Europhiles or Eurosceptics? Comparing the European policies of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats

Isabelle Hertner*, Daniel Keith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are often portrayed as Britain's pro-European parties. Indeed, both parties express a keen interest in keeping Britain in the European Union (EU) and in promoting a constructive engagement with other member states. Yet, to what extent can the two parties be characterized as Europhiles? In this article, we develop Taggart and Szczerbiak's (2008) concept of hard and soft Euroscepticism, extend it to Europhile party positions, and apply it to Labour and the Liberal Democrats' recent European policies. For this purpose, we analyse manifestos and party leaders' key speeches on the EU. We find, overall, that the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are 'soft' Europhiles whose discourses have focused on EU reform. Yet, while their EU policies are very similar, their EU strategies differ: the Labour leadership have generally tried to contain the salience of EU issues, whereas the Liberal Democrats have followed a more offensive EU strategy after 2014. This can best be explained through electoral incentives and internal dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-89
Number of pages27
JournalBritish Politics
Issue number1
Early online date21 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2016, Macmillan Publishers Ltd]. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • European Policy
  • Europhilia
  • Euroscepticism
  • Labour Party
  • Liberal Democrats

Cite this