Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘European Movement’

Good for Britain, Good for Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st September, 2014

My LibDem colleague and friend Giles Goodall’s take on the top EU appointments I blogged about at the weekend:

The EU’s new faces: good for Britain, good for Europe
 
Giles Goodall is a member of the European Movement’s National Council and has been a Liberal Democrat MEP candidate for South East England
 
Giles GoodallIn the well-worn tradition of filling the EU’s top jobs, last week’s summit stands out as something of a mini-revolution. In a delicate and complex (s)election process – whereby 28 leaders must agree on a candidate whilst simultaneously satisfying multiple requirements ranging from political to geographical – merit is not always the primary criterion. This time though, it was different. In choosing Poland’s Donald Tusk as president of the European Council and Italy’s Federica Mogherini as the EU’s next foreign affairs chief, the system may just have worked. As a ticket, the new appointments successfully tick all the right boxes: centre right/centre-left, male/female, and east/west. Yet they are so much more than that too. 
 
Tusk’s election marks the first time a central or eastern European takes one of the EU’s top jobs (though his compatriot Jerzy Buzek already successfully led the European Parliament). Mogherini is a bold (and young) new face for the EU, bringing strong communication skills to a role that has suffered from low visibility since it was created in 2009. The significance of Tusk’s appointment in particular is hard to overstate. It marks the coming of age both of Poland as a major player in Europe – after a decade as an EU member – and of an EU that has successfully reunited east and west. 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, foreign minister Radek Sikorski – himself a candidate for the foreign affairs role – heralded ‘a great day for Poland.’ 
 
But it isn’t just a good result for Poland – Tusk’s election also marks a notable diplomatic success for Britain. It crowns the achievement of EU enlargement, a policy devised, promoted and implemented by the UK. Learning perhaps from his ill-advised campaign against Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission President, David Cameron realised the strategic interests at stake and publicly backed Tusk’s candidacy. He was right to do so. Tusk moved quickly to say he “cannot imagine an EU without the UK” and that many of the reforms put forward by Britain are “reasonable”. More importantly, the Polish prime minister is one of Europe’s star leaders, overseeing a hugely successful Polish economy and growing presence on the world stage in recent years. He is well connected with Germany and has strong credentials for standing up to Vladimir Putin in the Ukrainian crisis. 
 
He is also a convinced – and convincing – European. Launching Poland’s stint at the EU presidency in 2011, he departed from the usual downbeat, crisis-dominated script: “the European Union is great. It is the best place on Earth to be born and to live your life.” Bringing perspective to anti-Europeans, he said: “We were truly occupied by the Soviets. That’s why for us EU integration is not a threat to the sovereignty of the member states.” He has called the free movement of people “a great value” whose benefits some in ‘old Europe’ take for granted. Even on his weakest point – his supposedly limited language skills – Tusk successfully quipped (in fluent English) that he will “polish his English.” Finally, he promised to bring some much-needed central and eastern European energy to the EU. It will successfully complement Juncker’s experience and Mogherini’s communication skills. That’s good news for Britain, and good news for Europe.
 
This piece first appeared in the European Movement UK’s Euroblog
 
 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

UK Should Be Leading, Not Leaving, the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th January, 2014

Danny AlexanderWith 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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The UK’s Future in the EU

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.

Ben JonesNext year marks the centenary of the First World War: that cataclysm that opened up the darkest decades in European history. We should be grateful that – for all our concerns – the Europe of today enjoys an unprecedented peace: its peoples among the most free and prosperous on earth.

Without the sacrifice of our ancestors we would not have that freedom.

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.

