Article 50: Into extra time

I suspect I was far from the only Liberal Democrat who had a stiff drink pre-arranged for 11pm last night , to drown my sorrows if the UK did crash out of the European Union. The notice of a reprieve was quite short, but for Remainers the threat still hangs over us, like the sword of Damocles. As Article 50 moves into extra time, the EU has made clear that it is serious that 12 April is the next deadline, just two weeks away, when a No Deal scenario will snap into effect as the default option unless the British government manages to produce a rabbit out of the hat.

Alas, our zombie Prime Minister, Theresa May, is incapable of such magic. Indeed, she has already paraded her dead parrot of a Withdrawal Agreement three times to no effect, yesterday  afternoon serving it up without the accompanying political declaration. It was still defeated by nearly 60 votes, Nigel Dodds of the DUP declaring that his party would rather stay in the EU than agree to it.

The House of Commons vote was live-streamed to a packed The UK in a Changing Europe conference on “Article50: Two Years On” at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre opposite Parliament, prompting a big cheer from most of those present. But have we in fact now been granted anything more than another fortnight to enjoy the EU sun? Or are we heading for a new referendum at some stage, when, as polling guru Sir John Curtice told the conference, voters have polarised to two extreme alternatives: No Deal or Remain?

A lot depends on what MPs are able to coalesce around on Monday, when there is scheduled to be indicative votes on a pared-down list of options. Could a majority be rustled up for a customs union or for a confirmatory referendum that would be between a deal and no Brexit? Both would cross Mrs May’s red lines, but she is probably toast anyway, in office but not in power. If she doesn’t jump, she may be pushed, and a general election could be in the offing.

But in the meantime, a longer extension to Article 50 is surly needed, which would mean the UK has to take part in European elections in late May. To hear many Tory and Labour politicians talk, that prospect is akin to the arrival of bubonic plague. But for Lib Dems surely these elections are exactly what we should be championing. And maybe then the electorate could indicate a viable way forward in a way that the Government has singularly failed to do.

* Jonathan Fryer is Chair of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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  • John Marriott 30th Mar '19 - 9:30am

    Yes, Mr Fryer, a Customs Union and a ‘confirmatory’ referendum. I could live with that. Let’s then get the WA through and get down to the nitty gritty with a longer extension to Article 50. EU Parliamentary Elections? Why not? After all very few people appear to have voted in them in the past, so, why the fuss?

  • I do not see why we should not have a referendum and a general election. What is needed is a constitution which lays down rules for these things. Perhaps a refendum on this? Oh and a general election.
    My theory is that the aim of our MPs is to increase tourism to London. People all around the world are watching how politics was conducted in the nineteenth century. They will be keen to come and see for themselves.
    This will have tha added benefit of increasing property prices in the London area.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Mar '19 - 10:30am

    A longer extension to Article 50 is surely needed,
    but we need not be surly about this, Nigel Farage has told Leavers that he is confident of winning another referendum. An important aspect is who is allowed to vote?
    British citizens living abroad are not all rich, some want to re-retire back to the UK to use the NHS despite UK housing costs. 16 and 17 year olds were allowed by the PM to vote in the 2014 referendum in Scotland and participated in large numbers. We should be as democratic as the Commons will allow in the face of claims that only the past can be democratic.

  • John Marriott: totally agree. I emailed my Conservative MP this morning urging he supports such an arrangment. My questionis, will our MPs after last weeks apparent abstention on the Customs Union, if we had said Yes it would have passed!!!

  • William Fowler 30th Mar '19 - 11:15am

    Yes to a no-deal versus remain referendum but only in the context of a 20-21 month extension from the EU so that there would a period of approx 15 months to deal with a no-deal exit – EU and UK would have done their best to avoid this so both sides should be up to some reasonable negotiations on mitigating its worst effects and other trade deals can also be pursued. No more extensions allowed and the vote would be binding. The only person who would be really annoyed by this would be Mrs May whose deal would be totally dead, it would be lovely to see her and Corbyn shuffled off to a council run retirement home, to mull on the ruination they have tried to inflict on the country.

  • If a referendum is needed to confirm or overturn the results of 2016, then so be it, but please, no more referenda, ever. Parliament needs to take responsibility for its decisions, not foist them on the people. We can see how much pain the country is in as the result of one referendum; let’s take a warning from that and not do it again.

