Brexit – it’s time to accept that we’ve lost. There’s a new battle to fight…

I’m a pro-European. I’ve been involved in European politics as an active ALDE Party member for some years now. And it grieves me to say this but… we’ve lost. Complain about the voting system, about the lies, the sheer injustice of the thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Conservatives got their majority and will end the debate about our membership of the European Union in seven weeks. They’ve got a mandate, like the one we would have claimed had we won.

I’ve received a number of invitations to join a group seeking to campaign to rejoin the European Union, and there may be a case to be made for that in the years ahead. But looking backwards gives you neckache, and liberals have a new task ahead, to make the case for liberal values and persuade the British public that our outward looking, inclusive stance isn’t just good in itself, but can actually being benefits to those who have felt failed by the political system.

And yes, that means making the case for a stronger, more secure relationship with our neighbours, holding the Conservatives to account when their choices are bad for our country, its people and the economy. It means having a vision for how that relationship will look, and a willingness to argue for it. What are the benefits to voters in Sunderland, or Lowestoft, or Truro, of a closer trading relationship with Europe? And what are the concessions we might have to make?

A new approach also means outlining what we would do to improve people’s lives at ground level. Many people simply want to know who’s going to build those affordable houses and extra school buildings, reduce hospital waiting lists and generally improve public services. They’ve grown used to politicians and the media blaming immigrants for the problems, instead of admitting that they didn’t invest in public services. The Conservatives have made some pretty big promises about that, and we should be holding them to their word. And not just at Westminster. Our campaigners could, and often do, ask the questions at local government level too, and we need to be telling the public that.

It also requires a little humility. The ultras on our side have done little to help with accusations of stupidity or racism. I get the frustration, especially when some of the views expressed seem so absurd. But why do supporters of Brexit think like they do, and how can we, applying our liberal values, change their minds?

How the Party pivots away from a focus on Brexit is not something I want to address here though, there’s a proper debate to be had, both via the medium of a leadership contest, and through debate at Federal and Regional Conferences. How we make best use of our limited resources, what our campaign techniques should be, those are questions for better people than I, but time is short. We’ve got a lot of members and activists who want to make the case for a liberal society, and they need to be motivated and equipped.

Over to you, my friends…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and an outgoing member of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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  • Actually you don’t need a vision you need to hold the Tories to account. No one will care what the Lib Dems grand vision is, all you need to say when times get hard ” We need to maximise trade with the EU to help the poor” and by the way look at the mess the Tories have created, have I pointed out the mess they’ve made, such a mess, so many poor, look at the dead, so incompedent, such liars, so incompedent, their incompedence is legendary but what do you expect from posh boys. To negative you cry, learn from the Tories negative is all they do and blame others, this time make sure the blame is stuck to them.

  • Sopwith Morley 16th Dec '19 - 8:45am

    “Put quite simply, it is not in the interest of any EU member state to offer the UK a preferential relationship, nor one that compromises the Single Market.”

    Let’s see how long that lasts when the next worldwide recession bites. Your statement makes the assumption that the EU and its countries are somehow isolated/spectators of the world economy, and that they can pick and choose who to trade with in the full knowledge it will pass them by.

    Trade is central to every countries wellbeing, as is economic recession, let’s see how long an EU position that you suggest survives if German automotive exports to the UK one of their biggest markets, continue to head south even before any potential tariffs. The Bavarians are already crying in their beirkellars as thousands of jobs are disappearing because we have chosen to stop buying as many of their cars

  • “The ultras on our side have done little to help with accusations of stupidity or racism.”

    Try telling this to EU citizens who’ve had to put up with three and a half years of overt racism and xenophobia!

    As a who joined the party for the anti-Brexit message, I feel that I’ve been ‘had’ by the LibDems and am going to be discarded and derided. I tell you what, I’ll never forgive Jo Swinson for helping to facilitate the needless general election which nailed the coffin shut on Remain. This is the party’s tuition fees moment on steroids, and it will be long remembered as such.

