But are there signs that the Lib Dems may be shifting somewhat? In fact, Clegg and his former leader Lord Ashdown are now speaking of ‘rebalancing’ our relationship with Europe and seeking reform of certain ‘intrusive’ directives. It’s all semantics but, in the end, couldn’t ‘rebalancing’ mean much the same as ‘repatriation’?But that has always been Nick Clegg's view (and mine, come to that). Reviewing his pamphlet The Liberal Moment at the start of last year, I recalled his speech to a Liberator fringe meeting at out Brighton Autumn Conference in 2006:
He did speak at a Liberator fringe meeting while still an MEP, advocating what he termed “crunchy” liberalism and attacking over-regulation, but he was careful to confine himself to matters that were the concern of the European parliament and not to trespass on the concerns of his Westminster colleagues.What the Mail fails to grasp is that Nick's statement that there will be no "smash and grab raid" to claw back powers handed to Brussels while he is Deputy Prime Minister is simply common sense.
We need to move beyond debates about whether we should be "in Europe" or not, because in the economic world we now inhabit we are part of Europe whether we will it or not. What we need to do is to start talking about the sort of Europe we want and finding allies there who will help us bring that about.
But David Cameron's decision to placate his members and backbenchers by pulling the Conservatives out of the European People's Party grouping and set up his own European Fruitcake Alliance means that this will be next to impossible for him to bring about.