The liberal case for Leave

The party whose membership card I currently have sitting in my wallet, our party, is without a doubt a broad church, but I think it reasonable to presume that the vast majority of Liberal Democrats would profess to value liberty and democracy – at any rate, the two are described as ‘fundamental’ in the Preamble to the party’s Constitution. In the light of such principles, strong support of the European Union seems a little bizarre to me.

Movement towards centralisation and ‘ever closer union’ contradicts aspirations for increased dispersal of power and encouragement of diversity. I would expect us Liberal Democrats to aim for government to be as open, accessible and close to people as possible, but we seem willing to allow our lives to be brought under the purview of Brussels bureaucrats, with most UK citizens having little idea of how policy is made or who represents us. A brief study of the EU’s history reveals how many times constituent nations have tried and failed to reform it, and, worse, how many times those in charge have ignored referenda which have gone against their wishes. Rather than by the people, for the people, the EU is first and foremost government by elites for the furthering of an agenda most UK citizens do not support.

An exasperating misconception is that voicing the desire to leave the EU means wanting to turn your back on the rest of the world. Perhaps this is the sad vision of a sect of impulsive, isolationist Kippers, a dream held by those emotionally trapped in an era before globalisation and WTO regulation standardisation. Many, however – particularly the young and liberal – look forward to a global Britain. Our party has always been committed to bettering not just this country but the world, highlighting the positives of immigration and seeking to aid developing nations, and this perspective equally pushes me to leave. The EU’s brand of free movement leaves non-Europeans discriminated against in their quest to emigrate. Further harm is done to citizens of the developing world by EU policies on tariff escalation and food export preferences: the most helpful thing we can do to aid poorer nations is to trade freely with them, and EU regulation prevents this. Developing nations – the countries in the world which most need our help – find their growth stunted by our Union’s actions.

The ‘leap in the dark’ is another interesting myth: of course there will be change, but the inevitable couple years of renegotiations mean it’s not quite the dramatic switch some seem to fear. It’s unlikely that post-Brexit Britain would look all that radically different on the surface; the key changes would be seen in core facts about the nature of UK democracy. Fundamentally, neither ‘Remain’ nor ‘Leave’ can tell you what this country will look like in ten years. All leaving the EU does is guarantee that, whatever the situation is in a decade, the people making all the decisions will people who live in this country, co-cultural with us and dependent upon UK voters’ support.

Overwhelmingly, I feel European elites want the EU to develop in a very different way to what most UK citizens want. Eurosceptic movements have sprung up across the continent and (unfortunately extreme and illiberal) anti-EU parties have seen their vote shares rocket. People are tired of feeling ignored, like they have no influence over the rules which govern them. Nothing is so important to me as individual liberty, autonomy and democracy and these values are leading me to vote Leave on the 23rd of June. Personally, I see no reason why this is at all at odds with my being a Lib Dem.

* Anne Cremin is a member of the Sutton Coldfield and Erdington party. She is a 20 year old student, Co-Chair of Oxford Students for Britain and Board Member of Liberal Leave.

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122 Comments

  • David Warren 9th May '16 - 10:17am

    How do you become a board member of Liberal Leave?

  • Petula Humphrey 9th May '16 - 10:20am

    At last an article which sums up my feelings about why I will vote leave on June 23. I think the Lib Dems would see a greater resurgence in support at the ballot box if it took up the leave position. This is why I cannot go out canvassing as my personal opinion is at odds with the party position and my support for the party is called into question.

  • Charles Lawley 9th May '16 - 10:22am

    If you were to actually use the “ever closer union” within the full context of:

    “The process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen.”

    You would see that is the the actual opposite of centralisaiton and, anyway, we are now exempt from further integration under Cameron’s renegotiation.

    If you think the majority of people in favour in leave are in favour of “bettering not just this country but the world, highlighting the positives of immigration and seeking to aid developing nations”, you are kidding yourself. The main driving force behind the vote is the exact opposite.

    To think EU membership means you can’t trade more globally is to fundamentally misunderstand how the EU works, Germany does three times as much trade with China than us – there’s nothing stopping us doing more deals with the rest of the world as part of the EU. In fact, we are better position to get a better deal because of our membership as we are a springboard to access to 500m people with 25% of world GDP. Leaving would mean we are less than 1% of the world’s population with less than 4% of world GDP.

    The only myth being peddled here is the one that Europe is ready to swallow UK up into a superstate against its will.

  • Excellent article Anne.

    For how many decades have we heard ‘The EU needs to be reformed’, the EU will not be reformed because the EU doesn’t want to be reformed.
    As you say any country that votes against the EU wishes is either asked to vote again until the EU gets the result it wants or is just ignored.Only ever one-way traffic.

  • Couldn’t agree more with this article. Afraid my local LD colleagues will be one leafletter/canvasser down for their Remain activity.

  • Sid Cumberland 9th May '16 - 10:58am

    Couldn’t agree less with this article.

    If UK citizens are ignorant of the workings of the EU, would it not be a good idea to educate them rather than just leave? We could start by not calling the EU’s civil servants ‘Brussels bureaucrats’.

    I’m not generally in favour of ad hominem arguments, but in this case it does seem relevant to ask if you want to live in the sort if country that Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, George Galloway, Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith, Neil and Christine Hamilton and Priti Patel want to live in.

  • John Barrett 9th May '16 - 11:11am

    This article is most welcome, as many members who were concentrating on elections up to last Thursday will share many of Anne’s views, but will have been silent on the issue as they were busy working on a more immediate priority.

    It is simply not the case that every Lib-Dem has bought into the Remain campaign in the same way as many members in Scotland did not buy into the Better Together campaign, even though it was what the party decided to throw its weight behind in the Scottish referendum. Then the leadership said that those voting Yes could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Post referendum it was estimated that 30% of Lib-Dems had voted Yes.

    I suspect that there are many members like myself who will not campaign for Remain and could well vote to leave because of a number of issues, not least of all the lack of democracy for individual states within an expanding EU. The claims that we need to be at the top table hold no water when nobody at the top table is prepared to listen and any meaningful reform appears to be a hopeless task or wishful thinking.

    A touch more honesty in the debate from both sides would be a good start.

    I would like to hear from either side an admission that something will be worse if they win the referendum.

    To argue on one hand that every single thing will be better if we remain and for the other side to do the opposite shows that neither side is being honest, as it is beyond the bounds of possibility that nothing will be better if we stay and that nothing will be better if we leave.

    I could still vote either way and hope that now the many other elections are out of the way that the debate steps up a gear.

    This article is a good start.

  • John Barrett

    “I would like to hear from either side an admission that something will be worse if they win the referendum.”

    Arron Banks agrees that UK families will lose thousands of pounds if we leave; this he thinks is a price worth paying.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th May '16 - 11:19am

    @ Anne Cremin,
    Thank you for mentioning the harm done to developing countries by EU policies on tariff escalation and food export preferences.

    I will be voting in, because I have promised my sixteen year old grandson that I will and it is his generation ( and yours) that will have to live with the outcome of the referendum, but my heart isn’t in it. My husband will be voting out for the reasons that you give.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th May '16 - 11:27am

    @ Sid Cumberland,
    I think that Anne has grasped that for many people, the decision to remain or leave is rather more visceral than a concern about economics.

  • Christopher Haigh 9th May '16 - 11:46am

    If I’d in any way agreed with this article last May I would have joined UKIP not the Liberal Democrats.I see this article as a fundamental divergence from agreed party policy.

  • John Barrett 9th May '16 - 11:52am

    Sid – Well that’s a start.

    Now something from those on the other side of the argument would be welcome.

  • John Barrett 9th May '16 - 11:57am

    Christopher – You will find that there are many current policies individual members disagree with.

    Policies might change over time, but principles remain the same.

  • I’ve always been EU-sceptic; never been an issue to my local party. I’ve been Chairman, councillor (26 years) and parliamentary candidate. Such a position is entirely compatible with party membership.

  • Our party card’s proudly call for a freedom from conformity, so being a pro-Brexit is perfectly fair as it does not, to my mind, necessarily contradict key Liberal principles.

    But, I firmly disagree with you 🙂

    Also, those saying we should adopt Brexit as a vote winner – if we ever did so I would do exactly what Jenkins, Rodgers and Williams did and leave a party I loved as it would no longer be my home.

  • Just wondering John Barrett, if you’re eurosceptic why did you vote for the Lisbon Treaty at second reading?

  • George Potter 9th May '16 - 12:30pm

    It always interests me to see people claiming that the EU is undemocratic since it normally indicates they have no idea how the EU works or what democracy is.

    This article is a fabulous case in point.

  • I think the whole “ever closer union” thing is a red herring. They are words that made a lot of sense post-WW2 but mean absolutely nothing now and haven’t for some time. Has anything that could be described as closer union happened since the Euro was introduced? Is anything planned?

    Regarding dispersal of power and having Government as close to the people as possible, I don’t think the objections are valid here either. Liberals are internationalists as well, and the stuff that the EU ends up making rules and regulations about is the stuff that needs to be done at as multi-national a level as possible. There is no point in devolving environmental laws, workers rights, product safety regulations etc. down to local level. You can have environmental regulations as tight as you like, but if the neighbouring county or country has much laxer ones then you still breath their smog.

    I don’t really know who the “European elites” are that you refer to, so I have no idea how “they” want the EU to develop.

    Of course the EU isn’t perfect, and your point about how the EU interacts with the developing world are probably valid, but it’s considerably better than nothing.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th May '16 - 12:59pm

    @ Nick – “They are words that made a lot of sense post-WW2 but mean absolutely nothing now and haven’t for some time. Has anything that could be described as closer union happened since the Euro was introduced? Is anything planned?”

    The police and criminal justice competence would be one, given that our opt-out was only possible post lisbon.
    The ESM, ECB, EBU, EFSF, would be a few more.
    Ever-closer-union is also cited in ECJ judgements, and thus considered to be of material importance. Not mere words.

  • John Barrett 9th May '16 - 1:00pm

    Andrew – I remember listening to many hours of debate on the subject at the time and to the views of Parliamentary colleagues, before voting the way I did, or at times abstaining. I can honestly say that I would not spend the same amount of time listening to a similar debate on the subject now and also could not say that I would vote the same way today.

  • Peter Watson 9th May '16 - 1:10pm

    This is a very good article.
    I am still instinctively “Bremain”, but as the debate rumbles on I am increasingly uncertain. Remaining in the EU now seems like the least bad option rather than a positive choice (even the word “remain” is very passive and uninspiring), perhaps because of the overwhelmingly negative campaigning exercised by both sides.
    It’s a shame that there is not a good old-fashioned centrist fudge to fall back on, one foot in and one foot out!

