It is in front of hundreds of Liberal Democrats (LibDems) attending their annual autumn party conference in Bournemouth that Wolfgang Gerhardt, Chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, called for them to go out and campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.
Gerhardt spoke at the party’s campaign launch in what was probably the “most pro-European room in the entire UK,” as Catherine Bearder, MEP and lead on the EU campaign for the LibDems, rightly put it.
Together with Laura Sandys, Chair of the European Movement in the UK, and Business for a New Europe, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation supported the new leader of the LibDems, Tim Farron, in starting the campaign and motivating the party members to hit the streets and advocate that the UK remain in the EU.
New party members – new chances for the LibDems
What could seem like a challenge in view of the recent defeat of the LibDems in the general elections of May 2015, in which they have seen their representation in the House of Commons shrink from 56 members to only 8, might actually turn out to be a great chance for the LibDems to revitalise the party. More than 20.000 new members have joined the party since the elections, bringing party membership up to 62.000 members again. All these new members now have a common goal: convincing their fellow countrymen that staying in the EU is the best thing to do for the UK.
Wolfgang Gerhardt was in Bournemouth to support the LibDems in their endeavor to rebuild the party and also to launch the EU referendum campaign. He clearly stated that the Friedrich Naumann Foundation would like to see the British staying in the EU and continue being a force for reform and for market friendly policies. He underlined how by leaving the EU, the UK would remain marginalised and that in times of majors power shifts on the international stage, the EU is the only way for the UK to remain a pivotal player in the global arena. Tim Farron agreed that: “Staying in is good for Europe and it is great for Britain”.
Today we’re launching our Europe referendum campaign. Find out how you can get involved http://t.co/9CvRDRMbOl
— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 21, 2015
LibDems are the only party united in their stance towards EU membership
The Liberal Democrats are the first British party to launch their campaign and also the only one that is undivided about their standing in favour of the UK being a member of the EU. The Conservatives and Labour on the other hand have still not clearly positioned themselves and a lot of uncertainty remains about their campaigns, as well as the exact date of the vote. Many think that it could happen as soon as June 2016, what would leave only a few months for the two camps to campaign.
Many LibDem members are aware that it will be a difficult battle and it has been described by leading figures in the LibDems, amongst which ALDE Party President Graham Watson, as the fight of their lives. In a recent survey on the EU referendum conducted amongst LibDem members, over 10.000 party members restated their love: more than 95% of respondents are clearly in favour of the “in,” while 93% of them said that they would campaign.
Wolfgang Gerhardt also insisted on the fact that being a member of the EU was not only about the common market, trade and other economic advantages, but also about defending the fundamental values of liberal democracy. He made the emotional argument that “the IN campaign is a fight for our civilisation”.
“Imagine, if we did not have the EU, we would have to invent it”, he added. As Tim Farron put it: “Nationalists love their country and hate their neighbours. Well I love my country and my neighbours.”
Find out more about the campaign: http://www.libdems.org.uk/europe
ALDE Individual Members Chair