With just five months to go before the European elections, the junior partners in Britain’s governing Coalition, the Liberal Democrats, have been showing just how much they differ from their Conservative partners when it comes to the country’s relationship with the European Union. The Party Leader, Nick Clegg, as well as its President, Tim Farron, have made abundantly clear why the LibDems are the party of “IN”, not “OUT”, as many Tories appear to be, aping UKIP. This weekend, the LibDem Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander, has a strong piece on Liberal Democrat Voice (Link here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/danny-alexander-mp-writes-we-shouldnt-fritter-away-our-eu-influence-when-we-can-lead-drive-for-jobs-and-growth-37788.html) arguing that Britain mustn’t fritter away its EU influence when it could be leading the drive for jobs and growth. Danny is well placed to comment, having followed EU affairs closely since working as a young man for the European Movement. But I would go further than him and say that without Tory shilly-shallying, Britain could be leading the EU, as an equal patrner alongside Germany. The Germans would love that, especially now that France has a rather flakey President in Francois Hollande. And we have so much to offer the EU. We could be championing reforms that do need to occur, but are franklçy unlikely to do so long as Britain has its coat on and one hand on the door to leave, as European Council President Herman van Rompuy once brilliantly put it. So in the run-up to May, the two Coalition government partners will be singing from very different hymn-sheets when it comes to Britain in the EU — and it is vital that that LibDem voice be amplified, in the best interests of this country.
Posts Tagged ‘European Movement’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th January, 2014
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th September, 2013
At the LibDem Conference in Glasgow this week, Ben Jones, Chair of the Party’s Europe Working Group successfully proposed a motion on the EU. Here is his text, first published in a blog piece for the European Movement (UK) euroblog:
The UK’s future is in a prosperous, sustainable and secure European Union.
But neither must we forget that the peace and prosperity we enjoy today did not glide effortlessly out of post-war Europe. Nor was it underpinned by the military might of NATO alone.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Ben Jones, Chris Davies, Ed Davey, EU, European Movement, European Parliament, eurozone, George Marshall, Likberal Democrat Conference, Sharon Bowles, UKIP | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 10th September, 2013
A useful article (which first appeared on the European Movement’s euroblog) by Matthew Donaher of the trade union UNISON on why it’s important to vote in next year’s European Elections — and how migrant workers benefiting from the EU’s freedom of movement of labour could influence the outcome:
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 18th July, 2013
Excellent piece on why London’s financial centre needs to be part of the European common market, by my friend Mark Field, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster. I wish more of his Tory colleagues thought the same way!
The City is one of Britain’s most valuable assets and central to its success is its ability to be part of the EU’s common market. The coalition government’s EU policy must be based on those two fundamental principles.
Historically there have tended to be two potential models for a successful financial centre. The first, an onshore version, is based around the notion of a hub city servicing a sizeable domestic market – think New York and the US market. The alternative approach, offshore, depends upon attracting business primarily via competitive tax rates, regulatory arbitrage and other distinct selling points such as a respected system of law, privacy and a skilled workforce – the most obvious example here being the Swiss niche in secret bank accounts. Until 2008’s financial crisis, the City of London had pragmatically been enjoying elements of both models and benefited handsomely. Prominent first as the epicentre of the British Empire, servicing the UK’s great global trading market, since the 1980s the City had taken on the role of offshore-onshore financial centre to the European continent – more recently still as a member of the European Union outside the Eurozone. As a pan-European capital market, the City flourished and alongside that role was able to take advantage of a light-touch regulatory approach advocated by Britain and applied across the EU that attracted huge volumes of foreign money. But the arrival of the financial crisis fundamentally changed the rules of this game. Almost overnight since 2008 the EU has demanded greater oversight of its financial infrastructure. Awkward questions have been raised about the ability of London and UK financial services regulators to prevent the system silting up; whether it is sustainable (or desirable) for Euro-denominated risk to be cleared offshore in the British capital. In turn, the City has expressed firm concerns about the way the new and numerous EU laws can fundamentally damage its global competitiveness.
The invoking of a British ‘veto’ at the December 2011 EU summit was billed as an aggressive demonstration of the UK’s intention to retain its offshore/onshore model, protecting the City as its vital interest. To much of the EU it was perceived as an unrealistic and petulant attempt to maintain an unsustainable status quo. The UK’s demands for safeguards would have given the UK an effective veto over European financial regulation, a request that was never going to be acceded to. In reality, that veto was less about the future of the City and more a political gesture to a domestic audience aimed at keeping Eurosceptic wolves from the door. The backdrop to that summit, it is important to recall, was the unexpectedly large ‘rebellion’ in support of an EU referendum. It was perhaps naïve ever to suppose that this would close off debate on the issue. Instead the Prime Minister’s superficially popular move delighted the media and hardened Eurosceptics’ resolve to extract further concessions. Since then, of course, matters have moved on apace. The EU, under the leadership of European Internal Market Commissioner, Michel Barnier, has set up a single bank supervisor and is moving ahead with putting in place the foundations of a banking union. Meanwhile the coalition government saw further rebellion on the UK’s relationship with the Union, that time over its budget, and the Prime Minister has crafted a clear path towards renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU, returning powers and holding a referendum.
