Tim Farron positioned the Liberal Demcrats firmly at the fore of the campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union in a rousing speech to a packed fringe meeting at the Party’s Bournemouth conference today. He described himself as a patriot who loves his neighbours and said that the forthcoming EU referendum was the most important challenge that Liberals in this country face. About a third of the population is resolutely anti-EU and a third is keenly aware of the benefits of EU membership. That means that victory or defeat depends on persuading the other third, who are not sure either way — and getting them out to vote. Nick Hopkinson, Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG), opened the meeting by recalling his own childhood in Canada, at a time when Quebec separatists were effectively forcing anglophones like his family out of the province. Laura Sandys, a former Conservative MP and Chair of the cross-party European Movement, produced a resounding rallying call of “Yes to Europe, Great for Britain!”, while Catherine Bearder wrapped herself in a Union flag shawl to emphasize that staying in the EU is the most patriotic thing Brits can do. While UKIP seeks to take Brutain back to an England of the 1950s, the LibDems are now committed to moving the country forward with Europe, but no-one should under-estimate the challenges of the political battle ahead, with a Tory Prime Minister who seems to be sleep-walking towards the Brexit door and a new leader of the Opposition who is Luke-warm on his support for the EU at best.
Posts Tagged ‘EU Referendum’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st September, 2015
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st September, 2015
Europe and Britain’s continued membership of the European Union were centre stage at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth yesterday morning, as we debated (and passed overwhelmingly) a motion calling for a vigorous campaign in favour of remaining in the EU in the referendum that is forthcoming, probably in the Autumn of next year. There were some powerful speeches, including from the mover, Peter Price (one of a number of former Conservative MEPs who defected to the LibDems over Europe) and the summator, former London MEP Baroness Ludford. I spoke in favour of four lines in the motion school which referred to freedom of movement. Though the LibDems are massively in favour of Britain’s EU membership (with a few exceptions, such as the speaker from Somerset and Frome, who spoke against the motion) I am under no illusion that the British public as a whole has yet been persuaded. So although I relish the prospect of the referendum campaign we should not fool ourselves that it is going to be easy. It’s not just the Faragistas who will be campaigning all out to take Britain out, even some Tory MEPs, such as Daniel Hannan, openly advocate withdrawal. Moreover, they will fight a scare-mongering campaign, pandering to some of the worst fears and prejudices of sizeable sections of the public, not least regarding free movement — which is a central pillar of the EU single market, from which Britain has benefitted enormously. Recently, along with tens of thousands of other people, I marched in London under the slogan “Refugees Welcome Here!” As I said in my speech, the LibDems need to have the courage over the coming months to also argue”EU Migrants Welcome Here!” Just as more than two million Brits have enjoyed the benefits of studying, working or just living in other EU member states so EU migrants have brought new dynamism to the UK economy. We must stand up and be proud in our defence of the EU case. We are all Europe!
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 20th May, 2013
David Cameron was elected Leader of the Conservative Party with a manifesto to modernise, though it would appear from the grassroots rebellion in the shires that a worryingly high percentage of Tory Party members have changed their minds. On issues like equal marriage this clearly has something to do with the high average age profile of the party’s membership, as well as the fact that Conservatives are by nature traditionalists. However, the really extraordinary feature of the past few months has been the slow-motion car-crash over Europe. The way that John Major’s authority was undermined over Maastricht in the 1990s should have served as a warning to Cameron that the EU was a potentially explosive issue yet however well he may have handled some other aspects of government — not least getting a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats swiftly in place after the 2010 general election — the way he has dealt with Europe has been a disaster. He has not only dismayed many of Britain’s EU partners by his posturing, instead of winning allies for necessary reforms; he has also failed to make clear what his government’s position on Britain’s role in the EU should be. One minute he is saying that he thinks EU membership is a good thing on balance, providing some reforms do take place, while the next he is pandering to the Europhobes and threatening to pull out. By throwing the red meat of an in-out referendum promise to his more rabid backbenchers he has only made them hungry for more. And he has given succour to UKIP, encouraging some of his more disaffected party members to defect there, while at the same time lambasting Nigel Farage and Co as clowns. As Leader he should have given clear guidance and then insist that the Party sticks to it — especially Cabinet Ministers, who have collective responsibility for government policy or else must resign their post. Instead, the Tory Eurocar is being steered by a driver who doesn’t after all appear to have passed his driving test.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th January, 2013
This afternoon I took part in a very lively and civilised debate at South Hampstead High School against the Chairman of London UKIP, David Coburn (who was standing in for London’s UKIP MEP, Gerald Batten). The audience were girls from the sixth form (as I tend to still think of those senior years) and David and my 20 minute presentations were followed by some extremely vigorous questioning. David is a very affable chap who has had a distinctly international business career, so there was good-natured sparring from our respective positions, which were pretty much at the opposite ends of the European political spectrum. It was clear from many of the girls’ questions that they were already well-informed on political matters and that they were ready and willing to challenge what they heard. So it was especially gratifying that when there was a vote at the end of the afternoon on whether the girls would opt to stay in the EU or leave if there were a referendum tomorrow, only one voted to leave.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th October, 2011
It’s rare to hear a Westminster MP talk enthusiastically about Europe, but this evening Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron launched into a spirited defence of the EU at a Haringey local party event in Hornsey. Clearly the adrenalin was still flowing from last night’s Commons debate on a putative EU Referendum, during which Tim had the dubious pleasure of finding himself sitting next to John Redwood, arch-Eurosceptic. Tim confessed he was only five when the last EU Referendum was held, but neither he nor the parliamentary party at large were in any hurry to see another one. As Prime Minister David Cameron had declared, the time was not right, while the eurozone, and interested countries outside it, including Britain, are trying to face up to a very serious debt crisis. Moreover, Tim believes if a Referendum were held in the near future it would likely be lost, with catastrophic consequences for the UK economy if this led to withdrawal. Too large a proportion of the electorate is still feeling sore about the Coalition government’s austerity measures, but even more important much of the Press in Britain has poisoned the debate over Europe. Rupert Murdoch and Co have been violently, vehemently anti-Europe, Tim said; if one considers their particular brand of free market global capitalism it is not hard to understand why. I am not quite so pessimistic about the outcome of any EU Referendum, if the case of EU membership were argued eloquently as it was in 1975. But I agree with the Government that at the moment it would be an unhelpful distraction, when all of Europe — including Britain — needs to be putting its shoulder to the wheel of economic recovery.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 25th October, 2011
The parliamentary debate on a call for an EU referendum last night was not the most edifying of spectacles. What struck me most was the disturbing ignorance amongst many MPs — notably the Tories supporting the referendum motion — about what the EU actually is and what it does. In that, of course, they are sadly typical of their electorates, as Euro-ignorance is endemic in this country. Things are not helped by the rabidly Euro-sceptic Press (with some noble exceptions such as the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times) which peddles anti-European prejudice and often outright lies. If the EU were an individual, rather than an institution, newspapers such as the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Sunday Telegraph would repeatedly find themselves in the Courts facing libel charges. There is a desperate need for objective public education about the European Union. Some might argue that such an educational programme could be part of any EU Referendum campaign, and I respect the opinion of those MPs who voted for a Referendum not because they loathe the EU but because they feel the issue needs to be publicly debated. In the meantime, I understand the frustration felt by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the UK Conservative Party’s carping from the sidelines about policies in the eurozone. Now, I wonder just how many Brits could say clearly what the eurozone is, let alone be able to list its member countries?!