  • @Peter Watson

    I’m using the position of Not Now, but Not Never as a centrist fudge – for the EU could very well develop in a way with which I disagree, but don’t think that very likely at the moment.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th May '16 - 1:30pm

    @ Peter – “It’s a shame that there is not a good old-fashioned centrist fudge to fall back on, one foot in and one foot out!”

    That is the trick we’ve tried to pull off for the last thirty years.
    The question right now, is whether it will continue to be possible when the ECB is managing ‘consensus’ on economic matters that are decided by QMV.

    i.e. Will we have adverse governance forced upon us via a caucus of eurozone members.

  • George Potter 9th May '16 - 1:41pm

    We elect MEPs who have the power to reject and amend all EU legislation and to sack the Commission (which is the government of the EU)

    The Commission is composed of a one commissioner each appointed by the elected governments of every EU country plus a President of the Commission who is the leader of the largest coalition in the parliament – much like our Prime Minister.

    The upper chamber, rather than being a House of Lords, is composed of the elected national governments of every EU country.

    And any fundamental change to the EU (such as the signing of any internal or external treaty) is not only subject to the approval of the European Parliament but also to the approval of each individual country in the EU.

    Compare this to a non-proportionally elected first past the post House of Commons, an unelected House of Lords and a Prime Minister appointed by the Queen with the power to pick the rest of the government as he pleases and there’s no way you can argue that the EU is, at worst, any less democratic than the UK is.

  • George Potter 9th May '16 - 1:43pm

    And let’s not forget that one achievement of the coalition government was to pass a law requiring an in out referendum in the event of any future EU treaty which transfers power from the UK to the EU.

  • I think that I am correct in saying that support for Scottish Home Rule had been the official policy of the Scottish Liberal Party/Scottish Liberal Democrat Party ever since 1937, and it is wholly understandable to me, although I am not in favour of Scottish independence myself, that some members of our party might have wished to opt for the independence solution once the initial dust of setting up the Scottish Parliament had settled.
    But for Liberal Democrats to opt to vote to leave the European Union represents, to my mind, a direct reversal of a pro-European commitment that has been an integral part of our party’s policies ever since the end of the Second World War. Obviously this is a matter of personal choice, and those who may decide to do so are no less Liberal Democrats than the rest of us, but I do think that it is unhelpful to draw parallels between this referendum and the Scottish one, for in Scotland all that pro-independence Liberal Democrats were doing were carrying an existing pro-Home Rule policy to what they considered a logical conclusion (independence), while in the present referendum pro-Brexit Liberal Democrats are intending to vote for an option which is contrary to the whole tenor of our party’s policy as developed over a seventy-year period.

  • It is a very good article. I am 45% leave/55% of remain.

    But any free trade agreement with the EU will mean us having to sign up to EU standards on goods and services and most probably to a large degree on free movement of people as Norway and Switzerland do but without any say on them – either through the council of ministers or through the European Parliament. And as a bigger country we have a bigger say at the moment.

    There are many things wrong with the EU. There are also many things wrong with the British Government and Lib Dems would like to see institutional reform of the British Government starting with the voting system and power devolved from central Government. It does mean that we should not have a British nation and Government.

    I suspect that since time immemorial when people come together into larger units, arguments have raged. Since British tribes formed a country and before. I am sure the Iceni moaned about Wessex! Many of the arguments between European countries and the EU mirror the arguments in America between the individual states and state rights and the federal level.

    California which would be in the top 10 economies in the world as a country and has a population of 40 million chooses not to declare UDI from the rest of America because it is richer and has more influence as part of America.

    On immigration: I believe that net immigration between the EU and Britain is fairly close to balancing with some 2 million Brits in other EU countries.

    Throughout history, the latest wave of immigrants have been scapegoats for our problems. It is to a large degree human nature to blame “outsiders”.

    Let’s be clear – immigration from outside the EU is a question for Britain and we could “improve” or change it ourselves.

    Many many problems have need tackling at a bigger level than that of the nation state. Multinational companies will brush aside a nation state now as easily as swatting a fly. To control the googles of this world needs action at an EU level. Air pollution does not respect national boundaries. Global warming… the list goes on

    If we disagree with what is being done at an EU level then we need to be holding our ministers and MEPs who have agreed to it just as we would hold our MPs and councillors to account.

  • @Phil Banting

    Well said.

  • I will be voting out . Putting arguments to one side – as nobody really knows what will happen – but politically if we leave…
    1 It will hammer the Tories – it will be a bloodbath – and we would benefit – and we need it
    2 What point UKIP ? They would wither away and we could harness the protest votes that were once ours
    3 If we narrowly vote to stay in – it would be a huge boost for UKIP – just as the SNP forces grew after loosing the Referendum
    4. We will continue to get hammered in future European elections if we stay in
    I know this sounds all very cynical and unprincipled but you know what – I thought going into the coalition was principled and the right thing to do and we got hammered. About time we got cynical and not hammered.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th May '16 - 3:12pm

    Plenty of reasonable people are leaning towards Brexit. Some see it as us paying a big fee for unsustainable mass immigration. I’ve had a few debates with friends recently who feel strongly about the subject and anyone coming across as an EU fundamentalist loses them completely.

