Green Book Pod 3: the party’s messaging on Brexit

There’s a paradox about people’s position on Brexit. Much as a clear majority of voters would support Remain (or Rejoin) in a new referendum, knowing what they know now, many of them nevertheless have no desire to go back to the divisiveness of the pre- and post-referendum period. Many families, friendship groups, communities and social groupings have been riven by Brexit; some people are still not on speaking terms with those on the other side. It’s little wonder that the Remain/Leave division is still the most powerful in British politics.

That makes the route back into the EU one that has to be handled with great delicacy – a question that we explored in the third episode of the Green Book Pod series of discussions on key issues for the Liberal Democrats, now available on Lib Dem Podcast via the usual platforms and also here on YouTube.

Some of the evidence for the paradox was presented by Luke Tryl, UK Director of the think tank ‘More in Common’, that takes its name from the quote from the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox: we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us. He told the podcast that public opinion is increasingly swinging towards the belief that Brexit was a mistake and that the UK should rejoin the EU, but focus groups reveal little enthusiasm for another referendum campaign, thanks to the horrors of 2016–19.

Professor Anand Menon, director of the ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ programme, added that, while there is mounting evidence of the damage caused by Brexit, it would be dangerous to think that rejoining will be easy. The EU has suffered much less than the UK from Brexit, so its incentives to renegotiate the relationship are not strong (the episode was recorded two days before Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, claimed that the UK could rejoin the EU).

The roadmap set out in the 2022 Liberal Democrat policy document Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe presents the steps a UK government could take now to create the preconditions for rejoining, and only step four – rejoining the Single Market – requires serious political and economic heavy lifting.

Even for people not convinced of the case for rejoining, these steps can be defended in their own right, as essential to economic prosperity and a healthier relationship with our nearest neighbours. Anand wondered, however, whether Single Market membership outside the EU – Britain being a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker – was likely to be politically attractive, and thought an outright campaign to rejoin might make a stronger case.

Two Lib Dem PPCs – Lisa Smart from Hazel Grove and Caroline Voaden from Totnes (a former MEP who led the Lib Dem group in the European Parliament 2019–20) – tackled the question of whether the party’s campaigning and messaging is right largely to avoid mentioning the topic. Lisa argued that it is: we need to talk about, and present solutions to, the issues people bring up on the doorsteps, such as cost of living, the health service, crumbling schools. Our EU policy should be promoted in the right circumstances – if people raise it, or for an article in the New European, for example – but we should be reactive rather than proactive.

Caroline pointed out, however, that many of the problems that people do raise, such as shortages of NHS staff, are derived directly from Brexit. Furthermore, some of the voters she canvasses – in a leave-voting seat – raise Brexit with her without prompting, for example because of the problems it’s caused for the fishing industry.

Caroline also argued for our leader and spokespeople to be completely honest about our position, when the topic arises, and to focus on the benefits of our approach. Anand confirmed that when he watched Lib Dem figures interviewed on the issue, he couldn’t make up his mind whether they were essentially ditching the policy or keeping it but being slightly ashamed of it.

As one of the 30 signatories of November’s letter to The Guardian, which called for a bolder profile for the party, personally I think we should be able to find a way to stress the importance of improving EU relations when voters or journalists ask us for our solutions to the problems people care about (and one which doesn’t involve trying to explain the party’s four-stage roadmap!), but we didn’t have time to explore that in detail in this episode. We’ll be returning to the question of the party’s overall message to the electorate – the answer to the question ‘what do we stand for?’ – in a future episode.

This discussion, ably chaired by Julie Smith, the party’s defence spokesperson in the House of Lords, was an excellent one, providing much food for thought, whether or not you agree with the party’s current position. You can download it on all the main podcast channels (search for Lib Dem Podcast), or watch it online on YouTube; this link will also take you to the first two episodes of the Green Book Pod, which discussed economic policy and net zero.

