Brexit and Democracy or What is the Will of the People?

There is just one great argument left for Brexit. We voted for it, and the government is delivering the will of the people.

I hear this argument over and over again in parliament. It even comes from the awkward squad on the Tory benches like Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve, or from Labour front bench MPs like Keir Starmer or Emily Thornberry. All of them are saying, in their own words, Brexit means Brexit. They want their version of Brexit of course, but the destination is fixed.

They have a point. 33 million people voted in the 2016 referendum and parliament doesn’t feel that it can ignore that. I agree. The 2017 General Election provided no mandate for overturning the referendum result. It is obvious really that 650 MPs cannot overrule a decision taken by 33 million people.

The flaw in the argument is that people change their minds – and in either direction. There are some people who voted remain whose feel that a democratic decision has been taken and government should get on with it. There are others who voted leave who fear they are going to be let down by politicians who have used them for their own ends. The Will of the People is a mixed bag. This government is legislating for a Brexit in the name of the people. Their problem is that they might find themselves pressing ahead without the peoples’ consent.

The democratic argument is that, once the facts are known, the people must decide YES or NO to the deal. Democracy is very deeply hard wired into British people. It is most acutely felt by those who are marginalised and excluded from influencing government. Democracy is their protection, it is the only way they influence government. It has been rightly said that Britain has a parliamentary democracy, and referenda sit uneasily within this process. But once the referendum genie is out of the bottle, parliament cannot put it back. Only the people can update the 2016 decision.

Imagine one year from now and the mood in the country has shifted. There is a good chance of that. If the democratic argument can take hold, a weak government could find it very difficult to impose their Brexit without a new democratic mandate.

We are the only party with Democrat in our name. Our membership, people say, is now larger than the Conservative party. Our passion and our commitment cannot be faulted. We know the arguments that Brexit is bad for jobs, the NHS and for peace. If we add to these arguments with a call to empower the people, then we can win this Brexit battle.

I’ve been campaigning in Bath for the last 18 months. We are now taking the campaign into leave areas, and the response is just as good as in Bath. But the arguments are different. We are emphasising that democracy means they, the people, must decide on the deal. People who are disenchanted with politicians feel increasingly that they will be once again let down by them. The Brexit they were promised is not going to happen. Now is our opportunity to take our message out of our comfort zone. Liberal Democrats have championed local democracy for decades. We can champion national democracy too, with this message we can cut across all sorts of party allegiances and give ourselves new heart to win again where we won before.

* Wera Hobhouse is the Member of Parliament for Bath. She is Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, Energy and the Environment, and is running for leadership of the party

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  • The Brexit they were promised was so vague that for a large number they had to make up what Brexit would be in their heads. Surprisingly what they thought they had voted for isn’t what’s on offer. The most vocal amongst them still chant “If only we could have my version of Brexit everything would be fine”, of cause they won’t get their day dream but still they dream on. It is the shy leavers who are starting to drift away. Unencumbered by any label that they voted for Brexit, they have started to distance themselves. Brexiteer why me, never a committed remained am I they have started to say. As time goes by those that have no discernable skin in the game are the most likely to change, those that have nailed their colours to the mast will be screaming “If only they’d followed my advice, everything would be fine”; as if they would or could.

  • Peter Martin 21st Nov '17 - 7:57pm

    Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, and I missed them, but I don’t remember any arguments from the Remain side prior to June 2016 that there should be more than one referendum on the EU question.

    The argument, as I understood it at the time, was that it wouldn’t be in the UK’s interest to leave the EU because we depended on the EU for access to the single market and also benefitted from being part of the customs union. That’s all fair enough of course.

    There wasn’t any suggestion (or was there?) that we could leave the EU and still be a member of the single market and/or the customs union and therefore further consultations on these matters may be needed.

  • Peter

    “Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention” I’m afraid when it comes to the Single Market issue it appear you indeed failed to pay attention. Why one of your Brave Brexiteer leaders said during the campaign

    Daniel Hannan: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market.”

    and after the vote another said

    “There will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market,” Johnson wrote in a regular column for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, adding that there was “no great rush” for Britain to extricate itself from the EU.

    Now the fact we are not going to be in the single market is the fault of the remain campaign. Dear me Peter, that really is rather sad, rather than calling out your leaders misinformation you blame remain. By the way not all brave Brexiteers are like you, why we have at least two on this site asking for the Norway option; that’s the problem with Brexit you all want something different.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Nov '17 - 9:34pm

    This seems to me to be the crux of your problem. ‘People who are disenchanted with politicians feel increasingly that they will be once again let down by them. The Brexit they were promised is not going to happen.’

    This appears to be an argument along the following lines. Some people who voted leave will start to feel let down – they will then all say how wonderful the EU is. With the greatest of respect it looks reachy.

    This really does feel like the Cameron argument all over again. At that referendum the REMAIN argument really was for More Of The Same and, frankly, we’ve not really seen the argument advance since Cameron left. Indeed what is there to promise that in years to come we’d have seen the REMAIN we were told about? One of the stronger arguments against the EU is it’s open-ended nature. If in the year 2000 I’d have said that the EU would have been about the migrant debacle, a botched enlargement, TTIP and hyperausterity who would have advocated for that REMAIN vision?

    I don’t know what to say. I agree that Parliament can’t just ignore the referendum. A second referendum would probably lead straight to referendum three. The best I could suggest is something like the second referendums in Denmark and Ireland. They were (just about) legit on the basis that they put something qualitatively different to the people. It wasn’t just an exercise in voting till we get to the right answer. But no REMAINERs seem to be asking why that referendum result happened, still less what to change and what to do. Put Norway in front of me and I’ll vote for it.

    But I for one won’t be buying ‘come on – the EU’s not THAT bad.’ Which seems to be that argument you are betting the farm on here.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Nov '17 - 9:37pm

    Peter Martin – ‘There wasn’t any suggestion (or was there?) that we could leave the EU and still be a member of the single market and/or the customs union and therefore further consultations on these matters may be needed.’

    Consultations I don’t know. But for many years a number of eurosceptics have advocated some version of EEA IN EU OUT. That would mean single market access and a customs union. Several prominent leavers have been banging the Norway drum for the best part of three decades.

  • Jackie,

    You over think what I say. The remain campaign said it will be painful if we leave, a lot of people didn’t believe that (remember the Brexiteer taunt of Project Fear), now the pain has started well perhaps they will begin to accept we are heading for a world of pain. Now as more and more people wake up to the fact Project Fear was actually Project Fact I suspect the call of Brexiteers to have your cake and eat it will ring ever more hollow.

    You are right about voters feeling let down but that is likely to be laid at the door of the brave Brexiteer leadership and their cheer leaders in this particular case. You over promised, and are under achieving and it appears the electorate are starting to wake up to that. As can be seen in the polls.

    While Leave and Remain voters are often divided on EU-related questions, they are united in the belief that negotiations are not going well. 72% of those that reported voting to leave the EU in 2016 said the negotiations are going either “quite badly” or “very badly”, with 85% of remain voters saying the same.

    Taken as a whole, more Britons blame the UK side (30%) than the EU side (23%), with a plurality (41%) stating that “both sides are equally to blame”. The percentage blaming the EU rises to 42% among Leave voters, with the number blaming the UK Government increasing to 44% for Remain voters.

  • jackie,

    I know you are banging the Norway drum, but as i keep pointing out and you are unable to refute but I’ll say it again. After voting for the Pig in the Poke option with the understanding that the Tories would be carrying out the Brexit Process “You don’t get to choose the Brexit you want, you get the Brexit you are given”.

    Now having stated that, no matter if it isn’t your particular sort of Brexit you voted for it you own it. Still on the bright side you also get to point out any good things Brexit brings, I’m not holding my breath though.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Nov '17 - 10:24pm

    For many years I argued the difficulty with using law in the EU. Very costly, it concerns child access and abduction. I wrote comments and even added to new law. It could cost tens of thousands even with court order it was complex in some countries. It should have been easier, not more difficult.
    That’s why I voted leave, tired of asking, and no listened.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Nov '17 - 10:30pm

    You can’t have it both ways, LJP. Either the EU is in such a mess that, if Remainers had realised how bad it is, there would have been far fewer of them. Or, the EU is threatening to become a rule-run super-state which no Remainer could possibly want.