  • David Bradley 16th Dec '19 - 9:41am

    The biggest mistake that the Lib Dems made was to say that if we win the general election the 2016 referendum will be cancelled as a centrist party that was unbelievable
    with that announcement the Lib Dems showed a willingness to write off over 17 million people just because they have a diffidence view to the Lib Dems that also upset a lot of remainers as well i think that the Lib Dems need just like Labour need to take a good long look at themselves but after listening to Ed Davey on Sophy Ridge I’m afraid I don’t think that will happen

  • Mark’s post is timely and wise.
    But, you know, I am completely shattered after a very intensive campaign (even though in my case it resulted in one of the few successes of the night) and I really want to think about something else. I’ll be editing LDV for a couple of days this week and would enjoy reading some posts about something other than the election or Brexit (though I won’t reject any that do come in on those subjects). Any offers?

  • @ David Bradley – without Remainers, you wouldn’t have even 11 MPs, or the much larger membership base.

    Perhaps the main issue is that Brexit hasn’t truly bitten yet, and without the pain and misery, there will be no backlash against it. Sometime soon there will be an urgent need for a “this was a very bad idea, let’s reverse it” policy offering.

  • Chris Miller 16th Dec '19 - 9:58am

    As a Scotsman, not living in Scotland at the moment though, I wonder if there’s any way back at all for a united UK, with all its pomp and circumstance intact. The fact is that we are no longer a superpower and can’t bend the whole world to our whims, so Brexit will be a disaster. The UK is nowhere near strong enough to be a separate pole of power. Which is no doubt obvious to everyone on here, except perhaps Sopwith above who thinks a recession will humble the arrogant Germans but leave us unharmed, but the election result shows there’s still a huge market for delusions of grandeur.

    So as a Scotsman, I do wonder if a future English Republic (with its capital somewhere far from London) might be more able to accept its place in the world than today’s vainglorious Albion.

  • I am waiting to see what the outcome of the parties review is over the election and the choices that they make moving forward.

    If the party does not make rejoining the EU its front and centre policy at least in the near term then I am, for the first time in my life going to join the party.

    I want to see a party that it is going to put social issues at the forefront of its identity but in a reasonable and responsible way (unlike labour)
    Social housing, affordable housing, Social care, Education, encouraging and retaining more NHS staff, a fairer and humane welfare policy, to name just a few.
    These are the things that matter so much to so many people, the answer is not just to throw money at them, but to have credible policies and reforms that support them.

    On education, I would like to see the party go further than it’s manifesto.
    I think GCSE, A-Levels and City Guilds levels 1-2 should be free at any point in peoples lives, there are many reasons why a person may not have done well the first time round, Broken home, illness, tragedy etc. People should have the opportunity to better their circumstances to at least this education standard at the point they feel able to do so. The parties current policy on an education allowance at 25-30-40 etc does not go far enough in my opinion and we should set a Minimum education standard that every citizen is entitled to achieve for FREE at any point in their life.

    I would like to see a bold policy on Private Landlords who now own former council homes. I think these properties which were always intended for social housing, if a new owner wants to rent these properties out, they should be first offered to the local councils Private leasing scheme ( if they run one) The council becomes the tenant and they rent the property to someone who is on the council list or use as emergency accommodation etc. Yes the rents are little lower, however, because the council is the tenant the rent is guaranteed as are damages, there are no need for estate agent fees etc and so in actual fact, the landlord is not that much worse off.
    We have to do something about the housing shortage and social housing and Private Landlords who rent out former council homes need to play a part in that imo.

  • “Perhaps the main issue is that Brexit hasn’t truly bitten yet, and without the pain and misery, there will be no backlash against it. ”

    And the problem there is that we may not see any direct pain and misery. Assuming we avoid a long/deep recession, or even get even a small amount of growth, and Govt softens the blow financially for the worst affected industries (investment bribes to car manufacturers and Airbus, anyone?), they will be able to pass it off as (if not a success) not the disaster the doom mongers portrayed.

    Given we have painted such a negative picture of Brexit, Johnson doesnt have to achieve very much at all to be able to spin it and cry ‘told you so!’. He now has the majority to play with and achieve that.

