Labour’s refusal to back Remain is “Red meat for Lib Dems”

Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey, talking to Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge, refused to say whether Labour would back Leave or Remain in a referendum on any deal.

The Labour position is that they would form a government, negotiate their own deal and then put it to the public, but can’t say at this stage whether they would back Leave or Remain in that referendum. They don’t dare say Remain because their leader is not committed to that position and they daren’t say Leave because they will lose even more votes to us. But if they have negotiated a deal, the presumption has to be that they will back it. I mean, they aren’t going to say to the people “Don’t back this great deal we’ve done”, are they?

And they think that this is credible? They want their voters to do the equivalent of buying a lucky bag.

Sky News reporter Rob Powell said that this was “red meat for the Liberal Democrats.”

There is a lot of social media chatter that the Lib Dems should just get in line and not call Labour out for the failings of their position in order to get the Tories out.

If we let their tortuously ambiguous position go unchallenged,  then we would be going against our principles and the growing number of people who are looking to us to stop this Brexit nonsense.

This confirms that the Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of remain and anyone who supports remain should back us. A poll yesterday confirmed that we are leading amongst 2016 remain voters.

And of course, there is an added dimension to Labour’s position in Scotland. John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn incline towards allowing a second independence referendum, something that Scottish Labour MPs are totally against.

Willie Rennie challenged Scottish Labour candidates to say whether they would obey Corbyn not his point:

Voters in Scotland cannot trust Labour on independence. It’s quite clear Jeremy Corbyn will break up the UK if it means he can get his hands on the keys to Downing Street.

Liberal Democrats want to protect the whole of the UK, not dismantle it.

The union isn’t something Jeremy Corbyn can barter away for personal power.

Each and every Scottish Labour candidate should take this opportunity to tell the public whether they would vote for another independence referendum if Jeremy Corbyn instructed them to.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Peter Martin 3rd Nov '19 - 12:22pm

    “I mean, they aren’t going to say to the people “Don’t back this great deal we’ve done”, are they?”

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that!

    Even if they don’t say this, there’s no chance of ardent leavers actually supporting a Labour soft deal. They’ll boycott giving Remain an easy win.

    So there’s no need to worry.

  • Steve Trevethan 3rd Nov '19 - 12:43pm

    How does ignoring a referendum, even one as shoddy in theory and practice as the last, fit in with our democratic principles?
    Are we splitting the anti “crash out” groups?

  • Andrew Melmoth 3rd Nov '19 - 1:11pm

    The revoke policy licenses a future Tory majority govt to take us out the EU irrespective of the result of any second referendum. Far from being the ‘strongest party of remain’ the Lib Dems have sabotaged the only viable path to remaining in the EU for short-term party advantage.

  • @Steve Trevethan –
    In this election we are giving the voters the option to stop Brexit, and If they give us a majority, we will do that. So, we are not ‘ignoring the referendum,’ we are asking the voters if they want to overturn it. It will be their decision. That’s the very essence of democracy. The alternative would be to plough on with a decision that was taken nearly 4 years ago, by a very different electorate, in a deeply flawed vote which was not even about the detailed plan which is on the table today – which in many ways blatantly contradicts the vision that was offered in that campaign. That, I think, would be the real affront to democracy.
    As for splitting the ‘anti crash out’ groups, we are in fact working behind the scenes to agree electoral pacts with the Greens, PC and Change UK, and we are standing down for Dominic Grieve and perhaps others.

  • nigel hunter 3rd Nov '19 - 1:35pm

    Should we not be watching the polls as to our National position for votes? THAT needs to be pushed up. We cannot just be obsessed with Brexit remain but also keep an eye on other issues ie the NHS. Being a one trick pony is fine up to a point but the other parties will gain votes from their positions on other issues beside s Brexit.

  • Steve Trevethan 3rd Nov '19 - 1:57pm

    Might a refusal to consider working with the largest opposition party be divisive?
    Is a multi-issue democratic procedure the best match for addressing the outcome of a single issue procedure?

  • Steve Trevethan – Might a refusal to consider working with the largest opposition party be divisive?
    The Labour party is pro-Brexit. As an anti-Brexit party we are under no obligation to work with them.
    Is a multi-issue democratic procedure the best match for addressing the outcome of a single issue procedure?
    No. That’s why we spent 3 years pushing for a referendum. But we needed Labour to back that, and they’ve consistently refused to do so – even as recently as last week. Instead 10% of their MPs helped Johnson get his Brexit bill through its second reading, with no sanction at all from their leadership, so they would have probably have backed it at third reading as well. So, reluctantly, we have concluded that the most likely option to stop Brexit now is to have an election and give Remain voters a clear choice.
    That’s the situation. And, rather than going over all these Groundhog Day points yet again in here, I suggest if we want to stop Brexit the best thing we can all do with our time is go out and urge people to vote for us. That’s what I intend to do right now.

