Blue Wednesday

So, the day has arrived. I’m wearing blue, as Roger Roberts suggested, for 3 reasons. As the Government  carries out the worst assault on our children’s future I have seen in my lifetime, I’m  doing this for three reasons. Out of sadness at what today means for our future, out of pride in the EU’s values of peace and collaboration – and out of defiance. I will not stand by why the Government destroys our country. I will take every opportunity for peaceful resistance as this incompetent and reckless government puts us all in harm’s way.

I will not stand by while the Government refuses to give us a say on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations. What sort of democracy is that? People voted to take back control, not hand all power to ideological brexiteers who do all they can to avoid checks and scrutiny. Who would you rather had the final say on your future? You, or Theresa and her trio of Brexiteers?

That Theresa May has the nerve to suggest that the country should come together behind her shows how out of touch and comfortable with power her Government is. It’s that old saying about power corrupting. With a Labour Party missing in action, waving its demands as the Brexit horse bolts down the road, May thinks she can do what she likes. She has made no attempt to build any bridges whatever with the almost half of us who voted Remain.

When the No side won the Scottish independence referendum two and a half years ago, the very next morning, I went and took down all my “no” stuff immediately. I didn’t want to gloat in the faces of those of my friends who were grieving at the result. In the subsequent months, the UK Government, with a Lib Dem Secretary of State, laid the framework for a huge devolution of power to Holyrood in an attempt to heal the divisions of the previous three years.

In contrast, Theresa May, by refusing to even aim to be in the customs union and single market, has pursued the most extreme interpretation of the referendum vote. By the time we leave, the majority of people will want to stay. That’s presumably why the Government is too scared to put the deal to them.

I am under no illusions that I and my fellow dissenters will be vilified and blamed by the Government when it all starts to unravel. If only we had supported the government on its reckless path, all would have been fine and dandy. You just wait and see. Theresa May’s “come together” is an ultimatum, not a gesture of healing. The “or else” is silent.

Nick Clegg, in the latest of his highly credible analyses of the challenges we face, says that a deal isn’t possible in two years.

The Government is entering the most complex negotiations in British political history. It insists it can negotiate and ratify both the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU and a comprehensive new ‘strategic partnership’, covering everything from trade to security, in the next two years. Our analysis shows that it is not possible for a such a deal, especially one that is in Britain’s interests, to be negotiated in such a short time.

In the meantime, the danger is that Whitehall will grind to a halt as it grapples with the Brexit negotiations and the renegotiation of dozens of trade agreements with other countries that currently hinge on our membership of the EU. Other vital issues – including the crisis in the NHS and social care – are likely to suffer.

The hard Brexit that is the aim of May’s government plays into the hands of the small-state, right wing tea party element in British politics. It is a disaster for the poorest – as small state means even less of a safety net for them. It puts barriers in the way of our businesses prospering.

Liberal Democrats are on the right side of this argument. We need to hold firm and, as Nick Clegg said the other day, continue to do all we can to expose the reckless incompetence of the Government for what it is.

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

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  • Nick Collins 29th Mar '17 - 12:44pm

    I’ve just watched PMQs. I lost count of the number of occasions when when our unelected prime minister urged us to “come together”. Apparently that’s her latest catch phrase. But what does it mean; is she about to organise a national orgy?

  • Caron, I don’t believe that the Lib Dems are on the right side of this argument. A succession of Prime Ministers handed over portions of our sovereignty to Brussels without ever consulting the UK electorate until our financial relationship with the EU became so tangled that it was judged that disentanglement was too risky to contemplate.

    Nick Clegg flirted with allowing a referendum until Cameron implemented it. British Prime Ministers should have consulted the people long ago.

    Now the people have decided and democracy must be observed, since the alternative would destroy everything.

    The Remain vote was very substantial, but I suspect that it was mainly financial risk aversion. Relatively few people are wedded to the EU dream as the Lib Dems clearly are.

    Continued Lib Dem outrage on this matter will rapidly become an anti-democracy problem for the party.

  • Bill le Breton 29th Mar '17 - 10:24pm

    Peter may be on to something here.

    According to YouGov only 21% of the electorate are both against Brexit and think that the decision should be over turned.

    The Party’s myopic general election strategy of targeting ‘the 25% ‘ now seems to have shrunk to “the 21%”

    By the way, Andrew Duff is writing some very level headed stuff for The European Policy Centre :

    Pity he’s not our spokesperson. He is the real expert on these matters in the Party.