  • On training and retaining NHS staff.
    I think we should be encouraging more people to go into medicine offering free university fees for Nurses and DR’s on the condition of say a 10 year contract, fees remain free as long as the contract has been fulfilled and if not have to be paid back on a sliding scale depending on how early the contract has been terminated.
    It costs in excess of £200,000 to train a DR and £70,000 to train a nurse, far to many become qualified at great expense to the tax payer and then end up working in the Pvt sector or even abroad, we have to do something to change those statistics and it is going to require bold policies.
    If you want to have the education for Free, you have to make a commitment to the NHS for say 10 years.
    If you want to be able to work in the Pvt sector or abroad upon qualification, then you must pay your university fee’s like any other qualification / industry
    I think a bold policy that is offering free qualifications for medics could well encourage more people into medicine.

  • Let us move on and move on quickly. Unfortunately the Federal Party seem in a state of shock, it is always the same election after election. Put it behand us and start afresh with a blank piece of paper.

  • @Matt

    I think it’s important though to address some of the reasons that Dr’s and nurses want to leave the NHS – or in the case of nurses, work bank hours instead of being under contract. I worry that if the current stresses and pressures continue, there will be too many potential nurses who think it’s just not worth the ‘risk’ of being locked into NHS work and so won’t train at all. What do you think?

  • @Sopwith Morley – Let’s see how long that lasts when the next worldwide recession bites.
    Unfortunately, a post-Brexit UK will have a far greater dependency and thus exposure to a worldwide recession than the EU27; remember one of the objectives behind the EEC/EU was to create a Europe that was largely self-sufficient – some will call this protectionism others commonsense…

    Trade is central to every countries wellbeing…
    The style and size of worldwide trade we see today, is a relatively recent phenomenon.
    If you look at what created the wealth that drove the industrial revolution, you will see that little of it was created by trading with other nations, much being driven by the internal market and serving the empire. We see similar in the early 80’s where the Thatcher prosperity was largely built on the back of the UK housing market.

    I fully expect BoJo to try and emulate Thatcher and invest in construction in an attempt to perk up the economy, however, the lesson from the 80’s being that it doesn’t last long, the bubble bursting in 1988. Without a domestic market of circa 513m people, UK businesses are going to struggle to gain the critical mass necessary to be able to export effectively to larger markets such as China, USA etc.; just as they did back then. Looking back at the 80’s and early 90’s the UK business landscape is littered with businesses – large and small, licking their wounds from failed foray’s into the US…

  • David Bradley 16th Dec '19 - 10:35am

    @André -Although i think of myself as a centrist voter there is no way i could even think of voting Lib Dems as they are to me (and i know when i say this i will be shouted down) in some ways just as nasty as the far left wing as to Brexit what it will do to the economy or make this country better or worse nobody really knows and i expect that you or someone else will on here start to tell me what you think will happen and if i go on to a leave no doubt someone else will tell me what they think but nobody really knows only time will tell
    As a centrist voter i just can’t see who is there for people like me i would like it to be the Lib Dems but untill they start to except when they are on the losing side and start to do what is need other than just stamping their feet and say it’s not happening then there is no place for people like me in any party

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Dec '19 - 10:47am

    Probably for the first time ever, I appreciate your posts now, Matt! You show that the acceptance of the catastrophe of Brexit allows us to focus on good new ideas. I like your suggestions about private landlords owning former council houses, and on people newly training as doctors and nurses being expected to sign a contract to work for the NHS for a certain number of years.

  • @matt – Things are little more complex, however, I do agree we do need to get the carrot and stick right; we don’t want an NHS largely staff by graduates with less than 10 years clinical experience, who cash in after the 10 year contract constraint and go abroad…
    Additionally, going back to an idea from a few years back, where the UK becomes a training ground for the global medical profession, and so offered doctors, nurses etc. 3~5 year placements with no extension, rights of residency etc. we would need to allow UK trained medical professionals to do similar placements abroad – without prejudice.

    The final hurdle will be the health unions/royal colleges, as any scheme would require contract changes…

  • This is not a new battle this is the old one. The fifth last chance to stop a hard Brexit.

    By 2024 there will be completely different issues – or rather there already are but they’ve been ignored:
    Generational justice.
    The squeeze on council funding will be even worse in 5 years.
    Regional justice. – Why is everyone silent on the massive difference between infrastructure spending per head in the north and the south-east?
    Housing justice – people working with families should be able to expect to buy a house where they are from and bring their kids up there. There need to be enough houses – particularly enough planning permission given for houses. If there are not they won’t accept migration.
    Land justice. – Companies sitting on planning permission should be paying taxes
    Educational justice. – “Trick courses”, for example new-university law courses from which hardly anyone becomes a lawyer, need to be stopped. We currently need to import so many people from other countries to cover skills shortages because we are not directing people onto courses that lead to jobs needed.

