What is your leverage?

Yesterday’s phoney war over the leadership of the Conservative Party has got me thinking. The hardline Brexiters (confusing referred to in the media as just ‘Brexiteers’) sought to remove Theresa May over the desirability of the Brexit deal she has achieved with the European Union. This is not their Brexit; they are betrayed; they must show how angry they are.

But I still wonder if there was any more substance than that. Could a hardline PM have got a better deal? They claim they could, but how? The EU has made little if any concession to the UK, and their position today is much as it was before the vote. The Leavers promised us the EU would fold quickly and they were wrong, and that is their fault, not the EU’s.

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If you were PM….

An interesting quiz popped into my inbox from those nice people at Unlock Democracy.  You have to imagine that you are PM – after all, that job may well be up for grabs in the near future.

You are presented with a series of policy dilemmas – would you rather do x or y? Actually, in some cases, I was a bit “NEITHER” or “NOT QUITE LIKE THAT” or “BOTH” but that is part of the fun.

It has a serious point:

Every day decisions affecting millions are made by a handful of ministers, while the rest of us struggle to have a voice. By taking the quiz and sharing it afterwards, we can spread the word about the need to bring power closer to the people.

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What is a movement?

In the discussion – and sales talk – around the party reform proposals, people often talk of creating a movement, sometimes equated to a supporter scheme. Sometimes, as in that video, it’s presented as an alternative to a political party. There is a danger of positive language being repeated till people stop asking what it means. So what is a movement and how’s it different from a political party?

“Movement” suggests moving – towards some shared goal. Parties can do that, but you can’t have a movement for not changing things much. Movements require mass participation.

Any party can call itself a movement. In France in 1945, some traditional parties were blamed for France’s unpreparedness for the war and others for collaborating. So a new party was called the “Mouvement Republican Populaire” – People’s Republican Movement. It was organised as a traditional party with mainly unclear goals.

Parties have a defined membership, organisation at local and national levels, a leader or leaders and some process for choosing people with particular responsibilities. Movements may or may not have these things.

Many movements campaign for something narrowly defined. Consider the 19th century movements for abolition of slavery in the UK and the US. The UK movement worked through traditional parties. The US movement founded its own parties (Free Soil, then Republican). Other genuine movements include the Feminist movement, the Green movement, CND and nationalist separatist movements. Some have formed parties, others not.

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In an historic decision, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court rules that the President’s dissolution of parliament was illegal

Embed from Getty Images

This follows on from my post on November 29th.

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has just ruled unanimously that President Sirisena acted illegally when he dissolved Parliament and called early elections.

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Love, actually

A message to Theresa May & all Britons on Brexit

Here is a video column from the D66 (Dutch Social-Liberal, pro-European sister party), featuring Kees Verhoeven, our MP for European Affairs.

Hope you enjoy!

https://twitter.com/D66/status/1072408573475463168

#makelovedontBrexit

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Why “Global Britain” must be rooted in our liberal democratic values

The world has changed a lot over the past 30 years, becoming both more open and democratic and more prosperous. Well-being indicators of those most in need, especially in terms of health and education, have improved dramatically. But we still confront tremendous challenges, ranging from climate change to growing inequalities, especially within countries, and from conflict and fragility to migration. In addition, a profound dissatisfaction with liberal democracy and perceptions about the way it works has set in, not only in the developing world but also in countries that have traditionally been considered the cradles of democracy.

So despite the progress, it can often feel like we are confronting the greatest period of uncertainty and instability we have experienced since the second world war. As happened after World War II, the collective problems we face today require collective ways to address them. The United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Union itself, are all founded in the experience of what happens when the world fragments. Coming together to create rules-based regional and global communities was the answer in the post-War era. This is why it feels strangely anachronistic for the UK to press on with Brexit now – especially when considering that the EU has been the single most successful multilateral effort of peace- and state building and the promotion of development and prosperity we have known.

Prime Minister May launched the idea of a “Global Britain” in October 2016 to counter fears that the UK would become inward-looking after Brexit. The UK has been a powerful and influential player in the world stage, playing among other things a leading role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals. But it is also the case that the EU has been a major multiplier for UK development and foreign policy – just as the UK has been a multiplier for EU development and foreign policy – and both risk losing significant leverage. So regardless of whether Britain stays inside or leaves the EU, making “Global Britain” more than a slogan will require sustained leadership and continued investment and engagement in crucial international relationships and commitments, both with(in) the EU and beyond.

