Jonathan Fryer

An EU LibDemPint

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th March, 2016

JF with Thomas Liebers and Julie SmithMonthly Liberal Democrat get-togethers in pubs have proved a popular way of getting some of the thousands of new members who joined the party after the May 2015 general election involved, not least in policy discussions. In London, the LibDemPint has been going strong for some time now, latterly at the Marquis of Westminster in Pimlico, and at last night’s event the theme was the EU Referendum, which is now only three months away. The three speakers, orating for 10 minutes each from atop a coffee table, were myself, Thomas Liebers (a Richmond “newbie” of East German origin) and Baroness Julie Smith. I kicked off by pointing out that an opinion poll has discovered that only 19% of the British electorate feel they have a reasonably good understanding of what the EU is and does, which means that 81% don’t. There is therefore a huge need to educate people so they do not rely on the lies and distortions of the Europhobic Press (notably the Daily Express), and some of that education will have to be done on the doorstep, in very simple terms. Indeed, I suggested that the Party needs to find three clear bullet points underlining why British membership of the EU is a good thing, so canvassers can cite them like a mantra.

Some analysts have suggested that the electorate can be broken down into three roughly equal groups: those who are fundamentally for British membership, those who are fundamentally against, and those in the middle who are not sure. The Liberal Democrats will be particularly focussing on the first group, ensuring they go out to vote, but canvassers are bound to meet some of the last group as well, which is where the educational spiel must come in. There is no point wasting time trying to convert those who are implacably for Brexit. Thomas Liebers in his remarks stressed the importance of working in a team, emphasizing that our 27 EU partners want Britain to be an active member of that team. The EU would be weaker without Britain, and vice versa. Julie Smith argued that the patriotic thing to do is to keep Britain stronger in Europe, while expressing fears that the United Kingdom could disintegrate if voters choose Brexit. Scotland would certainly demand a new independence referendum but even more destabilising would be that an EU external border between the Republic of Ireland and the North would risk undoing so much of the work that has been achieved in Northern Ireland in recent years.

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