Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Why Europe Matters

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 19th April, 2017

IMG_2269One of the most depressing things about the whole Brexit business is the way that the UK’s Conservative government is turning its back on Europe. It’s not just Theresa May’s apparent desire to lead the country out of the European Single Market — though the potential hit to the economy from that is enormous — or the rejection, on the basis of the 52% Leave vote in last June’s EU Referendum, of the European project in political terms, even though that is something I continue to believe in passionately. No, the worst thing is many Brexiteers’ pretence that Britain is not part of Europe, as if somehow the English Channel were a thousand miles wide. Not only do such British (though in truth, English) nationalists show an extraordinary lack of knowledge of history but they don’t seem to realise that the bulk of the UK’s population is a hybrid mix of different European origin (prior to the post-War injection of new blood from the Commonwealth). Culturally, we Britons are most definitely European; Bach and Goya and all the thousands of other creative talents, past and present, contributed to a body of culture that is extraordinarily rich and diverse, and shared by Europeans. In Rome this week, walking among the antiquities  or viewing the magnificent exhibition of portraits by Giovanni Boldini, I am struck as ever by the sense that this is our heritage, our Europe. The idea that we might in future have to apply for visas to come to the Continent, or that visas will be necessary for EU citizens to visit Britain, if the worst outcome of the Brexit process occurs, is horrible to contemplate. All that explains why I hope that much of the snap UK election that Mrs May has called will be about Europe, and why Europe matters, and why we are Europe and Europe is us. At least the Liberal Democrats get the message.


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LibDems Must Stand Firm on Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 2nd January, 2012

There have been a lot of disquieting rumours flying around the past few days that some LibDem parliamentarians and other senior figures in the Party are considering finding common ground with Conservative Euro-sceptics (or Europhobes, as they ought to be called). If true, this is a dangerous development, though I suspect it has been exaggerated in online media. The Liberal Democrats have long espoused the European Project and many people who joined the party — including former members of both the Conservative and Labour parties — did so because the LibDems have been unequivocal in arguing that European integration is vital for the longterm security and prosperity of our continent and that Britain ought to be at the heart of Europe, not floating ever further off-shore. Of course not everything about the EU is good, let alone perfect, but reform comes best from within, not from the sidelines. And the ongoing crisis over the euro illustrates the need for more effective European cooperation, not less. This was stated very eloquently at the ELDR (European Liberal Democrats) Congress in Palermo last November, with the full agreement of the large British Liberal Democrat delegation. The Tory Eurosceptics are on a roll because of their ‘victory’ in getting David Cameron to refuse to back measures put forward at the last Brussels Summit. But that is not a reason for Liberal Democrats in government to endorse any weakening of Britain’s position within the EU, or to push for the so-called repatriation of powers. That is a road that leads firmly to the exit door, which is what the Daily Mail and the Tory Eurosceptics of course want. But it is completely contrary to Liberal Democrat policy and should remain so.

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Britain, Europe and the General Election

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 14th April, 2010

Europe is an issue that just hasn’t figured in the UK election so far — other than among the headbangers of UKIP, of course. I can understand why none of the three main party leaders wishes to push the subject to the fore, not least David Cameron. But it was interesting to take time-out from active campaigning this afternoon to attend a Federal Trust seminar, conveniently held at London Metropolitan University (LMU), on Britain, Europe and the General Election. Rather than have political candidates to represent the three main parties, the organisers brought in academics/experts: Maurice Fraser (of LSE) for the Tories, Stephen Haseler (of LMU) for Labour and Richard Laming (of the Federal Union) for the LibDems. Maurice Fraser is a pro-European Tory, but he is not the first pundit I have heard say that David Cameron is trying discreetly to build a more pro-European narrative. Moreover, if Cameron does become Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cabinet Office will make sure he espouses a more positive line. Stephen Haseler, interestingly, argued that a Labour-LibDem government would be the best outcome of the election and urged the LibDems to grasp the opportunity that an arrangement with Labour should provide for getting fixed-term parliaments and electoral reform (not just AV, but AV Plus, the recommendation of the Jenkins Commission). Richard Laming threw some cold water on the idea of coalitions. But all the speakers were united in the belief tht Britain needs to take a more forceful and engaged role in Europe, whatever the electoral arithmetic.


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