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12 December 2018 – today’s press releases

So, another day when much has happened, but little has obviously changed. It’s a bit like ‘Waiting for Godot’, in that Brexit is supposedly coming, but never actually seems to turn up…

  • Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions
  • Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams
  • Lamb: Labour’s abstention on cannabis vote ‘deeply depressing’

Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions

Responding to the reports that the Prime Minister will face a vote of confidence in her leadership, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Theresa May’s deal is a total mess and is the latest backdrop for yet another Conservative meltdown over

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The hunt for certainty

Theresa May has been telling MPs that they need to vote for her deal to give certainty.

That has always been hogwash because the Withdrawal Agreement kicks so much about our future relationship with the EU down the road as to be virtually meaningless. In fact, the very existence of the much maligned backstop is proof that it resolves very little and leaves us worse off.

But now, Theresa May’s quest to get her deal through the Commons is even more blighted. When she told Conservative MPs that she intended to step down ahead of the next election, she was probably thinking maybe sometime in 2021. The way some of her MPs, even those who supported her, are talking tonight, she’s got until March.

That adds even more uncertainty into the mix. We have no idea who will lead the negotiations shaping our future relations with the EU. Just imagine that Tory members elect Boris who thinks the chaos of no deal is just what this country needs? At least now we can revert to our membership of the EU but after March 29th we won’t have that safety net.

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PM Confidence vote – open thread

I’m going to call it now. Theresa May is going to win and win big tonight. That is not going to mean that all is peace, harmony and love in the Conservative Party. Today’s extraordinary scene between James Cleverly and Andrew Budgen showed the toxicity of the atmosphere.

Even if Theresa May was going to limp home, winning by one vote, she would stay on. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t even have the confidence of half of his MPs and he manages it. I just hope that the Tory Remainers have extracted some concessions – maybe even a commitment to a People’s Vote – in return for their support. A convincing win would mean that she didn’t have to pander to the ERG anymore and could seek to build bridges across the House. If she’s told Tory MPs tonight that she isn’t going to contest the 2022 election and she can’t be challenged, then she has nothing to lose by going for a much softer Brexit, perhaps EEA, than she had envisaged. Whether she will take that course, because she’s not known for her flexibility, remains to be seen.

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December 12th: Today’s Announcements

 

Announcements as at 12th December

  • Lib Dems demand more action on ‘dangerous’ short prison sentences
  • ‘Gold-plated’ visa chaos shows Home Office can’t take back control
  • Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions

 

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CHRISTMAS COMPETITION: LOCAL ELECTION MESSAGES FOR 2019

I for one am hopeful that we can make gains not least because the last cycle of these particular elections coincided with the last General Election and we all know how that turned out.

So what are the critical messages that Liberal Democrats must attempt to get across between now and next May?

Well, firstly the obvious one is to emphasise our commitment to community politics particularly in wards and districts where we are trying to build up support for the first time.

The slogan ‘Working all Year round not just at Election Time’ is one that sums up our approach and needs to feature prominently in our campaigns in 2019.

Our message to residents is that if they vote for a Liberal Democrat councillor, they will get a representative devoted to doing what is best for them and their area. A familiar message but one that only we as Liberals can say with conviction.

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Christmas Competition: Promoting ‘Terminally Green’

Oh, let us be, eventually, recycled,

Let us be with nature quite serene,

In a cardboard box,

To feed our hollyhocks,

Let us be quite terminally green.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

Don’t let us be like some old plastic bag,

If we should become quite ill,

Don’t put us in landfill,

We can’t be an environmental drag.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

We’ll stop this global warming in a trice,

Carbon footprints left behind?

That’s not what’s on our mind,

We want to be environmentally nice.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

Cremated compost is our Lib Dem green ideal,

Eco-friendly our demise,

Let Greenpeace eulogise,

And Copenhagen be our final seal.

 

Posted in Op-eds and Poetry | Tagged | 3 Comments

A People’s Vote: What is the Question?

I have just attended my first anti-Brexit protest, a rally where MPs from all the main parties except the SNP called for a People’s Vote.

The call fell on sympathetic ears, but the speakers were pretty vague about the question “the people” were to answer.

Lib Dems were the first to demand that, given the impossible promises made in the Brexit campaign, once a deal had been negotiated voters should be given a chance to say whether that was a version of Brexit that they wanted, and whether, in the light of the outcome of negotiations, they wanted to change their mind on whether to leave the EU or not. Others have been slower to catch up, but it looks as if an ‘endorsing’ referendum might now be the only way forward.

In that case, what should the question(s) be?  I had assumed that “People’s Vote” with all its resources might have a preferred answer, but (presumably to hold their alliance together) their website is not yet specific.

Lib Dems are not so constrained, and we are in a position now to decide where we stand, so that we can continue to take the lead.

The apparent difficulty is that there are three possible ways forward: no deal, May’s deal, and no Brexit.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 19 Comments

Brexit: The forgotten option

Now, I am not normally the person to rush to the front of the queue offering ideas to help the conservative government bail itself out from an inevitable political meltdown. However, in a deep-felt belief that we all need to put the needs of the country before our political self-interest, I wish to suggest an option that not only offers a lifeline to Theresa May but also provides the hope for a brighter future for our country: Albania Plus.

Think about it. At a stroke, we would do away with all the problems of an advanced economy. We would phase out high-tech industries, scientific advancement and all that nasty complicated stuff associated with the ‘supply chain’. Once we stop trading as an advanced international economy, we will no longer have endless streams of imports and exports travelling the highways and byways of the country.  This will not only reduce congestion on our roads, but it will also avoid the need to turn the M20 into a lorry park. Problem solved.

In the lead up to the referendum we were told that Brixit would bring multiple benefits: improvements to the NHS, reduced immigration and we would ‘take back control’ our laws.  No more meddling by bureaucrats in Brussels!

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Christmas Competition: Why Be A Liberal Democrat?

The answer is simple: we are the only party centered on people who trust people to change their lives, their communities, and their government. This message resonates with millions, and it united the Radicals, Liberals, Social Democrats, Whigs and Peelites that form the rich tapestry and history of our party.

We trust people to know best what their conception of the good life is. We believe that consenting adults can chase their happiness – our only role is to enable them to do so and get out of the way. Whether that meant legislating for same-sex marriage so consenting adults can make choices about their lives or creating the Start-Up Loans programme, so entrepreneurs can access finance to launch their businesses and change the world – that’s where we are about.

We don’t see local authorities as administrative bodies that exist to deliver schemes agreed in Whitehall. We believe that truly local government is a way for people to take control of their communities, to shape and transform them. It is why we created City Deals giving local government powers to invest in schemes that will revitalise their areas and create badly needed jobs. It is why we made it easier to create town and parish councils – to give residents a framework through which to organise and run their towns and parishes; to bring to life the community politics that Lord Greaves and Gordon Lishman pioneered.

It was our belief in people that led the Whigs to fight for the Reform Act 1832, why the radical wing of the Liberal Party rose up to fight for the Reform Act 1867, why our movement agitated for universal suffrage, and why the SDP-Liberal Alliance continued a decades-long struggle for voting reform. It’s why the Liberal Democrats today stand as the biggest party fighting for Votes at 16 and for fairer votes. It is why we back devolution on demand – so communities can take control of services and stand on their own two feet, but only if they choose to.

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11 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Amidst the chaos that is Westminster at the moment, at least somebody was trying to do something liberal. Admittedly, it wasn’t successful, but as another step towards a more liberal drugs policy, it was certainly worth the effort. Otherwise, another day of national humiliation for our country, as Theresa May found herself child-locked into a limousine. It’s a metaphor for something, isn’t it?…

So, what has gone out in the name of the Party today…

  • Lamb: Prohibition of cannabis is causing harm across the country
  • Cable: Govt economic analysis on Brexit misleading
  • EU confirms May has no room to renegotiate Brexit
  • Lamb: It is

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So it looks like there might be a Tory leadership contest after all…..

The rumours have been circulating all evening, but if Kuenssberg and Peston are now saying it, there has to be some plausibility to the story:

Our Layla got a bit over-excited:

How very unlike the Conservative Party to embroil itself in its own self-indulgent civil war at a time of national crisis.

Of course, even if the ERG has managed to get itself sufficiently together to submit the letters and settle on a chosen candidate, maybe even one who has had a haircut recently, getting the letters in is only the first part of the job. They then have to persuade a majority of their Tory colleagues to back them to force a leadership contest. Apparently there was a huge amount of cheering coming from their meeting last night, and we can probably assume that it wasn’t because they were happy that Joe Sugg had got to the final of Strictly.

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Why a People’s Vote enhances democracy

Of course we should have a vote on the final Brexit deal. 

Because otherwise, we’re giving a free pass to the Brexit campaign of 2016 to say whatever they want, regardless of whether it’s achievable.

