It has to be about more than just Brexit in 2018

2018 is, for the optimists, the year when the wheels come off of the Brexit chariot for once and for all. The process of negotiating “the best possible deal for the United Kingdom” obliges the Government to face up to the brutal reality that the European Union has to hold together at all costs, and that means an outcome for us that is less good than the current arrangements. Then, as rational people, Conservative MPs will look into the abyss and realise how bad things might be.

I’m not so sure. Remember, most of them campaigned, with various levels of enthusiasm, for a Remain vote. Since then, they’ve been rather quiet, voting through each step on the basis of “the will of the people”. And yes, the people did vote to leave the European Union. What it was that they expected to happen after that is somewhat confused, in that some voted to keep foreigners out, some voted to regain sovereignty, and some voted against the monolithic bureaucracy that is (they allege) the European Union. Some probably combined two or more of those justifications. And yes, they are, to varying degrees, contradictory.

But the noisier end of the “will of the people” lobby have some heavyweight backing, in the shape of the media, particularly the written press. And they’ve been very effective, operating in slogans and picking out the weakest elements of the argument for staying in. There is always something that’s easy to rabble rouse about, and if there isn’t, as Boris Johnson proved so elegantly when he was a Brussels correspondent, you can just make things up, quoting an obscure MEP who says something “blue sky” on a subject likely to cause Daily Telegraph readers to choke on their morning piece of toast.

And, given the Labour stance of “a Brexit for jobs”, whatever that means, there are insufficient votes in the Commons to change the current direction of travel. The House of Lords may delay, it may even amend, but it will, ultimately, yield to the will of the democratically elected House.

No, the best theoretical hope for the Remain camp is for the experts to be right, for jobs to start to be lost, for the economy to slow and, perhaps grind to a halt. If house prices start to fall, and the looming crisis that is household debt levels finally comes home to roost, then the Conservatives will become unpopular, and even a Corbyn Government will begin to look (relatively) attractive. Under such circumstances, Labour MPs might wonder if revoking the Article 50 letter is a better option to stabilise the economy.

The catch is that it will involve ruining a lot of people in the process, hardly an attractive scenario in which to form an administration.

So, if you’re a liberal, what might you do? My thought is that we address the root causes of public alienation. Our public services are a mess, under-resourced and badly organised. We need more doctors and nurses, we need more facilities, better schools, and these need to be valued. That means providing an incentive for our young people to enter into the public services, to train as doctors and nurses, as teachers, which in turn means undoing some of the damage done by decisions taken by this administration and, if we’re honest, by the Coalition and the preceding Labour Government.

It means tackling the core problems for the young – such as building houses for them to rent or buy that are genuinely affordable, allowing local councils to invest in new homes that they aren’t obliged to sell at a discount. It means paying a competitive salary to public officials so that we get some of our brightest and best back into public service. It means investing in digitalisation so as to reduce the cost of administration relative to the amount invested in providing services. It also means understanding that contracting out public services is not a universal panacea, given that the State is, ultimately, always the provider of last resort.

As Liberal Democrats, these are things that we believe in and will be relevant regardless of what happens with Brexit – they are, if you like, part of the public good. So, perhaps, whilst we talk about the positives of co-operation with our neighbours, and about freedom and opportunity, we should start focusing on how we make society work better for all of our people.

In short, we need to talk about our aspirations for a liberal, tolerant society, where people have the means to be free and a choice as to how they live their lives, where the State empowers rather than determines.

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  • John Barrett 1st Jan '18 - 12:04pm

    I completely agree with the main headline, and the majority of what Mark says, that it must be about more than Brexit in 2018. Meaning for me that politics, and in particular, Lib-Dem politics, must develop a wider perspective on the issues that matter to most people in the future.

    However the comments which state, “No, the best theoretical hope for the Remain camp is for the experts to be right, for jobs to start to be lost, for the economy to slow and, perhaps grind to a halt. If house prices start to fall, and the looming crisis that is household debt levels finally comes home to roost…..” shows why our party must move away from appearing to wish for all these things, in the vain hope that in the unlikely event of another referendum, people will reject any deal agreed.

    When I speak to friends inside the Lib-Dem bubble, they often repeat the party line that this is not what we are about and that we are on the right track, but when I talk to many, many more friends and colleagues outside our party bubble, it is clear that this is exactly what most of them believe, or think we are now hoping for.

    It may not make for a pleasant New Year task, but Vince and those at the top of the party need to begin to listen to a wider audience (those who are not yet supporting us) and start to understand that their view of how we are seen by our own loyal members and supporters is a country mile away from how the majority (over 90%) of the population perceive us. I happen to agree with the other 90% that we are on the wrong track on a number of issues I will not detail here.

    To add that “The catch is that it will involve ruining a lot of people in the process, hardly an attractive scenario in which to form an administration.” No, it is not a “catch”, it is a real danger for us, as there is a serious risk that our party is now closely associated with this as our preferred outcome. It is not what I want to see and is why moving on to more than Brexit is essential in 2018 if we are to grow as an alternative to the two party system, which now dominates much of UK politics.

