Brexit: We can’t gamble with our futures

Week by week the countdown to March 2019 looms closer. The chances of stopping a disastrous hard Brexit are slim, but there is a small window of opportunity if we go about it in the right way.

As Vince Cable and Nick Clegg emphasise, it all rests on building a coalition of moderates with the courage to break out of the extreme Brexit groupthink. This means that we need a Brexit position which is decisive, but also respects those who are resigned to the prospect of Brexit – for now – and reaches out. A clear majority of constituencies voted for Brexit, so for Parliament to block it, or at least soften it, we are going to need to bring people together.

That is why I’m very concerned by the motion being proposed for Autumn Conference, in which it is being suggested that we should play an all-or-nothing game of Russian roulette with people’s livelihoods. The motion suggests that we should retreat into stubborn rejection of the referendum, without securing a clear mandate against Brexit. The tide is slowly turning against a hard Brexit, but time is running out to stop it all together. That should still be our main aim, but it would be an act of gross neglect to take a gamble on suddenly halting Brexit in its tracks and lose.

That’s why we must consider very carefully how we would feel waking up in Hard Brexit Britain in 2019. With investment receding and jobs in freefall, our idealism and anti-Brexit fervour would be in vain. I know I would be thinking about what could have been. We could have had a soft Brexit. We could even have stopped it all. This could all have been less painful.

Even if you endorse this anti-Brexit gamble with our economy, you have to ask how best we can realistically build a coalition to stop Brexit. Surely the answer isn’t to retreat into introverted Europhilia, but to reach out to those sceptical about Brexit and make the case? If the tide of public opinion turns, this is how we stop Brexit – by giving the people the final say in a referendum. This is a realistic and democratic position which can appeal to ‘Releavers’ and soft Leavers alike once the dangers of Brexit become clearer.

I could not forgive myself if I wake up in Hard Brexit Britain in March 2019 knowing it didn’t have to be like this. We can stop this disastrous hard Brexit. We can remain at the heart of Europe. But we can only do this is we reach out to moderates and Brexit sceptics. There is disquiet with a hard Brexit, but a Europhile position which is too extreme risks alienating those who we need to mobilise. We must continue to press for a referendum on the final Brexit deal. That’s the surest way to mobilise the Releavers and regretful Leave voters we need to stop this damaging Brexit.

* Thomas Shakespeare is a Lib Dem activist and a member of Liberal Youth

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  • You know how you can turn the tide against a `Hard Brexit`? Deal with the issues that drove people to vote Leave.

    Demand from the EU restriction on freedom of movement and have as a policy a migration system that works for those at the bottom end.

    Tackle unwanted casual and poor employment practices at the bottom end.

    Have a vision for a Liberal post-Brexit economy that strains every sinew to devolve power, invest in areas outside London and tackles the barriers to employment – in short, radical reform of JCP and intense work with aspirational unemployed to get them into work.

    State what it means to be a student, jobseeker or worker in a top ten global economy.

    Most people perceive the Lib Dems as being laisse-faire on migration, employment laws yet without planned migration and intensive work at the bottom end of the labour market Liberalism cannot work!

  • Thank you for your well thought out and written article. I have thought, researched and read a great deal on this subject and agree with Thomas about the need for a referendum on the final Brexit deal. It is the only way, I believe, to give legitimacy to a remain position. Any other way would be seen as going against the ‘will of the people’.

    We should never have had the 2016 referendum in the first place, whereupon our politicians became followers instead of leaders. But it’s happened. So we need another one to correct it.

  • David Evershed 22nd Aug '17 - 10:49am

    Discriminating against non EU citizens, as current immigration law does, is discriminating against people from Africa, Asia and the Americas, effectively race discrimination.

    Any Lib Dem proposals about immigration should not discriminate against non EU citizens as happens now. All immigration applicants should be treated the same regardless of their origin.

  • Gwynfor Tyley 22nd Aug '17 - 10:51am

    Part 1:

    52% of those voting, despite all the warnings of disaster that would follow and with no clear plan, voted to leave. They were not all duped or xenophobes or racists or stupid. They reflect that there are many problems with this country that are not being addressed by the establishment.

    Now many of us believe that leaving the EU is not the way to solve those problems, but a vote to remain, with Cameron and Osborne in charge, wasn’t going to solve them either – hence, IMO, the vote to leave.

    The big glaring gap in the political landscape is for a party that is seeking to reunify the country. We are split into leavers and remainers and we just continue to shout at each other without listening to what the other side are saying like a divorcing couple who can only see the faults with their spouse and never their own.

  • Gwynfor Tyley 22nd Aug '17 - 10:51am

    Part 2:

    So how do we address this? Identify the problems that leaving the EU was supposed to address and propose alternative solutions, eg:
    -people feel disenfranchised because politicians just ignore them – solution: PR so that every vote counts at every election, not just referendums.
    -people feel powerless in their own communities – solution: devolution of power from Westminster to the regions (it isn’t the EU that is controlling our daily lives, after all)
    -people feel that “immigrants are talking all our jobs” – Solution: investment in education and training to help our people, and importantly, our businesses compete
    -people outside of the South East feel neglected by a Westminster establishment – solution: investment outside of the south east to create meaningful jobs
    -people feel that immigrants are putting too much pressure on public services – solution: investment in public services, particularly those areas with high levels of immigration.
    (note, many of these proposals are current lib dem policy so shouldn’t be difficult for us to get behind).

    This is the price that the establishment must pay if it wants to avoid brexit. It says to the leavers that we are listening to their concerns, that their original vote to leave was justified as a way of forcing change.

    This creates an alternative to whatever agreement May and Davis are able to pull together such that there is an enhanced justification for a referendum on the final deal with (disastrous) agreement and a reformed UK remaining in the EU as the alternatives.

    Leavers can then change their vote to remain, honour satisfied that their concerns have been recognised and a price extracted from the establishment. Remainers can be grateful that the disastrous cost of brexit has been avoided.

    In summary our position needs to be that of the party that will bring the UK back together, to which end we must
    1, listen to the concerns of leavers
    2, propose solutions to those concerns
    3, argue for a referendum on the final deal with a reformed UK as the alternative.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Aug '17 - 11:12am

    Former MEP Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion) has pointed out that removing EU legislation is not sufficient. When replacing the policy in UK law parliament should also insert means of enforcement. She is right. We should agree with her publicly.
    Air quality is an example.
    Deputy chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, said: “Tackling the price of electric taxis is central to their high take up.”
    She called on the mayor to “drive down the cost of electric taxis by bulk purchasing a large number and then selling and leasing them to drivers and garages”.
    The UK government has not launched a scrappage scheme, but several car companies have.

  • Sue Sutherland 22nd Aug '17 - 1:02pm

    Gay for I agree with much of what you say. The problem is that even though we may have the policies to provide solution to the problems Leavers face, very few people realise that. Around 7% of the population, possibly. So we have to shout about it and give a clear easy message over and over again so people don’t automatically turn to Labour. We also have to show how we would fund these changes and simply raising taxes by 1% just won’t wash. We have to reject austerity. It isn’t working and it won’t achieve the sort of society we want. The country turned from Keynesian economics when Thatcher espoused monetarism. Maybe it’s time for a synthesis of those two theories?

  • Sue Sutherland 22nd Aug '17 - 1:04pm

    Sorry about my failure to check spell check Gwynfor, I do apologise.

  • James,

    I get that people voted for Brexit as a plea to do something. The problem you have is each Brexiteer wanted to do something totally different fro the rest of you. In your case part of what you want is

    “Tackle unwanted casual and poor employment practices at the bottom end.

    Have a vision for a Liberal post-Brexit economy that strains every sinew to devolve power, invest in areas outside London and tackles the barriers to employment – in short, radical reform of JCP and intense work with aspirational unemployed to get them into work.”

