Brexit: Government’s first rumblings are encouraging

At long last we have had some statements from the government concerning Brexit. If anything, they are revealing through what they don’t say, but I find Theresa May’s first rumblings encouraging.

First of all, via Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, we learnt that the Prime Minister has ruled out a “points system” for EU immigration.

Instead, she wants a more effective way of bringing “some control” over EU immigrant numbers.

I find both these statements very encouraging because they leave open some “wiggle room” for the UK to negotiate access or membership of the single market while still having some free movement of labour with the EU.

Downing street’s back-up statement pointed to EU immigration controls via “a work permit or visa system, restrictions on entry to those with job offers, a quota system or an emergency brake”.

Thank goodness that the government seems to have realised that there is more than one way of skinning cat. It has been very dispiriting indeed to continually have the presentation of the moronic binary choice between (a) free movement of people on the one hand and (b) membership of the single market on the other. There is a continuum of many gradients of choice between those two extremes. The government seems to be embracing that continuum. That is very welcome.

David Davis’s statement and answers in the Commons were also encouraging – mainly because the normal David Davisery (in pre-Brexit minister mode) was not there. He is leaving open his options, which is how it should be.

One point he made, however, did jar with me. “Davis says there is no point having a vote on invoking article 50 in the Commons. But that does not mean MPs will not debate the issue. He would urge MPs to bring forward concerns raised by their constituents.” – reported the Guardian. – No point in having a vote on article 50? How ridiculous! The timing of this instrument is probably one of the most crucial points in this country’s history, outside of declarations of war.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 5th Sep '16 - 8:15pm

    I’ve been telling my friends for months that skilled immigration from and to Europe is not going to stop. A working Visa kind of deal would be good.

    I do think the centre and the centre left are taking the wrong approach to brexit, broadly. We’ve got Theresa May challenging Europe and Labour, the Lib Dems and some others challenging Theresa May. It looks good on Theresa May to look like she’s fighting for Britain.

    Of course, there should be scrutiny, but besides the article from Vince Cable and Norman Lamb’s and Nick Clegg’s support for Open Britain, and Open Britain itself, have you seen many liberals telling Europe why Britain should get a good deal? I’ve mainly only heard people telling Theresa May to lower her ambitions.

  • Nick Collins 5th Sep '16 - 8:22pm

    I understand that David Davis said that the government will seek a “national consensus”, Good luck with that.

  • Little Jackie Paper 5th Sep '16 - 8:29pm

    Eddie Sammon – Interesting point that. I’ve been astonished by the number of people who normally go out of their way to tell me that free trade is an inherently good thing who seem to be saying that the EU and UK should not have a good free trade deal.

    Much as I hate to say it May seems to me to be doing a very good job of bringing together soft remainers and soft leavers. If she can bring that sort of coalition together she won’t need the UKIP tendency.

    Obviously the pitfalls are still to come. That being said I think at some point the hard pro-EU groups are going to need to decide whether they are in or outside the May tent.

  • Little Jackie Paper 5th Sep '16 - 8:32pm

    Nick Collins – Why should they not seek national consensus?

    The UK’s relationship with the EU is just about the best example of an issue that doesn’t cut on classic party partisan lines. Why sneer at efforts to work in that environment? Presumably had REMAIN won by 52:48 we would not sneer at efforts to unite?

  • One thing that amused me – is this the most sycophantic question ever?

    “Is it not absolutely clear that he has both the skills and the experience that are required for the extremely difficult job that lies ahead?”

    This came from Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip who had to resign after the exchange with police officers in Downing Street.

  • You seem to have a bit more to say than the two sentences coming from the parliamentary party, Paul.

  • Of course it is the EU who forced the binary choice. They could have avoided all of this turmoil very easily if they hadn’t had their heads stuck up their backside for so long.

  • Yellow Submarine 6th Sep '16 - 6:02am

    All the public comments to date suggest we’re leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union as well as the EU and that Free Movement is the Red Line. We will then negotiate as much Single Market Access as our new immigration controls will allow via a FTA. Unfortunately this means we’re effectively negotiating from the premise that we’re outsiders seeking to partially enter not insiders trying to loosen the relationship. That’s going to be a longer and harder task.