  • Mick Taylor 1st Jan '18 - 12:13pm

    Brexit will undoubtedly go ahead unless people like me pull out their lethargy and stop sitting on their butts whinging about Brexit.
    The case for a third referendum has been comprehensively lost and does not seem likely to surface again in the House of Commons and even if the Lords voted to put it in the bill it would be swept away in the Commons.
    So what to do? Contrary to some posts on LDV the Lib Dems have not really been wholehearted in their opposition to Brexit, preferring to bleat on about a referendum on the facts. Whilst we must continue to hammer home Liberal Democrat themes on Housing NHS, Social Care and all the rest, now is the time to fight every election – and I mean every election – on a clear anti Brexit platform. Only when anti Brexit candidates start to win elections in big numbers will the remainer majority in the HoC feel able to come out and oppose Brexit.
    So that’s my challenge to all of you. I’m up for it. Will you join me?
    Just one more thought. Brexiteers have spent 40 years undermining our country and the EU. We owe them nothing.

  • William Fowler 1st Jan '18 - 12:54pm

    Brexit just makes things more difficult, UK is too big to fail so some kind of deal will be stitched together, the only big losers Uk citizens who will lose right to work and retire to EU whilst companies carry on regardless. Country is pretty much taxed out and overall debt is mind-boggling so any new government will not have the room to increase salaries, more likely have to cap them at much lower levels and govn needs to be slimmed down to a more sustainable level whilst still keeping the NHS and benefits for those unable to look after themselves going. With the next, much deeper, crash due within the next two years you are probably looking at a decrease of 20-30 percent in govn income and no room to borrow or print any more money unless you want to end up like Zimbabwe. So LibDems need to get their heads around less govn and council is better.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jan '18 - 1:29pm The Parliament Channel (201 on Free Sat)
    Speaker Bercow hosted a presentation by the political director of Buzzfood. For instance the Daily Mail had a 14 page special attacking Jeremy Corbyn, Dianne Abbott and the shadow chancellor. This was distributed electronically and seen as helpful to Corbyn.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Jan '18 - 1:30pm

    Sorry, Buzzfeed (UK).

  • German-style federalism is one very liberal policy which can go a long way. We’re always talking about more devolution but we’ve never committed to it properly through policy. I really like the idea of a North-West state, a North-East state etc. Only taxation and foreign policy should be decided by Westminster.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jan '18 - 3:33pm

    “If house prices start to fall……”

    “It means tackling the core problems for the young – such as building houses for them to rent or buy that are genuinely affordable…..”

    Presumably it is meant that the fall in the price of houses is a bad thing? But supplying houses that “are genuinely affordable” is a good thing?

    Isn’t there some contradiction here? Are you trying to be all things to all people?

    Look, if house prices are unaffordable they have to come down generally to become affordable. The bubble in house prices has occurred while the UK has been a member of the EU so its not particularly a Brexit problem. Either the bubble deflates, causing some pain to those who have overextended their borrowing, or it doesn’t deflate causing even more pain to young families who can’t afford decent housing.

    There’s no escape from some harsh economic realities.

  • Jayne mansfield 1st Jan '18 - 4:16pm

    @ Richard Underhill,
    I tried your link and could not find the article. However, using the link I found something important:

    ‘Inspired by this Professor’s message, interracial couples from all over are sharing their stories of love’.

    It has made my hopes for the future, positive once more. I regret that I can’t send positive reinforcement to the contributors who are posting on Twitter. I already have too many bad habits and joining Twitter would add another.

    A happy new year to you .

  • paul barker 1st Jan '18 - 5:57pm

    While everything in this article is right it completely misses the point. While we are having success in Local Voting, on the National scale we are mostly seen as irrelevant. What we need is one , short slogan, ideally something we all believe in. By a stroke of luck that Slogan has been forced on us & is about a subject that dominates National Politics.
    For us to become known as The “Stop Brexit Party” would be a step forward from being the ” Oh, are they still going ? ” Party.
    Once we are being listened to then we can add one more short slogan, but not till then.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jan '18 - 8:21pm

    @paul barker “The “Stop Brexit Party”…”
    The problem is, whether or not stopping Brexit is successful, that strategy has a limited shelf-life. UKIP looked irrelevant after the referendum, and a “Stop Brexit Party” would similarly be redundant once Brexit is stopped or completed.
    A more general Pro-EU branding of the Lib Dems would offer a positive message, have meaning whatever happens with Brexit, and perhaps fit better within a wider Lib Dem vision for the UK.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Jan '18 - 9:46pm

    It will be nothing but Brexit for all parties in 2018. It just appears to be especially pronounced in the Libdem case, because stopping Brexit seems a big job for a small party. In reality, seeing Brexit through is a much bigger job, even for the biggest party. The Conservatives are visibly a single-project outfit, and Labour’s talk about ending austerity while proceeding as instructed by the people makes no sense.

    How about project courage: calculate the economic dividend from exiting from Brexit, and allocating the money to Mark’s priorities? My preliminary estimate: north of 350 million a week.