    Also consider moving your HQ out of London and banning your MPs from reading Twitter (it’s fine to have a staff member post quotes there as that’s how local journalists expect to access quotes). Do anything to get out of the echo chamber and the rest will follow.

    During the campaign, Swinson was being held up and interrogated for things she’d done or failed to do adequately in her late twenties (e.g. responding to reports of harassment and putting her foot down against austerity) – only a few years older than Johnson when he was in the Bullingdon club. People who 10 years ago, for demographic reasons, were pushing her forward before she had sufficient life experience to make her best shot of having those responsibilities have not actual done her or liberalism any favours in the long run.

  • @Krissi

    Maybe we also have to look at the working conditions and hours as well.

    My thinking was though that someone leaving school at 18 to go on to a nursing degree currently taking 4 years would end up with £37,000 of student fees. If those fees where going to be free that might be an incentive for some in return for say a 10 year contract or maybe it needs to be less and is only repaid on a sliding scale if contract is terminated early.
    And for a Dr it can be anything between £46,250 and £64,750
    It would surly be appealing for some in return for a time limited NHS contract to have those fees met entirely by the tax payer and not have any student debt???

    We have got to do something to encourage more people into medicine and then to retain them also. It does cost the tax payer a large sum of money already to train Dr’s and Nurses and far to many are lost to the pvt sector and abroad upon qualification

  • I’m afraid Ed in his Sophy Ridge interview has, as usual, shown the full playlist of the ‘We did nothing wrong faction of the party establishment.’ Portraying the decision to go for an early election as a dilemma between “Do we have an election after Britain had legally withdrawn from the EU with the Withdrawal Act, or do we have one before? That was the choice.” shows all the normal behaviours of a person used to framing the question in a very limited way to make his choice seem absolutely impossible to oppose.

    However, there were two grains of truth hiding in his speech. First “There was a real fear that that Withdrawal Agreement would get through” – tey word there being fear. They allowed themselves to be frightened into the decision, and even worse somehow fooled themselves into believing that Nicola Sturgeon was on their side.

    Second there was his desire to look at the data on the Revoke stance. The Key factor isn’t the question ‘What does the data say?’ It is ‘Does the model actually model real life anything like as accurately as this presentation portrays it?’ That require judgement and experience not more data mining.

    The hope we get anything more than the usual post election catastrophe whitewash I fear will be a forlorn one, one we will know whether to expect if there are only a tiny minority or even none of the the seriously awkward squad on the Review team. Those who are prepared to repeatedly ask hard questions of the establishment are needed. I don’t expect to get a call up. Maybe Richard Kemp?

  • Theakes, You do realise if we try your “Put it behind us and start afresh with a blank piece of paper” who will be left holding the pen?

  • Yes, we’ve lost for the time being – but the poisoned chalice of Brexit is owned in Title Absolute by the Conservative Party; they have filled it with a Dignitas Cockail and are about to swallow. There’s no-one else to blame, not even Jeremy Corbyn. It’s theirs by right. When it all goes wrong, the future is ours.

  • The Brexit struggle may not be “Over” quite yet.
    The sensible Strategy for Johnson will be to agree to everything The EU asks for in order to minimise disruption, while pretending to fight for every dot & comma, If he takes that route then nothing much will seem to happen in the short run.
    However, we dont know if he will be sensible, he may go for what will effectively be a “No-Deal Brexit” at the end of 2020. That would mean a huge Political Crisis later in 2020.
    In the Long Term we should stick to our policy of Rejoining The EU as soon as we can, assuming that they will have us.

  • Mary Reid is right. We’re all shattered – physically, mentally and emotionally. We have some big decisions to make as a party, but there’s no need to make them hastily. Let’s take time to re-charge, and to think. For example, my head is telling me that Mark may well be right that “we’ve lost” on Brexit, but my heart is not there yet. And I’m not in any fit state to start discussing that distinction or making any certain pronouncements about what we should do next. Let’s just take some time, and allow each other the time, to think.

  • David Evans: I am sure both you and I will still be around to manage that simple task!!

