”

    Because he has placed his faith in the idea, no doubt sold to him by expensive publicity “experts”, that people vote for simplistic ideas because they are too thick to understand anything else. So, Europe has to be painted as nothing but good. Ten more years with no change is what Clegg calls for. The CBI stance is dismissed as too complex, too nuanced, too much like admitting that the European issue is not simple.

    Is it working? No! Our polls are plummeting.

    Is Clegg capable of learning from this, and adapting? No! Not a hope!

    You see, Nick (speaks into deaf ears), the people out there may not be political geniuses, but they can see that Europe is in trouble. They can see that the Euro doesn’t work. They can see that its leaders keep falling out over how to deal with the various crises, and they can see the big problems with youth unemployment and (arguably) migration. They, or at any rate quite a lot of them, may very well be prepared to accept that we need to stay in. But they want to vote for a party who will also tackle the problems – not a bunch of extreme Europhiles who just blithely pretend that everything in the garden is rosy.

    Labour, admittedly by default, come closest to that position. Expect them to hoover up ex-Lib Dem voters.

  • David Allen 24th Apr '14 - 6:08pm

    Further to my previous post – On this question of whether you just need simple messages. Take a look at Farage, who certainly knows something about winning popularity. Does he only stick to simple messages?

    What about his call for Britain to accept Syrian refugees, or his expressions of admiration for Putin? The professional publicity people would say that such off-message comments would be disastrous and would alienate people. They would be wrong.

    Farage knows (probably just instinctively) that amongst other things, these comments convey the perspective that he is a flesh-and-blood person, that he thinks for himself, and that he isn’t forever calculating what it is safe to say. By contrast, Clegg’s speeches on Europe make him look like a political robot. Now, many people may not want to vote for Farage – but nobody wants to vote for a robot!

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 6:11pm

    For “the Euro doesn’t work”, read “the Euro is being upgraded to work”.
    For “leaders falling out”, read “proper discussions are beginning to occur”
    For “youth unemployment”, read MAJOR DISASTER UNFOLDING, NEEDS ACTION NOW
    For “immigration”, read “irrelevant”

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 6:18pm

    @David Allen
    I certainly agree that the only reason that Farage prospers is the astonishing incompetence of the people who oppose him.

  • Alex Macfie 24th Apr '14 - 7:40pm

    Nick said:

    The election on the 22 May is about one thing: do you think Britain is better off in the EU, or do you think we should be out

    NO IT IS NOT. It is an election for the European Parliament. This will not decide, one way or the other, whether the UK will be in or out of the EU: MEPs don’t decide that. they make laws for the EU as a whole. This election is about what SORT of EU we want to live in. This is even more true than previously, because for the first time the major Euro party groups are nominating candidates for President of the European Commission.
    Yet does ANYONE in this country talk about the policies for the EU that the party groups have? Do any of the party campaigns refer to the European manifestos or Commission candidates? I’ve yet to hear any mention in our party campaigns of the Liberal candidate for President of the Commission (or the fact that the Tory and UKIP Euro-parties do not have candidates for this post, thus diminishing their influence in European affairs), or of the ALDE manifesto. Where are our MEPs in the campaign? Surely they should be leading the European election campaign, not Nick Clegg, and they should be leading it on their records as liberal MEPs, highlighting the political differences between their record and that of the other parties in the European Parliament. I agree with RC that Nick Clegg should somewhere else in this campaign.
    I don’t think for a moment that Nick Clegg believes that “everything is basically OK with the EU”, and if we did think that then what would be the point in standing for the European Parliament, one of the bodies that actually decides how the EU is run? But our campaign does give the impression that that is what we think as a party, and it is a disgrace.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 8:37pm

    YES IT IS
    A major contender is UKIP who, if elected, will purposely NOT represent their constituencies, but will instead do everything they can to reinforce the erroneous idea that the EU non-functional. Vote LIBDEM if you think we should be IN.

  • Let’s be honest, Farage won because supporting the EU is out-of-date nonsense.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Apr '14 - 9:09pm

    I am rather perplexed at the idea of fighting an election for the European Parliament based entirely upon a policy which not one single European MP can vote to implement.

  • Richard Dean 24th Apr '14 - 9:16pm

    @David. Let’s be even more honest, he didn’t, and it isn’t. Being in the EU is the best future the UK can have, and it’s a good one too.

  • Richard Dean said: “For “the Euro doesn’t work”, read “the Euro is being upgraded to work”.”

    The Euro is being patched up with sticking plasters to enable it to stumble on, until the next crisis.

