A year to Brexit – time to remember that we could and should get out of this mess

A year ago, I watched in sorrow and horror as Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process, motivated more by keeping her restless Brexiteers in check than what was actually good for the country.

With just a year to go before we are scheduled to leave the European Union, most of the really difficult issues are unresolved and every day the problems become more apparent. From the Irish border to how we sell and buy the things we take for granted from abroad, to the reappearance of roaming charges to uncertainty over aviation to nuclear safety, we still don’t know how our post Brexit life will take shape.

That’s partly because Theresa May has chosen to pander to the hard right gung ho Brexiteer elements in her own party rather than build support for a more moderate cross-party approach.  The negotiating tactics have been ridiculous, disjointed and devoid of any sort of strategy. They are making this country look very stupid on the international stage which isn’t a good look for our forthcoming leap into isolation.

When you have an international trade war being ignited by a protectionist in the White House, surely you are better off ganging up with 27 of your mates rather than entering negotiations alone and powerless.

21 months on from the referendum, we know that Brexit is much more complex than was at first portrayed and there is little sign of a fawning world queuing up to offer us trade deals that are even half as good as the one we currently enjoy from within the EU.

People are brining up Brexit a lot on the doorsteps. They think it is a really bad idea, but think we are stuck with it. The message from Liberal Democrats today must be very strongly that we can get out of it – and we will. We have to offer tangible hope to people.

Vince Cable kicked off an Easter weekend of intensive Lib Dem campaigning on this issue, saying:

Today the Liberal Democrats are launching our biggest ever campaign outside an election.

Article 50 was triggered a year ago and since then few concrete steps towards a deal. May’s tactic of kicking the can down the road has meant that no tangible progress has been made, and year ahead is overloaded.

In the coming months, the country faces two critical issues. One is on membership of the Customs Union, which we must remain in, as it is essential to our supply chain industries and solving the matter of the Irish border.

The other is that it must be made clear what a ‘close transition’ truly means – at the moment it is just a messy vacuum.

The poorly-handled negotiations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal means that there is, rightfully, a heightened sense that any Brexit deal must be signed off in a test of public opinion. This must include the option of an exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie said:

Since Article 50 was triggered, fruitless Brexit negotiations and constitutional strife have left Britain diminished. Brexit will be bad for our economy, security and the environment.

The Prime Minister is a hostage of the right and the leader of the opposition is urging her on her way. Only Liberal Democrats are standing up for the majority of people in Scotland who are pro-EU and pro-UK.

As more and more people recognise that Brexit will mean economic chaos and less money for public services, it becomes ever clearer it is right for the British people to have their say on the final deal and the option of an exit from Brexit.

As we are knocking on doors this weekend, make sure people know that we can get out of this, that Article 50 is revocable and we can choose to say. Let’s give voice to the concern in the country and fight for the right of the people to change their mind.

If you bought a faulty toaster, you could take it back to the shop and get a refund. How much more important is it that we get the chance to give our opinion on a deal which cannot give what the Brexiteers promised and will leave us all so much worse off?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Once the electorate feels empowered to reject a result influenced by cheating, public opinion will swing behind remaining in the EU.

  • William Fowler 29th Mar '18 - 2:39pm

    As a remainder, so far the Conservatives have played a quite clever game and it looks like there will be a frictionless trade deal and the only (very big) losers will be individuals who will no longer be able to easily work/live/retire to 27 EU countries. The LibDems are not offering anything new to leavers and will be relying on a bigger turnout of people who did not (or could not, too young at the time) vote last time which may or may not work in their favour. Mrs May is already talking about more money for the NHS post brexit. already thinking about the next election! At the moment, the LibDems are still in moaning mode rather than offering anything new!

  • Arnold Kiel 29th Mar '18 - 3:04pm

    William Fowler,

    there will likely be a trade-deal on goods (20% of the UK economy), not on services, and it will not be frictionless, because that is possible only within the single market. Anything resembling the single market would require full alignment, which the UK Government has excluded.

    Ms. May’s post-Brexit promises are worthless, but you might be right: lies won the day so far, and the far superior protection of a beneficial status quo is hard to package attractively.

    My proposal would be: calculate and start selling the “exit from Brexit dividend”, in my estimate worth at least GBP 20 Billion already in 2019 driven by Pound appreciation, a return of consumer confidence, the unblocking of business-investment, and the recovery of housing-values and -investment.

  • John Marriott 29th Mar '18 - 3:38pm

    @John King
    How can you possibly be sure? The ‘cheating’, if proven, would seem to boil down to overspending to get a certain message across. It’s up to the individual whether or not they believe the message. The damage to the EU’s cause was done way before June 2016.

  • Laurence Cox 29th Mar '18 - 5:01pm

    Here is Anthony Wells’ blog on where we stand on Brexit: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2018/03/29/where-britain-stands-brexit-one-year-out/

    Despite Remain being ahead of Leave by 3 points now, it is remarkable that slightly more think that we should carry on negotiating as we are (43%) than the sum of soft Brexit, a second referendum, or dropping Brexit without a referendum (42%). Even on the binary choice of a second referendum to accept or reject the terms, yes only reaches 36%, while no is 42%.

    Confusingly, while voters are in favour of Parliament being able to vote to reject the final terms (42% to 34%), 45% do not think they should be able to vote against Brexit going ahead, while 33% think that they should. Perhaps, some of those who want Parliament to reject the final terms of the deal are doing so because they want a Brexit on WTO terms.

  • Laurence
    I suspect people are just getting bored of the whole thing and the polls may be showing “I suppose so” sort of answers. Having said that, I’ve participated in one or two these kinds of surveys over the years. They’re not geared to nuance or complex responses and so you get lead into the nearest fit by a terribly nice but somewhat exasperated questioner or you’re simply ticking boxes with a similarly limited set of answer options,

  • Peter Martin 29th Mar '18 - 11:36pm

    “A protectionist in the white house ”

    You say that as if it were a bad thing. But you can’t get more protectionist than the EU!

  • Daniel Walker 30th Mar '18 - 7:25am

    @Peter Martin
    The EU’s Everything But Arms programme provides for tariff-free access to the single market for (as it says on the tin) Everything But Arms to the countries on the Least Developed Country list, as defined by the UN.

    In the case of other countries, the EU is of the most open economies in the world, apparently.

  • If ever there was a time for political leadership then it is now. Leaders are influenced by events and public opinion but not led by them. We need a leader who is strong enough to ride the tide and decide what is best for the country and fight for that. The country will thank that person for a long time.

  • Peter Martin 30th Mar '18 - 2:33pm

    @ Daniel Walker,

    The LSE article doesn’t address the question of why the EU has a whole has a trading surplus of around 3% of GDP and and some countries within it have trading surpluses of some three times that.

    Its essentially done by manipulating currencies. The countries in the world which peg their currency to another currency (like Denmark), use someone else’s currency (all the euro countries), or have a policy of ‘managed flotation’ tend to have, and usually have, trade surpluses. That’s the whole point of not allowing a currency to freely float. The currency is ‘managed’ to keep exports competitive.

    The inevitable consequence of this is that countries which do let their currencies genuinely float like the USA, Canada, Australia, usually run trading deficits. Any country running a deficit with the ROW has to borrow to fund the deficit and this can give them a debt problem.

    Currency manipulation is essentially a hidden tariff barrier.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Apr '18 - 11:16pm

    “The EU is best idea” Jurgen Klopp, manager Liverpool football club, Telegraph, 31/3/2018.

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