After Brexit; what strategy for ‘Remain’?

Whilst a lot of analysis will be forthcoming on the events that led to a vote in the UK to leave the European Union, potentially of greater importance in the immediate aftermath is for a unified Post-Referendum Pro-Remain approach. Here, I am suggesting such an approach, and Lib Dems may wish to take the lead on such an approach.

First of all we need a strong institutional approach. The Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, and PC require a competent secretariat and fundraising body, with a very sharp and responsive media operation, that Pro-Remain Labour and Conservative figures can rally around.

Second, we need an end result to aim for …. or more correctly two end-results….

As democrats there is one thing we should oppose. In Parliament there is almost certainly a majority against Brexit, and it will be tempting to support the blocking of Brexit. We should oppose this, otherwise we will be accused of not listening to the voice of the public, with all the long term political consequences.

We will complain rightly about all the misinformation and ‘under the radar’ untruths apparently successfully peddled by a variety of organisations to targeted groups (my favourite untruth is the Greek bridge vs pothole leaflet).

During the Referendum campaign the Leave proponents, especially Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, fell into the habit of blaming almost everything on the EU and promising a kind of economic and social Post-Brexit paradise, where all the UK’s problems become easily solvable.  After 8 years of post-crash economic doldrums this is very attractive… it is the universal power of wishful thinking.

Yes it was a false prospectus, but part of the problem is that people were voting with knowledge of the status quo, and of the new welfare deal with the EU, but close to zero knowledge of the details of the eventual Brexit deals.

The question as to whether or not the Brexit is better for the people of the UK in the future, compared to the future of staying in the EU, greatly depends on the nature of the Post-Brexit arrangements, when negotiated.

When the new arrangements are negotiated, the UK voter is only then able to make an informed choice. So after voters have voted for Brexit, in principle, these Post-Brexit deals will then consolidate opinion around the reality of Brexit. The deal will become the quasi-constitutional basis for the UK as a nation-state for decades to come. They should therefore have the assent of the British public.

However there is another constitutional issue. After the Brexit vote there may be another independence referendum in broadly Pro-EU Scotland, and even the potential for an independence referendum in Pro-EU Wales. There is also the question of the future of Northern Ireland and its border with an EU country – the Republic of Ireland.

The democratic approach therefore would be to have another plebiscite on the EU and non-EU deals, so that the ACTUAL Post-Brexit arrangements have the consent of the public.

It will almost certainly take three to four years to negotiate deals with the EU and other trading partners. Without doubt, no government would wish to enter a general election with an EU and non-EU deal incomplete.

Therefore the sensible and democratic approach is to have the plebiscite at the same time as a general election in 2020, giving four years for the government to negotiate the necessary deals. In the intervening 4 years the country will also see how being outside the EU affects daily life. The Brexiteers will likely support the plebiscite since it will give negotiating leverage to the British government against the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have a chance to pull the strands together, and unite the common Remain forces after the Brexit, based solidly on democratic principles and a clear goal.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is an elected member of FIRC and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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  • The problem with this approach is that once Article 50 is triggered, and that will happen prior to the renegotiations, UK is on a one-way street out of the EU, unless all other EU members unanimously agree to allow us to remain. And if by some miracle that were to happen, we would be members on much less advantageous terms than we are now (still).

    Something needs to be done urgently, before Article 50 is put into action. I wish I knew what it could be!

  • David Evershed 24th Jun '16 - 8:14am

    We are leaving the EU.

    Get used to it.

    Plan to engage with the 80% of the world that isn’t the EU, as well as the 20% that is the EU. Become internationalist. Seek free trade with the USA, Brazil, China, India. Re-introduce free trade with Commonwealth countries.

    Start drinking New Zealand wine instead of French wine. New Zealand wine is better quality and better value for money, especially once EU tariffs are removed. 🙂

  • nigel hunter 24th Jun '16 - 8:16am

    The brains of the remain organisation must get their heads around what happens next AND how our party plan for the future.

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Jun '16 - 8:48am

    Thanks. The proposition is clear. We need a vote on the actual negotiated deals at the same time as a general election. This may be in 2019 or more likely 2020. If the deals are voted down a likely majority of pro-remain MPs can ensure that the government acts on a democratic mandate to remain in the EU.

  • Disappointed in the Lib Dems lacklustre campaign. Hope there is a General Election now and that we get some more Lib Dem MPs again. Im no longer a member but I wish you well.

  • Peter Davies 24th Jun '16 - 9:06am

    And any that are elected should ensure they have a mandate to act as Paul Reynolds says.

  • Just a quick correction. Wales voted for Leave and cannot be considered “pro-EU”.

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Jun '16 - 10:28am

    Thank you Geoff. Indeed Wales turned out to be strongly pro Brexit. The article was written on Tuesday.

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Jun '16 - 10:37am

    Why did the UK vote to leave thd EU ? A difficult question requiring a comllex answer… and it’s hard to separate causes from mere symptoms. My view is that there are 2 underlying reasons.

    One is the 40 years of mendacious anti-EU propaganda (Mail, Sun, Sport, Times, Express, Telegraph, Sky) which was not resisted by a civil service founded on secrecy and ‘private control’ of responses to EU negotiated decisions.