    It doesn’t mean the party is wrong to take a position on it – it means brexiters should still be welcome in the party and considering this is around 45% of the voting population it would be daft not to.

  • George Potter 9th May '16 - 3:47pm

    @Out of EU

    In Guildford we elect 1 MP to represent us. They only make up 0.15% of the UK parliament. Should Guildford leave the UK because of it?

    If you don’t think seats in the European parliament should reflect population size then fine – but don’t then claim to be concerned about democracy when you’re opposing a fundamentally democratic method of seat allocation.

  • George Potter 9th May '16 - 3:50pm

    And of course, unlike Guildford in the UK, the UK in the EU has veto power on pretty much every important decision in the form of our national government being represented in the Council of Ministers and has guaranteed representation in the government of the EU.

  • Alex Macfie 9th May '16 - 3:57pm

    @Out of EU: MEPs don’t act as national delegations. It is extremely rare that MEPs vote en bloc by nationality. Mostly they act as they do in any legislature, acting in party groups organised by ideology.

  • Peter Hayes 9th May '16 - 4:17pm

    Caracatus, good posting.

    For many of the exit claims you could replace EU by Westminster and have a case for Scottish independence. To make the most obvious case the majority voting in Westminster means England imposing laws on Scotland, less so now so if it can be done here why not with subsidiary in the EU.

  • Peter Hayes 9th May '16 - 4:19pm

    Subsidiary = subsidiarity (or some similar spelling!) I hate predictive typing!

  • Alex Macfie 9th May '16 - 4:29pm

    @Out Of EU: It is NEVER a question of “the UK being out-voted” in the European Parliament BECAUSE MEPs DON’T VOTE EN BLOC BY NATIONALITY. If you can’t understand that simple concept, that MEPs do not act as national delegations, so it is NEVER a question of any country being outvoted, then there is absolutely no point in arguing with you. You might as way talk about how Cornwall or Wales can be outvoted in the UK parliament.

  • Dave Craigie 9th May '16 - 4:35pm

    Thanks Anne for some really interesting and thought provoking comments in your article.

    Charles Lawley and Nick Baird have said many things I would want to say about “ever closer union” so I won’t repeat those points, but for me, the fundamental issue that I want to consider is: which option is more likely to safeguard the values I hold dear to, including the core ideals of liberty and democracy?

    The alarm bells go off for me when I hear of a Tory government seeking to appease the right wing and draw in UKIP voters and talk of abandoning the European Rights in favour of a British Bill of Rights and the attitudes that often emerge from those quarters regarding refugees (not all voices, to be fair). My concern (aside from all the considerable economic issues) is that our liberty and freedoms could become much more influenced by the political powers of Westminster if we left the EU. I dread to think of what our country could look like with a UKIP – Tory coalition for example. For me, being part of something bigger, such as the EU, brings a protection of my human rights and actually supports the ideals of liberty more than withdrawal. However, I would agree that we do not want ever closer integration, but this is not currently what is on offer.

    To be a member of a Union does not mean we lose local democracy – an argument being made by many in Scotland. I think it is possible to promote local power, while signing up to agreed International/European principles and rights, which for me is a better blend than to go down the route of exiting the Union and trying to carve out a more isolated British identity that will sadly be more shaped by Tory and UKIP voices than Lib Dem ones.

    That said, we are a party that values freedom and democracy, and therefore these conversations need to be had. Thank you for your part in that.

  • Dave Craigie: Thank goodness for common sense.Those who advocate leave have a problem,the quoting of “facts” which arent is the basis of most of their beliefs. UKIP and the nasties are clearly doing a good job if they are turning normally sensible people to supporters of their cause

  • You might as way talk about how Cornwall or Wales can be outvoted in the UK parliament

    The important difference is that those doing the ‘outvoting’ of the people of Cornwall or Wales are fellow citizens of the UK.

    Whereas the EU parliament gives foreign representatives, elected by foreigners, a say over UK legislation.

    It is not the same thing at all.

    It would only be the same if there was a country called ‘Europe’ and a nationality called ‘European’. But there isn’t, so it isn’t.

  • Basically the reason the EU is undemocratic is that you can’t have democracy without a demos. Democracy doesn’t mean voting, it means rule by ‘the people’ and there is no European people.

    I don’t know what the statistic are for other countries, but in the UK, when offered a free choice of which words they would use to describe themselves, only 15% of Britons chose ‘European’ as one of them.

  • Alex Macfie 9th May '16 - 5:35pm

    @Out Of EU: It would be impossible to answer your question without trawling through every single vote that has happened in the European Parliament (which you can do, incidentally: http://www.votewatch.eu/), but I never actually said that anyway. What I said is that MEPs don’t oragnise by nationality, so it would be an extremely rare case where MEPs all vote en bloc by nationality, and even rarer for all MEPs from one country to vote one way, and opposed by MEPs from all other countries.
    @Dav: Irrelevant: the simple fact is that MEPs don’t vote en bloc by nationality, so “outvoting” in the way you suggest cannot happen, by definition. And actually, if they did, then there would be little point in the European Parliament existing.