In fact it was a soldier – the great American General, George Marshall – who surveyed a broken post-war Europe, and saw that without common endeavour, there would be no prosperity and therefore no security to speak of. He, like Churchill, Schuman and others, understood that old Europe had failed – and, unchanged, would fail again. The mould had to be broken.
So, when that centenary comes next year, let’s not be complacent about what we have today. Let’s be glad that Europe was re-founded on common endeavour – on democracy, human rights and the rule of international law. Glad that Britain supported and became a part of it. And glad, that we Liberal Democrats have never wavered from that vision – always the party of In. The EU has faced big tests in its history and yet the challenges of the future will be – in many ways  – just as formidable as those of the past. The world is changing rapidly – a global shift in economic power the like of which has not been seen for centuries. Globalisation gathers pace – across trade, new technologies, people and ideas. We should welcome the opportunities this new world offers. But neither can we ignore the tests it will bring: tougher competition, cross-border crime, fragile states, instability on European borders, and unprecedented environmental challenges, not least climate change.
Certainly, no nation today can tackle all this alone. But the question for the EU remains – can it meet the challenge and continue its historic purpose of prosperity, sustainability and security? Our firm view is that it can. But as reformers and critical friends of the EU, we believe that only by focusing ruthlessly on those areas where it can really make a difference will the EU win back the trust of all its citizens. So in our motion:
First, if the EU does not stand for prosperity and jobs, it stands for nothing. In the wake of the Eurozone crisis, getting the single currency on to a firm footing will be a long and difficult process, but it remains as vital for the UK economy as any other, and we must support it. But setbacks must not blind us to the opportunities of the single market. The world’s biggest marketplace – Britain’s biggest market. An 11 trillion pound economy linked to millions of British jobs, and a pre-requisite for billions of pounds of inward investment into our country. Without it, we would be poorer. And we still need to unlock that market on our doorstep – in services, digital and green technology. We need to work hard for EU trade deals with the US and others to unlock billions in GDP and deliver more jobs. But only as part of the world’s biggest single market can the UK hope to get the best deal from tough negotiations with trading giants. And, let’s be absolutely clear, the only way to influence and determine the rules of the single market is through EU membership – the Norwegian and Swiss models are either undemocratic, ineffective or both and none cut it for the UK.
LibDem ConbferenceSecond, sustainability – we want ambitious new EU targets to reduce greenhouse gases. We want continued radical reform of fisheries and agricultural policies including a complete end to wasteful fish discards.
Third, a more secure Europe. Police and prosecutors must have the tools they need to catch the criminals who slip across borders. But we want a fair Europe too – ensuring common-sense use of the European Arrest Warrant and levelling the rights of suspects up – not down – across Europe.
And it is vital that the EU speaks with a more coherent voice in the world – combining diplomacy, trade and development more effectively, and pooling and sharing military capability to get value for money and meet our commitments. Deeper Eurozone integration is a necessity. But it must not compromise the coherence of the single market. Future treaty change should guarantee equal voice for euro ins and euro outs in single market rules. And, if the EU is to win back the trust of its publics, it needs to work harder to demonstrate accountability, efficiency and transparency in all that it does. That means more effective scrutiny from national parliaments on subsidiarity. And it means greater transparency – secret ballots on budget and policy in the European Parliament are unacceptable. But when it comes to reform – let’s be clear. Tory hopes for a swag-bag of unilaterally repatriated powers are an illusion – a huge waste of diplomatic capital. Yes the EU needs renewal and reform – but you only do that by leading and building alliances for change with like-minded countries. And – as we have argued consistently – the next time the UK signs up for a significant transfer of powers, triggering the EU Act, we should have an In Out referendum, giving the public a say on the whole relationship.
Sceptics will say this agenda is too ambitious. But our record shows it can be done: Chris Davies MEP leading a historic reform of EU fisheries policy. Ed Davey MP working with like-minded states to win an opt-out from regulations for small businesses. Sharon Bowles MEP negotiating hard to ensure non-euro states like the UK have a strong voice in future decisions on financial services. This is the winning approach. Getting stuck in, leading the agenda, building coalitions for change. Renewing and reforming the EU for the 21st Century. No surprises then that a recent survey found Lib Dem MEPs to be the hardest working. And no prizes for guessing who are the laziest… There’s a wonderful double meaning in the name UKIP. It’s not just what’s written on the ballot, it’s their daily approach to politics: You get up. You get your expenses. You kip.
With the right attitude, we can ensure a reformed EU delivers – on jobs, on crime and the environment. But we have a fight on our hands. There is a new isolationism creeping into our politics – a delusion that Britain can simply pull up the drawbridge and escape all the demands of the modern world. It is hurting our influence in Brussels. The fact is without EU membership we can’t have a stronger economy and a fairer society. This country would matter less in the world. That’s why President Obama – like each president before him for sixty years – insists that we walk taller in Washington when we count for something in Europe. No offence Geneva – but I don’t want the UK to be a big Switzerland. I’m proud that this country fought for freedom in Europe, drafted the European Convention on Human Rights, pioneered the biggest single market in the world, is a UN Security Council member – a country that wants a say on our children’s future in this world, and – when push comes to shove – will stand up and be counted.
Does anyone really believe that we can be that same country if we leave the European Union?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Migrant Workers and EP2014