    Neither characterisation is true. The EU is our nearest trading bloc which we need to be in, as well as being the most progressive and rational collaborative alliance of states that the world has ever known. It has internal difficulties and inconsistencies, being run by human beings, but none it can’t manage while retaining its present structures.

    Wera Hobhouse MP here repeats the reasoning behind our party’s support for another referendum, cited scores of times before on LDV but needing reiterating many times to the country.

    I suppose it is a question whether there will be any negotiated deal for there to be a referendum about. The two sides will reach agreement on payments, but there is no way we can have as good terms of trade as we have now within the single market and the customs union. And as for the Irish need for an open border, I don’t think there is any solution to that other than Britain remaining in the EU.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Nov '17 - 10:36pm

    No I don’t agree. We can’t keep voting until someone gets what they want. That’s costly and futile.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Nov '17 - 10:50pm

    So you want the Government to do what is bad for the people without the people’s consent, Helen.

  • Peter Martin 21st Nov '17 - 10:54pm

    @ Frankie

    “We’d be out of the Single Market, that’s the reality, Britain would be quitting. Quitting the Single Market…”

    George Osborne, 8th June 2016.

    “If the majority in Britain opts for Brexit, that would be a decision against the single market. In is in. Out is out. One has to respect the sovereignty of the British people.”

    Wolfgang Schauble. As reported in Der Spiegel 11th June 2016

  • I don’t understand this stance at all. I didn’t vote leave myself (on economic risk grounds, not love of the EU) but what is being argued for here is a refusal to accept reality. The bottle of milk has been dropped – the bottle broke – the milk’s been spilt. There is no hope for a campaign to put the milk back – it’s all too late. Relationships, structures, investment plans and lots and lots of other stuff are all beyond the point of no return now never mind by 2019.
    What’s this “deal” that Wera is expecting to put to the British people? Some nicely packaged, easy to understand one liner? It will be a hugely complicated dog’s dinner.
    What will be the question? It can not possibly be “turn down this deal and you will be magically whisked back to the day before the referendum”. That place has gone and never to return. It will be “do you want this horrible mess? or this even more disastrous one? or send the govt back to find something from the ashes that can’t be anywhere near as good as what we had in the first place? please tick one box”.
    If there is a referendum 2 it will be unbelievably bitter and divisive and far, far worse than referendum 1. The notion that the British people, of the two opposing sides, will come out of their trenches, meet in No Man’s Land, shake hands and have a friendly game of football is naive in the extreme.
    The moving hand writes, and having writ, moves on and all your piety and tears can not lure it back to erase half a line. My advice is to stop campaigning for a referendum that simply could not be framed as a yes / no question against the mess we will be in.
    The only plausible question would be “Do you want to rejoin the EU the day after we leave?” but more realistically – stop the calls for referendum 2 and humiliate the govt negotiations relentlessly. This sounds unpatriotic, and it is, and it pains me to say it but we will have to get into a mess that is universally recognised as a disaster to silence the anti-EU narrative that sections of our politics and our press have created and which has caused so much damage. The message to them should be clear and honest “You did this damage which we will highlight and our aim is that you will never be listened to again.”

  • Yeovil Yokel 21st Nov '17 - 11:40pm

    Peter Martin – 37.4% of the UK electorate voted Leave, so there isn’t and never was a clear mandate for Brexit. The so-called Will of the British People is moot, but the dire consequences of leaving the EU are becoming crystal clear.

  • Helen, if Remain had won 52%-48%, would you have accepted that and become a committed Remainer?

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Nov '17 - 12:18am

    Stating a belief or a wish doesn’t make it a fact, Palehorse, and it’s surely a brave or foolish person who claims to know what ‘reality’ is. On another thread, Stephen Johnson proposed a workable four-option referendum. The four options would be –
    1.The Deal as proposed
    2. A ‘No Deal’ exit
    3. Further negotiations with Brussels
    4. No Brexit.
    That seems possible. And if a referendum is held because there’s a general public wish for it as a means of settling this destructive issue, it should not be ‘unbelievably bitter and divisive’ at all. An elderly neighbour of mine remarked, weeks ago,
    ” I wish it could be held tomorrow!”

  • Why should anyone accept the outcome of any referendum and “move on”?

    Referenda produce fairly intense opinions on both sides, and inevitably these are pretty entrenched. When we look back at all the referenda in the UK, I can only think of one case – the 1997 Scottish Parliament referendum – where the losing side “moved on”, accepted the result, benefitted from it, and subsequently admitted they were wrong. Should we really have expected the SNP and the staunch nationalists to say “OK guys, we lost, we’ll happily ‘move on’ and just support the Union that we’ve argued for so long to break”? No – and as a party we created a huge rod for our own back by doing that. Why should I be told to support something which I fundamentally believe is bad for the whole country and everyone in it? You expect that from North Korea or Russia.

    Addressing the points above – firstly, the 33 million figure is incorrect. 17,410,742 people voted to leave the EU, whilst 16,141,241 voted to remain. Even saying this is “the will of the people” is factually incorrect – just over 12.9 million people did not vote, and a further number were not on the register for various reasons (the i100 estimates this at around 18 million, but it includes people who were not yet old enough to vote.)

    So quite simply, Brexit does not have a majority of the population in any rational sense of the word. That means that MPs have a responsibility to stand up and argue for what’s best for the country, and if the “deal” is too complicated or not good enough have the backbone to vote against it. Sadly too many MPs (including some of ours and far too many of Labour) are unlikely to have the guts to follow this through.

  • Reality, Katharine, is where we are now. Irreversible changes have already been made and more and more happen every day.
    A referendum on those four options would be obviously ludicrous nonsense and it is no wonder that the party is shouting impotently from the margins if that is the offering.
    What could “carry on negotiations with Brussels” possibly invoke, as an option in 2019?
    What could “no Brexit” mean when we have 20% of Brexit consequences already and would be up to 99.9% consequences by the morning of the referendum?
    One of the options could win with only 26% of the vote! If the turnout is the same as referendum 1 our future would be decided by a ridiculously small fraction of the people.
    Facts are facts. The referendum was lost. Brexit isn’t a case of everything remaining frozen until 2019 when everything will suddenly change and that can be stopped at the last minute. Please read the business press. Brexit is under way now and changes are already being made by those with responsibilities who are preparing for the future. A party whose offering requires the reversal of time itself has no value to the electorate who want a plausible plan for the mess that 2019 will be.
    The second referendum proposal was always impulsive and ill thought through and, as events unfold, it looks even more a King Canute fantasy.
    My perception is that even amongst the LibDems those calling for a second referendum are dwindling in number as reality bites.

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Nov '17 - 8:48am

    As a point of fact, Norway is in the Single Market, but not the Customs Union..
    I am not quite sure how the Norway-Sweden border works in practice, but I suspect it is a sufficiently time consuming route into the EU that in practice 3rd party goods entering Norway and then Sweden under different tariff arrangements from the EU are not a big worry. NI would be a different matter and I t

  • Helen Dudden 22nd Nov '17 - 8:51am

    I would have excepted the idea anyway. It’s too late to go back now. If I had found it different. We can’t fund the rest of the world. I would suggest we look closer to our own problems. We are only a small island. The cut backs with food banks, universal credit, education and ambulance services not forgetting our hospitals. As a great grandmother I want a better life for my grandchildren, not like we have at present.

  • Peter,

    So your point is that Remain told the truth about the single market (yes we know that is why many of us didn’t vote for the pig in a poke option), while leave mislead their voters, but although Remain was right we should shut up and let you Leavers get on with it. The problem with that Peter is if we do we are rewarding liars or fools neither of which are likely to be able to navigate us through the storms ahead of us.


    So the milk bottle is dropped, your solution is let the children play in it and make even more of a mess. The adult solution is clean it up and buy a new bottle of milk.


    “For many years I argued the difficulty with using law in the EU. Very costly, it concerns child access and abduction. I wrote comments and even added to new law. It could cost tens of thousands even with court order it was complex in some countries. It should have been easier, not more difficult.
    That’s why I voted leave, tired of asking, and no listened.”

    So how does making the UK a third party country (on a par with Algeria) with lousy relationship with the EU countries help you in any way. Next time you are in court are they going to look at you with more or less sympathy. I think you know the answer to that and shouting “I voted out” won’t impress them at all. A classic case of cutting your nose off to spite your face I’m afraid.

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Nov '17 - 8:57am

    @Helen Dudden
    “No I don’t agree. We can’t keep voting until someone gets what they want. That’s costly and futile.”

