Author Archives: Andrew Duff

Britain and Europe: Turning Around

Keir Starmer promises to do no more than tinker with Britain’s EU relationship during his ‘first’ term of government. By accepting the EU’s regulations on food safety and animal welfare, Labour will ease the worst problems facing Northern Irish trade. But Starmer’s stated intention of “making Brexit work” is no different in principle to that of Rishi Sunak’s. That leaves the field wide open for the Liberal Democrats.

Many Lib Dems would like the UK to rejoin the European Union as soon as possible. That will not happen. Leaving aside the necessity of surmounting a divisive referendum campaign, unless the UK accepts the goal of political, economic and monetary union it is not eligible for full EU membership. There is really no appetite in Brussels to make a special case for the UK as a prodigal member state. On the contrary: once bitten, twice shy. In any case, EU enlargement is stalled and will remain stalled unless and until its constitutional treaties are revised in a federal direction.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

The dangers of the ‘people’s vote’

As the Chequers agreement and White Paper evince, the details of the interim package on offer are highly complicated. Submitting the terms and conditions of the Article 50 negotiations to a popular vote would be fraudulent. A referendum would be unlikely to elucidate the pros and cons of the Facilitated Customs Arrangement, the future of the City of London or the Irish backstop protocol. Rather, the hapless voter would face the same dilemma as vacillating parliamentarians – namely, a crude and invidious choice between the government’s Brexit deal and the cliff edge.

Ms. Miller & co make two gigantic misjudgments. The first is that, in the event of a referendum rejecting the Barnier package, the EU would be prepared to open up a new negotiation under Article 50 or to suspend Article 50 until the Brits sort themselves out. Having offered Cameron one new settlement for Britain in 2016 and May another in 2018, toleration of the British will be at an end. There will be no third negotiation. So what would be the referendum question? Moreover, on which side would Lib Dems be campaigning?

The second big mistake is to assume that the Remainers would ‘win’ the second referendum no matter the question. Opinion polls suggest that the outcome would be just as close as the first: certainly the assumption that Remain would win handsomely and settle the business of Britain’s place in Europe is an arrogant one, not supported by the facts.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 102 Comments

Opinion: EU Bill is bad Tory policy

The European Union Bill is a Tory policy. The Liberal Democrats went into the last election arguing for a referendum on whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU. Thankfully, having lost the election, we were not in a position to test public opinion on that one.

The Conservative party wanted a referendum on the Lisbon treaty in order to repatriate powers and to entrench national sovereignty. On losing the election they discovered that Lisbon was already in force and could not be undone. So their new tactic was to undermine the Lisbon settlement whenever opportunity arose, and it …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , and | 26 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • John Grout
    Good to see the long format interview, but I think Liberals of all stripes will raise their eyebrows at Ed's support for a total smoking ban. I respect his com...
  • David Symonds
    I had never realised that First Past the Post was effectively initiated by the Marquess of Salisbury in 1885 in consultation with the Liberals (not the Libs wit...
  • Tristan Ward
    I have to say I think this is a silly thing to do. We will be endlessly defending questions about legality of cannabis, and any ban will be inevitably be unen...
  • David Bertram
    Far be it from me to deny Ed and his colleagues their smug self-satisfaction, but the evidence supporting this proposal is not som much 'overwhelming' as tenuou...
  • Martin Gray
    @David Bertram.... Exactly David . It comes across as elitist & snobbish. The same attitude we've seen before as regards the EU referendum. The party is...