  • Richard Underhill 9th May '16 - 6:13pm

    Lots of people say “elected” when they mean “directly elected”. The President of the USA is not directly elected, perhaps it would be better if she were.
    The Prime Minister of the UK is not directly elected. Gordon Brown was elected as an MP but did not call a general election when he took over from Tony Blair.
    Israel had a directly elected PM for three general elections, but then abandoned the idea. The directly elected mayors we are getting in the UK need supporters, who tend to be appointed.

  • Out of EU: I would take the proportionally representative EU parliament over our First Past the Post Commons and the abomination that is the House of Lords any day.

    You are clearly ignoring the issue that MEPs sit in party groupings NOT by country. Our LD MEP sits with other Liberal and Democratic MEPs from the ALDE grouping and will vote with them just like the UK Labour MEPs will vote with the Social and Democratic (S&D) grouping and Green MEPs will vote with the Green grouping etc etc. By the time you factor all the other parties (Tories, SNP, PC, DUP, Sinn Fein etc etc) how exactly does the ‘UK’ get out-voted? Especially given the that both the ALDE and S&D groupings form part of the grand coalition ‘government’ of the EU, and the Tories own Eurosceptic grouping also participates with the coalition too, although considers itself non-aligned.

  • David Evershed 9th May '16 - 7:14pm

    The EU as a whole does seem to be opposed to economic liberalism.

    This may be because of a history of communist influence in France and Italy and of course the influence of protectionist farmers, especially in France.

    As a consequence the words and actions of the EU are different. The words are about subsidiarity and localism. The actions are about centralism.

    So it is easy to understand why economic liberals might vote LEAVE whilst social liberals might vote REMAIN.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th May '16 - 1:39am

    Anne

    If you read these , can I say I have been waiting for something like this for weeks , WHAT TOOK SO LONG?! As someone in the middle on the issue , this article is excellent .We should have them from you and your colleagues . Too much emphasis on remain only.

    I tried to make an enquiry via your campaign web site , no response , twice !Is it only on Facebook and Twitter that your group are active ?

  • Peter Reynolds 10th May '16 - 7:39am

    I absolutely agree. It is a scandal that the only UK political party with the words ‘liberal’ and ‘democrat’ in its name is blindly and subserviently advocating support for the illiberal and undemocratic EU.

    Our present leadership is a disgrace as it betrays our most fundamental principles.

  • By the time you factor all the other parties (Tories, SNP, PC, DUP, Sinn Fein etc etc) how exactly does the ‘UK’ get out-voted?

    By having 36 of our MPs on one side of a vote, and 37 on the other, but the side the minority of our MEPs backed still winning due to the votes of foreign MEPs, who do not represent British people or British interests, of course. Duh.

  • Look around at the company you keep – Nigel Farage, Chris Grayling, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Marine le Pen – hardly a clutch of Liberal politicians

  • John Barrett 10th May '16 - 9:55am

    George Potter – “Compare this to a non-proportionally elected first past the post House of Commons, an unelected House of Lords and a Prime Minister appointed by the Queen with the power to pick the rest of the government as he pleases and there’s no way you can argue that the EU is, at worst, any less democratic than the UK is.”

    Just saying that the Westminster version of democracy is so bad that it makes the EU look good is not a strong argument in favour of remaining in the EU.

    Hugh p – “I do think that it is unhelpful to draw parallels between this referendum and the Scottish one, for in Scotland all that pro-independence Liberal Democrats were doing were carrying an existing pro-Home Rule policy to what they considered a logical conclusion (independence), while in the present referendum pro-Brexit Liberal Democrats are intending to vote for an option which is contrary to the whole tenor of our party’s policy as developed over a seventy-year period.”

    The difference is that as the Federal option was not on the ballot paper in the Scottish referendum, many Lib-Dems, who voted Yes, voted for what was the closest option to what we had believed in for many years. In the EU, as it is now and is expected to develop in the years ahead, there is very little now which is in any way similar to any policy or position considered by the party for much of that seventy year period you mention.

    I accept that for those who joined the party in recent years this may be less so, but for people like me who have been members for over 30 years it is just not so.

    When Tony Blair, David Cameron, George Osborne, Alex Salmond, many in the city, and much of the establishment say one thing, it is no surprise that there are many reasonable people who will want to head in the opposite direction.

  • AC Trussell 10th May '16 - 1:37pm

    Most of your argument could be said for this country and Westminster. We are FREE!: to be dictated by the Torys. 2/3ds did not vote for. You also choose to ignore the benefits.

  • I was feeling isolated as a strong doubter of remaining in the EU. Thank you for the article Anne and the reference to the debate remain/leave chaired by Andrew Neil highlighted by ‘out of EU’. Well worth watching/listening to.

  • Richard Underhill 10th May '16 - 3:40pm

    Out Of EU 10th May ’16 – 1:47pm The Fixed Term Parliament Act was a Liberal Democrat condition of the coalition, so precisely 5 years.
    The number of MPs in the Commons is being reduced, although we do not know the boundaries yet, so without moving house you might get a different MP.
    You have only one vote, so you would need to persuade ten of thousands of others to change one MP.
    David Cameron was not directly elected as Prime Minister. Gordon Brown’s accession to Number 10 was even more indirect. He could have called a general election then, but did not.
    The First Lord of the Treasury argued with the Chancellor she appointed about setting interest rates and caused his resignation. In making the Bank of England independent the subsequent government set up a committee which votes by majority. It is deliberately possible for the Governor of the Bank to be in a minority. He is appointed.

