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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Clegg can’t just take on Farage – He also needs to spell out his own vision for EU reform

Ahead of the first EU debate between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Open Europe's Pawel Swidlicki has written this piece for Lib Dem Voice:
Like all political obsessives up and down the country I’ve stocked up on popcorn ahead of Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage’s upcoming duels over Europe in anticipation of some captivating political theatre. However, from my more sober perspective as a political analyst, such a binary, ‘all-or-nothing’ debate over Europe is fundamentally flawed as it does not speak to where the majority of the British public are at. Polls have consistently shown that when respondents are offered options beyond staying in on the current terms or leaving altogether, the option of staying in a reformed/slimmed down EU proves the most popular across the political spectrum.

People hold different views about how they would like to see the European Union develop. Which of these statements comes closest to your view? (click to enlarge)

Source: YouGov poll for Open Europe, February 2014
As the polling demonstrates, the public is split over the question of the UK’s future in Europe, although staying in a less integrated Europe is by far the single most popular option across the political spectrum, including among Lib Dem voters (more so than among Labour voters!) and even among a substantial chunk of UKIP voters. The concern is that the debates will focus on whether the UK ought to leave or stay in at any cost, thereby ignoring the wider debate about how best to achieve EU reform.

David Cameron’s EU policy may suffer from a number of shortcomings but to his credit, he is at least trying to achieve the reforms that a majority of the public want. Nick Clegg has also acknowledged that the EU needs reform on a number of occasions and he recently set out a “bold” three-pronged agenda based on further trade liberalisation within the single market as well as between the EU and the rest of the world, slimmed down EU institutions and less regulation, and greater democratic accountability via an increased role for national parliaments. This is welcome, even if it falls short of the more ambitious and comprehensive vision for EU reform – with powers flowing back to member states – that he set out back when he was an MEP.

However, at the same event, he undermined his own message by claiming that the most that Cameron’s reform strategy could achieve – which includes all the objectives set out by Clegg himself – as “a few crumbs from the top European table… a little tweak here and there”. This is hugely unhelpful as it plays into the narrative that the UK has virtually no influence over the direction and development of the EU and must take what it is given.

Moreover, there are large gaps in Clegg’s argument when it comes to the future of UK-EU relations. How would the Lib Dems react if the UK were to lose an EU legal case over the safeguards it applies to prevent potential abuse of the UK welfare system by EU migrants? The party supports the so-called ‘right to reside test’ so would they accept its axing at the behest of the European Commission and Court of Justice? Likewise, the party supports safeguards to prevent the rules of the EU’s single market from being set by the Eurozone bloc to the detriment of non-euro member states. Would Lib Dems still insist on staying in if in the longer term the EU became an extension of the Eurozone?

This all matters because in the event of the Coalition being extended post-2015, the two parties will have to hammer out a common position on EU reform/renegotiation prior to a 2017 referendum which Cameron has made clear is an absolute red line for him. Hopefully, Clegg will use the debates to flesh out his ideas for EU reform in greater detail instead of repeating discredited claims about 3 million jobs being lost in the event of an exit. Ultimately, with the public more or less split down the middle on the in/out question, reform is not only not only worth pursuing as an end in itself, but also as a means of securing an ‘in’ vote when the referendum eventually comes.


Anonymous said...

You either fail to understand what the EU has set out to achieve or you deliberately mislead the public. The EU will NOT change its fundamental goal of a 1 party State. It won't. It is an empire ruled from the centre, and we have very little say or influence. The governors are unelected and unaccountable. That will not change. The leaders have said so. Merkel spelt it out clearly in Parliament on British TV. Cameron looked sick. Yes, there may be some tinkering round the edges to make it look as though it is being reformed, but you know as well as I do that it is all pie in the sky. Don't keep fooling the public with false hope. The democracy stakes are too high.

Freedom Lover said...

Anonymous is quite right. The EU is essentially unreformable. To suggest that it will accept reform is to suggest it will allow itself to be changed from its original raison-d'etre. It's purpose, spelt out from Day 1 in 1957, is Ever Closer Union. Without that it won't be the EU anymore. That's why it's totally DECEPTIVE to suggest it will ever genuinely change. And Cameron & his advisers, to their huge discredit, are fully aware of this.

