Don’t get too excited about Labour’s Brexit baby step

The Observer headlines Keir Starmer’s announcement that Labour might be prepared to back a longer transitional arrangement to keep us in the single market for longer as a “dramatic shift.”

That editor must have lead a really sheltered life if they think that reversing the tank a few metres back from the cliff edge in the middle of a storm is actually going to help that much.

The claim that Labour is now the party of soft Brexit is laughable. Soft Brexit means staying in the single market and the customs union in a Norway style arrangement. Labour’s position is the same as some Tory hard Brexiteers who support a two year transitional period before leaving the single market and customs union altogether.

Labour’s so-called shift is nothing but a baby step and it’s not even in the right direction. Any transitional period will come to an end and we will end up out of the single market and suddenly much poorer.

If you want a party that is willing to be honest about the very dangerous territory we are now in and which is prepared to offer people a way out of the mess, you have to go with the Liberal Democrats. Labour will not help. Some of them may want to go further, but Corbyn is holding them back.

Tom Brake, our Brexit spokesperson, explained why Labour’s position is “all spin and no principle.”

This is all spin and no principle. When Labour’s Chuka Umunna sought to win a parliamentary vote to stay in the single market, Jeremy Corbyn sacked any frontbencher who dared vote with him. Mr Corbyn supported the Conservative Brexit government and is Theresa May’s best ally in her attempt to drag Britain out of the world’s largest market.

Judge a party by hard actions, not empty words. Jeremy Corbyn conned a generation at the last general election that he was somehow against Brexit. He isn’t.

Keir Starmer can say he opposes hard Brexit, but his leader doesn’t back him. Labour is utterly divided. Even Mr Starmer is only proposing to remain in the single market during a transitional period, and refuses to say he will back membership after that.

Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to staying in the single market and customs union so only the Liberal Democrats will be able to build a sound economy.


Tom Brake later challenged Labour to actually, you know, vote for the single market if that’s what it says it wants. They haven’t on every other occasion so far.

The Liberal Democrats will table an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to force a vote on whether Britain should leave the European Economic Area and therefore the single market. The party will also seek to amend the Bill to retain membership of the customs union.
The current wording of the Bill (p.54, paragraphs 12 – 17) would repeal the 1993 EEA Act which implements the EEA agreement into UK law.

But there is ongoing legal debate over whether the government has the authority to leave the EEA without a separate parliamentary vote.

Tom said:

This Bill is a chance to take a wrecking ball to the extreme Brexit agenda being pursued by this government. Labour needs to make up its mind whether it is with the Conservatives, seeking to take us out of the single market and customs union, or with the Liberal Democrats who want to protect jobs by remaining inside.

We will use every opportunity to defend Britain’s membership of the single market and customs union on which so many people’s jobs and living standards rely.

There is a growing consensus that parliament must have the final say over whether to leave the European Economic Area.

If ministers were expecting to ram through their extreme Brexit plans with no accountability, they might be in for a nasty surprise.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Labour have are following the example of Saint Augustine “Lord give me Brexit, but not yet”. Of cause if Starmer and co get their way the yet will never quite get here. We will follow along like a little puppy doing what ever the EU do. Taking back control, not if your a Lexiteer.
    There are only two principled solutions stay in the EU and share the decision making or hard Brexit and take the pain. Try to tag along and let the EU set the rules is just an abrogation of responsibility, what ever way you dress it up.

  • jayne Mansfield 27th Aug '17 - 10:03am

    I am sorry Caron, but I am excited by it. We all start by taking baby steps.

    It seems that the electorate will now have three choices when it comes to dealing with the result of the referendum and the political response to it. The electorate can decide which approach is deemed the best one to heal the wounds caused by the result.

    I am delighted that, in the first instance, Labour will be backing continuation within the single market and customs union, plus free movement of people, although hopefully with free movement properly operating in accordance with European law as to who is entitled to be here.

  • We have three choices
    Take back control and crash the economy, hard Brexit.
    The Norway solution stay in the single market but let the EU make the rules. Brexit in name only but lose control.
    Remain in the EU and help make the rules.

    I’m unable to say which option the brave Brexiteer government will take. Labour seem to be coming round to the view let’s Brexit in name only and let the 27 make the rules. We seem to want to actually have input into the rule making and stay. Poor Brexiteers what a choice to make pain and Brexit or Brexit in name only, let the 27 decide for us. A sad day when Solvenia gets to decide what we do.

  • jayne Mansfield 27th Aug '17 - 10:16am

    @ Martin,
    I made this point about transitional period when it was first mooted.

    I am still concerned by this, but my personal experience and the evidence of the polls, seems to indicate that the Liberal Democrats are banging on a closed door. The breathing space offered by a transitional period offers an extended period of time for the electorate to reflect and re-evaluate their position before the tories irrevocably trash the country.

    Ambiguity may be the cleverest option at this time.

  • jayne Mansfield 27th Aug '17 - 10:19am

    It will be an even sadder day if the Tory Government of Insolvenia makes the rules.

  • Jayne,
    You are preaching to the choir. I feel however your question would be better addressed to the brave Brexiteers who voted for Brexit in the knowledge Brexit would be carried out by the Tories. I believe they dismissed it as project fear or a price worth paying.

  • Whatever the rights and wrongs of Labour’s position, it’s got nothing to do with excitement. My instinct is that electorally Keir Starmer has “shot the Lib Dems’ fox”.

    It’s called realpolitik – something the Lib Dems have not been particularly good at over the last seven years to ten years. The only hope for Lib Dems now is for Dr Cable to work with Keir Starmer (possibly the next Labour Leader in a year or so) to produce an anti-Tory front at the next General election.

    To use a Victorian political aphorism apropos the 1867 Reform Act,, I suspect Starmer has ‘stolen the Whig’s clothing while they were bathing’

  • @ Caron “Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to staying in the single market and customs union so only the Liberal Democrats will be able to build a sound economy.”

    Build a sound economy ? With 12 M.P.’s and 1.5% in a Leamington Spa by-election ? Your optimism does you credit

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Aug '17 - 11:12am

    David Raw: Only we offer the option of getting out of Brexit, so if people want to do that , we are the only political party that supports their position.

  • There’s no time left for endless carping. Starmer’s statement can be built on and it behoves people from all parties to get behind him and build a strong cross-party alliance. The Lib Dems had their chance in the GE and got nowhere with most anti brexit youngsters backing Labour.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Aug '17 - 11:28am

    The Observer are wrongly saying in the headlines that Labour are the party of soft Brexit. This can’t go unchallenged. It’s either poor writing or bias from Observer journalists trying to boost the popularity of Labour.

    As Caron and Tom Brake point out: Labour haven’t committed to the Single Market after the transition period and Jeremy Cornyn is personally against the idea.

  • Ray Cobbett: Anti-Brexit youngsters backed Labour in a mistaken belief that Corbyn was anti-Brexit, when he is actually as pro-Brexit as they come. The penny WILL drop, and Starmer’s policy shift is nowhere near enough to help Labour when this happens.

  • Only independence offers a realistic option of getting out of Brexit, so if people want to do that, only a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum can make their position a reality.

    At the link below, you can see and hear Liberal Democrat Chris Wilson talking about his journey to Yes. (Or google “Journey to yes #18”)


  • jayne Mansfield 27th Aug '17 - 11:40am

    @ Frankie,
    I don’t think that brexiteers are brave. I think that in all the years that we have been within the European Union, no-one has taken the trouble to explain the benefits that accrue from membership. The low turnout for EU elections and the fact that so many could not name their MEP was a warning sign that those in power arrogantly chose to ignore.

    I also believe that a year has been wasted since the referendum for the same reason. Instead of berating brexiteers, politicians should be out and about explaining why Brexit will not bring the benefits that are assumed.

    When Nick Clegg promised to give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain, he was not only being offensive, but also wrong -headed. There are no Tories of my acquaintance who voted Brexit. I think that you underestimate the disagreement , divisions and loathing that characterise the Tory party, all of which have been magnified by the referendum vote.