    But isn’t that what Farage would have wanted to do had the referendum gone 48%-52% the other way?

  • But Helen, you’ve voted for radical change, we are going to be the Singapore of the West.

    In 1984, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew redesigned his country’s retirement system to, as he later wrote, “avoid placing the burden of the present generation’s welfare costs onto the next generation.” Singapore makes no promises but instead requires all citizens to save up to 36 percent of their income for their own retirement and health care. The government invests the savings in stocks and bonds; the money is not used for current expenditures.

    I’m sure your grand children will be chuffed to bits at the prospect of paying 36% of their salary into an insurance scheme, doubt they have much to spare in taxation for the older generation though.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Nov '17 - 9:13am

    I understand Wera’s, and the LibDem’s, dilemma: show some deference to leave-voters while there is still time to influence their opinion, knowing that a revocation of the Article 50 notification by a British Executive by March 2019 is imperative. Getting from here to there will be tight, even without another referendum, which would indeed be very hard to adequately formulate (in the continued absence of robust scenarios) and extremely divisive to fight.

    Sometime in the next 16 months, a responsible majority of PMs will have to vote in accordance with their true convictions to prevent major, universal, and lasting national self-harm.

    The key question to these PMs, including Wera, is therefore, how they can reconcile this with the “will of the people”, even if it has not measurably swung in their direction.

    I agree with all the technical arguments made here to question the validity of the referendum result. But my encouragement to eventually disregard it when casting your vote is a different one:

    EU membership, the only question on that ballot, is an abstract complex legal question with predictable but uncertain outcomes. Leave was dishonestly sold on nonexistent but not easily disproved economic benefits. As these fail to materialise, the leave-camp is pushing equally dishonest and meaningless substitutes: sovereignty, control. Also those are undeliverable, and therefore, the last line of defense: it was your will, so eat it.

    Let us be clear: leave now insists on upholding a technical choice despite the fact that none of the promised outcomes will materialize. Politically, Brexit is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Nov '17 - 9:14am


    As a responsible politician, you must act in the interest of the outcomes people desire, not on their ill-informed choice of means. Therefore, get mentally ready to say this: “Dear leaver, I think I understand your grievances, and I am committed to address these to the best of my abilities. In order to do so, however, I must correct your choice of means you were misled into. If you consider that an overreach, vote me out the next time, but, please, also judge me by the outcomes I deliver for you.”

    This is even less hard than it sounds if you consider the context. The day the revocation vote goes through, sterling will appreciate by 10%, all European stockmarkets (except the FTSE) will skyrocket, investment and hiring will restart, house-prices and -building will rebound, bankers and agencies will remain, Britain’s new PM will be a cherished and respected European hero, Putin and Trump will fume. It will feel like the true independence-day: independent from Murdoch, Farage, Johnson, Paterson, Redwood, Cash, Gove, AND MAY.

  • There is a danger of over complicating a simple situation. The people voted for no customs union, no common market, having control of our own borders, and stopping paying money to the EU. Oh and having border controls.

    Why does no one in Goverment agree to this. Instead they have fantasies about a stage 2 – how to stay in the common market while persuading people that we have left. The government have no idea how to calculate how much they owe, and know that any figure will sound large to most people, and so are delaying things as long as possible and blaming the other side. I heard the leader of the DUP on TV. She was blaming the Irish PM for not having an answer to the border problem!

    By the way on my way to Ireland by ferry a few weeks ago I was directed to customs and the passport control – although no-one asked what I was bringing in. I do not know what happens if you don’t have a passport, as everyone near me had one.

    Finally although I voted to stay, rather than the alternative of staying but pretending not to, I do not feel strongly. The UK has very serious problems which will get worse. They will get worse whether we leave or not. The fact that by a large majority parliament voted to hold a referendum which none of them had thought about how to deal with the possible outcomes is a symptom of the malaise in the land.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Nov '17 - 10:28am

    @ frankie,

    Both Leave and Remain told the truth at times, and both at times didn’t. That’s the same in all elections. The voters aren’t fools. They know the score.

    For example George Osborne said that interest rates would have to rise to pay for Brexit. They actually fell. Anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of the current thinking on monetary policy knows that the BoE would only raise them if they thought the economy was overheating. So even George knew that one couldn’t be right.

    Wolfgang Shauble didn’t have a direct reason to intervene, so I can’t see why we shouldn’t take what he said at face value. He’s right. IMO.

    Incidentally I’ve just found this. David Cameron (remember him? He was your coalition partner) said the same thing too:

  • Peter Martin 22nd Nov '17 - 10:48am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    As a responsible politician, you must act in the interest of the outcomes people desire, not on their ill-informed choice of means.

    This sounds far too condescending for UK ears. The idea that politicians know best and the people can’t be trusted? I doubt any party would win many votes at all if that was the message openly conveyed.

    In any case how does this apply in the EU? Even in Germany, which is doing relatively well, Mrs Merkel can’t form a government. The French people have become so disillusioned with the political establishment that their equivalent of the Tory and Labour parties have just about ceased to exist. Presidential elections are fought out between the FN and whatever coalition can be cobbled together that might have a chance of beating them. Spain is riven by separatism. Nowhere in the EU is there what could be what could be described as a healthy democratic system in operation.

    Except perhaps for the UK.

  • Peter,

    You keep coming up with Remain politicians that advised you voting out meant leaving the Single market I get that, but you seem unable to answer the question why did your leaders claim otherwise. All you can do is say both sides lied, even if true it doesn’t absolve the Leave camps lie about the single market. Now as you won, please explain why i shouldn’t point out the lies you used to win with, just because it makes you feel uncomfortable by the way isn’t a reason.

  • frankie,
    “buy a new bottle of milk.” I think you get the point. The concept of a second referendum made me groan with despair when Tim proposed it as a policy. Thankfully, I detect, even among the posters on this blog that the impulsive and emotional are starting to catch up with what was obvious all along and those calling for “Second Referendum Now!” are quietly dwindling away.
    Going back to June 22nd is impossible now. It always was. It gets even more impossible with every day that passes (if “impossible” can get worse).
    Most of these posts are just recreational grief and are the traditional stages of denial, anger, depression etc, slowly being worked through while the more sensible of us stand and watch and wait.
    The only plausible question on the 2019 ballot would be “Do you like the mess we are in or would you prefer some unspecified different mess?”.
    A question “Do you want to go back to 22 June 2016?” is as daft as “Do you want to go back to 1st September 1939?”
    My advice remains – give up the manifest nonsense of an impossible to frame referendum. Forget patriotism (for the moment) and concentrate on highlighting and exposing the irreparable damage this process is doing with the aim (and a publicly declared aim) of destroying the credibility of the press barons and the politicians who created the mess.
    The anti-EU narrative has to changed by brutal humiliation of the guilty before the nation can establish a new future and the LibDems are the only ones who could author that future. But it has to be a future based on where we actually are in 2019.
    Personally, I regret that we didn’t join the Euro. What a better nation we would be now if we had had the courage to take that leap.

  • frankie

    “please explain why i shouldn’t point out the lies you used to win with”

    The real question is why you are so keen to sweep the Remainer lies under the carpet? Voters are a lot more savvy than you give them credit for, and they saw right through the Remainer lies.
    Educated or uneducated, I frankly care not one jot, but for sure basic voter common sense prevailed in June 2016
    492 days to go to freedom from EU tyranny.

  • Tom Harney: The Government’s referendum statement said “Remaining inside the EU guarantees our full access to its Single Market. By contrast, leaving creates uncertainty and risk.
    Not quite the clear and unequivocal declaration which has been claimed by those who wish to leave. There is plenty of scope for argument and compromise as was no doubt intended. The people who write these things are expert in that kind of equivocation to leave the door open to whatever outcome is deemed necessary.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Nov '17 - 11:44am


    It’s perhaps an aside from the main point but your comment shows up an interesting and common macroeconomic misconception.

    ‘Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew…….. redesigned his country’s retirement system to, as he later wrote, “avoid placing the burden of the present generation’s welfare costs onto the next generation.”‘

    Its simply not possible to avoid it. Older people, if they aren’t economically active, will always be dependent on younger people, even if they’ve saved their own money. They can’t eat the pounds they have saved. They are dependent on younger people to grow and prepare their food. Imagine we had an island where everyone thought that it wasn’t necessary to raise enough children. That’s not too far off what happens in some developed countries where the birth rate is very low. Everyone retires and withdraws their savings. But there aren’t enough real things to buy because there aren’t enough people to bake the bread, run the trains and buses, build the houses etc.

