Has Liberal Democracy failed us?

Listening to a BBC Radio 4 broadcast recently, somebody commented that liberal democracy has failed us. The context wasn’t clear. I thought about it for a while and have decided to put pen to paper.

In the context of Brexit, there could be an argument that liberal democracy has failed us, but I wonder if this idea is purely superficial. We are now experiencing shortages of workers in delivery, waste disposal, health and social care, food picking, etc. I have been personally impacted by the fact that some car parts are hard to come by and have been waiting for my car to be repaired since July 2nd. We knew all this would happen before we voted in 2016. We were told that there would be short-term (up to 10 years) of disruption before all would become well again. But how did we know?

I want to take you back to when the government announced that there would be a referendum around remaining in the European Union. It was a very one-sided affair. Every household received post directly from the government heralding the benefits of remaining in the European Union. Nothing was said about the benefits of leaving. Even Boris Johnson had recently (February 7, 2016) claimed that “Britain’s geostrategic interests to be pretty intimately engaged with Europe, warning that leaving the single market would cause “at least some business uncertainty”.

The only real naysayers were Nigel Farage and UK Independence Party. Pictured as the working man’s ideal, Farage was endlessly photographed in pubs espousing that the UK was not served well by remaining in the European Union while avoiding representing us in Brussels and Luxembourg. Populism became the word of the day. As far as I can see, this meant slagging off foreigners at every possible turn while maintaining British workers, farmers and fishermen would be better off without them. This has proved to be, so far at least, a bit of a farce.

In terms of health workers alone, we are in dire straits. In the UK before the coronavirus pandemic, there was already a shortage of around 50,000 nurses, and still the healthcare system is nowhere near bridging that gap. In January 2021, a survey by Nursing Times indicated that 80% of nurses feel patient safety is compromised due to this severe staff shortage.

Our economy has done remarkably well given that the pandemic simply exacerbated what was already going to be a rocky ride. UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.8% in May 2021, the fourth consecutive month of growth, although it remains 3.1% below the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels seen in February 2020.

However, I ask you, would it not have been better for the government to have been straight with the electorate to begin with? Would it not have been better to present BOTH the pros and the cons of leaving the European Union so that people could make a choice knowing the probable consequences of their vote? Instead, they were given one side of the story and told to vote accordingly. That is not liberal democracy, pure and simple. And perhaps, had it been done properly, liberal democracy may have prevailed and we may not have had to suffer even one UKIP sound bite.

* Gillian Douglass is a member of Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats

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  • nigel hunter 23rd Aug '21 - 9:32am

    We have NOT had Liberal Democracy but CONSERVATIVE Democracy.

  • All I can say is having been reared during the late 40’s and early 50’s life is on the whole so much better now.
    What we complain about today is peanuts to what we went through in those times.

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '21 - 10:40am

    I spent over thirty years really believing that what attracted me firstly to the Liberal Party, and via the SDP to the Liberal Democrats, would eventually work its magic on the majority of my fellow citizens. This common sense, egalitarian approach, which, when confronted with a problem, encouraged people to think outside of the box, was bound to catch on – eventually. “It doesn’t have to be like this”, I kept telling myself over the years. “Why can’t other people see that?,”

    What I came to realise, especially after 2010, was that the majority of my fellow citizens, for whatever reason, did not think like me and the conclusions they drew were very different from mine. That’s why, for several years now, I have been banging on in LDV about the fact that liberalism is NOT a majority creed either here or anywhere for that matter. If you asked me to put a figure on how many true ‘liberals’ there are in any population, I would hover between 5 and around 15%, depending on how the others are doing at the time. That doesn’t mean that all Lib Dem ideas are daft ideas. Combined with other ideas they could form a real basis for steady progress towards a kind of modus vivendi that might make our country an even better and fairer place in which to live.

    The Lib Dems would have themselves believe they have all the answers. So would the Tories and Labour and, north of the border, so would the SNP. The truth is that NOBODY has all the answers; but, by acknowledging their limitations, taboo for many as this would be viewed as a sign of weakness, perhaps the various parties might see a way forward out of the present impasse. What stops common sense getting the upper hand is our ‘winner-takes-all’ voting system – yes it really IS down to PR. We like winners. We don’t rate compromisers. Hyperbole beats caution and black or white beats grey every time! So until we consign FPTP to history, I really cannot see us getting anywhere. What did the Bible say about ‘the meek’?