    What Tory MPs need, is the courage of a Lion. Keir Starmer’s initiative offers them something that they can take back and explain to a Brexit constituency. It is a baby step in the right direction.

    Instead of wishful thinking, there is an immediate need for pragmatism.

  • I think David Raw (and Ray Cobbett) are right to call for Dr Cable to work with Keir Starmer (possibly the next Labour Leader in a year or so) to produce an anti-Tory front at the next General election.

    This seems to me the best prospect for getting into the national conversation and crucially to develop a parliamentary majority (including Tory remainers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry) for a referendum on the Brexit deal.

  • Jayne Mansfield
    I am sure Frankie means “brave” Brexiteers in the Yes, Minister meaning of brave policy!

    Otherwise totally agree with your sentiments – adding that our electorate surely would not have elected complete idiots to the European Parliament such as many UKIP members, and a few of the more extreme Tories, had they realised the importance of the elections they were taking part in, and would have ensured they came out to vote in greater numbers. Low turnout elections are always vulnerable to potential extremism.

  • Macron is calling for changes in immigration rules, Corbyn is saying soft Brexit if there are changes in immigration rules… it is progress of a sorts.

    But if Corbyn has the choice of soft Brexit at the price of say 50m exit fee and staying in the EU both with some immigration changes to soothe his working class base then which would he chose?

  • 50m should have been 50b, sorry

  • And let’s be clear about the outcome of a Labour amendment/motion defeating the May/Davies Bill. There will be an immediate General Election and the Lib Dems will be totally and utterly defenestrated if they don’t work/cooperate with Starmer.

    Caron, being the only ‘GOOB in the Village’ might be purist – but it will also be fatal if the electorate don’t buy it.

    PS. GOOB = Get out of Brexit.

  • jayne Mansfield 27th Aug '17 - 1:05pm

    @ Alex Mcfie,
    The penny has dropped. More and more people are becoming aware that Corbyn whatever his person view, is prepared to listen and take a pragmatic approach.

    @ Al,
    The SNP lost the Independence vote.

    You may also find that the idea currently floated by Jeremy Corbyn’s regarding the abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement with an elected House with devolution of powers to regions and local bodies might further shoot the SNP’s Independence fox.

  • Neil Sandison 27th Aug '17 - 1:16pm

    We should welcome Keir Starmers statement but with the proviso that we hope that Corbyn and his inner circle does not flip flop again when it comes to votes in the House of Commons .The stronger the coalition for a soft brexit the more outrageous and shrill the hard core brexiteers will be sound to the public a Norway style package is probable in the publics and the economies interest . Uniting around a broad but coherent package and more importantly a majority of MPs in the commons a better target than seeming to be holier than thou .

  • jayne Mansfield 27th Aug '17 - 1:18pm

    @ Bill Fowler,
    Corbyn’s base is increasingly bolstered by the educated middle class, young professionals and the young.

    Maintaining the party’s working class base would be dependant on persuading those supporters that they will have most to lose by Brexit. The minority of xenophobes and racists of any class are at liberty to take their support to a more congenial party. They would be no loss to Labour.

  • paul barker 27th Aug '17 - 2:02pm

    Yes its only a baby step but it may be enough to shift opinion. We have to respond by making out position harder, we need to keep clear water between us & Labour.

  • Do not be fooled Caron. This is going down well, been talking to Remain friends in Tesco’s today, they voted Con and Lib Dem, very attracted by what has been said and more importantly how it has been presented by the media. The ground for us to operate on is getting squeezed more and more. This make it even more difficult to recapture votes in places like Cornwall and Somerset. Why did we stay in that bloomin coaliton so long?

  • Bill Fowler 27th Aug '17 - 2:53pm

    Mrs May’s main achievement is keeping in power despite not doing a very good job as PM and Home Sec so if Corbyn wins the vote on the brexit amendments I would not expect an election, more likely another referendum and her saying she is happy to carry out the wishes of the British people, whatever they may be. With the hard right knowing an election would not be won, would they go against her? Then if the vote is for staying in, all systems go again on the economy she would have improved tax receipts to offer up as bribes pre-election, rather than ten years of austerity whilst the country sorts itself out post-Brexit.

  • It seems that the LibDem’s still define Corbyn as a ‘hard Brexiteer’ (even though his 7/10 for remaining was about the only realistic assessment of the campaign from either side)…
    A few weeks ago the charge was that there was ‘no difference’ between Tory/Labour; now, when a gap is opening up, it’s not enough…He has said on umpteen occasions that the electorate’s decision must be respected but, by small steps like this a catastrophic ‘flounce off’ from membership may be prevented…
    Sadly, there is no halfway house from most on LDV……Like petulant children it seems that all alternatives to a Tory Brexit have to be ‘OURS’; otherwise we’ll do an Elizabeth Bott……
    All or nothing seems the mantra; without accepting that the only answer is ‘small steps’ nothing seems what we’ll get…

  • Depends on where the small steps are too expats. Are the steps going to remaining in the EU or becoming Norway mark II or are they just a longer trip to the cliff edge. Are Labour the party of remain that dare not speak it’s name or are they Brexit on a later day?

  • David Allen 27th Aug '17 - 4:08pm

    Calling it a “baby step” only makes us look tribalist and mean-spirited. Tom Brake is quite right to question whether Labour can now hold together on their new line (though perhaps they can), and to make it clear that a better transition still doesn’t actually mean a better destination. But we should be smiling, not carping. Labour have changed their position for a variety of reasons, but one of them is certainly that if they had not done so, we could have made life hell for them.

    There is now a real prospect of derailing hard chaotic Brexit. That’s what matters.

    It’s a tug of war. To win, we need to pull the other team a long long way. All the same, it’s when they take their first reluctant step forwards that you know you can win. Not a baby step at all.

  • teakes we are all falling into the trap of think the decision on Brexit is ours to make. We made that when article 50 was triggered, what happens now is very much at the EU’s court. They might not want a extension of Brexit, which is what Labour are pushing they may just want it finished. The UK adrift and powerless, how sad. It’s never good to be beholden to people you’ve spent years trashing is it my brave Brexiteers, the temptation to put the boot in sometimes is irresistible.

  • frankie 27th Aug ’17 – 3:53pm…………..Depends on where the small steps are too expats. Are the steps going to remaining in the EU or becoming Norway mark II or are they just a longer trip to the cliff edge. Are Labour the party of remain that dare not speak it’s name or are they Brexit on a later day?…………..

    Another glass ‘half full’? Corbyn/Labour not only survived, but thrived on the run up to the last election…Again, they have done the same with both our and the Tory taunts about where they stand on Brexit…
    The ‘cliff edge’ metaphor has been ‘done to death’….There is more likely to be steps rather than a blindfold jump over the next two years…Labour have let the other 27 members know that there is still sanity this side of the channel…

  • Labour may have thrived but (even with ourselves, the SNP or any other party) are not in power, the Tories and their sidekicks the DUP are. The question is “Is there sanity in the Tory party”, juries still out on that (as to the DUP never been know for their sanity). So Labour may signal they are sane to the EU it makes no difference while the Tories drive ever onwards. To change you are reliant on Tories breaking ranks, they may, but equally they may not only time will tell.

  • Bill le Breton 27th Aug '17 - 7:32pm

    David Raw ‘gets it’. We are somewhere after Black Wednesday (16th September 1992) and before May 12th 1994.

    Whether we have the type of evening we had in May 1997 depends on how Vince manages the Party. Between 1994 and 1997 many were last ditchers on equi-distance. 1997 was Paddy’s victory because he took the Party united into that election riding the tide of British politics and not swimming against it.

