We built the EU for our children

Our country has a long and great tradition of leadership. Increasingly, we recognise that it has to be not only national leadership but our global leadership, where we are a part of a larger group of human beings seeking a better world and a better life, which makes the greatest difference to our lives. It would be a tragedy if this country gave up that kind of leadership because it is essential in the modern world, in which countries are totally interconnected with one another.

We have warred for generations over land, resources and ideas, spilling the blood of our children so that one small corner of the continent can put its flag in another small corner of the continent. In the last century we called this to an end. We agreed that we had finally had enough of the bloodshed and instead collaborated to build a stronger, more peaceful Europe.

It is not just violence we are protecting against. In building the European Union we have built the single biggest trading block in the world, the largest source of overseas investment in the world and an organisation which has the capacity to have a major impact in its negotiations in the World Trade Organisation and elsewhere.

In building the European Union we have built one of the strongest bastions of rights and democracy in the World. In bringing about an extension of democracy, an extension of recognition of the rule of law, and an extension of a willingness to settle conflicts peacefully throughout the whole of Europe – west and east.

For the generations following us we must fight to keep this project going. Our children, our grandchildren and our decedents yet to come will only benefit from the achievements of a European continent working together. In creating a safer, more prosperous world we will protect our families from the mistakes we have made in the past.

Our children will face new problems which older generations haven’t had to. Climate change is already disrupting communities across the world, we are seeing the effects right here in Europe. It will only become more of a problem, and an increasingly global crisis, as the years pass. Our inaction now dooms our descendants. That is why it is so important that we work with our friends and allies across Europe to put in place the provisions we need to save our environment.

We cannot stay on the side-lines any longer; we must play a full part in the development of a European Union which could contribute far more than it has already to the peace, freedom and human rights of the whole planet. We owe it to our children to build a better world.

This article is from the EuroFile (pdf)– a collection of essays offering a positive, liberal case for Europe

* Baroness Shirley Williams is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, a founder member of the SDP and the Liberal Democrats and author of several books including her autobiography, Climbing the Bookshelves.

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


  • And now it looks as if we are probably on the wrong side of the argument. Trajic but there we are. Emotion looks like carrying the day. Are we planning for what increasingly looks like this probabiliy. Friday could be chaos day. If so where will we be?

  • Bernard Aris 21st Jun '16 - 4:05pm

    First of all: full praise and full agreement from a Dutch Social Liberal.

    Now that Farage has reverted to his own self, this is the kind of thoughtful and historically, factually correct statement we need to appeal to everybody’s better self, especially amongst the doubters.
    Let Farage stoop to his low ground, we appeal to the high ground… to the bigger picture(s).

    if it turns out on Friday we lost, at least we tried to win the right way…

  • Bill le Breton 21st Jun '16 - 4:35pm

    We owe it to our children to reform economic, political and cultural relationships between the countries of Europe.

    There has rightly been much attention given to this Guardian piece by Geoffrey Wheatcroft. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/21/brexit-euroscepticism-history?CMP=share_btn_tw

    But he makes the strong point that ‘Plenty of those reading this (article) may tend to view “Europe” in a benevolent light. But any honest remainer must admit that there is a very strong case against “actually existing Europe”. The European Union is dysfunctional, corrupt, and afflicted by a kind of corporate folie de grandeur. Part of the tragedy of our predicament is that the wrong people have been making a critique of “Europe”. There were always honourable radical or liberal reasons for opposing European integration and centralism – as exemplified by Maastricht. ‘

    Later he goes on to write, ‘If the EU is to survive, it needs drastic reform, and demanding such reform is what could be called the true Eurosceptic position. But reform can only be achieved from inside. ‘ And he believes that the leave campaign has no ‘practical alternative’.

    Yet there is: a Europe made up of countries that want an EU – that is a political union with a common currency. And a Europe of those countries for whom a common currency is not only destroying their own economies, and therewith the strength of the institutions of their civil society, but also holding back the economies of countries outside the EMU, and therewith also weakening their the fabric of their civil society – which includes the UK as we have witnessed in this campaign and in the rise of UKIP.