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:

migrant workersIn 1999 I was part of the 76% of the UK electorate who didn’t cast a vote in the European Elections. It wasn’t deliberate, but neither was I that bothered when the next day a friend asked me who I had voted for.
Now however I would not dream of abstaining in the Euro-elections next year. I will be actively working to encourage members of my union – UNISON, and their friends, families, and communities to turn out and not just vote but to actively participate in the political process.
There are three key reasons for doing this. First, the European Parliament is important, as readers of this blog know. The ideas that are discussed in the Parliament are directly relevant to the lives of workers in Britain, whether it’s health and safety, working time, public service provisions, trade union rights, or equalities the decisions taken by the 766 MEPs impact on us every day.
Like me in 1999 many of our members do not realise the extent of the Parliament’s reach, or they do not believe that they have the ability to influence the decisions taken by voting for the people that will best represent their interests. Our job as a union is to help our members make their voices heard at every possible opportunity.
Polish buildersSecondly, my focus as a community organiser who works with UNISON’s Polish Worker’s Network; it is an opportunity for us to enable our members who are EU migrants (and particularly Eastern European) to organise themselves as part of Britain’s political life.
They may not be entitled on the whole to vote in the general election but they can vote in European and the simultaneous local elections. Part of our role as their union is to educate members about the political process and how to influence it. Primarily though we should be providing mechanisms for migrant workers who are at the forefront of delivering public services and utilities in this country to tell politicians what their self identified needs and interests are. Engaging in electoral politics is an essential part of that.
Furthermore the European elections are a brilliant opportunity for well organised communities and groups of workers to assert themselves. Due to low turn-outs the fact is that in some regions EU migrants could easily influence the allocation of seats; and if they organise together with their British colleagues around common goals through the unions and community organisations we can make a real difference. If we agree with the ONS that there are about 4 million EU citizens in the UK that is a substantial proportion of the electorate, especially given that turnout in the last Euro-elections was just over 15 million.
We would expect that, if our members see that their collective activity with the union has visibly altered the outcome of the election, then that is going to encourage continued participation in UNISON and in wider civic society.
Thirdly, and equally importantly, as a union that organises and represents thousands of migrant workers from around the world, not just Europe, it is important that we organise as many of our members as possible to use their votes for a positive, progressive, and social Europe that defends the social chapter and fights for more equality and better rights, rather than reactionaries who want to tear up equalities legislation, abolish working time regulations, and kick out a sizable percentage of the very people that look after your elderly aunt in the care home, and keep clean that hospital you had the operation in last year.
My colleague Narmada Thiranagama has written for the Institute of Employment Rights about many of the reasons why people should vote against the jokers in UKIP; our members need to mobilise effectively to make sure these reactionary charlatans don’t come first in the elections and our migrant members can play a key role in that.
How can our migrant members organise themselves and their families to have an impact on the election? If we give them a compelling narrative that engages and encourages the telling of positive stories of how working people have influenced the European wide fight for progress, people will feel it’s worth participating. This will mean creating vibrant channels for communication between members and between our members and the politicians who want their vote, using the tried and tested methods of community organising, hustings, face to face meetings in workplaces, and communities, 1 to 1 conversations between activists and members, and an active and lively social media presence.
2014 is just the start, in 2019 we could see the first UNISON sponsored Polish UK MEP.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why the City Needs EU Membership

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.

Mark FieldHistorically 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.

City of LondonThe 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 in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Lithuania’s EU Presidency Hopes to Achieve

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th July, 2013

The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union
by H.E. Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene, Ambassador of Lithuania to the UK

EU LithuaniaAs the European Union moves towards recovery, closer cooperation between member states is needed more than ever in order to ensure growth, job creation and better competitiveness. The EU must demonstrate to its people and the world that it pursues credible financial and economic policies, is committed to growth through joint initiatives that increase competitiveness, and aims at security for its citizens and openness with its partners. The EU has already demonstrated its ability to respond to challenges, agreeing on reforms that will enhance its economic performance, strengthen its banks and ensure sound fiscal policies. In the run-up to the next EU political cycle, it is vital to maintain the momentum and implement political agreements that reflect the interests of all member states and EU citizens.

The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU will seek to steer the decision making process as an honest broker, and ensure its continuity and the inclusion of all relevant partners. It will build on the cooperation with its Trio partners, thorough preparation and the consistent support of Lithuanian society for EU membership. As one of the most successful countries to overcome the economic and financial crisis and return to sustained recovery and growth, Lithuania will seek to organize the Presidency in an equally efficient and result-oriented manner. Above all, the Lithuanian Presidency will focus on the three goals of a credible, growing and open Europe.

Credible Europe

The Lithuanian Presidency will strive to make progress towards sounder public finances in the EU and to strengthen the ground for financial stability, which is required to fully restore the EU’s economic credibility. The Presidency’s efforts will be directed at further developing the Banking Union framework, and making progress on other legislative proposals in the field of financial market reforms. Its key task will be the implementation and enhancement of agreed reforms including economic governance, and the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union.