  • Andrew Fitton 27th Aug '17 - 9:04pm

    We need more time. The public mood is changing on Brexit but I do think we were way ahead of the electorate and are still way ahead. There is a chance, and only that, of a space for the impact of Brexit to be felt more acutely. Of course it may be very modest, I don’t think so but there is that chance. Moreover, some of the reforms needed by the EU may be adopted. Alternatively Italy’s economic problems may overwhelm matters and drive us towards leaving all the EU structures. But for the moment we have the chance, if the EU agree and Labour can gain a whip hand to slow matters down. As Jayne Mansfield says – this is something to be positive about.

  • @ Bill le Breton Thanks for your wisdom in agreeing with me, Bill !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My political memory goes back to 1962 when we won Orpington under an unpopular Tory Government, and later February, 1974 when we took advantage of Ted Heath’s unpopularity. I must confess I wasn’t around in 1905/6 when we gave Balfour’s unpopular and split Tories a real drubbing………………….. But you get the picture ?

    PS A lot of similarities between Heath and May in terms of charisma and ability to have emotional intelligence and empathy, don’t you think ? But at least Ted took a more principled view of Europe.

  • I agree with Jayne and David Allen. It may only be a small first step, but it is the first indication that the pro-Europeans in the shadow cabinet, coalescing around Keir Starmer, are beginning to prevail against the Corbyn/McDonell/Milne hard left axis, at least regarding Brexit. We should welcome this and encourage them to move further in our direction. It’s always tempting to seek party political advantage, but this issue really is too important for that.

  • The pro-European supposed centre of Labour cost them more votes than the allegedly unelectable Corbyn. This is a backwards step towards to a continuation the failed radical economic and social experiments of the Thatcher, Blair and Cameron years. I find it all very disappointing. I also suspect it will have an adverse effect electorally because recently engaged voters will probably go back to not voting thus leading to a further entrenchment of the Conservative Party as its vote will hold up.

  • Glenn. Yet nearly two-thirds of Labour voters supported Remain – especially young voters whose support Labour might have lost by continuing Corbyn’s hard brexit line.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Aug '17 - 12:11am

    David Raw is correct here , but so is much of what Caron says.

    Labour is all over the shop, but Starmer as leader is an ally not an enemy and my view is the party might pick him or Gardiner , in which case the hard left are not as big an issue and agreements should work.

    Change to a kinder , fairer nation, tougher and fierecer against injustice and the villains, not the innocent and the vulnerable, it needs to come to be.

    Obsessing about who said what first and why, is more like a once funny Abbot and Costello film !

  • Mark Goodrich 28th Aug '17 - 1:34am

    I am basically going to try to agree with almost everyone here…

    1. I think Caron is right that this policy is only a small step in the right direction.

    2. However, i think the Davids are right in regarding this as an exciting move.

    3. This is because it is about parliamentary arithmetic more than a general election campaign (I think we already saw that Europe is not the most salient issue for voters).

    4. The Labour party needed to come up with a policy which gave them a chance of defeating the government on a key vote. Not really sure why it took them so long but this is that policy.

    5. If they can make it stick with 99% of the parliamentary party, then there must be a chance that enough pro-European Tories could be persuaded to vote in favour. Such a vote would derail the government’s Brexit policy meaning either

    a) a general election that Labour would almost certainly win (in terms of largest party); or

    b) accepting the defeat and the new policy and then seeking to blame Labour for the fact that they can’t have the magical Brexit after all.

    So, small policy shift but a big political move. I do disagree with those who thinks that makes our position irrelevant. On the contrary, I think that bringing a bit of focus onto soft Brexit will show that it isn’t a very attractive proposition. Like being in the EU but without the voting rights…..

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Aug '17 - 1:35am

    I am not impressed by this latest move in the canny Labour positioning to keep both Leavers and Remainers on side, and I don’t think this is any reason to try to jump into an alliance with cries of joy. What do they mean to do at the end of the transition period? Careful not to say, of course.

    What is not being thought about here is the weight of opposition to the EU that exists unchanged in the country – the thinking of many people that they don’t ‘want to be ruled by Brussels’, that Britain ‘must take back control’, that there are too many immigrants here claiming too many services, and that – perhaps above all – that Britain decided to leave and should be doing just that. The political class of which we are a part had better beware of the possible backlash, if Labour’s step-by-step edging towards remaining is seen through.

    Actually, what we ourselves need to do, it seems to me, is to continue to press our second referendum idea without hesitation, because the only real justification for overthrowing the result of the first is by offering the people the chance to do it themselves, if and when they have sufficiently changed their minds and seen the harm and the waste of Brexit.

  • Nom de Plume 28th Aug '17 - 4:49am

    We will see. Labour’s position on Brexit has never been clear to me. Their voting record is not good. I suspect their party is split on the issue. There is always time for a change of policy.

  • John Chandler 28th Aug '17 - 8:02am

    On reflection, this just strikes me as more of Labour’s (deliberate?) ambiguity as they juggle Leavers and Remainers. It’s clear the senior leadership, including Corbyn, are pro-Leave while 60% of Labour supporters are pro-Remain. As more and more of the heavily pro-Remain younger voters realise they were duped by Labour (maybe read the manifesto next time?), the party’s shifting to try and keep them on side. Without them, Corbyn’s not going to win the next election.

    Yeah, it’s pragmatism. Although I think the bulk of the pragmatism is on their task of holding the party together and getting back into power, rather than concern for the economy.

  • I think people are reading too much depth into this Labour declaration. MP’s are coming back of their holidays soon, and Labour MP’ were (pre hols), fed up with a microphone thrust under their noses, and being asked what is the Labour position on Brexit?
    Ambiguity was rife, and this is an attempt to fend off the media microphone from the ‘What is Labour’s position on Brexit’
    I don’t think it will work, because the Labour position is still ambiguous, and the media will pick it to death in the coming weeks.
    I’m more interested to hear what everyone means by ‘transition’?
    If transition looks like a ‘taper’, from one system to another then the period of transition ‘tapering’ is of little consequence. If transition means deferring the ‘cliff edge’ from time point A to time point B, then I can see little merit.
    I’m also confused as to why it matters what Labour think. If we leave the EU in March 2019, and the Tories put a 2 year transition in place, then will not the whole Brexit thing be over and done with by mid-2021? Well before the next GE in 2022.
    So why would Labour’s transition period matter on a Brexit which will be finished by the next election?
    I’m sure someone can explain what I’m missing.

  • Sheila,
    I suppose it matters because when it goes terribly wrong Labour can say “if they’d only taken our version of Brexit everything would have been fine”. Unlikely but difficult to prove, basically they have spotted Brexit is a disaster and want to decouple from the Tories. It also means at the present time the can still claim to be supporting Brexit, but at a later date if the polls move jump on the remain bandwagon. I think you could describe it as realpolitik, or unprincipled depending on your take on life.

  • Sheila Gee
    The main thing you are missing is how unstable the Government is at present (remember the minute majority is Con + DUP), and how and when the very firmly held views of the fairly small number of Tory pro-EU people (A Soubry, N Morgan, K Clarke etc, only to mention those in the Commons) will be commandeered into voting action. The DUP, likewise, will be unreliable to the hardline Tories when it comes to assessing the realism of the Govt’s recent position paper on the Irish border, at least. So IF the line holds in the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, there is a distinctly different immediate atmosphere for votes in the Commons on the “Repeal Bill”. Had the current Labour position been in force and held during the triggering of Article 50 debate, it is quite likely that it would not have been triggered at that time, because they would have recognised the economic damage involved in the hasty timetable. When the Repeal Bill had had a really serious working over in the Commons, of course, our (relatively) huge numbers of peers will come into the action (justified by the fact that the Commons has little majority for many of the Brexit Tories’ proposals), and all manner of things previously thought to have been ruled out will be well back on the agenda!

  • “Events”, of course, have an unpredictable bearing. The reason May called the election was to strengthen what she then regarded as too thin a majority to take into account various events of passing the required legislation. Having fought and lost even her slim majority, she is now struggling, the only real defence she had was the failure of Labour to act in any way as aan Opposition. IF it does so now, the situation this Autumn is entirely changed – we don’t have to wait till 2019 or 2021 to see what might happen, it COULD happen infront of our eyes very soon. I capitalise IF and COULD because we do not know how unified Labour will remain during the process.

    Frankie may be right that Labour’s position might change when the balance of opinion in the country shifts to understand how self-damaging, and how retrograde a step Brexit is. Meantime as Remainers, we should shift our argument away from the purely economic to the benefits of international cooperation.

    Aside from the alternative to war, a not inconsiderable benefit in itself, taking a look at Texas now can only underline the argument that our most cogent problems these days are borderless. How else than international DEMOCRATIC politics can we address these threats effectively? If we think democratic politics has failed, nationally, and internationally, then some kind of dictatorship (fascism for want of a better word) seems to be on the horizon. Hence Trumpism, and the various extremist parties around in various countries these days. This gives us as Liberals and Social DEmocrats a real emotional case to argue, to combat what has been seen as the emotional case for a “narrow nationalist, turn the clock back, repel all bo(a)rders” Brexit.

  • @ jayne Mansfield 28th Aug '17 - 10:02am

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    I am sorry to be brutal Katharine, because it is clear that you are the most fair- minded of people, but I am not sure that Labour are interested in an alliance with the Liberal Democrats.

    To the great detriment of my eyesight, I spent yesterday reading what I believe to be most of the articles on the subject appearing in yesterday’s Independent and The Guardian, and any mention was about gaining the support of Conservative backbenchers.

    I was, and am excited by the move, perhaps overly so, but it is not true that this greater clarification of Labour’s position will keep both sides of the Labour Party onside. It is about taking a wise negotiating position given the result of the Referendum.

    I believe that Labour has been truly brave in taking the position that it has now taken. It will not go down well in some of the Northern constituencies where the benefits of EU membership have not been felt, and the party will no doubt lose votes. We may even see Nigel Farage, once more riding to the rescue of those who now feel let down. It is the role of us all, not just politicians such as yourself, to explain why they shouldn’t, and why any future British government must formulate policies that leave them feeling less so.

    I feel that I must make an important point about language. Keir Starmer speaks of ‘a’ customs union, not ‘the’ customs union. Make of that what you will.

    I am loathe to mention that David Raw ‘gets it’, even if I believe that , once again, he does. It will probably lead to more calls for him to join the ‘lefty party’. That said, I greatly admire the humanity and common decency that shines through his posts.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Aug '17 - 10:11am

    That’s very interesting and perceptive, Tim. I don’t think Labour dared to vote against the Article 50 decision because they would have seemed to be openly defying the supposed ‘Will of the People’ , and of course their continued two-facedness served them well in the General Election, including getting Lib Dem sympathisers to vote for them. But now the question is as you suggest, how Labour will vote on the ‘Repeal Bill’, allied with the attitude of the DUP on the Irish Border question, and what part the Lib Dem Peers may play. You are right that this is where the new Labour position WILL count, and possibilities open up.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Aug ’17 – 10:11am……………”because they would have seemed to be openly defying the supposed ‘Will of the People’ …… and of course their continued two-facedness served them well in the General Election, including getting Lib Dem sympathisers to vote for them…..

    Is the will of the people only ‘real’ when it goes the way we want? Regarding all these LibDem sympathisers, they weren’t thick on the ground in 2015 nor on any poll since…

    As for LibDem aspirations…my mother used to say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”

  • Denis Loretto 28th Aug '17 - 10:50am

    The key point is the one made above by Mark Goodrich – “The Labour party needed to come up with a policy which gave them a chance of defeating the government on a key vote. ” That also should be the immediate aim of the Lib Dems. We should not underestimate the achievement of Keir Starmer in getting this change at shadow cabinet level. It remains to be seen if the new position will survive the attacks that are already coming from those Labour MPs who fear losing support from brexit-supporting voters. If it does then Vince and Co. need to work with Labour (not some sort of alliance, just the usual channels) to persuade enough Tory MPs to support key amendments to the Repeal Bill.
    Yes – the new Labour position is not by any means the full answer and arguably contains inconsistencies but it is an important step forward which can be built upon. We have to accept that the Lib Dem parliamentary position is nowhere near strong enough for the electorate to regard us alone as “the answer” on Europe. We must give as pure a lead as we can while being realistic about working with others to get results.

  • Mark Goodrich said:

    “5. If (Labour) can make it stick with 99% of the parliamentary party, then there must be a chance that enough pro-European Tories could be persuaded to vote in favour. Such a vote would derail the government’s Brexit policy meaning either
    a) a general election … or
    b) accepting the defeat and the new policy and then seeking to blame Labour for the fact that they can’t have the magical Brexit after all.”

    This is all very rational, but there is also a further possibility (c) – That before the parliamentary vote, May and Davis see defeat staring them in the face, and make enough concessions to head it off.

    Probably, May / Davis would need to concede the non-bespoke transition proposed by Labour, but give it a fixed time limit, shorter than four years. Crucially, May / Davis could also seek to insist on hard-Brexit after the end of transition. They would parade that as a principled commitment to carrying out the Will Of The People, compared to Labour’s continued dithering over long term membership of the Single Market and Customs Union. That would help May / Davis save face and claim that Soubry et al hadn’t really got them seriously rattled.

    Possibility (c) seems to me more likely than (a) or (b). This has to be considered from the viewpoint of a potential Tory rebel such as Anna Soubry. If Soubry were to gift Labour a big victory, either (a) an election or (b) a vote won in parliament, she would become a political martyr in a noble cause. If on the other hand she could win concessions from her own party, she would be a political survivor, possibly even a gainer. May and Davis know all that, and consequently, they will know that ungenerous concessions could prove to be enough to survive another day.

    We will then need to repeat ad nauseam that a softish transition to a hard Brexit is NOT a soft Brexit!

  • Expats.
    My Gran always used to say, ” wish in one and poo (that’s the polite version, she was an odd sort of Gran) in the other, see which one fills up first”.
    Of course in some current liberal circles anything resembling the “will of the people”. or change or any kind of challenge to institutions (unless it’s seen as of electoral benefit) is “dangerous populism”, a Russian plot , a return to the 1950s, something to do with the Empire/exceptionalism (even though they’re the ones fretting about the alleged loss of power for Britain to influence the world), the price of chocolate ( A favourite on LDV that has nothing to do with sugar tax , which is, of course, for our own good) and even the sanctity of factory farmed chickens ( dastardly Americans does make a change from Russians I suppose). We should all consider ourselves suitably chastened and go back to the good old days when politicians could get by saying things like “We need to listen to people’s concerns and then do exactly what we going to do anyway, because really its just a failure to get the message across”.

  • Glenn 28th Aug ’17 – 12:46pm……………We should all consider ourselves suitably chastened and go back to the good old days when politicians could get by saying things like “We need to listen to people’s concerns and then do exactly what we going to do anyway, because really its just a failure to get the message across”…………

    But isn’t that LibDem policy?
    I’m a ‘Remainer’; but mention that in the same sentence as ‘LibDem’ and the vast majority of the electorate’s response is “You lost the vote but, because that was not what you think should have happened, it was due to x, y, z, and therefore we don’t consider the result valid…”

  • Nom de Plume 28th Aug '17 - 1:16pm

    “will of the people”. Fiction. There is no way of knowing why or precisely what people were voting for. It is one of the problems with referenda. The result was 52:48. It was close.

  • Nom de Plume 28th Aug '17 - 1:22pm

    The Tories seem to be obsessed with the ECJ. How many people understand what the ECJ does? Is this also the “will of the people”? Or is the “will of the people” defined by the preoccupations of Tory backbenchers?

  • Nom de Plume.
    Well, one thing they weren’t voting for was membership of the EU!

  • Nom de Plume 28th Aug '17 - 1:33pm

    That is not on offer!