  • Stephen Kearney 30th Mar '17 - 9:05am

    Who’s a clever bunch of Conservative and UKIP politicians then.

    Thank you Martin Fletcher for this note.

    On this Black, Black Wednesday let’s draw up a balance sheet.

    When Theresa May proclaimed that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ shortly after the June 23 referendum we had little idea what ‘Brexit’ really meant. We do now.

    On the minus side it means:

    – Leaving a single market of 500 million consumers

    – Paying an exit bill of somewhere between £10 billion and £60 billion

    – The very real possibility of Scottish independence

    – The destabilisation of Northern Ireland

    – A sharp devaluation of sterling, fuelling inflation

    – Immense and damaging uncertainty for British businesses, manufacturers, financial institutions, farmers and airlines

    – The loss of hefty EU subsidies to the UK’s poorest regions

    – The likely loss of our freedom to travel, study, work and live unhindered anywhere in the EU’s 27 remaining member states

    – The poisoning of our public discourse, with those who dare to resist Brexit denounced as traitors and unpatriotic for defying “the will of the people”

    – The preoccupation of the government and civil service with the hideously complex Brexit negotiations for at least the next two years

    I would like to add Britain’s greatly diminished global stature to the list, but that is too subjective. The other points are matters of fact.

    On the plus side…well, I struggle to think of anything.

    The Brexiteers long ago stopped talking about the £350 million a week we were supposed to get back from the EU.

    They are beginning to realise that immigrant workers are vital to our economy, and to the NHS – see David Davis on Monday’s Question Time

    They are left mouthing platitudes about ‘taking back control’. Of what, precisely? What specific EU laws, what particular rulings by the European Court of Justice, are so oppressive, so inimical to our national interests, that they justify this reckless gamble with our country’s future?

    I console myself on this grim day with the hope that Johnson, Gove and all the other ideologues and charlatans whose false promises (mis)led us into this national calamity are one day held to account. Thanks Martin Fletcher.

  • @Caron. I think I am completely with you on the revulsion I feel at every step in this process. Men are from Mars, Women form Venus. The old and young will never see things in the same way. Scotland YES and NO. Unionists and Republicans. Unfortunately we all have our mental paradigms and these issues provide a prism through which our differences are exposed. From here on in everything that happens will be seen through the prism of Brexit. It will take a long time for this to change, if ever.
    @Bill. Beware the fickleness of the crowd.

  • @Peter “anti-democracy problem”? Dissenting from the prevailing majority opinion is PART of democracy. It is no more “anti-democratic” to oppose Brexit than it is to oppose the democratically elected government of the day. The dissenters may become the majority; indeed that is the aim of dissent in a democracy.

  • @Alex Macfie – Yes, you are right. We can each claim our democratic right to criticise the position of the other in an endless loop.

    Nicola Sturgeon also has every right to promote her ambition for Scottish independence at every opportunity. Most Scots are sick and tired of her endless campaigning and wish she would get on with the job of addressing the many problems facing the country. I doubt if she will heed them, but her support is in decline.

    The Lib Dems may choose to make resisting Brexit an endless campaign. That is your right. As I indicated above, many Remainers care a great deal about their wallets, not the EU project. A deal that they can accept, together with other trading opportunities could well change their views, leaving LD as a sort of mirror image of UKIP.

  • Neil Sandison 31st Mar '17 - 2:23pm

    Just watched the EU response .So just like the science fiction film We are all working towards “The day after tomorrow”ie Brexit plus one.

  • Article 50 has been invoked, there is now almost certainly legally and definitely politically (unless you want to start a civil war that is) no turning back. But guess what ? The world is still turning, the sun rises in the morning. So get over it and start campaigning about something else, unless of course you want to be as irrelevant as the Jacobites became.

  • Add to the balance sheet plans to spend £500m on switching from a red passport to a ‘true blue’ one (Sunday Express splash.
    I’m sure all Leave voters think that’s public money well spent.

    Those who say we’re banging on about Brexit: a) it’s the biggest thing to hit this country in my lifetime, and it’s barely started yet, and b) don’t blame us, you started it (if you voted Leave).

  • Actually it seems the passport bit is a regular contract up for renewal in 2019 anyway. Odd the Express should spin it as a huge outlay thats solely due to Brexit. Though a lot of the comments seem to think it is ok to pour British money down drains as long as they are British drains, not nasty foreign ones!

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