The Brexiteers could have promised 100% employment, free homes for everyone and class sizes of 10 if they wanted to. And then when the public voted for Brexit and none of this occurred, they could just say it’s too late. Brexit means Brexit. Anything else is frustrating the result of the referendum.

There comes a point when, if what was promised before the referendum is nothing like what has been achieved in reality, that mandate needs to be held to account. We need to know if the public support the actual Brexit which is staring them in the face – rather than the one which was pitched to them two years ago on completely different terms.

We clearly reached that point a long time ago. 

The Brexit campaign was based on a vision of Brexit which just hasn’t happened. £350 million to the NHS per week? A generous trade deal with the EU? An economically more prosperous country? None of that has happened. 

If the Leave Campaign had campaigned for May’s Brexit Deal, or for No Deal, they would clearly have lost under either circumstance. That’s why I don’t like it when people justify a People’s Vote by saying that the public have a right to change their mind. This isn’t about changing minds. This Brexit was never voted for in the first place. 

Our Prime Minister doesn’t support Brexit. Our Parliament doesn’t support Brexit. The only reason that we are pursuing this policy is because it is “what the people want”. When so much has changed since the vote in 2016, shouldn’t we at least check that this really is “what the people want”? What’s the harm – from a democratic point of view? If the public really do want this version of Brexit then they will vote for it. No one is overturning anything. The public will get their way.

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Reminder: Christmas Competition

To celebrate and get in the mood for the festive season I thought that we could have a writing competition.  As many of you (on average at least 4,500 members visit the Lib Dem Voice site every day) write articles, read them or comment I propose a Christmas Article Competition.

The proposed Competition Rules are:

  • An Article should not be more than 550 words;
  • The article in each of the specified areas will be jointly judged by representatives identified as experts in that area by Lib Dem Voice and Lib Dem editors;
  • The starting date for the competition starts as of 28th November to 17th December;
  • The title of your article for the competition should start with the words “Competition: … followed by the title of your article”

Basic criteria when assessing each article will be:

  • The originality of the article;
  • That the article is within the stipulated maximise length required (550 words);
  • Generally, how well has the article presented its argument on the subject matter;
  • We will only accept one submission for each subject area per person (as stated below);
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Lib Dem policy is to withdraw Article 50 if we can’t get an extension for referendum or extra negotiations

This seems to be a good moment to remind you all of the motion passed at Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton. Essentially, if we can’t get an extension for a People’s Vote, or for extra negotiating time to avoid a no deal, we think that Article 50 should be withdrawn. And the ruling from the European Court of Justice yesterday proves that it can be done.

Read, learn and inwardly digest this paragraph:

(Conference calls for)The Government to seek to extend Article 50 if required to legislate for a referendum on the deal, or to provide enough negotiating time to avoid a catastrophic no-deal scenario, and if such extension is not agreed to withdraw the Article 50 notification.

Here’s the motion in full:

Conference notes that:

A.The Conservative Government are making a mess of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party are helping them to deliver this destructive Brexit.

B.Liberal Democrats campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum and have since campaigned for the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU.

C.The Treasury have stated that a no-deal Brexit could require the UK to borrow œ80 billion more by 2033, the Conservative Government have begun releasing the 84 no-deal technical notes, and the UK health sector are stockpiling medicines in case of a no-deal.

D.The Chequers plan is unworkable, rejected by both the EU and Conservative European Research Group MPs.

E.A conclusive agreement has not yet been reached on many of the issues arising from the Brexit referendum, including Government red lines, and both sides have stated that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

F.Whilst the principle of a Northern Ireland backstop has been agreed, the UK’s plan to temporarily avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland has not been agreed and there is still no agreement on a long-term solution.

G.During the transition period, which is due to end in 2020, the UK will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.

H.The draft Withdrawal Agreement stipulated that EU citizens will have to apply for pre-settled or settled status and if they fail to do so will be at risk of deportation; Irish citizens do not have to apply but can if they choose to.

I.EU citizens, who are not Irish or Commonwealth citizens, living in the UK are excluded from voting in UK General Elections or referendums and voting rights have been left outside the scope of Brexit negotiations by the EU Commission.

J.The 2016 EU referendum gave no clear destination for Brexit, as the terms of the deal were not yet known.

Conference believes that:

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10 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Well, that was the day that was, wasn’t it? Or was it? Theresa May has managed to get away again, somewhat in the style of a squid, squirting ink at its attacker and making for cover in the confusion.

By avoiding a vote she seemed certain to lose, she keeps her plan alive and, perhaps, if she can keep doing that long enough, she may reason that she can eliminate other options so that, as Sherlock Holmes famously surmised, if all other options are ruled out, what remains, regardless of how unlikely it might otherwise seem, is the solution.

It needs someone

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Lib Link: Vince Cable Human rights day: Demand better for freedom and dignity

Vince Cable has written an article for Human Rights Day over on the party website. It’s 70 years today since the International Declaration on Human Rights was signed.

On 10th December 1948, history was made. The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the shadow of the Second World War, the nations of the world came together to declare that everyone – no matter who they are and where they live – has the same fundamental rights.

With one voice, we pledged to “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.”

That was a mission statement for the world. But it equally serves as a mission statement for the Liberal Democrats today.

We are committed to promoting and protecting human rights, here in the UK and around the world.

And, as we celebrate the momentous step that was taken 70 years ago today, we must also rededicate ourselves to that mission.

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Bottle it Day: Lib Dems react

Rather than face certain defeat now, Theresa May shelves plans for a Commons vote on her Brexit deal in order to try to stave of likely defeat in a few weeks’ time.

Lib Dems have been reacting to developments.

Vince Cable confirmed that we would support Labour in the unlikely event that our so-called opposition actually decided to move a motion of no-confidence in the Government.

The Prime Minister’s authority has drained away. It is the duty of Jeremy Corbyn to call a vote of no confidence in the Government, which Liberal Democrats would support.

After that Liberal Democrats will continue to press for a People’s Vote. MPs from all parties should join us in giving the people a final say, with the option to remain in the EU.

Welsh leaderJane Dodds said that the only way to resolve the Brexit embarrassment was a People’s Vote:

Brexit has become a national embarrassment. Negotiations with the EU have been chaotic since day one, but this is a new low. The fact Theresa May has postponed the vote on her deal to avoid defeat shows there is no support for her Brexit deal in Parliament.

Delaying the vote on her Brexit deal is an unprecedented blow to Theresa May’s authority, but it solves nothing. There is no majority for any Brexit deal in Parliament and now no majority for Brexit at all amongst the public. Whilst this remains the case, no Brexit deal will get through Parliament.

The only solution to the ongoing Brexit crisis is going back to the people. We must give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit. This is the only solution and the Prime Minister should immediately back it.

Christine Jardine asked the PM why, if she could change her mind over the backstop, the people couldn’t be given the chance to vote again:

Wera Hobhouse asked how many of the people who voted to leave in 2016 voted for her deal:

Tim Farron was unimpressed with the Labour Party:

And on a lighter note, the Lib Dem Press Office has been on form today:

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Brexit – so what happens now?

Being your Day Editor today is a bit like trying to hit a rapidly moving, erratically directed small object… with a crossbow. So, where are we?

  • Theresa May intends to postpone the meaningful vote
  • There will be a Statement to the House of Commons from Theresa May at 3.30 p.m.
  • The European Court of Justice has ruled that the United Kingdom can unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 letter
  • The House of Lords is still scheduled to wind up its Brexit debate this evening with a symbolic vote

But is it as simple as that. One Tory MP thinks not;

The next steps aren’t obvious – a …

Posted in Europe / International, News and Parliament | 21 Comments

An open letter to Jacob Rees Mogg – remember the words of Jo Cox’s maiden speech before you criticise the EU

Today you described on Channel 4, freedom of movement as being and I quote “a poison” of the EU.

Let me tell you my own story. A language graduate who studied French at the University of Southampton and has lived twice in France – made easier by free movement. Someone who has spent more time working in Paris or Madrid than Scotland.

I married someone with an Italian passport who wouldn’t be in the UK were it not for free movement. Someone, who despite being a qualified teacher from her home country – came to study and took jobs which she …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

WATCH: Vince Cable speak at People’s Vote rally in London, slams “insane, inflammatory and dangerous” talk of riots if Brexit doesn’t happen

After all the earlier discussion about the People’s Vote campaign, Vince actually ended up speaking at their big rally at the Excel Centre this afternoon. 2500 people turned up at the rally which was co-hosted with Best for Britain.

Vince called Jeremy Hunt’s comments that there would be riots if we didn’t leave the EU “insane, inflammatory and dangerous.”

He said that we were moving closer to a People’s Vote, which was now even been talked about by Cabinet Ministers as a possibility.

Watch the whole event here – Vince is on at 8 minutes in.

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9 December 2018 – today’s press release

ECJ ruling expected to make clear it is the deal or remain

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake has called on Theresa May to “stop scaremongering about a no-deal Brexit” ahead of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on whether the UK can halt Brexit by unilaterally revoking Article 50.