  • Because a number of people refused to accept the result of the first referendum, I believe an even larger number of people would refuse to accept the result of a second referendum whatever the result was. You don’t get yourself out of a hole by digging another hole underneath it.

  • Nom de Plume 30th Mar '19 - 3:34pm

    I am disappointed the LibDem MPs didn’t vote against a Customs Union.

  • Paul Barker 30th Mar '19 - 4:06pm

    Next week will be very dangerous indeed; MPs have one or two chances to find a majority around Soft Brexit + a Peoples Vote. Even then Parliament has no way to force May to ask for the necessary extension from The EU. May could just go for No Deal, it is the most popular option in her own Party after all or she could ask for an extension for a General Election in May/June, something that would be a disaster for The Country & for Us.
    Theres very little we can do to influence the outcome of the next Week but we can do our best to mitigate the potential disaster of a General Election. We need an Umbrella arrangement with Change (& The Greens ?) within the next few days, we dont have any time left to dither.

  • @Martin: It’s not about not accepting the result of the referendum. The result is the result and nobody denies what it was. The question is not about the referendum or its result: it’s about what to do about the result. And many people, myself included, were at first inclined to try to make the best we could out of this dog’s breakfast. But with the passage of time it has become clear that nothing worthwhile can be done with it: it was a failed policy concept ab initio, and the Tories have utterly failed even to put something palatable on top of it. At this point it is not a failure to accept the referendum to realise that it was an immense mistake and something that we should extract ourselves from expeditiously. We accept the referendum result; but we also accept the reality that that result cannot be implemented in any salutary way and, therefore, it should not be. It’s a case where the national interest comes ahead of abstract notions of fair play.

  • Nom de Plume 30th Mar '19 - 5:05pm

    The Liberal Democrats opposed the Article 50 bill. This mess belongs to the pro-Brexit parties: Labour and the Tories.

  • @David-1 You treat your opinions as fact, and refusing to implement the result is not accepting it.

  • Nom de Plume 30th Mar '19 - 5:34pm

    The referendum was advisory. The LibDems refused the advice (or represent the 48%). Parliament is sovereign.

  • Martin: You are now definining “not accepting the referendum” as “refusing to implement the referendum.”

    Let’s go take a second look at the post to which I first responded, shall we?

    You wrote:
    Because a number of people refused to accept the result of the first referendum, I believe an even larger number of people would refuse to accept the result of a second referendum whatever the result was.

    Now let’s translate it according to your stated key:
    Because a number of people refused to implement the result of the first referendum, I believe an even larger number of people would refuse to implement the result of a second referendum whatever the result was.

    Given that it is down to the government, not the people to implement referenda, either you are ignorant of that fact or you did not, in fact, intend to use the word accept to mean implement. The preponderance of evidence supports the latter. The high probability that you are now redefining your terms indicates a lack of confidence in your original statement.

  • David-1: My original point remains true whether we use the word “accept” or “implement” or any other word or term, if you ask for an answer using a people’s vote once and decide you don’t like the result, then if you ask the same question again (which your mate Bercow says we shouldn’t do) the second answer, whatever it is, will have even less validity. And re-reading your original comment who is to say what is in the “national interest” (whatever that is), you or 17.4 million voters the largest democratic mandate this nation has ever seen?

  • Nom de Plume 30th Mar '19 - 8:06pm

    A re-run of the 2016 referendum would not help because i) a Remain vote would leave some feeling betrayed, or ii) a Leave vote would leave us with the same problems we have at the moment. The 2016 referendum was bad, since it did not indicate a path ahead in case of a Leave vote. Cameron simply resigned. In order for the vote to be of some use it would have to be Remain vs May’s deal or No deal or something else.

  • Andrew Melmoth 30th Mar '19 - 9:48pm

    The result of the referendum would already have been implemented if leavers could agree what leaving the EU means.

  • @Martin: While I would very much like it if the Speaker of the House of Commons were my “mate,” in fact we’ve never laid eyes on each other.

    Referenda are not bound by the rules of the House of Commons, which dictate that the same matter cannot be taken up twice in a single Parliamentary session. Even if they were, the referendum took place nearly three years ago, not merely in a different Parliamentary session but in a different Parliament altogether. The right of one Parliament to revise or nullify the statutes of a previous Parliament is a well established part of the British legal tradition.

  • @Martin – You treat your opinions as fact, and refusing to implement the result is not accepting it.
    The same can be said of ALL Brexiteers including yourself.