    Well the problem with that is the people who are running Brexit are the Tories and everything you want is the opposite to what they believe in. Therefore you have voted to continue and intensify that you most hate as they will set out the Brexit you get. You can justify it by as some do saying well the Tories won’t be in power for ever then we can have Lexit; the problem with that is by then we will have left and changing anything will be like trying to turn a super tanker using a rowing boat.

    Even if you where successful in Lexit you would dismay the brave Brexiteers who believe in parasitisation and free movement of everything. The sad thing is as a Brexiteer you actually have much more in common with the likes of me who want to tackle the issues you have identified than your fellow Brexiteers who want a free trade, free immigration devil take the hindmost economy. It is an unfortunate fact that given when you voted Brexit we had the government we had, Brexit of the hard right was always going to be the likely result.

  • Apologies should have read privatisation not parasitisation. Having said that the way our economy has progressed under privatising everything perhaps parasitisation is apt.

  • Thomas,

    a thoughtful and well argued article supplemented with good comments. I do agree that simply being anti-brexit without setting out a clear vision of a alternative future within the EU is not an adequate strategy. We must continue to press for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
    The post-war settlement in the UK was defined by William Beveridge’s wartime report. At the same time In the United States, President Roosevelt wa setting out his vision for a 2nd bill of rights:

    “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
    In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
    Among these are:
    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
    The right of every family to a decent home;
    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
    The right to a good education.
    All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
    America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

    Sue Sutherland was right to comment “The country turned from Keynesian economics when Thatcher espoused monetarism. Maybe it’s time for a synthesis of those two theories?

  • Mark Seaman 22nd Aug '17 - 3:44pm

    Hmmmm….. there are not several million Brits in other EU countries. The actual figures for EU migration to and from Britain clearly show that there is a significant net inflow to this country, due to the higher wages here compared to former Soviet Bloc countries. This would not change anytime soon if we were to remain in the EU.

  • @james – if you buy into the line that EU migration (lower than non EU migration and net contributors to public purse) is the cause of the all the problems you mention, then you’ll never solve them because FOM isn’t the cause.

    This is unfortunately why the Lib Dems will never be in any form of national power in the foreseeable future as it is so biased towards mass migration without convincing those at the bottom of any vision of the future. This is largely because the Lib Dems are now really made up of people who are a) far removed from those at the bottom b) ideological hotheads that can’t brook any other nuance apart from their own orthodoxy and c) people who are vested in the present system.

    The real point is that if you do not have a JCP system that actually prioritises people who are ready for courses and/or work you end up with people that believe the current system, and that includes the EU, doesn’t work for them. If you’re fighting for any job you can get and to, as the Lib Dems put it, `get on in life` and are constantly competing for services and jobs with others while being wholly obstructed by this system people will react against that same system.

    It’s a rigged system that undermines those that wish to get on. What the hell are the Lib Dems who are supposed to attack vested interests going to do about it?

  • `The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;` very good now where are the hard-headed policies that tackle employment inequality and the awful new maximum wage of £7.50 an hour?

  • James,

    I think it is about taking the lessons of economic theory and making it work for those at the bottom of the pile. The minimum wage is an absolute floor and should be the exception not the norm. Using a job guarantee scheme
    with the state performing the function of employer of last resort sets the floor. Private sector empoyers will have to pay above this floor to incentivise workers to take up work with them.

  • paul barker 22nd Aug '17 - 5:17pm

    This article seems a bit confused. As far as I can see the Conference Motion says nothing about our call for a real Vote on all the options so that policy would stay.
    On the wider point of course the Cross-Party Alliance against a Hard Brexit should be open to all options but that doesnt apply to us. We are a Party, our primary aim is to get the most Votes that we can for our Policies. The first step is to be honest about what we want, in this case continued membership of The EU or rejoining if The UK leaves.

  • I don’t buy the idea that Brexit meant different things to different people anymore than any political argument does. To me if there had been a vote on Maastricht we would never have joined in the first place and that is where the problem started. Brexit is a testament to 24 years of the political folly of trying to fundamentally alter the relationship of people to the nation state through stealth to further the cause of a deeper union few people asked for, mass immigration over 70% population don’t want and a political class wanting a bigger pot to widdle in.

