What Lib Dem members think about Europe, Cameron’s ‘veto’, and the Eurozone

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 570 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Party members split over the future of Europe

LDV asked: Which of the following options would be your ideal future for the UK and the European Union?

    46% – The UK should remain a full member of the EU and work towards ever closer union, economically and politically.
    40% – The UK should remain a full member of the EU but reject working towards ever closer union, economically and politically.
    10% – The UK should secure substantial renegotiation of its existing relationship with the EU but remain a full member.
    3% – The UK should leave the EU altogether and instead negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU.
    2% – Don’t know / No opinion

Though the Lib Dems are generally identified in the public’s minds as the most pro-European, it’s clear from our survey that party members’ views are more nuanced. Just under half, 46%, back ever closer political and economic union — but that leaves 53% arguing for a rejection of further integration between the UK and our European neighbours, including a minority who would like to see renegotiation or even the UK’s exit from the EU.

The results are broadly similar to when we last surveyed Lib Dem members in September, though with a small shift towards a more ‘eurosceptic’ position.

Almost three-quarters back new Eurozone rules

LDV asked: The Eurozone refers to the 17 of the 27 countries within the EU that use the Euro. The UK is not part of the Eurozone. In December, European leaders agreed new rules for the Eurozone which will mean that countries in the Eurozone will have to balance their budgets, there will be punishments for countries which run up deficits that are too large, and countries in the Eurozone will have their budgets monitored by the EU. Do you support or oppose these new rules?

    73% – Support
    15% – Oppose
    12% – Don’t know / No opinion

Almost three-quarters of Lib Dem members we surveyed supported the new rule for the Eurozone countries, with just 15% opposed.

Cameron’s Euro ‘veto’ scores badly with Lib Dems…

How well or badly do you think David Cameron handled the negotiations on behalf of the UK at the European summit in December?

    Very well – 2%
    Well – 6%
    Total well = 8%
    Neither well nor badly – 8%
    Badly 33%
    Very badly 51%
    Total badly = 84%
    Don’t know / No opinion – 1%

Well the Prime Minister’s so-called ‘veto’ may have wowed the right-wing media in December, but it didn’t win him plaudits among Lib Dem members — a net 76% of those we surveyed felt Mr Cameron had handled the negotiations badly.

… And Nick Clegg’s handling of the ‘veto’ gets a mixed response

How well or badly do you think Nick Clegg handled the Liberal Democrat response to the European summit in December?

    Very well – 9%
    Well – 36%
    Total well = 45%
    Neither well nor badly – 23%
    Badly – 21%
    Very badly – 9%
    Total badly = 30%
    Don’t know / No opinion 2%

A bit of a mixed result for Nick Clegg, with fewer than half of the members in our survey believing he handled the Lib Dem response well. Here’s a sample of your comments:

Hard position. Difficult to see how he could improve. Not worth destroying the coalition over

He took too long to make his stance clear, and there was some ambiguity as to what his stance actually was. Eventually, he was clear and right

His rhetoric was very anti-Tory but the substance was more measured.

Nick took two incompatible positions within the course of about 48 hours – he should be careful to avoid repeating this feat again in future.

Although the initial inconsistency was wrong, he took the right line.

Response could have been better, subtle reading may indicate that Nick Clegg behaviour was consistent throughout but that’s not what it looked like.

Started off badly but then improved significantly

Nick managed to claw back some respectability and influence. I wish he’d been negotiating for us.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 570 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 31st January and 4th February.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    This entry was posted in Europe / International and LDV Members poll.


    • Jeremy Hargreaves 11th Feb '12 - 8:55am

      I do think your first question and analysis of it is a bit odd. The ‘ever closer union’ thing is a line in the 1957 treaty which antis love to quote but doesn’t really mean very much – what specifically does it mean, and who in Britain is actually arguing for it?

      I read this as ‘86% of Lib Dem members are positive about Britain’s relationship with the EU’.

      If you really think the important dividing line is between the first two answers, then I think the story is that nearly 50% not only reject demands for Cameron’s policy of ‘repatriating’ powers, but want to go further in the other direction. This is certainly a lot more than I would have guessed, and is I think quite remarkable.

      But as I say I think the more important point is that to write up 86% of members being positive about the UK’s relationship with the EU as members somehow being cool or sceptical about it, is a bit odd.

    • Foregone Conclusion 11th Feb '12 - 1:40pm

      I said I didn’t want ‘ever closer union’ as an abstract goal. I would be interested in closer co-operation and sharing of powers in certain areas, but I don’t want tighter union for its own sake.

    • paul barker 11th Feb '12 - 3:17pm

      The essence of Members response is fairly clear – theres a 2-speed Europe & we want The UK to stay in the slow Lane. Im a Eurofedaralist myself but I recognize thats very much a minority view, staying in Europe but on the edge seems a reasonable compromise.

    • Perhaps a sense of European history would help.This can be gained by reading David Marquand’s book “Te End of The West”
      The EU is far from a finished project. Stephen W’s reference to 1957 is relevant. Jean Monnet , the architect of the Iron & Steel precursor to the project defined the project objective as “Bringing people together”. as distinct from economic self interest. If that sounds wooly read abit of European history, consider the demise of fascism in Spain & Portugal.
      Europe must define itself properly and democratise the decision making process and perhaps we could engender a realunderstnding of the issues in the public at large

    • Of course the EU is far from a finished project . There is much more to be done and indeed reforms required. For example I still cannot understand why all the many MEPs who are appalled by the ridiculous trek between Brussels and Strasbourg don’t jointly refuse to go to Strasbourg and hold a sit-in in Brussels instead.
      The trouble with “ever-closer union” even for Euro-enthusiasts like me is that , taken literally, it means going for the ultimate destination of a “United States of Europe” or what Tory eurosceptics call “a country called Europe.” While in the early stages of the great project I was inspired by this concept I think it became impracticable when such a great degree of expansion of the number of countries took place (and there are more to come). In other words major widening – which incidentally I strongly support – has an inevitable effect upon the degree of deepening that can be contemplated.
      To me there is plenty of room for more deepening (coupled with subsidiarity where apppropriate) but not EVER-closer union. I suspect a lot of others whose pen was poised over these questions in your survey had similar thoughts.

    • Liberal Eye says:

      As regards the new Eurozone rules I can only assume that many people do not understand that this amounts to a circular firing squad and would be the end of national sovereignty without first establishing an alternative democratic polity.

      I say – couldn’t agree more

      How 73% of Lib Dems can support a treaty that effectively outlaws Keynesianism and allows the diktat of bankers to over rule the will of the people is beyond me

    • Jim Halcrow 17th Feb '12 - 9:09pm

      Denis mentions subsidiarity. Does it still exist? I heard that it and a Laeken Declaration had been killed off by Guiscard d’Estaing. Can anyone explain?

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