Has this Tory leadership hopeful nailed the format needed for a People’s Vote ballot paper?

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We’re beginning to hear some voices saying that “No deal” should not be on the ballot paper in the event of a People’s Vote/3rd referendum.

On May 15th, Labour’s Foreign affairs spokesperson, Emily Thornberry said on LBC:

I couldn’t agree to no deal. I don’t think it should be on the ballot paper.

I’ve also found the Mohammed Amin MBE, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and Green MEP Molly Scott Cato saying that “No deal” should not be on the ballot paper.

It is obvious to me that we will never have a chance of resolving the current highly polarised state of public opinion if we do not, once and for all, give the millions of UK “hard Brexiteers” the chance to vote for a defined “no deal” scenario in a People’s Vote. Without that, a People’s Vote will leave millions of people feeling embittered and betrayed. It will be a disaster for the democratic health of the nation.

However, there is a format for the “People’s Vote” which can include a “no deal” option and help to resolve the current impasse. I heard a Lib Dem parliamentarian outlining this ballot design back in early April. Conservative leadership hopeful, Sam Gyimah MP (who has been a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign) outlined the format in a tweet yesterday:

So the format I am referring to is in two stages. At the top of the ballot paper there is question 1 – do you want to remain in or leave the EU? Once the voter gives their preference for that question, then they move on to question 2, which would ask: if, Parliament decides following this referendum to leave the EU, do you want the UK to leave a) with the agreement with the EU put forward by Parliament in draft bill XXXX or b) without agreement with the EU as detailed in Parliament’s draft bill YYYY ?

There are three advantages of this approach:

1. It makes sure “no deal” is on the ballot paper to assuage the sense of grievance held by millions of people.

2. By having a two stage question process, it allows those who vote for remain to be able to also vote on whether to have “deal or no deal” – a possibility that would not be allowed in a single question such as “What do you want the UK government to do with respect to the EU?: a) Leave with a deal b) Leave without a deal or c) Remain?

3. In the second stage question, by having draft bills before parliament (for both i. a deal with the EU and also ii. what would happen in the event of “no deal” being favoured by the electorate as a whole) this will ensure that there is substance and detail, drafted by Parliament, behind the two options. I also believe there should be a detailed government document which precisely outlines the pros and cons of the deal (i. above) and the “no deal” (ii. above).

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • John Chandler 3rd Jun '19 - 11:07am

    Why not have one question, with the ability to tick whatever options you would be happy with: Remain, Leave with Deal, Leave without Deal. Option with most votes wins. Simpler, no need for multi-part questions, allows people to express support for more than one option.

    While we live in polarised times, I’m sure there are people who would be happy with Remain or Leave with Deal; some Leave with or without a deal; some only in favour of one option; and some who couldn’t care less.

  • What does no deal mean? If we leave tomorrow there will need to be some arrangement with the EU. There will need to be an agreement on goods being exported and imported. We can of course say we will keep the same arrangements on regulations about goods as we have now. This was part of the interim agreement that has been rejected. We can keep the same arrangements as we have now on free movement for employment. Again this was negotiated and rejected.
    In the longer term we might decide we need a new agreement. What would this be? What are we asking for?
    The idea that we can leave on a set date, not have an agreement, and not have chaos is silly.
    It is all a question of the use of language.
    We need to consistently give the true position. Stop making generalised attacks on the suggestions by the Prime Minister, and give concrete analysis of the real situation.

  • John Marriott 3rd Jun '19 - 11:57am

    How about an alternative/preferential vote? There are three options on the ballot paper eg 1 Brexit with a Deal 2 Brexit with No Deal 3 Remain/Revoke Article 50. Voters number the three in order of preference (or just one if they prefer). The ballots are counted and the option with the least first preferences is eliminated and its second preferences are reapplied. After that, whichever of the remaining two preferences comes out on top is the winner.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jun '19 - 12:04pm

    Why can’t we number our preferences 1,2,3 ?

    This way those Leavers who would prefer to remain rather than leave with some ultra bad deal can put the bad deal option last.

    Not only is a bad deal worse than no deal. It is also worse than leaving!

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jun '19 - 12:06pm

    Sorry that should have been:

    Not only is a bad deal worse than no deal. It is also worse than Remaining!

  • David Allen 3rd Jun '19 - 12:25pm

    There is no “perfect” way to frame the question/s, because whatever option is chosen will tend to favour one particular result.

    Gyimah’s option favours “Leave with Deal”. On his question 1, “Leave” will hoover up all the votes from both “Dealers” and “No Dealers”, replicating the major flaw of the 2016 referendum in fact, and so “Leave” may well scrape a small majority just as it did in 2016. The when question 2 is asked, Remainers will pile in to ensure that “Deal” beats “No Deal”. There will then be an outcry from both sides that nobody really wanted “Leave with Deal”, and that our new Prime Minister should just ignore this latest duff referendum result.

    The dilemma is real enough. No ballot can gain general acceptance if it does not include something that hard Brexiteers can enthusiastically vote for. But no ballot can allow a No Deal option – A government which implemented it would create a national emergency and be swiftly toppled, and to head that off, Parliament would almost certainly decide to override the No Deal vote, despite the risk of that provoking riots.