  • Laurence Cox 16th Dec '19 - 11:53am

    “Politics is the art of the possible” as Bismark said. Mark is right, we have to accept that we have lost the argument against Brexit. We cannot simply add Labour’s vote to our own, the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru and say that there was a majority against Brexit because a significant minority of both Labour MPs and voters were pro-Brexit.

    Instead let us campaign to rejoin the EEA, which we leave by default at the end of January. If the EEA had a third category of membership (non-EU and non-EFTA) then it could provide a home for us as well as for countries applying to join the EU. What is needed is some imagination about future solutions, not the assumption that we have to live within the structures of the past. If we had reached out more to Leavers, i think we would have found that many of them would have been happy with our continued membership of the EEA, but we turned them off with our purist Revoke message. Remember that in the 2016 EU referendum it was estimated that 30% of our voters voted Leave, many of them in the South-West.

  • Theakes – Somehow I know they wouldn’t let either of us near it. There has to be a proper review (the first in many years) or nothing will change and the party will simply continue being led into self comforting obscurity and oblivion. As Roger Waters almost put it – Hanging on in quiet desperation is the Lib Dem way.

  • Paul Barker – Got it. No-deal is still a real threat, and perhaps the most likely outcome. We have to fight that with a rejoin line. Time will quickly prove Remainers right, and sooner rather than later.

  • “What are the benefits to voters in Sunderland, or Lowestoft, or Truro, of a closer trading relationship with Europe?”

    Presumably the same as the benefits of a close trading relationship with any other foreign country or overseas trading bloc. The more interesting question is why you mention Europe specifically and not any of the others we’ll be negotiating with. It’s honestly weird that this is still the “new battle” and not any of the other issues that have been ignored. Just stop it unless you want to kill off liberalism entirely.

    It’s pretty instructive that an independent liberal leave candidate came 2nd in Ashfield, increasing his vote share by 18.4% to come 2nd with 27.6% against a background of the squeeze of it being the most finely balanced Lab-Con marginal in the country. That’s the benchmark for how well the Lib Dems could have done in an election against Boris and Jeremy in which Europe was already a closed issue. Presumably you could have done something with those MPs and influence – if you still have political aims that don’t relate to the EU, that is.

  • Peter Martin 16th Dec '19 - 12:43pm

    The consensus of opinion seems to be that there will be tough times ahead. I would say that is probably right, but Lib Dems need to be realistic and avoid attributing every problem to Brexit.

    The EU is soon going to be in even more economic trouble too. The German reaction to a depressed domestic economy is always to restrict home consumption and divert resources to boost its export competitiveness. That might work for Germany but it will create an even greater imbalance in the eurozone which is already creaking under the strain of its own contradictions. Debts to the net exporters can never be repaid unless the net exporters become net importers. Has anyone ever tried explaining this to a German person? They just can’t see it!

    The UK problem is one of a bubble economy running on a fuel of private debt. That bubble will deflate soon. The signs of it starting to happen are already there. There is a trade war looming between the EU, the USA and China. This would all happen even if we’d stayed in. Rejoining isn’t going to fix the problem.

  • Has anyone considered what would happen if the report into Russian meddling is actually released and does show that the referendum was subject to Russian interference ? Surely there would be public outcry, even from some Leavers ?

  • John Marriott 16th Dec '19 - 1:35pm

    Lynne Featherstone urges the party to “fight for the best Brexit possible”. I agree. How about Norway Plus for starters?

  • @John Marriott – Lynne Featherstone urges the party to “fight for the best Brexit possible”. … How about Norway Plus for starters?
    For starters it is actually scrutinizing and amending the BoJo Brexit Bill, scheduled to start Friday. Whilst The Conservatives may have a Brexit supporting majority in the Commons, however, we know that they support different Brexits and not all were happy with the Bill he put before Parliament a couple of months back…

    The future relationship and trade deal is what gets negotiated after the UK leaves in January. I can see having an agreed party policy will provide a basis for the amending of the Brexit Bill, but its main purpose is to influence post-1-Feb thinking and scrutiny of BoJo’s trade deal negotiations. A deal based on EFTA/SM membership/regulatory alignment obviously aligns with LibDem aims of rejoining the EU at some future date.

