Monday, January 02, 2012

Is Euro realism breaking out in the Liberal Democrats?

An article in tomorrow's Guardian will claim that talks are planned between Tory Eurosceptic MPs and centrist Liberal Democrats to see if a common agenda can be formed on Europe.

The newspaper says:
The talks, involving mainstream Eurosceptics opposed to an EU membership referendum, had been planned ahead of David Cameron's decision to wield a UK veto at the EU summit in December, leading to a public split between the two coalition parties. But the Tory sceptics are determined to revive the plan insisting a section of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party are desperate to avoid the label of Europhiles.
Without saying they have been involved, the report goes on to name Alistair Carmichael, Jeremy Browne, David Laws and Nick Harvey as having "warned their own party must not be seen as starry-eyed uncritical supporters of the EU".

And they are right. Support for co-operation at a European level need not decay into uncritical support for the current structures and policies of the European Union. Liberal Democrats should be known for demanding reform in Europe - as we do everywhere else.

It is also worth pointing out that, as Nick Clegg himself has always been something of a Euro realist, they may be pushing at an open door. I also share the suspicion of Eaten by Missionaries that such views are more widely held in the party than is often supposed.

The report also suggests that the Eurosceptic Tories are also hopeful of working with Ed Davey. As an employment minister, he has been pursuing a deregulation agenda in Europe.

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Ian B said...

the party also has a duty to itself, the UK and the EU to move beyond discussions on EU reform, and to engage in the serious and detailed work that is involved in EU policy making. The EU (not its institutions) needs political leadership (preferably of the liberal kind) on many levels. Focusing the UK debate on the 'system' and little else will get the Lib Dems, the UK and Europe nowhere.

Simon Titley said...

"Euro realism" is a tendentious term. At no stage are we told what is unusually "realistic".

And the report that some Lib Dem MPs have "warned their own party must not be seen as starry-eyed uncritical supporters of the EU" sets up a straw man. Who are these "starry-eyed uncritical supporters"? In my experience, Lib Dems involved in EU affairs have been robust in their criticisms and calls for reform.

If there is any realism here, it is in Ian B's comment above. The government would be more "realistic" if it recognised that the best way to advance Britain's interests is to engage more positively with the EU, instead of marginalising Britain.

Tory euroscepticism is not "realistic". It is not even a serious political strategy. It is basically a temperamental disposition to dislike foreigners. The fact that this posture attracts some support is no reason for the Lib Dems to leap on the bandwagon.

John Minard said...

Rise of the new confederates!?! Surely, and after what will be a 'lost decade' for so many, we want 'appropriate government' - representative of the vote, open, decentralised to the lowest practical levels, and national and international for matters that are so.

There has been too much 18th/19th Century nation building in Europe and it's looking a sorry state! For someone who see's a European Parliament as keeping faith to millions of war dead whose valediction was simply, why? - I can't call myself a Europhile or a Eurosceptic.