  • jayne Mansfield 28th Aug '17 - 2:02pm

    @ Glen,
    As a Liberal Democrat would you have preferred Labour to pursue a hard Brexit?

    A couple of my children have already moved to Europe. The firms they left, are still undertaking the process of due diligence, as they make a decision as to whether they will continue to operate in this country or to re-locate.

    My understanding is that Jeremy Corbyn has backed Keir Starmer because he now understands the complexity and interwoven nature of our relationship with the EU and the impossibility of leaving the EU in the short time frame allowed. It may be that after the period after a longer transition will demonstrate that there is a desire to stay within the single market and a customs union.

    It is also my understanding that Keir Starmer has argued that after this period there needs to be changes in migration and immigration policy. Who knows whether, after this time that decision may not be unilateral. The process is necessarily open -ended because it depends on the decisions of other EU members.

    People are concerned about immigration and I have failed to understand why the Coalition government cut the Migration Impact Fund in 2015. A fund that was paid for by immigrants. It was part of the 2015 tory manifesto to re-establish a MIF but it has not happened. It is in the Labour Manifesto to re-establish one with extra funding.

    I agree with you and Expats view on the Liberal Democrats position. It has been, in my opinion, dishonest. It would have been better if the party had been honest and said we want a second referendum in the hope of overturning the results of the first. This current ‘referendum on the destination’ idea fools no-one.

    Many of us are odd sorts of Gran’s. Playing the Parody Project ‘ Confounds the Science’ on youtube , is one of the reasons that, for all its faults, this Gran would rather be part of the EU block than reliant on the USA for a better future.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield. Jayne, you are very kind, thank you. Your eyesight may be impaired but your vision certainly isn’t. People like you, whatever your party, warm my heart. As an exiled Yorkie, I’ll quote from my adopted country’s bard :

    Here’s tae us
    Wha’s like us
    Damn few,
    And they’re a’ deid
    Mair’s the pity!

  • Jayne.
    I think it’s out of the UKs hands. There is nothing to negotiate because the EU is not flexible. It’s position is very clear, accept what’s on offer or walk without a deal. To me this means a financial settlement drawn out of a hat and continued payments. So I don’t think there is any point in dragging it out for another 2 years. Personally, I would cut ties now and yes think so-called hard Brexit is the best option. However, going for an off the peg Norway/Swiss solution would just about be an acceptable compromise . What. I’m most against is the current farce of pretending you can negotiate with an organization with a fixed position. To do that you need a third party mediator to sort through claim and counter claim to make sure any settlement is not one-sided. Currently it’s like a customer trying to reach a settlement with say an energy supplier. Utterly pointless. In truth you either have accept the inflated tariffs or you move to a new supplier (incidentally whenever I’ve done this it turns out they owe me money).

  • Peter Hirst 28th Aug '17 - 3:05pm

    Perhaps what we need is a cross party team with a referendum at the end of the negotiating so it is really the people’s decision. They will have to live with it. Representative democracy brakes down under these circumstances without a codified constitution.

  • John Littler 28th Aug '17 - 3:10pm

    Labour are still trying to fudge the brexit issue, as if there is ever going to be anything other than a cliff edge into economic collapse at the end of a good transition deal period. They have just put off the disaster.

    In the meantime the looming cliff edge will be affecting domestic and inward investment, worsening the balance of payments and the pound, with living standards under pressure, consumer debt at worrying near record levels and business and consumer confidence levels low.

    No Free Trade agreements will be on offer or negotiated to near completion to the UK until every other country knows the UK’s relationship with the EU, including on tariffs and standards, so there would be no other agreements to help soften the blow of worse terms with the EU 27 or to the the other 53 countries with which the EU has free trade agreements. These include Canada, S.Korea, Mexico, Turkey, Singapore and soon to be added, Japan.

    The LIbDem position is more honest and clearer, so offers economic stability.

  • John,
    Everything you say is true. The brave Brexiteers can’t agree too it though because it would mean project fear was actually project fact, you can’t leave without consequences and we all will be poorer, all the things they said where lies. If the accept that they have to face the fact they have been very foolish and their inflated self worth will never allow that. The only solution they have is to cry for Brexit to be completed and for us to all move on, not an option I’m afraid Brexit will run and run
    We will get to see the brave Brexiteers telling us black is actually off white and everything is wonderful on the sunlit uplands.

  • nvelope2003 28th Aug '17 - 4:32pm

    The Liberals and Liberal Democrats have been right about most things since they were founded but it has not done them a bit of good since the Labour Party took their place as the principal opposition to the Conservatives and their stance on the EU has mostly been harmful to the party and will continue to be a mill stone round their necks. How many Remainers were really as committed as the Leavers seem to be ? Most surveys seem to indicate only a few and most feel that the result of the referendum has to be accepted if we wish to call ourselves a democracy – probably because many voted to remain out of fear of any change and few of them actually like the EU. It is like eating something which is supposed to be good for you but does not taste very nice.

    David Raw is right – Labour has shot our fox. It will be some years, if ever, before the party recovers. As I said when Corbyn became Labour leader he will destroy any hopes of a Liberal revival because he seems to offer the best chance of any change in the system that Britain has seen since 1945 . Whether the voters like what they get is another matter. Like many people who grumble it is the grumbling they enjoy, not the cause of their grumbling being dealt with.

  • Denis Loretto 28th Aug '17 - 4:41pm

    All of this “we have a purer and more logical position than yours” stuff is all very well but the realpolitik is that in a couple of weeks time voting on the withdrawal bill will commence. If we do not get some key amendments through we are on the inevitable road to game over. The Lib Dems have 12 MPs. Do we work with others to build a majority or not? Answers on one side of A4 please.

  • jayne Mansfield 28th Aug '17 - 4:48pm

    @ Glen,
    As always there were typos in my post. The Migration Impact Fund was cut in 2010.

    You may feel that the EU is inflexible. Perhaps, but they have shown some flexibility in the past.

    If one joins a club and seeks to reap the benefits, one agrees to abide by the rules, but as a net contributor we are in a strong position. It really isn’t in the best interests of the EU for us to leave. Given that we are all in the last chance saloon, what concessions, if any, would make you believe that remaining in the EU would be better than a leap into the unknown?

    Personally I am not convinced that if we leave the EU, with its manifest faults, any other countries we seek to negotiate deals with, will prove any more flexible than the EU. In my opinion we will be in a very weak negotiating position. We will be over a barrel. And I would not be happy being held over a barrel, ( metaphorically speaking), by some of the people we would be negotiating with.

    @ David Raw,
    When one spends one’s life ‘getting down and dirty’, actually working amongst those who are unfairly treated, the passion is, I believe, deeper, more raw. ( if you excuse the pun).
    You are a true Liberal. You remind me of why I voted for the party for so long. One reaches the stage in life where, if one didn’t have like -minded friends and co-workers, or awareness that a sizeable body of like -minded people such as yourself still exist, one could become overwhelmed and therefore be of no use to anyone. And that really wouldn’t do.

  • Glen
    Absolutely agree – the “negotiations” as far as they go are with the British electorate, not with the EU / member nations. You can call it inflexibility if you like, but most clubs you belong to have a set of rules for leaving.

  • The problem has been, of course, that the Government has been unwilling to make this too obvious – people simply haven’t appreciated the various benefits of belonging to a multinational club of this nature, and thought the decision to “leave” was a straight choice. It wasn’t. Having had 20 years or more of poison from elements of the media gave many people the impression that the EU is some sort of “enemy”, instead of a club with a very integrated and comprehensive structure and function. Hence the reaction from many “Just get on and leave!”

  • paul barker 28th Aug '17 - 7:06pm

    It seems to me that theres a rapid shift happening on Brexit, still mostly beneath the surface but we are still in the silly season. Labour have shifted because their members & voters are shifting but they are still trailing behind opinion while we are ahead of it.
    In a week or 2, Polling & actual Elections will resume & we will get some idea of whats happening to our support. Based on the handful of contests earlier this Month I would not be surprised if our Polling average moves up.

