Article: Mar 13, 2022By Robert Harrison
At the Liberal Democrat Conference, a roadmap was agreed to improve the UK's trading relationship with Europe, benefitting British families and businesses, helping counter the threat posed by Putin's Russia. The motion calls for closer ties in education through the Turing scheme and Erasmus Plus. The UK should seek cooperation agreements with EU agencies and work to reach a UK-EU agreement on asylum seekers. It should deep trade with Europe, including by negotiating greater access for UK food and animal products to the Single Market. Eventually, the UK should place its relationship with the EU on a more formal footing by seeking to join the Single Market.
Article: Feb 6, 2022By Graham Jones
We are pleased to reprint below a copy of a speech made by our Executive Member Graham Jones to the Oxford Branch of the United Nations Association
When Daniel suggested I might like to talk about Britain's new relationship with the rest of Europe, as Chair of Oxford Region of the European Movement and a member of the Movements' National Council, I thought it might be useful to focus on one aspect, and to do so in a way that allowed discussion. Half of us wanted to stay in the EU in 2016. Half of us didn't and my side lost. The narrowness of the vote ensures the issue remains historically unsettled, but for now and perhaps for the next ten to twenty years our future lies outside one iteration of Europe, the European Movement. Our involvement in others continues, from the Council of Europe to the European Broadcasting Union. Everywhere our presence is valued, and nowhere more so than in NATO, which for all that it appears dominated from the other side of the Pond is essential, with a very few exceptions, a defensive alliance of the nation states of our Continent.
Article: Sep 29, 2021
The spring 2021 conference instructed the FPC to 'carry out a programme of work, including consulting
widely within the party, to determine the best possible future framework for the UK-EU relationship across
all policy areas, with the aims of: (a) demonstrating the benefits to UK citizens and businesses of a much
closer relationship compared to the government's inadequate measures; (b) recommending roadmaps for
the UK to rejoin the Customs Union, Single Market and other EU agencies and programmes as appropriate;
and (c) maximising public support for eventual UK membership of the EU.'
The FPC has appointed a small group, chaired by Duncan Brack and including representatives of the
parliamentary party, the Federal International Relations Committee and the Liberal Democrat European
Group, to implement the conference instruction. We have decided to approach our task through a series of
conference motions and papers rather than one big one. Since we cannot realistically cover every possible
relevant topic through conference motions, we are also encouraging our parliamentary spokespeople to
put forward proposals for closer and stronger relationships with the EU in their spokespersonship areas.
We organised a consultation session at conference in September, and we are collaborating with the Liberal
Democrat European Group in organising these regional events, in order to give party members a chance to
tell us what they think are the priority policy areas we should address, what the possible solutions within
each area are, and the messages the party should use in promoting closer cooperation between the UK and
EU. This is our initial list of key topics -
Cultural, artistic and educational ties
We thought this was a good topic to begin with, so the FPC submitted a motion to conference on
'Rebuilding our Cultural, Artistic and Educational Ties with Europe'. The motion called, among other things,
for the UK to rejoin the Erasmus Plus scheme, to establish a European cultural fund and to improve the
Youth Mobility Scheme. It was passed without opposition.
The key topic is obviously the trading relationship between the UK and EU. For next year's spring
conference we are planning a motion on Single Market and Customs Union membership. This is such a
complex area, covering, among other things, freedom of movement, social, health and environmental
standards and the Northern Ireland Protocol, that we'll be accompanying it with a short paper, to be
published alongside the conference agenda. There is no doubt about the party's commitment to rejoining
the Single Market and Customs Union - that was made clear at spring conference this year- but there are
many issues to consider about the practicalities, the phasing and the impacts. Among other things, this
should provide at least partial solutions to the recent supply-chain problems, including shortages of HGV
drivers and staff in the transport, farming, food and catering and care sectors.
Climate change and energy
The FPC's policy paper on carbon pricing, which was approved by conference, includes the proposal to link
the UK Emissions Trading Scheme with the EU ETS, thus increasing the effectiveness of emissions trading;
and rejoining the EU ETS would be a requirement of UK entry to the EU in any case. Other potential areas
for cooperation include working together with the EU in international climate negotiations; meeting
emissions reduction targets jointly with the EU (in the same way as EEA countries do); and promoting
greater interconnection with EU energy networks.
Potential areas for collaboration include re-adopting EU standards in areas such as pollution control, water,
air, chemicals, biodiversity, waste, genetically modified organisms and environmental impact assessment
(most of this would be required under Single Market membership in any case, but this approach could be
adopted in advance); working with the EU on its new measures to require businesses to protect the
environment, and human and labour rights, in their supply chains; and working together with the EU in
international biodiversity negotiations.
Rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU
This topic covers guaranteeing EU citizens' rights in law, including physical proof of settled status;
automatic upgrading for those with pre-settled status; strengthening the Independent Monitoring
Authority; and reiterating our commitment to the European Social Charter. We could also urge the UK
government to ensure that EU member state governments are upholding the rights of UK citizens.
Issues under this heading include police and security cooperation, including access to the Schengen
Information System (information-sharing for security and border management); rejoining Europol and
Eurojust and the European Arrest Warrant; and arrangements for the reciprocal nature of judgements, for
example under the Lugano Convention, which clarifies which national courts have jurisdiction in crossborder
civil and commercial disputes and ensures that judgments taken in such disputes can be enforced
Key aspects include alignment and co-operation as far as possible with EU science programmes such as
Horizon Europe; participation in satellite systems including Galileo, EGNOS (the pan-European satellite
navigation system) and Copernicus (the EU's Earth observation programme); participation in Euratom; and
measures to improve access for EU nationals to UK academic institutions.
Topics include workforce issues such as recognition of professional qualifications, scrapping the
Immigration Health Surcharge, improving visa routes; agreement on health insurance cards (EHIC/GHIC)
with EEA member states; cooperation with the European Medicines Agency; and the possibility of joint
pandemic preparedness exercises between UK and EU in the future.
Foreign affairs, security and development
This heading covers a wide range of issues, including cooperation over security challenges such as those
posed by Russia or China; the impacts and possible strategies towards unstable regions such as Afghanistan
or the Middle East; and cooperation over development challenges, including Covid vaccination and climate
finance. Other possibilities include coordinated use of 'Magnitsky sanctions' targeted on individuals
responsible for human rights violations or corruption; and the creation of a shared forum for European
states to address foreign and defence policy issues.
Comments on this paper are welcome, either in person at the LDEG regional events and conference on 30
October, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article: Sep 11, 2021
North East Fife Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain moved a "Westminister Hall" debate (transcript here) on Wednesday 8th September criticising the closure of offices of the British Council, an important cultural institution financed by the British Government. As Wendy noted "the British Council was created [in 1934] in response to a changing global stage: the United Kingdom was losing its traditional forms of influence, extreme ideologies were on the rise around the world and there was a global economic crisis." Wendy continued that "those problems may not sound unfamiliar to the Minister and others here today as he and his Cabinet colleagues seek to re-establish the UK as a global power outside the EU, respond to extreme ideologies at home and abroad, as we have devastatingly seen over the last few weeks, and tackle the economic and social implications of the pandemic and the climate crisis. Clearly, the British Council remains as relevant today as it has ever been."
Article: Sep 4, 2021By David Chalmers
The Liberal Democrat Conference on the Future of Europe
I hope you managed to have a break of some kind this summer and are now, as we head into the autumn, refreshed and ready for our conference and debating season. For those of us for whom Europe is still the most defining issue of our time - and I suspect that as a member of the Lib Dem European Group (LDEG) that includes yourself - the next couple of months are going to be very exciting. You are being offered the opportunity to have your say.
Article: May 28, 2021By Robert Harrison
The Liberal Democrats have challenged Downing Street to hold Viktor Orban to account during his visit to Downing Street. The Hungarian Prime Minister has been accused of antisemitism, islamophobia and making a sustained assault on democracy and the freedom of the press.
In a joint letter to Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Layla Moran MP wrote:
Article: May 10, 2021By Rob Harrison in Financial Times
The Tories headline policy of creating "freeports" to benefit apparently from "Brexit freedoms" looks as if it will be a damp squid as the Financial Times reports. The government has failed to include clauses in its new trade agreements to allow the freeports to benefit from these agreements. Apparently the agreements with 23 different countries, including Singapore, Norway and Switzerland, include clauses that specifically prohibit manufacturers from benefitting from the deals if they are located in a Freeport. Any exports from these freeports will be subjected to tariffs.
Article: Mar 21, 2021By Rob Harrison
Liberal Democrats voted on Saturday to launch an internal review that will set out roadmaps to rejoining EU agencies such as the Customs Union and Single Market, with a view to membership of the European Union in future. It comes in the wake of the devastating impact of Boris Johnson's trade deal, which has left millions of British businesses and workers worse off.
Page: Mar 13, 2021
Human rights are under threat in our twinned towns in Poland: across the UK it's time to help
We're asking local councils twinned with towns in Poland to start active diplomatic engagement to champion equality and human rights in the face of the "LGBT ideology free" zones Poland has created. Local communities in our twinned towns are now under threat, people are discriminated against, and human rights have been attacked.
Article: Mar 11, 2021By Robert Harrison in Independent Newspaper
The Independent newspaper has reported on our campaign to persuade councils twinned with Polish towns and cities to lobby against "LGBT-free" zones.
More details here.