    I think the option that could be offered to hard Brexiteers is “Leave the EU, demand further negotiations leading to an improved Withdrawal Agreement”. Yes, I know all the reasons why that looks like a unicorn. The government putting this referendum question could say “It is up to those who support this option to explain to the public how it could be made to work in practice.” If “Leave and Renegotiate” were to win the referendum, government would have to try various hardball tactics such as withholding the divorce payment, and the EU would probably find some small concessions which our Brexiteers could declare as a triumph. Then we would leave with a deal, avoiding the worst disasters.

    More likely of course, Remain would win. But the crucial need to give the Brexiteers something to vote for would have been met.

  • William Fowler 3rd Jun '19 - 1:13pm

    I think this is basically a good idea and fair, I don’t believe that those who want May’s deal would want it if they could remain so don’t really see it is a problem. However, might be more chance of remaining if there was a single question remain v. no deal but making it clear that govn spending would have to fall over the next few years if no deal won with a knock-on effect on welfare payment caps and pensions.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Jun '19 - 1:22pm

    There is a fundamental Moral problem here. Senior Medical figures claim that there is a possibility that No Deal Brexit could lead to some Patients not being able to get the Medicines they need to live. There is a serious possibility that some people could die.
    Democracy has limits, just as we would not allow a Referendum on Capital Punishment we cannot allow a Vote on risking innocent lives for the sake of a political gesture.

  • The ting about no deal is that it’s the default setting. It requires no vote. It’s not the consequence of a split in public opinion. It’s simply the result of parliament refusing to take the responsibility they are paid to take. If MPs are so basically useless in a crunch then maybe we moved away from the concept of professional politics and just elected delegates. Otherwise, why are we paying professional political class who refuse to do their job in a professional manner?

  • John Bicknell 3rd Jun '19 - 1:55pm

    Leave the EU, but on much improved negotiated terms? I suspect that would result in being the preferred option, but it is an unrealistic fantasy, leading to further prolonged impasse and public frustration. Only clearly defined outcomes, capable of being implemented, should be offered.

  • one or two hopeful signs in the media that we may do quite well at Peterboro. Here is hoping. Have we any hard info from the ground? Normally we get loads of emails at a by election asking for this and that especially money, had nothing this time. Find it all a bit strange.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jun '19 - 3:26pm

    George Kendall

    What’s wrong with a three-way AV vote, with Leave, Remain, and Theresa May’s deal?

    It doesn’t have the choice of leave but maintain the customs agreement, which is what Jeremy Corbyn wants.

    I think AV is essential, as otherwise it could be argued that the referendum is being fixed by dividing the Leave votes so that Remain wins. It is also essential to have the full range of Leave forms available, as that was the problem in the first place – there are different forms of Leave, and those who supported each one opposed the others, so none could get agreed support.

  • Julian Tisi 3rd Jun '19 - 4:34pm

    “No deal” should get nowhere near the ballot paper and not just because it would be economically disastrous. “No deal” has been the least explored, least debated term to have been bandied about in recent months. What exactly does it mean apart from leaving with no transition and with no control over things that we take for granted – that planes will fly, that medicines will still be available etc. – at the point of leaving? In practice, we will end up trying to do a deal with the EU, as they are too important to our economy not to. What would the terms of such a deal be? Almost certainly very similar to the deal rejected.

  • Peter Andrews 3rd Jun '19 - 6:29pm

    I agree with all those saying suggesting the solution is preferential voting with all 3 options on the referendum ballot paper

  • David Allen 3rd Jun '19 - 7:28pm

    John Bicknell said: “Leave the EU, but on much improved negotiated terms? I suspect that would result in being the preferred option, but it is an unrealistic fantasy, leading to further prolonged impasse and public frustration.”

    Well, I didn’t say “much improved”. I really shouldn’t have said “improved” at all. Let me have another try. “Leave the EU. Reject the current Deal with the EU, and re-open negotiations to seek an alternative resolution.” Yes, implementing this would lead to impasse and frustration, but it is what many of the Tory leadership candidates want to do. So, it is a plausible (if, in truth, stupid) option, and it ought to be on the ballot paper.

    John Bicknell said: “Only clearly defined outcomes, capable of being implemented, should be offered.”

    Well, “No Deal” certainly does not meet that sensible criterion! If we tried it, we’d only be back at the negotiating table within weeks, grovelling to the EU to let us re-adopt sensible trading regulations, so that we could escape the famine, pestilence and rioting which had come to our green and pleasant land!

    My proposed option, while not impeccably well-defined or implementable, gets a lot closer to John Bicknell’s ideal. And – It gives the hard Brexiter something to vote for. That is crucial. We will never win a second referendum if we do not offer the hard Brexiter an option he/she can enthusiastically vote for.

  • James Hardy 3rd Jun '19 - 11:55pm

    Terrible idea
    Imagine 48% support remain
    the remaining 52% is split 40% No Deal, 12% Deal

    In this scenario, Leave wins round 1
    Most remainers would pick the terrible deal over the awful no deal
    so Round 2 would end up with the Deal winning with 60%/40%, despite being the least popular option.