  • Andrew Tampion 2nd Jan '18 - 5:01am

    The first problem with this analysis is that it advocates more of the failed strategy which is sometimes called project fear. My strategy if I was campaigning for an exit from Brexit (wcphich In am not) would be project hope. That is of course the UK can can achieve a good Brexit and succeed outside the EU: but things could be so much better in the EU in the following ways….
    Second like most pro EU articles on LBV this article implicitly asks why did a majority of people vote to leave the EU. Not why do a majority of people want to leave the EU. In my view failing to recognise that leave votes are neither fools nor knaves and have a legitimate point of view even if that is a point of view that most Commentators on LDV don’t agree with.
    Third this article fails to recognise that the prospects of overturning the decision to leave the EU would be immeasurably improved if the EU came forward with substantial further concessions, for example on freedom of movement.
    Finally regarding party policy on a referendum on the deal can someone please explain this fits in with the meaningful vote in Parliament on the deal? If votes against the deal but then in a subsequent referendum the deal is suppported by a majority of the electorate, what then? Conversely if there is a referendum which supports the deal negotiated before Parliament has it’s meaningful vote is it politically possible for Parliament to vote the deal down?

  • Richard Sangster 2nd Jan '18 - 8:13am

    A reality check, which every Brexit supporter should read

  • Christopher Curtis 2nd Jan '18 - 8:49am

    We can’t be everything to everyone. We have to stand on our core beliefs and that will inevitably alienate some people as much as it attracts others.
    Not too long ago there were large parts of the Labour and Conservative Parties that shared fairly large parts of a broadly liberal world view: individual liberty, equality of opportunity and an inclusive, tolerant society all supported by decent public services within a regulated free market, mixed economy made much stronger by committed co-operation with partner countries.
    That has been abandoned by both main parties. The Tories have gone full UKIP, but with an undercurrent of concentrating power even more in the hands of the extremely rich, and Labour is dominated by the illusion that central control and command is the answer to every problem.
    We’re not just fighting Brexit, but we are having to fight for the basic idea of who we are as a people (Two parts of the same battle). We have to accept that we are going to upset some people: We simply don’t believe in either main party’s vision and pretending to do so in order to keep a few waverers on board does not work and is dishonest.
    We are anti-Brexit because we are very strongly committed to a free and fair society that is tolerant and inclusive, built on effective regulation and partnership. There is a lot of work to do to reverse the disastrous policies which have throttled opportunity and hope for so many people, and we must start talking about how we should do so.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '18 - 8:56am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    You say:

    “Labour’s talk about ending austerity while proceeding as instructed by the people makes no sense.”

    That’s because you don’t understand macroeconomics!

    We’ve had austerity economics before the Brexit vote and we can have it again afterwards even if we don’t leave the EU. Or we can choose not to have it, even if we stay, or if and when we do leave the EU.

    As we have our own sovereign currency we have much more fiscal space than do users of the euro.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '18 - 9:17am

    @ Mark Valladares,

    You had it right in your title that politics has to be about more than just Brexit. But then fail to follow your own advice.

    When we are discussing the level of house prices, you wrote:

    “if Brexit was seen to be the cause (of falling prices – PM) , it might well shift opinion.”

    So, at least we agree that it would be beneficial for house prices to fall. But for very different reasons! I would argue that we’ve all become too pre-occupied with the value of our pile of bricks and mortar and a fall would be a good thing, especially for the younger generation. It would concentrate our minds on what the real economy should be about.

    You, on the other hand, argue that a fall would be a good thing because formerly Leave voters would place the blame on Brexit and would therefore be more likely to change their minds!

  • John Barrett 2nd Jan '18 - 10:01am

    @ Tim 13 – Thank you for your kind words and it is one of our strengths that we can disagree and test each others ideas and thoughts on an open forum such as LDV and then meet up for a pint or a coffee to continue such discussions at conference with friends.

    My reference to the other 90% is to the rest of the country that at present does not vote Lib-Dem and many of whom do not listen to what we say, partly because they do not trust us and possibly because so much of our message is based on the wish for a second referendum, which I would say is still unlikely.

    In order to communicate with that large majority of the general public we will need to widen our appeal, campaign on a range of issues locally and nationally, and rebuild in areas of the country where we were once strong, but are now very thin on the ground or do not exist as a political force.

    Brexit may be the disaster that many predict, or it may not, but I do not believe that our key message of predicting that disaster and then hoping that this will be enough to lead the public into our arms simply will not work.

    Our appeal for decades has been much wider and for 2018 we must also look towards the many other problems of inequality at home and abroad, and much more, to restore our fortunes and to benefit the entire country.

  • John Barrett 2nd Jan '18 - 10:04am

    Ignore the double negative in the second last paragraph of my last post.

  • tim 13
    Rather than drip, drip, drip from the Right Wing press, maybe the main problem for liberal internationalists is that politics is organised nationally, tax is paid nationally, politicians are elected locally to represent their constituents at a national level and people vote nationally on national issues. There is no international electorate, no global village, no mechanism for world politics, but only people in actual villages, suburbs, towns and cities voting in national elections for politicians to do stuff locally. Thus a grand world vision is of less relevance than say the closure of a day-care centre, rough sleepers, the cost of education and whether or not ones bins are emptied once or twice a week, etc.
    I don’t entire agree with this article, but see it as at least as an attempt to move on from a single issue.

  • Yes the political debate should be about the failing police force, NHS etc etc, but it won’t be, it will be Brexit through out the whole year. Something may come along to rival Brexit in the news, but that won’t be a good thing because only a total disaster could achieve that (with the possible exception of a new monarch). Who could have thought Brexit would consume everything, I mean unraveling a forty year relationship should be so easy and not much will change; sorry I was channeling my inner naive Brexiteer there, of cause it would consume everything and anyone who couldn’t see it wasn’t looking very hard or discounting the information their eyes provided. So I’m afraid much as we all wish Brexit would go away for the next year and for a few years after Nelly will be performing the Brexit Tango, Foxtrot, Waltz (and any-other dances that takes Nelly fancy), while the Tinkerbelists will be wailing three is no dancing elephant here as she pounds us all into the dance floor.

  • Glen,

    Tax is global, if you don’t have international standards on tax well you don’t get much tax. We can’t cry stop the world we want to get off, much as we may wish to and as many of those of a Brexiteer persuasion are trying to do. Back to the 50’s (1750’s in Admiral Wee Moggs case) or back to my little village just won’t work nice as the concept may be.

  • BBC News 4 minutes ago : Well this will put the cat amongst the pigeons :

    Cable says he has ‘open mind’ on Brexit and could support it if May secures ‘miracle’ deal. Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, is opposed to Brexit. But, in an interview with LBC, he claimed that he had an “open mind” and that he could be persuaded to support it if Theresa May secured a fantastic Brexit deal.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '18 - 11:16am

    Did he think May would secure a miracle Brexit deal ? Go on shock me.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '18 - 11:23am

    Glenn: The cost of education ? I thought it was free – at least for 93 % of children under 18.

  • Frankie.
    . Income tax, council tax, VAT and so on are national. The political system is national. The electorate is national. It is nothing to do with stopping the world, just simple boring reality. Nation states have legal frame works, electorates and a physical heft.
    Most people who talk international communities united by the ability to ordering things on line and the ability to chat with strangers ignore the physical reality of Nation States and the frameworks that support them. As I said physical heft/reality, Not just an idea that can be wished away coz it’s old and boring and inconvenient. Dude. it doesn’t matter if you like them. They’re like death or going to the toilet. They exist independently of whether or not you think they are unpalatable.

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Jan '18 - 11:32am

    @ David Raw,
    I think it is clever politics, unless those who have banged home the damage that will accrue from the leaving the EU are worried that ‘miracle’ deal is indeed achievable.

    It seems closer to the position taken by Keir Starmer with Labour’s six tests that must be passed before Labour agrees to the final deal. The bar was set high, with one test being, ‘Does the deal deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as the single market and the customs union being one. Something we were led to believe by David Davis that it would.

  • Nvelope2003′
    I don’t know about you, but I thought parents paid tax to fund schools and later youngster paid tuition fees and stuff. Nothing is free.
    I didn’t think May would get a miracle deal and I never vote Tory ever. I’m mostly in favour of a Norway style compromise and mainly voted Leave to reduce the scope of politics to a more national/local level. So far I’m moderately pleased with result.

  • Laurence Cox 2nd Jan '18 - 11:56am

    @Jayne mansfield
    Permanent membership of the EEA would indeed bring the same economic benefits (SM+CU) as remaining in the EU. Its downside vis-a-vis remain is that we would no longer have a voice in setting new EU policy. As long as the three EFTA countries in the EEA and the EU agreed, then the UK could remain in the EEA without being either an EU or EFTA member; it would just require some drafting changes to the EEA Agreement.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '18 - 12:00pm

    Glenn: Sorry I thought you were referring to the cost of school fees which is what those who talk of the cost of education normally mean. I like to tease them by saying it is free here. They then tell me that they do not send their children to those schools but of course they are very much in favour of comprehensive schools for those who cannot afford school fees. I am not joking.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jan '18 - 12:04pm

    A Norway deal would mean we had all the costs and liabilities but would have no way of influencing the policies of the EU

  • I have to love LibDems/LDV…The title of the thread is , “It has to be about more than just Brexit in 2018” and almost every post is about ‘Brexit’…

    One trick pony; or what?

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jan '18 - 12:24pm

    @nvelope2003 “they are very much in favour of comprehensive schools for those who cannot afford school fees”
    Is that not Lib Dem policy?

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Jan '18 - 12:36pm

    Though I agree with all you say, Mark there is something else we need to do to grow as a mature democracy and that is to educate the people as to what part referenda play in a representative democracy. We need to build on our unfortunate history of direct democracy and show that they can enhance our quality of life as long as there are proper, well resourced resources that ensure that they are conducted in a fair, reasoned and inclusive way.

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Jan '18 - 12:47pm

    @ Lawrence Cox,
    As my children so crudely put it, we spend 5O billion plus for the benefit of not having a decision making voice at the table.

    I hope that a miracle deal for Vince also includes that the other five tests set out by Kier Starmer are met.

    Always the optimist, I hope that Vince Cable’s latest approach will lead to both Labour and the Liberal Democrats holding the Tory negotiators’ feet to the fire when it comes to meeting the promise of a better Britain for all if we leave the EU.

    Much has been promised to the people of this country, let’s see if the tory negotiators can deliver it. Give them enough rope…. Any clamour should come from the electorate, and I trust the electorate to know when they have been ‘sold a pup’.

  • David Allen 2nd Jan '18 - 1:10pm

    As Martin says, Vince Cable is desperately seeking attention. Not because he is a spoilt child, but because the Press only report what he says when it is a bit bizarre, off-the-wall, or tendentious. Ergo, Vince just has to be bizarre, off-the-wall, or tendentious. Nothing else will get reported.

    So – for example – Picking a broad subject such as under-resourced public services, and banging on about it, just won’t achieve very much. We can come up with detailed policies, but insofar as these get reported at all, they will only sound rather like pale echoes of Labour.

    Brexit really has to be the only game in town right now. First, because it really is the only game in town: if we get a hard Brexit, we can kiss goodbye to improved public services, and say hello to mass unemployment and financial crisis. Second, because we do sound different from Labour on this one issue, and that’s because we are. If we keep on getting it right, while the Brexiteers slide further into chaos, then sooner or later, somebody outside the Lib Dems might notice!

  • Martin 2nd Jan ’18 – 12:33pm..expats….Find an issue that is undamaged by Brexit and you will have found an issue on which no one will care what is the position of Lib Dems…..At the risk of being ‘snarky’ in return, can I ask you to show that I am wrong and that there is this other Lib Dem issue that get so many others to take up…..

    For most members of the public (at least most of those I meet) ‘Brexit’ will happen and we are arguing about the details..Initially, when ‘leavers’ stated that post referendum the ‘sky hadn’t fallen’, we argued that it was because we hadn’t left yet; now, when we blame all our ills on ‘Brexit’, their response is the same…
    My point is that we have allowed ‘Brexit’ to colour everything we do/say…The causes of the problems with welfare, disability, child poverty, PIP, social care, zero hour contracts, homelessness, etc. predate the referendum and, sadly, they have become lost in the LibDem ‘noise’ about Brexit…

    As for ‘snarky’; Mark has certainly started something…

  • Martin 2nd Jan ’18 – 2:14pm…

    I gave you your answer in my second paragraph…Linking them to ‘Brexit’, in every response, just takes us round in circles..

  • jayne mansfield 2nd Jan '18 - 2:35pm

    @ Martin,
    I could think of a lot of things that would gain attention.

    The profits gained by the franchise holders at East Coast rail which have sent the shareholders profits up by 12%, part of a pattern of giving subsidies to private companies and then letting the taxpayer pay the bill when the private company wants to walk away from a deal.

    The appointment of Toby Young whose comments would, about working class students, (stains) , the disabled , even wheelchair ramps, would rightly be unprintable on here.

    And that is just for starters.

    When the leaders of your party made it quite clear that people of the left who voted Liberal Democrat post 2010 should bog off, some of us wisely did just that. It doesn’t alter a deep admiration for many who still remain in the party who continue to fight their corner.

  • paul barker 2nd Jan '18 - 2:52pm

    A lot of people are still missing the point, right now very few people are listening to us on the National/Westminster stage – it is vital that the few who hear us all hear us saying the same thing & that we sound genuine. That means Brexit, the whole Brexit & nothing but Brexit. Even the Big Parties are lucky if they can get the Voters to hear more than 2 or 3 simple messages, we will be lucky if we can get one point across.
    While its true that most Voters think Brexit is a done deal, they are wrong & in any case, we arent trying Now to get most voters to listen to us, a quarter would be more realistic.

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Jan '18 - 3:40pm

    @ Martin,
    I am not fussed who gets attention for bringing to the attention the appalling record of this government , so long as they do so, and with vigour.

    My own view, is that the Liberal Democrats and their spokesmen should make explicit the links between Brexit and the effect it will have on the NHS and everything that they have treasured in the past. It is not an either or, one will affect the other.

    I believe that we still live in one of the most decent, fair- minded societies. One can sometimes have one’s perspective distorted, and it is little things, like the an article on the Buzzfeed link that Richard Underhill gave , or the public spiritedness and decency of people that serves as a timely reminder.

    For me, a precondition of making the links between the economy post – brexit and the pursuit of a more socially just- society that people can believe in, are a set of firm policies setting out how life will be better for all. There needs to be hope. I don’t think an argument that people have been better off prior to Brexit than they can expect to be post Brexit cuts much ice with many whose reality tells them that there is nothing to lose and there might be something to gain by leaving.

  • OnceALibDem 2nd Jan '18 - 3:40pm

    @David Raw – is there a source for that as I can’t see it on the BBC or LBC website. Context being everything in these things.

  • Good article, Mark.

    I commend Wiliam Fowlers’s comment above im which he notes “With the next, much deeper, crash due within the next two years you are probably looking at a decrease of 20-30 percent in govn income and no room to borrow or print any more money.”

    Vince Cable’s reported comments may be no more than a recognistion that the inter-depenedence of the UK and the EU suggests that the eventual Brexit deal may well look a lot like what we have now, whether we are formally in the EU or not.

    As Mark Valladares suggest we must “address the root causes of public alienation” that will remain regardless of the eventual outcome of the Brexit negotiations. An all-consuming focus on the precise nature of our future relationship with the EU, simply won’t inspire the great majority of the voting public.

  • David Allen 2nd Jan '18 - 5:18pm

    Jayne Mansfield “I am not fussed who gets attention for bringing to the attention the appalling record of this government , so long as they do so, and with vigour.”

    I think your final three words there should read “and the Press print something”. Lib Dems may very well jump up and down vigorously in speeches and press releases, but the media usually report nothing at all. Then other parties gleefully claim that the Lib Dems are doing nothing. You may not be fussed about that, but, Lib Dems are!

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '18 - 5:20pm

    @ JoeB @ William Fowler

    “With the next, much deeper, crash due within the next two years you are probably looking at a decrease of 20-30 percent in govn income and no room to borrow or print any more money.”

    Firstly, there won’t be any crash. If I read Trump’s economics correctly, he’ll be rather like Ronald Reagan. He’s of the opinion that if he reduces taxes he’ll collect a greater revenue. This won’t quite work as planned, just as it didn’t for RR, but a tax cut is still a Keynesian stimulus. The US economy will do OK and prevent any crash in the UK and EU.

    The UK and EU economy will just continue on its sort-of-OK path for the next few years.

    The government doesn’t “print money” in the way you mean. It’s all done by computer keystroke in any case. So unless the Treasury and BoE computers get hit by a deadly Russian virus there’s no reason to suppose they can’t do whatever they like.

    Should they do that though? It all depends on what the economy is doing in a couple of years and what level of inflation is targetted.

  • Well I’m not too fussed providing we get this appalling government out asap.

  • Peter Martin,

    the direction of Chinese economic growth is as important as the US in terms of global growth and stumuls.

    You can see the comments from former BofE econopmist, Danny Blanchflowe on the Bank if England’s ability to combat another recession here saying the bank “has nowhere to go,”

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Jan '18 - 5:55pm

    Peter, you are the original ‘Keep calm and carry on’ slogan-bearer of these columns. Do you also wear the appropriate grey beard? It must be fitting for one of the few who understands Macro Economics here! (Oh, and could the Christmas book possibly add anything to your immense knowledge?)

    David, absolutely! Happy New Year, hope your travelling was not too much impeded by snow, ice or just traffic, and you and your family keep well.

  • And to you, Katharine. Happy Hogmanay. The good news is we raised over £ 1,000 in a bucket collection at a local race meeting yesterday morning.

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Jan '18 - 7:44pm

    @ David Evans,
    The press and media (including the Daily Mail ) have all published the research and Vince Cable’s comments on the fact that 11,000 homes across England have stood empty for more than 10 years despite housing crisis and rising homelessness. As, has, Vince Cable’s call for a reform of EDMO’s.

    It is my understanding that EDMOs have been in place since 2004. The problem for the Liberal Democrat Party is that there is a cynical population who will ask under whose watch this situation arose when there were already provisions for local authorities to seek EDMOs and why if reform was necessary was it not argued for before.

    I wouldn’t be too jealous of the amount of newsprint or media coverage some parties get, especially when so much of it is critical comment on the trustworthiness of those parties. During the last election, and since, I have relied increasingly on the information shared on facebook to wade through the propaganda churned out by some newspapers.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '18 - 8:06pm

    @ JoeB,

    Danny Blanchflower is saying the BoE has “has nowhere to go ”. They can’t reduce interest rates any lower. He isn’t saying that the Treasury is similarly constrained. He’s probably right in saying that Brexit is of secondary consideration.

    @ Katharine.

    Of course I could be wrong! But the circumstances in the USA aren’t quite the same as they were in 2008. They was a huge speculative bubble waiting to burst there at the time. If there was again then we could well have been due a crash. It’s really more about the USA than us or the EU. The EU are a lost cause in any case! We’d really be in the mire if everyone was as contractionary and mercantilistically minded as them.They aren’t prepared to use their economic clout to pull the world out of a slump as Obama was in his eight years in charge of the USA. He actually did quite a good job!

    JoeB is quite right to say that China is becoming more important. They are more State Capitalist than Communist these days and they will use the power of the State do what it takes to keep their economy moving along.

    So it’s just going to be more of the same for the next few years. Not great but, on the other hand, no crash either.

    Anyway no more predictions from me for a while. Especially about the future!

  • OnceALibDem 2nd Jan '18 - 10:57pm

    Did anyone source the basis of David Raw’s claim that Vince had said ‘he has ‘open mind’ on Brexit and could support it if May secures ‘miracle’ deal.’

    I can’t find anything like that on the BBC news site.

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Jan '18 - 11:59pm

    @ Once a lib Dem,

    ‘Nick Ferrari FORCES Vince Cable to come clean. You are planning a House of Lords REVOLT’.

    Available in the Daily Express -…. of course!

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jan '18 - 12:14am

    @OnceALibDem “Did anyone source the basis of David Raw’s claim …”
    Cable’s LBC interview is here:
    Also: “When asked by Ferrari whether this was a mere attempt to finally stop Brexit, Mr Cable replied: “If Brexit is the way that it is now looking we should be able to stop it, but I have an open mind, it’s possible that Theresa May could produce a miracle and we could have some really good outcome. “But I’m sceptical we’ll get there.”” (

  • Peter Martin,

    but the treasury is constrained as Vince Cable explained recently

    It’s worth remembering that Gordon Brown’s claims of no more boom and bust were derailed and turned to hubris by events outside of the control of the UK treasury. Danny Blanchflower, Thomas Piketty and Simon Wren-Lewis (all left leaning economists) walked away from the Labour economic advisory council set up by John MacDonald on the basis of unrealistic proposals that took no account of the constraints of real world markets.
    While we cannot know when the next recession will hit we can confidently expect that the business cycle will repeat its pattern of slowing down/going into reverse at some point in the not too distant future. It would be politically and economically prudent to anticipate the actions required and have the policies in place to deal with such a slowdown post-Brexit.

  • Might not be post Brexit. Trump has gone for the tax cuts but will he finance this by deficit spending or cuts; if cuts it’s timber look out below.

  • OnceALibDem 3rd Jan '18 - 1:43am

    Thanks Peter/Jayne. That doesn’t support what David said (ie that Vince said he could support Brexit) but it may be buried the actual interview (or the BBC just misreported it and then deleted it which they are wont to do!)

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jan '18 - 7:18am

    @ Joe B,

    The link doesn’t really support your point. It’s really just VC trying to sound ‘fiscally responsible’ but at the same time conceding that the Treasury isn’t at all constrained.

    The rate on Treasury gilts is less than 1% for ten year bonds. And if i’ts needed, in an “emergency” there is, as VC puts it, “people’s QE”: directing the Bank of England to lend to the government. The idea is not completely foolish….”

    Of course there is an inflation risk to doing all this which has to be considered. But if the economy is in a slump the problem may well be one of potential deflation.

  • @ Once a Lib Dem My post was a straight cut and paste from the BBC News website four minutes after it appeared. The first sentence is my comment – the rest is cut and paste.

    You must ask the BBC or Sir Vincent Cable why it subsequently disappeared.

  • John Barrett 3rd Jan '18 - 10:03am

    As 2018 gets underway, it is worth remembering that our party was in the frontline demanding an in out Referendum on membership of the EU in the first place and in Parliament organised a walk out when the Goverment refused a debate on the issue.

    It was in our manifesto and at the time of the Referendum we made it clear that the question was simple, that leaving the EU was leaving the single market and that the will of the people would be followed.

    There now appears to be a fixed view in the party with great certainty that Brexit would be like falling off a cliff edge. It might just be worth thinking about how much of a cliff edge the party would be falling of if after the experience of the tuition fees broken promises fiasco we were to do the same over our Referendum promises.

    This is just one of the many reasons why 2018 must be about much more than Brexit.

  • @ Martin, The fact that John was in Parliament and was a witness to some of the events he describes ought to give you pause for reflection about the nature and tone of your comments.

    My only regret is that John is not in Parliament now. A few more genuinely radical Liberal voices would do much to refresh the party’s bruised post Coalition reputation…… and get away from a stuck in a groove one trick pony policy stance.

  • Jayne mansfield 3rd Jan '18 - 11:43am

    I do not know what went into the first coalition agreement, or whether the Liberal Democrats ‘ in government could have been stopped in its tracks when a referendum was called. And how did the prospect of a second coalition with the tories affect his position on a referendum?

    I am aware that David Cameron saw a referendum before 2017 as a red line. A Guardian article,:-

    ‘Nick Clegg won’t rule out backing Tories on EU referendum”.

    What is the truth in all this, given that the party now claims that EU membership is crucial and fundamentally important to the well -being of the country?

    I am puzzled how the party was so quick to disrespect the vote that people took in good faith, and the near hysteria of some at the outcome. It is not just Liberal Democrats who want to remain in the EU , so the behaviour of the party does need an explanation because it can have a negative or positive effect that affects us all whatever our political affiliations.

  • @Martin

    The text says
    “Liberal Democrats therefore remain
    committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs
    up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.”

    A change in relationship between UK / EU does not mean only when more powers are granted to the EU, it could well be the other way round.

    “We believe that it is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the euro.
    But Britain should only join when the economic conditions are right, and in
    the present economic situation, they are not. Britain should join the euro only
    if that decision were supported by the people of Britain in a referendum.”

    “Introduce a written constitution. We would give people the power to
    determine this constitution in a citizens’ convention, subject to fi nal
    approval in a referendum.”

    Clearly the Liberal Democrats supports referendums when it suits them.

    How many Liberal Democrat MP’s and Ministers voted for the legislation to actually hold the referendum in the first place????

  • @Martin

    That was from the 2010 election manifesto.

    The one that saw the party return 57 MP’s and go into coalition government.

    The one where Nick Clegg used the platform of no more broken promises

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jan '18 - 1:51pm

    Anyone can check for themselves just what was said about any referendum in the 2015 manifesto in the link below.

    I’ll leave that to others. It does, though, contain some appalling neoliberal economic nonsense. Like:

    High debt and deficits are a risk to economic stability and it is simply not right to borrow too much money and expect our children to pay it back. Debt interest payments last year were £46 billion: more than we spent on schools.

    Our children and grandchildren won’t have to pay it back. Who will they repay it to? Each other? Our children will enjoy the benefits of whatever economy they manage to create for themselves when they are older. We can help by leaving them a clean environment, and we can make sure that they have good health and are well educated etc.

    No-one is going to get rich lending money to the government. It may sound a lot in ££ terms but its not even enough to cover the rate of inflation. Most pensioners are complaining that interest rates are too low and they do have a point. We shouldn’t begrudge the small % that we do pay out. This doesn’t come from taxes in any case.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jan '18 - 4:27pm

    @ Martin,

    I agree on PFI/PPP schemes. They are a scam. Why would any sane person want to involve the Private Sector in providing funding for Government Projects when the rate of interest can be almost an order of magnitude higher than raising the money via Treasury Gilts?

  • Arnold Kiel 4th Jan '18 - 2:51pm

    I highly recommend today’s report from Tony Blair about what we know about Brexit so far. Especially to anybody who thinks anything but Brexit can be effectively addressed anytime in the next decade (except, of course, those who dispute the existence of the concept of solvency and, consequently, scarcity).

  • paul holmes 4th Jan '18 - 4:10pm

    I thought that Blair floundered badly in his interview on the Today programme this morning. He had little convincing to say when pressed on the democracy; the tactics and the economics of his argument. I saw him perform far better when he put forward the ‘sexed up dossier’ case for invading Iraq and I didn’t even agree with him then.

    As someone noted in the Guardian today the Remain camp is really in trouble if its best hopes are an unelected Peer (Adonis) and ex politicians like Blair and Clegg with all the historic baggage they bring with them.. But then the Remain camp is in trouble given that we lost the Referendum in 2016 and in 2017 overwhelmingly lost the Article 50 vote in March; the General Election vote in June; the vote on a Lib Dem Second Referendum amendment in December and the vote on a Labour rebel Single Market amendment in December.

  • John Barrett 4th Jan '18 - 7:41pm

    @Paul Holmes What you say about those lost votes is very true, and if we are not to forget our “no more broken promises” line from a few years ago, we cannot now deny the result of the referendum, as if it didn’t happen.

    How big a disaster for the party would it be to say, that while we supported the public being given a say in the EU Referendum (if in doubt just look at how our MPs voted when the decision to hold the referendum was debated in Parliament) but that we (the party) know better than the public, who did not fully understand what they were doing with their vote, so we would not act on it. And this is effectively our present policy, whether or not it has been spelt out as such.

    Having witnessed the electoral fall-out, at all levels, after the tuition fees disaster, that to do the same again from our present low base, would leave the party as a spent force in national UK politics.

  • John Barrett 4th Jan '18 - 7:43pm

    @Paul Holmes What you say about those lost votes is very true, and if we are not to forget our “no more broken promises” line from a few years ago, we cannot now deny the result of the referendum, as if it didn’t happen.

  • ” the best theoretical hope for the Remain camp is for the experts to be right, for jobs to start to be lost, for the economy to slow…”

    I’m not actually sure that this will make much difference. If you ask average person in a poor country whether they feel poor, they will say “No, I feel normal”. There is always someone poor than them. And the public is not likely to revolt unless they stop buying the Daily Mail, which tells them that their prison cell is really a palace and that Brexit was the best thing that happened.

    I think this article is right that the will of the people has heavyweight backing from the press, the public broadcasters and MPs just follow obediently where the press barons lead. Essentially the country is brainwashed and as long as this situation continues we are unlikely to see much change.

  • John Barrett 4th Jan '18 - 11:57pm

    For the avoidance of doubt, in response to a previous comment, I have made nothing up.

    Our support for an in/out referendum was a line taken after Nick Clegg became leader and I am sure Paul Holmes will confirm and remember clearly in 2008 when we were refused a debate on that issue in the Commons the Lib-Dem MPs caused an outrage by storming out of the Commons.

    The following manifesto was clear in the demand for two referenda, although it did mention linking one to a change of powers and the other to the Euro. Nevertheless, it was our line. During the debate on the referendum and afterwards various MP of all parties, including Nick and Tim, confirmed that the will of the people would be followed and spokesmen and women from both sides of the debate are online to this day detailing why leaving the EU would include leaving the single market.

    The facts are there for all to see. How people interprit them is up to the individual.

  • OnceALibDem 7th Jan '18 - 7:57pm

    Certainly looking back at early 2008 has a slightly different take on Lib Dem position on a referendum

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