  • Liberal Democracy requires a good working relationship between the people and those in government, local, national or international. Has therefore, Liberal Democracy been properly practiced ? That is the question.
    More than any other form of government it depends not only on what laws are passed but also how they are implemented and how many people agree with them. Our previous local MP was extremely keen on remaining in the EU in spite of it being known that the majority of constituents wanted out; the problem was the lack of opportunity for discussion between him and the constituents, as well as the lack of national government supply of simple information that Gillian refers to.
    Even after the referendum I was shocked many times to discover how little I knew about the EU; I don’t expect the majority of people to know as much as I expect of myself, since unlike me, they are not actively involved in politics. Yet, the vacuum had long been wide open for the UKIP lies to easily fill that space. This means that a Liberal Democracy not only requires closer relationship between government and governed (which more LOCAL as well as PR would help provide) but also a more broadly educated population. Another factor is trust between people and those in power.
    Finally, we who believe in Liberal Democracy must sometimes accept that we cannot push our ways of doing things so fast that many citizens cannot keep up and cannot understand what we are trying to achieve.
    Another thought; there is such a thing as society, that layer of conversation and working that lies between individuals and government and perhaps Liberal Democracy has been held up in its progress because that element in people’s lives has weakened.

  • We are now experiencing shortages of workers in delivery, waste disposal, health and social care, food picking, etc.

    If you are experiencing that, then other people are experiencing that there are finally plenty of jobs available and upwards pressure on pay in “delivery, waste disposal, health and social care, food picking, etc.”

    Also, this is another post that misunderstands what the EU is for. The aim of the EU is to level up its poorest members, which in the long term would result in cutting off the supply of cheap workers anyway. Prior to Covid, countries like Austria were already experiencing the effects of this – the higher wages were no longer higher by enough to make it worth people living and raising kids away from their own culture and extended family. For example Slovakia has had net inward migration (i.e. including returnees) since 2012, not 2016.

    The solution now is the same as it would have eventually been if we’d stayed in the EU. Gear the training of British people to the jobs available and pay every job the market rate needed to get a British person to do it.

    I agree with the parts of the post I haven’t commented on. The Leavers talk about the “leaflet” and the “punishment budget” in much the same terms as Remainers talk about the bus and the Russian twitter bots.

  • Or do we simply expect too much.
    On the whole is has delivered a better life for many.

  • Andrew Tampion 23rd Aug '21 - 12:10pm

    The problem with any form of democracy is that the attributes needed to get elected are not necessarily the same as the atributes needed to be a good Prime Minister or Member of Parliament. The solution is beyond me.
    As far as the 2016 EU referendum is concerned I believe that Gordon Brown’s failure to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was a major cause. Tony Blair had promised a referendum on the EU Constitution Treaty and many people, including me, felt betrayed by the failure to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty that replaced it.
    I would go further and say that John Major’s failure to hold a referendum over the Maastrich Treaty was a mistake. Because if the Treaty had been ratified in a referendum it would have been much more difficult for UKIP to develop it’s narrative that the EU was not a democratic institution.

  • John Marriott @ Your contribution to this debate is spot on and it echoes my own lifetime thoughts on being a Liberal, Liberal Democrat. While I cannot say I have always agreed with all policies the party has promoted the one overriding policy that has stayed with me over the years is a fairer voting system,ie PR, but as you say John, it seems we are in the minority but that does not mean we are wrong and to continue a familiar theme for me, ” It is just plain common sense, ” and as you say no one party has all the answers. The events of the last few years should prove that. Although the EU has it’s faults, I will always believe that we are poorer in many ways to have left!

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '21 - 12:57pm

    @Barry Lofty
    Thanks for your kind words, mate! It would appear that someone on LDV other than David Raw appears to share (some of) my views
    Mind you, all three of us would appear to be well over 70. In Cameron’s words, we were the future once! What’s the future look like now?