    We have a parliament for a reason, they need to rule out No Deal as a stupid idea, and have a vote between the status quo (remain) and the deal that has been negotiated

  • David Evershed 4th Jun '19 - 2:37am

    James Hardy is right.

    But since we have already had the Leave / Remain referendum we can go straight to the May Deal/ WTO Deal referendum choice which Remainers can also vote on.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Jun '19 - 7:09am

    David Evershed: There is no WTO choice. So many people have talked absolute tosh about this. There are almost no countries with any significant trade who do so under WTO rules. The WTO doesn’t facilitate trade it simply lays down rules about tariffs. It is a member organisation of which we will not be members if we leave the EU. We will have to join and it’s not immediately clear if that will be a quick process as at least one country has threatened to veto UK membership. Even if we become members we will have to join an appropriate grouping within WTO which has similar interests to ourselves and then start to work on trade We will have no trade deals, because those we enjoy under the EU aegis will cease and we will have to start again. Given the length of time it takes to negotiate a trade deal (up to 5 years) there will be a lengthy period in which we may be unable to trade.
    You are being seriously misled by people who know nothing about the WTO and simply make it cup as they go along. A further factor in this whole saga is that Trump is trying to break up the WTO and may well succeed because the USA is a major source of its funding.
    So trading under WTO rules is a dangerous myth and certainly not a serious choice even if you do want to leave the EU.
    Don’t believe me? I suggest you google WTO and read it for yourself.

  • Chris Leeds 4th Jun '19 - 8:08am

    It seems to me four things are crucial. First, Remain must be an option for reasons that don’t need spelling out here. Second, no deal has to be on the ballot paper, or the no dealers will yell ‘undemocratic fix” and get support for that view way beyond their natural vote. Third, we can’t again allow the leavers to produce a blank canvas that anyone can paint on; that’s a big reason why we lost in 2016. Four, the Sam Gyimah approach is seriously dangerous for the reasons set out above by others.

    AV is a good idea, but only if you have more than two possibilities. Theresa May’s deal is dead and all the soft Brexit options disintegrate when held up to the light. In reality, there are only two options left, Remain or no deal.

    The no dealers should be told that to get on the ballot they have to spell out what no deal means. If it’s WTO long term, we can expose that in the campaign. If it’s new negotiations, or a trade deal with the EU, we can point out that this takes us back to Theresa May’s deal.

  • Sarah Brown 4th Jun '19 - 9:11am

    Some people are not only determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, they’re also determined to learn nothing from David Cameron’s colossal blunder.

    Parliament is not prepared to enact no deal. It shouldn’t be on a ballot paper. Even Vote Leave said there would be a deal in place before we left. Anyone claiming no deal was the understood, or even possible outcome of voting leave in 2016 is lying.

    When in a hole, stop digging.

  • Remain: we know exactly what will happen if people vote for this
    May’s deal: we know exactly what will happen if people vote for this
    No deal: completely undefined and undefinable. We have no idea what will happen if we vote for this, save chaos

    Surely we have learned the lesson that putting something on the ballot paper that we have no idea what the outcome will be is REALLY stupid after the last referendum?

  • Zoe O'connell 4th Jun '19 - 9:56am

    No deal should not appear on the ballot paper, because parliament is clued up enough to realise no deal would be utterly catastrophic and is simply not willing to deliver it.

  • Chris Leeds 4th Jun '19 - 10:08am

    I don’t want a nebulous no deal option on the ballot. That’s why I said its proponents must set out in advance what they mean by it.

    It there’s to be a referendum with the options being leave with a deal or remain, that deal option has to be identified. What is it?

    If our position is, as I agree it should be, to continue to press for a referendum, we have to answer that question. If we can’t, then a referendum is meaningless and we should move to a position of revoke without a referendum. I think that would be playing with fire unless a referendum continues to be refused and we get to October with crashing out or revoking the only viable options.

  • The problem with “No Deal” is that the first thing that any sane government will do, the day after leaving with No Deal, is to start negotiating a trade arrangement with the EU.

    Since we would have no idea what that trade arrangement would look like, there’s no way to put that to the people on the ballot paper. One of the problems with the first referendum is that we didn’t know what the result would be – that’s the best argument for a second one (“we didn’t know what Leave would be; now we do, do we still want to do it?”)

    The only way I could see putting No Deal on the ballot paper would be to include a ban on negotiating with the EU in it – that is not just “No Deal”, but “the UK cannot sign or ratify any treaty with the EU or any member thereof without a further referendum” – which means that it’s the worst-possible No Deal, with all flights ending, full customs and border checks required on both the sea border (ie the full on M20 car park problem at Dover) and the land border (which means a full hard border in Ireland, which is definitely a breach of the commitments in the Good Friday Agreement).

    There are two big problems with that. First, it’s absolutely not the No Deal that No Deal proponents want, so they will (legitimately) complain, and Second: it’s a really really really bad idea to do it, and we shouldn’t put things on a ballot paper in a referendum if they are that bad; voters will regard anything on a referendum ballot as being a legitimate option, and we shouldn’t include things that aren’t legitimate options.

