I voted to leave the EU, not for a right-wing government to drive us off a cliff

Three years or so ago I was one of over seventeen million people who voted to leave the European Union.

I have for as long as I have been interested in politics been a eurosceptic, and at the risk of falling foul of the unashamedly pro-EU party I am proud to be a member of, I still am. But, in the event, I finally chose to vote to leave because I believed the rhetoric that we would agree a mutually-beneificial deal and depart with some semblance of economic security. What a fool I was.

Fundamentally, the EU is not a socialist paradise built for the enhancement of individuals, but an economic trading bloc designed around protecting member states and the movement of goods and services. For all the many advantages membership of the EU brings, the rights of free citizens and advancement of liberty cannot be counted among them, for the European elite would cast the individual aside without a second thought if the common goal of frictionless trade in a united Europe were at stake.

In October 2017, during the independence referendum in Catalonia, the EU remained silent while one of its member states ordered riot police to violently attack peaceful voters. Whatever the legality (or otherwise) of the referendum in question, such an attack on peaceful European citizens is unacceptable from a member of an organisation which wishes to present itself as the defender of individual rights, and the lack of public admonishment from the EU is shameful, to say the least.

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Are people losing interest in Catalonia’s pro-independence demonstrations?

Yesterday the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) released initial data on this year’s pro-independence rally, with the main headline being that registrations for the event have fallen 25%.

Every year since 2013, the pro-independence organisation has organised a large protest in support of independence on 11 September, Catalonia’s national day. So far 37,500 people have registered to take part in this year’s demonstration, a fall of one quarter compared to this time last year.

The drop in registrations was gleefully reported by the Madrid-based media, with El Mundo’s headline recalling that it is the lowest uptake in six years, while El País says that the reduction comes in the middle of division within the pro-independence movement. Catalan media sympathetic towards independence also recognised the fall, with El Nacional, El Punt Avui and VilaWeb all reporting the registration data.

The division between the two main secessionist political parties Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia) is well documented, particularly since local elections in May, following which both parties formed post-electoral pacts with unionists across Catalonia.

In the midst of the political division, the ANC decided that this year’s demonstration should be about highlighting that, wherever people come from, their objective is the same: the independence of Catalonia. To achieve this, they are focusing the protest on Barcelona’s plaça d’Espanya, where demonstrators will merge from the five main surrounding streets and form the shape of a star. The motto for this year’s demonstration is Objectiu independència, or Objective independence.

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For the good of Europe, we need to #StopBorrell

According to Wikipedia, Josep Borrell Fontelles is a Spanish or Catalan politician (depending on which language you are reading in), member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and, since June 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in the Spanish Government.

With a long and colourful career behind him, Borrell looks set to add another top job to his CV, as it was announced this week that he was the European Council’s choice for the role of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the 2019-2024 European Commission.

The high representative is the head of the European Union’s diplomatic corps, the 28 member states’ collective representative on the world stage. Initially created in 1999 under the Treaty of Amsterdam, with an enlarged portfolio under the Treaty of Lisbon, Borrell is set to become the fourth person to hold the post, the second from the Iberian Peninsula, following in the footsteps of Spain’s Javier Solana (1999-2009), the UK’s Catherine Ashton (2009-2014) and the incumbent Federica Mogherini of Italy (2014-).

As Charlemagne notes in The Economist, “Borrell will be the most heavyweight figure to serve as high representative”, by implication adding to the prestige of the position. And yet, paradoxically, if the European Union is serious about listening to the popular impetus for change expressed in May’s elections, if they want to be taken seriously in global diplomatic circles, and if they are serious about cleaning their image, it is imperative Josep Borrell is not appointed to the role of high representative.

It is imperative we #StopBorrell

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An open letter to the candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats

Dear Ed & Jo,

In just a few short weeks, one of you will be taking on the mantle of leadership of a Liberal Democrat party with its highest ever number of members, and which appears to be on the cusp of something special.

In the last few weeks, we have seen some truly phenomenal results for our party, cementing our place as a liberal alternative to the inward-looking Conservative Party on the right, a divided Labour party on the left and Nigel Farage’s populist Brexit Party.

At the beginning of May, we saw our largest ever increase in seats in the local elections, while in the European elections we won more votes and seats in the European Parliament than ever before. Our message was unequivocal and resonated up and down the country.

I am one of those members who joined in the aftermath of the EU referendum. After some time in the political wilderness, and some time wondering whether I even wanted to be a member of a political party, it was clear to me as a liberal and a democrat at heart, there was only one party which represented me.

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