Friday, March 28, 2014

Reflections on Europe - can we be VHS to UKIP's Betamax?

The first debate is done, the dust begins to settle, and something that resembles a debate on Europe, our place in it and what we want from it has lurched into life. I'm not getting too excited, but it is an improvement on what has come before.

But it appears to me that there is an opportunity for Liberal Democrats to look towards the future, one where international co-operation allows us to make our lives a little easier, just as UKIP look backwards towards a time when there was more certainty and less interdependence - a time which is unlikely to come again.

Every morning, I get an e-mail from the European Parliament, telling me what they're up to in Brussels, and today's is typical, in that it isn't terrifically exciting, but points towards changes that will help.

The first item is an assessment of the implementation of the European Rail Traffic Management System, which sounds like a thrill a minute, doesn't it? And yet, by including a common standard, trains will be enabled to cross national borders, allowing a real European rail network, reducing the need for short-haul flights, lowering pollution and enabling trade and movement. It offers the possibility of Birmingham to Dijon, Barcelona to Turin, or Prague to Ljubljana services if demand exists, not limited by needing to change locomotives or rolling stock.

Further down the e-mail is a reference to a report on enhancing worker mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights, something that is so much easier done at a supranational level than on a bilateral level.

These are not 'big' or 'sexy' topics, but they represent a fraction of the daily work of the European Commission and the Parliament. And, for the most part, they go utterly unnoticed. But what they do demonstrate is that, if you are minded to take up the opportunities that come from living in such a huge market, there is a body which is trying to help and support you - and it isn't the United Kingdom Parliament.

And, at the European Parliament, whilst UKIP don't turn up, or vote against everything discussed when they do bother, Liberal Democrat MEPs are busily getting on with the job of representing our interests and building a Europe that works more effectively and efficiently.

I don't claim that it's an easy sell, because Europe is complex and imperfect. But if we don't, or can't, make the case, you can't imagine that anyone else is going to, can you?


neil craig said...

Is VHS V Betamax not a slightly dated comparison. I'm old enough to remember it but....

Mark Valladares said...


It's reassuring that someone else gets the reference. But as I'm a relatively mature (in years, at least) blogger, I like to make cultural references that I understand...