  • Chris Leeds 4th Jun '19 - 10:29am

    I believe you’re right Andrew that, in all likelihood, the only way the no dealers are likely to get their way is through a referendum. I wrote an article “Who needs a referendum the most”?” on LDV a few weeks ago. However, if that judgment is wrong, the consequences for us would be unpleasant.

    Either way, we need to clarify our thoughts on this. If we’re continuing to push for a referendum, we need to be clearer about detail. Our spokespeople have been very clear on Brexit, but stumble when confronted with this question.. Jo Swinson on the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday was just the most recent example of many. Alternatively, we need to say the time for a referendum has passed and make our policy revoke without one. Are we ready for the flak on that?

  • Peter Martin 4th Jun '19 - 10:30am

    @ Chris Leeds,

    “The no dealers should be told that to get on the ballot they have to spell out what no deal means”

    What can it mean other than we leave without a deal? It doesn’t mean that we won’t have a deal at some future time. If we walk away now we could walk back again at some in the future. Or we may not. Leavers cannot say just what the EU will offer in the future. It takes two to tango as they say.

    I’ve always suspected the EU offer is a deliberately designed to be such a poor offer that we’d refuse it and end up remaining in the EU. Once we’ve left it that won’t be a factor any longer and a more sensible deal can be struck.

  • nvelope2003 4th Jun '19 - 10:45am

    Peter Martin: If we left and returned later is it likely that we would ever get the deal we already have now – out of the Euro zone, out of Schengen, rebate etc ?

  • Peter Martin 4th Jun '19 - 11:01am

    @ nvelope2003,

    Are you saying the best bits of the EU are those we don’t have to be a part of? Aren’t remainers damning their own argument if they have severe reservations on the direction of travel of the EU.

    It’s like the Canadians wanting to be considered American, but not wanting to use the US dollar and insisting on having separate passport controls. I suppose that would be a possibility for them but they seem to get along fine as they are. Trade flows because they have trade agreements. They don’t have to share a Parliament to have a good trading relationship.

  • What can it mean other than we leave without a deal?

    So, does that mean that there will be no replacement for any of the agreements that the UK has with the EU? So all flights will end, there will be full border controls on the Irish border and at the ports (including the 20-odd mile queue of lorries on the M20), EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU (excepting the Irish) will be dependent on unilateral decisions by the host governments, etc.

    Or does it mean: “we could strike agreements on those matters, but we won’t tell you what those agreements will be” – which is why we all keep saying that it’s a pig in a poke. It could be the full catastrophe; it could be something less awful, but the nature of those agreements will be dependent on the government’s ability to negotiate – a government that has already proven its inability to negotiate an agreement that is satisfactory to both the EU and the House of Commons.

    Leavers cannot say just what the EU will offer in the future.

    You can ask, though. You could have an outline of the terms you will seek and a provisional agreement from the EU to negotiate on that basis. You’re asking people to vote for a known catastrophe on 1 November (or whatever the leaving date is) and an unknown set of fixes subsequent to that, with the UK in a really bad negotiating position, with a known-bad set of negotiators working on the UK’s behalf. How could any party in good conscience put that before the British people?

  • Richard Underhill 4th Jun '19 - 12:18pm

    Mrs Thatcher’s rebate?

  • Peter Martin
    That’s the thing that always gets me. There’s all this talk from Pan-Europeanists about how great the EU is, how committed to the project they are or should be. An then they argument turns into the best thing about being in the EU how many opt out we can manage. Surely people really committed to ever close Union should actually be arguing against op outs. They should be in favour of the single currency and all the other stuff. It sometimes comes across as any old argument will do for voters. just as long as the project is moved forward. Like trying to get round the reality that there isn’t much public support for the closer political ties to the EU that is the main purpose of the project in the first place!

  • Michael Romberg 4th Jun '19 - 1:49pm

    I have a different proposal for how to structure a three-way referendum.

    Round 1 chooses between different Brexit options to identify the best available Brexit;
    Round 2 some weeks later chooses between that Brexit champion and Remain.

    The method has these advantages:

    it brings real clarity to the process;

    it reflects how decisions are made. Only when we know what the best option is can we decide whether to go forward with it.

    it would very obviously not be a re-run of 2016. That was a vote on an idea. The next referendum would be a choice between defined plans.

    Round 1 could include more than two Brexit options. Problems with multiple choice transferable vote systems are much reduced when all options tend in the same direction – Brexit – compared with a vote when one option is radically different.

    it minimises the extent to which people have to guess how others will vote. Sure, in Round 1 Brexit supporters will need to choose a Brexit that is likely to beat Remain – a decision that will tend towards uniting the country. But under an option that first asks Leave/ Remain, a voter whose preference was 1 Deal, 2 Remain would need to guess the outcome of the second ballot before casting their vote in the first.

    It overcomes problems with other options put forward:

    transferable voting systems risk that people gravitate towards a middle option that no-one actually wants. That is not so bad when the middle option is a compromise. But in this case, Theresa May’s Deal is not a compromise but a hard Brexit.

    asking “Remain/ Leave” first would allow people as in 2016 to project onto “Leave” whatever hopes they had rather than reflect an individual plan. Even if the ballot took place on the same day and therefore referred to the two Leave plans in the second question, the Leave vote would still be the sum of the votes for all Leave options on the table. But some people would have an order of preference: 1. Leave Plan A, 2. Remain, 3. Leave Plan B.

    Further reading



  • Peter Martin 4th Jun '19 - 1:56pm

    @ Glenn,

    “Surely people really committed to ever close Union should actually be arguing against op outs. They should be in favour of the single currency and all the other stuff. It sometimes comes across as any old argument will do for voters. just as long as the project is moved forward.”

    Yes, exactly right!

    If you want to be a member of the Temperance Society, then fair enough. But, if you then want to negotiate an opt-out on their alcohol consumption rules, what’s the point?

  • Peter Martin 4th Jun '19 - 2:16pm

    @ Michael Romberg,

    We’ve already had Round 1. That was either in 1975 or 2016 depending on how you want to look at it! I think all Lib Dems did vote for the 2016 referendum to take place, so Lib Dems can’t have had too many problems with the question asked then. I guess you thought you’d win easily?

    I looks like you are scrabbling around to find some sort of formula which will appear to present the electorate with a complete choice, but at the same time weighting those options to favour a Remain outcome.

    You’re a Lib Dem so why wouldn’t you? But you have to consider that unless the Leave side consider the voting process to be fair they’ll just boycott the whole thing and nothing will be resolved. You may as well save a few million on the total cost and Revoke Art50 as many indeed wish to do.

  • nvelope2003 4th Jun '19 - 4:38pm

    Peter Martin/ Glenn: Like most leavers you hate the EU and all it stands for as you seem to believe that Great Britain can be a sovereign state as it was in 1920 but it is 2019 now and we need a close relationship with our nearest neighbours not become a vassal state of one of the Great powers, almost certainly the USA whose President has just announced that the NHS must be part of the “Great and Fantastic” trade deal on offer when we have left the EU and have no option but to agree with whatever the US wants. He can flatter the Queen but not me.The European nations have broadly similar social welfare and healthcare arrangements unlike the US where health care is very expensive. I wonder if all those elderly people in the South West of England and other areas where they form a large part of the population would have voted for that nice Mr Farage if they had known he favours the US system. Even if they might have cover they will have to fork out for their children and grandchildren when they cannot afford the bills.

    It is perfectly rational for those who on balance support remaining in the EU to wish to retain some opt outs although others prefer the whole package. The Leavers do not want any of the package and that is their right but despite what they say I cannot see anything in the 2016 leaflet which clearly sets out their position because they did not dare. What they seem to want is for Britain to be “Great” again, presumably with a huge Navy to enforce free trade which had to be abandoned in 1932 because the economy was on the verge of collapse with millions on the dole. To finance this Navy we would have to cut spending on health care, education and social services to the sort of levels we had before the welfare state with the sort of standard of living working class people had to endure then. Good luck to the middle classes. They might need to have brick proof windows.

  • David Allen 4th Jun '19 - 5:11pm

    Romberg’s proposal is better than Gyimah’s proposal, because it requires Leavers to begin by choosing the specific Brexit plan which will be put forward against the Remain alternative. This overcomes the massive flaw in the 2016 vote – when people happily rolled together boring-but-practical Brexits such as Norway with exciting-but-crazy Brexits such as WTO, called them all “Leave”, painted them as somehow being exciting-and-practical, and scraped a bogus narrow majority by that sleight of hand.

    Peter Martin says Romberg is biased. Yes, if you insist on a fairer plan, which doesn’t help Leave win a flagrantly pro-Leave biased contest, then you will provoke screams of pain from Leavers, who would like to maintain the massive pro-Leave bias.

    Romberg does also enable the inclusion of both “No Deal” and “Reject May’s Deal and Renegotiate” on the (first round) ballot paper. The second of these, though loudly dismissed as nebulous by many posters, simply must be included, since it is what the next Tory leader will almost certainly prefer to do.

    We also have to tackle the shouting competition between those who say that including No Deal on the ballot would be REALLY STUPID and those who say it will be absolutely UNAVOIDABLE. The shouters, on both sides, might just both be wrong! A Romberg ballot, in which No Deal had to compete against several alternatives ranging from slightly-less-crazy through to CU + SM, would concentrate minds on more rational compromise, and cut the rug from under the simplicist-populists’ feet.

    And if you’re still worried that even this cannot eliminate all risk and nebulosity from our political life – well then, give up politics, it does not suit you temperamentally, take up something like quantity surveying, where you can live in a world of perfect rationality!

  • Peter Martin 4th Jun '19 - 5:41pm

    @ nvelope2003,

    “Like most leavers you (ie Glenn and I) hate the EU and all it stands for…..”

    I doubt that’s true in Glenn’s case , but I’ll leave him to answer for himself. My own opinion, previously stated, is that the EU has simply got ahead of itself. If we could just wind back to EEC days, there would be far less of a problem. In other words, the PTB in the EU are trying to achieve something that’s never going to work. That’s not the same as hating the EU.

    I’ve often said that Germany produces good engineers but crap economists. Dirk Ehnts might just cause me to revise my opinion on this! He says:

    “The eurozone’s economic woes are due to political constraints which derive from the construction of the eurozone itself……… These constraints can be addressed politically and fixed.”

    Of course that’s true. He’s right. They can. But I doubt very much they will.


  • Nvelope2003
    Actually, I don’t hate the EU. I just think it’s an unnecessary organisation based on a concept I don’t believe in. Plenty of countries manage perfectly well without being in the EU.. I think Britain could be more like Australia or Iceland or something. We don’t need to be at the big table and so don’t need big alliances. Trump is also not going to be in power forever. The US election is next year and even if he won it, he would still only have another four years. On top of which he’s 72 years old and not immortal.

  • nvelope2003 4th Jun '19 - 8:44pm

    Glenn: Obviously Trump will not be President for ever but he is merely stating in more energetic (or offensive) terms the policy of the US Government whoever is president. He is like the Roman Emperor paying a visit to one of his vassal states where he needs to get a better deal on trade and thinks that our leaving the EU will make it much easier. In view of the reaction from Conservatives and others over his comments on the NHS he might just have killed Brexit. Perhaps the penny has just dropped. What a pity it took so long when some of us could see it all along.

    Interesting that no American president can risk a ride through the streets of London in a horse drawn carriage for fear of assassination. He seemed to be in a helicopter not seeing or being seen by any of his subjects. Perhaps he was afraid there would be no crowds ? Maybe he leaves that to the Queen. The President of China was not afraid.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Jun '19 - 9:16pm

    I’m against any further referendum. Let our MPs do the job they were elected to do and vote for the solution that is best for the UK. i.e withdraw article 50 and remain. Anything else is like jumping off a skyscraper with no parachute or safety net.

  • Nvelop2003
    I dispute the vassal state argument. I think it’s a fear or more likely meaningless rhetorical jibe born of trying to keep a seat at the big table. As I said Australia and Iceland do not find the need to be vassal states. To be honest I sometimes think the that ironically the appeal of the EU is oddly imperial. The big European destiny. A sort of secular reinvention of the good old days of Christendom. I just do not see the need for a European parliament and I think the idea of political integration makes no sense. I think international relationships should be much looser and that this would be a lot better than the old European Imperial powers huddling together in a political union very few people were actively asking for. It’s an idea that overstepped itself in 1993 and is hitting the buffers because of it. I don’t think the EU is going to collapse. but I think it’s already retracting from the central idea of ever closer union because it can’t do much to counter national political differences. To me the EU seems based on the myth of the death of the nation state and the idea you can supplant national drives with supranational ones. All the political systems/aims are fundamentally different and all of them are based within national borders. There is thus no real drive for further political integration. Now, some people would say this means there is therefor no point in leaving, to which I would say there is even less point in staying.

  • Daniel Walker 5th Jun '19 - 8:18am

    @Glenn Iceland is in the EEA, so is a rule-taker ultimately, although the EFTA states’ views are of course considered, and Australia is the most wealthy country in its local area. And is still a member of “ASEAN Plus Six”, and must follow the rules of that, although they are made in concert with the other members.

    A country’s choice, if it is not one of the “big elephants” – the US, China, the EU – is limited largely to which of those three’s rules they are going to (broadly) follow. If we have a full trade deal with the US, that’s the end of the NHS, effectively. Now, you might argue that insurance-style healthcare systems work OK in Germany, the Netherlands and France, and you’d be right, but they are all heavily regulated; given it’s been made clear that the US would insist on a huge relaxation of labelling laws—because otherwise it “wouldn’t be fair” on US agricorps to allow people to make an informed choice—how likely is that sort of regulation here, post-Brexit?

    Rule taker or (shared) rule maker, that’s your choice. And in the EU, we make the rules via (ultimately) the EU Parliament – I literally cannot grasp why you think that’s worse than not having a democratically-elected body doing it.

    And that’s before we even get into the land border in Ireland and the GFA.

    How do you feel about:

    a) The Universal Postal Union (which commits us to accepting post from other countries);
    b) NATO (which commits us to going to war under some circumstances);
    c) The UN (which commits us to following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

    Out of interest?

  • Daniel
    All kinds of services, products an agreements are aligned across the globe without needing a world government made up of politically tied member states. So, it depends what you mean by “rule taker”. Australia is not in a political union with the ASEAN Plus Six. Also I don’t buy the end of the NHS narrative. I would point out that attacks on the NHS ( franchising, private management etc.) have happened within Europe, often driven by politicians committed to the utterly pointless Pan-European Political Integration Project that is the EU. I just do not find the political drive behind the EU appealing. I do not believe in the concept of a shared European cultural and political destiny/identity. The EU is just a lot of Nation states talking Europe and acting national. Even when we’re told Brexit is splitting the country apart, most people can’t be bothered to vote in its elections! It’s a big waste of money, time and effort. Even within the EU we are starting to hear a shift from the notion of ever-closer-union to more cooperation. The central idea of political integration does not work and is never going to work. because no national electorates will ever sanction it.