    Let me repeat, the referendum was advisory and hence can be totally ignored by Parliament. However, let us take at face value – which is what ardent Brexiteers are wanting, the Brexiteers blind belief that the referendum was binding because what some said at the time. In which case we have to heed the findings of the investigation of the Electoral Commission which conclusively (ie. beyond reasonable doubt) found the referendum campaigns not only fell well short of the standards laid down but also broke the law and hence the result is void. So effectively there was no referendum, which means for Parliament “to respect the result” is for it to force the Executive to reverse all decisions it has made based on the erroneous interpretation of ‘the result’…

  • @David-1: Very clever how you twist my words I’m sure, but working people are hacked off (polite version), with being patronised. Take away our Brexit and trust me it will end in tears.

  • At least if we stay in the European Union there will be part of at least one democratic institution. It is obvious now to all that there is little that is democratic in the way that the U.K. is governed.
    It is however a good advert for tourism, at least as far as London is concerned. We need to continue to exploit the Houses of Parliament as a tourist attraction – we can probably get Russian money to renovate it.
    In the meanwhile since there have been two referendums on the European Union what am I entitled to do now that my democracy has been taken away by the second referendum?

  • William Fowler 31st Mar '19 - 12:30pm

    It is not just six million on the petition, the leave march was reported to have thousands of people there whereas the remain was around a million – you would have thought the Brexiteers would be so angry at not leaving on Friday there would be many more than the Leavers previously.

    The CU might be helpful to some businesses but does nothing for individuals who will be losing their protection from various EU bodies and right to live, work and retire in 27 countries.

  • Sue Sutherland 31st Mar '19 - 2:13pm

    When Parliament voted for a referendum it was an advisory referendum but somehow Teresa May and the Brexiters have turned it into an instruction from the people. Labourand the Tories have both talked about the outrage the Brexiters will feel if Brexit doesn’t happen, including the threat of violent retaliation, and somehow seem to say we should give in to this. This is very dangerous territory to be in when democracy gives in to mob rule.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Mar '19 - 8:49pm

    Sue Sutherland 31st Mar ’19 – 2:13pm
    “When Parliament voted for a referendum it was an advisory referendum but somehow Teresa May and the Brexiters have turned it into an instruction from the people.”

    Somehow? I think you’ll find it was in black and white in the official Government leaflet sent to every household before the referendum.
    On page 2: “On Thursday, 23rd June there will be a referendum. It’s your opportunity to decide if the UK remains in the European Union (EU).”
    On page 14: “The referendum on Thursday, 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in or leave the European Union. … This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.

    Doesn’t sound like they were just asking for “advice”, does it?

    Just like the Brexiteers, we need to stop believing our own propaganda if we really believe in dialogue and not just yelling insults from either side of the battlefield.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Mar '19 - 8:50pm

    (Link doesn’t seem to work, but just Google “government eu referendum leaflet”.)

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Mar '19 - 9:07pm


    Very clever how you twist my words I’m sure, but working people are hacked off (polite version), with being patronised.

    What the right-wing economic Conservatives who have been pushing Brexit want from it is to go even further down the way our economy has been pushed into extreme free market by the Thatcher government and every government since. In their own discussions between themselves, they have been quite clear about this and have clear plans about the sort of extreme economy run by and for shady billionaires they want Brexit to give us.

    Most of those who voted Leave claim they so because they want the exact opposite. Yet I have seen no clear plans about anything different to what the likes of Rees-Mogg want from Brexit. So, sorry, but it seems to me that most of those who voted for Brexit voted for the exact opposite of what they really want.

    If you are an employee and your boss says “I want X because I want Y, and X will give me Y” what should you do if from your expertise you know that X will lead to the opposite of Y? Just keep quiet and do what your boss told you? Or say “Sorry sir, but actually what you are asking for won’t work, so can you please tell me again on that basis whether I should really go ahead?” I think you have the responsibility to do the second. If the boss still says “yes, I want X” and you know it will lead to the opposite of Y, if you are a decent person you then have to resign from your job.

    It is in on that basis that right now I can ave no involvement in politics.

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Mar '19 - 9:38pm


    @Martin: It’s not about not accepting the result of the referendum. The result is the result and nobody denies what it was. The question is not about the referendum or its result: it’s about what to do about the result.

    Indeed. We were told “Brexit means Brexit” but then we find it means contradictory things and it can’t go ahead because whatever version is proposed, some of those who say they wanted Brexit then say they don’t want that version.