  • You have only one vote, so you would need to persuade ten of thousands of others to change one MP

    But the point is that the British people can, every five years (currently, until the fixed-term Parliaments act is repealed), en masse choose their MPs.

    That is democracy: rule by the people. the people choose the make-up of their Parliament.

    Whereas the British people cannot choose the make-up of the European Parliament, because they only elect less than 10% of its MEPs.

    So the European Parliament is not democratic because it is not answerable to the British people (and there is no such thing as the ‘European People’ for it to be answerable to).

  • ” Developing nations – the countries in the world which most need our help – find their growth stunted by our Union’s actions.” Rubbish
    If you lived in a developing country you would know otherwise. The EU negotiates and extends trading agreements with these countries. The EU helps to make sure that products from these countries are ethically produced. There has been a crackdown on illegal labour in the Thai fishing industry for example. Poverty and exploitation would continue without this action.

  • Doing business with non-western countries is no easy matter and it is not prohibited by the EU. Britain can and does trade with the rest of the world as part of the EU.
    In the event of Britain leaving the EU, Britons living and working in other EU countries would be required to get visas and work permits and these won’t be easy to get.

  • Doing business with non-western countries is no easy matter and it is not prohibited by the EU

    Yes it is. The UK is not allowed, for example, to unilaterally remove tariffs on, eg, wine form New Zealand. That is a prohibition on worldwide trading, imposed by the EU, specifically in order to further protectionism of the French wine industry. Same applies to wine from any other non-EU country: we are prohibited from doing business with them on the terms we might want because we would have to agree a package deal as part of the EU, and the French would insist on a tariff being slapped on wine to protect their industry.

    And that is just one example.

  • Dav
    The important thing is to export not to import and anyway there are some fine English wines.

  • The important thing is to export not to import

    Um… no. this is basic economics. Have you even heard of comparative advantage?

  • Out of Europe
    The article is full of speculation-if, could, etc
    What is happening is that countries in other parts of the world are forming economic unions.

  • Dav
    Yes indeed. And have you heard of the lack of it for most British products. Britain cannot survive on services alone.

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '16 - 5:28pm

    having 36 of our MPs on one side of a vote, and 37 on the other, but the side the minority of our MEPs backed still winning due to the votes of foreign MEPs, who do not represent British people or British interest

    If the UK MEPs are so evenly divided on an issue, then surely what that shows is that there IS NO uniform “British” interest on the issue, making a nonsense of the idea of the UK being “outvoted” in the European Parliament. The fact is that nearly all of the time UK MEPs, just like MEPs in all countries, are divided in how they vote. This is, again, because they group as parties along ideological lines.
    What are “British interests” anyway? What makes you suppose that on any given issue the British people always have the same interest in EU law (given that they don’t in UK law)? Actually (and this is why MEPs organise along party lines) a UK low-paid worker (for instance) is likely to have the same idea of what EU employment law (for instance) as a German low-paid worker. Likewise a UK and German company director will have the same interest in employment law, which will be different from that of the workers. Policy issues divide along ideological lines in European Parliament the same way as they do in national parliaments. So it is just plain silly to talk about a particular nation being outvoted when the WHOLE POINT of the European Parliament is that it DOES NOT represent nation-states (that’s the Council’s job).

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '16 - 5:31pm

    the British people cannot choose the make-up of the European Parliament, because they only elect less than 10% of its MEPs.

    That’s because the European Parliament legislates for the

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '16 - 5:32pm

    Dav:

    the British people cannot choose the make-up of the European Parliament, because they only elect less than 10% of its MEPs.

    That’s because the European Parliament legislates for the EU as a whole, so naturally people from all over the EU elect it.
    There is no logic in your comment. It’s like saying that the UK Parliament is undemocratic for the people of Cornwall because the Cornish people only get to elect 1% of its MPs.

  • If the UK MEPs are so evenly divided on an issue, then surely what that shows is that there IS NO uniform “British” interest on the issue, making a nonsense of the idea of the UK being “outvoted” in the European Parliament

    Okay; so what if there are 63 of our MPs voting against a resolution, and only 10 voting for it, but it still passes due to the votes of foreign MEPs?

    Surely in that case you accept that the views of the British people have been overridden?

    Because clearly in that case the British people was, as a whole, against the resolution; but it was imposed on the British people anyway.

    That is clearly not democratic, as Britain is not being ruled by the British people but in instead subject to rule from foreigners who are not part of the same people.

  • There is no logic in your comment. It’s like saying that the UK Parliament is undemocratic for the people of Cornwall because the Cornish people only get to elect 1% of its MPs.

    The point is that the parliament of Britain legislates for the British people.

    There is no European people for the European parliament to legislate for.

    Remember, only 15% of British people would pick the word ‘European’ as one of the words they would use to describe themselves.