  • David Allen 5th Jun '19 - 10:27am

    Why has nobody else (other than dismissive Leave supporters) engaged with Michael Romberg’s intelligent proposal, which overcomes most of the referendum problems? Is it that it’s easier to pontificate about simple issues, than to think hard about slightly more complex concepts?

  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '19 - 10:46am

    @ Glenn @ Daniel Walker

    We’re all a combination of rule takers and makers to an extent. If we’re exporting beer into Germany, for example, it is fair enough that it has to conform to the same standards as their excellent local produce. Similarly, we would expect German car manufacturers to supply cars which have steering wheels on the opposite side to what they normally produce!

    These rules are usually just common sense. However, the EU has taken this all too far. It may same a trivial matter, but the time we use adopt an example of unnecessary interference. What is it to them whether we move our clocks forwards and back for winter and summer? IF we stay in the EU we won’t be “allowed” to do that.
    Sure there are arguments for and against that. But it should be our call to make. We’ll have less autonomy than an Australian State. They can set their clocks as they like. And move them as they like for summer and winter. South Australia has a half hour difference to Melbourne, for example.

  • Peter Martin
    I was more or less saying that. It’s idea that we need to be in a close formal political union that that I don’t get. Especially, as there is not much drive for further political integration amongst the electorates in any of the nation states. To me it seems some people dream of a federal united Europe and it just isn’t really wanted or needed. Europe is not a unified culture with a shared history. It’s a lot of countries with different languages, different political systems, different cultures and different economies sharing a geographical region. It makes no more sense to be in a political Union with Spain or Poland or Germany than it does with Japan or Mexico.

  • Daniel Walker 5th Jun '19 - 12:35pm

    @Peter Martin

    It’s been pointed out to you before that the clock change Directive is still going through the process of being reviewed by the national governments, EU Committee of the Regions, etc. and some may well express reservations. It is worth noting that the review only occurred because some member states were requesting it, and it was open to comments from EU Citizens, as all Directives are, and was supported by 80% of 4.6million respondents.

    Ultimately, I suspect it’s one of those things that is (as you say) sufficiently trivial that the added convenience of the decision being made once and EU-wide will outweigh the desire to make the decision locally. By all means, though, lobby your new MEPs to oppose it, and/or a member of the UK’s delegation to the Committee of the Regions. The Principle of Subsidiarity is written into the constituent Treaties for a reason, and one of the CoR’s jobs is to maintain it.

    (regarding your 2nd “takers vs makers” example: It isn’t illegal to sell or drive LHD cars in the UK, or RHD ones on the mainland (as far as I know), so the fact that German manufacturers make RHD versions is driven by commercial considerations (i.e. very few people in the UK want a LHD car) rather than any rules as such)

  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '19 - 1:02pm

    @ Daniel Walker,

    It’s possibly a requirement that new cars should be RHD. If not, it probably should be! But that’s for us to decide. As Glenn says, these kinds of issues can easily be resolved without all the nonsense that is the European Parliament. Just like they are resolved everywhere else in the world by the everyday negotiations between one Government and another.

    The desire for a common Parliament isn’t motivated by a desire to better resolve any practical problems that may arise from moving clocks, or co-operation against international terrorism, or the need to conserve fish stocks or whatever else the EU Parliament is supposed to do. We should do it the same way as the Americans and Canadians do it. Yes they speak to each other on a friendly basis. But no they don’t intend to form a political union as the EU clearly does. It won’t work anyway.

    Glenn is quite right with his:

    “Europe is not a unified culture with a shared history. It’s a lot of countries with different languages, different political systems, different cultures and different economies sharing a geographical region.”

    I don’t normally quote Milton Friedman but he made almost exactly the same point in connection with the currency as long ago as 1997. The notion of a of a common Parliament has similar flaws. His warning was entirely prescient. The PTB in the EU chose to ignore it:

    “The aim has been to link Germany and France so closely as to make a future European war impossible, and to set the stage for a federal United States of Europe.”

    “……Europe’s common market exemplifies a situation that is unfavorable to a common currency “

    Or a common Parliament! Hardly anyone in the UK is interested in who the Germans vote for. Neither are most voters UK interested in who the UK votes for in EU elections!

    ” It is composed of separate nations, whose residents speak different languages, have different customs, and have far greater loyalty and attachment to their own country than to the common market or to the idea of “Europe.”


  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '19 - 1:42pm

    All these convoluted voting schemes which are clearly designed to ensure a Remain win.

    My attitude is hardening! We’ve eliminated Remain in2016. So how about any new referendum being between Leave with No Deal and Leave with May’s non-deal?

    That’s the logical choice.

  • Daniel Walker 5th Jun '19 - 2:13pm

    @Peter Martin “It’s possibly a requirement that new cars should be RHD.

    It isn’t.

    “If not, it probably should be!”

