24 Apr, 2019
Chair's message to members - 24 April 2019
Dear Member or Supporter
The festivals held in the Spring - in both Christian and pagan traditions - are a time of renewal.
The EU27 can look forward to their 9 May European Council summit on the future of Europe to be held at Sibiu in Romania. Theresa May has agreed not to attend. I find that throughly depressing: the UK voluntarily no longer has a voice or it seems interest in shaping the future of our Continent.
That at a time when France and Germany are reaching for a new narrative to understand the purpose of the European Union. Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in the Financial Times of 13 March 2019 (you may be able to get round the paywall by googling "FT.com - A new Franco-German narrative for Europe"): “Now, the French president and Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer are laying out what might be called a fourth narrative for a united Europe. The first was about peace; the second, prosperity; and the third, democratic transformation. This fourth story is about the protection of what Mr Macron terms “civilisation” and Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer calls the “European way of life”: representative democracy, the rule of law, individual freedom and a social market economy. They are talking, in other words, about preserving the extraordinary achievements of three-quarters of a century on a continent previously riven by war.”
We will be taking part in that debate: the European Parliament elections
We need to take these elections seriously for what they are: sending representatives to the directly elected Parliament of the EU in order to help shape the future of the EU (of Europe) - a future that we all are working to continue to be part of.
In particular, through the Spitzenkandidat system, voters are helping to select the next President of the European Commission (Manfred Weber for the European People's Party; Frans Timmermans for the Party of European Socialists; the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe is putting forward a team rather than one individual).
The Euro-elections are not a referendum on Remain/ Leave
We would make two mistakes to call them that. First we would subordinate the European Parliament to our domestic politics. Second, it will not be easy to interpret the answer that they would give to that question.
Partly that is a matter of the expected low turnout, the possibility of a boycott by some Leave voters, the vote-winning clarity of message of the Brexit Party, the difficulty of knowing what people were voting for or against, and the voting system: though proportional, the D'Hondt system still benefits larger parties (in this context Farage's party is likely to be a larger party - and getting Farage out of the European Parliament had been the only benefit I have so far seen in Brexit).
Sure, a vote for the Brexit Party and UKIP is a vote against Europe; a vote for the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Change UK is a vote for Europe.
But then it gets harder as both main parties are split on Brexit (we have not yet seen the manifestos).
We can put the European elections to a lot of good use
First, they are a reminder that the EU is a democratic institution. Laws are not made by unelected bureaucrats but by elected MEPs and representatives of national governments sitting in the Council of Ministers. With the Euro-elections campaign going on around them we can ask Leavers to justify their claim that the EU is not democratic.
Second, the pro-Europe parties have different ideas of what that means. Normal politics applies. The Europe of the Greens would not be the same as the Europe of a pro-EU Conservative MEP. Voters have the power to shape the future, just as they do with Westminster.
Third, the election campaign is a front-runner for the Remain campaign. We can use the opportunity to explain what the EU does and why it is better that the EU does it. We can show the benefits of pooling sovereignty, why we are glad that the EU has a law on bendy bananas, why the dolphins and the farm animals wish we would stay in the EU, how REACH has reached and changed the world for the better.
London4Europe in the European election campaign
We are all-party and non-party. Apart from relations with the EU, we have no view on the relative merits of political parties either at Westminster or in Brussels.
We do urge everyone to exercise their democratic right and responsibility and vote on 23 May. Even if someone votes for Farage or spoils their paper that is better than not voting.
People should make sure they have registered to vote by 7 May: young adults, students, people who have recently moved home or who live abroad are particularly likely not to have registered. It's easy to do online. EU citizens resident in the UK have the vote and (unless citizens of Cyprus, Ireland and Malta) in addition to registration need to fill in a paper form.
We do urge people to vote "For Europe". What that means in practice is up to each of us to work out reflecting our political views and the manifestos of the MEP candidates. But we urge everyone to vote for a party slate of MEP candidates who would give their whole-hearted support to the UK's membership of the EU and a referendum to enable that to continue, and who intend to be positive and constructive in working within the European institutions to build a better Europe. It began with peace. What we build on that foundation is up to us on 23 May.
This e-mail sets out the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of London4Europe.
E-mail: [email protected]
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