    Another way to look at it is that savings just get transferred to government bonds whether it’s supposedly private saving or public saving. The Govt has to spend the proceeds to keep the economy moving and so there is no “nest-egg” for the elderly. There can’t be. The Government can’t save up its own money. Money is just an IOU and it doesn’t make any sense for any of us to save our own IOUs.

  • You are right, Wera. There is sufficient uncertainty that it is undemocratic not to offer the people another referendum though this time it must be done fairer, with an enhanced franchise and tougher electoral commission over a longer period so we can be as certain as we can be that the result represents the will of the people at that time.

  • The “Will of The People” is an idea that appeals to Dictators & Extremists of Left or Right. The People dont exist, theres just People, Millions of them, all wanting different things.
    One of the roles of Democratic Politics is to try to get things that lots of People want wher they dont clash with Reality or the Rights of Minorities. In the case of Brexit trying to give People what they want is ruled out because they are split down the middle. This is a case where Politicians have to show some Leadership & decide for themselves whats best.
    Most Politicians have decided, they want to stay in The EU, they just need to find some courage.

  • “This is a case where Politicians have to show some Leadership & decide for themselves whats best.”

    They have.
    A parliamentary majority endorsed the EU referendum.
    Parliament endorsed the triggering of Article 50
    Parliament is in the process of endorsing the Withdrawal Bill.

    However you look at it parliament has ‘marked the voter homework’, ‘endorsed with a parliamentary majority vote’ and ‘ticked every box’ every step of the way.
    So, parliament is working as it should, by representing the people who voted. So what exactly is your point Paul Barker?

  • David Evans 22nd Nov '17 - 2:22pm

    Paul, I think you will find that when you say “Most Politicians have decided, they want to stay in The EU, they just need to find some courage,” you are sadly mistaken, what is true is that “Most Politicians have decided, they want to stay in the HoC, and they just need to find some excuse.”

  • Peter Martin 22nd Nov '17 - 2:40pm

    “you seem unable to answer the question why did your leaders claim otherwise”

    You mean like Daniel Hannan? He’s not my leader. David Cameron has said ” the Brexit campaign had made it clear to voters that voting to leave also meant pulling out of the single market.”

    I’m not sure he’s correct in saying this but the Leave campaign did place an emphasis on new independent trade deals, controlling borders, having the fishing rights back etc which are all incompatible policies to the ‘single market’ as it presently operates.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Nov '17 - 7:35pm

    “We are the only party with Democrat in our name.” Do not ignore the DUP, founded by the late Ian Paisley, now the largest party in Northern Ireland.

  • Peter,

    Actually your wrong but sort of right, the Norwegians have a wealth fund that generates wealth. Do they only invest in the Norwegian economy, no they invest in countries and sectors that will generate wealth for them. You could claim they are dependent on foreign youth and you have a point. The problem you (and to be fair myself included) have is if the economy tanks in the UK (and it’s looking more and more likely) the young (especially the educated ones) are likely to be off to greener pastures. What youth will support us then Peter? Well we can either live with less or import foreign youth (or a mixture of both) but either solution isn’t likely to appeal to the elderly.

  • Sheila,

    I’m not sweeping any lies under the carpet but Leave won and they can’t (although they do try) complain if the lies they won on are called up. The whataboutarry of Brexiteers crying the other side lied too, don’t make them any less of a liar. The fact is lies where told and the liars are leading us out of the EU. If being lead by liars doesn’t bother you that’s fine, but it bothers me.

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Nov '17 - 9:12pm

    Dear oh dear, here are the Brexiteers in full flight again with their gossamer fantasies. There is an unfortunate tendency too to abuse, which denotes a certain desperation, for instance in the suggestion that Remainers are impulsive and emotional and give way to something called ‘recreational grief’, a new invention not known to counsellors.

    There is the usual assertion of pseudo-facts to cover the emptiness of their propositions, and the usual inability to listen to anyone else – for instance failing to note that the author of the suggested four-part referendum had made it plain it was advisory only. Abuse extends to our party itself, which in well-conducted debates at two Federal Conferences, thoughtfully endorsed the policy here repeated by one of our MPs.

    Those that have ears to hear, which evidently does not apply to some of the posters above, listen to what Arnold Kiel so wisely wrote here at 9.13 this morning.

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Nov '17 - 9:16pm

    Andrew McCaig

    ‘As a point of fact, Norway is in the Single Market, but not the Customs Union..’

    And as a point of precision, if you look back at my post you will see that I very deliberately referred to A customs union and not THE customs union.

    ‘I am not quite sure how the Norway-Sweden border works in practice, but I suspect it is a sufficiently time consuming route into the EU that in practice 3rd party goods entering Norway and then Sweden under different tariff arrangements from the EU are not a big worry.’

    I’m not sure myself. There are rules about evidence of origin, I know that much. But the last time I was on the Swedish/Norway border (admittedly this was pre refugees) it all seemed orderly enough.

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Nov '17 - 9:27pm

    Peter Martin – ‘Older people, if they aren’t economically active, will always be dependent on younger people, even if they’ve saved their own money.’ There is actually a rather interesting aside on that.

    See p25 of the PDF here –

    As large-scale emigration has changed the demographics of countries in Eastern Europe one outcome has been older populations voting for things like higher pensions.

    We are now at the point where around 90% of newly-qualified Bulgarian doctors up and leave.

    What to do about all this is another matter but the rather cheery indifference to asymmetric migration is doing some people and places no favours.

  • frankie

    “I’m not sweeping any lies under the carpet”
    So you finally acknowledge that there were Remainer lies.

    “The fact is lies where told and the liars are leading us out of the EU.”

    So if we follow your logic. The Remain lies just didn’t count to the same degree as Leave lies, because Remain lies didn’t manage to dishonestly hoodwink voters sufficiently enough, to win the referendum?
    So you acknowledge the fact that Remain did lie, but you’re just bitter because you feel that Remain lies were just inferior to Leavers superior lies, at least on the day that it mattered?

  • Public opinion has hardly moved at all since the referendum and this is not surprising – large numbers of Britons read the Daily Mail and continue to inhabit cloud cuckoo land. This is not going to change so we have to do some creative thinking.

    Priority must be given to help better informed individuals get out and re-establish themselves, their careers and their families, in civilised countries. Britain is no longer recognisable since the extremists sized power.

    Admittedly it is not possible to evacuate everyone, and Daily Mail readers are probably beyond help. But surely others could be assisted to find sanctuary? Germany would be in a good position to set up a lifeline, returning the help we gave their own threatened citizens during the 1930’s. Maybe EU countries could agree a quota for Brexit refugees?

    With proper organisation you could even transplant whole towns and cites into EU territory, and give them new names “New Wigan”, New Grimsby” and so on. Probably some diehard Leavers would want to stay behind, and that’s OK, they could wall themselves in and live in contented isolation. Problems solved, and I’m even a politician!

  • I meant, I’m NOT even a politician. (thank God)

  • Katharine,
    Be fair. I didn’t refer to Remainers as impulsive and emotional (I am one and I switched from Leave after much reflection) but to those who immediately demanded a rerun of the referendum without thinking it through. It was predicated on a view that nothing would happen except that a ‘negotiator’ would toddle off to Brussels and come back with the ‘terms’ that the gov could print on some natty leaflet that we would vote ‘continue’ or ‘stop and go back to where we were’.
    That was utterly naive, no matter what “Conference” decided. The consequences began the day after ref 1 and are being seen day by day. We already in an irreversible situation and more irreversible decisions are being taken daily.
    In the post by Arnold, which you hold in such esteem, he says
    ” another referendum, which would indeed be very hard to adequately formulate (in the continued absence of robust scenarios) and extremely divisive to fight.”
    That is exactly what I have been saying. A second referendum is now impossible, policy or not and only a few stragglers now are still calling for one. The voices who were most zealous in that call (months ago)n are now silent. Really Katharine, you should take your own advice and carefully read, and digest, what is written here.

  • John,
    As a “better informed individual” could I ask you when is your leaving date?