    Some people voted for Leave on the basis that we could maintain a trade agreement like that of Norway or Switzerland, and would rather stay in the EU if there was a much more extreme form of Brexit. That was indeed put forward to help support Leave in the referendum. However, others say that if we kept that sort of agreement, we would be in a situation where the EU till has control over us, but we no longer have a say on it, so on that basis they’d rather we stay in the EU than leave but keep that sort of agreement. If you look at it that way, there is no majority support for Brexit, because whatever form it takes, there is a proportion of those who say they wanted Brexit who then say “I’d rather not have Brexit if it takes that form”.

    Theresa May has tried to put together a sort of compromise, something between those two sorts mentioned above, but supporters of both those two lots say they don’t want that sort of compromise.

    So why do people like Martin moan at those who voted against Leave and say it’s all our fault for not accepting the referendum when the real problem had actually been that whatever form of Brexit is suggested, it gets rejected by a significant proportion of those who say they want Brexit.

    At the very least it seems to me we now need another referendum to clarify just what form of Brexit people want. So why do those who can’t agree on any form of Brexit then turn around and moan at us who knew this would be a problem in the first place, and reject the idea of allowing the people to take part in clarifying this?

  • Alex Macfie 31st Mar '19 - 9:42pm

    Malcolm Todd: The legislation that provided for the referendum explicitly stated that the referendum was advisory. And what the legislation says is the only thing that matters. Government promises carry no legal weight at all. They are not binding on Parliament, and they are certainly not binding on any future Parliament as is a fundamental principle of representative democracy.If the government wanted a binding referendum, then it should have included in the legislation a specific roadmap for implementation of the result, one that could not straightforwardly have been overridden by Parliament.
    If this government revoked Article 50, then it would be breaking the promise made by the Cameron government in the previous Parliament. This would not be the first time a government broke its promise, and certainly not the first time a government has reversed an undertaking made by a previous government, even of the same party. The Brexit referendum result is perhaps unique in the democratic world in that its implementation has been elevated to an unchallengable shibboleth by its supporters. In a democracy nothing is beyond challenge. And the idea that government promises should be binding on anyone other than the government that made it is a dangerous attack on democracy.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Mar '19 - 11:45pm

    Alex Macfie 31st Mar ’19 – 9:42pm
    “Malcolm Todd: The legislation that provided for the referendum explicitly stated that the referendum was advisory.”

    Sorry, that’s another myth. It says no such thing. At least I haven’t found it in all my reading of the Act. Can you point me to where it does?

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Mar '19 - 11:50pm

    As for the rest of your comment, Alex, I don’t disagree. But I am sick of people just waving aside the referendum as “merely advisory”, as if people are foolish to read anything else into it; as if that was always made clear and as if the legal position is all that matters. Politics matters. Political promises matter. Those of us who were members of this party when most of our MPs broke their “pledge” on tuition fees darn well ought to know that.

  • Peter Watson 1st Apr '19 - 12:03am

    @Malcolm Todd “I haven’t found it in all my reading of the Act. Can you point me to where it does?”
    As I understand it, because the Act does not explicitly state that the result of the referendum is binding (as did the 2011 Act for the AV referendum), it is therefore advisory by default. I don’t remember if a big deal was made about this at the time.
    However, as you point out, the Government wrote to every household and told us that it would implement the result, and in the 2017 General Election 82% of the voters voted for Conservative and Labour parties with manifestos which committed them to leaving the EU.
    Consequently, I believe that revoking article 50 is a political dilemma for the Government rather than a legal one.

  • Peter Watson 1st Apr '19 - 12:16am

    @William Fowler “It is not just six million on the petition, the leave march was reported to have thousands of people there whereas the remain was around a million”
    There are more than six million signatures (well, unique email addresses really) on the petition but that does not mean that there are 6 million individuals, let alone 6 million people who are entitled to vote in any referendum. However, more than 16 million people did vote to remain in the EU in 2016 and polling suggests that at least that number still want to.
    With regards to the march, its organisers claimed 1 million people (and Wera Hobhouse has rounded that up to between 1 and 2 million!) but experts have estimated a figure of around 400000.
    400000 marchers and over 16 million voters are impressive figures but unfortunately I think the Remain campaign undermines itself (as it does so often!) in the way it makes its case.