The uncomfortable truth facing the Prime Minister is that there is no third way in the UK’s relationship with Europe. His understandable instinct is to play for time, trying to address Eurosceptic passions with aggressive talk about repatriating powers from and renegotiating our relationship with the EU, while smoothing relations with European partners behind closed doors. To some extent, this is a challenge faced by all European leaders, whose electorates are increasingly restless at the influence of the EU institutions. This approach is, however, no substitute for a clear view about how Britain’s economic interests are best served, particularly when it comes to the direction in which the City – the nation’s only substantial, globally competitive industry – should evolve. Our European partners are entangled in a crisis of continental scale and have lost interest in being lectured to accede to the UK’s demands.
If the Prime Minister sees our future in the EU, with the City remaining closely integrated into the vast domestic European market, a more collaborative approach with our European partners is required. This path will involve facing down Eurosceptic sentiment in the UK. He must put forward a powerful case for why now is not the time for British belligerence. Time will need to be spent extracting the best deal for the City through careful diplomacy and the building of alliances. Talk of fundamental renegotiation is illusory. Many of my Conservative colleagues, whose idea of renegotiation would take the UK’s relationship with the EU back to a pre-Maastricht arrangement may not like it, but for the EU and the City the choice ahead is increasingly binary. This arises out of a dearth of strategic thinking in how we see the City operating in future and the relationship Britain should enjoy with the European Union in the years ahead. The long term success of the City is better served from within the EU, forming the laws that affect it and helping shape the EU’s future. Because a successful City and an engaged UK are good for the EU as a whole.
This article first appeared on the European Movement’s euroblog. Link: http://www.euromove.org.uk
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th July, 2013
|The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union|
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 28th June, 2013
A useful briefing from the European Movement about the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, which has shrunk from about 70% of the EU budget in 1985 to about 30% today:
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th May, 2013
Tory Eurosceptics have been dominating the discussion about Britain’s relationship with the European Union, riding on the wave of populist sentiment engendered by UKIP. But it is wise to remember that they are a minority — albeit a sizeable one — within the parliamentary party. It’s a pity that David Cameron is unable or unwilling to make the case for Britain’s continued membership of the EU — a real failure of leadership, in my opinion. Fortunately there is some sanity re Europe around in the Conservative Party, as witnessed by recent remarks by figures such as Ken Clarke and Sir Malcolm Rifkind. And Robert Buckland, MP — Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the EU and Joint Secretary of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee — has added his positive voice, in the form of an article on the European Movement UK’s Euroblog:
Britain must resume a positive role at the head of the EU table and be clear that we are in to stay.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 30th April, 2013
Liberal Democrat peer Hugh Dykes sets out his (and mainstream LibDem) understanding of the vision that is needed for the whole of the European Union, not just filtered through the spectacles of apparent short-term national interest. This piece was originally published on the European Movement’s Euroblog:
What we need is a vision for the whole of the European Union.
by Lord Dykes
A few weeks after the PM sadly refused to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award to the European Union in Oslo, I had the chance to ask my noble friend Baroness Warsi, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, what further opt-outs we would now seek in Brussels. She very kindly stated that “the Government always seek outcomes that are in the national interest … our priorities include … the single market and … fair competition”. I spend a lot of my time in France and have the opportunity to observe public life and politics there at close quarters. It is interesting that such a proud, indeed, sometimes overly patriotic country, sees absolutely no contradiction between its own direct interests and those of the European Union. It considers them intimately connected and pursues one as an expression of the other. As in Berlin and Madrid, and most other EU capitals, the EU flag flies proudly in Paris alongside the national tricolour. They do not feel the one cancels out the other. The UK is the only major member state where government buildings never, ever fly the European flag. Why are we so nervous about the EU? Why are we so immature?
It is very self-defeating if leading Conservative Ministers and politicians refer to the over-repeated phrase “the British national interest” as if that were wholly different from our membership of the European Union and in opposition to that of all the other member states. The explanation for the use of such language is simple; an unusually large number of old-fashioned nationalist Conservative MPs have a notion of national sovereignty which is, literally, at least 100 years out of date. The fundamental premise upon which the European project is based is one which argues that pooling sovereignty by way of signing EU treaties, achieved by unanimity, is not a loss of real sovereignty, it is a means to protect it and enhance it. We have done so through other international treaties and membership of international organisations like the UN, WTO, NATO, even FIFA, all over the world, to no ill effect. It is quite extraordinary that the blind commitment in our so-called “special relationship”, which has led us to go into rather questionable military adventures in the not so distant past (which we usually later regret), is rarely questioned, while we suffer hot flushes when confronted with a perfectly sensible measure of consensus-based EU co-operation.