    Why? It’s not illegal to drive them (Bit tricky for all those channel ferries and the Tunnel, if it was), or import them, why should it be illegal to buy new ones? (obviously, the insurers might charge you more for having one, and fair enough, but that’s your choice)

    “Just like they are resolved everywhere else in the world by the everyday negotiations between one Government and another.”

    What is possible, and may even be fairly straightforward, between 2 or 3 governments is not possible between 28 (or 31), especially when it’s a comprehensive agreement like the Single Market. So you need some body whose job it is to do all the irritating multilateral details. It has some power, otherwise it’s pointless, so it needs democratic oversight at minimum. At some point, it becomes easier to directly elect the members of this body, and call it a Parliament, or Assembly, or Senate, or whatever. (Roses by any other name, and so forth)

    “The desire for a common Parliament isn’t motivated by a desire to better resolve any practical problems that may arise from moving clocks, or co-operation against international terrorism, or the need to conserve fish stocks or whatever else the EU Parliament is supposed to do”

    That’s exactly what it is for! It’s for making decisions that affect people by their democratically-elected representatives.

    “Hardly anyone in the UK is interested in who the Germans vote for. Neither are most voters UK interested in who the UK votes for in EU elections!”

    The German election results are not secrets. Anyone who cares to know can do. I don’t know the result of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ last match, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. (Looks like they lost 2-0 to Liverpool, if anyone is interested 🙂 )

  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '19 - 2:40pm

    Look, I don’t want to get bogged down in a discussion of RHD cars! That’s not the point. The point is the extent to which people in the UK feel “European” and want to participate in the European Union. The answer is not very much at all.

    I’ve never voted in European elections. I’m not alone. I’ve never written to an MEP. I don’t recognise the legitimacy of the EU Parliament. So don’t start suggesting I write about the clocks! I’m no going to start now. I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t want the UK to adopt the euro and I don’t want to have to listen to Ode to Bloody Joy!

    PIty about that. I used to like that tune before it acquired a political significance!

  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '19 - 4:53pm

    PS @ Daniel Walker,

    I might add that although you and other Lib Dems might claim otherwise, Lib Dems are probably less interested in the goings on in the EU than I am. When the EU election results came through the only ones you cared about were those from the UK. What happened to your sister parties like the FDP in Germany and D66 in the Netherlands for example? The Croation Civic Liberal Alliance? Ever heard of them? Where were the articles on those?

    Where are the articles on Macrons problems with the Gilets Jaunes and the Marine le PEN’s RN? Where are the articles on the budget dispute between Italy and the EU?

    The only conclusion is that you aren’t interested. Fair enough. But, please don’t lecture us about the workings of European Democracy until you are.

  • chris moore 5th Jun '19 - 7:15pm

    I might add that although you and other Lib Dems might claim otherwise, Lib Dems are probably less interested in the goings on in the EU than I am. When the EU election results came through the only ones you cared about were those from the UK. What happened to your sister parties like the FDP in Germany and D66 in the Netherlands for example? The Croation Civic Liberal Alliance? Ever heard of them? Where were the articles on those?
    Where are the articles on Macrons problems with the Gilets Jaunes and the Marine le PEN’s RN? Where are the articles on the budget dispute between Italy and the EU?
    The only conclusion is that you aren’t interested. Fair enough. But, please don’t lecture us about the workings of European Democracy until you are.

    This argument’s over-stated, Peter. And it’s certainly not the only conclusion.

    I’m very interested in European politics, but I don’t have the level of detailed knowledge I’d like to pen an article. This goes for nearly everyone on here. I bet 95% of people on here know who the FDP are and who Macron and the gilets jaunes are, but that doesn’t mean you could write a decent article.

    If you feel you want to write an article I’d be delighted to comment. Then you’d have at least one comment.

    We do have regular updates on D66 from a member.

    And I may write something about Ciudadanos, our Spanish cousin, at some point – that unlike the Lib Dems follows the 19th century centralising Spanish liberal tradition.

  • Daniel Walker 5th Jun '19 - 9:30pm

    @Peter Martin “I might add that although you and other Lib Dems might claim otherwise, Lib Dems are probably less interested in the goings on in the EU than I am.

    Well, speaking for myself, Peter, I subscribe to the @EuropeElects Twitter feed, so I’m aware of polls and elections Europe-wide, although I don’t pretend to remember them all. I do read newspapers and so on.

    As well as that, evidently you missed Mark Valledares’ two-part summary of our sister parties’ results in the recent European elections.

    So I shall feel free to continue my “lecturing” then?

  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '19 - 10:11pm

    Mark Valladares gave the results but there was no political discussion except at the most superficial level. To continue your footballing analogies it was like being told Liverpool had won 2-0 against Spurs the other night, but not much else.

    I first noticed a definite reluctance to discuss EU issues when the Greek crisis was underway in 2015. There was a deafening silence from all those who supposedly are the most ‘European’ in outlook. You could have said the lazy good for nothing Greeks deserved the roughing up they got. Or, you could have said the Greeks had a valid case and should have been given more help to grow their economy. You must have had an opinion one way or the other? Surely. But maybe not.

    It’s the same with the Gilets Jaunes vs Macron in France. Nobody on LDV has opinion either way. All very odd.

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