    A currency union between multiple economies of differing strength is just a recipe for disaster. It condemns all its partners to a “one size fits all” exchange rate, which suits none of them. It’s a “race plan” (to quote Jeremy Browne) which turns the nations of the Eurozone into a chain gang – who must then race against the Chinese, the Brazilians and everybody else, running as free individual nations. They’ve got Europe beaten, that’s for sure, unless and until the Euro is scrapped.

  • Richard Dean 25th Apr '14 - 12:37am

    There’ll always be crises. It’s a fact of life. Politics is the art of managing them and learning from them, and learning is what is being done. It’s 28 different currencies that’s the recipe for economic disaster, ask any currency speculator. Let’s not go back to that horror!

  • Richard Dean 25th Apr '14 - 12:40am

    @jedibeeftrix. Have you really descended to this? Your comments always used to be interesting and challenging!

  • @Jayne Mansfield
    I would have to argue that DC’s and EM’s policy of ignoring UKIP isn’t working at all. They stand at 27% in the Polls and are all over the news .They’re also making it possible for UKIP to play the “plucky outsider card”and to claim that they,(ie the people),are being ignored by the establishment ,because the establishment has no answer to their arguments Last night Ed Balls dismissed UKIP as a “distraction”I can’t think of anything more likely to irritate UKIP leaning voters..I would contend that as all 3 main party leaders are pro European,(even if some of their voters aren’t),all 3 should stand together on this issue.In the meantime if Nick has to go it alone so be it.Personally I don’t want to see the scaremongering and xenophobia UKIP relies on, to go unchallenged.

  • David Allen’s vain wish that “the Euro is scrapped” is the kind of nonsense that is rarely found amongst those who routinely use the Euro. Richard Dean is right to identify an EU of 28 different currency as a recipe for perpetual crisis and a paradise for ruthless speculators.

    David Allen must be perplexed by the recent adoption of the Euro by Estonia and just from the start of this year Latvia. Why does he think that Lithuania will be joining next year if the Euro is such a disaster? RC on another thread claimed to know Italians who complained about the Euro; has he forgotten the Lire? Italians, I know have not: these things are comparative.

    The only hesitation I have for the UK adopting the Euro is the UK’s extraordinarily high level of personal and public debt. However in principle the sooner the UK can join the Euro the better. Transparent commerce across the EU has been beneficial for most Europeans and this is why countries mentioned above have been keen to meet the convergence criteria and adopt the Euro as the national currency.

    Is this an important issue for the elections? Yes it is: we need to elect MEPs who will not vote in ways that will be damaging the the Euro and the EU economy. However, I certainly agree with those that the campaign needs to progress to what MEPs can do and have done in the European parliament. This should include the transparency with which MEPs have represented constituents and how the MEPs have managed public money.

  • Richard Dean 25th Apr '14 - 9:52am

    @jedibeeftrix. I look forwards to your recovery! 🙂

  • @ Martin – “David Allen must be perplexed by the recent adoption of the Euro by Estonia and just from the start of this year Latvia. Why does he think that Lithuania will be joining next year if the Euro is such a disaster?”

    Estonia joined the Euro on 1st January 2011 – not so recently!
    Latvia joined the Euro recently – 1st January 2014!
    This is because when they joined the EU they became obliged to eventually adopt the Euro; they don’t have a choice about it, only about how fast they work towards meeting the convergence criteria.

    A currency union is a bad idea for some areas. In the UK if there were separate nation type governments for Wales, Scotland, the North and the Midlands then they would all benefit from having their own currencies so they could manage their own economy and take independent action to reduce their unemployment levels. However one size fits all can cause there to be labour shortages in London and the south-east while there are large numbers of unemployed in other areas. The UK government then uses regional policies to try to manage the situation. However the EU does not allocate enough resources to provide enough regional help to the poorer areas of the Euro zone, such as Spain and Greece. Until Germans accept the need to provide aid to Spain and Greece as if they were Bavaria or Pomerania the Euro will always cause problems for the poorer areas of the Euro zone.

  • Paul In Twickenham 26th Apr '14 - 12:05am

    The Euro is an unmitigated disaster. While it continues in its current form it will continue to result in deflation/depression in the periphery and massive unemployment, particularly among the region’s young people.

    The only solution (as I suspect was always the intention) is to create a transfer union among the member states. The current hiatus in the periphery’s permanent sovereign bond market crisis is due to Sig. Draghi famous “whatever it takes” speech, which persuaded capital markets that when push comes to shove the ECB will simply ignore all the legal and constitutional niceties and bail out the feckless nations (and banks) of the periphery.

    We will need to see how the Bundesbank responds if Sig. Draghi is ever forced to make good on his commitment.

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Apr '14 - 10:52am

    @ Alec Macfie,
    I couldn’t agree more.

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