  • But Peter you have every reason to worry and I think you are. You know if Brexit happens it will be a Tory Brexit but no amount of ” Tis not my Brexit” will remove the fact that is your Brexit too. You will need to avoid people you spent endless time advising ” Lexit will be glourious” and rationalise to yourself the demise of the North East had nothing to do with you, while reality screams down your ear ” Your Lexit, own it, twas wot you voted for”.

  • Richard Underhill. 3rd Nov '19 - 6:00pm

    Labour’s Shadow Chancellor has promised a costed manifesto, but the amount of money available will depend on the outcome of Brexit.
    Therefore Labour needs TWO costed manifestoes while other parties only need one each.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Nov '19 - 6:14pm

    Here’s the The Three Lexiteers justification for Labour’s Brexit position:

  • Most people don’t want to see the UK broken up, which is what Johnson’s Brexit is going to do. So a slogan like
    would be effective.

    Also we could do a traffic light slogan

    Red – stop Brexit
    Amber – vote Lib Dem
    Green – Go Europe

  • George Burn 3rd Nov '19 - 7:16pm

    I find it irritating when I hear others misrepresent the Lib Dem policy on Brexit, a second referendum and revoking the Article 50 notice.

    So, why should we characterise Labour’s policy inaccurately? I much prefer our policy but it isn’t right to say Labour’s policy is pro-Brexit. They emphasise a desire to put the issue back to the public (which in a different way we also do), and to do that they say they would offer a choice between a soft Brexit deal and remaining in the EU. Yes, it is possible they would then choose to campaign for that soft Brexit option but (a) that isn’t their position today and (b) all of us know plenty of Labour members and supporters who would individually campaign for remain come what may. Our message might be simpler but theirs isn’t that difficult to understand.

    Our priority has to be to do everything we can to kill Johnson’s disastrous Brexit deal and ultimately all forms of Brexit. To achieve that, we need to win as many seats as we can in a few weeks’ time but after that we can only achieve our objectives by working with Labour and the SNP.

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd Nov '19 - 9:31pm

    It will be quite an experience for Mr. Barnier to negotiate with Keir Starmer for several months an option which the UK Government might or might not endorse in a subsequent referendum. How will he assess Labour’s real wishes? Is he negotiating a fig-leaf-disposable deal none of them wants, or a serious option? The EU heads-of state and Parliament might not be inclined to ratify something on which their counterpart is indifferent. How would this referendum-campaign be organised? Corbyn, again, silent? John Mann, Kate Hoey, and Nigel Farage again throwing fish in the Thames? If it is eventually poorly supported in the referendum, with which arguments? By whom? “We negotiated poorly, or Barnier is intransigent?” I am not sure he would be available for such child’s games. That remaining is superior is evident already.

    As things stand, Labour cannot endorse remain without insulting Barnier with pseudo-negotiations. It is clear where Starmer and Thornberry stand. Corbyn would have to remove both from his negotiating team, if he really wants to support his Brexit. Who would negotiate instead? Len McCluskey?

    This is utterly absurd.

  • A good case spoilt by the intrusion of identity politics. Jo Swinson’s gender is irrelevant.

  • John King – a traffic light slogan will also serve as a great dog-whistle that calls for strategic voting against the Tories/Brexiteers.

  • If LibDems are relying on revoke to win I hope they have some other popular policies to counter the endless election promises from the Conservatives and Labour, basically fiscal bribes to various tribes. Rougly 40 percent of the populace not worried about staying or leaving so you do need to appeal to them with some popular policies (tax cuts, etc). Even better, LibDems could make a case of cutting overall spending by hying efficiency etc.

  • Personally I think that the “extreme left” jibes thrown at the Labour leadership have been overdone. There are some of their current policies – on industrial democracy that the Liberals voted for a few years after the Second World War, for example. But the irresponsibility and absurdity which they bring to the debate about Britain’s place in the world is worthy of the utmost contempt.

  • Would be nice to get some media coverage, the national press has almost squeezed us out and making irrelevant to whatever we say. Have to by pass that by digital campaigning.