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Apr '19 - 12:16am

    Peter Watson
    Absolutely right. I’m objecting to Alex’s use of the word “explicitly” (and yes, it matters – if it didn’t, s/he wouldn’t have used it).
    The only cavil I would make at your comment is that this isn’t a political dilemma for the government alone, but for all political parties (and individuals) that voted for the referendum and that promised to “respect” the result in their manifestos. I say this as someone who actually believes that revoking Art 50 is now the least bad option in a situation where there are absolutely no good ones; but I am a bit of a purist about political honesty, which means admitting that “advisory” is a mealy-mouthed, profoundly misleading word for the huge political event that was the referendum.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Apr '19 - 1:18am

    Malcolm Todd

    But I am sick of people just waving aside the referendum as “merely advisory”,

    If it was “merely advisory” there would be no need for a second referendum. We would just say “We have heard the advice, but we won’t keep to it because we have reasons not to”. A second referendum is needed to agree not to go forward into Brexit precisely because the request to go forward was in a referendum.

    As I have said, why blame those of us who do not want Brexit for the fact we haven’t had it yet, when the real reason is that those who do want it have found it impossible to get a form they all agree with and is possible to get implemented?

    Those who want a “no deal” Brexit think that by rejecting any other form, we will get it. Is that democratic when a proportion of those who voted Leave – enough to make the difference between Leave winning and losing – voted for it on the basis that there would be the sort of trade deal agreement that the “no deal” Brexiteers are refusing to accept?

    I have read and heard SO MANY of those who voted Leave and complain we have not had it say that it is because those who want Remain are all millionaire types who don’t know what it is like to be poor and working class. Well, sorry, but the main reason why I resist Leave now is because those leading it are the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg who wish to push the UK even further down an extreme free market route, where power lies in the hands of billionaire international business types.

    Why do all these people think that right-wing extreme free-marketeer Conservatives are the people who most understand what it is like to be working class and most want to support working class people against the power of the billionaires?

  • Peter Watson 1st Apr '19 - 1:18am

    @Malcolm Todd “Politics matters. Political promises matter.”
    I completely agree, particularly with your emphasis on the importance of political honesty. It feels like politicians across the political spectrum are held in lower esteem now than ever before and it is difficult to justify why they should not be.

  • Nom de Plume 1st Apr '19 - 6:21am

    Opposing Brexit and the Referendum result is not dillema for me. No reason for the LibDems to be bound by Tory and Labour stupidity and incompetence. The LibDems have always been pro-Europe.

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Apr '19 - 9:02am

    Matthew Huntbach 1st Apr ’19 – 1:18am

    I agree with all of that, I think. Except that right now I think revoking the notification is probably a slightly less bad choice than a referendum, mainly because we’re just out of time but also because it’s seemingly impossible to get agreement on what the question in any new vote should be!

  • Malcolm Todd 1st Apr '19 - 9:05am

    Nom de Plume 1st Apr ’19 – 6:21am
    “Opposing Brexit and the Referendum result is not dillema for me. No reason for the LibDems to be bound by Tory and Labour stupidity and incompetence.”

    Except that the Lib Dems voted for the referendum in the first place; nor was it a one-off: their policy for several years was to have an in-out referendum in the event of a new treaty (and that we should have had one before ratifying the Lisbon treaty). So the party absolutely did bind itself to “Tory and Labour stupidity and incompetence”.

  • Peter Martin 1st Apr '19 - 9:41am

    I seem to remember Nick Clegg calling for a referendum on the EU at one time. (~2007 ?) Presumably he must have thought the Lib Dems would be in government and have the power to call one.

    If he’d later found himself in the same position as David Cameron, and had received an unwanted verdict, what would the Lib Dems have done?

    Would they have said “Ah but the referendum was only advisory?”

    And when the Lib Dem MPs did vote (I think all bar the same Nick Clegg) to enable the holding of the ’16 referendum, did they make it clear they weren’t going to accept a Leave verdict?