Growing Europe

VilniusThe Lithuanian Presidency will build on the Europe 2020 agenda and the European Semester, reinforced by stronger Single Market policy, as well as the effective implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs. It will focus on further deepening and integrating the Single Market as the main driving force for economic growth and better employment opportunities. The Presidency will work to complete the initiatives of the Single Market Act I, advance the new initiatives under Single Market Act II, as well as facilitate the Single Market Governance. It will prioritize initiatives that will enhance confidence in the EU economy and result in a dynamic Digital Single Market. The Presidency will pay due attention to research and innovation issues. It will pursue the EU’s commitments to complete the internal energy market by 2014, and ensure that no Member State remains isolated from the European energy networks after 2015.

Open Europe

The Lithuanian Presidency will make steps to strengthen the EU as a global model of openness and security. The Presidency will focus on the closer integration of the EU and its Eastern Partners, hosting the Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2013. It will pursue the continuation of the enlargement process, smarter control of the EU’s external borders, and better coordination in the external dimension of EU energy policy. The Presidency will promote free trade with strategic partners such as the USA, Japan, Canada and others. It will also seek to boost the Common Security and Defence Policy through stronger cooperation with partners, as well as better responses to new security challenges.

The months ahead will be full of challenges and opportunities for the EU and we look forward to our 6 months on the helm of the EU Council.

(This article first appeared on the European Movement UK’s euroblog)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Truth about the CAP

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:

CAPAgriculture is the only sector entirely funded from the EU budget, imposing no further burden on national budgets. In 1985 70% of the EU budget was spent on agriculture. In the next EU budget CAP expenditure will represent about 30% of the EU budget (this decrease has taken place despite the EU having gone from 10 members in 1985 to 28 members today). CAP has been continuously reformed since 1992, with financial assistance no longer linked to production and moving towards income-support for farmers and projects to stimulate economic activity in rural areas. There are 13.7 million full time farmers in the EU with an average farm size of 12 hectares (the US has just 2 million farmers and an average size of 180 hectares). The farming and food sectors together provide 7% of all jobs in the EU. The average EU farmer receives in public support less than half of what the average US farmer receives.

 

British farmers received about £3.3 billion pounds in assistance from CAP in 2007-2011. 418.530 jobs in the UK depend on the farm sector. The CAP costs each EU citizen approximately €0.30 per day and represents less than 1% of all public expenditure of all EU Member States combined. According to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), fraud accounted on average to only 0.02% of the CAP’s budget in the period from 2006 to 2012. 20% of CAP goes to helping farmers modernise their farms and become more competitive while protecting the environment and helping rural communities.

 

CAP 2EU food standards are the highest in the world and provide EU consumers with safer and better food. Over 1.000 foods carry an EU quality logo. Imported products must meet the same standards as foods produced by EU farmers. The CAP helps provide a secure supply of affordable food. The average EU household devotes 15% of its budget to food, half as much as in 1960.

 

90% of CAP payments to EU farmers are classed by the WTO as non-trade-distorting. The EU absorbs 71% of the farm exports of developing countries (worth around €59bn in 2008-10). This is more than the other five major importers combined (the US, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). In 1991 the EU spent €10bn a year on export subsidies; in 2011 it spent just €160m. The EU has committed to eliminating export subsidies altogether by 2013, provided other developed countries commit to do the same.

 

Link: http://www.euromove.org.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Sensible Conservative View of the EU

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.
by Robert Buckland MP
 
 
Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher was not a political leader who was much inclined to looking back, but her death last month has allowed us a little time to reflect upon her leadership and legacy. Much has already been written about her impact on Britain and a fair amount too on the wider world, but the true extent of her legacy to Europe and Germany bears a closer look. If you were to ask the average voter whether Lady Thatcher was pro or anti European, then I suspect many of those questioned would respond in the latter. The vivid image of Lady Thatcher swinging her proverbial handbag in the general direction of Eurocrats such as Jacques Delors seems to sum up, for some, her approach towards Europe. However, as was the case with many of her policies, this image does not do justice to the nuances of her position towards Europe over the years. In 1975, as the newly-elected Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Thatcher was busy playing a significant role in campaigning for the United Kingdom to remain part of the then European Community. An abiding memory of that campaign is a jumper she wore, made up of the flags of the then member states of the EEC. Moving forward thirteen years to her Bruges speech in September 1988, Lady Thatcher may have sallied forth about the dangers of a supposed European super-state but she also robustly made the case for Britain’s future within Europe. Notably, she said that “The European Community is a practical means by which Europe can ensure the future prosperity and security of its people in a world in which there are many other powerful nations and groups of nations.”
 
