James Gurling writes…The Unite to Remain Agreement

Our Party is deservedly recognised as the UK’s lead Party of Remain.  Today we have announced a series of agreements – facilitated by the independent “Unite to Remain” group – designed to maximise the number of Remain supporting MPs at the coming snap election.

Unite to Remain is comprised of the three unequivocally pro-Remain parties with MPs elected in the House of Commons:- Plaid Cymru, Greens and ourselves.

In some seats, we have agreed that our candidate will stand aside to allow another Party to  have a clearer run in the election. In other seats, either Plaid Cymru or the Green candidate (sometimes both) will stand aside for us as the Remain candidate.

It is the sort of arrangement we successfully arrived at in Brecon & Radnorshire and which enabled our Welsh Leader, Jane Dodds, to defeat the pro Brexit Conservative and bring Welsh Liberal Democrat representation back to the House of Commons. 

These negotiations have been extremely complex and cover 60 seats between the three Parties – each with their own priorities and internal accountabilities. Significant amounts of time have been dedicated to this cause by Party President Sal Brinton, Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael and Director of Campaigns Shaun Roberts.  Together we have battled to ensure the best outcome both for the Party and for the cause of Remain.  Were that it had been possible to achieve this outcome without any seat Lib Dem seat being given up! Equally we would have dearly loved to have been able to expand the agreement to include more of our seats as beneficiaries.  But negotiations are not like that, and time has been of the essence.

Of the seats where Liberal Democrat teams are standing aside the response from candidates and local executives has been impressive.  As you’d expect, no team’s gut reaction was to warmly welcome the proposals. Asking local Parties to stand down in favour of a rival one is not anything we ever expected to be doing.  But we recognise that this kind of cross-party co-operation is needed at this extraordinary time in politics.

If we manage to stop Brexit by just a small majority of votes in Parliament, it will be in no small part because of the principled decision by the PPCs and Executives in these seats.

The campaigns where we are unopposed by other Remain parties will be standing on the shoulders of those campaigns that have stood down.

But we should also not overlook those in other parties standing aside for us.  This is not just about sign-posting to the electorate where the best interests of Remain are served.  We need to encourage their active participation in our campaign.  We need to be gracious. Thank them publicly. Thank them privately. If any Green/Plaid activists volunteer their help for your campaign, please give them a special welcome full of warmth and thanks.

Ever since the idea of some kind of cross-party agreement was floated, many party members have been in favour of the move but may now want to question the execution. No such process is ever ideal, and I’m sure lots of you will be asking “why that seat, why not this one instead?” The answer is simply that we could only negotiate where the other two parties were willing and where there was a clear benefit for someone to stand aside. The three parties all held differing views on the situations in each seat. This list is the best that could be negotiated in the time available.  Each twist and turn of the process has been reported to the Federal Board, the Welsh NEC, and the Federal Communications & Elections Committee.

This could be a significant moment in the campaign to Remain.  It further emphasises our position as the lead Party of Remain, and will help us secure more voices and votes for Remain in the next Parliament.  

The proof will of course rest with the electorate on December 12th, but we can be proud that our Party has been part of a process that has put country above Party.

Together, we can stop Brexit.

* James Gurling is Chair of the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee and the General Election campaign.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I am delighted that the Lib Dem’s have done this. If the political imperative for the 2019 General Election is to prioritise the Brexit issue, then the “Unite to Remain Agreement” gives the green light to the Tories and the Brexit Party to enter into a similar Pact on a formal or informal basis.

  • Paul Barker 7th Nov '19 - 4:21pm

    9/10 for effort. Of course there is Zero chance that either Tories or Labour would ever stand aside for another Party, to do so would be to admit that 2 Party Politics is over & to throw away their greatest Asset.

  • Why/how are we prepared to work with Plaid Cymru and not the SNP?

  • But they won’t Mack far too many big egos amongst your leaders. In fact ego us about all they have, they never had a Brexit plan after all.

  • Richard Underhill. 7th Nov '19 - 6:56pm

    BBC News Southeast has announced that The Greens will stand aside in Tunbridge Wells and Liberal Democrats will not offer a candidate in Brighton Pavilion, which, of course, has an excellent MP in Caroline Lucas. Tunbridge Wells was the only place in Kent to vote Remain in 1916. The sticker is still in my car.

  • @Paul – The SNP were not interested. They want to stand in every Scottish seat, and won’t stand down for anyone/anything. They are an incredibly arrogant party.
    What we, Plaid and the Greens did today was an exercise in political maturity and compromise. You can count the SNP out of anything that includes those words.

  • Richard Underhill. 7th Nov '19 - 7:27pm

    Layla was on The World at One, BBC Radio 4.
    She has often said she won Oxford West and Abingdon with support from Greens.

  • If you can’t get/don’t want the big parties to stand aside and it’s a given that nationalist parties don’t really want Britain to remain in the EU on the grounds that they don’t actually want Britain to remain in Britain, who exactly is uniting to Remain? Also how realistic are the chances of success? Because, to be honest, I see the Conservatives gaining seats and I don’t think Labour will lose many either.

  • And where are they going to gain them from Glen the SNP, very few others to gain if they ain’t gaining them off Labour.

  • David Franks 8th Nov '19 - 9:10am

    Luton Liberal Democrats are proud to play their part by
    putting Country before Party.

    – Councillor Lee Bridgen, Chair Luton Liberal Democrats.

    The only National party in the general election with a clear and positive policy of maintaining Britain’s full membership of the European Union is the Liberal Democrats.

    The Tories want out at any price and the Labour position is so confused no-one knows what they would do.

    There is no conceivable form of Brexit which would not seriously damage Britain politically and financially.

    In the general election Liberal Democrats have committed to put country before party and to work with others to maximise the number of Remain MPs in the new parliament.

    The Luton South constituency independent candidate Gavin Shuker has made clear his intention to do all he can to maintain Britain’s membership of the European Union. In line with the party’s National position, Luton Liberal Democrats will not be fielding a candidate in Luton South.

    Councillor Lee Bridgen, Chair of Luton Liberal Democrats comments: “Research by Best for Britain shows that an effective Remain Alliance can deny Johnson a majority in the new parliament. The agreements emerging in the past few days give real hope we can achieve this and Luton Liberal Democrats are proud to play their part by putting Country before Party.

    ENDS. 8th November 2019.
    David Franks [email protected] 07909 935979.

    published and promoted by Anna Pedersen on behalf of Luton Liberal Democrats, both at 45 Repton Close Luton LU3 3UL.

  • Keith Sharp 11th Nov '19 - 3:17pm

    Very difficult – I know party members who believe every voter should have the chance to vote Liberal Democrat — but very important and positive that we, the Greens and Plaid did this. Our rigged, distorting electoral system forces this type of arrangement and it’s crucial there is a clear, winnable vote for Remain everywhere possible. The nature of the agreement and the way it has been announced reflects well on everyone concerned. Thanks to Sal, Shaun, Alistair and of course James.

  • Richard Underhill. 12th Nov '19 - 4:03pm

    Gina Miller was on BBC tv Politics Live (Repeat on Parliament channel @ 19.30)
    She talked about empowering tactical voting in 2017 and 2019 using data and algorithms for Unite to Remain.
    The Womens’ Equality Party are standing down in Chuka’s 2019 seat
    and in Sheffield Hallam (ref Mark Pack).

  • Robert Heale 15th Nov '19 - 6:49pm

    As a long-standing L/D Member who lives in Brighton Pavilion Constituency I would challenge some of the comments. If your M.P. has a higher degree in Media and is an expert in how to “green-spin” the media, does that make her a good M.P? The reality of the situation is very different from the spin put out by the so-called “Green” Party!
    I also live in a Local Council Ward that has been a “safe green seat” since the mid 1990’s and there is similar neglect. There are numerous complaints about the “Greens” and their often bizarre and counter productive policies in the City of Brighton/Hove. I have a long list of facilities, resources and other community provision which has been reduced or removed as a result of the “Green” Councillors/M.P. failures. Housing issues are massive and got worse during the Green Administration due to their incompetence. Health facilities closed down. Recycling worse. Congestion worse. They are all spin and NO action!
    If anything goes wrong, as it frequently does, they just blame another Party or somebody else. and they NEVER take responsibility for their FREQUENT COSTLY MISTAKES AND WASTE OF RESOURCES.

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