Sceptical drift……

Our policy on Europe is simply all over the show in this party; we make popularist anti-EU noises while trying to maintain a pro-European stance. Nick Clegg’s performance on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ phone-in is a blatant example of the confusion that regins at the heart of party policy. As reported on Politics Home he restated his views on the Lisbon Treaty and called for a referendum which I do not intend to revisit here however it is an example of a much wider problem.

Clegg added the following to his remarks;

“I don’t think the euro is for now, I think the euro is wholly inappropriate”.

There may well be a point to that when the Pound is skyrocketing against the Euro but that fails to address wider arguments; especially of those doomsayers who said the Euro would never last and it not only has but established itself as a viable currency. No economic argument is advanced by Clegg to justify his statement (ie, the relative strength at this moment of the pound v the euro) instead, you are left with the impression he is appealing to some vainglorious national sovereignty argument. I get the distinct feeling our policy and attitude towards Europe is acquiring a mildly Eurosceptic tinge especially when you hear Clegg continue;

“There are some things that I want the EU to do more about – we can’t deal with climate change on our own, we can’t deal with organised crime with the help of others. There are others where it should do less”.

Not a word about reforming and democratising the EU which is where the real battle is at (and is the issue that would suffer in an ‘in/out’ referendum. Merely, it is a matter of the EU doing ‘less’ in some areas; no vision for Europe’s futureor what, as it’s foremost partisans, it should look like. Yes, people feel alienated and disenfranchised by the EU but what we should be doing is pushing at every opportunity is pushing measures to address that; to democratise the EU and make it the property of it’s citizens; not making sceptical noises about the EU ‘doing less’.

All of the above is in marked contrast to the “vigorous support for further economic reform and for the completion of the Single Market”  promised on the Liberal Democrat website. Surely a single currency is entirely ‘appropiate’ in the context of the above statement? A policy debate needs to be had in this area because as things stand it appears the leadership is making up it’s own mind and determining our policy of it’s own accord.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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14 responses to “Sceptical drift……”

  1. Joe Otten says :

    How can a vainglorious national sovereignty argument be presented as “not for now”?

    Really Darrell, debating what Nick says is one thing, but finding extreme interpretations that are unsupported by the text is something I would only expect our opponents to do.

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  2. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    I think they are fully supported in the above quotes. The fact is there is a eurosceptic drift here. I hate the ‘sometime in the future’ argument on the Euro because in practice ‘sometime in the future’ means never. Economies are never in perfect synch and what I say here is actually supported by warm words in The Times about the Lib Dems ‘softening’ their support for European fedralism.

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  3. Joe Otten says :

    Do you mean federalism in the sense of a dirty word for all things European, or federalism in the sense of the American Civil War?

    The Euro is not for now, not for the forseeable near future (get over it), but likely in the long run. If there is any shift here, it is only in line with the shifting economic facts.

    As for doing less, Clegg has been consistent on this – read the chapter in the Orange book for example. It’s hardly a ‘drift’. It’s applying a consistent standard to the EU, Westminster and the local council.

    What’s your objection to this? Surely you don’t contend that the EU is magically less fallible than other levels of government, and so should always be given more to do?

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  4. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    I remember Labour saying the same some 12 years ago; when they created the mythical ‘convergence criteria’. The reality is there is very little economic content to this debate and it has everything to do with politics and the political will to push ahead. Simple question arises from this; when in your eyes would be a ‘good’ ‘appropiate’ time for the Euro? Do you have your own tick list?

    No I dont contend that but i do believe very strongly in the idea of continent-wide governence. I do believe very strongly it is the best way for Britain as part of a globalisd world to compete with emerging economies is a part of Europe which is suitably democratised and has a single market with a single currency.

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  5. Joe Otten says :

    You may be right that it is all about the politics. But certainly, now, when we are suffering an asymmetric shock due to a larger banking sector, would be a bad time economically and therefore also politically to try to push ahead with the Euro. But even putting that to one side, there are other issues on the agenda,and it make sense to pick battles we can win.

    I think on Europe, it is important to distinguish support for membership and reform of the EU, from support for particular policies of the EU. We don’t demand withdrawal from the UK every time a general election returns a government we don’t like. You wouldn’t accuse me of drifting towards Yorkshire nationalism every time I criticise something the government does. Yet this muddled thinking is common when it comes to the EU, and so it is vital that we fight our political battles at the EU level as hard as anywhere else, and not risk becoming apologists for the policies of a christian democrat or social democrat plurality. I think Clegg is doing this right, fighting these battles, while being unequivocal about the importance of working together.