  • Sopwith Morley 16th Dec '19 - 2:58pm

    “Try telling this to EU citizens who’ve had to put up with three and a half years of overt racism and xenophobia!”

    Do you actually know any EU citizens.

    My daughter in law is Lithuanian, she has a wide circle of friends who are Lithuanian, Polish and Czech who are now also part of our social circle, and we meet most of them at least once a month. Most of them have been here since 2004- 2005, and it might disappoint you but none of them have noticed any difference whatsoever, all this racism and xenophobia is a figment of the imaginations of those who will use anything to further their EU membership agenda, even to extrapolating single incidents into community wide issues.

    As a matter of interest a couple of months ago, I did a straw poll of about 15 of them to see if they had completed the paperwork to formalise their status. Only 3 of them had, and the rest were completely chilled out about the whole process, stating they will get around to doing it, and one of them is my daughter in law who despite my chivvying is about as laid back about it as it is possible to be, not exactly an indication of EU citizens being worried sick and scared.

    Haven’t you just lost an election because great swathes of the population were fed up of being told they didn’t know what they were voting for in 2016.

  • @Sopwith Morely

    Rampant racism and xenophobia isn’t lies for those who have felt/continue to feel it. I’m glad those who you mention have had no such experience, it does not dictate at all that this is the same for everyone.

  • Sue Sutherland 16th Dec '19 - 3:14pm

    This is a truly excellent post and I agree with almost every word. I also agree with Caron when she asks us to be gentle with each other.
    It’s our responsibility now to try to get the best Brexit possible and hold the Tories to account over that and their promises to spend spend spend. If by the time of the next GE Brexit has proved to be a great success then I think that’s good for our country, if not, then there will be plenty of voters in total distress and we must be ready to give them a better future.
    Let’s look at what happened this time using the available polls to see why people voted the way they did, not just what we heard on the doorstep. Evidence based strategy is as important as evidence based policy.
    I think we sometimes don’t realise that we are a small party with big ideas. We are outnumbered and outresourced by the two main parties. If we were fighting a war that leads to defeat, unless the smaller army has a brilliant new weapon like the long bow for example. For a time community politics was that brilliant new weapon and I think it could be again because whole swathes of the country are in a political earthquake with old allegiances broken and new ones heavily dependent on meeting peoples’ trust.
    I think this has been the nastiest GE campaign I’ve ever seen and we have survived and increased our vote by half as much again, if any party represents the British bulldog spirit so much admired by Leave voters it has to be us.

  • Peter Martin 16th Dec '19 - 3:30pm

    @ John Marriott,

    “How about Norway Plus for starters?”

    I doubt it’s worth asking this question on Libdemvoice. Boris Johnson probably doesn’t read it. He’s in charge now. He’ll decide what sort of Brexit we’ll end up with.

    BJ has gone from being 40 short of an overall majority before the election to having a majority of 80 now.

  • David Evans: Agreed. It will require guts to change the party its strucures and management and I agree I do not think the party or anyone at or near the top has the character or determination to achieve that, one only has to read the complacent emails that are STILL emerging,.

  • Anyone hoping for a pro-Brexit LibDems party, well, if that’s the case, next time you’ll think that getting just 11 MPs is a *good* general election result. Remainer support is all that has kept the party alive after 2015.

  • I’ve heard many Lib Dem MPs attacked Conservatives for years for “trying to turn the clock back” in regards to how Britain used to be. I hope the Lib Dems don’t forget that advice. Brexit is happening and to bang on about stopping it or reversing it or making it “less damaging” for the next few years would be pointless and negative. Look forward and focus on domestic policies to win voters over.

  • Brexit is happening and we should now switch to fighting for the values and institutions we believe in and be very careful not to allow ourselves to be portrayed as obstructing the process.

    We should be fighting for Scotland’s right to remain in the EU. They didn’t vote to leave and we shouldn’t allow the Johnson government to force them out against their will.

  • James Baillie 17th Dec '19 - 12:16am

    I think that rejoin has to remain on the cards, and I would expect at the absolute least that any future manifesto would commit to exploratory talks on rejoining and the reinstatement of freedom of movement as a red-line minimum. I think we should listen carefully to voices like that of Andre above, and we should be very careful before appearing to abandon our advantage of consistency in this area, especially with GLA elections – with EU citizens able to vote, in one of the most pro-EU parts of the country – looming in a matter of weeks.

