The Liberal Democrat Conference on the Future of Europe

As we head into the Autumn conference and debating season, for those of us for whom Europe is still the most defining issue of our time, the next couple of months are going to be very exciting. As a member of the Liberal Democrats you are going to have the opportunity to have your say.

In June the European Union launched its “Conference on the Future of Europe”, whose purpose is to generate ideas and set out a vision for how the EU should develop and improve in the future.

The Conference is the widest process of engagement with its citizens that Europe has ever organised outside of elections. Citizens from across Europe, including those from non member states like the UK, are being encouraged to get involved through consultation events and panels, and directly by submitting ideas through a digital platform which acts as the hub of the Conference

The evidence gathered will be submitted to a Conference Plenary, co-chaired by Guy Verhofstadt, where it will be considered, to identify opportunities for future policy or institutional reform. By Spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach its conclusions and put forward ideas to the Commission to provide guidance on the future of Europe.

If you are concerned that post Brexit the EU will not want to hear from us Brits, I can assure you that not to be the case. Indeed our contributions are being encouraged and welcomed.

Over the next two months, the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) is organising a series of events – “the Lib Dem Conference on the Future of Europe” – where we will hear directly from leading European politicians as to why they value what we have to say and which will enable us to engage in the debate

Possible topics to include:

  • The policy focus of the EU in coming years
  • How the institutions should be reformed
  • How the EU should work with neighbouring countries including the UK
  • the boundaries of political authority between the EU and its member states
  • lessons from our Brexit experience about how the EU is perceived
  • improving the options for countries who wish to join/re-join the EU
  • How Europe tackles the Climate Emergency

The programme kick off at our Autumn Party Conference on 18 September at 13.05 with the LDEG Fringe Debate – speakers including Layla Moran MP, Henrik Back Mortensen Vice-President of ALDE and Lord Andrew Adonis, Chair of the European Movement. If you have not already registered for Conference do so now and drop by the LDEG Exhibitor stand throughout Conference to find out more.

Throughout October LDEG is hosting a series of online regional events, enabling party members to engage with this debate from the perspective of where you live – how Brexit is impacting on your way of life – from farming and fishing to freedom of movement and the manufacturing and export of goods.

Full details of the ‘Lib Dem Conference on the Future of Europe’ will be announced over the next few weeks, with our programme culminating in a day long “Lib Dem Conference on the Future of Europe” on 30 October.

At the same time as stimulating ideas on the future vision of the EU, this process will engage with the internal consultation with party members, being led by Federal Policy Committee (FPC) as instructed by recent party Conferences, which is designed to look at how best to strengthen the UK’s ties with the EU, with a view to membership of the EU in the future.

This is undoubtedly an ambitious programme, probably one of the biggest projects that LDEG has ever undertaken to lead, but we felt it necessary that the Liberal Democrats, as the most pro-EU party in the UK, should give our members the opportunity to participate in this democratic initiative that is happening all across Europe. We are still Europeans!

None of the other political parties are engaging in this consultation, at anywhere near the level of the Lib Dems. If you believe, like myself, that the UK should be a member of the EU – then this programme reaffirms the Lib Dems as your party – with Europe and its values at its core.

* David Chalmers is the Mayor of Northam, Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group, a directly elected member of FIRC, Chair of its Sub Committee on Brexit and the EU and the Parliamentary Spokesperson for Torridge and West Devon

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17 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 7th Sep '21 - 5:41pm

    Guy Verhofstadt is the person who made clear his view that an independent Scotland would be welcomed into the EU should it choose to apply for membership. With the SNP/Green programme for government announced today including a commitment to hold another independence referendum by the end of 2023, the issue of Scotland being able to get back into the EU could be one of the major arguments during the campaign. Liberal Democrat voters in Scotland will find themselves having to decide whether their desire to rejoin the EU is greater than their desire to remain part of the United Kingdom. The Party leadership may be trying to solidify its Unionist position under Alex Cole-Hamilton as he seeks to attract Conservative voters, but I suspect a significant number of ordinary Party voters may be willing to consider Scottish independence as a way of rejoining the wider world

  • We are all European. Being in a political construct known as the European Union is quite a different matter which has implications for democracy, sovereignty, rule making and rule taking and much else.

    The EU has ambitions to be a single state with all the trappings of a single state.. Why is this not central to the debate?

  • John Marriott 7th Sep '21 - 9:54pm

    @Peter
    As Nigel Farage often used to say; “Love Europe, hate the EU”. You know, the old blighter may just have a point!