Let's face it honestly: the EU is totally unreformable as far as anything material is concerned. So the choice is either accept that. Or leave via Article 50. And for me, I strongly prefer the latter solution!

Anonymous said...

I view anyone that seeks to deny us our right to a Referendum on the EU, given that the EU is now responsible for c.80% of the UK government's decision making, as a traitor.

Mr Clegg does not represent us at all even though we pay his wages!

How dare one of our own MPs, in such a great position of power, treat us like uneducated idiots.

The fact is that our own House of Parliament has gone seriously off-piste and have made a complete and utter mess of our relationship with the EU.

How can it be that the EU is now responsible for the majority of decisions that impact us and we have not even given our permission for such a handover of power. This is just shameful.

Our MPs MUST be called to account and put on trial.


Denis Cooper said...

Your poll is incomplete compared to some previous polls where there was a separate category for those who wanted integration to lead to "A fully integrated Europe with all major decisions taken by a European government".

If you had offered that option then on the basis of those previous polls, mentioned here:


the 10% lumped together in your poll as wanting a more integrated EU would include 2% or 3% who wanted to go all the way to a single European government, in other words those who wanted a federation, plus 7% who wanted a more integrated EU "with a single currency and no frontier controls" but did not want a European government.

So one good way to divide up the British public would be as follows:

About 27% who understand that "ever closer union" means exactly what it says and must inevitably lead to the legal subordination of all EU countries in a federation, a new country called "Europe" just as the federal United States of America is called "America".

And among those who have that understanding, there are about ten times as many opposing it as supporting it; but unfortunately its supporters dominate the three old political parties, which is why there is no point in its opponents voting for any of them and they should instead vote for the alternative party which shares their view, UKIP.

Plus there are about 73% who either are not yet aware that the commitment to a unlimited unrelenting and largely uncontrollable process of "ever closer union" is paramount in the EU treaties, or they are aware of that but are under the delusion that it doesn't really mean what it says and that the process can somehow be stopped at a point of their choosing or even reversed.

Which of course is the delusion that Open Europe, and the Fresh Start group in the Tory party, and others, keep propagating.

Rik said...

Clegg is probably just being the small size party leader that wants to increase his vote.

He is the only pro-EU party. Mr Ed & Co is well nobody really knows. But Clegg is clear pro-EU and unlike Labour not afraid to show it.
He also has not fallen into the anti-democracy trap like Labour did (not as much at least). Mr Ed attracted nearly all the Flak on that issue.

There is a real voter base for In EU. It is clearly considerably smaller than the Outs and the (very-) criticals but it is there. And very likely a lot of them will vote on basis of that. Like with IP not as strong as overthere, but rather similar nevertheless, only at the other side of the spectrum.

Normally Clegg will, in the UKs electoral climate, having his backside kicked by Farage in this discussion. Clegg simply has been dealt the wrong cards to make that in the UK a fair (50/50 like) game. But very likely his potential voters couldnot care less.

So both could win even if one (most likely Clegg will for neutrals lose the discussion. Because their objectives are different.
Downside for Clegg is basically only when he also for his own potential voterbase get his backside kicked. Then it will start to hurt.

Of course as a PM it would be complete rubbish for the LibDems but they are clearly not going for that. Just hopefully from their pov a strong middle position. And tbo that is realistically the best that is in it for them.

Patrick Barron said...

There is no such thing as "EU reform". The EU does whatever it desires, regardless of treaties. The UK should leave now!

Rik said...

The thing is here do voters move (both to and from) when they like resp donot like policies of a certain party.

The extremes are very different from the centre. Extremes are likely to move. Centre not even close to that.

Also the protest vote (like IP in the UK) seems to move faster and more. Makes sense, these are more diasappointed than the other side.
But a lot points into the direction that the extreme at the other side will eventually move as well when there is a real election. Not a 2nd class one, for municipalities or EP (or in a poll).

Peil had a few months ago a poll on this for Holland. But as things will not be that so different it likely gives a good indication for the UK as well.
It simply seems to fit into the picture one sees developing in the UK as well. Strongly motivated IP Taliban already there and on the opposite an In-Taliban developing.

christina speight said...

Open Europe is plain silly about this.

It is utterly clear that NO substantial reform is on offer at all. Anything meaningful needs unanimity and/or a new Treaty, The only newtreaty will be far worse thgan what we've got so rejecting that leaves us where we are!