  • Barry Lofty 23rd Aug '21 - 1:10pm

    John Marriott @ Yes you are right we were the future once, heyho, but I do try to pass on my thoughts to my children and grandchildren without being pushy! whether they really listen or not is another matter??

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '21 - 1:24pm

    As someone twenty , or some, years their junior, the comments here, from John, Barry, Davids Raw, are valued.

    I do not have to agree on every point, to believe we are political kin.

    Gillian, nearer my vintage, is another case. I understand her article, but was never as keen on the EU so was never as sad over Brexit, though anti it!

    I think John is not correct on a point though. If you call Liberalism that which is on neither extreme amounting to centre left or right, or centre ground, radical and moderate, according to needs of the policy or problem addressed, most could subscribe to Liberal values.

    If you call Liberalism, obsession with only the left flank, refugees in great numbers, open borders no matter what, green policies to rival the Green party even if draconian , then most are not Liberals.

    The Grimond party was one that could, had it been ever thus, appeal to a lot.

    Not convinced today…

  • Liberal democracy is a (rough and ready) description of a system of government. The Liberal Democrats are a political party. Building one is not the same as building the other, even though the party might have more clue than most about improving the system of government. This was part of the agony of settling on a name for the merged party. We have had Labour governments, Conservative governments and Coalition governments but none of them are equivalents to a system of government. Meanwhile both parts of the liberal democracy can be very slippery – think Japan or think Australia.

  • Simon Robinson 23rd Aug '21 - 1:43pm

    “Has Liberal Democracy failed us?” No, I would say, absolutely not. The UK is not perfect because no system is perfect, but the problems described in the article are trivial compared to the kinds of problems that people who don’t live in liberal democracies would face every day: Problems such as persecution, lack of free speech, being locked up for your beliefs, as well as generally lower living standards and much higher levels of corruption compared to most liberal democracies. There are lots of things we can all disagree with concerning how the UK has been managed, but that doesn’t mean that liberal democracy is failing us. I think having a sense of proportion could be useful here 🙂

  • @ John & Barry We’re not old, you chaps……… I, for one, certainly want a bit more time on this earthly coil. Fabulous watching the grandkids discover this precious world and the gannets diving into the sea. Being alive is, or ought to be, fun…… and by that I mean for everybody.

    We just happen to have lived a bit longer, seen a bit more, and tend not to get taken in by superficial flannel……. in which politics of all shades especially in the ‘my party’s right and your party’s wrong’ tendency, abounds…. including even amongst otherwise saintly and ‘woke’ Lib Dems.

    Having said that, yon middle aged Boris feller, he of the permanent white helmet and the bright flak jacket in which he nightly retires to bed, is undoubtedly a mendacious disorganised rascal we could well do without.

    @ Lorenzo Liberalism is (or ought to be) about realising the potential of every individual regardless of age, colour, creed or gender. It’s about enabling them through education (if needs be, via the support of a democratic state) to become rational autonomous beings capable of making rational choices in a caring society. Others must (and do) judge whether the party that carries the Liberal name is capable of fulfilling that aim….. in recent years a better understanding of what Liberalism entails and a few less careless own goals would have helped.

  • Barry Lofty 23rd Aug '21 - 2:05pm

    [email protected] Of course you are right, we do not have to agree on everything to be political kin, all the best!!!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '21 - 3:13pm


    I think you are correct on your excellent phrase or description of the stance. I think the Liberal Democrats the only vehicle for that, but whether electoral result is positively attainable in this system, not sure yet!



  • I’m not sure how anyone can conclude that Liberal Democracy has failed us when it has rarely been given a proper chance.

    True Liberal Democracy is a threat to concentrations of power and wealth, and so those concentrations push back against it. Conservatism is carried along by currents driven by an establishment and media that largely benefits from and supports it. Liberalism constantly has to swim against those same currents, which means slow progress and frequent reversals.

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '21 - 6:48pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    My point in all this is that, while some Liberals are absolutely convinced that they are on the right track, unless they can convince sufficient numbers of their fellow citizens to support them, they are never going to rule the world. Comments you occasionally hear, such as “I don’t talk to Tories/Labour/Liberals” (take your pick) illustrate the dilemma.