  • John Littler 22nd Aug '17 - 6:40pm

    Glenn, how on earth are public services and private companies going to get the numbers of staff they need without sufficient migration when hospitalities alone requires 1 million staff and in many of the areas, there are no staff available and they are 100% from overseas.
    Farming also requires many seasonal staff who are not available in the UK, with only 4.5% unemployed and of those, most are either in between jobs at any one time, or are completely unemployable.
    Then there are specialist staff that are needed sometimes only for a day or a few days and it is not reasonable or workable to expect employers to have to put in bureaucratic applications and wait weeks or months or to pay £2k-£3k in the process. This will not help the economy.
    The John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford alone has 700 vacancies it cannot fill and EU nursing applications to the NHS have gone down by 96% before any controls are brought in.
    On recruitment, public services and the economy, trouble is brewing and indications are mostly on the way down.

  • John Littler 22nd Aug '17 - 6:44pm

    The fundamentalist left attack the EU as globalisation, but it is NOT the globalisation that the Tory right and many UKIP brexiters want. The EU is a system limited and controlled which the UK can handle and maintain it’s workers rights, health and safety, western level incomes, standards ( e.g. food safety, animal welfare and farming/fishing methods ), to prevent predatory foreign dumping on our home industries/markets and to maintain the countryside with farming skills, traditional methods, animal breeds and as a place for tourists to visit.

    The EU also based it’s fisheries policy on science and is rarely credited for preventing the over fishing that destroyed the North American Atlantic cod fishery.

    The Tory right and UKIP globalisers hate the EU because it puts limits to globalisation and maintains some stability in our way of life, where they prefer the opportunities of the trader, buying and selling futures or short selling in markets manipulated to become chaotic.

    The Fundamentalist right ( Priti Patel, Hannon, Liz Truss etc) want the “lazy” British worker to compete directly with India not just Germany ( read “Britannia Unchained”), to have rights torn up as cost overheads, wages to fall, to have small farms go the wall free of subsidy, with footpaths overgrown, GM crops, bleached chickens and hormone grown beef and the likes, cutting the costs of feeding the work forces, while boosting profits of Corporations. If they cause cancer, then by that time, you may need to pay penalties to cash your pension in, to pay for the treatment, so for a few it’s a win, win, win.

    The left should get real about what is going to happen. Brexit is not going to be a cosy collectivised future, but more like a new round of land enclosures by big landlords, market take overs by big foreign corporations, big squeezes on workers and the poor and the welfare state progressively made unaffordable and reduced to a poor law fig leaf, as taxes are reduced to make the UK attract lost business, or the revenues are offshored into havens.

    5% would do OK, 1% would do well and 0.1% would hit the jackpot, while 95% will get the crummy end of the stick and the 52% who bought all of this fairy tale will mainly realise that they have been had by the con trick of the century, but too late.

  • Under the Tories we are heading for a neo-liberal fantasy world, unfortunately some people can’t or won’t see it. I suppose you have to have that approach otherwise it makes it very hard to justify the way you voted.

    To paraphrase Upton Sinclair
    ““It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his self worth depends on his not understanding it.”

  • John,
    I’m simply pointing to the persistent polls. Mass immigration is not popular with locals. Plus at the current levels it really only goes back to 2003. Supporters of it have been making the same argument for years and it has virtually no electoral traction outside of a basically tiny minority. Maybe we should train more people and go for more automation (which is inevitable anyway). Reliance on high levels of immigration seems very short-sighted in a de-industrialised society entering an era when technological advances mean a lot more jobs are going to disappear. We actually need to be asking what is the point of work? Are there better ways of living? And so on.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Aug '17 - 12:14am

    Thomas, I admire the fervour and commitment you show in your article, but I don’t think the danger is as great as you fear, and certainly the proposed motion for our Conference is not in my opinion alarming, though it needs some amendment and reaffirmation of our commitment to a second, democratic referendum. You want a clear mandate against Brexit for that referendum, and since that is not yet apparent, fear a ‘hard’ Brexit will ensue when we could have still been campaigning for a ‘soft’ version.