  • Palehorse,
    John is making a point, he’s overplaying it but he’s right. When the economy fails to meet the needs of the young they will leave. Jackie even reinforces John’s point (inadvertently I’m sure) when he tells us about young doctors leaving Bulgaria. Well Jackie with an economy falling behind the EU, Australia and the rest watch the young leave and then wonder were you will find their replacements.
    The point about the Daily Mail is interesting, yes they are still cheer leading, but the views in the click bait comment sections isn’t quite as black and white as it was. Still their new promotion of a free Tinkerbell outfit, with sparkly wings and a CD of we believe we can fly should help shore up their readership resolve.

  • Frankie, Sheila Gee….

    As far as exaggerations, distortions and lies go both sides tried to outdo the other…Any sensible analysis of facts by either side was shouted down by the other…If you weren’t 100% (200%) committed you were either a closet supporter of the ‘other side’ or a traitor (Cobyn gave a measured 7/10, for ‘Remain’, and was attacked as ‘Lukewarm’)…

    The advantage ‘Leave’ had was the UK’s inbred distrust of foreigners and the so called ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ (both played upon by the rightwing media)…The apocryphal British newspaper headline of, “Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off” comes to mind…

    It was just enough to override common sense..

  • Anyway…..The ‘Ashes’ are on…It’ll make a change to read the headline, “England Facing Disaster”, and realise that it’s got nothing to do with ‘Brexit’.

  • Arnold Kiel 23rd Nov '17 - 8:36am

    Sheila Gee,

    leave said: this black wall is white, an outright lie. Remain said: this light grey wall will turn black quickly, a forecast. The wall is already dark grey. The forecasters were directionally right, further darkening is likely, but they overestimated the speed of developments. Where is the equivalence?


    why so fatalistic? What is currently happening is rejected by 80% of MPs, 90% of entrepreneurial capital, 99% of foreign capital, 80% of collective years spent in higher education, 70% of collective remaining active working years, 99% of experts (sorry), 100% of the world’s democracies, 0% of the world’s dictatorships, slightly more than 50% of the population (probably >60% in one year). None of it is irreversible so far.

    Why do it, then? For purely formalistic reasons?

  • Frankie and Johnny….,
    I was only teasing. I am 66 and have all my family here. If I were younger I would not hesitate to follow his advice and move to “New Grimsby” (assuming it was somewhere ‘nice’). I am not joking. My view on Brexit is that it has made a bad situation worse and that there are no political voices, anywhere on the spectrum, with anything resembling a plan to reverse Britain’s decline which was coming anyway (but now a lot sooner).
    Just the usual “invest in skills and infrastructure” piffle with a bit of “we need an Industrial Strategy” comedy, thrown in.
    My own politics is from the “extreme centre” and I am an “radical moderate”.
    Step 1 (in national rebirth) = abolish the ridiculous and widely despised House of Lords
    Step2 ……. well that’s even more extreme.

    I was actually agreeing with your view on ref#2. My own view remains that the anti-EU press and politicians are still too strong to allow the path you advocate and the aim should be to undermine them ruthlessly and embarrassing and humiliating them by emphasising the consequences of their folly.

  • Arnold

    “leave said: this black wall is white, an outright lie.”

    I can assure you Arnold, no leaver has never even mentioned a wall, whether it be black or white.
    I think you’ve confused Brexit with Pink Floyd, the iconic British rock band. I recall they spoke of about The Wall, which incidentally wasn’t pink. I think from memory, Pink Floyds’ wall was white with black mortar joints, although please don’t hold me to that, as I am of course, a ‘thick-as-a-brick’ leaver, and by definition, a poor source of accurate information?

  • Riccardo Sallustio 23rd Nov '17 - 11:46am

    I wish that a second referendum were not to be hijacked like the first one. Treating an advisory referendum as binding constitutes a violation of constitutional principles in many democracies and of the principle of legal certainty. I cannot accept that legally the government is right in delivering the will of the people simply because there cannot be a will if it derives from something which is advisory. It is party’s policy, though, to “acknowledge” the June 2016 referendum and to have a second referendum “on facts”. Even if, as some of you may know, I am not in favour of referendums, I eventually signed the petition for a second EU referendum. Now, the least the Parliament should do is to set clear rules and mechanisms allowing for the second referendum to be a fair contest “on facts” and to allow for specific mandates. However, if the House of Commons on 11 December 2017 fails to deliver a second referendum on this basis then it is time to accept that time has run out, that it would be delusional to continue going after the second referendum option and that party’s policy should change to revocation of Article 50 notice in the national interest.

  • Arnold Kiel I’m interested in your statistics. Can you please point me in the direction of your sources for such percentages. Many thanks in advance.

  • John King

    “Admittedly it is not possible to evacuate everyone,”

    Well quite John. I mean, trying to evacuate everyone in the UK to ‘New Grimsby’ in Germany, would be just plain silly.
    What still confuses me John, is that the migrant camps on the Calais side of the Channel are still expanding. Maybe they just haven’t heard your bad news?
    So whilst you’re packing your bags, and readying yourself for evacuation, wouldn’t it be only fair, to warn those desperate Calais migrants that the UK is now sinking due to Brexit, and that they should save themselves by heading for a prosperous future in New Grimsby in Germany?

  • If the referendum had been to remain would the leavers be entitled also to demand a second referendum?

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Nov '17 - 12:38pm

    @Sean Hyland
    “If the referendum had been to remain would the leavers be entitled also to demand a second referendum?”

    Certainly if the result had been close Farage had already said there would have to be another referendum. This is down to the stupidity of not having a proper written constitution which defines clearly under what circumstances the result of a referendum would be binding (this one wasn’t binding) and even under what circumstances a referendum should take place at all.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Nov '17 - 12:55pm

    @Riccardo Sallustio “Treating an advisory referendum as binding constitutes a violation of constitutional principles in many democracies”
    I think this is a very weak line of attack against the Government and risks painting the Lib Dems in a very bad light in which the party appears inconsistent, hypocritical and manipulative.

    The Tories won a General Election in 2015 on a manifesto which promised

    David Cameron has committed that he will only lead a government that offers an in-out referendum. We will hold that in-out referendum before the end of 2017 and respect the outcome.

    so they can claim a constitutional and democratic mandate for what they have done.
    Attacking this draws attention to the Lib Dems’ more flexible approach to pre-election promises, and the party has called for plenty of referendums (and delivered a few), including an In/Out referendum on EU membership, without saying they should only be advisory and can be overruled. Downplaying the significance of a referendum also weakens the call for second referendum!

  • Peter Martin 23rd Nov '17 - 1:54pm

    @ frankie,

    Norway only has “a wealth fund” because it has so much oil money it doesn’t know what else to do with it. You’ll perhaps understand why all countries need their National Debts. If I want to buy a Premium Bond the Govt has to assume liability for my bond. It has to have that debt to me. Similarly if the Bundesbank wants to buy up Gilts the Govt has to assume the debt.

    So Norway can’t just use the money to pay off the National debt because Norwegian financial institutions want to own it – or a part of it. There’s a demand from pension funds, the banks, the person in the street.

    The UK doesn’t have a “wealth fund” because we don’t need one.

  • Martin 23rd Nov ’17 – 1:30pm:
    If the referendum had been for remain and it had been shown that the remain campaign included illegal funding do you think Brexiters would have shut up about it?

    They’ve already shut-up about the £9.3m of public money spent on the Remain propaganda booklet sent to every UK home in flagrant contravention of the Council of Europe’s code for conducting a referendum…

    ‘EU referendum: £9m taxpayer-funded publicity blitz pushes case to remain’ [April 2016]:

    Government crest appears on booklets which will cost 34p per household – causing uproar among Brexit supporters

    ‘European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission): Code of Good Practice on Referendums’:

    3.1. Freedom of voters to form an opinion

    a. Administrative authorities must observe their duty of neutrality (see 1.2.2.a. above), which is one of the means of ensuring that voters can form an opinion freely.

    b. Contrary to the case of elections, it is not necessary to prohibit completely intervention by the authorities in support of or against the proposal submitted to a referendum. However, the public authorities (national, regional and local) must not influence the outcome of the vote by excessive, one-sided campaigning. The use of public funds by the authorities for campaigning purposes must be prohibited.

  • David Evans 23rd Nov '17 - 2:13pm

    Peter Martin, the UK doesn’t have a wealth fund because the UK government under Margaret Thatcher wanted to spend all the North Sea Oil revenue immediately.

    In Norway they knew they needed to save.