We have to use Article 50 and LEAVE and then we CAN negotiate the future on an equal footing.

Why does OE continue to live in this crazy dream world.

christhai said...

Your "Poll" is fundamentally flawed.

Y'see when people are asked, "Would you want to remain in a 'Reformed EU' or "an EU where more decisions were taken at the National rather than the EU level."

It means absolutely nothing at all.

If the Poll asked.

Would you vote to have the UK remain in the EU on condition that ALL decisions were made at National UK Level including but not restricted to:-

1. Immigration.
2. Trade and Trade Agreements.
3. Law and Order and Justice.
4. Immigration from anywhere.
5. All Taxation.
6. All rules related to the British economy including the City.
7. Foreign Affairs.
9.Health and Safety.
11.Agriculture and Fisheries.

I am sure the brighter Pro-UK MPs or UKIP folk could find more.

Now if people were asked if all these portfolios were exclusively British with no input directly or indirectly by the EU - then such a "Poll" may be useful.

To have Polls like this one, starts not to find out what people want or are thinking, but to place erroneous and misleading information before them to prove the Pollsters Point.

YouGov wasn't it?

christhai said...

To Christina Speight.

Thanks for your post Christina.

I believe the answer to your question is because, despite its hopeful beginnings OE have crossed the Berlin Line and become an EU Quango.

Damn shame really.

jon livesey said...

I've been quietly pushing the idea of staying in a looser and reformed EU for a number of years, and I have regularly been told that this is impossible. Indeed, I gradually got the idea that I was in a minority of about one.

Your chart makes it clear that the position I have been pushing - and not juts pushing but explaining - is actually the most frequently held across all parties except the UKIP.

It makes me wonder if comments here represent the public at large, or if they are just a dedicated group of UKIP activists who dominate the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Clegg has no option but to be a staunch supporter of the eussr, he worked there and his eussr pension depends on him being pro not anti. This means that even in areas he realises that are wrong he still has to support it, hence his poor performance when not pushing anything really positive about it.

Rollo said...

Weare an exporting steelwork company. We export up to 80% of our turnover, world-wide; little to Europe.

There are 11 nails in being driven into the lid of our coffin, though we are still struggling out of it.

These are:

1. THE CONSTRUCTION PRODUCTS DIRECTIVE AND MANDATORY CE MARKING. An expensive, but useless addition to costs. It stifles innovation; eliminates any start-up companies, favours big producers only; mainly the Chinese, which is why people think CE means Chinese Export.
2. THE WORKING TIME DIRECTIVE. Damaging and unsafe and expensive for all in the construction industries.
3. PROTECTIONISM IN EUROPE. Of all our markets the EU is the most protectionist; no-one we have questioned in the steel industry has work in the EU; yet we export through China to Ulaan Bator and through Kenya to South Sudan.
4. HOLIDAY PAY TIME BOMB. The EU is considering that holiday pay should be based on total earnings (including bonus, overtime, shift pay etc) and that claims might be retroactive 10 years. If detonated, this time bomb would destroy most construction companies.
5. EMPLOYMENT LAW. This is a mountain 2m high; no-one could take it all in. One of our directors and his staff spend much of their time picking in the foothills.
6. EUROCODES – EURONORMES. Replacing British Standards by treaty. Expensive to implement, expensive to use, increasing the price of the product. And useless, as there is no trade into the EU; though our export trade is made more expensive.
7. HEALTH AND SAFETY. There is a diminishing return from more and more expense in the H&S industry; or no return at all from more and more stringent requirements.
8. MATERNITY PATERNITY RIGHTS. The ability to swap these rights means that our employees, fathering children of other workers outside the company, can choose their times to absent themselves; it can be extremely damaging and time consuming.
9. LACK OF SKILLS AND HIGH TRAINING COSTS. Because we can no longer train on the job, we have to train youngsters in welding, erection etc. It costs roughly £70,000 to train a steel erector; and the fall-out and poaching rate is immense.
10. CONSTANT AND WORSENING TRAFFIC JAMS. The enormous increase in population is making transportation of our goods, and even the travelling time of our staff, an ever growing extra cost.
11. PENSION PROVISIONS. Although necessary, as we have an aging workforce and less indigenous young workers and more and more immigrant workers remitting wages overseas, the increase in pension requirements is adding 1%, then 2%, then 3% to our staffing costs is making us less competitive overseas.

