Working together to stay in the EU


I was personally impressed by the article in last Wednesday’s Guardian by Labour’s Pat McFadden MP, which challenged the Brexiters to spell out just what life would be like for us if we chose to leave the European Union. Coupled with the recent sensible remarks from his party colleague, everyone’s favourite ex-postie, Alan Johnson MP, and the furious back tracking of Messrs Cameron and Osbourne, it gives me hope that all like minded people WILL bury their differences and show a united front against forces both political and popular that seem to think that we can throw our weight around as we did a hundred years or more ago.

As someone who has concerns about the current Lib Dem tactics on the upcoming EU referendum, which seem to be operating in a bubble, with no reference to political reality, the chances of politicians from most, if not quite all, parties sharing both physical and media platforms in the run up to the vote, whenever it takes place, makes a great deal of sense.

With the East Midlands Regional Conference taking place this weekend, if the decision from the conference is to try to forge a unique stance on the EU in the hope of gaining the party some tangible electoral support, which, without doubt, it could certainly do with, then, as they say, count me out. To paraphrase the late great Bill Shankly, staying in Europe isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s more important than that!

You see, although I acknowledge that, were we to exit the EU, life would go on, the sun would rise in the morning and we would continue to make a living in the world; it would be incredibly more difficult from a position outside the EU. Not everything about the EU is perfect, far from it, and this is something the ‘Remain’ campaign needs to acknowledge in its attempt to win over the undecideds, whose support will probably tip the balance either way.

Do any of you remember the late Sir Anthony Meyer MP, the pro Europe Tory grandee who put himself forward in 1989 as a stalking horse candidate for his party’s leadership against Lady Thatcher, which led eventually to her downfall?

I reckon that there are quite a few EU members, particularly in the east, but also closer to home, whose governments are viewing the Dave and George Show a bit like Sir Anthony’s effort as a means of levering out of the Commission changes to the present EU set up. This might have been fine for a dozen nations or so, when an iron curtain and dictatorships in the Middle East and further afield were keeping nations and peoples ‘under control’; but it is clearly not fit for purpose today. The collapse of communism, the reawakening of Islamic fundamentalism following so called wars of liberation, aided and abetted by the west, and the emergence of colossi such as India and China as global economic players requires a fundamental rethink not only in the UK but in many other EU member states as well.

We are not alone in the EU in wanting change. I am convinced that, with a united approach, this can be achieved, not only for the United Kingdom but for other like minded EU member states as well.

* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.

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  • The outers fall into 3 camps from what I can see:

    1) Anti-immigration
    2) Arguments over national sovereignty / democracy
    3) Protectionism, specifically anti big business.

    1) The Lib Dems need to counteract immigration head on. We need to speak up for free movement, for immigrants and the contribution they bring to both the economy and the diversity of our ctowns and cities. Conversely we also need point out the movement of the British overseas and explain that they too benefit from free movement, particularly with the lower cost of property abroad, or indeed the variety of educational establishments and careers.

    2) We need to point out that NATO, the UN, WTO and in fact any agreement we enter into with other countries means a certain degree of loss of “sovereignty” and that Britain does not want to be a country such as Cuba or North Korea which are autarkies cut off from the rest of the world.

    We also need to defend how the Commission is structured and the role of the EU groupings, and correct many of the myths about how the EU works.

    Also pointing out how EU development funds improve the lives of many in some of the poorer areas of the UK, and how a UKIP or Corbyn government outside the EU, would lead to even more deprivation.

    3) The Lib Dems need to make the moral case for free trade and the TTIP and similar deals, and how market liberalisation is a good thing for customers and consumers. We must point out the folly in following protectionist ideals, whether they are from the left and state ownership, or from nationalists attempting to favour their own countries businesses.

    As much as I hate to say this, I think however Nick Clegg should not be involved. I think he is a brilliant man and a superb speaker, but he is sadly damaged goods in the eyes of the electorate, so the figures we choose have to be credible.

  • Remaining in the EU offers the promise of… Does it offer anything positive? It seems to be an inward looking mess about to implode.

  • Of course it does, Peter. A nice quick list of three that I can think of off the top of my head without spending too long on reference materials:

    One, staying in means we benefit from the greater strength of a unified negotiating position with respect to leading world powers, the benefits of which we see in the repeal and blocking of unequal treaties and unfair arrangements like the Safe Harbour deal with the United States for example.

    Two, staying in means we get to be part of the capital markets unification that’s going through now, which will clear out a lot of the cruft, legislative duplication and complexity that makes it harder to raise the same sort of capital in smaller European economies that you can in the integrated US or emerging economies.

    And three, staying in means we get to be part of the Energy Union which through interconnection and diverse supply will mean we can run an energy policy that doesn’t leave us politically dependent on the Saudis or the Russians and that means we can rely more heavily on environmentally safer technologies like nuclear generation for everyone’s baseload and renewables balanced out over a broad enough area to make their intermittent nature irrelevant.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Nov '15 - 7:01pm

    I agree with John Marriott that a united campaign to stay in the EU makes sense. This can’t be seen as the Lib Dems’ own campaign when there are so many voices outside our party raised in favour. We don’t want to be seen as a one-issue party, which we are not. To my mind it is more important for us to campaign this winter, nationally and locally, to tell the public all that we stand for: the good things done in Coalition, the bad things pursued by the present Government without our restraining hand, and our policies and outlook on vital matters like response to climate change, poverty in this country, inadequate housing, civil liberties and the refugee crisis. Let’s campaign together this winter using every campaigning tool including social media and leaflet distribution in every constituency, to affirm forcefully what we are – the only united, sensible and humane British party in politics today.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Nov '15 - 7:12pm

    “We need to point out that NATO, the UN, WTO and in fact any agreement we enter into with other countries means a certain degree of loss of “sovereignty””

    There is a real and significant difference between an intergovernmental organisation designed to foster cooperation and supranational governance whose purpose is to harmonise the norms and laws of a single people.

  • nigel hunter 10th Nov '15 - 12:19am

    In an ever shrinking world what does UKIP propose to keep us relevant? We will have to join an organisation to prevent us being swallowed up as a minnow. George Orwells 1984 had the World split into sections, admittedly warlike but I can see the same happening economically. Where do we stand ?

  • Stimpson – “The Lib Dems need to make the moral case for free trade and the TTIP and similar deals …”

    What makes you think the TTIP is really about ‘Free Trade’ (except as a bit of promotional disinformation)? Historically, one of the things it’s often meant is freedom for powerful actors to exploit the less powerful.

    That’s the version of ‘Free Trade’ that TTIP looks like to me – a power grab by corporate interests that involves trashing the foundational norms on which all liberal democracies are built. Why would you want to do that?

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Nov '15 - 8:28pm

    is mine an esoteric view?

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