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '16 - 5:42pm

    @Out Of EU:

    @Alex – I see so you do not actually know the answer

    The answer to what? Your goalpost-moving question about

    there has never been one instance where a large majority or even all MEPs from one particular country have voted against a law that was antithetical to their country’ interest and been outvoted

    This is a somewhat loaded question since it assumes a uniform national interest in any international law, which is also not very likely. But also the reason I’m not prepared to give you a definitive answer is that IT IS NOT THE POINT. YOU are talking about countries being “outvoted” as if it were the NORM for MEPs to behave as if they were national delegations. If this were the case, then MEPs voting en bloc by nationality would be a regular occurrence. But in actual fact it is an extremely RARE occurrence (if it ever happens), and I am not prepared to go looking for that needle in a haystack because you think it would prove YOUR assertion that our nation can get outvoted when in fact it would not (because to prove your assertion, it would have to be part of the normal voting pattern).

  • Out of Europe
    How do I know? Because of 40 years of having to get visas and work permits in Asia .And no there is no preferential treatment for British people. It’s a case of get in the queue like everyone else.
    One place that was easy was Hong Kong before 1997 obviously because it was a British colony. A one year visa stamped in the passport in less than a minute. With the 1997 Hands Up that quickly changed.

  • Alex Macfie 10th May '16 - 5:51pm

    @Dav:

    There is no European people for the European parliament to legislate for.

    Of course there is: it is all the people fo the EU who are able to vote for representatives in the European parliament. They make decisions as one body — not as separate national delegations — affecting the EU as a whole. So how many MEPs of a particular country voted for or against a law is irrelevant: what matters is how many MEPs in the entire Parliament voted for it. That’s the way democracy works. If a majority of UK MEPs voted for (against) an EU law that I personally oppose (support) and a majority of other MEPs vote against (for) it, then I would be happy that there are others elsewhere in the relevant jurisdiction (the EU) see things my way. If it were the other way round, I would respect the vote, would disagree with it but would not think it was “undemocratic” just because MEPs in my local area disagreed with the majority decision.

  • Out of Europe
    Famines in Africa are caused by weather conditions and local political instability not the EU. Africa requires modernisation of its farming and agriculture.

  • Out of EU
    I know young Spanish people and they have told me they are not happy the way things are. Most of the Brits will find a change in their situation if Britain leaves the EU.

  • Out of Africa
    Once Kenya got its independence most of the white minority didn’t get to stay on and lead their idyllic lifestyle. Of course it was a colony.

  • Out of the EU
    The article used the word starve. Stavation is the result of famine.
    “One of the impacts of the policies has been to nudge Africa towards new partnerships with countries such China and Brazil that have pioneered the adoption of new agricultural technologies.”
    Irrespective of the EU, China has a very large presence in Africa today.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th May '16 - 6:32pm

    We should stop worshipping organisations and start valuing what they are meant to do and get them to do it .True of the BBC and the NHS .And the EU!

    They should service us , not us , them .And they should respond to the individual person or in the case of the EU , each county s concerns .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th May '16 - 6:33pm

    P.S.

    Each country not county !!!

  • The article used the word starve. Stavation is the result of famine

    Famine is only one cause of starvation. There are other things which can also cause starvation.

  • Of course there is: it is all the people fo the EU who are able to vote for representatives in the European parliament

    That’s not a people, it’s merely a population.

  • Boris and the rest keep telling us of the ‘wonderful opportunities’ for worldwide trade agreements…The USA is reluctant and, as for how OUR Commonwealth countries (especially Canada/Australia/NZ) could more than make up for any EU lost trade…..
    My question…
    What could the UK supply Canada with that the USA couldn’t do cheaper?
    What could the UK supply Australia/NZ with that their Far Eastern neighbours couldn’t do cheaper?

    Answers on the back of a postage stamp, methinks

  • Richard Underhill 11th May '16 - 10:57am

    Many people have been arguing that the UK has the experience of hundreds of years of democracy. No, it has hundreds of years of progressing towards democracy.
    By one definition at least fifty per cent of the adult population should be entitled to vote and actually does so. That was achieved in the general election of November 1918 with the widening of enfranchisement, when David Lloyd George was Prime Minister.
    There was a further widening in 1928, prior to the general election of 1929.
    There was a further widening when the minimum age for voting was reduced from 21 years to 18. A further reduction to 16 years is Lib Dem party policy.
    The election of MPs by STV in some constituencies was abolished after World War 2. Further progress towards STV is desirable.

  • Matthew Kirk 11th May '16 - 12:34pm

    Very thoughtful article which raises a lot of the issues which I have been chewing over for weeks. The discrimination against non-eu migrants is an important point.

    On the other foot, whilst the EU is very undemocratic, our own parliament is also equally undemocratic. We have a government voted in by 36% of people who are able to implement virtually 100% of policies. I worry that without the EU above there will be no checks and balances on our own unrepresentative government. If we had PR this would be less of a concern.

  • Dave Craigie 9th May ’16 – 4:35pm
    ” I dread to think of what our country could look like with a UKIP – Tory coalition for example”

    Have you considered, a close remain vote will almost certainly turn a lot of Ukips second places in the last GE in to firsts.
    That which you dread is a very likely outcome of a remain vote.
    Whereas leave, Ukip almost become and irrelevance, the Cons are Lab are in disaray, it might open the door to an opportunity for the Libs to grow back in to the peoples hearts as they were doing up until the disastrous coalition with the Cons, yes i know some good was achieved but that’s not the general perception.
    I think brexit could be a good thing for the party and therefore if you believe ultimately the people

  • Alex Macfie 10th May ’16 – 5:32pm

    “European Parliament legislates for the EU as a whole,”

    There some grey areas in regards the working of the EU, as far as I understand it, the EU parliament doesn’t actually legislate, it approves legislation put forward by the commission who are unelected, I also know in their job remit it says words to the effect of
    ‘ in your role as a commissioner you are NOT to consider how the decisions you make as a member of this group affect your home nations, your job is to consider what is best for the furtherance of the aims of the European Union’.
    It could be argued that no ‘country’ or people is truly represented by the EU commission who make the rules.
    Then look at some of the Junkers quotes or the one from the Economic minister about not taking her mandate from the European people and is it any wonder people have problems with what they perceive as a democratic deficit?