  • Sean Hyland 23rd Nov '17 - 2:14pm

    @Nonconformistradical – i try hard to avoid listening to the strange ramblings of the self-elected “man of the people” Farage. Thanks for reminding me of his original call prior to the actual referendum for a second referendum if the result was close. I also recall when leave won his about face and ruling out of a second referendum.

    I also recall he was roundly attacked at the time by the remain campaign for raising the option of that second referendum. They were happy to say when they thought they were winning that it wouldn’t be right to reject the will of the people. They said he was just a sore loser – and he is in many ways – and that the result should stand and be acted upon.

    So no side comes out of this with any right to condemn the other. Each was/is happy to call for a second referendum when losing/lost, and reject the call when they win/think they are winning.

  • Riccardo Sallustio 23rd Nov '17 - 2:36pm

    @Peter Watson
    I do not expect to set the line of attack against the government. However, as a lawyer, it is my duty to put the record straight.

    None should be interested in the statements made by politicians during the EU Referendum campaign or in those made in the 2015 Tory manifesto as they have no legal meaning in the context of the approval of parliamentary act regarding the EU Referendum and its advisory nature. Parliament when adopting the European Union Referendum Act 2015 had the option to make the EU Referendum binding but it failed to do. Therefore, what the Tory manifesto stated or what campaigners said prior to the EU Referendum is simply legally irrelevant.

    On what basis then one can accept that something advisory becomes legally binding? Is simple expectation an acceptable argument which prevails over the rule of law? Is correct for the party to uphold expectation as supreme source above the rule of law? Certainly not. Regardless of the legal analysis, is it politically acceptable that a referendum with no quorum and which was won thanks to the lies on a bus, to Russian agents interfering in the campaign and to illegal funding and in which British citizens abroad had no say could have the effect of stripping them of fundamental rights? What about the certainty of law and the “legitimate expectation” of these citizens, which is indeed protected by European law?

    The fact is that had the June 2016 referendum been binding it would not have passed the test under the OSCE rules or under the ECHR. Arguably it was also in breach of the fundamental rights under the British constitution.

    As a party we should not be afraid of standing for democracy under the rule of law.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Nov '17 - 2:37pm

    @ David Evans,

    “In Norway they knew they needed to save.”

    There could have been a case for the UK government to have used oil revenues to build up its foreign currency reserves. Say in US $ securities. But the US may have considered that to be an unfriendly act because the UK government would have been increasing the size of the US National Debt.

    The Norwegian government doesn’t “need to save”. It really needs to park its money outside its own economy, as far as possible, to prevent its currency, the krone, becoming too high and damaging its non-oil economy. That the mistake Mrs Thatcher made with the pound. Or maybe that was her plan. It depends on how you look at it.

    So that’s the real motivation. If, at some time in the future Norway gets its money out of the wealth fund it could create the same problem for the krone and its economy.

    But that’s for the future and will be someone else’s problem.

  • Sean Hyland 23rd Nov '17 - 2:45pm

    @Riccardo Sallustio – so challenge it in a court of law.

  • I’m all for campaigning as Wera recommends but what strikes me most about the Lib Dems so far is the complete ineptitude of the party’s effort.

    Lib Dems used to be (and sometimes still are) good at campaigning on local issues but they’ve never worked out how to campaign nationally – as now starkly exposed by Brexit.

    Some suggestions:

    1. Stop calling Leavers ‘stupid’, ‘xenophobic’ etc. They’re not and insults won’t change minds.

    2. Understand where Leavers are coming from. That’s complicated but my sense is that the underlying motivation is most people are desperate for change for themselves and for others. Farage was able to convince a narrow majority that the problems are mainly down to the EU and that the grass is greener on the other side.

    I think he’s wrong about that but, in the complete absence of leadership from the mainstream parties, what else are people to conclude? ‘Plan’ beats ‘No plan’ as my father used to say.

    3. Stop obsessing about the mechanics (2nd referendum or whatever) of reversing the decision. With only a handful of MPs that is not a decision Lib Dems will make. Concentrate instead on changing public opinion. The Tories (weather vanes that most are) are masters of political U-turns; if public opinion shifts decisively they will find a mechanism to reverse the referendum – and even make it look good.

    4. Debunk the arguments for Brexit, e.g.

    ’Our huge deficit puts us in a strong negotiating position’.

    Wrong! Exports to the UK account for ~ 17% on average of the EU27’s exports so to lose some percentage would be painful but survivable. Ours to them is ~44%, rising to ~60% when countries we trade with under EU agreements like Turkey are included. Moreover, our biggest export sector (and also a major taxpayer) is the City. The EU27 are falling over each other to grab this business so don’t expect any concessions whatsoever. And remember, services are not covered by the WTO.

    In short, we hold no trumps in this game. That’s why Davis has repeatedly had to fold.

    I don’t have any figures (anyone?) but at a guess the likely lost revenue will mean we have to lose something big on the spending side. What do Brexiteers propose? The NHS?

  • Michael Berridge 23rd Nov '17 - 5:20pm

    To adopt the 1979 Conservative election slogan: Brexit isn’t working.
    So why does everyone pretend that it’s a done deal, Britain is leaving, like it or not?
    What is the psychology of this?
    Just asking.

  • Michael Berridge 23rd Nov ’17 – 5:20pm:
    …why does everyone pretend that it’s a done deal, Britain is leaving, like it or not?

    Here’s David Cameron to explain…

    ‘PM Commons statement on EU reform and referendum: 22 February 2016’:

    Mr Speaker, this is a vital decision for the future of our country. And we should also be clear that it is a final decision.

    An idea has been put forward that if the country votes to leave we could have a second renegotiation and perhaps another referendum.

    Mr Speaker I won’t dwell on the irony that some people who want to vote to leave – apparently want to use a leave vote to remain.

    But such an approach also ignores more profound points about democracy, diplomacy and legality.

    This is a straight democratic decision – staying in or leaving – and no government can ignore that.

    Having a second renegotiation followed by a second referendum is not on the ballot paper.

    And for a Prime Minister to ignore the express will of the British people to leave the EU would not just be wrong, it would be undemocratic.

  • Jeff- Consider this:

    A man makes a Will and tells his lawyer it is for all time and cannot be countermanded. All well and good, but two years later he tells his lawyer there are new developments which he couldn’t foresee at the time and instructs his lawyer to ignore his previous statements, he wants to make a new Will. What should the lawyer do? Both Wills and advance directives can be normally be updated, but it’s certainly a question on which philosophers may disagree.

    Duke Ellington know all about it, because he instructed his fellow musicians to stop him playing late into the night no matter what he later said. Then late into the night he would announced he was revoking everything he’d said before, he wanted to play on.

    Second referendums are probably simple by comparison.

  • More suggestions for debunking Leave propositions.

    1. We will be free to increase our exports to faster-growing parts of the world.

    Germany and others are champion exporters from within the EU. If we don’t export more, it’s nothing to do with the EU but only the weakness of our own industrial base after so many years of Tory misrule.

    Without in any way belittling the contribution of small companies, any big increase in exports will have to be led by large companies as only they have the necessary resources. So, can you name just six large non-finance/service sector UK companies? I suspect, most will find it easier to name six large German companies and that’s a measure of our problem.

    2. We can strike Free Trade agreements with the US, China and others.

    Except international trade is always managed, never ‘free’ as some imagine. That’s why ‘Free Trade’ agreements typically run to thousands of pages and take years to negotiate. In reality, they are carefully constructed trade-offs – you can have this if we can have that. For that reason ‘cut and paste’ from existing EU documents won’t work.

    The global giants like the US & China are run by economic nationalists who won’t negotiate with small players – only give dictation just as we did when we were an imperial power. Also, agreements will involve dispute arbitration which, in the case of the US, will involve private courts over which Parliament has no jurisdiction. So much for “taking back control”.

    3. Customs. I’m not aware that Leave even has a position on customs.

    By good luck new software for customs clearance had been commissioned before the Brexit vote specified to handle 100 million customs clearances/year, double the current 50 million. But on Brexit demand will jump to ~250 million. Oops. And government big software is so successful…

    Much of our industry is now part of pan-European supply chains so any interruption will instantly close down great swathes of it.

    This is Russian roulette – but with all chambers loaded.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Nov '17 - 8:52pm

    Wonderful debate. As Arnold wrote, there is nothing irreversible at present. We have until March 2019 to persuade the country that revocation of Article 50 by Parliament is possible though difficult. . As Riccardo says, referendums are really advisory, though the then Prime Minister did intend the last one to be binding. Still, as someone earlier wrote, more than 12 m. people didn’t even vote.