  • Democracy means that the people decide, but the particular mechanism chosen will never satisfy everyone. If you really think it through, you will realise that each voter is considering a miriad of timescales and scenarios which cannot be divided into separate votes. It is always going to be a blunt instrument.
    How the referendum is conducted is an entirely different matter. It is obvious that in the EU referendum, the government wanted a Remain result and enlisted the help of every international and professional organisation to make its case. I suspect that this tactic backfired, because all the benefits of remaining suited these organisations and not necessarily the people with the votes.
    Beware of making sweeping observations about the liberal position on democracy. Ignoring referendum results either past or future is not a strong basis for claiming the higher ground in any debate about democracy.

  • The problem with presenting “the Pros of leaving the European Union” is that there aren’t any.

  • James Fowler 23rd Aug '21 - 9:19pm

    Liberalism is a minority creed, but it still has important things to say about society, and it is definitely worth fighting for! It is particularly unpopular at the moment because people grew tired of it’s ceaseless calls for self improvement, and it’s remorseless prioritizing of what increasingly appeared (especially after the crash) to be other people’s choices and freedoms. In the end, people wanted to left alone to be themselves surrounded by the things that were familiar and safe. That’s where we are now. In my view to route back runs through dialling down on the self improvement and dialling up on (everybody’s) lost freedoms.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '21 - 10:34pm

    I get what you say here John.

    Similarly though, most of the substance of Liberal and indeed greater democratic orientation, is fairly within the area of potential support by the public.

    Our party rightly eschews populist, but too often avoids, being popular!

  • @Marco – I don’t think you will find many who are desparate to rejoin, accept the Euro, face ever greater regulation and unification and struggle under a burden of ever increasing bureaucracy.

  • David Evans 24th Aug '21 - 8:02am

    Peter, and I don’t think that you will find many who are desperate to stay isolated, face ever worsening shortages of skilled and unskilled workpeople, difficulties in taking foreign holidays, collapse of industries, increasing inflation, looking ever more desperately for that £350 million a week for the NHS, and an ever increasing burden of Conservative crony corruption.

    Which just goes to show that it is very easy for anyone to crate an aunt sally based on little more than a few slogans. But it doesn’t make a point, it’s just more of what got us into this mess.

  • John Marriott 24th Aug '21 - 10:39am

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    Yes, Lorenzo, much of what the Lib Dems advocate makes sense. However, despite valiant efforts, in the eyes of many, whose continued support they need just to retain their present status, let alone to advance further to the tipping point where votes are converted into seats, they are still largely the “brown bread and sandals” brigade. Constantly returning to causes such as LGBT+, UBI, Black Lives Matter etc, all of which have merit, will only turn many people off. By all means, stick at 10% if it makes you feel good. Fine words from what you perceive as the moral high ground aren’t going to get you where you think you ought to be. You have to show that you can deal with the issues that affect most people and not just the minorities.

  • Of all the many benefits lost from leaving the EU surely security must come high on the list of the most worrying in our continually troubled world, keep your friends and allies close!!

  • I see here a lot of good sense from many here including John, Lorenzo, Nick, David, Simon and Nigel. The problem is that Liberal Democracy as a form of government and as a political philosophy is clearly in retreat.

    Retreat in the UK from the populist right which Boris Johnson exploited to become Prime Minister, full of easy slogans and untrammelled by conscience or values, and retreat from the populist left with its easy slogans pretending its authoritarianism is really liberal.

    Retreat across the world, where we see Liberal Democracy and Rule of Law being trashed in by the Conservative Right pretending to be Left in Hong Kong, Religious fanatics in Afghanistan, and Autocrats promoting themselves as national saviours in Russia, Turkey and Belarus.

    In all these cases, chancers and Authoritarians have seen the opportunity to test whether liberals were prepared to stand up for their values, and work and fight to see off the usurpers. Sadly too often the answer seems to have been no.

    In the US whether it was Trump or Biden, in the UK for us with Johnson, in Canada for Trudeau, in the EU which seems to have lots to say but little to do, in New Zealand where Jacinda Ardern is too late finding that cosying up to China was a really bad idea. In every case the scale of the threat was ignored and the effort needed to overcome it massively underestimated.

    Too many concentrated on personal freedoms and liberties for the home market, while across the globe more and more fellow of our fellow citizens are being crushed underfoot.

  • I agree with the drift of what John Marriott says about targeting policies with a wider general appeal, but I’d add that Lib Dems need to be consistent.

    The leadership of the Scottish Lib Dems are currently tying themselves in knots about insisting on staying connected to a first past the post system at Westminster
    dominated by an English Nationalist Tory Party when the Scottish Parliament (elected by PR without an undemocratic unelected second chamber) wants to remain in the EU (something incidentally voted for by 62% of the Scottish electorate).

    There’s also a small matter not considered by our pet LDV economists of Scottish taxpayers subsidising HS2 (currently £ 100 billion total cost) and Crossrail …. neither of which Scotland gets any obvious benefit from……. and it is now rumoured HS2 won’t even get past Brummy.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '21 - 12:45pm

    @ David Raw,

    If HS2 doesn’t get past B’ham, it won’t be only Scottish voters who might be inclined to make the same point. So what are you suggesting? That taxes should be based on post codes?

    It won’t be any different if Scotland does become independent. The regions will complain about too much infrastructure spending in Glasgow and Edinburgh. So what next? They should go for their own independence too?

    BTW What is your view on what should happen after independence? Should Scotland have its own currency as it will need to if wishes to get back into the EU?

  • Nigel Jones 23rd Aug ’21 – 11:26am:
    Even after the referendum I was shocked many times to discover how little I knew about the EU; I don’t expect the majority of people to know as much…

    Research showed that leave and remain voters had similar knowledge…

    ‘Leave and Remain voters’ knowledge of the EU after the referendum of 2016’ [February 2019]:

    Overall, there was no average difference between Leave voters and Remain voters (either before or after controlling for covariates),…

    Yet, the vacuum had long been wide open for the UKIP lies to easily fill that space.

    Five years on we can now see that most of the false statements came from the remain side. Even the word ‘remain’ was misleading as it implied that we were voting for things to stay the same. That was never on offer. The real choice was between continuing with ”ever closer union” or leaving.

    Here are five false assertions promulgated by the remain campaign…

    1. That we would be voting to stay in a “Reformed EU”. It transpired that it hadn’t been reformed at all – there were just a couple of minor ‘concessions’ for the UK only and these were then quietly dropped.

    2. That our membership cost only “£5.7 billion” as stated on the official Britain Stronger in Europe site. In 2020 our net cost of membership was almost double that (£11.1bn excluding numerous ‘off-budget’ payments). The £350 million a week on the side of the Leave campaign bus – originally a gross figure – turned out be be a remarkably accurate net figure when our accrued liabilities were added in.

    3. That we’d suffer an “emergency budget” if we decided to leave. We did and there was no such budget.

    4. That the Treasury Forecast for the two years following a vote to Leave, so-called ‘Project Fear’, was objective. It turned out to be wrong by £100 billion — 5% of GDP — and almost a million jobs.

    5. That it would take many years to renegotiate the EU trade deals and that as a “small country” we would not be able to get such good terms. Now, after 97% have been rolled-over in little more than a year, it is said this was only possible because we “cut and pasted” the same terms we had in the EU.

  • @ Peter Martin I don’t know whether you’re old enough to remember how Canada, Australia, New Zealand et al gradually achieved self governing status post WW1 (all with their own currencies) as the Empire evolved into the Commonwealth (you could add Ireland and later many others around the world to that list).

    Plenty of Jonah’s said they could never do it…… but they did….., so I gently suggest you use your otherwise fertile imagination for an answer Mr Martin. If the outcome (Scotland apart) of the EU Brexit referendum tickled your fancy, then I suggest you apply the same tolerance and acceptance to the right of the UK nation that expressed a different view to rule itself if it so wishes.

    Are you saying New Zealand is capable of doing it but not Scotland ?

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '21 - 1:48pm

    It is probably only to be expected but the title of this piece is simply a cover for a tale of woe about leaving the EU. There’s a shortage of some car parts worldwide including in countries which have stayed in the EU and in countries who have never been in the EU. Supposedly it’s Covid related.

    Incidentally, I have a mate who seems to know where to get his hands on just about anything to do with cars, so I can ask him if you like 🙂

    The EU isn’t the most ‘liberally democratic’ of places in any case. I would probably have voted Remain before the EU’s Troika rode roughshod over Greek Democracy in 2015, which was a good deal more ‘liberal’ than most, if we use the term its in UK and US meaning rather than its European more rightish sense.

    As Tony Benn once said Democracy is being able to get rid of people. We might not like BJ as PM but we know what we have to do if we want someone else in the job. The EU is run by those ( ie A. Merkel, E. Macron and U. von der Laden) whom we in the UK have zero control over.

  • Peter Hirst 24th Aug '21 - 2:31pm

    Liberal Democracy depends to function properly a sense of fairness by our politicians and an educated and engaged electorate. It might be that below a threshold authoritarian, especially the benevolant type is preferrable. Some politicians might seek to lower the earlier qualities so they can justify the latter.

  • I am resigned to the possibility that Scotland may achieve independence though I think it would be a grave mistake for a number of reasons. I think it essential that the key questions about currency, borders, EU membership and the like are answered as far as possible before any vote.

    The way things are going currently, I suspect that EU membership will not be possible for financial reasons. Membership and Eurozone membership will be very strongly linked because the EU regrets the opt outs and time for convergence concessions it made in the past. The current deficit of over £36 Billion suggests that the EU would require several years of strict austerity.

  • I am so glad that we left the EU. I spent decades of my life longing for that moment. But if the EU had remained a trading market, I might well have felt differently. It was all about democracy. The founding fathers, together with Heath’s civil servants knew from the start that the project was much more ambitious than just trading.
    The political ambition to suppress national identity and assume total central control peaked around the time of the EU constitution. It was realised by the EU that treaties are cumbersome instruments that could be held up by the nation states. The concept of “competencies” was adopted. Creeping control through incremental regulation achieved far more, almost invisibly. When Cameron obtained the meaningless assurance about future treaty changes Tusk wrote to the Council assuring the members that competency would continue unaffected.
    I have noticed that countries like the Netherlands are beginning to realise that decisions they regard as national are assumed by the Commission to be EU decisions. The only surprise is that it takes a long time for the penny to drop. But then, democracy is quite new for most of the EU nation states. It is a pity that they are losing it before they get used to its benefits.

  • Peter Martin 24th Aug '21 - 7:43pm

    @ David Raw,

    “Are you saying New Zealand is capable of doing it but not Scotland ?”

    No. On the contrary. I’ve already said, on another thread, that if Iceland (pop 300k) is capable of having its own currency then there should be no problem for Scotland.

    I’m questioning why those who claim to support Scottish independence are reluctant to say the same thing. Why would you want independence and still use someone else’s currency?

  • @ Peter

    Fortunately rejoin does not necessarily mean accepting the Euro, we could negotiate to get our old position back which was very advantageous.

    Of course we could copy the leavers approach and hold a referendum where we allowed people to think that rejoin did not = accepting the Euro then if people voted rejoin say:

    “IN means IN and everyone knew that rejoin meant accepting the Euro and so and so even said so on such a date and you can’t accuse the voters of not knowing what they voted for and trying to stay out of the Euro would just be rejoin in name only which would undermine democracy” etc.

  • “And I will go straight to the point: independence means sovereignty; and it means territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders.” – Charles Michel in a speech today.

  • John Marriott 25th Aug '21 - 9:31am

    @Peter Martin
    Being independent and using another country’s currency. It happens with the US dollar, doesn’t it? I call that just another example of extreme cakeism😀👍!

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Aug '21 - 9:38am

    @Peter Martin
    “if Iceland (pop 300k) is capable of having its own currency then there should be no problem for Scotland.”
    I recall Iceland being perfectly capable of fouling up its finances late in 2008, with knockon effects in other countries, particularly UK and Netherlands.

    And I question the wisdom of comparing Scotland with a country with an inexhaustible (on timescales of survivability on this planet at any rate) supply of geothermal energy resources, with the vast bulk of its population concentrated in one corner of the country. So with resources to heat its housing properly and for producing food under artificial conditions of heat and light.

    And perhaps Iceland will end up with all the available cod…. another cod war in the offing?

  • John Shoesmith 25th Aug '21 - 10:04am

    Liberal democracy has failed to address the most pressing problem on the planet – climate change. Unless it finds an answer very quickly it will most certainly have failed.

  • Peter Martin 25th Aug '21 - 10:39am

    @ John,

    “Cakeism”, as I understand the term, is a belief in the possibility of being able to have the benefits of two or more alternatives simultaneously. In Scotland’s case “cakeism” can be seen in a desire to in have the benefits of using the pound, with continued and unchanged BoE support, at the same time as having its own independence with a pathway to renewed EU membership included.

    Sorry, but it ain’t going to be doable. Yes the Scots can use the pound but there will be no BoE support, which will mean much higher interest rates. Under the current rules they won’t qualify for EU membership.

    @ Nonconformistradical,

    Yes, Iceland stuffed up in the run up to the 2008 GFC. So did many others – including ourselves. But they recovered pretty quickly – unlike Greece and other EEC countries.

    In any case this is what independence means. The freedom to get it wrong as well as get it right.


  • Nonconformistradical 25th Aug '21 - 11:42am

    @John Shoesmith
    “Liberal democracy has failed to address the most pressing problem on the planet – climate change. Unless it finds an answer very quickly it will most certainly have failed.”
    Are you implying some other system of government is going to succeed?

  • Peter Martin 25th Aug '21 - 12:06pm

    @ Marco,

    Just to help you out, I will state that in the absence of any previous assurance from the EU to the contrary, rejoining the EU will mean accepting the euro and that the various opt -outs which the UK previously negotiated with the EU will not be replicated in any future EU membership agreement.

    If either Scotland, or the UK as whole, do ever vote to re-join there can be no doubt about what the electorate will have voted for.

    I would expect that it won’t be just me saying this in any future referendum campaign. There will be no uncertainty afterwards.

  • In an age of digital central bank currencies, countries around the world may need to rethink their banking and monetary policies.
    El Salvador had a very volatile currency and runaway inflation until it adopted the US Dollar as its official currency in 2001. Since adoption of the dollar it has brought its average inflation rate down to 2%.
    In an experiment with crytpcurrencies, El Salvador had recently added Bitcoin to its schedule of legal tender. This is primarily aimed at facilitating remittances by expatriates https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/news/is-bitcoin-actually-reliable-enough-to-be-known-as-an-official-currency/ar-AANGwQ5?ocid=BingNewsSearch.
    Nigeria, Vietnam and the Philippines are also making extensive use of Bitcoin. This circumvents restrictions on US dollar remittances or high FX exchange costs.
    Afghanistan’s financial system is in a state of collapse since the Taliban takeover and Western Union has suspended its services to the country. Bitcoin has become an alternative currency for some in this wartorn country also.

  • @ Peter Martin

    In the Rejoin referendum I will be arguing that rejoining the EU does not mean accepting the Euro or Schengen and that we can get the rebate back.

    The EU would want us back in and will have every incentive to give us a good deal.

    If we don’t manage to secure the above then we will offer a second vote on the terms of the deal because we are very democratically minded like that.

  • Peter Martin 26th Aug '21 - 7:09am

    @ Marco,

    If you don’t like the idea of using euro of being a part of Schengen, and think we need rebates and opt-outs, why do you want to rejoin the EU? I’ve never quite understood why Remainers weren’t more enthusiastic about being fully involved in what they wanted to remain members of.

    Anthony Salamone of the LSE presents a more realistic view:


  • @ Peter Martin

    The position the UK negotiated within the EU was advantageous and made sense. It worked for us.

    Being in the single market but outside of the Euro zone meant having a strong pound and a strong economy. Having free movement but being outside Schengen meant there was enough workers whilst retaining control of our borders.

    We should never have left this arrangement as the balance of competencies was well judged.

  • Peter Martin 27th Aug '21 - 4:41am

    @ Marco,

    I do agree with your previous comment to some extent. You’re saying that the EU was fine providing we didn’t have too much of it. The trade aspect of the EU was what we really wanted from membership but not the rest. But, on balance, I was a leaver whereas you, on balance, were a remainer. We’re closer than you’d like to think!

    On the other hand, Anthony Salamone, is a genuine EU enthusiast who looks forward to the UK being ” a more normal member state” in membership 2.0 and being “much more positive and inclusive” in its approach. He’d be in just as much disagreement with most former Remainers for their half hearted endorsement of the EU as he would with those who voted Leave.

    In an odd sort of way I find myself agreeing with him. If we want to be in the EU we should be in the whole way. No half measures. The converse, of course, is that we stay out of it, the whole way, and leave the EU to do what it needs to do

  • @ Peter Martin

    I am very enthusiastic in my support for the EU I am just not a Euro federalist. It is not set in stone what the EU is and there are internal struggles to shape it’s direction.

    The vision of the EU I support is based on the single market, common employment and consumer rights and the inclusion of Eastern European nations. I am less keen on currency union and ever closer union. That does not make me less enthusiastic about the EU than the federalists.

    With Britain out, the federalists are now more likely to get their way.

  • Peter Martin 28th Aug '21 - 10:33am

    @ Marco,

    If you don’t agree with using the euro then you don’t agree with the Maastricht Treaty. You’re essentially in agreement with the old EEC setup, even though it had a commitment to ever closer union, rather than the EU as we see it today. So, yes, it does make you at least somewhat less enthusiastic than those who do agree with the changes that have been made to turn the EEC into the EU.

    If there had been a vote for staying in the old EEC, in the 80s, then I would probably have voted Remain if there had been an automatic option to leave without penalty should the Federalist path have been followed which many of us suspected it was always going to be. We were OK with the EEC. Just about!

    Alas, the EEC is no more. It has expired! It has ceased to be! It has gone to meet its maker. It’s a dead duck if not a dead parrot.

  • @ Peter Martin

    That is completely incorrect as many of the people you allege are more enthusiastic about the EU than me were opposed to the expansion to the East which I support and were opposed to elements of the Lisbon Treaty.

    I support the Maastricht Treaty as it introduced he Social Chapter an other important reforms. I am not opposed to the existence of the Euro however I don’t think it works for everyone. Denmark and Sweden didn’t join and I don’t think Greece should have done and possibly not Italy.

    Also I would point out that the single market in the sense of removing tariff free barriers did not exist under the EEC and the UK played a big role in its creation.

  • Peter Martin 29th Aug '21 - 10:50am

    @ Marco,

    Has the EU made its position clear on what would be required from the UK in a few years time in order to be in a position to apply to rejoin? Anthony Salamone makes a well reasoned argument and he’s probably in a better position than most to get the inside take on all that. I’m quite sure he’s right. Why do you think he isn’t?

    The EU at present is stuck in an awkward and unviable position. Its only effective government has become the ECB. The individual states are kept in line by the ECB purchase of their debts. If they overstep the mark they can’t fund them. So, the longer term objective has to be the creation of a Federal EU govt to do this job properly and with supremacy over the individual state governments. The other option would be to wind back to what worked reasonably well in EEC days with each country having its own currency and control over its own fiscal and monetary policies. I can’t see that happening, unless the ‘ever closer union’ phrase is replaced by ‘maybe not so close after all’, so it’s Federalism or bust for the EU in the years to come.

  • @ Peter Martin

    Sorry for slow reply, no the EU hasn’t said what the criteria would be but it is subject to negotiation so they cannot say at this stage. My view is that we would be exempt from the Euro and Schengen, but would struggle to get the rebate back.

    I would be happy to say that if we don’t achieve Euro and Schengen exemptions we would abandon rejoin plans and apply for EEA membership instead.

    I don’t see how Salamone can preempt the outcome of the negotiations. I also do agree with his claim that the EU would require a referendum with 65% support. Malta when joining had a referendum and 53% were in favour and the EU accepted their application.

  • *Should have said “don’t agree”

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