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The Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) and the Lib Dems' Federal Policy Committee (FPC) invite you to an online consultation on Thursday 14th October at 8pm.

Participants include:

  • Baroness Professor Julie Smith, Professor in European Politics, Robinson College, University of Cambridge (chair)
  • Robert Harrison (Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee)
  • Councillor Lucy Nethsingha (Chair, East of England Liberal Democrats and former MEP)
  • David Chalmers (Chair, Liberal Democrat European Group)
  • An MEP from the Renew group in the European Parliament

This event is one of a series of regional webinars which will culminate in a day-long Lib Dem Conference on the Future of Europe on Saturday 30 October. This comprises the Liberal Democrats' part of the consultation process for the European Union's Conference on the Future of Europe.

Its purpose is to generate ideas and set out a vision for how the EU should develop and improve in the future.

Motions passed by our members at previous Federal Party Conferences instructed the Federal Policy Committee to consult widely in the party to ascertain how best to strengthen the UK's ties with the EU in the short term with a view to membership of the EU in the future. This consultation will generate our policy in various areas related to Europe.

We want to hear what is important to you and where you live - how is Brexit impacting on your way of life.

Citizens from across Europe, including those from non-member states such as ourselves, are being encouraged to get involved through consultation events and panels, and directly by submitting ideas through a digital platform www.futureu.Europa.eu, which acts as the hub of the Conference.

The Conference is the widest process of engagement with its citizens that Europe has ever organised outside of elections.

The evidence gathered will be submitted to a Conference Plenary. The Plenary, drawn from European-level, national and regional governments and parliaments and civil society representatives, will consider all this evidence received from citizens, to identify opportunities for future policy or institutional reform. Guy Verhofstadt is the Co-Chair of the Conference and the delegation from the European Parliament, which includes 15 Renew MEPs.

The Regional Executive of East of England Lib Dems has approved the following issues as the main ones of importance for our Region (in no particular order):

  • Labour and skills shortages
  • Environmental standards and actions against climate change
  • Access to the Single Market, including security of food supplies, both from businesses' perspective and the population's.

The topics for consideration are categorised under the following headings:

  • Climate Change and the environment
  • Health
  • Stronger Economy, social justice and jobs
  • EU in the world
  • Values and rights, rule of law, security
  • Digital transformation
  • European democracy
  • Migration
  • Education, culture, youth and sport
  • Other ideas

Whilst the above list of topics originated from the EU, there is nothing to stop us widening our discussion to include:

  • The policy focus of the EU in coming years
  • How the institutions should be reformed
  • How the EU should work with neighbouring countries including the UK
  • The boundaries of political authority between the EU and its member states
  • Lessons from our Brexit experience about how the EU is perceived
  • Improving the options for countries who wish to join/re-join the EU

Given the UK's current relationship with the EU, we may want to comment on how open the EU is to enabling neighbouring countries to participate in its policies and programmes. The EU already allows third countries to participate in the single market (EA countries like Norway), Schengen, Erasmus, Research programmes, police cooperation, and so on.

By Spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach its conclusions and put forward ideas to the Commission to provide guidance on the future of Europe.

It is important for us to engage in this debate on the future of the EU. For now we might be outside the EU, but surely all of us in this party hope one day for us to be members again, and the way the EU develops will have a direct bearing on how we go about making that goal a reality.

The future shape of the EU and its priorities will also have an immediate impact on its relationship with the UK and other non member European countries.

For those of us for whom Europe is still the most defining issue of our time, this is an exciting opportunity to have our say.