How should Liberal Democrat MPs vote on any trade deal? Irina von Wiese and Humphrey Hawksley set out the options

We acknowledge the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party is not big enough to impact the vote on any Brexit deal and believe abstention is not an option. It would be seen as weak and give rise to attack from all sides. We do have opposing views on what the Yes or No vote should be, but we do have opposing views on what that vote should be. With whom do you agree?


Anything but a vote against would be a betrayal of our most loyal base and our core values.

Most vote for us because of our unapologetically pro-EU stance. This is the only thing that still distinguishes us from Labour. Voters remember backbones – Paddy Ashdown and Kosovo, Charles Kennedy and Iraq – and punish cave-ins – Nick Clegg and tuition fees. Only a vote against a Tory Brexit deal will show that we stand by our principles. We cannot endorse any form of Brexit.

A shambolic trade deal is not the ‘will of the people’.

We accept that a majority of people voted to leave the EU, but they never voted to leave the Single Market and Customs Union. Faced with the current situation, only 38% still think Brexit is a good idea. Whatever is agreed now will fall a long way short and cannot deliver what was promised in 2016.

A vote against ‘the deal’ is not a vote for ‘no deal’.

It is difficult to judge whether any deal short of a customs union will prove ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than no deal (WTO terms with the possibility for a trade deal in the future). Economically, a deal may mitigate the worst Brexit fallout but politically, it could be spun by Johnson’s propaganda machine as huge success and help him stay in power. ‘Whatever the verdict, given the Tory majority in the Commons, a LibDem vote against a deal will not bring about a ‘no deal’ result.

This vote is about standing by our principles. NO deal can be as good as the deal we had as full members of the EU. Now is not the time to give up on our principles, and our hopes for an eventual return to full membership.


Just about every British institution — parliament, the courts, the police and two general elections – has tested Brexit and it is happening. The Lib Dems have courageously opposed it and, yes, it is a bad thing. But the democratic process, which this Party signs up to, has delivered it.

A Brexit agreement represents far more than just more Tory lies and stitch up. Far more is at stake than bickering domestic party politics. Its impact is global. An agreement will be intricate and detailed. Twenty-seven other countries, whom we count among our allies, see it as the best way forward. A yes vote will be a vote for them, showing that we support limiting the damage that Brexit will cause to European lives, and that we support ensuring things can continue as well as can be in a bad situation.

Europe is changing. There are new voices from every corner, new ideas, arguments and visions which the LibDems need to be part of. A No vote locks the Party firmly inside the Westminster bubble and an old, lost campaign.

A Yes vote places the Party on the side of political pragmatism and with the people who want a deal. It would also be surprising, prompting the Party to argue its case and explain its place and vision for Britain in a forward-looking Europe.

It would show that the Party is preparing to fight not yesterday’s battles, but those of tomorrow, and fight them side-bv-side with those European allies which, underpinned by our shared values, have also said Yes to setting up a safer and more organized way for Brexit to unfold.

What do you think?

* Humphrey Hawksley and Irina von Weise, former MEP, are on the executive of Liberal Democrats European Group.

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  • Vote against a pitiful deal.
    It won’t make any difference because Gov will ensure vote is not binding. Just a rubber stamp.
    No is consistent with our long term values on this matter of principle. I believe it will be vindicated long term, like our stance on the Iraq War.
    It will also get our voice heard in the debate, unlike acquiescing with the Tories – which would lose even more respect for the party

  • Alex Macfie 6th Dec '20 - 11:00am

    Not sure why “abstention is not an option”. It’s a way of saying “We can’t countenance No-deal, but no way are we going to help the Government out of this mess of its own making.” The absolute worst thing to do would be to vote for the Deal. To do so would mean we would share the blame when (not if) Brexit is shown to be a failure. We would lose all moral authoriwould ty to criticise the government over Brexit, because they would be able to throw it back at us with “But you voted for it.” It would also be a far worse betrayal than Tuition Fees. Our MPs were elected on a manifesto promise to “Stop Brexit”. Helping the Tories pass a Brexit deal that will only be slightly better than no-deal would be breaking that flagship pledge.
    And here is an important point about the “democratic process”. Democracy does not mean that opponents of the winning team have to back away and support the government. The Tories were elected on a mandate to “Get Brexit Done”. But we have a different, opposite mandate. Helping the government fulfill its own mandate is not what we were elected to do. Our opposition to Brexit is part of the democratic process, and it needs to continue.

    As actually it’s voting for the Deal that would be fighting yesterday’s battles. It’s a year now since the Tories were elected on their “Get Brexit Done” promise. It’s 4½ years since the referendum. Recent opinion polls consistently show a Remain majority. Getting behind the government on Brexit would be chasing yesterday’s opinion polls. Come 2024, people who have come to the conclusion that they were sold a pup over Brexit will not thank the politicians who went along with it.

    Voters won’t remember whether we abstained or voted against. They rarely remember how oppositions, especially minor opposition groups, voted on any particular bill. However, they will remember if we vote for the Brexit Deal. It would completely alienate our Remain support base, and it would not impress either Bregretters, or people who still support Brexit (the latter of whom would vote for “true believers” rather than poll-chasing wannabes).

  • Not sure how an argument can be made for a yes vote when we do not even know what the yes vote is in favour of. Of course the same could be said for those advocating a no vote – except we already know enough about the incompetence of this government, their prejudices and deceit to have a pretty good idea. Abstain or ideally vote against. We don’t own this mess is a clear message.

  • Humphrey……………..Europe is changing. There are new voices from every corner, new ideas, arguments and visions which the LibDems need to be part of. A No vote locks the Party firmly inside the Westminster bubble and an old, lost campaign……………………

    No, no NO.. Europe may well be changing but so is the UK…A majority now believe that ‘staying’ would be the better option; there lies the future…
    Johnson has stacked the Tory party with ERG types so whether or not a deal is struck, or whatever the deal is, the result will be ratified by Westminster; that battle is lost..

    Any support this party gives will cost us dearly (especially in Scotland)…If you disagree with the need for a ‘wall’ between the UK and the EU why add bricks to that wall?

  • Christopher Haigh 6th Dec '20 - 11:42am

    This is the Tory brexiteers project alone. Labour and Libems should abstain as we have no part of it. The UK needs some sort of deal with the EU. Voting against the trade deal could enable the wreckers of the ERG group to vote it down.

  • Abstain.
    The mood has swung in the country. The way to clinch the position is for there to be a “No Deal”. I suspect Boris Johnson would rather we were staying in. No Deal opens the way to another Referendum, after all we are nearly five years from the last. God willing there is no coup in the States we will have the Democrat Administration, they may even control the Senate, they could well push for us to go down that path. Last month 39% though the decision was right, 50% thought it wrong.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Dec '20 - 11:59am

    I am very convinced this piece is irrelevant after reading…

    Abstention on this, trade , isn’t an option, but on a pandemic, and support for necessary restrictions, it is!

    As well as, a Liberal Democrat saying , the liberal Democrats, pro EU stance, is the only thing distinguishing the Liberal Democrats, from Labour!

    To think someone represented this party in the EU parliament with this view, worries me, this party has no view of Liberal, or Democratic philosophy it can impart, and on this, as on the pandemic, therefore offers little that is explicable to many or few!

  • Paul Reynolds 6th Dec '20 - 12:01pm

    If a deal is announced (Tues) it will almost certainly get over the parliamentary hurdle. This is good for us since it will be the Brexiteer Tories’ deal and Boris’s deal. They will have to defend it, for years perhaps, as the economic decline and gridlock ensues. Finally after 4.5 years of claim and counter claim, the truth will be upon us. We can safely vote against the deal, and thus avoid taking joint responsibility for the coming calamity.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Dec '20 - 12:02pm


    Abstention is an option, one that, might be worth accepting, to let the Tories take responsibility for this, certainly more than on the pandemic, on which abstention is weaker, as this party and Labour, should support restrictions, even if this government is making a mess of things too much!

  • Paul Reynolds 6th Dec '20 - 12:32pm

    Abstaining is very unwise. It looks weak, defeatist and indecisive, and makes people wonder what we have been doing this last four years. As the problems pile on top of each other next year, we will at last be proven right. It will be our second ‘Iraq’. If we are worried about being seen as undemocratic we can argue for being in the customs union and single market, at least temporarily, to save the country (that would be consistent with the 2016 referendum, which did not specify the manner of our exit).

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Dec '20 - 12:46pm

    Paul Reynolds

    Any economic calamity shall be explained by this Covid disaster, as well as any results of Brexit.

    We as a party must offer a better future. I told you so, is not the best we can put to our voters or to get voters.

    Paul Fisher

    Thanks and yes to everything you wrote there.

    We as a party should have and should yet, offer a far more popular take or stance.

    Most people are moderates on most things, radical too, but are not seeking anything we could not offer, yet we seem to thing it better to be obscure and pure.

  • Paul Barker 6th Dec '20 - 12:51pm

    There is a case for Abstention but on balance, We should Vote Against; Brexit is not “Over”, the Legacy will be fought over for Years & its vital that we are seen as being on the Right side.
    Labour MPs will almost certainly split 3 ways on the Vote, lets try not to imitate them.

  • On balance I’d abstain.

    But no good options from here, it’s a binary vote on 2 options we bitterly oppose.
    If we vote for, Lib Dems supporting Brexit and would annoy core activists.
    If we abstain weak Lib Dems on the fence.
    If we vote against Lib Dems want no deal, and are just grumpy that Boris got such a brilliant deal.

    Can’t win. My only suggestion would be to announce a big new policy at the same time (pick some items to renegotiate – Erasmus, CU possible EFTA?) to distract from the vote. But we can’t win from this vote so shouldn’t pretend we can.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Dec '20 - 1:05pm

    It is in my view, essential, not to back a deal, as that would not be consistent with voters or views, adhered to thus far.

    I favour abstention.

    The EU being supported to the extent mentioned in the opening here, is what I question.

    On this, the NHS, the BBc, the party ought to criticise and suggest when they are poor, when they could improve.

    This is not a socialist or conservative party. Liberalism, democracy, mean support for flexible and pragmatic ideas, not loyalty to institutions, no matter what.

    I support all these, and the Monarchy, but as a friendly critic when needed, and a in favour of much reform.

    It is becoming an EU fan club, rather as on the BBC recently, the party looks to be without a clue as to how most feel.

    Rather than seem to back out of touch elites, why not explain how a reformed EU or BBc or NHS, might serve well.

    And offer how…

  • Donald Cameron 6th Dec '20 - 1:24pm

    I agree with Alex McFie. As we voted against Brexit we must vote against any deal. Going into the Coalition did us huge harm and voting with the Nasty Party again will again harm us. Hopefully Brexit will ruin the extremist Tories forever in the next General Election and Liberal Democrats will recover as the main party they were till 1922.

  • Agree with Alex Macfie and Donald Cameron – but would advise caution and to avoid apparent contradiction by taking care not to alienate majority Scottish opinion should there be an opportunity to rejoin the EU via they know what.

  • neil sandison 6th Dec '20 - 2:23pm

    Since we have not seen any proposed trade deal it is idle to speculate on its content but it might be worth having a draft amendment to hand that supports a wider single market and customs union package to be negotiated following the end of transition . if the amendment is not supported then our MPs and Lords can vote against the trade package with honour and argue that the deal is weak and out of date with the requirements of GB and the EU post COVID 19 and will not put us on the road to economic recovery .

  • Barry Lofty 6th Dec '20 - 2:35pm

    The future of many people in the UK depends on a good deal being agreed after the ravages of Covid 19. This government and its wealthy backers selfishly led the country into a mistaken promise of ” taking back control ,
    which the pandemic has exposed as being one mighty mistake and I hope, whatever the leadership decides to do, that they continue to the promote the partys ‘ pro Europe stance and attack this governments handling of Brexit, Covid and many other matters.

  • Peter Chambers 6th Dec '20 - 3:41pm

    Abstain. The Tory Brexit government should own the outcome alone.

    Sad that the article dismisses this option out of hand.

    Whatever happens any deal will be thin. Opposition parties have no power here, only Tory factions.

  • Paul Barker 6th Dec '20 - 5:05pm

    Skimming the comments so far we seem to be evenly split between Abstention & Voting Against. I hope that the idea that we might Vote in Favour can be firmly knoked on the head.

  • I loathe Brexit but see no point in trying to vote down the deal as at this point defeat would almost certainly mean no deal. It would just be self-indulgent and achieve nothing.

    I would abstain unless votes were needed to get it through in which case I would vote in favour. As remainers we then can then get on with campaigning to rejoin.

  • Meher Oliaji 6th Dec '20 - 6:54pm

    The Lib Dems need to move forward into a future where we are outside the EU, where our contributions are to this “independent sovereign what-have-you”.
    We should start with a firm statement that since any deal Johnson brings back is certain to be bad, we want no complicity in it. We too should say, No Deal is better than a Bad Deal.
    (In practice if Johnson brings back a package then No Deal won’t happen)
    But if it did, there would be moves early in the New Year to resolve many outstanding issues. Once the Brexiters’ lies are exposed, only a hard core of voters will continue to con themselves, the rest will come round to a logical and sensible approach to what will then be treaties like any others.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Dec '20 - 8:04pm

    Marco: The possibility of Lib Dem votes being needed to get any Brexit deal through Parliament is, for practical purposes, zero. Therefore, the question of what we should do in that case is moot. Voting for any Brexit deal would be seen as aiding and abetting Brexit, and would therefore cause us to lose the nearest thing we have to a “core vote”, namely hardcore Remainers (maybe Rejoiners by 2024) in Tory-facing target seats. We have nothing to lose, so can afford to be a bit “self-indulgent”. As I wrote earlier, voters won’t remember it if we abstained or voted against the Deal. They will remember if we voted for it, and will not thank us for it.

  • nvelope2003 6th Dec '20 - 8:30pm

    Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good. The Liberal Party survived and retained many supporters in the country when the majority of the members refused to ally themselves with the Conservatives in peace time despite desertions by the “National Liberals”. When virtually the entire party supported the Coalition in 2010 the game was up and support for the party collapsed so that people do not even say they would vote Lib Dem if they thought we could win. It will take years, possibly decades, to get over that.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Dec '20 - 8:36pm

    nvelope2003: neither “best” nor “good” are on offer here. It’s just “worst” and “very bad”. As we know the slightly better option will win anywhere, our only winning move is not to play.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Dec '20 - 8:36pm


  • Gwyneth Deakins 6th Dec '20 - 8:51pm

    Obviously vote against No Deal. Re. a deal, abstention is just bottling it. After all our years of opposing Brexit people would rightly see that as a cop-out and a betrayal of the trust that Remainers put in us. They won’t remember the details of the deal, just that we put ‘pragmatism’ and short-term tactics ahead of principle. We are not in Government nor are we the main ‘Opposition’ so why should we resort to ‘pragmatism’? Any deal is going to be a disaster for the UK, the Govt is going to break international law – where is there any justification for us backing that?

  • Tony Greaves 6th Dec '20 - 8:57pm

    The hard truth is that no-one outside the party will notice. But voting for a lousy deal would be crazy.

  • Meher Oliaji 6th Dec '20 - 9:20pm

    important to remember, this is the TRADE DEAL. Last year was the WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT. They are two different things . What we called No-Deal in 2019 was one thing and a deal was agreed and signed so what we are rejecting now is No-Trade-Deal

  • Stuart Wheatcroft 6th Dec '20 - 9:27pm

    If you’re about to get pushed out of a plane, you don’t refuse a parachute just because you’d rather stay on board.

  • Whether Liberal Democrats like it or not, the party has built up a reputation for not keeping its word….. plus a further damaging reputation for incompetence.

    Anything less than a vote against whatever Johnson brings back as a burnt to cinders ‘oven ready’ deal will be seen as confirmation of both those things, especially given that opposing Brexit was the party’s one trick pony policy in 2019.

  • Adrian Hyyrylainen-T 6th Dec '20 - 11:55pm

    Both arguments by the two contributors are missing the point.
    The vote is not about the Withdrawal Treaty – that happened a year ago and were leaving. This is able whether to vote for a deal or not.
    We cannot just say we must vote against the deal when we don’t know yet what it entails. We’ve always said that a deal is better than a no deal and the resulting consequences to the UK economy are catastrophic.
    We must be pragmatic and stop going down principled lines regarding the EU- we’ve already left, we lost that argument whether you like it or not, and therefore we have to consider carefully whether the deal agreed is better than no deal and vote for it or abstain if we have too and say we don’t want any part of this deal – but to just blindly decide to vote against anything Is politically naive and seems to becoming from one part of the party who seems to still be fighting on a cause that is already lost.

  • David Allen 7th Dec '20 - 12:47am

    Brexit will be much worse than people expect, even if Britain gets a thin “deal”. A majority already knows it was a mistake. That majority will grow. Then as we all watch the M25 lorry park on the news nightly, and serve up the baked beans yet again, the clamour will go up – “Who fought this crazy idea tooth-and-nail, and who went all quiet and let Johnson do it?”

    The Lib Dems should stick to their guns and vote against.

  • David Allen 7th Dec '20 - 12:49am

    I meant to type “M20”. But on reflection, “M25” was probably right as well!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Dec '20 - 12:49am



  • John Marriott 7th Dec '20 - 9:01am

    As Lord Greaves said, who outside the party gives a damn what the Lib Dems do. Personally, as a pragmatic ‘Remainer’ I would keep my pragmatism and abstain.

  • Catherine Bearder 7th Dec '20 - 9:50am

    @lorenzocherin “ Any economic calamity shall be explained by this Covid disaster, as well as any results of Brexit.”

    The whole world will be recovering from the COVID pandemic over the next few years
    Only the UK will have the added burden of Brexit.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Dec '20 - 9:59am

    Any perceived incompetence by the Liberal Democrats over the years falls into insignificance compared with this present administration, I have lived through some pretty awful regimes in my life, including Thatcherism, but this bunch take the biscuit!!

  • suzanne fletcher 7th Dec '20 - 10:12am

    Agree strongly with Irina. Boris and co do have another option to No Deal. They could, in theory, go on hands and knees and beg for a long extension. They won’t, but could that be our stance?

  • There is a ‘joker’ in the pack; Boris Johnson. He has already shown that international treaties (Withdrawal Agreement) can be broken if/when it becomes expedient..

    If the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ can be treated in such a cavalier manner why not a ‘trade agreement’?

    What then for a party that voted for the trade deal? Explaining that “a big boy broke it, etc.” is not the place to be..Far better to ‘call out’ an administration that won’t stick to it’s OWN deal..

  • Antony Watts 7th Dec '20 - 11:40am

    I add my voice. Vote against any deal. The Tories have to be made to own this disaster.

    Lib Dems have a huge opportunity to make the case for better cooperaiton with the EU at all levels, with a view to re-join.

  • Mario Caves 7th Dec '20 - 11:55am

    Vote against.
    We’ll be criticised harshly if we support the government with a vote they’re going to win anyway.

  • Lets wait and see if there is a deal and if so whats in it. But note that Brexiteers will mostly be drawn to the flame of populism. We cannot afford to alienate those remainers who have stuck with us.

  • Denis Loretto 7th Dec '20 - 12:14pm

    As this thread demonstrates the option our two opening contributors should have ruled out is voting for. The real choice is between voting against and abstaining. To me the responsible decision is to wait until the deal (if any) is revealed and the reaction of the Tories in particular is seen. If there is deemed to be a real danger that the “no dealers” will defeat the government abstension might have to be the responsible choice for Lib Dems – no deal must be avoided at all costs. If (more likely) the deal is assured of passage then voting against gives us the stronger political position and makes us better placed if the severe damage of brexit in any form ensues.

  • David Evershed 7th Dec '20 - 12:39pm

    We have to remember that any deal will be what the EU has been prepared to concede.

    Voting against a deal is a vote against what the EU has put forward, or at least accepted, and agreed.

    So anything other than voting for an EU agreed deal is anti EU.

  • David Garlick 7th Dec '20 - 12:43pm

    Contemplating the unkown still feels like a not good use of our time. When the deal is known be it no deal or otherwise that is the time to think this through. When doing so trying to imagine the deal(or no deal) looking back from six months on, might be useful. Catherine is correct in saying the Covid crisis will be used to put a fig leaf over the economic consequences. If we let it.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '20 - 1:21pm

    Adrian Hyyrylainen-T: Our votes won’t make a practical difference to the outcome, so there’s no point in being “pragmatic”. And as far as the public are concerned, it doesn’t matter exactly what the vote is about. A vote for the deal will be interpreted as a vote for Brexit. Only in Westminster bubble circles would the sort of nuanced justification of voting against no-deal have any traction.

  • John Littler 7th Dec '20 - 1:41pm

    Vote against the dreadful thing, although it looks like “no deal”

    Why do the BBC continually let this bunch of lying chancers off the hook. They should be playing their Leave Campaign promises back to them over and over and demanding to know what went wrong and what are they going to do about it

    “Easiest trade deal in history”
    “40 Trade deals by the time we leave”
    “More trade deals than the EU by the time we leave”
    “Trade will continue as it is”
    “German car makers will tell Merkel to give the UK a deal”
    “We hold all the cards and can pretty much decide our path”
    “Turkey Joining the EU”
    “Outside the EU the UK will thrive”

    Instead BBC Radio 4’s “Any Questions” repeatedly pushed Labour on their position as to how they should decide to vote, when they had seen nothing to vote on and there was no possibility of them shaping events. The Tories are 100% representative of this brexit farce but were given an easy ride as usual and week after week, there is no sign of a LibDem

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '20 - 1:42pm

    Steve Comer: Labour will almost certainly be split 3 ways on any Deal vote, so your scenario is extremely unlikely. Johnson will win it vote comfortably.
    If Lib Dems had abandoned our Stop Brexit platform in favour of a soft Brexit in the last Parliament, then it would have scuttled our credibility as an anti-Brexit party, and would almost certainly lead to wipeout at the following general election (which would probably be happening ASAP once elections can happen again nationwide; if not for Covid, it would have been some time in the Spring of this year and we’d already be out of Parliament). The same would happen now. We vote for Johnson’s deal, and we co-own the consequences not just of that deal, but of any Brexit.

    And BTW it wasn’t just Jo Swinson who thought there was no majority for any sort of unity government under him. All the Tory defectors said the same, and it’s obvious that someone as divisive as Corbyn would have been totally unsuitable as leader of a GNU. Also our intervention fixed a date for the election, preventing Johnson from running the clock down so that hard Brexit happened during the campaign period.

  • David Evans 7th Dec '20 - 1:52pm

    First three facts

    i) Everyone knows that they can’t trust Boris Johnson: not his wife, not his girlfriend, his advisors, his party, our country (Brexiteer or Remainer), the EU, or the rest of the world. (Oven Ready deal, World Beating track and Trace, Covid Vaccine etc.)

    ii) Everyone knows Boris Johnson is desperate. Desperate to get something that he can use to shift the blame onto someone else when it all goes wrong. (Covid, Dominic Cummins, or best of all those nasty unpatriotic foreigners – the EU).

    iii) Everyone knows Boris Johnson will say whatever he thinks is necessary to get something so he can pretend he has won a great victory (Churchill, standing alone against the great enemy, the Charge of the Light Brigade, Huzzah!)

    Then a few scenarios

    Whether there is a deal or no deal things will get much, much worse next year for the UK
    A) Farmers – huge tariffs on exports to the EU or surrender to EU jurisdiction
    B) Fishermen – None of the new fishing grounds/quotas they were promised or nowhere to export to due to huge tariffs on fish
    C) Business – no idea what the deal is until it is too late to prepare (It’s already too late to do more than photocopy a few bits of still undesigned paperwork)
    D) Kent a huge lorry park or no control over our borders
    E) Consumers – chlorinated chicken or adhere to EU rules
    F) Ireland – A border in the Irish sea (a broken promise) or no border in the Irish sea (a broken promise)

    I could go on.

    So Conclusions:

    1) Abstain – Sit on the fence, adopt a position of liberal indecisiveness, Middle if the Road as in walk down and get run over.
    2) Vote in favour – retreat even further from our past position, so that Lib Dems really cannot be trusted and receive and accept the blame for everything that goes wrong.
    3) Vote against – Make the case that Boris Johnson’s government is lying in what it is saying about its deal or no deal, has always lied and always will lie. Adding that this is the biggest disaster that our country has ever faced and it is the responsibility of Boris Johnson and the Conservative party.

    Make your choice.

  • I’ll speak up for the “yes” side.

    Membership of the EU has gone, and it’s not coming back, not for a long time and not ever in the shape it was. That ship hasn’t just sailed, it’s disappeared over the horizon and it isn’t coming back.

    As was correctly pointed out above, what is being voted on isn’t the withdrawal agreement, it’s a trade deal, and it’s currently (if it turns up at all) the only thing on offer. The vote is between a deal agreed with our biggest trading partner and no deal with it. Only somebody who wants no deal with the EU should vote against a deal with the EU.

  • suzanne fletcher 7th Dec '20 - 3:18pm

    when I was a Cllr, and at the beginning in the 80’s a lone one on a finely balanced council. However I voted I was screamed and yelled at by the other side. I decided that I was going to vote for what was right according to my principles, and if I was going to go down at least it would be with my head held high.
    I survived 30 years with head intact. Even if with grey hair!

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '20 - 3:21pm

    “what is being voted on isn’t the withdrawal agreement, it’s a trade deal” a subtlety which no-one outside the Westminster bubble is going to understand. Ordinary members of the public, those who don’t pay close attention to politics and machinations in Westminster, will view a vote in favour of a Johnson Deal as a vote for the Johnson government’s Brexit project. As Lib Dems, we campaigned consistently against Brexit. It doesn’t matter how far the ship has sailed, just about the one thing people know about us is that we wanted to “Stop Brexit” and that really we never wanted it to happen. To turn around now and vote through a Brexit deal — any sort of Brexit deal, but especially one that’s inevitably going to be just a figleaf around no-deal — will be seen by our pro-Remain supporters as the ultimate betrayal. The outcome of any vote on a Deal is not in doubt — the government will win it comfortably — so we can afford to be political over it. This means we need to say that Brexit was never what we wanted, and under no circumstances are we going to help the government “Get [it] done”. And we need to look at the long-term political consequences of how we vote, rather than chasing yesterday’s polls or looking at the short-term impact of whether a deal is passed or not. If we voted for a bad Brexit Deal, how can we then attack the government over the consequences of Brexit (ones we warned about that were dismissed as “Project Fear”) when we helped the government push it through? Our support for it would be thrown back at us every time.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Dec '20 - 3:59pm

    Suzanne Fletcher: Well done, good to hear you stood by your principles.

  • Matt (Bristol) 7th Dec '20 - 4:02pm

    You’re playing with a rigged deck of cards, but I would be in favour no whip and MPs being able to choose freely – assuming we are voting on a deal as mutually agreed between the EU and the UK representatives.

    Another scenario is that Johnson tries to bring a draft ‘deal’ to the HoC without clear consent from the EU as part of some symbolic attempt to put pressure on the EU. In that case, Lib Dems should have no qualms about voting down anything that does not have the full consent of the EU.

    But overall, the country has been trying to cut its own throat for 4 years. Putting extra pressure on the hand that holds the knife by voting down a deal this late in the day, with no constructive alternative option, is cynical, lazy politics. Abstention would be my personal preference if I were a Lib Dem MP.

  • Abstention is an option
    There is abstention and there is abstention…
    If done in the usual LibDem way, it will be seen just as David Evans says: “Sit on the fence, adopt a position of liberal indecisiveness, Middle if the Road as in walk down and get run over.”
    However, it can also be a positive action – the LibDems can wash their hands of it and refuse to participate in the Conservative masquerade and sham of respecting Parliamentary sovereignty; because we can be sure that Boris and co. will use both a vote for and a vote against for their own gain…

  • Alex Macfie et al – I see no reason why we couldn’t present a yes vote as simply a way of avoiding no deal. I think it is unlikely that voters would notice or remember it and hold it against us. Remainers are generally pragmatic which is something the Lib Dem’s haven’t grasped – they don’t like Brexit but they want to avoid the worst case scenario.

    I agree it I unlikely that the Lib Dems will hold the balance of power on this. However when there was a vote on the “Common Market 2.0” proposals the Lib Dems and Change UK did hold the balance of power and misread the situation, mistakenly voting against when they should have voted in favour.

    There is a difference between what you campaign for in an election and what you do in parliament having lost the election. We were entitled to stand on the remain platform in 2019 but having lost that argument we should be cooperating in parliament to achieve the least worst outcome.

  • Peter Hirst 7th Dec '20 - 5:56pm

    I think you should vote on the motion before you in the particular circumstances at the time and only occasionally to declare a principle or value. As such if the vote failed we would go to no deal so we should vote for the deal. We don’t have the influence to explain why we voted so all people will remember is how we voted and invent their own reason.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '20 - 6:13pm

    Marco: “I see no reason why we couldn’t present a yes vote as simply a way of avoiding no deal.” You mean like Nick Clegg was able to present the U-turn on tuition fees as a necessary compromise and an improvement on what the Tories would otherwise have done? Come off it, that approach to politics simply does not work.

    We are an oppositon party against a party with an 80-seat majority. There is no sense whatsoever in us co-operating with the Tories and helping them achieve THEIR manifesto promise. We would be rightly pasted, portrayed as sell-outs to the Tories yet again. Any deal will be such an insignificant improvement on no-deal that it is not worth voting for as any sort of “improvement”. And the “vote for it or something worse will happen” approach is bad politics generally, because it enables the government to hold us to ransom on virtually everything.

    Voting for the Deal would lead to us sharing responsibility for its consequences. We need to look to the long term, and make sure our hands are clean when the public see the disastrous consequences of Brexit by the time of the 2024 election. This Brexit is a Tory project. They should own it.

  • David Allen 7th Dec '20 - 6:18pm

    Neil Kinnock has eloquently explained why Labour should abstain. If Labour were to vote against a deal, then the ultra No Dealers on the Tory side could vote to sink the deal and leave us with No Deal. Labour could not risk the consequences of that outcome, which is why they cannot vote against. But as Kinnock points out, Johnson must own the disaster that is Brexit, even with a thin deal. Hence, Starmer would be crazy to vote in favour. Abstention is enough to show that Labour can (rightly) avoid most of the blame for Brexit.

    But the Lib Dems are in a wholly different position from Labour. Their small band of MPs cannot possibly swing the result of the vote. In that situation, the public expect a party to vote with its principles.

    For Labour, abstention wouldn’t be a betrayal of principle, because Labour’s strength in Parliament should force them to recognise the need for pragmatism. For the Lib Dems, it’s different. Abstention would be a betrayal of principle. And to suggest that it would be alright because maybe most people wouldn’t notice ther betrayal of principle – Well! (A) that’s a disgracefully cynical argument, (B) it didn’t work too well last time the Lib Dems thought nobody would notice a betrayal, over tuition fees…

  • Nigel Jones 7th Dec '20 - 6:24pm

    I think we should abstain on the grounds that although the government is duty bound to leave the EU, the deal is not good enough since…..(depending on the details but almost certainly not guaranteeing the highest standards on working conditions, environment, cooperation on security and other international issues etc..). This government has been so unwilling to properly negotiate a decent relationship with the EU, it is not worth supporting. No deal is worse, so we don’t vote against. Forget the speculation about how the public will react, SIMPLY SAY WE HATE A NO DEAL BUT CANNOT SUPPORT THIS GOVERNMENT ON THIS ISSUE BECAUSE IT HAS NOT DONE A DECENT JOB IN NEGOTIATING WHAT IS BEST FOR THE BRITISH PEOPLE.

  • Roderic Parker 7th Dec '20 - 6:32pm

    We MUST NOT be seen to be supporting any Conservative deal, given our pro-Europe stance. We MUST vote NO on the deal to make our continuing opposition to Brexit very clear. We shouldn’t forget that we can over-complicate issues and lose the interest of the majority of the electors who think only in uncomplicated (think Daily Express headlines) terms.


    That is possibly the worst thing to say…Those words are exactly what Farage, and the ‘ultra leavers’ in the Tory party will say…They will ‘reluctantly’ accept a No Deal as better than the bad deal on offer..

  • Alex Macfie – this is completely different to tuition fees, there is no betrayal of values or a core principle it is simply a way of voting in the national interest to prevent a catastrophic no deal. People would understand. We could then immediately afterwards launch a campaign commuting to rejoining after 2024.

    Voting down Mays deal didn’t really get Labour or the Lib Dem’s anywhere and in 2019 Boris was able to blame them for blocking Brexit and deflect attention from the fact that he and many of his colleagues were responsible to torpedoing the deal and Mays premiership. In the election we only got 2-3% of the leave vote when we really needed 5-6% to get across the line in many seats.

  • Neil Kinnock has eloquently explained why Labour should abstain.
    [David Allen 7th Dec ’20 – 6:18pm ]
    Then it is obvious, by also abstaining the LibDems, help to make it clear that this entire charade is about divisions in the Conservative party. Remember Leave wasn’t really about the EU, it was all about the incompetence of Westminster, just that successive governments blamed the EU rather than admit their incompetence…

  • Matthew Campbell 7th Dec '20 - 8:56pm

    I can’t entirely see how voting against a deal is either helping the UK, or the EU. I’m not sure any EU nations would be keen in 10-20 years on the idea of letting the UK rejoin (should it want to) if the exit was such a nightmare of U-turns and brinkmanship. An orderly exit may (at this late and depressing stage) be the best route to an orderly return.

  • “it is simply a way of voting in the national interest to prevent a catastrophic no deal….

    PREVENT a catastrophic no deal ? If that’s not inflating the reality of eleven Lib Dem votes in a House dominated by 365 Conservative votes then what on earth is it ?

  • Alex Macfie 7th Dec '20 - 9:37pm

    Marco: “it is simply a way of voting in the national interest to prevent a catastrophic no deal. People would understand.” No they wouldn’t. You are far overestimating the typical voter’s understanding of Westminster machinations. They will see any vote on the Brexit deal as a vote of confidence in the Government’s handling of Brexit. If Johnson’s deal passes Parliament (which it will), then those who voted for it will be held responsible for the consequences of Brexit in the years to come. We will not be credibly able to criticise the government over what will become a disaster for the country because they will be able to say “But you voted for it.” Voters will not thank us for voting for something that made Brexit slightly better when (i) it’ll still be dire even with the deal, and (ii) it was going to pass anyway.

    You also appear to be chasing yesterday’s polling. Come 2024, it won’t be about the “Remain vote” or the “Leave vote” but about the real-world consequences of Brexit.
    Whatever side of the barricades people were on before Brexit happened, they won’t be pleased if they are economically worse off, and they won’t think it was “worth it” because their passports are now blue. Or at least we can get them to think that way, so that they blame the government and its Brexit policy for their woes. But not if we voted for it with the government.

  • @ David Raw and Alex Macfie

    Just suppose the vote was finely balanced and did come down to less than 11 votes, then the Lib Dem’s would be in a position to prevent no deal and that is what we would have a duty to do. Of course if Labour abstain than it would be extremely unlikely but you never know.

    It might be that you are chasing the votes of the past. What if our hardcore remainers aren’t really a new found core vote at all and flock to Labour now that they have returned to moderate social democracy? What if against the odds Brexit isn’t seen as a disaster or at least the worst effects haven’t been felt by the 2024 election.

    In that case we would have to look elsewhere for votes and develop new themes (I have argued elsewhere that is not the case but who knows?)

  • David Evans 8th Dec '20 - 1:00am

    @ Marco So your logic is vote for something that we have stood against from Day 1 and destroy all credibility that our party may still have with the electorate. Ignore the fact that post 2024 there will be less than 6 Lib Dem MPs if we do it and possibly as few as 4. Don’t worry – Wwe can still build and safeguard that fair free and open society with only 4 MPs against 600+ of the rest. Oh yeah?

    Do you realise our party is in a battle for its very survival as a parliamentary party at the moment and if it dies it will be gone for good, and your proposal will make it certain we are down to 6MPs in 2024 and possibly as few as four? Are you prepared to sacrifice our party, our values and any chance that future generations of Lib Dems will have even have an outside chance of doing what our generation has done – that is win elections and get MPs elected?

    Because that is what you are doing. And why? Perhaps to salve some people’s consciences so they can do what they personally think is the right thing for them right now, even though it will destroy the future for Liberal Democracy. But who cares about the future, if I can do the right thing for me right now!

    If you don’t believe me, look at Nick Clegg, who spent 5 years as DPM, doing exactly what he thought was the right thing to do for him and his vision of liberal democracy. However, he all but destroyed 50 years of hard work by previous generations of Lib Dems and sacrificed the future of the party.

    If you sacrifice all your troops in one war, you will lose the one after that and the one after that and the one after that …

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Dec '20 - 2:18am

    There cannot be a doubt that this party must abstain or vote against a deal as this is the Brexiters to mess up and those of us who are EU pragmatists, surely can see this as much as EU philes?!

    We must not go the way of the coalition. Ed must speak against this whole nonsense of dealing with this during Covid. We could have extended but, no, obsession with Brexit by the party in power and the other party of Farage et al!

    Abstain or against, please realise it!

  • Humphrey Hawksley 8th Dec '20 - 8:33am

    This comment thread is fascinating and alarming. Thank you. Both sides of the argument are sound and expose the democratic system at its rawest. Meher Oliaji rightly points out this would be a deal on future trading arrangements and NOT the withdrawal agreement that the Lib Dems opposed. But then, Alex McAfie, is probably equally right by pointing out that ‘no-one one outside the Westminster bubble is going to understand’ the difference. Brexit is Brexit. The conclusion seems to be that, to secure its survival and its base, the Party needs to vote against something that the overwhelming proportion of British people want. The word ‘principles’ is often used, without specifying exactly what those principles are, although listening to the British people is surely one of them. A No vote raises two specific questions. Will the Lib Dems continue to vote against any future legislation that rebuilds the UK’s democratic institutions with Europe? And, on what other issues will the Lib Dems opt for tactical expediency over the wishes of voters? There seems to be a shared view about the Party’s current ‘irrelevant’ status. Voting against will bolster the irrelevancy. Backing the wishes of British people will break a mould, jolt mindsets and generate deep debate out which a new relevancy could be injected into how the Party is viewed and what it can achieve.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '20 - 9:19am

    Those like Marco and Humphrey Hawksley who think we should vote for the deal because it’s what “the overwhelming proportion of British people want” do not understand politics or polling. The question isn’t whether most British people NOW want a Deal — any deal — to be done. It’s whether in 3½ years’ time they will be grateful to us for helping pass it. Voters aren’t known for gratitude, otherwise we would have performed much better in 2015. Those who are grateful for the deal will vote Tory, howsoever we vote. As I wrote earlier, they’ll vote for True Believers over poll-chasers.
    In the extremely unlikely event of us holding the casting vote over the Deal, then there MAY be a case for supporting it, but ONLY in exchange for some highly visible concessions, like (for starters) ditching the international-law-breaking clauses in the Internal Market Bill. But even then it would be extremely difficult to sell. Voting for something very bad just because it’s worse than the alternative is bad politics because it would makes us seem like pushovers, as the government would have no incentive to improbe on their offer. We are not the DUP, we cannot sell our votes to the government, because unlike them we and our voters have a stake in practically everything the government does.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Dec '20 - 9:30am

    Humphrey, I think you’ve put your finger on the core of the conundrum there — you say that the ‘British people’ (not a helpful term of reference in a first-past-the-post one-shot democratic system, imho) don’t distinguish between the exit deal and the trade deal but we should not ‘go against their wishes’ on this.

    But by definition therefore we don’t know what their wishes would be in detail on this matter, as you have just stated that most of the country doesn’t differentiate between the exit deal and the trade deal… and I would imagine many people suspect that the consensus opinion of the British people on a post-Brexit trade deal would be ‘cake and eat it’, even now.

    It seems less and less likely that any deal will be presented to parliament, and if it does it will be a last-minute ‘rabbit out the hat’ with minimal time for scrutiny, and Johnson either crowing victoriously with Tory spite at the naysayers, or trying unconvincingly to look centrist and conciliatory, asking for support from other parties whilst his backbenchers posture disappear up their own jingoistic nether regions.

    Any Lib Dem leader, in my book, should take the line of ‘You have agreed this deal with Europe; because we seek longterm future partnership with Europe we cannot vote against it — but will YOU, Mr Johnson, show us where your promises for ‘frictionless trade’ and ‘unrestricted access’ are met, so that we can vote for it, whilst we ask repeatedly why so much of the detail is absent or left secret, and why Britain is still unprepared for implementing this deal you are so proud of?’

    A principled abstention is the most likely way to go, barring flying pigs.

  • Alex Macfie, David Evans et al

    I’m not proposing voting to prevent no deal because I think it will help in the polls, I’m proposing it because it is in the national interest which must come first. A trade deal means fewer people losing their jobs and more links being maintained with our neighbours in Europe.

    The Lib Dem’s and Liberal party have a long tradition of being willing to compromise and work across party lines in the national interest. A classic example was voting with the Conservative government on Maastricht which led Labour to make accusations of “sell-outs” but was actually one of the best things the party ever did.

    Norman Lamb, possibly the best leader we never had, bemoaned that the party has lost its ability to compromise before deciding not to stand for re-election.

    You don’t have any evidence that voting to prevent no-deal would lead to electoral repercussions and 4 seats, 6 seats or whatever. The 2017 and 2019 elections were actually a disappointment, mainly due to banging on all the time about Brexit, adopting a hardline position that alienated many voters and failing to communicate policy positions on other issues.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '20 - 9:51am

    I was wondering whether someone would mention our support for the Major Government over the Maastricht Treaty. The difference between that vote and a putative Brexit Deal vote is that the Maastricht Treaty was exactly what we wanted. It would have been strange for us to vote against something we had been arguing for over many years. The Brexit vote is nothing like that. Brexit is never what we wanted, deal or no deal. There is no principled position in us voting for any sort of Brexit, because we never wanted it in the first place.
    As for the last 2 GEs, our stance on Brexit was probably what saved us from much worse results. Lingering memory of the Coalition (something the far-left-dominated Labour party took every opportunity to pin on us) and fear of Corbyn in our Tory-facing target seats were the principal reasons for our electoral disappointment.

  • “ The difference between that vote and a putative Brexit Deal vote is that the Maastricht Treaty was exactly what we wanted. It would have been strange for us to vote against something we had been arguing for over many years”

    Except that it wasn’t the full ticket because Major tried to appease the Eurosceptics with an opt-out from the social chapter. So we were voting for a compromise that was not everything that we wanted. Hence Labour trying to vote it down and being angry at Lib Dem support for the bill.

    As I said I am completely opposed to Brexit which will impact many of us greatly but there is no doubt that there is a huge difference between soft and hard Brexit and between having a trade deal and having no trade deal. Norway, Switzerland and Iceland are prosperous countries outside of the EU and Turkey, Ukraine and Macedonia are better off than they otherwise would be without the agreements they have with the EU.

    Compromising is not a sign of weakness but being scared to compromise most certainly is.

  • @Martin – “In terms of the national interest, if a vote can be held on an inadequate deal, a vote can also be held on extending the transition period. “
    The trouble I have with this is that Parliament had a much better opportunity back in 2019 to assert its Sovereignty over the Execute, but “wimped out” and allowed itself to be played, resulting in the GE…
    So the question is, can we trust Parliament to actually do something decisive and constructive. For an extended transition period to be of any benefit, we need Parliament to effectively neuter the Executive and to organise itself and take action that may be controversial. Similarly, if Parliament votes down Boris’s deal, Parliament needs a plan, as Boris and co. will happily squander the remaining time and make no deal the reality. Personally, I’m not convinced and suspect that if Boris actually gets a deal, his ego will want to have Parliament approve it. So having a vote where in-effect only the Conservatives vote will make that a rather hollow victory.

    It is also worth remembering, we cannot assume the next GE will be in 2024; it just has to happen before then, I would not rule out a 2021 GE, with the government riding on the back of the CoViD-19 vaccine success…

  • David Evans 8th Dec '20 - 12:47pm

    Marco – If you believe that destroying the Liberal Democrats is in the National Interest, you really have to ask yourself if you really support the values for ever for all generations of Lib Dems or just for now for you.

    If you are happy that building the fair, free and open society is complete and will never need any further action to deal with new issues (e.g. new technologies like robotics), and you are happy that safeguarding that fair, free and open society is a cast iron certainty and will just happen without there being Lib Dem MPs there to fight for it against the Tories (e.g. what’s next after Brexit) and Labour (Son of Id cards with no security against abuse by government) and the Nats in Scotland (Salmon farms and cruelty for example), say so, clearly and unequivocally and go ahead.

    Sadly I know that the battle for Liberal Democracy is a never ending battle and each generation of Lib Dems have to fight for it, so sacrificing yet more of our MPs in the so called National Interest, which as we all know is code for in the interest of the Conservative party, would actually be our party’s final surrender.

    You say “You don’t have any evidence that voting to prevent no-deal would lead to electoral repercussions and 4 seats, 6 seats or whatever”, but actually we do. Surely you have learned from the consequences of the way Generation Clegg so assiduously followed it, that that option is simply total and final surrender and annihilation?

    How many more Liberals will choose to die for the Tories before we learn it is a bad idea?

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '20 - 4:13pm

    Marco: The social chapter opt-out didn’t substantially affect the UK implementation of the Treaty, which is what the Lib Dems supported, and besides it could always be added in at a later date (and indeed that was one of the first things the incoming Blair government did). It is not clear that signing a rushed deal with the EU now will make it any easier for a new government to sign a better deal in years to come. It might even make closer relations more difficult, particularly if the Johnson government reneges on parts of the agreement it has just signed.
    Compromise is a two-way process. No government with a stonking majority has any reason to compromise with any minor opposition party. There is no possibility of consultation, we either vote for or against what the government puts before us. This is why, if our votes were needed to support it, we would have to extract some highly visible concesssions in exchange. That would be the compromise. Voting for a very bad thing over which we have had no input under threat of something much worse happening is not compromise, it’s capitulation.
    And we are not going to get a Norway, Switzerland or Iceland type of arrangement. Perhaps not even a Turkey, Ukraine or Macedonia. And anyway the only reason why a new deal is needed is Brexit, something we never supported and can’t start supporting now.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '20 - 4:15pm

    we cannot assume the next GE will be in 2024; it just has to happen before then, I would not rule out a 2021 GE, with the government riding on the back of the CoViD-19 vaccine success

    Let’s leave aside whether Johnson is able to repeal the FTPA in time, or can persuade 2/3 of MPs to vote for a GE. Calling a snap GE while on a wave of popular support is a very risky move, as his predecessor in No. 10 knows very well indeed.

  • Alex Macfie – a new government in 2024 or whenever would be free to renegotiate the deal or negotiate an entirely new deal if they wished so I think the comparison with the Maastricht treaty was relevant (and the social chapter was an important part of Maastricht as it included parental rights etc so it was a major compromise to vote it through).

  • This is a Tory Brexit. We oppose it. Vote against and let them own it.

    We may not know the details yet, but unless the whole country can have a “Northern Ireland” deal, there is nothing worth supporting, even reluctantly.

  • neil sandison 8th Dec '20 - 9:30pm

    Following the news today that Boris is heading to the EU for more talks do you thinkthey may be getting tired of his silly games and he has been told by the EU they are ready to walk away with no deal and impose punitive tariffs . hold any decision on which way we vote until we see the details of any deal or no deal scenario.

  • Tamara Dragadze 9th Dec '20 - 12:44am

    I see The value of Humphrey’s pragmatism but I have to side with Irina. The reasons are two-fold. Most people don’t know what we stand for and “Liberal values” makes me cringe as part of the Dem in LibDem, a Social Democrat, and its meaning is so elusive anyway. And we have an identity of sorts though and that is as Europeans. And that goes a very long way. Irina is right that it is what we are known for. The second reason is that we have principles and we should cultivate the view that we can keep to them. The Brexit arguments showed us something important: the public likes simplicity. We LibDems can stick to our principles after all. We say No to this deal because we don’t believe I’m Brexit or this Brexit government. Humphrey’s arguments are really good but alas for the general public regrettably too complicated and convoluted. I wish it were otherwise.
    Finally, our only hope of making a comeback is if we stick to being pro European. We got votes when Charles Kennedy was proven right about Iraq and we might get votes again if we are seen as the party who stood firm, predicted the perils of the wafer thin deal and would have no part in anything less than being part of Europe. The “ will of the people” changes and we are the party that understands that. We must be seen to vote against the deal, no two ways about it. Like Irina said…

  • Peter Watson 9th Dec '20 - 1:24pm

    Neither voting for nor against a trade deal seems to make much sense for the party. After all, would those advocating voting for or against a deal swap to voting against or for a no-deal Brexit if the debate were framed that way.
    Choosing the least worst option seems pointlessly divisive (as evidenced by one of the most heated discussions on LDV for a while!) when abstaining offers an easy way out which is consistent with the Lib Dem hatred of any type of Brexit.
    Although in the unlikely event that the parliamentary arithmetic makes the Lib Dem votes meaningful, perhaps the party’s MPs should contemplate voting for or against the deal if it genuinely becomes a case of having to choose the least damaging of two unappealing alternatives, but only once its details are known.

  • Abstain.
    Can I offer an unconventional thought. I am a passionate Remainer, however I firmly believe that it would be in this party’s best future interest if there was a No Deal.
    This result would probably produce a negative reaction from the public and could well provide the scope for another Referendum, probably urged on us by both the new US and Canadian governments, which I strongly suspect would reverse the 2016 decision.
    The Prime Minister appears to have a very limited understanding of economic intricacies and could be easily persuaded.

  • Humphrey Hawksley 9th Dec '20 - 10:36pm

    Theakes may be right, of course, if we are prepared to put Party interests above those of the country. But I remain puzzled. Both Jo Swinson and Ed Davey have said we should do all in our power to stop a No Deal Brexit. Are they wrong? Or do we press for a Brexit deal, yet when the deal comes to Parliament we demand that our MPs to vote against it. If so, little wonder people are confused by politics.

  • Richard J Elliott 9th Dec '20 - 10:38pm

    The party cannot vote for the Brexit bad deal as it would be against our core values. To vote for any deal would not support our friends in Europe as Humphrey suggests, as they know it is a bad deal as well and it signals our support for a different deal. Lets not kid ourselves – we are not the government nor the official opposition and so we should not aim to appeal to all but provide a distinctive position in line with what we believe in. We must argue for rejoining the single market and customs union which is not contrary to the referendum result. Europhiles need a political home its that not the Libs Dems then why do we exist at all. Vote against.

  • Peter Martin 10th Dec '20 - 11:09am

    @ theakes,

    “….party’s best future interest if there was a No Deal. This result would probably produce a negative reaction from the public and could well provide the scope for another Referendum…..which I strongly suspect would reverse the 2016 decision.” ???

    What would the referendum be about? Just changing our minds and staying in the EU on the old terms? Like that would be on offer!

    Look, rightly or wrongly, we have burnt our boats with the EU. There’s no way back for the foreseeable future.

    If Lib Dems had wanted ‘Brexit with a Good Deal’ they should have aligned with Theresa May and other parties to get that deal. But it’s too late now!

    The best argument for ‘No Deal’ is to recognise Deals can still be made after the 1st January 2021. Talks will continue. Both the EU and UK needs to start with a clean sheet and negotiate a deal that works for both without ulterior motives getting in the way.
    Remainers had an ulterior motive of wanting to scupper negotiations in the hope of somehow staying in the EU. In the EU the ulterior motivation was primarily to make sure that whatever was on offer to the UK was sufficiently unattractive to dissuade any other country from following the same path.

    A post 01/01/21 agreement could take time but it will happen and maybe quicker than many expect.

  • Nigel Orchard 10th Dec '20 - 10:55pm

    we don’t know what the deal is yet
    when we do, we need a very well considered response
    one that we can publish, that weighs up main pros and cons, and concludes what is best for the country
    we then ALL endorse that paper, and vote the same way
    we show that we are the only Party that can work as a team

  • David Evans 11th Dec '20 - 8:53am

    It is extremely disappointing to see some Lib Dems still arguing for a strategy of massive self harm, allowing the Tories to exploit us once again (as they did for five years solid in coalition) while we pretend we are doing it for some vainglorious act to save the country. Whether it is Humphrey or Marco or more worryingly as Humphrey points out Jo and Ed,

    Well, we all know where allowing Liberal Democracy to be destroyed got us. It got us Brexit, and probably now the most damaging Brexit of all. Why don’t so many Lib Dems do what they espouse for other people, be in favour of education and learn lessons from our own mistakes for once?

    However, while this is going on, we have heard nothing from our leaders, not just in the national media, but even internally. No press release, although Mark Valladares has been trying to ensure we see them. No e-mail messages from our leader. Even on our website which very few people look at only has two pieces one on Rights for EU citizens and the other from Ed asking Boris Johnson to give business more time. All in all, a whole load of nothing.

    So all in all, it seems we are just going on making the same mistakes again and again by trying so hard to be very nice, very reasonable people. But in fact all we seem to achieve is being very nice losers.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Dec '20 - 9:31pm

    The Maastricht treaty, with or without the social chapter, represented a major benefit to the UK, and was precisely in line with what our party wanted to happen. Brexit, with or without a deal, will leave the UK much worse off, with any “deal” being little more than a fig-leaf around no-deal. Voting for it would imply a support for the entire process of making the UK worse off, and that is a reason not to do so. We were not involved in the negotiations, so there is no “compromise” that we can be doing. As others have noted in this thread, the correct analogy is not Maastricht, it’s Iraq.

  • Jessie Mercedes Venegas Garcia 26th Dec '20 - 12:19am

    I think we should read, discuss and then decide on how to vote. How can we have an opinion without knowing what is in it? That just makes us look tribal and whether we like it or not we had three elections with three voting systems and the British people delivered the same result. So we should consider the options and add something of value after we have read it. Deciding before we read it will just be seen as prejudice.

  • Well 2 weeks on and we have a deal.

    Ed Davey looks like he’s setting the party up to vote against; I suggested abstaining in the thread but I’m fine with that. It is simply Lib Dem’s against hard Brexit and anything more complicates it.

    I’m also pleased we are getting into the detail of WHY it’s such a poor deal. Had Theresa May (or any woman?) done this deal, Nigel Farage and the right wing press would be ripping it to shreds. Under current circumstances they are selling it. So it has to be us pointing out the flaws and awkward compromises. So thank you to everyone in the party slogging through the detail in Christmas week.

  • Richard Underhill. 26th Dec '20 - 3:28pm

    Alex Macfie 6th Dec ’20 – 11:00am
    Typo? lose all moral authoriwould ty
    lose all moral authority ?

    Sir Ed Davey MP has been on BBC tv today, 26/12/2020. He pointed out that he has experience of negotiating with (South) Korea. We should deduce that he has taken soundings in the party, including in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
    When it comes to sovereignty Rockall is British, but was and presumably still is, uninhabited when the Royal Navy cemented a Union Jack onto it So its vote in 2016 would be lower than Gibraltar.

  • Richard Underhill. 26th Dec '20 - 4:29pm

    Alex Macfie 6th Dec ’20 – 11:00am
    ” parliament, the courts, the police and two general elections – has tested Brexit”,
    without strongly principled support, such as from Roy JENKINS, (the EUROPALS in 1975, the UK would not have entered the EEC with Denmark and the Irish Republic. Please also support a fair electoral system, such as the Single Transferable Vote as delivered by the coalition of Lib Dems and Labour in the Scottish parliament.

  • Paul Barker 26th Dec '20 - 5:18pm

    I cant read any of the comments for the last 2 Weeks so I am speaking into a vacuum.
    Having seen various attempts to skim-read the agreements 500,000 + Words its clear that the Debate itself will be a sham, there is a good case for us reading out a Statement then Walking Out, perhaps led by a Bagpiper.
    If we are going to take part in the “Debate” we should stick to saying that this is a false choice between 2 piles of (expletive deleted by editor).
    I am torn between Abstention & Voting Against but its more important that all our MPs Vote the same way.

  • Jayne mansfield 26th Dec '20 - 8:58pm

    @ Alex Macfie, 6th December 11am.

    I am in total agreement with you.

    I and many like me, who I have used technology to speak to others from our Christmas isolation are in despair. With no family festivities to distract, politics has not taken a back seat.

    If the leadership of the Liberal Democrats or the leader of the Labour Party support this hard Brexit, the parties concerned will no longer be parties they can vote for.

    The hard brexiteers seem content to vote the deal through, so there is no reason for other parties to support Johnson and his reckless, wrecking, government. If they do, they will be deemed complicit.

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