  • Peter Martin 8th Sep '21 - 6:56am

    “Lib Dem Conference on the Future of Europe”

    St Petersburg, Moscow, Volgograd, Kaliningrad, London, Monte Carlo, Geneva, and Oslo are all European cities too.

    Are they going to be included in the agenda?

  • I welcome this series of events in response to the present consultation by the European Union.
    It is a pity that we in the U.K. did I not organise such a series before the referendum to help to ensure a clarity from the party on how we should as a party campaign on the referendum.
    I hope that everyone puts makes known their views on how we actually build up a relationship with the EU. At the moment one thing is clear that we are not better off outside the EU than in it.
    Perhaps of course there are people with lots of money who will do better, but I would like to concentrate on the vast majority of people.

  • Helen Dudden 8th Sep '21 - 10:52am

    I often comment on road safety issue’s in Brussels as things are improved within the EU. The rail system is another. Should I wish to travel to Spain, I can use my Power Wheelchair.
    The only subject I have found difficult is the legal system. I did make additions to the Brussels 11a and the Hague Convention. The cost of legal action in child access cases was frightening. No funding no child. The cheaper option meant a trainee lawyer.
    But my support for my grandson, who is training to be a lawyer in the capital remains. A full circle. His grandmother’s love of law has been passed on.
    The hype by this government has turned into something quite distasteful, as I remarked to an EU official, I am impressed with the push for safety on the roads.

  • John Marriott 8th Sep '21 - 2:01pm

    Only six comments. I guess that the EU doesn’t feature so highly with Lib Dem’s any more.

  • Not much interest in Torridge and West Devon come to that. Lib Dems on 18% in 2019 and a Leave vote in 2016 of 57/43.

  • Sorry, it is all my fault. Mentioning the EU ambition to be a single state has always shut down debate on this site.

  • Martin, agreed, in particular England does very badly out of the current set up. All the other members have some form of home rule via parliament or assembly.
    There is also the public spend per person data of which 2019 / 2020 data shows-:
    Scotland 17% above the U.K. average.
    Wales 10% above the U.K. average.
    Northern Ireland 21% above the U.K. average.

  • Iris Walker 11th Sep '21 - 6:28pm

    @Brad Barrows. The SNP keep marching their troops to the top of the hill knowing full well they don’t have the powers to have a legal referendum as the constitution is reserved. They say at every conference that independence is coming; they have nothing else. It’s equally disingenuous to say that our party should buy in to this idiology to get back into EU

  • Brad Barrows 11th Sep '21 - 11:23pm

    @Iris Walker
    You are correct that the Constitution is reserved so the Scottish government and Scottish parliament can not declare independence. It is also probably true that the Scottish government could not stage a binding referendum on Scottish independence as they do not have the power to declare independence even if ‘Yes’ won and the can not bind Westminster to act on their behalf. However, it is unclear whether a consultative referendum on independence would be illegal – the courts may have to decide.

  • Scotland should have the courage of their convictions.

  • Peter Martin 12th Sep '21 - 11:07am

    @ Martin,

    “As for ‘boundaries of political authority’ the big question is why they are so very much worse for the member nations of the UK. ”

    In what way are they worse? How would the devolved countries like the boundaries to be shifted? Which laws would they like to operate differently in Scotland?

    “There is much to learn from the EU, the Westminster knows best attitude infantalises Holyrood”

    Such as? I suppose we could take a leaf out of the EU’s book and freeze the bank accounts of all Scots if the Holyrood government didn’t toe the line. Not that I’m saying we should do that!

  • Peter Martin 13th Sep '21 - 9:13am

    @ Martin,

    “I do not want to get dragged into pointless chat with people whose attitude can be summed up as ‘love France, hate the French’ (or other variant of the same).”

    Who or what exactly do you have in mind? Opposition to UK’s membership of the EU isn’t about hating, or even disliking, the French or any other nationality. It’s about whether its a good idea for 19 countries to share a currency or 27 countries to share a Parliament plus a whole lot of other issues which we are all very familiar with.

    Janey Godley has made essentially the same argument in connection with Scottish independence. I’ve no problem accepting this. Why do you?

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/19565976.janey-godley-supporting-independence-doesnt-mean-hate-english/

  • Andrew Tampion 13th Sep '21 - 5:08pm

    Martin,
    I do not want to get dragged into pointless chat with people whose attitude can be summed up as “the EU and the continent of Europe are synonyms”

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