  • The Tories won’t destroy the economy by removing ourselves from the EEA – they know they’ll never be elected again. We will have to pay for it with hard cash, immigration won’t be reduced and we’ll have lost our voice in Europe. We’ll keep all the benefits of EU membership but at a higher price and with less say. The only tangible benefit will be greater ‘sovereignty’ over fiscal policy, which they will make the greatest deal about – hence all the guff about environmental policy, etc. Let’s hope the Tories do go about annoying the mouth-frothing anti-immigration and anti-environmental legislation brigade.

  • Christopher Haigh 6th Sep '16 - 10:48am

    I read an interesting article by Lord Ashcroft in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. His research on vote leavers indicated they wanted the irreconcilable aims of a) end to free movement of labour b) access to the EU free market and c) no contributions to the EU budget. Negotiating these objectives couldn’t happen to a better bloke than Boris.

  • @Eddie – have you seen many liberals telling Europe why Britain should get a good deal?

    This is precisely why Brexit will fail to deliver a successful new accord with Europe and the world. The Brexit campaign has focused wholly on the UK internal matters and so has done nothing to carry with it those outside of the UK who will be key in delivering a new deal, both with the EU and beyond.

    I find it telling that the normally quietly diplomatic Japanese have put into the public domain a document that contains some very clear demands and strong language about how it see’s it’s relationship with a UK outside of the EU.

    Unfortunately, from my readings across the media I suspect there are some in the Brexit camp who are rather looking forward to the mess that Brexit is likely to result in…

  • nvelope2003 6th Sep '16 - 12:02pm

    Mrs May said there will be no second referendum but surely that is for Parliament to decide. If it cannot decide important matters what is the point of having it ?

  • Christopher Haigh 6th Sep '16 - 12:40pm

    @Roland, I agree with you. It will be in the interests of the EU to continue to let us buy stuff from them, but not to easily let us sell to them things that can be done by others in the EU eg banking and financial services, motor cars, chemicals etc. Japan has a right to be concerned about the value of its UK investment.

  • Am I the only one worried about May’s reasons for ruling out a “points based” system for immigration? She has said she doesn’t like it because those who meet the criteria are automatically allowed in.

    But what’s the alternative? Have no criteria? Only let people in that immigration officials like the look of? Instead of objective criteria she either prefers some form of subjective assessment so that we only let the “right sort of people” in, or we just set a quota and it’s first come, first served.

  • “I’ve been telling my friends for months that skilled immigration from and to Europe is not going to stop”

    The Conservative party has been telling people it wants to cut net migration to the 10 of thousands, UKIP wanted zero net migration, many voted leave because they believed there are too many refugees and migrants, none of these are compatible with skilled migration from anywhere.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Sep '16 - 1:17pm

    Eddie Sammon

    Yours is a good point , and one we should take note of , the reason Liberals or Liberal Democrats are doing what you say , ie not looking to the EU , and to May instead , is two fold.

    May and co. are responsible for it , or her cohorts ,the three stooges, in charge of Brexit.

    Tim and co. or his cohorts, have not accepted that Brexit is inevitable in some form , even if we are involved in the EU , the status quo is a no no.

    More Liberal Democrats , members and supporters, like us , Eddie , and there are many on this site and in our party , need to challenge the EU , and enlist the support of our excellent Liberal friends , to change the EU to save the EU, then we can put a deal to the public that gives us associate membership or full, of a vastly different body. The one we should have more strongly advocated for, in my view, for a generation , instead of “We love you EU, we do !”

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Sep '16 - 2:27pm

    Thanks for your feedback people. The problem is not only politicians, it is journalists too. We also see this in think tanks – basically if you want to “be cool” and get ahead in the short-term then you say what all the other cool and successful people are saying and at the moment the “cool” people seem to be saying we shouldn’t ask for a good deal because we won’t get one so that is what is happening. I can’t see a strong moral case behind it.

  • One point he made, however, did jar with me. “Davis says there is no point having a vote on invoking article 50 in the Commons.

    So once again we come to the Achilles heel that caused the current in/out problem in the first place: Westminster politicians ignoring everyone else outside of their bubble. Remember the big issue was that Westminster and the government in power at the time, decided to sign Maastricht, Amserdam, Nice and Lisbon without proper debate or consultation with the UK electorate and thus provided the fertile ground that Nigel Farage so carefully cultivated…

  • Nick Collins 6th Sep '16 - 3:16pm

    “Why should they not seek national consensus?”

    So, Little Jackie Piper, How do you rate their chances of finding a consensus:
    (a) in the Tory Party?
    (b) in Parliament?
    (c) in the UK at large?

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