Most of these difficulties arise from the EU. It is nonsense to say we need to be in the EU to compete in the real world: we need EU regulation like we need a hole in the head. It does nothing to help trade, it only applies a brake.



Rollo Reid

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment which states OE has started to resemble a EU funded quango. I suppose you can call yourself "balanced" now. :-)

It is utterly pointless to "reform" or "fine tune" the EU.
First it will take forever, second, next to nothing will be achieved and third, whatever little & meaningless changes get accomplished they will get reversed in years after that.
The EU is an awful idea and purely based on that It should be abolished. And as we all know the practice turned out to be even worse than the theory.

Disc: I'm not a UKIP fan and not from the UK.

Anonymous said...

Jon Livesey

I am a well-educated person born here from an Asian parentage. I regard myself as English and am proud and grateful for all of the opportunities that my country has afforded me.

I am naturally analytical by nature and have spent much time since 2008 researching and reviewing the EU and what it stands for. I have also lived in Ealing (UK No.1 hotspot for immigration) for 12 years and have seen the direct impact on the local indigenous community, on our culture, way of life and cost to the tax payer. What I see is not sustainable, either culturally or economically. We are being forced to carry the risks and costs of a failed political experiment in the EU and MananaZone.

We moved from London a few months ago to a city out West where there is little or no immigration to get away from it all and protect our children.

My posts are often emotional as I really cannot believe the state of affairs due to EU membership.

I am now a UKIP voter as I find the lack of consultation on all things EU beyond belief.

Having worked in London's Financial Services industry (I am not a crook and have worked all of my life with honest people) I have seen first hand the politically-driven regulations and laws from the EU that are impacting growth and jobs here in the UK. I view EU regulation in this sector as spiteful, harmful and as a form of trade war. EU regulation is silo-driven and when you look at the overall aggregate impact it is going to kill the City of London and many good jobs.

Costs (from regulation) have been pushed up to such an extent that many City firms are forced to outsource functions and jobs outside of the continent. What sort of entity pushes jobs outside of their own continent?!

The killer for me is that the EU has not even managed to validate its own being in member states and has not even managed to have its own accounts audited for nearly 22 years. These are the basics and they are just not right.

I fear for the future of our children. The UK is GBP1.3Trn in debt and our "brave" politicians are riding rough over our balance sheet. Our children are going to have to pay the UK's debt and also try to survive. Yet we are still funding the EU out of debt and transferring wealth from us to the other basket case EU member states.

Rollo - great post. People like us are not blind UKIP supporters or anti-Europe. EU membership isn't working and our politicians are just not listening. What choice is there other than UKIP?

No reform. No sovereignty. YES to free trade, help and friendship.


Idris Francis said...

Well said Rollo - have circulated widely, I exported 85% of my electronic products from the early 1980's to early 1990's when I retired - one reason I was glad to get out wa the EU nonsense and what it was starting to cost. Nothing like as bad then as now of course, butI realised in 1992 that the EU would bring its members to their economic knees.

Incidentally, I saw another poll a few days ago

95% of beggars would prefer to ride horses.

92% of astronomers would like to eat green cheese.

100% of all peoplel, regardless of wealth, would like to win the Lottery.

84% if British singers would like to win the Eurovision song contest.

Spot the common thread.

Anonymous said...

Differences of opinion on whatever subject are understandable. However when on this rare occasions like this we have been treated to the in/out arguments there were differences between what we were presented as facts. In particular Clegg said seven percent of our laws originated in the EU, Farage said seventy. Practically everyone who has ever referred to the matter has quoted at least fifty. Ergo either Clegg and the House of Commons Library, his apparent source, have some unique insight or he is lying. Surely the truth to back up this statement should be fairly easy to dig up and end the creditability of the one whose lying. That will be Clegg, of course.

Denis Cooper said...

To last Anonymous - Clegg was referring to an old report which ignored almost all of the most numerous EU laws, Regulations, which immediately, automatically, become law in this country without the need for Parliament to lift a finger. A later report which attempted to include the Regulations came up with 47% as the average fraction of our new laws which are determined by the EU.