* Duncan Brack is a member of the Federal Policy Committee and chaired the FPC’s working group that wrote Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

47 Comments

  • Martin Gray 21st Dec '23 - 4:13pm

    Duncan ….We seem to have a number of these posts from time to time . Let’s be frank. The EU wasn’t that popular amongst voters when we were in it . Very poor EU election turnouts – even more so in deprived areas .
    Hardly anybody could name thier Mep – or for that matter really care who they were. Rejoining from a small sample of polling numbers – belies the fact that if Schengen & the Euro were thrown in – those numbers would fall considerably . Even now fom would be a tough sell on the doorstep . The only time the electorate turned out in significant numbers was when giving a chance to leave . ‘Essential to economic prosperity ‘ ….Those post industrial towns that voted heavily to leave would be wondering just exactly what that was pre 2016 ..To them the EU was an irrelevance & held no fear if we left, as life was tough enough in the EU as it is when out …

  • Andrew Tampion 22nd Dec '23 - 7:11am

    I agree with Martin Grey and his anaylsis.
    With regard to polling on whether it’s Brexit was a mistake it’s worth remembering that Polls indicated Remain in 2016.
    Also I don’t think that the EU enthusiasts, both generally and in the Lberal Democrats, accept their share of responsibility for Brexit. It was obvious to anyone not viewing the UK through EU tinted spectacles that the EU was unpopular with many and that a some aspects of member, eg FOM, were very unpopular. Yet unable to unwilling to accept this the Political Class decided to go ahead full speed with “The Project”. If senior Labour and LIberal Democrats had gone to the EU Commission and said “if you don’t give real concession’s on FOM then there is a real risk of Leave winning” perhaps things might have gone differently.
    Finally one good thing about Duncan’s article is that he does not use the terms EU and European interchangeably. This annoys me (as a Remain voter) so I’m sure it infuriates the people who voted Leave and who need to be persuaded to change their vote.

  • The reality is of course that the objection to immigration had nothing to do with the European Union. The objection was, and is, to immigrants from outside the EU. This was skilfully exploited by means such as the poster showing huge numbers of Turks queuing up to come in.
    The U.K. gave up control of its own country when we left the EU. We are not going to get it back.
    We need to learn from the Leave campaign. We need to recognise that there is no problem for free movement if you have enough money. There is for the poor.
    I am one of those who, having been a member of the party for over sixty years now is looking for a genuinely pro-European party to vote for – one which is prepared to face our present realities.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Dec '23 - 8:35am

    We really need to rethink our view on immigration. Today’s economist has a very sensible piece about how to deal with it. We need to argue that immigration is of benefit to our NHS and our economy generally and to point out why. Th economist, rightly, argues that we should let all migrants and refugees work and that there should be a time period before they become eligible for welfare benefits. Certainly that would kill off the trope that immigrants are here only for the benefits, although that has never been true anyway. There is also a suggestion of leaving the decisions on who can immigrate to the private sector via things like visa auctions, though I’m less sure about that.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Dec '23 - 8:39am
  • Much as a clear majority of voters would support Remain (or Rejoin) in a new referendum,…

    There isn’t a clear majority. The problem with opinion polls is that although they ask the same question of every respondent, everyone answers a different question depending upon their interpretation of it, their prejudices, the context, past and present, their knowledge of the subject and assessment of the future. Nor do polls assess the strength of respondents opinion or their propensity to support the status quo (a big factor). I liken opinion polls to those little fruit pies that come in boxes. The results may look exceedingly good on the surface, but once you bite through the crust of public opinion there’s usually a large void before you get down to the filling. And so it is with questions about the EU. It’s rarely done, but after informing respondents that adopting the euro is now a requirement to join the EU, an Omnisis poll found that support for rejoining more than halved from 49% to 24%…

    ‘VI-11 Voting Intention Euro’ [November 2022]:
    https://omnisis.co.uk/poll-results/vi-11-results-24-11-2022/

    Table 21
    EURO. Would the requirement to adopt the Euro as currency change your decision to rejoin the EU if you would vote to rejoin? FULL BASE
    Base: All respondents
    I would still want the UK to rejoin the EU if adopting the Euro was a requirement
    All: 24%, Con: 20%, Lab: 31%, Lib: 40%

  • People not wanting to go back to the divisiveness of a referendum is in some ways very healthy. This is a major cause of the need to handle with care – or as Duncan describes it the delicacy required. The original villain of the story was David Cameron who called a referendum without the consultative processes that would have been appropriate in the context of British democracy, replacing them with a shallow binary debate which made it all about winning or losing, not least within the Conservative Party. Many people were persuaded that this was the purest form of democracy over against our time honoured representative democracy, which meant that many used it to “have a say” about whatever annoyed them most. Whatever the route back into the EU that dimension needs careful thought. On the positive side, people have been much quicker to change their minds about EU membership without the sort of damage done to family relationships that I remember in mining communities during and after the 1984 strike (with some communities harking back to who was on the wrong side in 1926).

  • Jeff is correct of course in his comments about opinion polls. However changing the question does not remove the objection that everyone will interpret the new question differently. As time goes on the use of a minor currency, as distinct from the major reserve currency of the past, is going to have more and more importance.
    If we are to use opinion polls we must see them as a starting point for assessing opinions.
    And the Euro issue is a good example. I have seen lots of articles about the horrors of adopting the Euro, I do not remember seeing any about the benefits!
    Very like the Brexit vote itself!

  • Whatever the opinion polls say in relation to adopting the Euro there is no getting away from the fact that Brexit was a terrible mistake that continues to impact on so many area’s of our lives and the sooner our government, whoever is in power, comes to their senses and starts , at least, sensible negotiations on an a friendly trading agreement with EU the better for all of us.

  • Seems a bit presumptuous to describe how people voted in a referendum as ‘A terrible mistake‘.

    Regarding opinion polls. Yes, the grass is almost always greener on the other side so it’s hardly a surprise if lots of people, when asked a random question about something that they probably haven’t thought much about recently, will answer that it’d be better if things weren’t the way they currently are. But in a general election with Labour and the Tories both loudly pointing out that re-join would mean losing our currency and bringing back freedom of movement and all sorts of other things that most people outside politics didn’t like in 2016 are are no more likely to like today, you can guarantee those polling numbers would collapse almost immediately.

    This is a dead horse that we really need to stop flogging

  • Peter Martin 22nd Dec '23 - 2:31pm

    @ Barry Lofty,

    “….sensible negotiations on an a friendly trading agreement with EU the better for all of us.”

    This is something nearly of us, from both sides of the Brexit divide, can all agree on.

    No-one is going benefit from hostilities. We should have a genuinely free trading agreement. We can have that without being a part of the EU though, just as we can with anyone else! We don’t have to share Parliaments, laws and currencies etc.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Dec '23 - 2:39pm

    Presumptuous or not I still believe it was a terrible mistake and the Brexit campaign was riddled with lies and half truths in my humble opinion and if we would be better off with a more amicable relationship with are closest neighbours surely it is worth flogging even a dead horse.?

  • I’d like to see more amical relations and better cooperation wherever it’s possible with ALL countries of the World, not only EU countries. I’m not sure where this fixation on wanting better relations specifically with EU countries, as if the rest of the World didn’t matter, comes from. But as @Peter Martin points out, you don’t need to join a big supranational organisation to get better relations.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Dec '23 - 3:20pm

    I agree we need to trade with ALL countries of world but didn’t we have a pretty wide coverage in this area as members of the EU and although the government is keen to promote their wonderful new trade deals, many of which we already had, I suspect many of these so called news deals are on less advantageous terms than previously.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Dec ’23 – 3:20pm:
    I agree we need to trade with ALL countries of world but didn’t we have a pretty wide coverage in this area as members of the EU

    We didn’t. Most EU trade deals are with small countries in and around Europe. Only five were larger than our deal with Australia. They are dated and limited in scope having been negotiated down to the lowest common denominator amongst all EU members. They don’t cover services. The UK is the world’s second largest services exporter (58.3% of our non-EU trade in 2022).

    ‘The EU is useless at negotiating Free Trade Agreements’:
    https://joelrwrites.wordpress.com/2019/09/26/the-eu-is-useless-at-negotiating-free-trade-agreements/

    The data is striking. It is immediately apparent that the EU as a whole has vastly under-performed with regards to agreeing FTAs with countries outside of its own borders – only opening up markets worth $13.7 trillion. […]

    Meanwhile, the other countries have done far better. Peru has opened up markets worth $65.3 trillion, Switzerland $46.9 trillion, Singapore $52.5 trillion, South Korea $64.7 trillion and Australia $47.3 trillion. All have been remarkably successful at agreeing FTAs, easily outperforming the EU, despite the fact that they are all relatively small nations. […]

    The data suggests that instead of boosting the UK on the world stage, the EU has held it back. […] The EU’s huge size is not an advantage, as Remainers would claim, but has simply led to the EU being unable to ratify agreements with others, in a global arena where agility and flexibility is important.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd Dec ’23 – 3:20pm:
    …I suspect many of these so called new [trade] deals are on less advantageous terms than previously.

    I’ve no idea why you’d think that. As an independent country we can negotiate much better trade agreements bilaterally as we can tailor them to our mutual benefit. We are more open to free trade than the EU and have more ‘trading cards’ to negotiate with; for example, we don’t have a citrus fruit industry to protect. All but two of the EU deals have been rolled-over on the same terms as the EU. Negotiations are ongoing with Canada, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland, and Turkey to replace them with much enhanced agreements that include services. Switzerland, a country surrounded by the EU, is a good example of what we can now do…

    ‘UK kickstarts work on new trade deal with Switzerland’:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-kickstarts-work-on-new-trade-deal-with-switzerland

    Switzerland is already an important partner for the UK, with bilateral trade worth nearly £35 billion annually. Many UK businesses benefit from tariff free trade on most goods under our existing trade agreement rolled over from the EU, but the current deal does not cover services, which account for over half of our bilateral relationship.

    As two services powerhouses globally renowned for their expertise, both the UK and Switzerland are keen to negotiate an ambitious, unprecedented free trade agreement that will boost both our economies and show the world what is possible between two like-minded and innovative democracies.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Dec '23 - 11:51am

    Larry Elliot has an interesting take on the current Brexit situation:

    “I’ve got news for those who say Brexit is a disaster: it isn’t. That’s why rejoining is just a pipe dream”

    He also makes the point that neither the UK nor the EU are doing that well. If it’s all about economics, maybe we should consider becoming a part of the USA? They have grown their economy by 30% since the 2008 GFC whereas we’ve all been flat on this side of the pond!

    It isn’t all about economics though, is it?

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/dec/05/brexit-disaster-rejoining-channel-europe-economy

  • Peter Davies 23rd Dec '23 - 12:12pm

    I would read that as “Brexit has been bad for Europe as well as Britain but the USA have proffitted from our loss”

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Dec '23 - 2:34pm

    Hopefully our relationship with the eu will improve over the next decade. When polling shows the electorate is ready for us to reapply our politicians should be ready. Another referendum will be inevitable.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Dec '23 - 5:16pm

    Jeff can pretend all he likes, but so far the trade deals we have struck since leaving the EU haver been worse than those we had whilst in the EU. It’s simple really. A huge trade block like the EU has far more clout than the UK, so we’re bound to get get worse deals than the EU.
    If Jeff thinks it’s all about sovereignty, then I’m sorry for him. It was never about sovereignty, as brexiteers like Jeff want us to think, because we had sovereignty except in those areas where WE HAD AGREED to share it.
    The easiest deal proposed by Brexiteers that was going to get us free trade deals with all the world’s major economies was always a fantasy, Only now, after we have committed political hari kiri by leaving the EU has it become clear to all but the most stupid brexiteers that actually, the EU benefited the UK significantly and we are up shit creek without it.

  • Andrew Tampion 24th Dec '23 - 6:56am

    Mick Taylor
    “If Jeff thinks it’s all about sovereignty, then I’m sorry for him.”
    Everyone has the right to decide what they consider important and to vote accordingly. Anyone who can’t accept that is part of the problem not part of the solution.
    “…we had sovereignty except in those areas where WE HAD AGREED to share it.”
    So if the UK had decided that it no longer wished to share sovereignty with the EU on a particular matter could the UK have withdrawn it’s consent?

  • How do trade deals with countries on the other side of the planet equate with the required reduction of fossil fuel usage?

  • Nick Hopkinson 24th Dec '23 - 2:55pm

    Thank you Duncan for a balanced post highlighting the obvious need for an improved relationship with the EU. I find many of the comments rather depressing, if not rather ill-informed, for a supposedly pro-European party. No wonder why we are losing members.

  • Martin Gray 24th Dec '23 - 3:32pm

    @Nick ….
    We all want an improved relationship with Europe ..
    But as Ed has said – Rejoining is for the birds , it ain’t happening for the foreseeable & as others have outlined above the UK won’t give up it’s currency – to what is in effect a bunch of German financiers.
    We just need to stop hankering after an old flame that’s moved on in life .

  • Leekliberal 24th Dec '23 - 6:31pm

    The skeptical and downright cynical trolls appearing here are in no way representative of Lib Dem members, who overwhelmingly consider Brexit to have been a disaster for the UK and wish to rejoin as soon as is practicable

  • Believing that Brexit has not been a disaster/rejoining is not a good idea does not make a person either a troll or ‘downright cynical’

  • @Martin ….Over the years there’s been a number of policies the leadership has quietly ditched – or a just ignored ( normally the case) . It wasn’t the naysayers who said campaigning to rejoin was for the birds – it was Ed himself.. Not every party supporter is a federalist that supports open borders . It’s not me or Jeff that needs to explain that path to EU membership,
    We are not campaigning for it , & neither is Ed by the sounds of it . It’s about being realistic.

  • Leekliberal 25th Dec '23 - 1:24pm

    The reason that we are stuck around ten percent in the polls is that our leadership have nothing to say that defines us as being worth voting for. When did Sir Ed last say anything even slightly radical or edgy? Starmer”s iron discipline on Labour’s policy utterings, offers scope to attack them from the left and win us a hearing in the national debate. With over sixty percent of voters favouring EU membership, Sir Ed’s silence on Brexit is unforgivable!

  • Mick Taylor 25th Dec '23 - 3:00pm

    Andrew Tampion. Some EU decisions, probably the majority, need unanimity and any one country can stop the policy by exercising the veto. The qualified majority decisions require both a majority of countries and a majority of votes to pass. Strangely enough, the UK was almost always on the winning side in these discussions.
    It is possible to change decisions about sovereign issues whenever there is a treaty revision or a new treaty. The UK did opt out of a number of EU policies, like the Schengen Agreement and the Euro. In fact during our membership the EU bent over backwards to allow the UK to opt out of many policies in order to keep us in. If you mean that having signed a treaty could the UK have simply stopped agreeing with the contents of it and ignored them, then obviously the answer is no. But that doesn’t only apply to EU treaties, but many other international agreements as well.
    Of course, if we wanted to rejoin, we would not start with the same opt outs as we had before and would have to start back at square 1 as a candidate country. We would have to negotiate an accession agreement just like any other candidate countries.
    This EU supporter has no illusions about the difficulties of rejoining.

  • Leekliberal 25th Dec '23 - 3:39pm

    Mick Taylor says,,,,,’This EU supporter has no illusions about the difficulties of rejoining”.
    Neither have l, but as Mau is reported to have said about the long march to power in China, it begins with the first step!

  • The way to political success is not by clipping and tailoring one’s views to fit the current weather of public opinion. Rather, it’s by staking out ground that may be unpopular at one time but is nonetheless worthy of defence, and then holding to that position, year after year, until people come to see merit in it and reward your steadfastness.

  • From the article:
    [Luke Tryl] told the podcast that public opinion is increasingly swinging towards the belief that Brexit was a mistake and that the UK should rejoin the EU,….

    Actually, recent polls have shown a marked increase in favour of staying-out. Here’s Professor John Curtice’s latest summary of public opinion under a headline that breaks Betteridge’s Law.…

    ‘Have Voters Cooled on the Prospect of Re-joining the EU?’ [19th. December 2023]:
    https://www.whatukthinks.org/eu/2023/12/19/have-voters-cooled-on-the-prospect-of-re-joining-the-eu/

    …the swing in favour of staying out of the EU since October has been most marked among those who think the economy is in much the same state as it would have been if Brexit had not happened. In the case of 2016 Remain voters there has been a nine-point increase in support for staying out among those of that view, while among Leave supporters and non-voters the equivalent figures are 11 and 15 points respectively.

    Maybe people are waking up and seeing through the anti-Brexit media propaganda?

  • Peter Martin 25th Dec '23 - 10:03pm

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “The UK did opt out of a number of EU policies, like the Schengen Agreement and the Euro. In fact during our membership the EU bent over backwards to allow the UK to opt out of many policies in order to keep us in.”

    Of course this is perfectly true.

    It’s also the case that those who wanted to opt out of numerous EU commitments, by and large, classed themselves as Remainers. Their position was that they wanted to be a member of an organisation whose rules they didn’t particularly agree with. It was the same for the vast majority of Remainers too.

    If the EU was such a good idea, why the lukewarm support? Why was there so little genuine support for the EU’s stated ambition of “ever closer union”?

    Was, or is, there really so much difference between Remainers and Leavers? We nearly all agreed that the EU was on the wrong path. Hardly any of us wanted to be part of a proto European Superstate. Weren’t Leavers simply being more honest about that?

  • Peter Martin 25th Dec ’23 – 10:03pm:
    Hardly any of us wanted to be part of a proto European Superstate. Weren’t Leavers simply being more honest about that?

    The Leave campaign was indeed more honest and have been proven correct in warning about the EU’s direction of travel by the recent EU Parliamentary decision…

    ‘European lawmakers vote for abolition of member state vetoes in latest EU power grab’ [November 2023]:
    https://rmx.news/european-union/european-lawmakers-vote-for-abolition-of-member-state-vetos-in-latest-eu-power-grab/

    European lawmakers approved plans on Wednesday to remove the national veto for EU member states in the latest attempted power grab by Brussels to wrestle control away from national governments. […]

    In response, a former co-rapporteur to the Verhofstadt Group, Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, accused federalists in the European Parliament of attempting “to transform the EU into a superstate,”…

    Saryusz-Wolski resigned from the working committee led by Verhofstadt in protest at the development of the plan that would further politicize the European Commission, give Eurocrats sole competency over several issues including the environment, education, and public health, and remove the need for unanimity among member states in key policy areas.

    The Polish MEP called the move “a silent putsch with communist roots.”

  • Barry Lofty 26th Dec '23 - 8:49am

    Honesty and integrity are not words I personally associate with Johnson and his brexiteer government they managed to trash trust in our politicians and political system even more than it already was, if that were possible!

  • Peter Martin 29th Dec '23 - 11:46am

    @ Barry Lofty,

    That’s not really answering the question. In any case, it wasn’t Boris Johnson who chose to have a referendum on the issue of EU membership. That was the Remainer govt of David Cameron and with the Parliamentary support of most Lib Dem MPs . To rephrase it:

    Why, when there was substantial UK disagreement with the most of rest of the EU countries on the rules of the club, was there so much opposition to leaving it?

  • There seem to be two views on whether Brexit was a terrible thing. I can agree that Brexit was a terrible mistake because if we ever want to re-join we will not get the great terms we had then.

    In The Guardian article, which Peter Martin provided the link to, Larry Elliot writes that Brexit was not a disaster. He argues that even if we were still in the EU our economic performance would be about the same because ‘the EU’s economic performance has been woeful’. He lists the following as being to blame for the EU’s economic woes:
    the Euro;
    the lack of a federal budget like the USA;
    the neoliberal economics ‘such as tough controls on the size of budget deficits’.

    I can agree with all three. I don’t see Germany agreeing to a federal budget any time soon which would transfer funds from those areas with good economic growth to those with poor economic growth.

    With regard to the question of whether Brexit was a mistake, the answer would need to set out how our international trade has changed since Brexit and try to determine how it would have been different if we had stayed in. The assumptions for determining the last would be open to question. Therefore it will always be difficult to provide a definitive answer to this question.

  • Germany is actually a good case study of a successful program in levelling up. “Although former East Germany has still not fully closed the gap between itself and former West Germany, it now has a GDP per capita higher than many parts of Northern England and Wales and has made great progress on employment and wage growth. Reunification did not come cheap. In total it is estimated that up to €2 trillion was spent on the reunification project between 1990 and 2014. That is the equivalent of around £71 billion every year. For comparison, the UK’s levelling up fund is £4.8 billion in total. Also to date, almost all former East German federal states are still the largest recipients of payments from the financial equalization scheme”
    What can German reunification teach the UK about levelling up?

  • Laurence Cox 31st Dec '23 - 6:27pm

    @Joe Bourke

    Good point that levelling up cannot be done on the cheap. That €2 trillion equates to about 50% of German GDP now, so in UK terms we need to think of spending £1 trillion over 25 years, or £40 billion a year, or nearly a quarter of our entire health service expenditure in England. 40 new hospitals and their staffing even if all of them were in Northern England is nowhere near enough (Wales and Scotland’s healthcare is devolved so Barnett should take care of their share). Even 5p on all rates of income tax isn’t going to be enough (£35 billion).

  • Peter Martin,

    I remember Chris Huhne giving a speech to a regional conference saying that the single currency would be a good thing and the UK should adopt it. He said it would be bad for the UK not to join as not joining would be similar to Yorkshire having its own currency. I remember thinking that if Yorkshire had its own currency it might have better economic growth.

    Most Remainers were honest, they said that our membership of the EU was beneficial and we had opt outs in the areas we didn’t want to participate in. If we ever re-join we would not get such good terms again.

    Joe Bourke,

    Our policy of £50 billion for regions over a Parliament is not going to do the job then. 45% of the money spent by Germany went on such things as pensions and unemployment benefit, so if we exclude them we need to spend £39 billion a year to match what Germany spent.

  • Nonconformistradical 31st Dec '23 - 10:01pm

    “Reunification did not come cheap”
    I recall talking to a West German woman at a motorway services somewhere in West (as was) Germany some years after reunification and hearing a lot of complaining about increased taxes for the reunification project.

  • If we’re using Germany as an example, there seem to be numerous reports that Germany has a serious problem of old and crumbling infrastructure due to long term lack of investment, so I’m not sure how much of a success story it really is. Maybe all the money spent on reunification has something to do with those problems? As one just example, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/oct/14/its-the-same-daily-misery-germanys-terrible-trains-are-no-joke-for-a-nation-built-on-efficiency talks about how bad and unreliable railways there have become.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '24 - 8:34pm

    “……. levelling up cannot be done on the cheap”

    It depends whether you look at it in terms of pounds and pence spent by Govt or the utilisation of available resources in the economy. The pounds and pence argument, though, doesn’t make any sense. Money spent by government into the economy either comes back in taxation revenue or it gets saved. Where else can it go? It’s not about surpluses and deficits. This doesn’t mean that the Government can spend without limit. If it spends too much, the productive capacity of the economy, at local level too, will be exceeded with excess inflation the likely consequence.

    The job of a the government of a currency issuing government should involve ensuring the productive capacity of the whole currency area is maximised. This means including a local element into fiscal policy to ensure that the rates of unemployment, levels of wages, prices of housing etc are approximately the same throughout the currency region.

    Governments can spend more in the less prosperous, or economically colder, regions without it causing the same problems of inflation we see when the same money is spent in the economically more prosperous, or hotter, regions. Spending in the less prosperous regions is simply making better use of local available resources.

    If this doesn’t happen we see the ‘hot’ economic regions becoming too hot and the ‘cold’ regions becoming too cold.

    Sound familiar?

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '24 - 8:53pm

    @ Michael BG,

    “I remember Chris Huhne giving a speech to a regional conference saying that the single currency would be a good thing and the UK should adopt it. He said it would be bad for the UK not to join as not joining would be similar to Yorkshire having its own currency.”

    Presumably Chris Huhne was speculating on what would happen if the UK became a region of the EU in the same way that Yorkshire is a region of the UK.

    The comparison is invalid though. The UK has a government which can manage the currency – albeit not as well as it could be managed. The EU doesn’t have any government to do that and so the management of the euro is even worse.

    The solution for the UK, as a whole, involves having a better local element of fiscal policy. If any area, say Scotland, is still unhappy that its is doing badly then it should opt for total independence which has to involve the use of its own currency. It can’t use someone else’s – be that the pound or the euro.

  • Richard Scott 2nd Jan '24 - 11:08pm

    Disappointing to see so many ill-informed comments in response to this article. I thought I’d stumbled onto the Daily Telegraph’s website instead.

    Hard to know where to start but let’s pick on the fallacy that rejoining the EU would mean adopting the Euro. Tell that to the EU member states of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Sweden, all of whom have retained their own currency.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jan '24 - 3:53am

    @ Richard Scott,

    Have the countries you mention really kept their own currencies?

    They have – but only at a superficial level. They can’t run their fiscal policies as they might choose to unless they are given excemptions from the highly austerity inducing Stability and Growth Pact and the even worse European Fiscal Compact.

    As far as I know, none of them has. The EU is set to return to “normal” this year after at least having the good sense to suspend their rules during the Covid crisis.

    It’s the rules which are the problem rather than the use of the Euro per se. Incidentally, obection to the neoliberalism of the EU’s economic policies doesn’t imply a right wing mindset. Just the opposite in fact.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Andrew Tampion
    Christopher Haigh. "I always got the impression that freedom of movement would work better if people from the more economically active EU countries should retir...
  • John Waller
    I only did 3 not 5. Thank you from crazy USA. What sense....
  • Alex Macfie
    This "non-aggression" pact between us and Labour is presumably supposed to apply only to each other's Tory-facing battlegrounds (I don't think we're holding bac...
  • Robert SAYER
    Totally right. Having experienced the same stresses as described it can be lonely and you can believe that the most unwinnable seat can be won. But to those fig...
  • Joseph Bourke
    Liberal values are not easily distinguished on a political scale of right versus left. It is rather the scale of authoritanism versus Liberaiism. The Presidn...