    I think the first point to make is that, in the present state of our party, our continuing to campaign for that, unless we can make powerful alliances which seems rather unlikely, will not effect the outcome much at all. Your sense of responsibility is admirable, but we don’t have much power. Secondly, however, I think the number of hard-right politicians who do have power, and could effect the sort of alarming scenario that John Littler outlines, is small. Most of the Cabinet, and most MPs, voted to Remain, and with the negotiations clearly failing, and the temporary pause of the transition period allowing compromises, it seems unlikely to me that the Government will in the end pursue the feared ‘cliff-edge’ of the ‘hard’ Brexit. More probable is that they will seek, when the EU negotiators have finally convinced them that the have-cake-and-eat-it policy is impossible, the refuge of some sort of EFTA or EEA-type outcome. That is not ideal for Britain, however, so we ourselves should continue to pursue our aim of staying in the EU, via a new popular mandate.

    Finally, since the Lib Dems do not actually favour ‘mass migration’ as the Brexiteers hysterically allege, but rather the reasonable admittance of needed workers, and as Rebecca Taylor reminds us, the EU itself allows removal of those who don’t find work and can’t support themselves, the popular demand to reduce the number of EU workers coming here can be managed. Meanwhile, as several commenters above have wisely suggested, we Lib Dems can address ourselves to meeting the perceived needs of the Leavers by promoting and developing our own helpful policies.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '17 - 1:06am

    I am so irritated by the whole thing , my main reason above all for wanting remain to win, I knew we would never hear the end of this nonsense as it shall take ages and satisfy few.

    I think the doom and gloom on the economy is not a help at all. Brexit might be a disaster, but it might not.

    What I do know is the party is not going to do well ever, if it is so convinced it is correct to take such a strong stance on this, that it cannot even get worked up into a sweat about a new party stealing our thunder and name.

    There is more to this country and this party than the wretched subject herein.

  • Mark Goodrich 23rd Aug '17 - 1:50am

    I agree with the thrust of this article (and most of the comments). Movement is glacial but the polls are gradually showing movement against leaving the EU – most recent polls now suggest that in a new vote, Remain would win narrowly. Given that the public’s view of the Conservative government’s ability to strike a good dea has (rightly)collapsed, this movement can be expected to continue.

    The real issue for those of us who want to remain in the EU is that a significant chunk of the population who voted Remain now want to go through with leaving because they think the referendum should be respected. I think these people can be persuaded that a referendum on the deal is an appropriate democratic mechanism to overturn the original result given that the deal is not going to look like the promises of the Leave campaign. I see no prospect that they would agree to overturn it without such a vote (and, frankly, the narrative of “elites” overturning the “popular will” is never going to go down well). The referendum on the deal is the only way out of this bind.

    I do think the party policy should to a more active opposition to Brexit rather than pushing the “soft” Brexit. The negotiations are gradually revealing that soft Brexit gives us most of the EU positives and negatives but greatly reduced influence. Opposition to Brexit plus second referendum is a distinctive and principled position which will ultimately serve us well.

  • Mark Goodrich 23rd Aug '17 - 2:09am

    Of course, the sad reality is that for success, the policy almost certainly needs the Labour Party to get behind it. Steve Richards argues persuasively here as to why they should….but I am not optimistic.

  • The other to point to make re immigration is that 62% of remain voters also think the levels have been too high. So the idea that it is just a Brexiter concern is wide of the mark.

  • Mark Goodrich 23rd Aug '17 - 5:48am

    @Glenn – but they also show that people aren’t prepared to pay very much out of their pocket to reduce it. The real issue with the Leave campaign was that it ignored trade-offs, not just on immigration but on trade too. The only sure-fire way to reduce immigration drastically is to crater the economy. To be fair, the Conservative government is going that way so we will just have to see if people really prefer being poorer with less immigration.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '17 - 8:34am

    Of course if Lib Dems oppose Brexit, it should be fought all the way. But the reality is that you have neither the numbers in Parliament nor in the country to do that much about it. Last time I checked Lib Dem support was in single figures.

