The truth about Lib Dems and an EU referendum

Since it was announced that there will be a debate in the House of Commons on whether to have an in/out referendum on the EU on 27th October many commentators have been suggesting that such a poll was a Lib Dem manifesto commitment. As our MPs are likely to vote against a referendum, they say, this will mean once again we’ve lied to the electorate, broken our pledges and so on. There is only one slight problem with this; it’s completely untrue.

The Lib Dem manifesto states clearly that;

“The European Union has evolved signifi cantly since the last public vote
on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain
committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs
up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.”

In other words, the commitment is only to hold a referendum if, and when, a new treaty is signed by Britain in relation to the European Union that makes a significant change to the powers and responsibilities that it has. And far from breaking this pledge, we’ve enshrined it in law. The European Union Bill, currently progressing through parliament, will ensure that any shift of power from the British government to the EU will first have to be be mandated by a popular referendum.

But not only does this episode show how badly the Lib Dem’s position on Europe have been portrayed by the media, but it also points a wider problem that we face as a party. People, even those actively involved in politics or the media do not understand our manifesto or what we stand for, not just on the EU, but on a whole spread of issues. Understandably, this makes accusations of breaking manifesto pledges and forgetting the electorate all the easier for our political opponents to make, and for the public to believe. To change it we need to build up once again the sense of what Lib Dems stand for and believe in. We’ve made a good start by putting more distance between us and the Tories ideologically, but we must continue, or we’ll simply run into these kind of obstacles again and again.

Advertisements

5 responses to “The truth about Lib Dems and an EU referendum

  • Hywel

    That is what was in the manifesto – however about a year before the 2010 election we were calling for a straight up in/out referendum on EU membership as an alternative to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty (on which we had supported a referendum when it was in its original form)

  • DunKhan

    You said yourself that LD policy is: “The European Union has evolved signifi cantly since the last public vote
    on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain
    committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs
    up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.”

    Having an in/out referendum would allow a decisive decision to be made and mandate the UK to actually be involved in the EU if it is to remain in it. Having a referendum on every treaty change just obstructs government and achieves nothing positive.

  • Stuart Bonar (@stuartbonar)

    I have blogged about this issue too: http://www.mydogearednotepad.com/my-dog-eared-notepad/2011/10/lets-face-up-to-a-debate-and-vote-on-europe.html

    My view is that we should support a standalone in/our referendum. I know what we said in our manifesto, but the problem is all three parties promised some kind of vote last time and in 2005, but let’s face it we all know it’ll never happen. The parties will always w(r)iggle off the hook. Let’s bite the bullet, hold the vote and get the thing out of our system.

    • jonaholiver

      I agree, we should have a referendum and within the near to medium future. However, now is not the time. I fear that voters (fed by the Tories and the right-wing press) will confuse the problems in the eurozone with the EU as a concept. I would much rather we held it in a few years time when the two issues had separated out again.

  • Nich Starling

    NIck Clegg said before the General Election

    “When the Conservatives were shouting about their so-called cast-iron guarantee on the Treaty of Lisbon, I was consistently arguing that if you’re going to have a referendum in this country, let’s at least have it on the honest question which is do we stay in or do we go.
    “Of course I will argue strongly in favour of continued British leadership in Europe.
    “When the issue of the UK’s position in the European Union comes up again, as it no doubt will at one point, we think that should be resolved by having a referendum on the big underlying issue.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: