How we can stop a hard Brexit NOW: The case for the EFTA option

Brexit is an absolute shambles.

Theresa May’s new Chequers deal did little to convince her own cabinet, let alone anybody else, and Labour in opposition are offering nothing either. All the while Britain is bitterly divided, and appears to be close to taking a long walk off of a short pier.

There is however a ready-made solution that could sort this mess out, and that is for the UK to join the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This arrangement already works well for Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and it could work well for Britain too.

By joining the EFTA Britain would remain in the single market, providing peace of mind to the business community, and the hundreds of workers whose jobs currently hang in the balance. We would also have access to the trade agreements that the EFTA states already have with Canada, Mexico and others, which would further alleviate the economic risks of a hard Brexit. In addition, EFTA countries have a significant amount of influence over single market legislation, which May’s plan would not give us. EEA membership would also allow us to retain freedom of movement, which would secure the futures of over 3 million EU citizens currently living here, that this government is ready to betray.

The EFTA option would also nullify many of the concerns of Brexiteers at the same time. EFTA countries are not part of the customs union, so we would be able to negotiate new trade deals if we so desired. They are also exempt from the Common Agricultural Policy, which even many Lib Dems would probably concede is extremely regressive and bureaucratic. Plus while membership of the EEA does mean freedom of movement would continue, we would have the option of applying an emergency brake on this at any time, which Liechtenstein has already utilised.

If the Liberal Democrats were to put forward this proposal, we would likely have the support of the SNP, most Labour MPs, and pro-European Conservatives. Even some of the hard Brexiteers may be able to be persuaded to come on board, if it gave them a chance to undermine May. The EFTA option has the Parliamentary majority that the May deal lacks, making it a much more realistic option.

The current party policy of a second referendum on “the terms of the deal” is unclear, and in practice probably undeliverable. It doesn’t particularly resonate with the public either as we saw during the last election, when our vote share stagnated, and we struggled in areas that voted to leave. The EEA option is simpler, more pragmatic, and is something that we could feasibly get through Parliament NOW.

Now is the time for the Liberal Democrats to show the leadership that May’s coalition of chaos is severely lacking, and stand up for the best interests of everybody in this United Kingdom, however they voted in 2016.

Now is the time for us to support the EFTA option.

* Fraser is a Lib Dem member from Somerset, currently studying public policy at Warwick University.

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  • No, no, no.

    The LibDems need to support Remain. The absolute last thing we should be doing is compromising on this, particularly not when Brexit is looking dodgy, and opinion is moving towards a second referendum. Muddying our position would be terrible politics _and_ would remove the one thing which has distinguished us recently.

  • No.

    Given a choice only between a hard Brexit and EFTA, perhaps (it’s not clear that they would have us!)

    But that’s not the situation. Remain is far better than EFTA, and when it’s clearer by the day that the leave campaigns won by cheating as well as lying, that needs to stay the policy.

  • Tinker's Cuss 16th Jul '18 - 2:47pm

    Andrew, I was about to write the same, but as you have already posted all I can do is to second your position. If for any reason we cannot reverse this, then at that point let’s look at the best relationship, not before.

  • Minor point but Switzerland is not a member of the EEA, only EFTA

  • Daniel Carr 16th Jul '18 - 2:53pm

    Agree 100%. Referendum great in principle, but with the clock ticking on article 50 the timeline doesn’t seem realistic in the slightest.

  • Andy Hinton 16th Jul '18 - 2:55pm

    I will never cease to marvel at this party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by having a sudden attack of The Sensibles.

    The movement for a People’s Vote is picking up steam, with the first Tory to advocate it suggesting a three-way vote:

    1. Remain
    2. May’s Deal Brexit
    3. No Deal Brexit

    If such a thing happened let’s just spend a moment thinking about the way it plays out. All the Brexit headbangers attack the Deal and campaign for No Deal. The government back the deal, so anyone who wants to kick the government (always a popular option in a referendum) has every reason to not vote for the Deal. We should probably expect, therefore, that the Referendum quickly becomes a fight between No Deal and Remain. Rightly, in my view – the Soft Brexit option of becoming a rule-taker with less influence over the EU than we have now makes very little sense as a move from where we are now.

    In that scenario, we need to make sure Remain beats No Deal. Which means being very clear and unwavering in our view that there is nothing on the table which beats the situation we have now. Andrew Ducker is totally right.

  • Sarah Brown 16th Jul '18 - 3:03pm

    Can we PLEASE stop endlessly giving ground to our opponents when they never shift a single millimetre in our direction? It’s politically weak, it’s dreadful negotiating tactics and it makes the public think we don’t stand for anything.

    Shift. The Overton Window. Back.

    We should be committed to REMAIN, and if we leave, then we should be committed to rejoining in any parliament in which we’re part of the government.

    ERG and co call for no deal? We call for joining Schengen and the Euro.


  • John Marriott 16th Jul '18 - 3:10pm

    @Sarah Brown
    Where have you been for the past few years? Join Schengen and the Euro? Do you really want the Lib Dems’ support to stay in single figures?

  • William Fowler 16th Jul '18 - 3:13pm

    Yes there is a theoretical way of stopping mass EU immigration but will the voters actually believe you and can it be explained in a way that everyone can understand and not be perverted by brexiteers.

    It is laid out here if you have the time to wade thru it,

    Below is the conclusion:

    “Whatever the EU might declare in terms of freedom of movement being “non-negotiable” for EU Member States, it is undeniable that it is negotiable within the framework of the EEA Agreement, as it applies to Efta states.

    Therefore, if the UK chooses to follow the Efta/EEA option as an interim solution to expedite the Article 50 settlement, once the agreement is adopted it can follow the procedural steps pioneered by Liechtenstein. And by this means, it can impose limits on immigration from EEA states.””

    The other way is reform of benefits/tax credits/access to social housing etc so that they are only available after an extended period of residence (5-10 yrs) which as long as applied equally to Brits can be done before a second vote and would at least convince the voters that the govn is listening to their concerns. Even better if made retrospective in terms of convincing the voters that u r serious.

  • @Andrew Ducker – And how would you propose getting that through Parliament? There isn’t a majority for a second referendum, and there never has been. Not to mention that if Brexit is just cancelled most leave voters will (quite rightly) feel that they have been betrayed. The EEA option is a realistic compromise so we can sort ourselves out without wrecking the economy. Plus it’ll give us a platform to fully rejoin later if we so choose, which May’s deal would not.

  • William Fowler 16th Jul '18 - 3:26pm

    Mrs May has just accepted four right-wing amendments to her plan according to the TV so looks like Brexit is back on track, albeit one where the sleepers are crumbling as the train rattles along.

  • @Sarah Brown – The party is currently “giving ground to our opponents” by calling for an impossible second referendum, while offering no decent liberal alternative. The EEA is that alternative. And there’s no shame in bringing different groups together and comprising for the good of the country, in fact I think it would showcase good leadership on our part to take it upon ourselves to stop May’s deal or a no deal Brexit which would both be far worse.

  • Brexit is being driven by the Tory party. We don’t have to change our policy for two reasons

    1.It’s the right policy
    2. Changing it wouldn’t give us a soft Brexit, that is in the gift of the Tory party.

    It is not up to us to make Brexit work, firstly because we have no ablilty too and secondly it can’t be done. This mess lies firmly at the door of the Tories and brave Brexiteers let them clear it up, don’t offer them a way out by trying to help you’ll just get the blame.

  • Andy Hinton 16th Jul '18 - 3:35pm

    Fraser, what makes you think that purely by making this shift in policy, it would be in our gift to “lead” the country into this solution? We are comprehensively shut out of the power structures of parliament, and neither Tories or Labour have any interest in letting us be seen to do anything influential.

  • Frazer: we have 12 MPs. We’re not going to get ANYTHING through parliament.

    Sarah is right, we need to be moving the overton window back towards Liberalism. UKIP never managed to get a single MP elected, but look how far they shifted the overton window in their direction by not ever conceding a single iota of ground.

    I think there is a split in this party between those who want to achieve liberal aims by any means possible, and those who want to get into parliament, and who will give up their liberal ideals to get there. It’d be interesting to know how many are on which side.

  • Sarah Brown 16th Jul '18 - 3:45pm

    We’re already in single figures.

    Nobody took UKIP and Farage seriously initially.

    And they won.

    They won by adopting an extreme position and hammering away at it. Because it initially seemed outrageous, they got on TV, the press wrote about it.

    And bit by bit, because it was part of the narrative it became a serious talking point.

    Then it became a mainstream political force.

    And now it’s political orthodoxy.





    We should adopt a position that is entirely in line with our pro EU, federalist principles. And yes, people will call it outrageous, and unrealistic.

    But in the 90s, when the Euro was starting to become a thing it would merely have been seen as being at one end of the political debate.

    We have lost that by constantly giving ground. Stop giving ground. Drag the window back the other way.

    And if there’s an election and we go into coalition agreements, even if you are desperate for your absurd referendum, don’t have it as your opening position. Your opening position is hard remain, the Euro, Schengen, kilometres on the road signs.

    And then haggle.

    But for the love of god, stop giving ground. Hold the bloody line.

  • @William Fowler.
    If what you say about the amendments is true I can only assume that T.M. will be taking another walking holiday in the Welsh hills.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Jul '18 - 4:16pm

    Don’t panic, leave that to the Tories. Stick to what we have held to for the past two years, which is the right way forward to prevent Brexit. The call for another referendum is gaining ground and may before long be the only way forward. Andrew Ducker, Sarah Brown and Frankie (who has been right all along) are writing good sense here.

  • Peter Martin 16th Jul '18 - 4:22pm

    @ Sarah Brown,

    You do have the courage of your convictions. You are a true Remainer. Most of the others are lukewarm remainers. They only want the EU if they don’t have to have all of it.

    @ Fraser Coppin,

    I might just say again what I said on another post. There are several problems. Firstly the jargon is hard for even for those who are reasonably well informed to stay abreast of. We have the customs union, the single market, EFTA, EEA, the Norway Option, the Switzerland option etc. I don’t think the EU like the Switzerland option and have indicated they won’t offer that again.

    How many people know that places like Monaco, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man aren’t in the EU. I’ve just looked up that the Isle of Man isn’t even in the EEA either. But it is in the Customs Union! I have quite a good customer who is based there and there’s never any problem shipping orders to him. But Gibraltar is in the EU. So it’s not directly just a matter of the tax havens wanting to stay out.

    But the main problem is that the Remainers won’t like it because it’s not the EU. Leavers won’t like it because they’ll think it is the EU – just by another name. Especially as freedom of movement is only very slightly affected.

  • Christopher Haigh 16th Jul '18 - 4:23pm

    During my lifetime from McMillan to May the Tories have basically been the ruling power in the UK, and the EU has essentially been their project and their internal dispute. The rest of us just accepted our membership (the Labour party had initial ‘rich man’s club’reservations) forhe good it produced in terms of peace and prosperity. There is not much either ourselves or Labour can do to intervene in this dispute. All we can do is keep out of it, say we would just prefer to stay in the EU.
    When finally the Tories decide their vision of the future, opposition parties will then be able to react. Either we accept the new reality, campaign to either adjust it or return to full EU membership. In the meantime I am supporting Mrs May as a pragmatic Tory. Her right wing ideologioues probably want Brexit in order to convert the UK into an extreme neo-liberal state

  • Bill le Breton 16th Jul '18 - 4:33pm

    Well done Fraser, well done Paul.

    So, the rest of you would prefer ‘no deal’ – for that is where we are headed. Nor is there going to be another referendum.

    The ‘no dealers’ have only to knock down proposals that cannot ‘build’ a majority in the Commons and we are ‘out’.

    There will be some Tories who come to the EEA/EFTA party – those who don’t have Brexit majorities in their constituencies or who are set to retire anyway.

    There are Labour MPs already and their numbers will grow.

    Rather than be faced with a ‘no deal situation’ the EU27 will suggest it as a useful interim, then one after another LD MPs (a former MPs) will commit.

    Why not lead, rather than be dragged there and eventually split over ‘the enemy of the good’?

  • Peter Martin 16th Jul '18 - 4:34pm

    @ Jennie, and others

    “…..moving the overton window back towards Liberalism”.

    OK this is fair enough but I’ve never quite understood how this ties in with support for the EU. I though you guys were into ‘small is beautiful’ and want to devolve as much power as possible to local entities.

    Except when its the EU? Then you want to hand power the other way to a Pan European Entity !

  • John Marriott 16th Jul '18 - 4:45pm

    @Sarah Brown
    UKIP cashed in on the hubris of the ‘elite’ (audience member; “How do you see the EU in ten years’ time, Mr Clegg?” Answer; “About the same.”). You could argue that Nigel Farage, in terms of results (whether we approve or not), has been one of our most successful politicians, even if he and his ‘associates’, both in UKIP and elsewhere, were largely shooting at an open goal.

    We are already haggling, at least amongst ourselves, on this side of the Channel. The problem is that it’s taken us so long to get this far. We should have been doing the ‘haggling’ with Barnier and co MONTHS AGO!

    If we are to emerge from this self inflicted nightmare with anything worthwhile, it won’t be down to the Lib Dems; but could be brought about by events over which we have no control. There’s a little get together in Helsinki today, which might have a little more influence than we think.

    You can keep your “federalist principles” if you want. It’s not something that I nor many people both here and across the EU actually share. The idea of ‘pooling sovereignty’ made sense back in 1975 when trade was paramount. The concept of a ‘United States of Europe’ is a step too far, at least for the immediate future.

    What really worries me is not the geopolitical implications of Brexit but the possible economic consequences, not for my generation (we’ve had our time in the sun) but for those generations of Brits to come. All the more ironic that they largely stayed at home just over two years ago when it really mattered, only to be seduced by Corbyn and co a year later, when it was really a bit too late.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jul '18 - 5:14pm

    @Sarah Brown “Nobody took UKIP and Farage seriously initially. And they won.”
    Then collapsed back into single figures when their raison d’être had gone (although support for UKIP in the polls and its spin-offs in recent local byelections suggest there’s life in the old dog yet!). The Lib Dems risk a similar fate (perhaps worse given that their starting point as the anti-UKIP starts at such a low level of support). By appearing to be little more than an “Exit from Brexit” pressure group, whether Brexit is avoided or not, the party looks redundant afterwards.

    Even on the single issue of Brexit, one benefit of this sort of debate is that it helps clarify the Lib Dem position, which surprisingly for such an identity-defining topic, is not crystal clear. This is largely because of the deliberate fudge of claiming to respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum, choice of departure not destination, etc., but is compounded by the lack of a clearly articulated vision of what the Lib Dems’ preferred “Remain” looks like: status quo, Cameron’s deal, ever closer union, “joining Schengen and the Euro”, etc. A definitive position such as the one you describe would mean that (for better or worse!) the party has a clear direction on the EU from day one after either Brexit or Exit from Brexit.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jul '18 - 5:20pm

    @Paul Walter “I recognise your passion on this but we are a party of awkward squad members – we don’t tend to be swayed by capital letters, swearing and god-for-the-loving.”
    Surely a candidate for the best post on this site. 🙂

  • John,

    Brexit is a major change and in major changes the ones who suffer most are those that “struggle to adapt”. I’ve recently been looking at quora at the collapse of the USSR the parallels with Brexit are there.

    “As the weeks turned into months, however, things changed as the government was unable to meet a lot of expectations. It’s tough to meet expectations when no one knows entirely what they should be, and those who have ideas don’t necessarily agree. ”

    “The enormous sense of adventure never went away, because everything was either new, transforming to meet the new reality, dead or dying off, or staying close to the status quo ante. Anything and everything seemed possible. If you were a 20-something, as I was, that was great.

    The flip side of that was the fear and disappointment that went along with it. Everywhere you went were people who didn’t fare so well in the transformation, people who’d earned an expectation that the government would take care of them because they’d fought in the war or worked their whole lives in a job who all of a sudden had nothing. As a student I saw plenty of professors and school administrators who went from highly-respected professionals who the best the Soviet Union had to offer in 1990 to highly-respected professionals who literally had to sell household goods in front of a metro station to get by just 2 years later.”

    While Brexit isn’t the collapse of the USSR there will be many people who think “they are still entitled to their retirement in the sun” who will be getting rather a shock. No booming economy, no happy retirement, it is as simple as that.

  • @Ian – We already ARE in a position where we have to choose between a Hard Brexit and another arrangement. I’m sure everyone here would agree that “no deal” would be an absolute disaster, which is why we should be pushing for the closest relationship with the EU that we can. Remain/rejoin isn’t a realistic option (at least in the short term), the public will not accept an overturning of the referendum result.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Jul '18 - 6:00pm

    This article is spot on right. If I was wearing a hat I’d take it off to you.

  • @William Fowler – The emergency break won’t necessarily be an easy sell, but then neither is May’s convoluted mess. We have to show that we’re listening to people’s concerns about immigration, indeed the fact that we haven’t done so is one of the reasons we’re in this mess . But then as Lib Dems we have long argued that immigration from Europe has been a good thing for this country, which is a fact, and that has to continue to be our position. So we need to strike a balance between the two “extremes”. I think your idea of delaying benefits is a decent one too, and indeed I think it was Lib Dem policy back in 2015? May be wrong about that.

    Free movement but with a cap on numbers (perhaps with exceptions for students, high skilled people etc.) and some restrictions on claiming welfare would be a good place to start I think.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Jul '18 - 6:13pm

    Christopher Haigh – ‘During my lifetime from McMillan to May the Tories have basically been the ruling power in the UK, and the EU has essentially been their project and their internal dispute.’

    That was probably true upto Maastricht – not since. If that referendum showed nothing else it is that there are grave reservations about the EU right across the political spectrum. That of course included something in the order of a third of the-then LDP vote, who went for LEAVE.

    Post Maastricht things genuinely did change and this really is not an internal Conservative argument. What to do about that is another matter, but this really is not party politics as usual. Looking back every party leader since 1992 has been fighting the fallout of Maastricht ratification. I criticise Cameron for much but at the very least he diagnosed the problem, even if his solution wasn’t quite right.

  • Andrew Williams 16th Jul '18 - 6:36pm

    I’d absolutely support the EEA plus EFTA option. Great and brave post to open this up for debate.

  • Andrew Williams 16th Jul '18 - 6:41pm

    The problem with the referendum has been the winner takes all mentality which had created a lot of bitterness, but now Remainers seem to be pursuing their own winner-takes-all approach. I understand why, but not sure it helps.

  • Andy Hinton 16th Jul '18 - 6:50pm

    If and when it becomes clear that No Deal is the about to happen and Lib Dem votes in the commons are needed to pull us back from that precipice, then maybe we should vote for it. But for us to “lead” towards any form of Brexit would be for us to campaign for something which we as a party do not believe in, at a time when our position is as defensible as ever (the government’s travails serve only to demonstrate that there is no good solution to the Brexit conundrum that can be accepted by at least some Leavers, because they never bothered to work that out before campaigning for it).

    Peter Martin:

    The party is not a relentlessly localist party, even if we gave a good impression that it was in the 2000s. Our constitution states that “We aim to disperse power” (NB. disperse =/=devolve downwards), and that “decisions [should be] taken at the lowest practicable level”, which I don’t think anyone disagrees with. The trouble is there are some decisions which it is genuinely much more practicable to take at a higher level, and we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that either. To quote more of the preamble:

    “Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, we will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security. Within the European Community we affirm the values of federalism and integration and work for unity based on these principles. We will contribute to the process of peace and disarmament, the elimination of world poverty and the collective safeguarding of democracy by playing a full and constructive role in international organisations which share similar aims and objectives.”

  • Fraser,
    We have no dog in this fight. The shape of Brexit will be shaped by the Tories and DUP not by us and not even by Labour (although one or two Labour MP’s may help it through). We can rush in as sensible people and try to alleviate some of the pain but all we will be is useful fig leaves for May and Co. We can change little by offerring to help (all we will gain is a reputation for weakness and fudging things, Coalition mark II in otherwords), by presenting a clear alternative we provide a light in the darkness which people can chose to ignore or follow.

    I’ll leave you with the following though. A fox lost his tail in a trap, but rather than accepting it as a misfortune he tried to encourage all the other foxes to cut of their tails as it was much more stylish to have no tail. We are facing the same situation with the Brexiteers they are tailess but for the sake of unity want the rest of us to cut of our tails and join them. I have no desire to mutilate myself just so they can feel better.

  • All the talk about May’s Chequers proposals are about which parts of her party may or may not back them, rather than the actual detail of the proposals.

    When you look at the details, it is nonsense, and would be an administrative nightmare. The amendments that JRM and chums proposed are not designed to improve things, they are intended to make them completely unacceptable to the EU. And it looks like May just rolled over and accepted them.

    At this rate, there won’t be a deal, good or bad, to actually vote on. Hard Brexit is now the default option.

    That in turn means that when the time comes, the choice will be a hard, no deal Brexit, or staying in. There is a majority in Parliament against hard Brexit, but I can see them shying away from making this choice on our behalf, and therefore going back to the people with another referendum.

    Which means we need to unequivocally be the party of Remain. There’s no point in compromising now for a soft Brexit when that option won’t be on the table by next March.

  • Thanks for all the comments so far, both positive and negative. There’s a lot to get through and I have an MA dissertation I’m putting off, but I’ll try and respond to as many as I can 🙂

  • Jennie,

    i suspect that the majority of “those who want to get into parliament, and who will give up their liberal ideals to get there” are long gone; there is no easy way into parliament as a Lib Dem I suspect they will be much more attracted to the Tories, Labour and in Scotland the SNP, after all opportunists are attracted by opportunity. If the Lib Dems revive I’m sure they will be back.

  • @Paul Walter – It’s fine, I fully expected that this article would ruffle a few feathers, and that’s fine. We’re having a conservation about one of the fundamental issues our party is based upon here, it’s not always going to be pleasant, but it’s definitely necessary. I respect everyone’s opinion 🙂

    I read your article as well, really good stuff! Glad some others in the party have been thinking about this policy for a while.

  • Is it true that Vince Cable and Tim Farron didn’t vote on amendment 73, to stop the UK from joining the EU’s VAT regime? The government only had a majority of 3 so it would seem a strange decision.

  • In all, 14 Tories rebelled against the government’s adopted ERG amendment (new clause 36):

    Heidi Allen
    Guto Bebb
    Rochard Benyon
    Ken Clarke
    Jonathan Djanogly
    Domonic Grieve
    Stephen Hammond
    Phillip Lee
    Nicky Morgan
    Robert Neill
    Mark Pawsey
    Antoinette Sandbach
    Anna Soubry
    Sarah Wollaston

    It’s worth noting that three Labour MPs, the exact margin by which Theresa May the vote, sided with the government:

    Frank Field
    Kate Hoey
    Graham Stringer

    One suspended Labour MP, Kelvin Hopkins, also voted with the government.

    Well I did say “although one or two Labour MP’s may help it through”, it would appear I under estimated the number it is 4.

  • Government won tonight’s Brexit vote by three votes. It seems Vince Cable and Tim Farron were missing missing from Brexit vote…Why?

  • @David Raw

    I’d recommend you check out the Adam Smith Institute policy page. There’s honestly some of the best liberal policies on there.


    I certainly agree with you. If we’re to argue the case for another referendum then we’re effectively endorsing a no-deal scenario at this point and then to only have a referendum once we’ve crashed out. Even if Parliament were to agree on having another referendum by the end of this month, there is absolutely no time to have one before the end of March 2019.

    Farage spent decades and decades arguing the case (albeit very crappy case) for Brexit. We honestly don’t have that time. We must now either push for EEA/EFTA + Customs or concede we’re leaving without a deal and if we’re doing the latter, how much of the economy are we willing to sacrifice to later make the case for rejoining the EU? Ignoring the time constraints for the moment, the only way we’d get the country to unify and agree on rejoining the EU would be to go through all the economic pain of existing outside of it. Only then will people realise that while the EU’s not perfect, it’s certainly better in than out but I’m not willing to see the economy go to ash to make the case to rejoin. I’m not rich enough for that. We must push for the softest of Brexits.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '18 - 1:28am

    Fraser, no other option than remaining ticks all the necessary boxes. Be in the EU internal market like Norway and you have to accept freedom of movement. Stay in the customs union and you can’t make deals with other countries. The EU was likely to refuse Mrs May’s Chequers plan even without the wrecking amendment, because, as they keep pointing out, the Four Freedoms have to stay indivisible or the EU will be in danger of breaking up.

    But if the EU does as therefore seems probable reject May’s proposed deal, even after further negotiation between two sides which do actually want to agree, I believe Parliament will not accept crashing out with no deal. John McDonnell declared that months ago on the Andrew Marr show, and the wreckers who want us out with no deal are few. If so, then another referendum seems the only possible option, since it is a more democratic option, giving the people the chance to record a change of mind, than Parliament deciding for them. and should not cause the uproar that would ensue if Parliament did indeed just reverse the 2016 result..