The ECJ ruling on this case, which Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake and Labour MP Chris Leslie were parties to is expected to come at 8am tomorrow morning (10th Dec).

The Advocate General for the ECJ, Campos Sanchez-Bordona, told the ECJ last week that it should allow the UK …

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Tom Brake MP writes: About that “split” with People’s Vote…

To keep up to date with Brexit developments these days it is best to have social media on a drip-feed. News of resignations, plots, and leadership bids leak out there first.

It was no surprise, then, that social media was the first to pick up last week on an apparent split between the Lib Dems and the People’s Vote campaign. The ‘split’ was a small disagreement over the best way to maximise the prospects of securing a Final Say on the Deal through a People’s Vote.

But social media’s unsurpassed ability to pick up stories as they break is matched by an uncanny capacity to blow them out of all proportions just as quickly. Rarely has a greater storm been whipped up in a tinier tea-cup.

What caused this restlessness? Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion, in favour of a People’s Vote. Hardly a breach of the campaign objective!

There is total agreement between the Lib Dems and the People’s Vote on the need to maximise the chances of winning any vote on a People’s Vote amendment. But we can’t choose on Tuesday whether or not that is the moment to maximise support if the whole issue is left off the order paper. As things stand, we can choose whether to move it, based on changing circumstances.

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The Stephen Lloyd case shows there is no room for nuance in politics

Politics ought to be synonymous with good governance, but it’s not. It’s a game you have to play to get into a position where you can practise good governance. Politics doesn’t seem to have any room for nuances or counterintuitive positions, as the case of the Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd has shown.

Lloyd is a classic liberal hero. He can thank the NHS for the fact that he can hear anything – indeed that he’s alive – because it saved him when his hearing and his life were seriously threatened as a toddler. He therefore believes in public services through deep personal experience. He also mortgaged and remortgaged his house to allow him to fight the traditionally Conservative stronghold of Eastbourne. He failed to win the seat in 2005, won it in 2010, lost it in 2015, and won it back in 2017.

The way he won it back in 2017 has sown the seeds of his decision to resign the party whip. Bear with me on the detail, because this is very important.

At the start of the 2017 general election campaign, Lloyd worked out that the only way he was going to win Eastbourne was to accept that the Brexit issue was over, and that despite his own views – he was an enthusiastic campaigner for Remain in the 2016 referendum – he would respect the referendum result. He quotes voters who said to him ‘I’d happily have you as my MP but I voted Leave and if you’re our MP you’ll work to scupper Brexit in Parliament.’ He therefore made a pledge that if the government did a withdrawal deal, he would vote for it.

Viewed from today’s perspective, it might be considered rash, but the vantage point at the time was different. The prevailing narrative was that Theresa May had called the election because she knew she’d increase her majority, and the question was merely whether her post-election majority would be 30, 60 or even 100 seats. The idea that she might lose her majority seemed fanciful, and therefore Brexit seemed as good as done.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Updated: Why is the People’s Vote campaign sidelining Lib Dems?

It’s fair to say that some party members have been expressing concern on social media about a perceived detachment between the Liberal Democrats and the People’s Vote campaign.

Why is it that Caroline Lucas is representing the campaign on the Channel 4 debate tonight? Why was Vince missing from the petition event in Downing Street? It’s not a great way to treat the party who kicked off the campaign for a final say on the deal in the Summer of 2016.

Late last week, Liberal Democrat MPs were criticised by the campaign for putting down an amendment to Labour’s amendment calling for a People’s Vote.

The People’s Vote campaign is not backing the move because they want to wait until the deal is rejected because they think that they will have a better chance of securing a referendum then.

They may be right. But in a febrile and unpredictable environment, why wouldn’t you make sure that you have the option of putting it on the agenda?

Paul Waugh is wrong in this report when he says that:

Crucially, it adopts the prime minister’s proposal and just makes it conditional on a second referendum. Unlike other amendments, it does not reject May’s deal.

It doesn’t. It is an amendment to Labour’s amendment so if both were passed, the motion passed by the House would read:

This House declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because itfails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable; declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement; and therefore resolves to pursue every option, including a public vote as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference 2018, that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.

We don’t know yet if our amendment will be debated or even put to the vote but we have at least got a People’s Vote on the order paper so that the House has a chance to get it into the mix.  I think we need to trust our people to know what they are doing. They are the ones having the conversations in Parliament and they will know what is possible. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 33 Comments
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