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  6. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    Psychologically I agree with you though I am not convinced the other arguments agree with that conclusion. Economically I think opening up a new avenue for our businesses to grow within has it’s merits; if not opening up from closed then smoothing the passage of trade within certainly. It could encourage green shoots of growth and that is a good thing right? Politically, I would never deny anything other than it would be hard work but that doesnt matter to me; it’s relative momentary lack of popularity or not.

    I can see the distinction you make but there is no doubt what underlying attitude prevails in saying ‘alone we can do some things better’. Like what? Keep the Queens head on a coin? I much prefer it when we rightly say Brtain should be at the heart of Europe because that is where I think it should be and if it isn’t its voice will be meaningless in shaping the debates about future direction which I do want to see include radical reforms.

    How is saying we can ‘better do somethings on our own’ which Clegg said insisting on the ‘importance of working together’?

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  7. Joe Otten says :

    Darrell, would you abolish the Westminster government, the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and all local councils? And have it all done by the EU? That would be the consequence of believing there is nothing that we can do better on our own i.e. at a lower level.

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  8. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    No but the fact is that European policy has an effect on all these tears of government; not always positive I grant you but nonetheless an effect. It is the choice of words that I object to; ‘on our own’ has an isolationist tinge does it not? It is certainly a marked contrast to saying something like ‘Britain should be at the heart of Europe’.

    Regardless, Clegg still failed to specify what he meant here thus leading me very much to conclude it was a popularist soundbite….aimed at softening support for the European project.

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  9. Joe Otten says :

    Darrell, you’re giving great weight to an interpretation of some hidden meaning behind the words ‘on our own’, and no weight at all to the context, in the rest of the piece, of unequivocal support for enthusiastic membership of the EU.

    It’s normal cut and thrust I guess when arguing with your opponents, but even then not exactly conducive to good debate of the issues, as opposed to who meant what. And I can’t see any merit in this approach when the speaker in question is an ally.

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  10. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    But the question remains what does he mean is going to be done on our own. I hate to say this but there is a sizeable chunk of Eurosceptic opinion which is not in favour of our withdrawal especially in what I would classify the more sensible wing of the Conservative party. What Clegg is espousing then becomes qualatively no different to the ‘wet’ euroscepticism of the likes of The Times; who are also ‘enthusiastic’ about us staying in in our ‘national interest’. So, my reply to that is whoop-de-doo; it neither changes the premise of my argument or what I am saying.

    What Clegg is lacking is a vision of progress that has Europe at it’s heart and thats what makes him what you might like to call a ‘small ‘e” eurosceptic of the Times variety.

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  11. Joe Otten says :

    You’ve got to be kidding. There is nothing enthusiastic or unequivocal about Tory support for EU membership. They want to stay in, but they can’t think of any reasons why. No enthusiastic member would say what they do about the Lisbon Treaty, or be as hostile as they are to any democratic reform.

    I do suggest you read his chapter of the Orange Book, which is all vision for the EU, before you accuse him of having none.

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  12. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    That is blatently untrue; I am in favour of a refrendum on Lisbon as a europhile as I have consistently explained it is because I am a europhile I am in favour of the referendum. There reasons are clear enough; the economic benefit and they claim a ‘Europe of the Nations’ *is* a democratic reform. Just because you are not a headbanging ‘KIPer’ does not mean you are not eurosceptic.

    I will and I will no doubt question why a single currancey isn’t part of this vision. Why we are no longer committed to the completion of the single market; the logical conclusion of which must be unswerving support for something Labour should have done long ago and taken us into the Euro.

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  13. Joe Otten says :

    I was referring to what they say about the content of Lisbon, rather than the call for a referendum on it, which is mere opportunism. But let’s not go there.The Europe of the Nations vision is all about making the EU as ineffective as the UN. You can argue the toss over whether it is democratic, but it hardly matters if it has no competences. I don’t count it as a democratic reform, so I stand by what I said.

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  14. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Joe,

    I dont think the referendum call is opportunisitc and even if it was it would present a good opoortunity to put a strong pro-EU case. On the content it is a bit of a mixed bag and neither do I support the ‘Europe of Nations’ but my central point is there are nuances to the eurosceptic view and not all shadings are in line with the UKIP -just say NO stance.

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