    Yes, there should be just enough time to have another referendum by the end of March next year if preparations begin in October, according to a member good at calculations, Michael BG. But there is also the possibility of asking the EU for more time, and that is what Nick Clegg was advocating on Newsnight last night. If the delay were in order to be sure of completing the referendum, it would seem a fair ask. So I believe we Lib Dems should stay firm in our agreed policy, campaigning to stay in the EU provided the option is agreed at another referendum, and leave the feverish search for other options to the disorderly Tory party.

  • ethicsgradient 17th Jul '18 - 3:52am

    I must ask and I don’t wish to seem puerile but why did Vince Cable and Tim Farron not vote today? It seemed a strange vote to miss?

  • Oh please! A hard Brexit is EXACTLY what we need… I’d rather eat dirt for a few years in a deep recession, rather than be stuck in the EU!

  • It would help Liberal Democrat credibility if all the party’s MPs turned up. The Government survived on a Brexiteer inspired amendment last night by three votes when two Lib Dem MPs were AWOL. Does anybody know yet who they were and why they were absent?

    @ Zak After nearly sixty years’ political experience, I’m perfectly aware of the Adam Smith Institute policy stances. If, for just one example, you wish to have further privatisation of the NHS then I must part company with you.

  • William Fowler 17th Jul '18 - 7:31am

    By the time you got the softest of Brexits it would be time for the next election and Nigel Farage would be in full rage mode with some serious money behind him, so soft brexit probably would not last long and all the uncertainty would repeat itself.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Jul '18 - 7:41am

    Has anyone undertaken a survey to check how many of the ‘people’ know the difference between a hard and a soft Brexit at this late stage in the game, and how may just don’t care?

    There seems to be something deeply dishonest about labelling a second referendum in this Blairite way, when for many advocates of one, the underlying rationale appears to be a last ditch attempt to of stop Brexit.

    @ Fraser Coppin,
    You present your argument, admirably. Your response to criticism of that view equally so.

    Best wishes on your MA dissertation from someone who can be best described as an , on balance ‘ remainer’, disagreeable chickenplucker.

  • Paul Walter 17th Jul ’18 – 7:53am
    Re: MPs turning up for the vote. I seems plausible that Tim and Vince were paired off, so their attendance would not have made any difference? Pairing is a very civilised procedure which has been standard practice for decades…………..

    On one of the most crucial, and closest, divisions on our ‘flagship policy’ our leader and ex leader have better things to do. What message does that send?

  • @Paul Walters – Thank you for a little sanity amid the turmoil of voices screaming ‘No U-turn’. May I invite everyone determined to stick to ‘Exit from Brexit’ a simple question? Let’s assume we get our beloved referendum on the final deal, which I must admit appeals to me, and it blows up in our faces like the 2016 referendum – where does that leave us as a country, as a party, as individuals? I would not normally quote Michael Gove, but as he was quoting someone else, I’ll make an exception; “Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

  • Peter Watson 17th Jul '18 - 8:57am

    @Paul Walter “plausible that Tim and Vince were paired off, so their attendance would not have made any difference?”
    Quite probably, but on anything Brexity which transcends party lines, whipped votes, and the tradition of government vs. opposition, pairing doesn’t seem appropriate.

  • @Paul Walter there is no pairing on crucial votes like this, it’s just a courtesy for routine votes. Cable and Farron have really blown it this time, (once again?) failing to defend their signature policy.

  • Two problems with this.

    Because the EEA doesn’t include a customs union, it doesn’t solve the Irish border problem.

    Second, why assume Norway will allow us to join? They have made some hesitant noises.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '18 - 9:19am

    @ Jayne Mansfield. Jayne, having another referendum is nothing to do with hard or soft Brexit, so there is no dishonesty there. It is intended to give people the chance to change their minds, which is a proper democratic option. They will have to have the option still of voting to leave, but since the very harmful consequences of leaving are now known, and, frankly, national demographics will now favour remaining, it seems likely that an option to stay in will succeed.

  • They were not paired. I know you would like to think they were, but it’s false.

  • David Becket 17th Jul '18 - 9:52am

    If our leader and ex leader could not be bothered to turn up what are the rest of us working for, waste of our time.
    Typical of the slack leadership of our party, which is why we are going nowhere.
    If they had a very good reason, like illness, they should have told us. As it is they are letting the party down.

  • But Paul the fact that 12 hours later – when Vince and Tims twitter feeds are full of FBPE peopley saying ‘why weren’t you there I feel very let down’. Neither have commented and frankly are being torn apart on the rare occasions the party gets mentioned in the news.

    But we know where Tim was. He was giving a lecture on gayness and Christianity.

    This looks dreadful for the party.

  • Martin says:

    “This article seems to confuse EEA with EFTA, the two are not synonymous.”

    I’m sure Martin is right. But just what are they? I like to think I’m reasonably well informed but, on my morning walk with the dog just now, I realised that I didn’t even know what the letters stood for. OK, I was thinking we have European Economic Something. And European Free Trade Something. But is that something Area, Association or maybe Authority? I bumped into my friend who I sometimes discuss these issues with and I asked him. He’d heard of them both but was no wiser than me about what they were, what they did, what their relationship was to the EU or even what the A stood for.

    So I can’t see anyone getting too enthusiastic about either the EEA or EFTA. It’s just not going to fly as general concept.

    Incidentally, it’s European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association.

  • David Becket 17th Jul '18 - 10:10am

    For the leader and former leader not to attend this vote is an insult to the thousands of hard workers in this party.
    If they had a good reason they should come onto Lib Dem Voice and explain themselves, or at least e mail members.
    Silence on this issue is not acceptable from our leadership.

  • Paul WalterPaul Walter 17th Jul ’18 – 9:55am
    From the Guardian:..Tim Brake said the Lib Dems did not anticipate that the vote would so close.
    A Lib Dem source said: “Vince had an important meeting off the parliamentary estate that had been approved by the whips and nobody thought these amendments would ever be so close.”……………………

    That seems rather strange given that, this vote was widely mooted as one that May was likely to lose.
    At best it shows that our leadership are out of touch; at worst…?

  • “nobody thought these amendments would ever be so close.”

    That can’t be true. Certainly it is manifestly falso to say ‘nobody’ thought that as it was always something that was going to be a bit touch and go given the Government’s overall ‘majority’.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Jul '18 - 11:08am

    The BBC is reporting today that Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and referred to the police for breaking electoral law.
    How can the Prime Minister sustain her assertion that the 2016 referendum was decided democratically?
    Built on her assertion is an argument that others should now support leaving, but the circumstances have changed.

  • This discussion is overwrought. That’s understandable, with Britain heading for skid row. But it’s overwrought, all the same.

    None of the positions being adopted by politicians – Chequers, Starmer, People’s Vote, whatever – actually represent realistic proposals. All of them are either impracticable or will be vetoed by the EU. Most of the politicians who adopt these positions do dimly recognise that they will soon need to change their stance. It’s a nightmare endgame. The ERG are hoping to crash the car and enforce no-deal. That’s their strategy. What’s ours?

    I think it has to be “For god’s sake, pull back from the brink!” When we see food stockpiles and disaster plans, can’t we recognise the need to kill Brexit – and that it doesn’t matter how it is done? Calling for a People’s Vote, or calling for an EFTA solution, could in fact be similar in their effect. Both are saying “SOS”! And that’s the call that must be heeded – probably by Parliament.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Jul '18 - 1:14pm

    Tom Brake MP has commented in an interview with the Daily Politics on BBC2.

  • William Fowler 17th Jul '18 - 1:24pm

    The next movement, led by the LibDems, should be a tax payer’s revolt, a complete refusal to fund the new bureaucracy that Mrs May needs to erect to make her plan work and a complete refusal to make up the difference for any govn revenue lost due to Brexit.

  • @David Raw
    ‘Anna Soubry MP What a magnificent fighting passionate speech in the Commons just now. What courage and fire she has.’
    Know what you believe in, and fight for it. Think on Vince/Tim.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Jul '18 - 1:56pm

    Remaining /joining the EEA honours the outcome of the first referendum .We are no longer full partners of the EU .it will by negotiation enable us have sensible arrangements for trade ,customs ,border security and allow for recognised education and employment visas .long term permanent settlement for households should also be considered .It can should their be a stalemate in parliament and no position that has an overall majority allow for an options based second referendum which we should this time insist all registered voters can vote in over the age of 16 years.

  • “Remaining /joining the EEA honours the outcome of the first referendum .We are no longer full partners of the EU .” Neil Sandison 17th Jul ’18 – 1:56pm
    This is something that people don’t seem to be taking into consideration, remaining as an outcome of the Art.50 process won’t be a restoration of our membership as it was before the referendum, it will be very different.
    Effectively, the Leave vote has already diminished the UK’s role and influence in the EU, which will cast a long shadow over the UK for decades. This will cause problems as given the mindset of many vocal Brexiteers, unless the UK’s continued membership delivers a “land of milk and honey” they will continue to mutter conspiracy theories and blame “the EU” for all of their woes.

  • People are starting to wake up to the fact that there are no special deals or treatment for the British.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Jul '18 - 5:23pm

    @ Katharine Pindar,
    Katharine, I did not agree that ‘the people’ were in any position to make a vote in the first referendum given the complexity of the question, I certainly wasn’t, and I tried to follow the arguments as best I could,. When Cameron promised a once in a life -time vote, I disagreed with the notion that on such an important matter, a simple majority vote would prevail.

    I still read the posts on libdemvoice because I am interested in the views of others and sometimes they cause me to change my own, but I believe making a promise to voters, some who voted for the first time, and then seeking ways of trying to undermine the decision will lead to disenchantment with our democracy amongst the seventeen million people who voted for something that I disagreed with. It is a real problem for me.

    I have every sympathy with young people, but they should have turned out in greater numbers for the first vote given that it is their future, not mine, that will be most affected. And with respect, I think that it is in the best interests of people that they should face up to the consequences of their actions or inaction. It is a hard lesson.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '18 - 5:58pm

    I don’t blame young people, Jayne, they have so much going on in their lives with so much emotion involved that political decisions are unlikely to be at the forefront for them; besides which, they tend to be moving about a lot, and not always in the right place to vote at the right time. And I absolutely disagree with your assertion of us ‘then seeking to find ways to undermine the decision.’ In a democracy, you go on fighting for the causes you believe in; the defeated Opposition after a General Election doesn’t stop opposing. In this case, the effort is to show voters what they could not have known two years ago, the immense harm to the country of the unexpected decision if carried out; further, that the majority for Brexit was not a majority of the country’s voters, and that a bigger majority should have been required on such a major decision; and lastly, that another vote is giving the voters now in possession of the facts the chance to alter their decision, which is the democratic way forward. They will be given power, as is only right, and in the unlikely event of them still demanding Brexit, then whatever Government we have will have to accept that we must then leave, and negotiate whatever can be salvaged for our future.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Jul '18 - 6:22pm

    Katharine Pindar – ‘a bigger majority should have been required on such a major decision’

    Do you think that any referendum to give more powers to the EU should have been subject to a qualified majority? I note in passing that the EU demanded a 55% majority in the Montenegro referendum.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Jul '18 - 7:18pm

    Stop repeating the myth that there isn’t time to get a referendum bill through Parliament. Emergency legislation has completed all its stages in a day before now. I don’t want any more referenda anyway, but if there is ever a majority for a third EU referendum in the Commons (there already is in the Lords I suspect) then those wanting it should have a bill ready to bring forward and agree an emergency timetable with the speaker and get it through.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Jul '18 - 8:18pm

    @ Katherine Pindar,

    Yes one does go on fighting for what one believes in, but with general elections we know that after a few years we can perhaps achieve that which we failed to achieve at a previously unsuccessful one, by making our arguments more persuasive. The referendum on the other hand, was billed as a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people, (yes them), to decide whether we should remain in the EU or leave. I may be mistaken, but I don’t remember any argument against the finality of that statement before the result.

    I may also be naive, but I think that those who voted leave had a pretty clear idea of what they meant by the term leave, even if their grievances varied and had varying degrees of merit. I would have felt aggrieved if ‘remain had won the day and then those who wanted Brexit started to make arguments post result, i.e. the referendum result was merely advisory etc.

    As I say, I have a problem with it.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '18 - 8:47pm

    I don’t know where the idea of the 2016 referendum being a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ comes from Jayne, but it’s clearly nonsense – we’d had previous referendums affecting the development of the EU, and there may be others to come apart from the one Lib Dems believe is now right to have. And since as you say ‘grievances varied’, you can’t really hold that one clear outstanding aim was what people who voted to leave sought. The leading Brexiteers might have known, but they are a minority, and Boris Johnson apparently could hardly make up his mind which way was likely to be most profitable for him – so much for conviction. LJP, yes, I suppose there should be a minimum figure, and 55% sounds reasonable, though I have no expertise on the matter.

  • a bigger majority should have been required on such a major decision

    Why do I always get the impression that if you ask somebody what majority they think would have been sufficient, the answer will always be, ‘whatever Leave won by plus one vote’?

    Almost no countries in the world require larger majorities than 50% in nationwide referendums, no matter what the size of the decision, even for total constitutional change. No US State does, as far as I’m aware. Australia has a weird system of requiring majority of states as well as a national majority, but in all the cases it’s a simple majority of 50%. Ireland requires only 50% for its constitutional changes.

    Do you have any examples of countries where greater-than-50% majorities are required?

    Oh, also, presumably that means you think any future referendum on Scottish independence should require a majority larger than 50%? You get to try to explain that one to the SNP.

  • Teresa Wilson 17th Jul '18 - 10:00pm

    I’m a remainer.

    Two years ago I might have accepted this compromise. I still might accept EEA membership plus Customs Union, which is basically the EU without any political representation, but what’s the point? Neither that nor Fraser’s suggestion (which doesn’t include a custom’s union) will satisfy the leavers. And how will we avoid a hard border in Ireland without a custom’s union?

    So I’ll carry on being a remainer, whether or not it’s party policy. Fortunately the Lib Dems don’t hang, draw and quarter dissenters.

  • Dav
    Surely the point is that “should ‘a needed more than 52%” is basically an after the fact “if only “, to which the only answer is but it didn’t.

  • @Dav – Surely the issue is whether it is 51% of the electorate or 51% of those who voted.
    As far as I’m concerned at the minimum we should take our lead from company law and thus require at least 51% of the electorate to vote for something, with the government having the chairman’s casting vote, that is normally for the status quo.

  • @Katharine Pindar – Freedom of movement CAN be controlled while still in the single market, as I said in the article, Liechtenstein already do it. And neither the EEA nor the EFTA require us to be in the customs union to join, so we would be able to make new trade deals. There’s those two boxes ticked.

    I agree that Parliament probably won’t take us out with no deal (I certainly hope not), so if the EU rejects May’s silly deal, the best option at that point is for Parliament to pursue the EFTA/EEA option.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '18 - 11:20pm

    Teresa it has been party policy since the autumn of 2016, and what could possibly be the point of trying to alter it this autumn? We believe in Brexit and we believe in another referendum of the deal, in the hope and expectation of achieving Brexit. And if push comes to shove, we believe we must at least stay in the single market (and embrace the Four Freedoms) and stay in the customs union (and as you say, save the Irish border). This government is hanging on by a thread, and we don’t need to do anything but continue campaigning against Brexit, as the latest party email rightly urges us on to do.

  • Jayne mansfield 17th Jul ’18 – 8:18pm:
    The referendum […] was billed as a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people, (yes them), to decide whether we should remain in the EU or leave. I may be mistaken, but I don’t remember any argument against the finality of that statement before the result.
    You are correct, there wasn’t any such argument. The Prime Minister, David Cameron had already stated that it was to be the final decision. In his Chatham House speech of November 2015 he said “This is a huge decision for our country, perhaps the biggest we will make in our lifetimes” and “a once in a generation choice.” It was this latter “once in a generation” phrase that went on to be used in bold letters as a paragraph heading on the official government leaflet sent to every household and on many Britain Stronger in Europe leaflets such as the widely circulated ‘Your vote can make a difference’:



    “Unlike a General Election, where you can choose to elect a new Government every 5 years, this vote is a once in a generation opportunity to choose a Britain that is stronger, safer and better off.”

  • Here’s the relevant section of Cameron’s speech…

    ‘David Cameron’s EU reform speech and letter to European Council President Donald Tusk’ [November 10th. 2015]:

    It will be your decision whether to remain in the EU on the basis of the reforms we secure, or whether we leave.

    Your decision.

    Nobody else’s.

    Not politicians’.

    Not Parliament’s.

    Not lobby groups’.

    Not mine.

    Just you.

    You, the British people, will decide.

    At that moment, you will hold this country’s destiny in your hands.

    This is a huge decision for our country, perhaps the biggest we will make in our lifetimes.

    And it will be the final decision.

    So to those who suggest that a decision in the referendum to leave…

    …would merely produce another stronger renegotiation and then a second referendum in which Britain would stay…

    …I say think again.

    The renegotiation is happening right now. And the referendum that follows will be a once in a generation choice.

    An in or out referendum.

    When the British people speak, their voice will be respected – not ignored.

    If we vote to leave, then we will leave.

    There will not be another renegotiation and another referendum.

    So I say to my European counterparts with whom I am negotiating.

    This is our only chance to get this right – for Britain and for the whole European Union.

    I say to those who are thinking about voting to leave.

    Think very carefully, because this choice cannot be undone.

    And to those who are campaigning to leave but actually hoping for a second referendum – I say decide what you believe in.

    If you think we should leave – and leave means leave – then campaign for that and vote for it.

  • OnceALibDem 18th Jul '18 - 3:16pm

    “Emergency legislation has completed all its stages in a day before now.”
    Not in circumstances where there was significant Parliamentary opposition though

    “I don’t want any more referenda anyway,”
    Well yes I’d agree. But hard to see how a referendum can be reversed without another one

    “those wanting it should have a bill ready to bring forward and agree an emergency timetable with the speaker and get it through.”

    Doesn’t the executive and then the house itself control the timetable of bills? AFAIK there isn’t a single example in anything like modern times of a bill which didn’t have at least tacit government support passing through to become an Act.

    It’s not just the Act though. There are also steps the Electoral Commission have to go through as regards the question and designated organisations etc. I’m really not keen on having a second referendum to (in practice) reverse the first where Parliament takes out a lot of the rules and safeguards because of convenience.

    The window is not closed on a second referendum but it is starting to close

  • Peter Watson 18th Jul '18 - 4:00pm

    @Roland “As far as I’m concerned at the minimum we should take our lead from company law and thus require at least 51% of the electorate to vote for something”
    That is certainly fair enough (with the obvious proviso that the threshold should be set before the referendum, not afterwards!!), but is it really what Lib Dems want? The party’s manifestos in recent years seem to have been quite keen on referendums, and a requirement for support from >50% of those eligible to vote seems like a very small-c conservative approach which would be a great obstacle to change.
    And if Brexit is not stopped, would Lib Dems really want a referendum for re-entry to the EU to require 23,000,000 votes in favour?
    Besides which, on the basis that you suggest, surely we should not have joined the EC in the first place?

  • Jayne mansfield 18th Jul '18 - 7:43pm

    @Katharine Pindar,
    A poster by the name of Jeff has already offered some evidence as to whether the people had a right to think that the referendum was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to settle the issue of whether we remain or leave the EU. I could also direct you to similar comments by George Osborne.

    I have ceased to listen to partisan politicians on the matter. Instead I prefer reading the opinions of people like Professor Stephen Tierney. “Was the Brexit Referendum Democratic ?’ in a blog that can be found on the website of the Centre for Constitutional change.

    There are other opinions on whether the result should be respected, for example, by Richard Ekins: The legitimacy of the Brexit Referendum, on the website of the EU Constitutional Law Association arguing why the decision should be respected.

    It may well be that some of the electorate were uncertain of the destination when voting in the first referendum, but would anyone be any the wiser of we voted to remain in the EU in a second referendum?

    It really would be helpful if there was some clarity on what sort of EU the party wants. Is it one that will be much the same in 10 years time as it was when people voted, or a more federalist EU. etc? What is the preferred destination of the Liberal Democrat party if we remain as full members of the union?

  • OnceALibDem 18th Jul '18 - 8:06pm

    @Roland “As far as I’m concerned at the minimum we should take our lead from company law and thus require at least 51% of the electorate to vote for something”

    Regardless of its applicabilty to politics is that actually the case?

  • @Peter Watson & OnceALibDem – I’m aware of the points you raise, just pointing out that for a company to undertake an action as equally transformative as joining or leaving the EU they have to satisfy a shareholder voting threshold…

    Yes, I agree having such a threshold doesn’t fit very well with party politic’s and party agendas, but is the UK a mature democracy capable of mature decision making or one which likes to maintain the facade of democracy whilst preferring the intrigue of political skullduggery?

  • Dav 17th Jul ’18 – 8:53pm:
    Why do I always get the impression that if you ask somebody what majority they think would have been sufficient, the answer will always be, ‘whatever Leave won by plus one vote’?

    Indeed; and the same people advocate subjugating ourselves to European rules. The Council of Europe’s rules for conducting referendums specify 50% with no quorum…

    ‘European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission): Code of Good Practice on Referendums’:

    7. Quorum

    It is advisable not to provide for:

    a. a turn-out quorum (threshold, minimum percentage), because it assimilates voters who abstain to those who vote no;

    b. an approval quorum (approval by a minimum percentage of registered voters), since it risks involving a difficult political situation if the draft is adopted by a simple majority lower than the necessary threshold.


    7. Quorum

    50. Based on its experience in the area of referendums, the Venice Commission has decided to recommend that no provision be made for rules on quorums.

    51. A turn-out quorum (minimum percentage) means that it is in the interests of a proposal’s opponents to abstain rather than to vote against it. For example, if 48% of electors are in favour of a proposal, 5% are against it and 47% intend to abstain, the 5% of opponents need only desert the ballot box in order to impose their viewpoint, even though they are very much in the minority. In addition, their absence from the campaign is liable to increase the number of abstentions and thus the likelihood that the quorum will not be reached. Encouraging either abstention or the imposition of a minority viewpoint is not healthy for democracy (point III.7.a). Moreover, there is a great temptation to falsify the turn-out rate in the face of weak opposition.

    52. An approval quorum (acceptance by a minimum percentage of registered voters) may also be inconclusive. It may be so high as to make change excessively difficult. If a text is approved – even by a substantial margin – by a majority of voters without the quorum being reached, the political situation becomes extremely awkward, as the majority will feel that they have been deprived of victory without an adequate reason; the risk of the turn-out rate being falsified is the same as for a turn-out quorum.

  • @Martin – I only use Liechtenstein as an example of a country that is in the single market and yet still has controls on immigration, as it’s often (wrongly) assumed that this isn’t possible. Obviously it is in a very different situation to the UK but it’s proof that such a relationship can exist.

  • Peter Martin 19th Jul '18 - 6:53am

    @ Fraser,

    As I understand the process, Liechtenstein, as with anywhere else in the EU, can’t control immigration from within the EU but they can impose restrictions on people staying, but which isn’t quite the same thing. They can insist they have a job, maybe a suitable residence, and won’t qualify for certain benefits until they been legally resident for a period of time etc.

    The consensus view in the UK has always been along the lines that all who are legally resident here should have the same rights. So we don’t deny any anyone unemployment benefit (JSA) if they don’t have a job, throw out rough sleepers, or deny health care etc to anyone who needs it simply because they haven’t paid into the system.

    I do prefer our approach. It wouldn’t be at all comfortable with different tiers of citizenship. Once people are legally here, they should have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. No ifs or buts about that. I would say the courts would take the same view and wouldn’t order anyone’s removal unless they had committed some serious crime. Even then the process of deporting someone can be expensive and time consuming.

    It would be politically impossible too. Say a small child was denied life saving health care simply because the parents hadn’t been resident long enough. The public just wouldn’t stand for that.

  • @Jeff – Re: Quorum – A good contribution.

    @Dav – Adding to this thread of discussion, is the terms of reference and the games politicians play. Remember, the In/Out referendum bill was presented to Parliament as advisory, however, various fractions, including David Cameron made public statements (outside of the chamber) that clearly said his government/executive would be bound to implement the result. So whilst we can set a quorum, getting politicians to respect both the process and the result may be challenging. Just as we saw with the case R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jul '18 - 6:07pm

    Jeff – It is worth adding to that a reminder about the EU’s extraordinary condition of a 55% majority in the Montenegro referedum. That was an unelected supranational imposing a provision that appears nowhere in the law under which that referendum was run as determined by elected politicians in a third country. The EU was saved by a few thousand votes from sparking an almighty crisis in the Balkans – I was astounded at how little coverage that got. These by the way are the countries that are now loudly concerned about external meddling in votes!

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