Mr Cameron is now launching a risky plan which is designed to appease these wilder anti-EU MP colleagues, and which could quickly get out of control. His wish to renegotiate our terms of membership, in effect to get Britain out of its Treaty commitments, which have been voluntarily agreed and dully ratified by our own Parliament, can only cause resentment across the EU and raise questions among our international partners about how committed we are to our membership of the biggest economy in the world. It comes after Mr Cameron made himself unpopular through a series of tactical mistakes. The bitterness felt by the European People’s Party, the biggest, and incidentally, centre-right political family in the EU, about the Conservatives deciding to set up their own group in the European Parliament still lingers. Vetoing the Fiscal Compact and complicating efforts to address the sovereign debt crisis in certain parts of the Eurozone has not been forgotten either.
As Peter Ludlow said recently “The argument that the rest of Europe will simply acquiesce in whatever kind or arrangement (we) opt for, because … our partners need us … more than the UK needs them, is a total illusion”.
The European Movement UK is Britain’s longest standing pro-European organization, campaigning for decades to inform the debate around the benefits of EU membership.
We are a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, funded exclusively by our members. Visit http://www.euromove.org.uk to see how you can join us and help keep Britain in the EU.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 4th April, 2013
Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, President of the European Movement UK, sets out why it’s important for Britain to have a confident and active future in the EU. Well worth reading. Originally published in the European Movement’s euroblog.
BRITAIN’S FUTURE BELONGS IN THE EU
by Charles Kennedy MP
The Prime Minister’s speech at the end of January has created a sense of uncertainty and insecurity among those that believe in Britain’s membership of the EU. Many, both within the UK but also among our European and global partners, have expressed concern about the possibility of Britain exiting the EU, as the PM raised it in his speech. But irrespectively of the reasons behind the PM’s attitude towards the EU and his ability to deliver what he promised in January, his speech has focused public attention and forced front-line politicians and business with pro-European sentiments to come out and join organisations like the European Movement in defending Britain’s membership of the EU.
The public’s attitude is also changing. After decades of anti-EU bias in the political discourse and across the tabloid press, the British people only had the opportunity to listen to the euromyth-infused anti-EU arguments. As a result their perception of the EU membership is one-dimensional. But as the coalition in favour of EU membership enlarges and the advantages of membership are finally articulated, public opinion is shifting. There is still a lot to play for of course, but with mainstream politicians, business, the trade unions, the US, global investors and Britain’s European partners advising against EU exit, public opinion is finally acquainted with what it really means to be a member of the EU and what are the dangers of a potential exit. It is imperative that pro-Europeans in the UK explain what the real benefits of EU membership are, in an effort to counter-balance the negative image projected by the tabloid press, UKIP and some Conservative MPs and even Ministers. At the same time we must build bridges with other EU states and ensure they do not allow Britain to slide towards the EU exit. An organisation like the European Movement, which as part of a wide, pan-European network of organisations, has played a pivotal role in the process of European integration in the past 60 years, has an important role to play in this sense. In my contact with politicians across the EU I can see first-hand that Britain still commands respect among European nations. So a British government, which is prepared to constructively engage with its EU partners and work towards strengthening the Union, deepening the Single Market, improving the way it works and enhancing the EU’s global reach, will be able to help shape the future of the European Union.
What is important to understand is that the process of European integration is not a zero-sum game, where nations compete against each other for the preservation of the national interest. On the contrary, the EU is a consensus-based organisation, founded on the principle of compromise and the pursuit of the common interest. A British government which is prepared to engage in those terms will find it much easier to promote its own priorities, which are intimately linked to the interests of the European Union as a whole. The creation of the Single Market and the enlargement process are two prime examples of Britain working with its EU partners and succeeding in materialising two of the most ambitious and successful undertakings in the EU’s history.
It is easy to detract why a British exit from the EU will have undesirable consequences. Britain will lose massively in economic terms. With over 40% of our trade going to the EU and about 50% of FDI emanating from our continental neighbours, leaving the EU will have negative effects on the country’s economic well-being. Britain’s ability to be part of big trade deals will also be reduced. Negotiating as a member of a 500 million strong market, an economy worth €12 trillion, offers all member states a competitive advantage; collective bargaining strengthens our hand. The same applies to other global agreements, not least on environmental and climate change negotiations. Furthermore, Britain and its EU partners increase their reach in foreign policy terms when speaking with one voice, enhancing their ability to promote European values across the world, especially in places that suffer under the rule of dictators with sinister intentions. Also, EU membership offers economies of scale when it comes to defence expenditure at a time of austerity, when defence budgets are under pressure. We can share the burden of security by working together, like in the case of fighting piracy off the east coast of Africa, where the EU mission has been successful in protecting the lives of EU citizens and European commercial interests.
Leaving the EU will not enhance Britain’s sovereignty. It will shrink it. At an age of continent-sized powers, with global ambitions, European nations are better off working together, pooling resources, joining forces in the pursuit of common interests. Britain alone, adrift in the Atlantic, squeezed between the US, the EU, China, Brazil, India and other global powers will be relegated to a bystander of world events, unable to shape history and influence its own destiny. Now more than even membership of a strong, confident, effective, outward looking European Union should be an absolute priority for all European nations. Playing games with something so important is dangerous and short-sighted.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 18th March, 2013
Thoughtful piece from Petros Fassoulas of the European Movement on Cyprus, the banking crisis and the EU:
18 March 2013