Chris Davies: 'This is not a party of xenophobes and Little Englanders'

From a speech by the Liberal Democrat MEP, given in a debate on the European Union at the party's annual conference, in Blackpool
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The Independent Online

Every councillor here knows that if you are not allowed that flexibility you have to make cuts. And deep cuts are what are being proposed here.

So just when Europe needs to be doing more than ever to fight crime and terrorism in an unstable world we would be proposing deep, deep cuts in the things that really matter. We will be going further than anything that Brown and Blair will eventually agree in the budget negotiations. Liberal Democrats will be the party that wants to cut spending on research, even though Europe's only hope of competing with the Far East as a knowledge-based economy is to spend more on pushing back the frontiers.

We will be the party that wants to cut spending on environmental protection, even though we claim to want to halt the decline in biodiversity. We will be the party that wants to cut spending that enables the EU to intervene in crisis situations. Conflict in Kosovo? Sorry, there's no money in the budget. We want EU spending to be wise and honest and effective, but cuts like this are not the way forward.

What's the agenda behind this proposal? What signals does it send out? I hope I'm wrong, but I see an attempt here to move the party in a Eurosceptic direction, and I want your help to resist it. Every action taken by the European Union is distorted and vilified by the tabloid press. We could take the easy road. We could give in and appeal to populism. But this is not a party of xenophobes and of Little Englanders. It is a party of principle and of internationalists.

It's a party that sees the European Union for what it is, with all its faults: A partnership of proud and independent nations with a shared history, shared economic interests and shared values.