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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 18:20 GMT
Liberal Democrats: Europe

Find out more about Liberal Democrat policies on Europe and the European Union.


THE EURO

Of the three main parties, the Liberal Democrats are the most ardent supporters of European monetary union.

The party advocates a "declaratory policy" which would mean the government making a declaration on a date that it intends to join the single currency, subject to approval in a referendum.

The party says this would give the UK greater influence on the current running of European economic policy, and help the nation prepare through a series of "docking procedures".

The Liberal Democrats say that the criteria for joining the single currency should be those laid down in the Maastricht Treaty (which began the process of EMU in 1993).

EXPANSION AND REFORM

The party supports the Nice Treaty for expansion and reform - but has described it as falling far short of a triumph with too many loose ends.

It supports closer co-operation with European Union members on a host of issues - but believes that the EU must be given the resources and powers to act effectively in areas where it is better equipped to do so than national or regional governments.

The party supports a constitution for Europe which would:

  • Clarify the relationship between Brussels, the nations and the regions.
  • Simplify European law and increase transparency
  • Guard against unnecessary transference of power to the centre.

    The Liberal Democrats want a greater role for Westminster in scrutinising European legislation - and a greater role for the European Parliament in scrutinising the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.

    Scrutiny of the commission itself should include an annual "state of the union" style speech from the body's president with a list of proposals to the member states.

    It also supports more powers to investigate suspected EU fraud.

    On national vetoes, the party says that it supports retaining these in areas "of vital interest to the UK" including:

  • Constitution
  • Defence
  • Budget and taxation
  • Pay regulations
  • Social security

    RAPID REACTION FORCE

    The party supports the creation of new structures that allow Europe's national armies to work closer together.

    It stresses that these should allow the forces to "operate side by side along clear lines of responsibility".

    The party believes that a rapid reaction force makes "nothing but good sense" in helping Europe deal with future crises such as the Balkans without having to rely on the USA.

    It adds that this should not mean the creation of a European army - "European initiatives should build on, not seek to replace, the Nato security guarantee".

    AGRICULTURE

    The Liberal Democrats want to replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a more broad-based Common Rural Policy.

    The new-look Cap would shift away from subsidising over-production and into:

  • Environmental protection
  • Rural development and diversification
  • Promoting social objectives

    Funds would be transferred from direct area and headage payments towards rural development in a phased process until 2006.

    The party believes the current subsidy system is excessively complicated and should be replaced with a one-stop Countryside Management Contract for farmers.

    FISHERIES

    The party would seek to replace the Common Fisheries Policy with a new Europe-wide policy based on regional management of fish stocks.

    But the party also recommends piloting fishing-free zones as part of a stock recovery programme.

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