    For these countries where a political union with a common currency is inappropriate an EFTA/EEA relationship between themselves and with the remaining high speed EU is the wiser choice for the whole of Europe, and for our neighbours on the boundaries of Europe.

    If the vote is ‘remain’ it won’t happen until that solution is too late, and the far Right has become stronger and stronger as it did in the 1930s. However, it can happen if the vote is ‘leave’ and the countries of Europe use the next few years to make this pragmatic future a reality.

    Getting it right for our children is not as straightforward as both sides have tried to make it appear.

  • David Allen 21st Jun '16 - 5:29pm

    This is the moral high ground, which has been hidden behind a storm of scaremongering. Last week, Cameron paused the relentless tales of economic woe so that Labour could remind voters about the EU and workers’ rights. This week Cameron should pause and let Shirley Williams speak, and only partly because she is right. More importantly, because the In campaign needs to send voters to the polls with a spring in their step, positive belief in their hearts, and a motive for voting In that goes beyond mere fear of the unknown.

  • Nick Collins 21st Jun '16 - 5:59pm

    ” Vote For Hope” That means vote Remain: I’ve seen nothing positive from the dismal crew of leavers. 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jun '16 - 6:08pm

    I strongly believe remain is the right choice and I agree with everything you have written here except for the “play a full part” part. Sometimes it’s not right to play a full part and leaving the EU always needs to be an option for our own defence and I would also say for justice.

  • I was shocked to see that Brexit are ahead in the polls practically everywhere except in Scotland and London. In England it’s beginning to look like London against the rest. See below link:


    I was also surprised – according to yougov – around 30% of Lib Dem voters support Brexit.

  • Peter Watson 21st Jun '16 - 6:43pm

    @malc “I was shocked to see that Brexit are ahead in the polls practically everywhere except in Scotland and London.”
    My hunch is that polls might understate support for Brexit since the demonisation of Brexiters by the Remain campaign makes me believe that there are more “shy” Brexiters than “shy” Bremainers, hiding their voting intention behind “Don’t know”.

    Before the campaign I would have predicted a 60:40 split in favour of Remain (if not more) and so I am shocked it still appears so close. Perhaps I should not be though, since a few months ago I would have voted instinctively to remain in the EU but the depressingly negative approach of the Bremain campaign (no positive vision about a strong UK in the EU, just doom-mongering about a pathetic UK alone in a cold and scary world) has put me off and I am uncertain which way to vote (if at all – currently torn between tossing a coin or spoiling my ballot paper!).

  • jedibeeftrix 21st Jun '16 - 7:07pm

    “We cannot stay on the side-lines any longer; we must play a full part in the development of a European Union”

    What does that mean?
    The Euro
    European Stability Mechanism
    Law and Justice competence
    Euro FP and army

    Tell me where it stops?

  • “We owe it to our children to build a better world.”

    In the pursuit of balance, I’d just like to say,… and yes,..I know this will come as a deep shock,… as a ‘Leaver’, I rather like my children as well,… well maybe 99.999% of the time?

  • @malc
    “I was also surprised – according to yougov – around 30% of Lib Dem voters support Brexit.”
    It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise – although it has gone down 10%


  • David Allen 21st Jun '16 - 8:01pm

    To develop the perspective of Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s perceptive article referred to above:

    What’s wrong with the EU is that arrogant, overweening pride which has brought us the euro project, the drive for unceasing expansion, and the commitment to universal free movement – despite the multiplicity of languages and cultures, the limited extent of economic integration, and the virtual absence of a governing European democracy.

    What’s wrong with the UK Brexit movement is that arrogant, overweening pride which has brought us boastful self-belief as a substitute for genuine achievement, disdain for our neighbours as an excuse for failure to collaborate, and a reckless disregard for global realities in the pursuit of a meaningless nostalgic dream.

    Reckless overweening pride is, perhaps, our common defence mechanism, the towel we pull over our heads to save us from panic, the shroud which obscures from our sight the manifold dangers of climate change, resource exhaustion and global conflict. President Trump, whose very existence is a testament to reckless overweening pride, is precisely the right man to lead us toward the end of human civilisation.

  • Malcolm Todd 21st Jun '16 - 9:44pm

    “I was shocked to see that Brexit are ahead in the polls practically everywhere except in Scotland and London.”