  • Torrin Wilkins 11th May '16 - 4:20pm

    This is a great article Anne and I think it sets out a true Liberal case for leaving the European Union. Nick Clegg said in the first 2010 general election debate “A fair workable immigration system, that’s exactly what I want” but I am in the hard position of being against complete worldwide unlimited (Or at least very high) immigration. This leaves me in the position of either a points based system that is more based on the skills people hold, although like any system it isn’t perfect, or a system of one rule for some, EU resident’s having the right to live in the UK, or one rule for everyone else with a points based system for the rest of the world. This part sums it up “The EU’s brand of free movement leaves non-Europeans discriminated against in their quest to emigrate”.

  • Out of EU
    Africa is not a monolith.Its very diverse. Britain’s trading relationship with it is no longer dominant. Compare the level of UK trade with South Africa today and in the past, an isolated Britain no longer an EU member will not reverse that trend. The idea that there will be an economic boom if Britain leaves the EU is right-wing Tory buffoonery. The Tories always say they will create some kind economic miracle in the UK, most of us know by now they won’t.
    On the other end of the spectrum I would be cautious about left wing academics and their analysis in the articles you cite.(the left wingers want state controlled socialism anyway) I remember one many years ago telling everyone how wonderful Chairman Mao’s China was. It wasn’t. My relatives there tell me how it was in those days.
    The striking thing is how East Asia has changed in the last thirty years. The striking thing when I visit Britain is how much it hasn’t changed(of course much of its industry has gone ).
    Britain is better meeting the challenges of globalisation as part of the EU and the trade relationships it establishes. Low cost manufacturing has shifted abroad and won’t come back. The technical and scientific cooperation with other EU countries is vital for Britain’s future.

  • Dave Craigie 13th May '16 - 3:49pm

    @David R – thanks for your reply.

    The thought of exiting the EU in order to hope that UKIP then become irrelevant* and hope that the Lib Dems can somehow rise to power in a more isolated UK doesn’t seem the most prudent course of action to me. There is also the very serious threat of a second Scottish Referendum (the SNP would love nothing more than most of Scotland to vote Remain and most of England to vote Leave) – the SNP have very openly stated this. I believe the chances of a second, and this time successful Scottish Independence referendum are much higher in the light of a Brexit, than the chances of Lib Dems gaining power quickly in an UK that is out of Europe.

    So, if faced with one the one hand, a (hopefully) irrelevant UKIP*, Labour and Conservatives in alleged disarray out of Europe with a very serious threat of Scotland leaving the UK… and on the other hand, remaining in Europe, continuing the fightback, Labour and Conservatives continuing to be in disarray and the continued unity of the UK, then I know which wins my vote.

    *regarding the irrelevance of UKIP, if we leave the EU then they would try to position themselves as heroes and campaign on the back of this to work on their immigration policies and (what I consider) scaremongering. I can’t see a Brexit suddenly triggering a wave of pro-Lib Dem sympathies.

  • Richard Underhill 14th May '16 - 5:34pm

    Paddy Ashdown was on Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 and answered strongly on this issue.
    He also gave a robust defence of the independence of the BBC, which has been subject to a UK government White Paper recently. There was prolonged applause.
    He does have a habit which his mentors might check, he rephrases the question before answering it. Neither Jonathon Dimbleby on Any Questions nor David Dimbleby on Question Time allow this, so Paddy is cutting into his own time.

  • Richard Underhill 14th May '16 - 5:46pm

    On a street stall today a ‘leaver’ said he was retired from F&CO and that Germany had taken in 2 million asylum seekers. This number seems too high. He also said that none of them spoke German and lots of them spoke English, so they will want to come to the UK when they can.
    Any country can grant residence permits without granting full nationality and Germany does, including to people who were born there. Those who have been granted asylum can only have been granted in the host country. The status lapses if they leave. Another country receiving an application when the application is within its jurisdiction would consider Germany a safe country. If it wanted to grant asylum it would be on current circumstances, which are about the risk of return and not primarily about the reason for leaving.

  • @Manfarang – thank you for your reply.

    “Compare the level of UK trade with South Africa today and in the past, an isolated Britain no longer an EU member will not reverse that trend” – how does anyone know that for certain?

    “The idea that there will be an economic boom if Britain leaves the EU is right-wing Tory buffoonery.” – I think a lot of people are interested in getting back control from the EU, than “economics”.

    “The striking thing is how East Asia has changed in the last thirty years. The striking thing when I visit Britain is how much it hasn’t changed(of course much of its industry has gone ).” – so how is that a recommnedation for the EU?

    “Britain is better meeting the challenges of globalisation as part of the EU and the trade relationships it establishes.” – how about Switzerland (or Australia), which is not in the EU and may be vastly better off financially than the UK?

    All the best.

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