Robert BucklandEuropean affairs during the first four or five years of her premiership were dominated by the question of the British rebate, which was finally resolved at the Fontainebleau European Summit of 1984. The Lady’s handbag and the repeated cry of “we want our money” back are now remembered by many as the first stirrings of a latent euroscepticism, but the reality was somewhat different. In truth, her position was more akin to that of De Gaulle’s at the time of the Luxembourg Compromise in the mid 1960’s; in other words, a strong leader who was asserting a national interest whilst maintaining a belief in membership of the developing institutions of Europe.Moving forward only a couple of years, we come to her greatest European legacy: the creation of the Single Market. This concept, which largely unites the modern Conservative Party, is the jewel in the crown of our EU membership. Without her typically robust support for the Single Market and the signing of the Single European Act, we would not have seen its creation. At the heart of Lady Thatcher’s straightforward views was a belief in free trade and open markets; her support for the Single Market did more to make this a reality than any other decision. 
 
However, if I were to identify her most troubled legacy on the global stage then I would look no further than her hostility to German reunification. Looking back from today’s perspective, such opposition seems strangely quixotic. Today’s UK/German relationship is extremely positive. The Prime Minister’s recent family visit to the German Chancellor’s personal residence at Meseberg is a reflection of the growing strength of his relationship with the German Government and our shared agenda of free trade and open markets. At varying levels, British Conservatives are busy forging new relationships with our German colleagues. However, there was a time where our Prime Minister was privately committed to stopping the reunification of Germany and personally identified her own greatest policy failing as having not achieved this. The long shadows cast by the Second World War had a huge effect upon Mrs Thatcher’s generation, which allows us to have a greater understanding of her concerns. The Cold War had helped drive the cause of unity in Western Europe as a bulwark against Soviet power. Within only a few months in 1989, all this changed, creating a new political landscape. She and other politicians can be forgiven for not having been able to forge a new policy in such a short space of time. As is so often the case in international politics, her poor relations with the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, proved to be a further obstacle to Anglo-German relations. 
 
Cameron and MerkelI believe that Britain’s initial reluctance to embrace the opportunities created by German reunification was a mistake. As we have seen over the last two decades, Germany’s decision to reunite was a resounding success. The Federal Republic is the driving force of a peaceful EU and its powerful economy has played a key role in spreading prosperity across Europe. Germany plays a positive role on the global stage and is one of our most important trading partners. It is increasingly willing to play a role with other Western nations to deal with conflicts in the Sahel, for example. Without a strong Germany at its heart, Europe would not be the world power that it is. What of Franco-German relations? For much of the past sixty years, the strength of the Franco-German alliance has been seen to be driving force behind greater European integration. Although we should not underestimate the institutional and political will that drives this partnership, the situation is undeniably evolving. France’s Socialist administration is making decisions that are causing real concern in Germany, and which are creating new opportunities for different coalitions of interest to be created within the EU. The Anglo-German agenda on free trade and open markets are examples of this fresh approach. More than twenty years have passed since German reunification, but it took far too long for Britain to come to terms with the changed politics of Europe. Pinning this failure upon the shoulders of one leader, however great and notable, may be somewhat unfair, but the events of 1990 were seminal and she, to adopt a later John Major slogan about Europe, was at the heart of things.
 
My hope is that if we are to take anything from Lady Thatcher’s legacy with regards to Europe, we should look at the earlier part of her rule when she was more inclined to support, not obstruct; to lead, not to follow; and, to cooperate, not quarrel. Lady Thatcher was not simply a Eurosceptic, even if her dislike of the EU and its institutions, feigned or real, did grow in later years. She saw the virtue in the “family of nations” of Europe and so should we. The EU is in need of great reform and change, but achieving that will only come about if we resume our positive role at the head of the table and are clear that we are in the EU to stay.
 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hugh Dykes’s Vision for Europe

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

Hugh DykesA 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.

UK EUMr 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”.
What is needed is a vision for the EU, one that is not based on the narrow national interest, but one that caters for the wider and common interests of the European Union and all its members. One that seeks to build on the successes of EU co-operation, but does not try to reduce it, discount it or compromise it. The best way to achieve that is through partnership and consensus, rather than ultimatums that risk a potential exit of the EU.

 
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 in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Charles Kennedy, the UK and Europe

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
Charles KennedyThe 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.
UK EUIt 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 in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers