Brexit Break-up

Liberal Democrat opinion seems to be moving towards an expectation that sometime in 2018, the Brexit process will collapse. They argue that the government is divided and their negotiations are seen as chaotic. Some suggest that Tory divisions will bring the PM down and are likely lead to a general election.

We should remember that this is the same party which ran us out of town in 2015. This is the party with more financial backing than we could dream of. Most of all, Tory MPs do not want to lose their seats any more than other MPs.

So, put yourself into the shoes of a Tory back-bencher or junior minister. What would you do? Brexiteer, Suella Fernandes holds the safe Tory seat of Fareham. Sara Newton holds the not-so-safe Tory seat of Truro and Falmouth and despite representing the only Remain Constituency in Cornwall has consistently towed the party line. Neither of these MPs would like to see an election. So, when the chips are down, Tories will unite behind the least-worse option.

There is little doubt that the chips will indeed be down sometime in 2018 as we approach the end of the Article 50 process. The country may well be swinging away from Brexit as the prospects for success recede and inflation starts to bite. This is where the government will need to hold its nerve.

Theresa May and her colleagues may appear to be on a fool’s errand, but if I were Theresa May, I would rely on a transition period to stave off the fateful day. I would claim to have left the EU as promised but only gradually remove the safety net of existing trade agreements. I would argue that I alone can protect the national interest whilst delivering ‘the will of the people’. After all, that was why she held the 2017 general election – to give her two more years to sort out a favourable Brexit, or at least the prospect of one.

As Douglas Adams once said, “Do not underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools”.

* Garth Shephard is Chair of St Austell & Newquay local party.

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  • At last. An article from someone who knows who our enemies are and understands that they will do anything at all to grab and cling onto power. We have spent too long in a state of wishful thinking, hoping against all facts that the coalition years were not the disaster our leaders allowed them to become.

    However cleverly we can create a logical construct to show that ‘A week is a long time in politics’ and that ‘Things may have got bad quickly, but that shows they can get better just as quickly,’ simply puts off the fateful day when we have to face up to the problems we have allowed to be created by our leadership while they were in coalition.

    The Conservatives are taking us out of Europe. We know it will be a disaster, but as a result of 2010, people first learned not to trust us and then decided not to bother because we were irrelevant. We can’t stop it. Only a self inflicted disaster within the Tories can and they won’t do it for us.

    Until our leaders find a way to get us noticed as anything more than a fringe party which supports Europe we will get nowhere. The fact that after the disaster, when we are out, Jeremy Corbyn can pretend he was pro EU all along, and did his best to get a soft Brexit, will simply mean we will have nothing at all to say to people that will make us more than a minor fringe party in a very poor and disfunctional country.

  • Neil Sandison 30th Nov '17 - 12:23pm

    Good analysis .My money is on another snap election in June 2019 when TM will either retire with her Brexit legacy and a new conservative leader will be put in place .or she will claim that only the conservatives have delivered on the “wIll of the people” in the referendum and she should be re-elected.either way there will be an early election .What worries me is that we do not appear to be preparing for that eventuality.

  • Some people suggested that The Governments Incompetence was a deliberate strategy : lead The Tory Brexiteers to the edge, let them see the bottom then make a reasonable compromise & challenge the Hard-Liners to vote it down. Certainly the last few days have seen a whole series of U-Turns on Money & NI.
    We dont know how The Tory Right will react, I wouldnt be surprised if they chicken out leaving May triumphant with a Brexit that doesnt actually feel very different from EU Membership. Or it could all blow up in Mays face.
    At the moment it seems unlikely that we will have much influence one way or the other but theres another Year to go.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Nov '17 - 1:01pm

    It’s well worth exploring the options as far as we can in this confusion situation, so thanks, Garth. I’m sure you’re right to assume the Tories will cling to power (to which they think they are entitled) and won’t allow a general election next year if they can help it, despite their deep divisions. And yes, I also think that Mrs May is depending on the proposed transition period. But I believe the underlying weakness of the Government’s position will be exposed in the next few months, as it becomes clear in the trade talks that we can’t have all the present advantages of the Single Market and Customs Union without accepting the conditions that go with them.

    It’s a desperate throw to attempt to hide this by trying to fix an absolute date of leaving, and planning to keep the conditions during the transition. Before long, answers will be demanded as to what the situation will be AFTER the transition – in other words, what we would be transitioning to. And there’s no good answer to that.

    With a failing economy and all the additional costs of Brexit, already seen in the rise of inflation, this Government must become more and more unpopular. If the Labour Party rises to the challenge, another general election could probably be forced, at least if the shield of the DUP is withdrawn because of dissatisfaction over the Irish border’s proposed ‘solutions’. To avoid a GE, probably the only other step the Tories can take, apart from calling off Brexit themselves, is to allow another referendum before the March 2019 deadline.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Nov '17 - 2:23pm

    We had several recessions under Mrs Thatcher but the Tories kept getting back in, so don’t let’s rely too much on a recession causing the Leavers to change their minds. It’s too easy for them to think of it as short term pain for long term gain. Sadly we know it will be long term pain instead, but when will this impact sufficiently on voters to get them to call for a repeal of Brexit?

  • has consistently towed the party line

    Where did she tow it to?

  • Pretty much everything discussed here is fiction, conjecture or if-this-then-that assumptions with no legal status.

    None of it is actually ‘On the Statute’. A two year transition, plus £18 billion is at this moment a mere fiction in Theresa May’s head. The presumed £55 billion ‘ransom’ payment, has absolutely no legal status.

    Fact : At this moment in time there is one thing, and only one thing which has any legal tenure on reality, ‘on the Statute’, and definitely happening, and that is our Article 50 [two year notice to quit the EU].

    Nothing that I am aware of can now stop that Article 50 process, and in 485 days we WILL all cease to be EU citizens. So by 30th March 2019, as ex EU citizens there is no legal obligation for us to conform or abide by any EU derived law or regulation.
    There is at this moment, NO legal status for any ‘overrun’ of EU legislation or ECJ jurisdiction, beyond March 2019, and I’m not clear how parliament, [even if it wished to], could force ‘by statute’, ex EU citizens such as me, to continue to conform to EU legislation?

    Parliament needs to focus its attention very hard on the completion of the Withdrawal Bill, and ensuring that there is some replacement UK legislation by April 2019, because I declare here and now that in 485 days I will point blank refuse to comply with anything that has EU in its text, and there is NO authority in the land which can legally force me as an ex EU citizen to comply with ‘EU legislation’ from April 2019.
    I hope that’s clear enough.

  • Arnold Kiel 30th Nov '17 - 5:32pm

    The economy will continue to slow down, because investors and employers will soon find out that the divorce-settlement was the easy part. The UK still managed to almost drive it into the ditch, but in the end it was simply about the UK conceding to EU demands in just three rather simple fields.

    I am sure the UK is totally unprepared for the trade-talks it demanded from the outset, but this time, Britain must make proposals. And there is still ten times the capacity and expertise on the other side. The whole thing will soon look even more dismal than the first chapter. Consequently, no actionable future arrangement will emerge, and a transition, will increasingly look like just buying time without a clear purpose. Time-limiting it will be evidently foolish, if nobody has specific tasks to complete during that phase. Business can do nothing but wait, and continue to move south.

    Crashing out will by then be sufficiently discredited by economic reality, so the Government has two options: asking the 27 for a unanimous prolongation or revoking the notification. Prolongation, if obtained, has the problem that the next crash-date looms irreversibly. It is this situation in which I can imagine a sufficient rebellion among Tories.

  • Garth Shephard 30th Nov '17 - 5:41pm

    “Events Dear Boy” may well shape our future, but failing such things, the (public) worm may turn sometime next year. The problem with this is, a) how will we know, b) what difference will it make, but most of all c) where do we stand on this – how can we present a radical solution which will capture the imagination?

  • Brexit will not be stopped. Stop being fooled by the sound of your own voices in your echo chamber. The most likely outcome it that it will be fudged, which will store up problems for later down the line as it will not go away.

  • Garth Shephard 30th Nov '17 - 6:13pm

    Well I guess we come full circle!

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Nov '17 - 6:21pm

    Andy Daer – Isn’t all that a bit problematic though? OK – the economy ‘tanks’ (whatever that means). For an awful lot of LEAVE voters the economy went badly down hill at least a decade prior to the referendum. This was (one of) the big mistakes that Cameron made. At times his argument skated rather close to, ‘the current economic system really isn’t delivering for you – but at least you don’t have to queue for a passport stamp at Magaluf airport.’ I’d hope you can see what that got short-shrift from the voters. It’s not much good telling people who’ve seen the economic sky fall in that voting to leave will make the economic sky fall in.

    The whole REMAIN argument just seems totally unable to move on from Cameron/Osborne’s line. Indeed look at the article – hoping for something to fall from the sky. No thought as to what could be done WITHIN the EU about the problems that were in plain sight at the referendum. Indeed reservations about the EU’s coporatist open agenda stretched well beyond the leave vote.

    Where is the thought, the vision, the community politics (for want of a better term)? There doesn’t even seem to be an understanding that there were problems pre-referendum, still less any thought about what to do about them. If you are simply waiting for something to fall out of the sky then you aren’t thinking even close to deep enough here.

    Anyway, I’ll let everyone shout a me now.

  • David Brexit is a disaster, but much as I might obsess about it it isn’t the only one the Tories face. We tend to forget how run down the NHS, welfare net and police are ( I could go on but I’m sure you could add to the list), one bad winter, one death in custody, one small recession and the thread bare government we have will spin out of control as events occur. Events will occur and people will have their chance to justify a change, “No I havn’t changed my mind on Brexit” they will rationalise but insert latest crises has changed my mind on the Tories. Now it may be the only winner from that is Labour, but I’d guess not.


    if you don’t like the echo chamber don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out. Of all the Brexiteers you add the least and that is a harsh thing to say about anyone.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Nov '17 - 6:22pm

    Martin – ‘Nonetheless, there is a real chance of an almighty bust up within the Tories.’

    I’ve been promised this Tory implosion every week since about 1991.

  • Garth Shephard 30th Nov '17 - 6:55pm

    Little Jackie Paper tells it like it is. Brexit is a disaster but its origins are still valid. We are a political party and must relate to the issues that still resonate. Sure, we have to fight Brexit bit we also need to fight the injustice everyone feels about housing, inequity and education (amongst other things). Why can’t we get this through to the electorate? If there was ever a need for liberal values translated into social justice it is now!

  • Andrew McCaig 30th Nov '17 - 8:07pm

    Sheila Gee,

    The whole purpose of the “Great Repeal Bill” currently being debated is to enshrine all current EU regulations into British Law while we think about what to do about it for a decade or two..
    It is a bit like “taking control” of a train.. You can speed up or slow down but you cannot safely leave the track. So you will have to make your one woman stand against British Law .

  • Gareth,

    Brexit drowns out the screams of other crises. The underfunding of the NHS, the police, schools all are mentioned in the news but then the Brexit sweeps in and drowns them. Brexit is a car crash and like passing car drivers our gaze is drawn to the blood splattered crash and while rubberneck we miss the oncoming traffic.
    We where told Brexit was a simple vote and then we would move on, but it isn’t, day after day we get dragged deeper and deeper into the mire. The government flounders in the Brexit swamp, some of us groan with despair, others seem to think it is some sort of mud wrestling competition but what ever your perception the sight of it commands more and more of our attention.

    Mean while other crisis are pushed to one side. At best patched together with sealing wax and string, at worst quietly ignored. As time time goes on, the sealing wax is melting, the string is fraying and the ignored are starting to scream. I fear we are rapidly reaching a point where

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Dec '17 - 9:39am

    The economic argument has little impact because many leavers, just like Trump-voters, believe their circumstances have deteriorated for many years, cannot get any worse, and therefore the radical option is risk-free.

    They are wrong, things will get worse, but they are unlikely to notice it quickly enough, and accept that Brexit is one cause. I therefore do not expect a sufficiently quick and large swing in public opinion.

    The truth is: Europe, including the UK, is ressource-poor, small, overaged, tired, weak, pacifist, and expensive. It’s importance on the world stage will continue to dwindle. But we still enjoy the world’s highest average standard of living and quality of life. The mission is to defend this as long as possible, a return to global pre-eminence is not in the cards, either for the EU, nor the UK. This defense can only succeed (to some degree) in a union.

    Most MPs see that exiting from Brexit will not turn the structural trend around, just slow it down. This is still a worthwile goal, but no sellable success. (It is very unfortunate, though, that the UK is missing out on the current strong cyclical upswing of the global economy; it would provide some badly needed temporary relief.) So MPs might settle for fulfilling peoples’ superficial wish (on June 23, 2016), if they cannot satisfy their real wishes. A few MPs also see something else: even the hardest Brexiters are under no illusion that times will get even tougher for the many, but they just decide for the few who aspire to extract an even bigger share of the decreasing national wealth for themselves and their friends. This group already rules the US and is making good progress in the UK. Exposing hard Brexiters’ personal motives might have a greater effect on their followers’ opinion than the evolving economic reality.

    Long-term, MPs only have a choice between a slowed-down or an accelerated UK descent. I know, no great story, but I am beginning to think that somebody might try the truth for a change. Why not the LibDems? Continuing to claim that there is a way back to broad-based prosperity and fully-funded public services in a peaceful world will only add to undermining the credibility of the political class and, eventually, the acceptance of democracy itself.

  • Garth Shephard 1st Dec '17 - 10:26am

    Well Frankie, your point is well made and starting to get traction.
    Arnold’s point is also valid but hard to project in a world of ‘sound-bites’ and bravado. How to be realistic, truthful but also appealing – the LibDem dilema.

  • Garth,

    Unfortunately lies are more appealing than the truth; why someone once told me I was a handsome chap and for the rest of the day I pranced round like a bunny rabbit on drugs, unfortunately I looked into the mirror that night while cleaning my teeth and realised I’d been lied too, but I couldn’t say for awhile the lie had cheered me up, reality was not so cheerful. I expect many of our brave Brexiteers are starting to have the same sad experience. Brexit is easy they where told and prance around they did, now it is turning out to be far from easy, reality is not so nice and the urge to prance is subsiding.

  • Unfortunately lies are more appealing than the truth.

    Yes, we saw that in spades and even in the recent Parliamentary debate we had the government chief Brexiteer admit that both sides lied in the referendum, but a vote is a vote and thus the result must be “honoured”…

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Dec '17 - 1:16am

    frankie, Yeats being an (probably THE) Irish poet does indeed seem worth quoting at this juncture, but he is a little too gloomy for me – “the stone’s in the midst of all” for example, let alone the “rough beast” of The Second Coming, stuck in my memory since schooldays, but hopefully even Donald Trump doesn’t quite measure up to that grimness. Though Arnold’s pessimism chimes in well with it tonight. Cheer up, Arnold, “having the world’s highest average standard of living and quality of life” is the best attribute of all, as the thousands of people striving to reach Europe evidently believe. Which of us would want to live anywhere but in Europe? It’s the world’s shining castle on the hill, and always has been.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 2nd Dec '17 - 9:00am

    Katharine, in all fairness Canada, Australia and New Zealand have very high standards of living, higher than many European countries. And European countries that are not in the EU, like Switzerland and Norway, have a higher standard of living than many – probably most – EU countries.

  • Arnold Kiel 2nd Dec '17 - 10:41am


    true, but irrelevant. Canada, Aus., NZ, and Norway have between 15 and 80 times the landmass per capita (or between 7 and 2% of inhabitants per sqare mile) compared to the UK. Switzerland never suffered any war damage and has twice the per-capita wealth than the UK. Unlike the UK, Switzerland continues to have a high household savings-rate.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 2nd Dec '17 - 7:26pm

    Arnold Kiel, I was really just responding to Katharine’s claim that there was no-where in the world with such a high standard of living as in Europe, or, by implication, in the EU, which is clearly not quite true

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Dec '17 - 10:24pm

    Sorry, Catherine, you did not read accurately. I was not claiming there was nowhere in the world with such a high standard of living as in Europe, but that the advantages of the high standard of living AND QUALITY OF LIFE mentioned by Arnold (not by me) tend to make Europe (which includes Norway of course) the most desirable continent to live in. I could have mentioned culture, history, civilisation, all sorts of advantages if I had wanted to expand the point. Please stop trying to interpret me or explain to me, though I am sure you intend this in a friendly way.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 3rd Dec '17 - 8:22am

    Katharine, I’m so sorry if I seemed to be trying to “interpret”, and I certainly wasn’t trying to “explain” to you. I must admit I read your post rather quickly, and I can see now that you were agreeing with something Arnold had earlier said. I was really just trying to respond in a friendly way, rather than “argue”. Yes, obviously Norway is in Europe, but I did say “European countries that are not in the EU”, as I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that you were suggesting that EU countries had a higher quality of life than anywhere else.
    As for “history”, well, many non European countries might be justifiably angry at the suggestion that Europe has the most history, or the “oldest” civilizations – Egypt, China and India, for example, might disagree.

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd Dec '17 - 9:34am

    Sorry, Garth, we strayed a bit off topic, but let me try to connect back to it. MPs of all parties need to see the perfect storm coming:

    Brexit is a costly and benefit-free extravagance, already decoupling the UK from the first real global economic recovery of this century. The special relationship with the US is dead, NATO’s protective shield is cracking, China has cought-up technologically, and Russia challenges Europe’s willingness and ability to defend its territory and values.

    All this coincides with the UK’s obsolete business model approaching break-point (health, care, housing, prisons, energy, defense, trident, social mobility, crime, air quality, transportation, regional divergence, pensions, executive pay, radicalism, knife- and acid-crime, immigration, runways…). Brexit prevents any of these problems from being addressed for years to come.

    But, Katharine, there is one chance: technology will make manual labour and its cost irrelevant for industrial production. It could reside where expertise, green energy, transport links, and affluent consumers are. But only if these locations have barrier-free market-access.

    MPs (or at least 20 tories) must understand that Brexit not only potentiates the UK’s acute problems, it will also cut Britain off from the next industrial revolution, the potentially last chance for ressource-poor (Catherine) countries to secure a place on the world’s wealth-map.

  • Robert Irwin 3rd Dec '17 - 11:09am


    Does that make Corbyn the rough beast, its hour come round at last?

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Dec '17 - 4:30pm

    Arnold, looking out just now on a wonderful sunset, I do hope with you that the bright brains and readiness to utilise new thinking of which many British people are capable will enable our country to revive its industry and economy in a new fine sunrise. The great distraction and waste of approaching Brexit of course inhibits this at present, but we must hope and pray that the next, crucial few months will produce the upheaval and change of direction by the country’s leaders that is so necessary.

  • Peter Hirst 6th Dec '17 - 6:20pm

    A General Election in 2018 would if it changed the government alter the remit so that a softer Brexit becomes more credible. I don’t think it would improve the chances of a second referendum. Only if we gained a significant increase in vote share or Labour came out against Brexit would it increase the chances of an exit referendum.

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