Roger Liddle served as political advisor on European affairs first to Tony Blair when he was the UK’s Prime Minister and to EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson. He considers himself a European and then argues strongly that a Britain outside the EU would run a serious risk of marginalisation. The 'decline of the West', he says, means Britain's position in the world is ever more defined by its place in Europe.
Liddle’s proposal for a more progressive EU is an interesting argument. Because the long-term challenges to Britain and to the eurozone are so similar, making the economic futures of Britain and the eurozone tightly intertwined, Roger Liddle suggests a "post-Keynesian 'new deal' for sustainable and inclusive recovery in Britain and in all Europe". This would mean further deepening the single market – with no race to the bottom in social rights, and a common strategic industrial vision for the key sectors crucial to Europe's global competitiveness – along with a tough approach to financial regulation and a new policy for the free movement of labour to ensure that unscrupulous employers could not undercut wages.
An interestingly controversial idea is that of a European Security and Defence Union to project hard power in this era of geopolitical change. At present, the UK accounts for 3% of the world's GDP, and its rapid relative decline and the United States rebalancing to the east, Liddle says the UK has no choice but to project power with like-minded European allies. He suggests taking the EU's idea of "permanent structured defence cooperation" further, with participation open only to those member states willing to make specific defence commitments. This, ‘Defence Union‘ he adds, should also be open to "neutrals" like Sweden and Finland.
In spite of well-thought out proposals for democratic reform, it remains to be seen whether Liddle can convince Britain’s many eurosceptics. Their fears of losing jobs, welfare and sovereignty go hand in hand with globalisation, making them and many elsewhere in the EU increasingly inward-looking and reluctant to see that European integration is the solution to global challenges.