  • Jayne,
    No need to apologies for typos . I’m terrible with them myself. I’m not the person to ask. My objection to the EU is more about the concept than anything it does. I do not believe in it. I believe that it’s easier to improve things nationally than internationally and that the EU is bit like being married to 27 spouses, a bit cultish and odd.
    Tim 13.
    The only clubs I know that demand a leaving fee bigger than a year’s subscription are dodgy ones.

  • Glenn
    Your point about Clubs and Subs – I suppose it depends what the Club has committed to financially before the person leaves? Otherwise people would be leaving Clubs all the time when they think they could get away from an increased sub. I belong to one myself where that sort of thing has happened!

    I can’t really see your objection to working democratically across current borders. If borders change because of something external, eg international agreement, war / conquest, presumably you would have no objection to working with those other people that you have been compulsorily aligned with? I hope we can all agree that wars solve no problems long term, just store up massive reservoirs of hate, causing yet more future bloodshed. It does worry me sometimes that deep down some more theoretical and extreme leavers would prefer imperial control / subjugation of others to agreeing (what would ultimately be, and are in the case of the EU, a series of compromises) democratically. I am sure that doesn’t apply to you, but a further worry is that it is some with that turn of mind have been driving the agenda at times. Since last year the Tories have been landed with this conundrum!!

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Aug '17 - 7:53pm

    ‘They’ (Labour) have just put off the disaster.’ John Littler has the correct estimation of the current position, IMO, including his conclusion, ‘The LibDem position is more honest and clearer, so offers economic stability.’ Just so, and Frankie agrees. You, on the other hand, Jayne M., made me feel angry by calling us dishonest in promoting the referendum idea, which is the most democratic idea around and sincerely held by us. The Labour position is the dishonest one, as I have argued elsewhere. However, these opinions are irrelevant to the discussion. I think David Allen is right in his point c, that May and Davis will make concessions to avoid defeat: the Tories’ first instinct for self-preservation will cause them to prevent another election being called in the near future.

  • Peter Watson 28th Aug '17 - 9:29pm

    @Katharine Pindar “calling us dishonest in promoting the referendum idea”
    The dishonesty is in attempting to claim that the party respects the outcome of the 2016 referendum and that the referendum for which it is calling is something very different. Tim Farron looked awful trying to defend this position in the Andrew Neill election interview. The party does not want a referendum on alternative Brexits: it wants an option to remain in the EU (i.e. no departure and no destination) and it wants to campaign for that choice. It would be more honest – and perhaps simpler and more successful – to simply campaign on that basis rather than confuse the issue.

  • Tim13
    I object to the idea that you need a supranational pseudo state with a president, a parliament, single currency and so on to work with other countries. Also I really object to constant claims that the alternative is war. Most countries in the modern world are not in the EU and are not at war with each other either. It’s true! Countries currently not in the EU and not invading their neighbours include Japan, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway and host of others. I think when we leave the EU we also won’t suddenly have an irresistible urge to invade France.

  • Are well another day of no plan, unless you count believe in Brexit or Tinkerbell will die as a plan. I fear next year the WWF will be issuing a report on the dramatic decline on the UK population of faries, blaming it on a hard Brexit. I suspect a large number of Brexiteers will be reduced to dressing as faries and will be singing I believe we can fly, just before crashing of a cliff. Truely the Brexiteers have no plan other than it will be alright on the night.

  • Peter Watson
    I have to say, some of Vince’s rhetoric has come quite close to an open espousal of just overthrowing Brexit in Parliament. But I suppose this “respect the result of the referendum” view means that it would take a popular expression of the opposite view to legitimise the turn round.

    In relation to war in Europe, I think you cannot deny that wars have occurred on a pretty frequent basis with countries / regions now covered by the EU as participants. The idea of “the founding fathers” was that “binding in” the various countries to a joint supranational entity would reduce risk of war. So far we have had no war in that area for 60 years since the start of European cooperation, which is certainly longer than the average interwar periods in this region of the world.

    No-one was suggesting that “the 3rd World war was imminent” (in the words of a straw man set up to counter this argument, I think by UKIP), but that a legitimate supranational entity WITH a direct democratic element would make it less likely. I know it’s difficult to prove a negative, but the evidence so far seems to prove the enterprise is working as originally conceived. I don’t understand why you object so much to it.

  • Colin Keppel 28th Aug '17 - 11:27pm


    “My objection to the EU is more about the concept than anything it does. I do not believe in it. I believe that it’s easier to improve things nationally than internationally and that the EU is bit like being married to 27 spouses, a bit cultish and odd.”

    28th Aug ’17 – 9:48pm
    “Also I really object to constant claims that the alternative is war.”

    Do you match your objection to the EU with a similar objection to the UK – three nations and a province? Alternatively taking the UK of GB & NI to be a single “nation” we find that the NI part of it is considered by many of its inhabitants to be part of a different nation. The UK and Eire’s common membership of the EU has taken some of the sting out of this intractable overlap of nations and allows time and the ‘ever closer union of the peoples’ of these two European nations to do its healing work. The alternative to EU membership in this instance may not be war but it may not be wholly peaceful either. So quite close to home we have an example of the EU making good the deficiencies of the system of nation states which we have inherited.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Aug '17 - 12:35am

    No, Peter Watson, you are wrong. Yes, the party wants us to stay in the EU, and that is known to everyone. But it is not dishonest to ask that there be a second referendum when the populace is fully informed of what the results of Brexit will be if it goes ahead, to see if they then want to stay in. Apart from the lies that were told by the Leavers before the vote – all that money coming to the NHS, threat of lots of extra Turkish immigrants, etc.,etc. – nobody could have fully foreseen the enormous complexity of what would have to be done, the employment of hundreds more civil servants, the legal bills mounting up, the deflection of Government time and resources of all kinds; even before the simple fact could be understood that the country will be worse off in all sorts of ways if we leave. One hopes sense will prevail in the end, the temporary will be made permanent, and Parliament itself will decide we must stay in. But it would be more democratic for the people to make the final decision.

    Frankie, thank you for your hilarious last post! It’s good to laugh about this farce as well.

  • Tim !3
    The former Czechoslovakia.. The only other wars in trigon in the entire 20th century involved Germany invading its neighbours.

  • region

  • Sorry about that I meant Yugoslavia.

  • Glenn
    Arguably had Yugoslavia been in the EU at the time various elements went for violent break-up this might not have happened. So not in the area – the point I was making.

  • And Europe and the world were again introduced to the horrors of “ethnic cleansing”

  • A couple of intresting headlines in the papers today. I will attempt to simplify them for the brave Brexiteers.

    FT Japan tell May to bugger off they are talking to EU about trade.
    Telegraph Brave Brexiteer leadership have hissy fit at EU but no one cares.

    It appears we are not as special as you think. Reality what a female dog it is.

  • Colin Keppel 28th Aug ’17 – 11:27pm:
    …taking the UK of GB & NI to be a single “nation” we find that the NI part of it is considered by many of its inhabitants to be part of a different nation. The UK and Eire’s common membership of the EU has taken some of the sting out of this intractable overlap of nations and allows time and the ‘ever closer union of the peoples’ of these two European nations to do its healing work. The alternative to EU membership in this instance may not be war but it may not be wholly peaceful either.

    The inhabitants with the strongest Republican beliefs don’t wish to be part of the EU either. They welcome Brexit…

    ‘British EU Referendum result weakens old and new imperialisms’ [June 2016]:

    We are proud of our record of consistently opposing the construction of a militarised and undemocratic Superstate in every referenda held in the 26 Counties since the original referendum on membership of the EEC in 1972. This is the only position that Irish Republicans can hold if we are serious about creating an independent Ireland based on the principles of the 1916 Proclamation. There is no point in removing the shackles of British imperialism only to replace them with the political and economic imperialism of the EU.

