The Government does not have a clue on a solution to the Irish border problem

Being an earnest seeker after truth I downloaded the full Joint Report of 8 December in order to discover just how the Prime Minister proposed to accomplish the trick of leaving the single market and the customs union whilst still having no physical border between the European Union, ie the Republic of Ireland, and the UK, ie Northern Ireland.

I searched in vain. There are no practical plans whatsoever in the Report. All there is are statements of intent on “the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland,” relying “to a significant extent on a common European Union legal and policy framework,” on being “committed …. to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border,” and “will propose specific solutions,” “will maintain full alignment,” with the necessary EU rules and “will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union.” It has the worthy aims of “what” they want, but nothing of “how”.

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Report of Federal Policy Committee meeting – 13 December 2017

FPC met on Wednesday evening for its last meeting of the year. Taking place in the House of Commons, we were regularly interrupted by the results of votes on amendments to the Brexit bill – including the one the government lost!

Tuition fees

Vince Cable – who is chair of the FPC as well as party leader – pledged in his leadership election manifesto to look at party policy on the tuition fees system: ‘We need a solution that keeps the benefits of the current system – relating contributions to income and protecting university funding – but is fairer across the board, including for the 60 per cent who never go to university, many of whom pursue vocational options instead.’ As he reported to conference in September, he asked David Howarth (Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge 2005–10) to consider options for reforming or replacing the current system and present them to FPC as a basis for consultation within the party.

David’s paper, which he outlined to FPC, sets out the benefits and drawbacks of five options. FPC members raised a series of fairly minor issues, but overall were happy with the paper. I won’t attempt to summarise it here, as the options deserve to be read in detail, and it’s not completely finalised yet. We will publish it as a consultation paper in late January or early February and hold a consultative session around it at the Southport conference, on the afternoon of Friday 9 March. Local and regional parties might like to consider organising discussions on the issue in the spring and summer. Based on the feedback we receive, FPC will aim to put a policy motion for debate to the autumn conference.

Education policy paper

Lucy Netsingha, chair of the Education policy working group, presented a near-final draft of the paper, following our discussion on its outline proposals at our previous meeting. FPC members raised a few new issues and resolved a number of others. We left the remaining major issue, on the future of the schools inspection regime and Ofsted, for discussion at our January meeting, when Layla Moran, the party’s education spokesperson, should be able to join us. The paper will then be published and submitted for debate at the spring conference in Southport.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Rennie: Scottish Budget a “missed opportunity”

Today was an historic day. Twenty years and three months ago, the Scottish people voted to have a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers.

In his annual Budget, Scottish Finance Minister Derek Mackay increased the basic rate of income tax to 21p for those earning above £24,000. He also decreased it to 19p for the lowest earners up to £13,850. He put up the higher rate to 41p and the top rate to 46p.

It’s all pretty modest and it represents the sort of moves we were calling for in the Scottish elections last year and since. We wanted to see the money brought in put into education to make what Willie Rennie calls a “transformative”investment.

So we’re not going to complain about the idea of tax rises in principle. However, Derek Mackay is getting a world of pain from the Tories because the SNP said in their manifesto that they wouldn’t raise the basic rate of income tax. They were pretty scathing about our plans during the campaign and there are a whole load of words they said that are coming back to haunt them now.

They could have saved themselves that grief by ceding the principle last year.

Anyway, that is their problem to deal with. The Budget is a pretty modest affair. It’s certainly not the sort of budget to deal with a struggling health service, unfit for purpose education system and a housing crisis that keeps getting worse.

Willie Rennie had this to say:

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Faith and Liberalism

Following on from previous discussion on this site around the interaction between faith and being a Liberal Democrat,  I thought I’d share my story and, hopefully, encourage others to do the same. I am writing in a personal capacity, but happen to be Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.

I am only a Liberal Democrat because of my Christian faith.  I’d better unpack that.  My faith has been a journey, brought up in a protestant household, with my childhood and teenage years in the Assemblies of God, and then working as a musician

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A way forward for the English Party

Since late 2016, the English Party has been reviewing its structure and governance. This was initiated following the consultation conducted by the Federal Party following the 2015 General Election, which revealed some considerable criticism of the English Party for a lack of transparency and accountability.

The English Party established the English Review Group towards the end of 2016, with members drawn from each of the 11 English Regions. This is chaired by Sally Symington, who has not previously been a member of any of the English Party committees. She was recommended for her common-sense approach, her fresh eye, and her experience …

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Brexit Resolution: statement from Catherine Bearder MEP

Yesterday the European Parliament voted in favour of a Resolution to allow Brexit talks to progress to the next stage.

Both the Commission and Parliament have now recommended to the European Council that progress has been made in the three key areas: on citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement.

This Resolution is the last piece in the puzzle to allowing the Brexit talks to progress to the next stage.

It effectively moves the UK one step further away from a disastrous “no deal” situation which would risk thousands

Posted in Europe / International and Europe Referendum | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

Lib Dems GAIN another Council seat

Wednesday by-elections may be rare and weird but they are very welcome when they result in a Lib Dem GAIN.

Paul Follows took the Waverley, Surrey seat of Godalming Central an Ockford. We didn’t even stand a candidate there in 2015. We had a reasonable record there, pulling in 400-500 wards in previous years but this is a very good leap forward for us.

Posted in News | 14 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMichael BG 16th Dec - 12:43am
    The major problem of land taxation is applying it to residential property and not having a true zero rate for those who don’t have the...
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 16th Dec - 12:41am
    @Duncan Brack "Thanks for raising the issue." It's just nice to talk about something other than Brexit (although the Lib Dem position of facing both...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 12:19am
    I don't think that anyone is arguing that religious faith leads to a particular set of political ideas, Graham Evans, but just showing how they...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 12:03am
    People who thought there were 'too many immigrants' coming to Britain, LJP, weren't objecting to rich people coming to buy up property here or finance...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 15th Dec - 11:32pm
    The Waverley result is encouraging but actually the two very solid holds are far more important to the party, in bigger wards. But all we...
  • User Avatarfrankie 15th Dec - 10:45pm
    Tinkerbell will wave her magic wand and a magic border will come into place I know it is so a Brexiteer told me. He then...