    Supposing there is even a new referendum which goes the way of the first? What then?

    So I would say you need a Plan B. You need to be able to explain to the voters at the next election how the economy can function well even if we are out, and I mean completely out, of the EU.

    That probably won’t be until 2022. My expectation is that the Tories and DUP will hang on until the bitter end because they know what will await them when they do call it. Rejoining the EU on anything like the terms we had previously won’t be an option.

    But there’re always other options. Returning to the same old failed neoliberal/ordoliberal economics, but outside the EU, can’t be a good one.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '17 - 8:56am

    @ John Littler,

    “5% would do OK, 1% would do well and 0.1% would hit the jackpot, while 95% will get the crummy end of the stick “

    How about 5% have done OK, 1% have done well…………?

    The GFC changed everything in both the UK and EU27. Neither has coped particularly well with the fallout from that. We both could have coped much better if we’d just done the same as the Americans and gently expanded and reflated our way out of the problems it brought.

    Bu we were too fixated on “the debt”. President Obama had his critics who threatened to impose a debt ceiling against all sensible advice. But he saw them off. The end result is that the USA has had continued economic growth and their deficits/debt is no higher that it is in the UK and the EU.

    Those who argued in such terms used to be dismissed as debt/deficit deniers. It’s nonsense. The reality, as President Obama has shown, is that no cares about debts and deficits providing the economy is functioning well. If there were a new crisis we’d see even more money pouring into the US for safe keeping. Does anyone care about a $20 trillion debt? Why should they? The US can never run out of US dollars and it can never involuntarily default on any debt in US$.

    It’s the same for us and the Europeans except we have pounds and they have euros.

  • Antony Watts 23rd Aug '17 - 9:05am

    We could line ourselves up with Europe’s fastest growing political movement Example:

    * TURNING IDLE WEALTH INTO GREEN INVESTMENT: Europe’s future hinges on the capacity to harness the wealth that accumulates in Europe and turn it into investments in a real, green, sustainable, innovative economy. What matters is not the boost of one European country’s ‘competitiveness’ in relation to another European country but the rise of productivity in green sectors everywhere 

    * BASIC GOODS PROVISION: All Europeans should enjoy in their home country the right to basic goods (e.g. nutrition, shelter, transport, energy), to paid work contributing to the maintenance of their communities while receiving a living wage, to decent social housing, to high quality health and education, and to a sustainable environment. 

    * SHARING THE RETURNS TO CAPITAL & WEALTH: In the increasingly digital economy, capital goods are increasingly produced collectively but their returns continue to be privatised. As Europe becomes more technologically advanced, to avoid stagnation and discontent it must implement policies for sharing amongst all its citizens the dividends from digitisation and automation. 

    * MACROECONOMIC MANAGEMENT CANNOT BE LEFT TO UNELECTED TECHNOCRATS: Europe’s economies are stagnating because for too long macroeconomic management has been subcontracted to unaccountable ‘technocrats’. It is high time macroeconomic management is democratised fully and placed under the scrutiny of sovereign peoples.

  • Mark.
    At the current level mass immigration only really goes back to the early 2000s. Its value to the economy is mostly about short term gains for asset holders rather than anything wider . Sure if you keep pressure on housing, high levels of personal borrowing and so on then it will look good on a spread sheet. However the economy arguably pretty much cratered in 2007-2008 and we are still witnessing the fall out 10 years on. As I said not popular enough with electorate to keep selling especially in a country that has just voted to reassert the concept of the Nation state.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '17 - 9:40am

    @ Anthony Watts,

    I agree with the thrust of your arguments and I’d hope is successful.


    The Devil is, as always, in the detail when we call for “the scrutiny of sovereign peoples”.