    We can’t get rid of Brexit as a major political issue, not least because it will dominate 2020 and likely 2021 at the absolute minimum, and that’s if it goes smoothly. We’ve also got a clear stance on that which is popular especially with centre-left voters, and a Labour party that may well tack to a less internationalist stance again. What we do need is more ways to a) rebuild our vote in rural areas and b) signal to internationalist centre-left voters that we’re on their side. But in any case – whilst we have lost in the practical sense, there seems to me nothing to be gained within the coming months by formally backing down on our position, and instead the question should be how that pro-Europeanism can be best framed, manifested, and fought for in an age of Conservative populism. The big imponderable which will define much of that is how Johnson’s negotiations with the EU on areas like future trade actually continue, and how the economy responds to that.

    Finally, on a personal note – as an Austrian resident and UK citizen, I’ll be deeply aggrieved if the Liberal Democrats dump the important cause here and try and make soft-pedalled arguments about closer trade links that nobody will listen to anyway. The smaller we are, the bigger and sharper our arguments have to be to be noticed. We need to make the big cases for freedom and internationalism and slap the big ideas on the table in the coming years, and how we do that I think is the critical issue for the coming weeks.

  • Michael Sammon 17th Dec '19 - 12:54am

    I agree, we have lost. What cemented that for me is the fact we campaigned on a ticket to revoke article 50 if we secured the mandate via a majority. We now can’t deny that Conservatives have a majority to get Brexit done. It’s been drilled into me so much that I now believe it. We need to scrutinise everything along the way but any talk of stopping Brexit should now be dropped in my opinion.

  • If the LibDems suddenly go pro-Brexit (and by extension hostile to EU citizens), it’ll a kick in the teeth to everyone who lent the LibDems their votes since 2015 because of the opposition to Brexit, voters who’ll now be politically homeless. That WON’T be forgotten.

    Brexit will cause so much damage that there will be political capital in still outright opposing it, even if there’s a short-lived
    honeymoon period for Brexit. That’s a fact.

  • Don’t defend Brexit. You’re on the wrong side of history,

  • Surely one thing we must learn is not to be too clever by half. Guilty myself, I thought Jo’s promise to withdraw
    Article 50 thus cancelling Brexit was a brilliant suggestion; it was forthright and unambiguous, emphasised the conviction that Brexit was bad for all but a small, a tiny, minority; and it would bring the matter to a swift conclusion.

    And it was simple. You don’t want Brexit? Then get Jo in and there’s an end to it! What could be more democratic? Our position was essentially to offer that second referendum without more ado — by *being* that second referendum.

    Thousands of voters missed the point. Were they too dim? Or were we too clever by half? If the latter, what must we do about setting our brains in order and curbing that half? We must stop being subtle and get canny.

    (Corbyn is another subtle one, of course. What about Johnson? Any lessons there, perhaps?)

  • John Hall – you are so right about the “referendum with all its lies and misinformation and press bias”, I ve been tearing my hair out for 3.5 years because barely anyone, including us, has mentioned this – the first referendum was not in any way democratic, it was cheating at democracy and as long as I live I will NEVER have any respect for that result. Cheating in the Olympics results in disqualification, but cheating in a referendum results in . . . the result being implemented.

    Roger Lake – as soon as ITV and the BBC decided to go with a Corbyn v Johnson head to head we were going to lose. I m surprised it was even legal, how is it “impartial” to effectively influence the outcome of the election by saying to the pubic there are only 2 choices. I am disgusted and will never forgive either tv company. I thought we had strict laws against broadcast media bias that assured their neutrality (which I ve always thought should also apply to the print media too), how wrong I was.

  • Andrew Sims 22nd Dec '19 - 7:51am

    Brexit is not over. The huge disruption it will cause the economy will be the issue at the next election. I think there could be similar situation to 1992, where John Major had to leave the ERM and it shattered the government.

    So for the next election, for example, how about “Brexit isn’t Working” as a slogan and reprise the famous poster of the unemployed? We know that Brexit is an illusion and is causing economic hardship. The Tories will lie and say that the economic disaster is nothing to do with Brexit. We need to nail that lie.

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