  • Richard Underhill 1st Apr '19 - 10:12am

    Labour MPs regarded David Cameron as a bit of a toff and repeatedly asked him at PMQ whether he would resign if he lost the 2016 referendum.
    He repeatedly said NO, with succinct brevity, so they asked him the same question again whenever they had an opportunity.
    In the 2015 general election Cameron pointed out that Nigel Farage was defeated, leading UKIP to a total of zero seats in the Commons under the First Past The Post election system. Farage did not resign as UKIP leader at that point.
    Cameron also delighted in the defeat of Labour’s Ed Balls.
    After the 2016 referendum Cameron realised that he needed to seriously consider his own position. He resigned as Tory leader.
    Theresa May was preparing to campaign among the Tory membership across the country when all the rival candidates withdrew their candidacies.
    May pointed to the support she had from both Leaver and Remainer MPs and pledged to unite the Tory Party (in Parliament).
    George Osborne Resigned As Chancellor. He now edits a free newspaper in London.
    Cameron resigned as an MP. A Tory won the bye-election.
    Cameron’s failed plans for reforming the EU became UNDELIVERABLE.
    Theresa May started afresh, creating new Cabinet posts for Brexit and future trade, while reducing the scope of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
    After multiple Cabinet resignations she took personal control of the process but failed to achieve the support of either her Cabinet or the public in 2017, or the Commons.
    In the light of her repeated weaknesses it would be foolish to claim that promises made by David Cameron before or during the 2016 referendum should be deliver by Theresa May after 2017, but some spinners are attempting to do so.
    They include Nigel Farage MEP.
    There is, of course, scope for reforming the EU, which has always been a work in progress.
    Those committed to progress should contest the elections for the European Parliament.

  • Peter Watson 1st Apr '19 - 10:54am

    @Peter Martin “I seem to remember Nick Clegg calling for a referendum on the EU at one time. (~2007 ?)”
    You’re probably thinking about the leaflet discussed here:
    Also, in 2008 Tim Farron and a couple of others stepped down from the Lib Dem front bench to support a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, going against party policy of a referendum on EU membership. Even in 2015 the Lib Dem manifesto wanted to ensure “any referendum triggered by the EU Act is on the big question: In or Out”.
    So the Lib Dems supported the principle of an in/out referendum for quite a long time. Indeed, given how often we are told that the changing demographics since 2016 have swung the balance of public opinion to remaining in the EU, I wonder how bad (or perhaps you would consider it good!) the result would have been if Nick Clegg had got his way 8 years earlier.

  • @Peter Martin & Peter Watson – I think we are beginning to get some distance and see the events of the circa 2007~2016 as being a fit of collective madness.

    Back in circa 2007, there was a growing sense of outrage that the Westminster Executive had played games to get European treaties through Parliament without proper scrutiny and debate. This combined with many media organisations “blame the EU” stance, the rise of UKIP and the major political parties trying to seem “in-touch” and “with it” lead to much pressure on all the major parties to come up with a referendum commitment – having got the commitment, it then only a small step to turn that into an actual referendum…

    The challenge now is doing the right thing, in some ways it doesn’t matter which way the UK goes on April-12, it will most probably take 50+ years for there to be some reconciliation – you only need to look at the mining communities where people were on different sides in 1984~5.

  • Peter Martin 1st Apr '19 - 3:34pm

    @ Roland,

    I agree. Except I’d go back to 1992 and the Maastricht Treaty. No-one had the slightest idea of just what that was at the time, or what trouble it would cause. We’re always told that we have, or had, a veto over anything we didn’t like about the EU. But, who liked the idea of Maastricht or Lisbon? Why didn’t we do the EU a favour and veto it?

    It doesn’t look like Gordon Brown was too keen on the idea of the latter. He didn’t want to go to Lisbon and ended up signing separately from everyone else.

  • @Peter – I agree the pot had been simmering for many years.
    This is one of the irritations, the EU today (warts and all) is what it is because of the lack of real pushback; we can only speculate as what it would have been like if either of Maastricht or Lisbon had been put to the public and been rejected.
    In this respect, I agree with Farage that the current mess is of Westminster’s own making.

    Personally, I suspect a popular vote against one or other treaty would have massively slowed the rate of change and specifically helped to sideline those who think the political union and progress towards a EU superstate aren’t happening fast enough.

    The shame of the UK’s In/Out referendum is that it provides no room to go back to the EU and influence matters, like joining with dissenters in other member states to push for change. In this respect, Remain is as toxic as Leave, as Remain would be taken as giving consent to move faster in the direction the EU leaders want to go in.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Apr '19 - 11:22am

    Our main stance should now be revoking Article 50 and allowing some time before a further referendum on whether we would like to consider leaving the eu. Holding a referendum now on some deal or remaining will not foster unity and the national mood will still be of uncertainty, distrust and disillusionment. Unity is more important than getting a decision.

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