  • Peter Watson 29th Aug '17 - 10:28am

    @Katharine Pindar “it is not dishonest to ask that there be a second referendum when the populace is fully informed of what the results of Brexit will be if it goes ahead, to see if they then want to stay in”
    I agree. But that honest position – a re-rerun of the 2016 in/out referendum with Project Fear replaced by some facts – has not been the message from senior Lib Dems under Tim Farron. Instead of that clear line we have had a clumsy attempt at sophistry, claiming to respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum and describing it as a vote for departure not a destination while continuing to argue for not departing. The reasons are obvious: it looks undemocratic to honestly reject the referendum result so the party has tried to find words that give the impression that it is not doing that. I think this weakens the message and the party might have had more success – and Tim Farron would have looked less evasive when pressed by Andrew Neill – if he had simply pushed the more honest line that you describe.

  • Jeff,

    if you are going to attempt to ride to the rescue of a fellow brave Brexiteer, at least make it harder to disprove your case.

    No wonder. Sinn Fein’s long game is an all-Ireland one, and the party believe the UK’s departure from the EU will hasten reunification. In the meantime, however, its priority is a Brexit deal that gives Northern Ireland – where 56 per cent of voters backed remain – designated status within the EU.

    Sinn Fain’s take on Labour

    “They are as pro-Brexit as the Conservatives are,” says Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy. “We’re anti-Brexit. We want to see the right of the people in the North who voted to remain in Europe respected.”

    Alas my brave Brexiteer it would appear that Republicans are not in favour of Brexit, bless better luck next time.

    But, but, but you cry I have a link to Sinn Fain policy, yes you do but it’s this Sinn Fain who are not the ones with the MP’s

    Republican Sinn Féin or RSF (Irish: Sinn Féin Poblachtach)[1] is an Irish republican political party in Ireland. RSF claims to be heirs of the Sinn Féin party founded in 1905 and took its present form in 1986 following a split in Sinn Féin. RSF members take seats when elected to local Irish councils but do not recognise the validity of the partition of Ireland and subsequently the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland (Stormont) or Republic of Ireland (Leinster House) parliaments, so the party does not register itself with them.

    bless whod have thought it two Sinn Fains and you choose the diddy one

  • jayne Mansfield 29th Aug '17 - 11:22am

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    The Liberal Democrat approach has been politically counter-productive and damaging.

    Don’t take my word for it , take that of Sir Vince Cable . I agreed with his words when he spoke at a fringe event in Brighton, stating that a second referendum would be ‘disrespectful’ and ‘politically counter-productive’. I agreed with everything that he said on that day. He may have changed his view, but I haven’t.

    ‘ Vince Cable hits out at Tim Farron’s ‘disrespectful’ second EU referendum plans’. Politics Home . 19th September 2016.

    To call for a second referendum when the electorate had just turned out in large numbers to make a” once in a lifetime decision’ was political ineptitude of the first order. It made people very, very angry, including some who were your natural allies. It entrenched positions.

    The Liberal Democrats set themselves as the party of remain and the official opposition to the Conservatives. Theresa May made the recent election, an election about Brexit. When it came to the results for the Liberal Democrats in that election, Vince Cable was proven correct in his early view.

    The important thing for me now, is a sober political approach, damage limitation and the repair of the divisions that have been caused in our society by the referendum. I thank Keir Starmer for offering that opportunity, although he has an upward task given that Brexiteers have been sensitised and are alert to the idea that their votes counted for nothing .

  • Tim 13
    It didn’t join the EU so it’s just conjecture based on if, buts and maybes. Alternative history and that sort of thing. What we do know is that there was a war or rather a series of wars that it ran until 1999 and that these conflicts were sorted out mostly by the US and NATO, not the EU. I think the shear destruction of WWII made it very unlikely that Germany would try to invade its neighbours yet again and major conflicts between developed nations not in the EU have also not materialised for similar reasons. Ergo the EU is less significant in keeping the peace than a general weariness of war added to the threat of nuclear obliteration.

  • frankie 29th Aug ’17 – 10:33am:
    Sinn Fein’s long game…
    The quote was from Republican Sinn Féin – a different party – which is rather more representative of those “inhabitants with the strongest Republican beliefs” (as I diplomatically put it). The suggestion had been made that such people might resort to non-peaceful action as a result of Brexit. Why would they when Brexit helps, at least for part of Ireland, to further the objectives set out in the 1916 Proclamation? No one can seriously claim that an Ireland that’s part of the EU is a “Sovereign Independent State”.

  • frankie 29th Aug ’17 – 10:33am:
    Sinn Fein’s long game…

    The quote was from Republican Sinn Féin – a different party – which is rather more representative of those “inhabitants with the strongest Republican beliefs” (as I diplomatically put it). The suggestion had been made that such people might resort to non-peaceful action as a result of Brexit. Why would they when Brexit helps, at least for part of Ireland, to further the objectives set out in the 1916 Proclamation? No one can seriously claim that an Ireland that’s part of the EU is a “Sovereign Independent State”.

  • Neil Sandison 29th Aug '17 - 1:02pm

    When Tom Brake tables his amendments it will be interesting to see how many Labour MPs are all in the same lobby or how many will end up voting three seperate ways .
    Thats when this will get very interesting and we will find out if it really is just a fudge to hold the Labour Party together or if there is some principle behind their position .
    Welcome it at the moment but be prepared to challenge if it lacks content in any vote in the Commons.

  • David Allen 29th Aug '17 - 1:30pm

    On honesty, second referendums, etcetera – Look, there just isn’t one right answer about this.

    Is it inherently dishonest to call for a re-vote? Well, no, not necessarily – It happens every few years in a democratic system, it happened for example with Scottish devolution, at one time it was programmed to repeat a unification referendum every ten years in Northern Ireland, it has happened in several countries over EU treaties. Some of these re-votes involved more special pleading than others, some were dubious, some were necessary.

    Is the Lib Dem argument – that a deal with the EU creates a brand new situation which justifies a totally new vote – fair or unfair? Neither. It’s not black or white. It’s grey.

    Was Sturgeon’s argument that Brexit should prompt an Indyref 2 fair or unfair, black or white? Neither. It was grey.

    So let’s stop beating ourselves up about “honesty”. The second vote policy bombed at the election and should have been soft-pedalled as soon as that public reaction was identified. It may nevertheless eventually be recognised widely as the best way to get Britain out of an almighty mess. In that case we must revive the idea and shout it from the rooftops. What matters is whether we can convince the public that it is the right thing to do.

  • Andrew Tampion 29th Aug '17 - 1:48pm

    David Allen but the reason the 2nd vote policy bombed was in large part because it was perceived, rightly in my view, as dishonest.

    Martin out of curiosity I had a look at the pamphlet put out by the then Government in the 1975 referendum in support of remaing in the European Community. Although there is a reference to bringing together the people’s of Europe as an aim of the EC but it’s pretty vague and it’s not mentioned again. The rest of the pamphlet is all about the economic benefits of membership. In the light of your recent post would you accept that this is as misleading as any lies that may have been told by Leave campaigners in the more recent referendum?

  • Martin
    Soft power is no power at all. The EU is reliant on American protection and it was the USA, Britain and NATO that ended the Baltic wars.

  • “Baltic Wars”. And which Baltic Wars would that be ?

    Not sure that NATO was around during the Schleswig Holstein do in 1864 and the US was a bit distracted with its own Civil War then.

    Maybe 1,000 miles further south ?

  • David my bad, Balkan. I dunno what happened there?

  • jayne mansfield 29th Aug '17 - 4:29pm

    @ glen,
    You mentioned the cost of leaving the EU which you believed to be exorbitant. I am not sure that that will be the case. I think that the press is once again making mischief. There will be proper procedures for working out any financial liability, if any.

    There is an organisation called Lawyers for Britain. The Chair is a Martin Howe QC. It is a leave campaign group. Despite them being lawyers, I am mindful that what a lawyer gives is an opinion.

