Abandon Tory #BrexitShambles…

Harold Wilson once said “a week is a long time in politics”… The last few days make that sound like an understatement.

On Sunday I offered something to Liberal Democrat Voice suggesting that it’s time to switch the language on Brexit into an explicit attack on “Tory Brexit”. The resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson take that a great deal further. I’m writing this now wondering whether there will be another resignation before it is read on Liberal Democrat Voice, and whether we will be in another Tory leadership contest, or hurtling into a General Election.

There’s been forceful posturing about “getting a good deal” and “how these negotiations work” and “abandonment of Brexit”. On the other side of the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn quipped that May’s Brexit deal took “two years to form and two days to unravel”.

In among the noise and the drama, Sophie in ’t Veld the Dutch D66 / ALDE MEP was interviewed on the Today programme, saying that Brexit is about damage limitation – she expressed regret that it is happening, but the priority is to limit damage on both sides from what I’m bound to call the UK’s monumental act of self harm. Nothing there about “good deals” or “punishment” or “status”, just a wise leader acting wisely. At least there are people in the European Parliament who are looking out for our interests.

Prior to this weekend, I had been hearing whispers from Labour about “Tory Brexit”, with the implication that it’s time to shift the rhetoric. Labour has had to move gradually in order to not lose faith with those Labour supporters who voted Leave. It’s been difficult to talk about lies from the Leave campaign without seeming to accuse people of being gullible.

The temperature had already been changing, with mounting evidence that the Leave campaign broke electoral law, which is likely to lead to action from the Electoral Commission, and cynically lied, preying on people’s fears, rather than helping to enable the sort of engage that would have enabled people to make an informed decision. The snag is that those things are as likely to contribute to cynicism about politics as they to pressure for a meaningful People’s Vote on Brexit.

Support for Brexit has seemed to be a mix of people holding fantasies of Britain’s questionably-glorious Imperial past, and the financially-excluded expressing real pain. It’s increasingly sounding like the privileged duping those who have already lost out.

Vocal support for Brexit is now the Tory right wing. Not the natural voice of the left-behind.

I suspect we will find out rather soon whether the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson are driven by principle, or self-interested preparations for a leadership challenge.

The rumour mill is also suggesting that Theresa May edging towards putting country ahead of party – arguing that her proposals are the best option on Brexit for the UK. From where I stand, they show that there is no Brexit deal that is as good as full EU membership. But what we are now seeing is the Tory right wing showing their colours. These are the people driving Brexit now, and whose lies in the Leave campaign were most outrageous, because they came from people who had some claim to be political leaders.

Its tempting to get sucked into the Tory soap opera. It’s actually time to heed the words of Sophie in ’t Veld and limit the damage from the Tory fantasies. It’s time to attack Tory Brexit – in the full knowledge that the choice is between Tory Brexit and no Brexit.

And the probability of a 2018 General Election has gone up. The country needs us and Labour both to oppose the disastrous consequences of Tory Brexit.

* Mark Argent was the Liberal Democrat candidate in Huntingdon Constituency in 2019 and blogs at markargent.com/blog.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • It was always going to be a Tory Brexit, it worries me that people could actually think it could be otherwise. There never was a Lexit or any other version of Brexit available, it was going to fall to the Tories to sort out Brexit and the brave Brexiteers (No matter what Brexit they thought they’d voted for) would have to suck it up. I have said this numerous times “You don’t get the Brexit you want you get the Brexit you are given” and if you don’t like that well you shouldn’t have voted for Brexit should you.

  • It was also the Tories who took us into the EU. From Heath to Thatcher to Major to Cameron, Britain in Europe has been essentially a Conservative Party project.

  • Glenn,

    and you voted for them to continue the Tory Project. I can only assume you where happy to vote that way because you believe in their vision because it is your vison too.

  • Arthur Bailey 10th Jul '18 - 4:28pm

    I have, since the referendum, refused to support the Party in their anti Brexit stance, and I make no apology for it, as it is so upsetting to see the Party so low in the opinion polls, which means that the 49% who voted to remain, myself included, do not support the one party who agree with them.
    I do though now fully support the call for a second referendum on the result of the agreement between the Govement and the leaders of the EU.
    Having said that, we must also ensure that if there is a second referendum, we must strive to ensure that, different to the first one, the 2nd referendum is “Non political”. There must be no big red busses, nor should there be TV debates Etc, rather, every person in this Country, who has the right to vote, should be sent a simple letter explaining the details of the agreemnt and what this means to the UK, and a simple, do you acccept this agreement as suitable for the future of the UK? Included, should be a pre addressed and paid for, envelope, so everyone has a postal vote.
    This way, there can be no excuses that they were lied to, or did not understand the question Etc. Then hopefully, when the result is announced, everyone accepts it, and the UK can then work togther to rebuild this Country and it’s shattered manufacturing base.
    The UK is more divided than it has ever been, due to the hard line pro and anti Brexit, and the Govement are in a no win situation at present, due to the closeness of the original referendum result, where approx only 1 in every 100 voted for Brexit rather than to remain, not the huge difference that the Brexiteers seem to think

  • Frankie
    Just pointing out that It was the Tories that signed up to the Common Market and then the EU. Also Cameron and Osborne were enthusiasts.
    I simply voted to leave the EU. On the other hand voting Lib Dem in 2010 did actually lead to a Conservative government and the leadership of the Lib Dems wanted it to continue past 2015. So the anti-tory stuff is a bit odd really.