    If everyone had their own sovereign currency there wouldn’t be a problem. Because if there was too much spending by everyone in a particular country there’d also be too much inflation and the currency would fall. So there’d be a high level of accountability by governments to the people.

    Now that there is the euro, and with most EU countries currencies pegged to the euro and preparing for entry, we don’t have the same situation. It’s rather like we have many people sharing the same bank account. The more they spend the better off any one individual will be. There’s no point leaving the money in the account because someone else will use it.

    So there has to be rules, and until such time as there is a functioning democratic EU government, with sufficient authority to impose a common taxation system, those rules have to be devised by “unelected technocrats.” The sensible thing for them to do is relax those rules.

    Whether increased democracy will work in the way we all might hope is questionable. When German voters understand just what will be expected of them to make the EU function correctly we may end up being slightly disappointed in their democratic choices.

  • John Probert 23rd Aug '17 - 10:01am

    The EU is a common trading area, which implies freedom of movement for both people and goods in order to make it a level playing field. Migration is driven primarily by demand for labour. For instance my family migrated to the Midlands from South Wales in the 1930’s recession when my unemployed father got a job with Austin motor company at Longbridge. That meant that we were economically better off and meanwhile motor manufacturing flourished. Was anybody worse off? Should father have needed a visa?

  • William Ross 23rd Aug '17 - 11:03am

    Frankie states that every Brexiteer wanted something different. That is fantasy. Every Brexiteer wanted to leave the EU superstate, lock, stock and barrel. And that is exactly what we will do.

    Incidentally, in Scotland we had an independence referendum in 2014 in which 45% of voters voted YES. All of these voters wanted Scottish independence. You would think it would be simple……


  • Peter Hirst 23rd Aug '17 - 2:54pm

    How do we articulate a vision of avoiding a hard Brexit and draw those who voted for a soft one. We are only going to win if a huge majority agree with our stance and this is reflected in opinion polls. We do need to forge a coalition and take care as to what we actually want. Do we wait for the actual deal and then decide? It is probably better to stake out some red lines with emphasis on controlled migration, a veto on laws that effect us and maintaining the raft of social, environmental and employment laws that protect us. Getting this across to the public in the limited time available will not be easy. We must seed sufficient alarm about any deal that almost anything is better than what’s on offer. At the end of the day we need something like a petition that say’s enough is enough.

  • William Ross – Even if your contention that all Brexiteers want to leave “the superstate” lock stock and barrel, that is because the Daily Mail et al have persuaded them there is a “superstate” to leave. Patent nonsense.

    I am afraid far too many “Leavers” are not properly able to articulate their reasons for wishing to leave and resort to (seemingly) emotional generalisations like “I know exactly why I want to leave – if you can’t understand this, there’s no point in discussing it further”.

    Addressing the issue of people wanting or not wanting “mass migration”, this is absolutely an issue relating to the economy – the UK under neoliberal policies has just simply generated too many low skill jobs, and created a need for many migrants. As has been said many of these are non-EU, so surely the issue has to be dealt with on its merits, and according to the causes. Personally, I heard far too many people talking specifically about Muslim immigrants – most of whom are migrants from outside the EU, and many at present are potential refugees from conflict ridden and repressive and starving countries, where they are likely to be subject to violence and abuse. Shouldn’t we lend a hand to people from these backgrounds? When you consider the numbers of refugees in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Turkey in Uganda (countries far poorer than the UK) nor even to consider the million or so recent refugees to Germany? But how does that relate to the EU – apart from an apparently doomed attempt to coordinate a scheme that might give some relief?

    Yes, Gwynfor Tyley, address problems you think may have led to the Leave vote, but part of that should be a political education process, designed to correct many of the inaccurate perceptions implanted in many cases by skewed media and social media reports, and especially, headlines.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '17 - 8:07pm

    Staying in the EU is a gamble. Supposing the contradictions of the euro cause it to collapse? Unless we know for sure that it won’t, we’re gambling.

