In response to Harold Wilson's comment that he was willing to "join Europe if the price was right," Jo Grimond commented that this was rather like reserving judgement on the reformation until you knew what the monasteries would fetch.
Unfortunately the current Liberal Democrat attitude to the coming European election seems unlikely to rise above this "what's in it for us" level. Our slogan, according to the Christmas greetings I've just received from Yorkshire's two Liberal Democrat MEPs, is to be "In Europe: In Work" and we don't seem to be going to say much beyond hammering away at the fact that "over 3 million jobs in the UK are directly linked to the European single Market." Well, that's probably true and it is important, but if we don't project a more exciting vision of the purpose and future of the European Union who on earth will?
Fortunately there is an alternative, indeed a" more excellent way," if only our leaders have the courage to grasp it. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the group to which we belong in the European Parliament, is preparing a manifesto with a much more exciting vision The following summary is taken from an article by David Grace in Issue 362 of Liberator.
Broadly, Grace explains, ALDE stands for environmental sustainability, free trade, completing the European Single Market, further integration and democratisation, individual freedom and human rights, gender equality and human rights.
In Grace's view, the manifesto should contain:
- The promotion of a fiscal union and a well regulated banking union.This will enable the creation of tools for common policies to boost competitiveness, stimulate research and education, build tarns-European networks and provide the resources and capably for a Keynesian expansion programme.
- Funding via a genuine European tax rather than a charge on member states. Grace suggests the proceeds of a carbon tax. My own preference would be for a Tobin or Financial Transactions Tax. Maybe we could have both.
- The power to issue Euro-bonds (ie for the EU to borrow.)
- A leading role in global action against climate change, with tougher targets for the reduction of greenhouse gasses.
- Increased co-operation in procurement of equipment for and training of armed forces.
- Strengthening the EUs democratic credibility by making the President of the Commission the nominee of the group with the most votes in the EU election, and giving the Parliament the right to take legislative initiatives.