    However, I am writing to reply again to Palehorse, since he addresses me, and continues to uphold untrue and unpleasant statements. For instance, that ‘the second referendum proposal was always impetuous and ill-thought out’, which simply ignores the long and deep consideration of the question by the party, and so is rude. And, ‘a referendum on those four options would be obviously ludicrous nonsense’, your comment on a suggestion by a contributor (unknown to me) on another thread. Discussions on what should be asked in the desired referendum are clearly sensible, but your intention seems to be to seek all the time to close down debate.

    Finally, ‘Most of these posts are just recreational grief and are the traditional states of denial, anger, depression, etc., slowly being worked through while the more sensible of us stand and watch and wait.’ Leaving aside the question of whether to stand and watch and wait might be considered undesirable for any intelligent patriot in these turbulent times for our country , I can tell you as an accredited counsellor with many years’ experience of bereavement counselling that you wrote inappropriate nonsense there and certainly had no business attempting to patronise me in your final sentence.

  • Katharine,
    I sincerely apologise if you found me rude. I can hear my mother’s angry voice now rebuking me (rest her soul).
    So I am sorry.
    In my defence I would suggest that simply being conference approved policy does not, should not, mean it can not be challenged.
    My language may have been clear but was no worse than others use about leave voters and those who encouraged them to vote leave. “Brave Brexiteers” is a clear insult and “misguided” is one of the milder terms and hardly worse than “impulsive”. And perhaps “gossamer” could be considered a little dismissive.
    Interestingly Wera doesn’t use the term “second referendum” but “will of the people” – a more equivocal term.
    So while regretting upsetting you (and I honestly appreciate your years of community service) I maintain that a second referendum question could not be framed in the situation which will prevail then and further that many who proposed such a referendum are not as vociferous now as that reality dawns.
    Only a major parliamentary revolt could create a new Brexit situation and that seems to be what is being encouraged.
    But I am not as bad as you think me and I apologise again.

  • Riccardo Sallustio 23rd Nov '17 - 9:46pm

    @Sean Hyland
    This is being taken care of: a number of British citizens who are resident in the EU have filed a writ claiming that the EU Referendum was in breach of their fundamental rights under the ECHR. I have confidence in the outcome of this case.

    The Supreme Court in the Miller cases confirmed that EU Referendum was advisory so David Cameron’s statement of 22 February 2016 is completely irrelevant. This is still a Parliamentary democracy and he obviously had no authority to change the advisory nature of the EU Referendum and could not do so retroactively.

  • @Riccardo Sallustio. I am actually happy to hear this. I did vote Leave but think this would benefit the debate. I actually put on another thread on this site that I believed that UK nationals resident in EU should have had a vote.

    If I was a little abrupt in my post i apologise. I was a little upset after a chat with local LD activists. Just confirmed that I won’t be rejoining in the party.

  • Sean Hyland 23rd Nov ’17 – 10:50pm:
    I actually put on another thread on this site that I believed that UK nationals resident in EU should have had a vote.

    They did have a vote, unless they had lived abroad for more than 15 years…

    ‘British expats lose legal battle for right to vote in EU referendum’ [April 2016]:

    The legal challenge brought by two disenfranchised expats on behalf of those living overseas for more than 15 years was dismissed by Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mr Justice Blake.

    The government, the judges said, was entitled to adopt a cut-off period “at which extended residence abroad might indicate a weakening of ties with the United Kingdom”.

  • @Jeff – thanks for that. Wasn’t aware of that case.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Nov '17 - 11:52pm

    Thank you, Palehorse. that is all right then. I think we political activists need to be listening to each other and debating fair-mindedly. But I will try to suggest an answer to Michael Berridge’s puzzlement that, since ‘Brexit isn’t working’, ‘why does everyone pretend that it is a done deal, Britain is leaving?’ It isn’t everyone, of course, but there is a lot of that kind of statement about. I think it is a way for the Leavers to try to boost their spirits, by making assertions publicly which like-minded people will reiterate, all of them safely backed by vociferous tabloids. Since lies were accepted in the run-up to the Referendum, why not make similar ones now? Not deliberately telling lies, either, but people can convince themselves of contradictory things, and don’t like being deflected from ideas they and their associates have publicly adhered to. So long as statements can be based on the loudest lie, ‘the will of the people’, there will be backers, and it will deflect everyone from seriously reflecting on the worsening prospects of the country facing Brexit.

    I think a lot of people not so involved in politics have switched off, hoping for the best, knowing the two main parties are still maintaining that leaving is correct, and generally preferring to get on with life and not worry too much while things are still so uncertain. But if the negotiations fail, as they well may do over the Irish border, and people have to face the fact that the country has a grim economic prospect for years to come anyway as the OBR tells us, it seems likely then that people will start demanding change. And if the government can’t get a grip, perhaps the opposition at last will do.

  • @ Sean Hyland. Subsequently upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Nov ’17 – 11:52pm:
    …people have to face the fact that the country has a grim economic prospect for years to come anyway as the OBR tells us,…

    This is what the OBR tells us…

    ‘Government refuses OBR information on Brexit’: [23 November 2017]:

    The OBR says it has no meaningful basis to form outlooks for the UK economy.

    As we move out of the J-curve trough expect to see growth surprise on the upside.

  • OnceALibDem 24th Nov '17 - 1:06am

    @Riccardo Sallustio – do you have a case name/reference for that as it’s not something I’d heard about? Where is it being brought. It’s being left pretty late in the day. The UK courts can’t strike down primary legislation even if incompatible with the ECHR

  • Riccardo Sallustio 24th Nov '17 - 10:57am

    The action was brought on 21 July 2017 before the ECJ (Shindler and Others v Council (Case T-458/17))
    Here is the link:

    It has nothing to do with the case reported by @Jeff

  • Michael Berridge 24th Nov '17 - 8:55pm

    Katharine Pindar: I agree with your comments. No-one likes to admit a mistake. Sorry is often the hardest word. Leavers do go on about the “will of the people”, but they have a problem in that there is no headline-grabbing reason to leave the EU – though there are some: it’s instructive that the Soil Association is sitting on the fence about the impact on organic farming, given that the CAP has never been friendly to small farmers. If only we could trust Michael Gove to care for the environment, as he says he will.

  • Sean Hyland 24th Nov '17 - 9:56pm

    @Michael Berridge isn’t the call for a second referendum on the terms based on the claims to represent the ” will of the people”.

  • I don’t get the Liberal Democrats sometimes, Since well before the 2015 election you have been languishing on around 6 or 7 % in the polls, The party has been reduced to a small rump. Your constant calls for a 2nd referendum is falling on deaf ears, nobody apart from your core supporters of 6-7% wants another referendum. Therefore it simply is not going to happen. Those who voted leave did so and would do so again. Even a significant of people who voted remain now accepts that leave won and we should just get on with it.
    Our politicians put it to plebiscite, the people spoke and they want to leave.
    I keep hearing about the 12 million people who did not cast a vote, well erm i’m sorry, they had an opportunity to vote, but they chose not to because a majority of them decided they did not care one way or the other of the outcome.

    I really thought after 2 years, Liberal Democrats would start to move on from this, Yes Campaign for the type of brexit that u want by all means, but stop this nonsense of trying to rerun the referendum or trying to convince politicians that they should ignore the democratic decision of their constituents and try and get article 50 revoked instead.

    There is a reason you have been stuck on the polls at 6-7% because there is no longer any substance to this party, its all about Brexit for you guys and nothing else and that is not going to win you any more seats at future elections

  • matt: “stop this nonsense of trying to rerun the referendum or trying to convince politicians that they should ignore the democratic decision of their constituents and try and get article 50 revoked instead” Yet another person who doesn’t understand that democracy does not mean slavish obedience to a point-in-time snapshot of public opinion. EVERY democratic decision is open to challenge. That’s how democracy works. If it were not, then there should only ever be one election of a government for all time, and once that election was finished there should never be any criticism of the “democratically elected” government. That’s not democracy, it’s dictatorship. You are no democrat if you think that the vote on 23rd of June is set in stone for all time and no-one is ever allowed to criticise it or campaign to change people’s minds about it.
    As for Lib Dems being stuck in the polls, I think this is mainly due to the media being in two-party mode and largely ignoring the Lib Dems. That tends to happen anyway at this point in teh electoral cycle, immediately after a general election, but it’s particularly the case now when the media have decided that we’ve returned to two-party politics and so they only ever interview Conservative and Labour politicians.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Nov '17 - 11:56pm

    Matt, that is just another list of confident assertions which cannot be proved, just another example of a Leave voter trying to barricade the future with false hopes. We Remainers will patiently point out for the Nth time that we do not wish to rerun the Referendum, but only to offer our people the chance, now that so much more is known about the harm of Brexit, democratically to decide whether they still want to leave.

  • Thanks – I’m not sure I’d share your confidence in its possible success. Art 50 only requires the decision to be made by the government (no need for referendum) so I’m not sure their would be a requirement to involve all citizens in the decision making process in the way suggested. Especially on a non-binding referendum.

    The ECJ will have to get a bit of a wriggle on though!

  • Katharine maybe you also need to offer a positive view of what rejecting a deal means in terms of what the EU is offering for the future. I accept remaining in the single market initially can be sold as a positive but you know my views on what I believe will happen politically. In that Remainders can only offer a generalized statement/assertion of what they believe will happen.

  • ” We Remainers will patiently point out for the Nth time that we do not wish to rerun the Referendum but only to offer our people the chance, now that so much more is known about the harm of Brexit, democratically to decide whether they still want to leave.”

    You don’t wish to rerun the referendum? How then do you suppose to let them democratically decide whether they still want to leave, if not with another referendum.

    And what is this more we know of harm about Brexit now that we did not know before? As far as I can tell, all the doomsday prophecies kicked about by remainders failed to pass
    However, some of the things that leave said would happen which remainers denied did come to pass, Further EU Integration, Talk of an EU Army to just name a couple and remainers where saying NO NO NO that will not happen and yet a couple of days after the Brexit result, that is exactly what junker and his cronies where up to and announced.

    I still have not seen anyone from remain make a successful argument on why we should stay in the EU and how they would go about bringing about reforms from within the EU to make it more acceptable to the majority. Problem is, most Europhillies don’t see anything wrong with the EU and want more of the same, case in point Nick Clegg, oh we might hear the odd platitude here and there, but it lacks any sincerity.

    “just another example of a Leave voter trying to barricade the future with false hopes”
    I would rather be driven by hope and ambition rather than being battered by fear and repression any day of the week

  • Alex Macfie

    “Yet another person who doesn’t understand that democracy does not mean slavish obedience to a point-in-time snapshot of public opinion.”
    “You are no democrat if you think that the vote on 23rd of June is set in stone for all time”

    On the very first page of the £9.3 million leaflet that Cameron sent to every household it says:
    “It’s your opportunity to decide if the UK remains in the European Union (EU). It’s a big decision. One that will affect you, your family and your children for decades to come.”

    So in fact, the long term implications of the referendum were abundantly clear to everyone, because every household was told that it was ‘their decision’, and would affect the country ‘for decades to come’. If you think I misread the government leaflet, [approved by our elected representatives], can you please point me to the parts of the leaflet which said:

    ‘This is only a point-in-time snapshot’, or
    ‘Your decision is only advisory’, or
    ‘If the government disagree with your decision, we’ll assume you were ‘a bit confused’, or ‘too thick to know what you were doing’, or ‘succumbed to lies’, or ‘unduly influenced by the Russians on Facebook, and give you another referendum opportunity to give us the decision that we do agree with’

  • matt: 1) The Act of Parliament that approved the referendum into force states that the referendum is advisory.
    2) Lib Dems are not in government now, and were not in government when the referendum was approved. We are therefore in no way (either morally or legally) bound by any pledges made by Cameron or his Conservative administration regarding how the referendum result would be implemented. If we decide that oppositions are bound by government pledges, that effectively abolishes democratic opposition.

  • sorry I meant Sheila not matt!

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Nov '17 - 12:31am

    Matt, it is really quite simple. The people should be given a chance to show if they have changed their minds about the way they voted in the Referendum. The economy is in poor shape, the Government is having to spend valuable resources on preparing for Brexit, there is no sign after months of negotiation that the country can retain its present advantages in trade and services if leaving, agencies and sections of business are transferring to the Continent, Britain is losing its international place in justice and in culture… What can possibly be gained by leaving? Did you hear the roars of derision by the Any Questions crowd – in Wera’s Bath – on Friday night, asked to believe it would be good to do so?

    Hope, Matt and Sean, there is in remaining with our closest partners, in accepting that in this dangerous world our nearest neighbours are on our side in essentials. We share standards, on the environment, on protecting workers, on channelling funds to the poorest sectors, on human rights and liberties, and on matters of justice and security. Where there are differences, for instance about immigration, they are narrowing; where there are more extreme views, whether expressed by Herr Juncker, by right-wing populists or authoritarian governments within the EU, they do not command majority support. Look to our friends, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark; look to the humanity as well as the competence of Germany, or the new directions of the French Government. ‘We can work it out’, together. Europe leads the world, and we can be proud and glad to be Europeans.

  • Katharine thanks for your response and reasoned points. I welcome your reply in contrast to other posters.

    Still think even if we end up in EU with our neighbours and sharing some ideals we will do so only at the whim of the Euro zone grouping. They are already taking decisions in separate summits to suit the euro grouping but which have an impact on the whole EU and we are not part of that process. Every summit/meeting of all EU is followed by a corresponding Euro group and further decisions are taken. I don’t see any other country looking to change that beyond vague comments – pretty much like the vague comments of the brexit side.

    For information I took your advice and spoke to my local branch. All was fine discussing general issues re the town/liberal beliefs etc till I mentioned I voted leave. As I suspected I was left in doubt I would not be welcome.

  • Neil Sandison 26th Nov '17 - 3:31pm

    Mrs May believes she has a mandate to complete Brexit and she will do so however bad the final deal is,(remember David Cameron and his poor agreement which no body remembered or spoke about during the referendum campaign ).We did not vote to leave the EEA and for pragmatic economic reasons we will need a viable single market /customs agreement .A EFTA arrangement bespoke or otherwise will assist the Northern and Southern Irish situation but we must not allow the nationalist conservative and unionist to dominate the debate with increasingly damaging statements that will create that cliff edge that no except the WTO Brexiters seem to crave.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Nov '17 - 9:04pm

    Sean, just two short points. First, you wrote , ‘So, they are finally putting in place the required political union along with proper fiscal structures.’ No, they aren’t. They are just talking about it, with plenty of internal disagreement, especially with the over-arching ambitions of Herr Juncker. (I understand also French and German aims may not be entirely compatible.) Second, I was sorry to hear of the rude comment of your Lib Dem councillor to you, which should not have been. But the local party is hopefully campaigning to win over their Leave neighbours to reconsider, and having a hard time of it especially if your constituency had many Leavers in it, and I should think they felt discouraged and disappointed – not that you voted to leave, but that after so many months and so much evidence you are still doubting. I understand your viewpoint, but the party has a mighty job to do in the next few months, and I guess the locals were at first excited at having this thoughtful new possible recruit. Could you try again to talk to others there? (Confession – I have had the odd stand-up row in my own local party, though we have worked through them to peaceful co-existence!)

  • Katharine many thanks for your reply and kind wishes. I am afraid there is not much of a local party left and the members with him didn’t seem inclined to challenge his language. I know this does not apply to the wider party but not keen to move on yet.

    In terms of financial structures being changed they did happen following the crisis. The ECB had an explicit policy of no bail out as the principal of moral hazard applied. The rules had to be changed to allow them to provide liquidity and to purchase national bonds/gilts as a form of QE. European Commission is to receive national budget plans prior to them being submitted to their own Parliament and voters. This will allow the commission to ask for amendments or offer criticism.

    Since Lisbon the Eurozone countries constitute an automatic majority under QMV on increasing areas of decision making for the whole EU. Doesn’t matter if we and other non euro countries disagree we are automatically a minority. We have to hope and trust that our views will then be listened to and in many cases probably will. But if future of euro and ultimately EU needs changes made it won’t matter what we say. EU has always shown it will protect its against nation states and is happy to change rules when suits.

    Agree this is getting a fixation so going to take a break from it all to think. Also need to complete some essays for Uni so will focus on them. I respect your views and those of others on here and if things do change re brexit I will be happy to offer my congratulations on a successful campaign.

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