    The need for an EU transfer union has long been known. This article dates from over 5 years ago but I can’t see we’re any nearer now than we were then. If the EU doesn’t become that , which effectively means a USE, then it has no future.

    As the author writes:

    “I’m not surprised that the Germans, Dutch and others have grave doubts about committing to a long term fiscal relationship in which they will be forever bailing out other member states. Or that they would insist on certain conditions before doing so. But in time, even the Germans will come to recognize …

    I don’t think they will! Anyone from those countries care to comment?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Aug '17 - 9:23pm

    For instance my family migrated to the Midlands from South Wales in the 1930’s recession when my unemployed father got a job with Austin motor company at Longbridge.

    There’s nothing wrong with moving to get a job. We’ve all done it.

    But from the UK’s prespective there is something wrong when we have too much regional disparity. Naturally there’ll always, given the present level of disparity, be a net migration to London and the SE of England from the poorer areas. It’s not that desirable. The history of Northern Ireland in the second half of the 20th Century is a tragedy that could so easily have been avoided with a better understanding of economics. We wouldn’t have had the troubles if NI hadn’t been in economic depression.

    Governments can create as much money as they like and spend what they like. Unless it gets saved it all comes back as taxes. The reason for not spending isn’t so much that Govt “doesn’t have the money” it’s because Govt shouldn’t spend too much and tax too little which could cause inflation.

    Where money spent is therefore very important. It can be spent in Northern Ireland and still in the Welsh valleys without causing inflation. If it’s spent in London and the SE it very likely will cause inflation.

    In other words we can spend in the poorer regions cost free but there is a real cost to spending in London.

  • John Probert 24th Aug '17 - 5:50pm

    @ Peter Martin: “But from the UK’s perspective there is something wrong when we have too much regional disparity. Naturally there’ll always, given the present level of disparity, be a net migration to London and the SE of England from the poorer areas.”
    Yes indeed, and I expect you agree that EU migration is chiefly due to the economic backwardness of the ex-communist bloc. However, they are catching up (especially the Baltic States and Poland) largely helped by EU infrastructure investment. Meanwhile immigration from the EU has boosted our economy, which is hardly a problem.

  • John Probert
    Poland is helped mostly by the desire to lower labour costs and I would argue Germany’s historic interest in the region. A lot of the parts for German cars are now produced in Poland. Cheaper skilled labour, history and good maths education being amongst the primary drivers. In a word capitalism.

  • Peter Martin 25th Aug '17 - 12:06pm

    @ John Probert,

    “I expect you agree that EU migration is chiefly due to the economic backwardness of the ex-communist bloc. ”

    That’s part of it. But many western countries in the EU aren’t in great shape either and never will be until the EU gets its act together and becomes a fiscal transfer union. Something that Germany is never likely to agree to IMO.

    “Meanwhile immigration from the EU has boosted our economy…”

    So has immigration, which is much more highly controlled, from outside the EU. So the question is if we’d get a better boost if outside immigration was less tightly controlled or if EU immigration was more tightly controlled?

  • John Probert 26th Aug '17 - 5:29pm

    @ Peter Martin: “…. the question is if we’d get a better boost if outside immigration was less tightly controlled or if EU immigration was more tightly controlled?”

    Who is making a case for immigration from outside the EU to be less tightly controlled, Peter?

  • Peter Martin 26th Aug '17 - 9:53pm

    @ John Probert,

    You ask: “who is making a case for immigration from outside the EU to be less tightly controlled, Peter?”

    The SWP maybe? I was more interested in your opinion. What would you say the optimum level of immigration control should be and do you think we have it right with both EU and non-EU citizens?

  • John Probert 28th Aug '17 - 12:34pm

    Peter: In my opinion freedom of movement is essential in a common trading area.
    The EU countries share a common culture and we are more prosperous and powerful and safer together. I wouldn’t encourage ‘benefit tourism’ Is that currently a real problem?

    Immigration from the rest of the world must be controlled of course and that is the real challenge facing the government. The main control is of course through work permits.

    I think my views on this are mainstream Liberal! What agitates you about it?

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