  • Doug Chisholm 4th Nov '19 - 12:06pm

    We should stress that Brexit hasnt happened becuase the Brexiteers cant agree what Brexit means. We have Farage Brexit, Boris Brexit and Corbyn Brexit. At the very least teh 16 millions people who voted Remain deserve a substantial voice in Parliament to either revoke, another referendum or get the best deal possible. That is a stronger message han suggesting Jo will be the next prime minister.

  • Geoffrey Dron 4th Nov '19 - 12:37pm

    DER SPIEGEL: The British made the decision to leave the European Union during your term in office, and the community is now losing an important member. Would you say that the British were ever at home in the EU?

    Juncker: That is indeed the fundamental question. I have been involved in European politics since December 1982 and have seen time and again that the British have operated on the premise: We are only in the EU for economic reasons. When it came to the political union, to moving closer together, they wanted nothing to do with the EU. That was even the case with my friend Tony Blair. If you stick to that narrative for over 40 years, it should not come as a surprise when people remember it during the referendum. (DS – English edition)

    As a 2016 remain voter who can’t accept the UK being part of a federal EU, I believe that we need a statement from Jo as to what the LibDem stance is.

  • @Doug Chisholm: We should stress that Brexit hasnt happened becuase the Brexiteers cant agree what Brexit means”
    This is a really good point. One of the lazy attacks Brexiteers make is that ‘Remainers in parliament have blocked Brexit’. It’s simply not true. This outgoing parliament has a pro-Brexit majority (Tory + DUP, not to mention 20 or 30 Lexiteers). May and Johnson between them had 5 goes at getting a Brexit deal through, but failed because they couldn’t hold that Brexit majority together. It’s their failure.

  • John Marriott 4th Nov '19 - 3:55pm

    @Geoffrey Dron
    A very telling quote from ‘Der Spiegel’. I’m like you. I’ve experienced Europe as a student and teacher from the inside. A great place in many ways; but in many ways different from the U.K.

    The mistake that EU enthusiasts on this side of the channel keep making is to take it as it is. No, it needs to change and fast. Otherwise the UK won’t be the only member apparently wanting to leave the club. ‘Remain’ needs always to be twinned with ‘Reform’, unless we are to adopt a pragmatic, trade based approach. Anyone for ‘Norway Plus’? Not in the Liberal Democrat Party apparently.

  • Richard Underhill. 4th Nov '19 - 4:27pm

    Nigel Farage MEP currently has no MPs, no Peers and not many councillors.
    This weekend he is trying to make his supporters angry and consequentially motivated.
    SNP members have tended to abstain from voting for the new Speaker, but the new parliament could choose a different one. Voting is by secret ballot, a procedure introduced by Harriett Harman, she said. Three MPs have told the BBC their choices. One candidate wanted an extra deputy speaker drawn from the smaller parties, while possibly straining their resources.

  • Peter Martin 4th Nov '19 - 4:57pm

    @ Geoffrey Dron,

    “I believe that we need a statement from Jo as to what the LibDem stance is.”

    I doubt you’ll get one. Especially at election time. Our membership of the EU was previously half hearted at best, as J-C J acknowledges. This is a fundamental problem with the Remain argument. We don’t really want what the rest of the EU wants. We were OK with the old EEC but that’s now defunct.

    The pro EU Remain argument is essentially for an EEC that no longer exists.

  • How about flanking Corbyn from the left? For all of his big spending talk, Corbyn still promises to balance the budget within 5 years (LOL). We can ditch balanced budget, switch to increasing public investments and social spending while managing debt/GDP ratio which is more important in modern economic system. I am taking this approach right from Justin Trudeau’s playbook that helped him outflanking the socialists from the left in 2015. We can continue to talk about reversing corporate tax rate back to 22-23% (while introducing investment and R&D credits for STEM/manufacturing businesses only), tax foreign tech giants, raising top rate by 1-2% (not to 50% like Corbyn) by adding another income bracket at over £100k or £120k, closing personal income deductions/allowances, and raising capital gains tax as well, but no more talk about balanced budget.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Nov '19 - 2:51pm

    Both main Parties have 5 weeks to convince the electorate and the media that Brexit is too important to be left to the people. This is dreadful politics and the British people deserve better. They are performing a sleight of hands by campaigning on anything but while knowing which side wins will determine whether we have a people’s vote and with Labour we don’t know what will happen except Labour will determine it. Shame on both their houses.

  • Arnold Kiel 5th Nov '19 - 8:11pm

    The LibDem revoke-stance means becoming a constructive participant in further EU-integration – the only logical reform-direction. Not an insignificant educational challenge for PM Swinson, but doable. She has a lot of good arguments on her side. Her predecessors achieved the opposite, rather irrational result without ever resorting to reason.

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