    The second is education and training. The vocatiional education and training ‘planning and provision’ in the UK is apallingly bad. The result is a severe shortage of skills across the UK, alongside underemployment. A quarter of all people in low paid low skills jobs in the UK have degrees. Poor skills and wrong skills allowed people from outside the UK to take more skilled UK jobs, while the lack of economic reforms in ex COMECON countries and higher immigration from outside the UK pushed millions of Brits into the welfare trap….as competition for unskilled jobs became more fierce and more unskilled immigrants joined their more skilled compatriots. Add to that the UK’s monolithic and over centralised public services, unresponsive to fast changes in demand, and you have all the ingredients of a backlash against the system.

    The public have been encouraged to blame immigrants for all these skill and public service problems, with great success.

  • “The article was written on Tuesday”


  • Okay we lost, but not by much. The question is why did we lose, simple the Uk apart from scotland and northern ireland are mostly take or leave it with the EU, the EU became more than the ECC that most people voted for in 1975 , that is a political problem not only here but across the rest of Europe, from Hungry to France. It became a political dream despite many warning (repeated Irish votes and French as well) it was coming adrift from the people ot was meant to represent. I think europe in it form at moment is destined to fail. But we can build a new one, one where one size fits all approach is thrown away, this is only the beginning guys, knuckle down and start again

  • Paul
    Deeper reasons, Britain never fully engaged in the European project. The word freedom has a real meaning in other European countries which have endured occupation.
    Words are thrown about such as “invaders”, real invaders come armed. “Dictatorship” was another word bandied about , few Britons know what a real dictatorship is.

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Jun '16 - 12:34pm

    Yes, ‘Manfarang’ there is truth in what you say. It depends how deep in one’s analysis you want to go. My general rule is that the analysis of most import is the one at the deepest level possible whilst still retaining the ability to do something concrete about it. But yes you are right about the historical factors.

  • @David Evershed (24th Jun ’16 – 8:14am)
    We are leaving the EU.
    Get used to it.

    This is something those who voted leave are going to have do as well, given the reaction of the markets and others around the world; the next few years or decades even are going to be tough… Leaver’s are going to accept full responsibility for the consequences of their action…

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Jun '16 - 12:53pm

    Don’t blame the voters please. We will need their support at the next general election…and hopefully…during a vote on the EU deal that will happen at the same time.

  • Therefore the sensible and democratic approach is to have the plebiscite at the same time as a general election in 2020, giving four years for the government to negotiate the necessary deals. In the intervening 4 years the country will also see how being outside the EU affects daily life.

    I would agree, there is a need for a little less haste and time to come to terms with the full implications of the new reality.
    I think David Cameron’s resignation this morning was not in the country’s interest, because if he had stayed, I suspect that he would win a second referendum in the autumn when the country has had some months suffering from the widely forecasted and self-inflicted recession that it seems we are now entering into.

    Additionally, it would permit some push back against those in the EU who are calling for the UK to invoke Article 50 before the end of next week and hence signalling that they have no time for further negotiations that could result in the UK remaining in the EU.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jun '16 - 1:03pm

    We need to influence the negotiated deal.

    We need to be campaigning for the EEA solution.

    Campaining at home to explain its appeal, campaigning at Westminster to gain a majority there, and campaigning across Europe for EU members’ support for allowing us that option.

    Some people have been thinking this through for weeks – eg Ambrose Evans Pritichard – even Stephen Kinnock. We have been really slow off the mark.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 24th Jun '16 - 2:29pm

    Am I reading this correctly? The liberal democrats don’t believe in direct democracy and want a FPTP parliament to decide everything? Unbelievable.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Jun '16 - 3:00pm

    “Am I reading this correctly?”

    No, you’re not. D-minus for reading comprehension.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 24th Jun '16 - 3:17pm

    That seems to be what they’re saying in these comments?

  • @Rightsaidfred – Direct democracy says the UK remaining! because only 37.5% of those eligible to vote, voted ‘Leave’ and 37.5% is not 51%…

  • Paul Reynolds 24th Jun ’16 – 10:28am
    Thank you Geoff. Indeed Wales turned out to be strongly pro Brexit. The article was written on Tuesday…..

    Paul,it should be no surprise that Wales voted ‘Out’…..There has been a strong move to UKIP (as local elections showed)….
    THe ‘Remain’ camp was fighting a lost cause in places like Port Talbot where, just a couple of months ago, Tory ministers blamed the EU for the problems at the steel works…

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Jun '16 - 4:06pm

    Paul, I agree with the two causes that you mention in your comments but I also think there is a third and more fundamental one, namely that the economic gains from EU membership have not been shared by the poorest I our country who have seen traditional employment disappear, sometimes to other European countries where labour is cheaper, and migrant workers from those countries arriving to take up other jobs instead of them. I think we have neglected these people when we should have been trying to address their problems.
    There will be plenty of people trying to sort out the economic and legal mess we are now in so I would like to see our party working towards including these alienated people so that they have a decent alternative to vote for when they realise they have been taken for a ride. Then perhaps they might share our vision of an open, tolerant and diverse nation.

  • Ian Willmore 29th Jun '16 - 11:41am

    You are right sir. Here is your idea set out as a strategy.

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