    If you look up ‘Lawyers for Britain’, on their website they give their opinion on the UKs financial liabilities.

    The reason I draw your attention to that particular website is that you mentioned the need for a third party mediator. The solution mooted by that particular ‘group is, as I understand it, an ad hoc international tribunal to rule in a dispute in accordance with well recognised procedures.

    One does not have to agree with that, or any other opinion that you read, my point is that there is always a solution if one cares to look for one.

    I would also like to say why I disagree with you about national rather than international solutions. There are some solutions that cannot be solved nationally, environmental problems, pushing the frontiers of science etc.

    I don’t love the EU. If it really was like marriage to 27 spouses, my response would be that of Eliza Doolittle – ‘Not bl–dy likely’. As far as I am concerned, it is a mutually beneficial business and social arrangement, there is no emotion involved. I voted remain on that basis. It was, and is, a hard- headed calculation, not a love affair.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Aug '17 - 5:03pm

    Thanks to David Allen for pointing out the ‘grey’ in the discussion on the party going for a follow-up referendum. As he says, matters usually turn out to be neither black nor white. I don’t, Peter Watson, recognise the distinction you are offering between Tim Farron’s view and my own, but I am sure that neither he nor those he persuaded, including me, was dishonest. And as Andrew McCaig mentioned elsewhere, in canvassing in Kirklees lately he had found it not difficult to persuade people on the doorsteps, that offering them a second vote was a reasonable thing to do. (I hope I am referring that correctly, Andrew.)

    We had not persuaded enough people by the time the General Election was sprung upon us. I think, because of the ferocity of the Brexiteers’ attack on those who, reasonably enough, disagreed with the result and were trying to change people’s minds, and because both the main parties had opted to trigger Article 50, many Remainers had given up and assumed Brexit must happen. Tim Farron therefore had an uphill struggle to lead our campaign, even without the attacks on his freedom of thought and expression from both outside, and, shamefully, within our party, which probably contributed to his becoming less straightforward in some TV interviews in the latter part of the contest.

    I don’t, however, agree with David Allen that we should have ‘soft-pedalled’ the second vote idea in the contest. On the contrary – as I argued in my piece published here on August 15 – we should have stuck to our guns and shouted about it then, as a Times journalist wondered why we weren’t doing. But we were not strong and united enough, unfortunately, to do so. However the time will come, sooner rather than later, I believe, when the idea will be widely accepted, if the Government’s negotiations continue to go nowhere.

  • Andrew Tampion
    There has ALWAYS been a reluctance in this country to argue a wider political case, and an over-concentration on the economic. Which is why the Daily Mail and other jingoists have increasingly over the years held the high ground on wider political issues. The fact that the document you mention emphasised economic is just in a long line of this – it is not dishonest, it is just one-sided.

    Over the years this is why:
    In the 1950s our over-cautious civil servants didn’t want to join the Coal and Steel Community, or push to join the earliest version of the EEC. They “believed” it is reported, that British people would not accept the political dimension and argument – that was never tested at the time.

    In the 80s, Margaret Thatcher wanted to create the Single Market (preferably without the “Social Chapter”) to emphasise the economic aspects over the political. She miscalculated, because of course many people pushed for the other more political aspects of the Single Market, and on towards Maastricht. Hence the rows with Jacques Delors when he was President of the Commission.

    Hence the opposition to Maastricht, as a more overtly political treaty, and the launch of John Major’s “bastards”, including laissez faire, turbo capitalism’s cheerleaders IDS and John Redwood.

    Hence the backing for the accession of the East European countries, especially by David Cameron, and his “liberal” Tories, but also by nuLabour, who it was calculated were much more motivated by economic forces than political, and would therefore be inclined to “support Britain” against other western countries. Again, Cameron miscalculated, both in terms of the number of east europeans who would wish to work here and in other western countries, and the attempts to distance themselves from the mainstream European right of centre parties which formed part of his leadership bid. Arguably, that cast the Tories totally adrift, gave the bastards their victory, and ultimately led to the referendum on the terms it was fought.

    More recently, the referendum arguments were lost because they focused narrowly on the economic losses (“Project Fear”).

    A record of fearful, failed arguments throughout. I am sure readers will be able to think of many more examples.

  • Jayne Mansfield,
    The 27 spouses thing was more of jokey counter to all the divorce settlement talk than a serious point. However, I do have an emotional response to the EU. I find the concept a bit classical and grandiose. I dislike the notion of shared destiny and political union. I think the buildings are a waste of space and that the parliament is pointless, I also find too many of the EU supporters a bit too beatific. Not yourself. I also want a less globally engaged Britain with much much more focus on domestic politics and to reduce the size of the pot our representatives think they can piddle in. I think this aspect is working already. In short my emotional response is that I am a small islander.

  • Labour’s announcement of flexibility looks better and better…I note that after being told umpteen times that early talks on post-Brexit trade deal will not happen the government are still planning for it…

    Einstein’s (supposed) definition of insanity comes to mind

  • jayne mansfield 29th Aug '17 - 7:05pm

    @ Glen,
    Fair enough. It would be a boring old world if we all thought the same.

    I want a more globally engaged world. I am an internationalist. I believe that the well being of this nation is dependent on the development and well being of the rest of the world. The world has become smaller and we can’t insulate ourselves from what is happening in other countries.

    I got the joke about the spouses and responded in kind. When communicating through the written word, it is frustrating that one cannot transmit the non verbal clues and added information that convey the emotional context of the words.

    As a small islander, have you considered emigrating to Bishop’s Rock? ….Just joking.

  • Jayne,
    I suppose I lean to the small islander point of view as well but only because I see that many voices here want to solve the world’s problems and are too strategic and global to bother much with little UK.
    My opinion there is that the world hasn’t asked them for their advice and it isn’t going to.
    We might want to embrace the world but it shows no sign of wanting to embrace us.

  • Jayne Mansfield.
    Maybe the world got smaller, but I still wouldn’t want to inflate a lifesize replica with a bicycle pump.
    Actually I think it depends how you see the world. I sometimes think that internationalism is a form of quasi-imperialism or even an elevated form of tribalism that adopts the Marxist model of history flowing one way to promote a world view based on a rigid certainty that values that are quite specific to a time and place are “universal truths” for all time.

  • jayne Mansfield 30th Aug '17 - 1:09pm

    @ Palehorse,
    I agree. We cannot solve the world’s problems. Nor should we offer unsolicited advice.

    However, we can look at how world economies and businesses operate in some developing countries, and how we turn a blind eye to the disgraceful exploitation of countries because it benefits us. We can ask whether it is morally right to allow this to continue.

    I have mentioned in previous posts, my objection to the way the EU treats African countries. Europe wants the continent’s raw materials but puts tariffs on african exports, working against development which would mean that the African countries put the added value on their own raw materials. I usually give the examples of coffee and cocoa.

    It is not true that we are poking our nose into other people’s business, We are asked to help with the illicit money migration from Africa that happens because of corruption, tax evasion and price transfer etc. Check out what happens to the Nigerian raw material oil…… I could go on.

    The problem is that we in developed countries benefit from nefarious , corrupt practices that keep countries such as those in Africa underdeveloped and poor, preferring , for good reason, to portray them as passive recipients of aid money who are unprepared to help themselves.

    May I suggest you listen to a programme: ‘ Out of Africa: the great money migration’ available on the internet.

  • jayne Mansfield 30th Aug '17 - 1:19pm

    @ Glen,
    I agree with you. Internationalism is often a form of quasi imperialism. A very corrupt form. But like every other ‘ism’, we can re-shape it, in this case to something that is driven by enlightened self- interest rather than selfishness.

    I believe that there are some values that are enduring and not time specific. They are the ones I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren.

  • Nom de Plume 30th Aug '17 - 4:10pm

    “We might want to embrace the world but it shows no sign of wanting to embrace us.” The victim mentality returns. Not everyone feels they are under siege.

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