Is it time to stop being so ‘inward looking’ about EU Reform?

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Stephen Tall writes a fantastic opinion piece on Lib Dem Voice today about the leadership candidates’ stance on the EU Reform Treaty:

Some time soon, the Tories will call vote in the House of Commons on whether Britain should hold a referendum, at which point 63 Lib Dem MPs will have to make a decision – to march through the ‘no’ lobbies with Labour against a referendum; or through the ‘aye’ lobbies with the Tories in favour of one. I doubt I’m alone in feeling queasy at the former prospect.

Stephen is certainly not alone – I agree with him for one. And his lengthy quotes of a 2003 article by Nick Clegg demonstrate quite how far Lib Dem rhetoric about support for a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty went.

But there is another reason why Clegg and Huhne should review their stances. If there is a good example of the Lib Dems being inward looking and obscurationist over the past two years (apart from our current stance on Trident of course), it is Ming’s nuanced, balanced position on opposing a referendum on the Reform Treaty but supporting a referendum on EU membership. He had a point, but it was largely irrelevant and effectively shut us out of the debate. Loyalist to the end, even I felt it made him look like a lame duck, and it turned out I was right.

If Clegg truly believes the party should move out of its comfort zone and reach out to people, here’s his chance. If Huhne really wants to call Clegg’s bluff, here’s his opportunity.

2 thoughts on “Is it time to stop being so ‘inward looking’ about EU Reform?

  1. Does collective responsibility still apply to both Huhne and Clegg while they’re campaigning?

    To be honest, I think once the EU Reform Treaty is done and dusted, the call for a referendum will disappear. It’ll be hard for the Tories keep it in the news or use it to their advantage in an election without being seen to be ‘banging on about europe’ again and thus lose.

    On the other hand, our commitment to a general ‘in or out’ referendum will still stand and with make it very easy to neutralise criticism of our stance on the EU – we will be the only mainstream party to have such a commitment.

    In the long game, The ‘no’ to the EU Reform Treaty referendum vote might be the better play.

  2. To answer your first question, Ming’s line about having a referendum on EU membership isn’t actually party policy. This isn’t a case of revisiting established policy, this is a case of calling for a specific direction (the party is currently consulting on EU reform).

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