    Why shocked? It’s well known that Scotland and London are strongly pro-Remain and between them they account for about 20% of the population, so the rest of the country’s bound to be mostly majority Leave, given that overall it’s neck-and-neck. The majorities in most of those other areas are very small – as usual, one shouldn’t exaggerate the difference between a constituency that’s 52-48 Out and one that’s 52-48 In.

  • James Murray 22nd Jun '16 - 6:30am

    I am so surprised that we LibDems do not, with a visceral hatred, despise the built-in, unchangeable, undemocratic nature of the EU.
    The essence of democracy is that if those in charge mess up, WE VOTE THEM OUT…
    This is impossible as the populace of the EU did not vote in ‘those in charge’.
    The unelected Commission runs the show, dreams up the legislation etc with little regard for the Council of Ministers as it is so divided.
    So it was with the only 42 pieces of legislation which the UK objected to in the Council and were defeated 42 times.
    (Same process as what happens in the Eurovision Song Contest voting – back scratching to an art form.)
    And the 751 MEPs?
    Nah! The EU Parliament, in effect, has less power than our H of Lords.

    It is as if Sir Jeremy Haywood, Cabinet Secretary and head of the U.K. Civil Service, was in charge of all U.K. new legislation and the H of Commons, the PM and Cabinet, were given room in the H of Lords to pretend they were in charge.

    So no, the EU is a force for Dictatorship by Committee.

    But isn’t that is for the better?
    After all, the committees in the Commission contains the EU’s great and the good.
    They clearly are better at decision-making for us all than anyone elected by the rabble….

    Yes the way is OUT.

  • E U needs reform but don’t we vote for UK MEP’s and they select the UK rep on the commission. Isn’t that how we ‘choose ‘ a prime minister?

  • Matt (Bristol) 22nd Jun '16 - 9:42am

    James, Joan – as I understand it, commissioners (who, yes, are unelected) are nominated by individual governments and then the whole team is approved by the parliament

    UK governments have generally sought to stop more democratic appointment processes for the commission and the presidency, as they did not want to risk dilution of their direct power, or worse from their perspective, risk their domestic political rivals capturing Britain’s representation at the EU, as has happened with the European parliament.

    Do you want a more democratic EU? — because if you want to stop the process of democratic integration as UK governments have done, you leave us with the ‘unelected’ EU system the eurosceptics mock.

    Again, this isn’t something foisted on us, it’s something our governments participated actively in creating. To walk away is hypocrisy, as it is to blame others for the UK’s failures.

  • Nick Collins 22nd Jun '16 - 11:09am

    Is “Leave EU” above the nom de guerre of a commenter who wishes to remain anonymous, or is it the actual voice of the “official” leave campaign: the authors of the brazenly dishonest leaflets referred to in another thread on this site? Just asking.

  • @Nick Collins – Your comment caused me to take a little look at things.

    It would seem that LDV doesn’t do any checking of the “Website” field – it is my understanding this is intended to allow commentor’s to link to their own website/blog. “Leave EU” has used this field to also include the URL they mention in their comment, hence the URL is different for all three comments. The checking of this field and tying it to a Name and email address, may be something the moderators may wish to investigate.

    Aside: Ian Sanderson (RM3) you may wish to double check your browser and the values it is automatically inserting in this field, the correct URL for your blog is http://haroldwoodcitizen.wordpress.com/ – note the replacement of the ‘@’ with a ‘.’.

Post a Comment

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

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

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

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

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


Recent Comments

  • Roland
    It will be interesting to see whether there is any LibDem comment in the media about today's announcement: ...
  • Roland
    I bet the "Golden Valley Development" isn't zero carbon and thus is just adding to the climate and environmental mess we're in.... Played correctly, it could'v...
  • Kit
    Thank God for Trident....
  • Peter
    It is so reassuring to read the common sense approach of Yeovil Yokel. Thank goodness for people who understand what they are talking about and this is typical ...
  • John Marriott
    I’ve no idea who Mr Cole-Hamilton is. However he must surely have been on the political scene long enough to know that any error he makes, however trivial, ev...