The Liberal Democrats are part of ALDE, and will stay a part of ALDE

Two weeks ago liberals from across Europe gathered together in Madrid to debate policy, receive training and pass a new manifesto for next year’s European Parliament elections. This new manifesto reflects the commitment of liberals from across the EU to our shared European values. It is a manifesto which seeks to bring all Europeans together; and because of the efforts of European Liberal Youth (LYMEC)’s delegation, it reflects the views and aspirations of young people from across the continent. Indeed, there were few delegations as active or as well prepared as LYMEC’s.

At this Congress, we got to witness liberal parties from across Europe come together to express solidarity and to face the growing tide of illiberalism we are seeing in the world today – and we got to see them fighting back. This year, the European Party of Ukraine and the Russian United Democratic Party came together to submit and see passed a resolution calling on the Russian Government to release Ukrainian political prisoners. This was followed by the Liberal Democrats emergency resolution calling on Saudi Arabia to conform to international human rights standards; and for the EU to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, following the brutal murder of, journalist, Jamal Khashoggi which was adopted unanimously.

While, it is heartening to see liberals from across Europe come together, we should not forget to reach out to our liberal friends closer to home. This year, in a change of strategy, the Liberal Democrats led an all British delegation with representatives from the Alliance Party of Norther Ireland and the Liberal Party of Gibraltar joining us for our delegation meeting and to brief us on how Brexit will impact these British territories. While, the Conservatives seem determined to damage the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland, I am pleased to say that the Liberal Democrats and Alliance are strengthening our relationship with Fianna Fáil; who sent a representative to meet with our delegation. Based, on what I saw at Congress our four parties can look forward to closer cooperation within ALDE. Something we in Young Liberals, plan to help with, by working closely with our friends in Alliance Youth and Liberal Youth of Gibraltar. To ensure that all young British liberals are represented and heard both within the UK and overseas.

Brexit, of course, for the Liberal Democrats hung over this Congress. Indeed, it was a bitter sweet experience to watch my friends in LYMEC pour their heart and souls in to ensuring that this manifesto reflects the views and interests of young people, knowing that we are unlikely to get to campaign on it next year. While most of Europe has moved on from our self-inflicted drama we received many messages of support from our liberal friends. Vince’s speech was well received and many of our sister parties truly hope we can achieve a People’s Vote to reverse the disaster that is Brexit. Because they know something that our government seems to have forgotten: both the UK and the EU and stronger together.

Our friends in ALDE and LYMEC continue to stand with us in these difficult times united in a shared belief that a better more liberal world is possible. While the UK is leaving the EU, the Liberal Democrats are not leaving the European Liberal family. A fact reflected in the words of ALDE Party President Hans Van Baalen;

…the Liberal Democrats are part of ALDE, and will stay a part of ALDE.

* Ben Whitlock is International Officer of the Young Liberals

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 6th Dec '18 - 8:21pm

    How Liberal is Fianna Fail these days? How Democratic?
    We used to have relations with the Progressive Democrats, whose leader had left FF, but who came into power in coalition with FF when Charles Haughey was Taoiseach, after a general election.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Dec '18 - 4:24pm

    Fianna Fail only became a member of ALDE in 2009. Before then it was in a right-Eurosceptic group called UEN (Union for Europe of the Nations), which contained parties that are now allied with the Tories in ECR. But FF was never that right-wing.
    Ideology mattered very little in Irish politics until quite recently. Both main parties (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael) are descended from the Civil War factions, but had little difference in practical politics. Both were rather socially conservative, representing Irish society as it was. But each was defined as not the other, and the main reason FF couldn’t (or didn’t want to) join the main European centre-right bloc (EPP) is that FG got there first.
    As Irish society has modernised, so maybe have the politics of both main parties. I always thought of FF as the slightly more conservative of the two, so was surprised it ended up joining ALDE. But maybe it has become a more-or-less liberal party in recent years.
    The PDs are dead. They were always rather a right-wing FDP-like liberal party, and usually described as “right-wing” in the UK media.

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