  • If the Lib Dems are so anti-Tory would they rather:

    1) Being in coalition with Cameron / May and hence no Brexit.
    2) Sitting on the sidelines treated unfairly as pro EU extremists by the media, with May / DUP in power, and a far left Labour Party unwilling to work with the party as they hate the pragmatic adult ideology of the Orange Bookers, and want a “socialism in one country” Brexit with full on nationalisation.

    I’d wager 1) is the answer.

  • Gents I have long ago made clear that in my opinion “Getting into bed with the Tories ” was a total disaster. I made that clear when the foolish decsion was made and argued it through the coalition. Well history proved me right and you now struggle to find an apologist for that decsion ( with or without an orange book). Brexit will go the same way in a few years, few will proclaim it as a success but many will squeal “If only we had my sort of Brexit, everything would be grand” .

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Jul '18 - 7:01pm

    Frankie – ‘You don’t get the Brexit you want you get the Brexit you are given’

    Yes. Presumably you actually are Jean-Claude Juncker given you seem to think you’re going to be getting your own personal REMAIN.

    Frankie, just as a matter of interest…Do you accept anywhere, on any level that people actually might just have voted to LEAVE because they don’t like the EU political construct. Don’t get me wrong, if I had the opportunity to vote LEAVE specifically to annoy you I’d take it. But do you accept that maybe, just maybe there is a possibility that this is about the politics of the EU and not something from your imagination?

    Give me an EU worth voting for Mr Juncker and I’ll vote for it.

  • Jackie

    “Frankie, just as a matter of interest…Do you accept anywhere, on any level that people actually might just have voted to LEAVE because they don’t like the EU political construct.”
    of course I do you can even find posters on Lib Dem Voice who believe that, but you are not one of them (and I’ll explain why).

    You have professed a desire to take the Norway option and that turns us into “rule takes” and certainly doesn’t free us from “the EU political construct” does it. So yes people genuinely want to be free from “the EU political construct.” it just happens that you are not amongst them, you just want to be semi detached (neither in nor out, but able to say I didn’t agree that rule, i just implemented, evil EU they are).

  • Little Jackie Paper
    It’s an interesting one. Amongst the oddities of a lot of remain arguments is the instance that the Leave vote was about everything except the EU. When really the argument goes back to Maastricht and the fundamental changes it imposed on the nature of the nation state. If you look at arguments at the time the objections were mostly from a parliamentarian perspective rather than an economic one. The main reason it appeared to split the Conservative more than Labour is that the Conservatives were in power at the time and it still rankles parliamentarians. The splits within Labour were less obvious because they were out of power for a long time and under Blair managed to construct a kind of centrist countenance around the idea of the end of history. With that came a set of “truths” about the nature of electability . The EU represented a definitive break from the traditionally less enthusiastic Left. Hence New Labour was a kind of cultural revolution in “progressive “circles. Once out of power the old arguments re-emerged. This is why in publications like the Guardian Brexit is presented as something startlingly new, rather than the end of a very recent fairly recent consensus. The point being that if you keep insisting that the old politics is dead, that world has changed and things of that sort, then it is sort of shattering to find out these proclamations were more like advertising hype than proof of a new reality.

  • The attitude in the party seems to me to be – we got the last referendum wrong not least because of a meaningless question. Therefore let us have a new referedum which will cause more chaos.
    When are we going to start talking about a positive approach to Europe? A Europe which can be a force for good for the many people in our country who see no benefit from living in what is said to be one of the richest countries in the world?

  • Denis Loretto 11th Jul '18 - 12:23pm

    If Labour were doing anything to seize this unique opportunity to lead the country in defending our European role I would be comfortable with calling it a Tory brexit. Under Corbyn they are not so I’m totally against calling it a Tory brexit.

  • Let’s be honest; we thought we could win the referendum and almost ignored the process, instead focused on the outcome. While arguing for a people’s vote, we should admit that the referendum is likely to be equally flawed unless there is a radical change in how referenda are conducted in this country. We need an independent commission that oversees the process from start to finish with resources to investigate, publicise and punish offenders. Only then, will the country trust the process thus fostering unity that this process should encourage rather than disunity and division. Ideally, this should be part of a wider constitutional settlement between the governed and governors.

  • Teresa Wilson 14th Jul '18 - 4:30pm

    Little Jackie Piper,

    I very much doubt whether many did to be honest. Certainly not enough to win the referendum or come anywhere close to it. I think a lot of people voted against a vague idea they had of what the EU political construct was as a result of decades of lies in the press, more and increasingly outrageous lies during the referendum campaign and a seemingly almost total inability by everyone else to explain or inform the public at large of the realities.

    Given that half the population doesn’t seem to know even the basics about how the UK system works it is hardly surprising that the EU is a bit of a mystery.

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