Lib Dems to vote against Boris Johnson’s “threadbare” EU trade deal

Ed Davey has announced tonight, in news that will surprise few people, that the Liberal Democrats will be opposing Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal because it fails to deliver on the promises the Brexiteers made to the electorate and it makes the country so much worse off.

It’s not about tariffs. The whole point of being in the single market was not to have to bother with bureaucracy and red tape. Businesses who have been watching these ads saying that things are changing on 1st January (but we have no idea how) are going to find out for the first time in almost 30 years what a pain in the backside it is to have to fill in paperwork to trade with our closest neighbours.

We will no doubt be attacked for our stance as we will be told that the alternative is no deal and we’re against that. However this is going to to through tomorrow whether we like it or not given that most Tories and Labour MPs will vote for it. It is entirely consistent with our approach to Brexit.

There was a coherent case to be made for abstention on the grounds that it was at least better than no deal and it puts distance between us and the ultra nationalists both north and south of the border. Having said that, we’ve spent all my political life fighting off accusations of fence-sitting and being wishy-washy so do we really want to just sit on our hands? I’ve seen other people argue well that we should vote in favour, rather than abstain, for the same reason. However I think it is important that the Brexiteers are made to own this. When it all goes wrong, I don’t want them saying “but you voted for it.” We’ve come too far on our internationalist and open values to suddenly become shields for those who have taken us to this place.

Ed Davey explained why Lib Dem MPs have made this decision.

It is clear that this is a bad deal that will make people’s lives poorer, so the Liberal Democrats will vote against it.

This botched deal leaves the services sector in limbo and is the only ‘free’ trade deal in history to put up barriers and increase red tape, bringing long delays and higher costs.

We all are desperate to move forward, to see our country united again, to restore our economy and our communities after a terrible year. Even by his own low standards, Boris Johnson’s deal just makes that more difficult.

The only way forward is to agree an adjustment period to ease the pain for businesses and quickly get to repairing the UK’s damaged relationships with our most important international partners.

The party has also put forward an amendment which sets out some of the key problems with the deal and criticises the government for its 11th hour tactics which means that Parliament doesn’t really get to scrutinise it properly.

Willie Rennie said that the Lib Dems will vote against the Scottish Parliament giving consent to the bill that ratifies the deal at Westminster on the grounds that the deal is bad for jobs, businesses and the environment.

With our long track record of advocating membership of the European Union people won’t be surprised that the Liberal Democrats can’t support the Conservative Government’s strategy on Brexit and the last-minute trade deal they reached.

The Liberal Democrats will vote to refuse consent to the Future Relationship Agreement Bill as we think the trade deal is bad for jobs, business, our environment and our way of life. It’s probably the first trade deal in the world that erects more trade barriers.

It is a warning for those who advocate independence that breaking up long term economic partnerships is painful and costly.  We should not repeat those mistakes of Brexit with independence.

One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is that the Lib Dems have so often been right on the issues of the day – think the economy in the run up to 2008. Vince Cable warned years before that the bubble would burst. Charles Kennedy’s brave and principled stance on the Iraq War and on Brexit to name but three. But we don’t get any long lasting gain from this, despite establishing our credibility. In 2005, we certainly won seats but not as many as we could have done. In 2010, we actually lost seats despite gaining votes. Part of it is properly engaging locally with voters on national issues as well as local ones so that there is a consistent thread through our local and national actions which speaks of the principles that guide us the values that we will always put first – of freedom, equality of opportunity and community, standing up for the people who are getting a raw deal, who are marginalised and treated badly by whatever arm of the state.

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

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  • Up until now I have supported abstain. But today I have read up on the deal and almost brought me to tears. Good to hear we will vote against this rancid deal.

  • John Marriott 29th Dec '20 - 8:41pm

    Whatever Lib Dem MPs may say, the riposte will be on the lines of “You voted against the deal so therefore you must be in favour of no deal”.

  • Colin Paine 29th Dec '20 - 9:10pm

    Yep, it’s a tactical error. And how can we be comfortable in the same lobby as the DUP and SNP (and McDonnell?) on this? Time for the party to fight for liberal values in the new paradigm rather than refighting a battle most people just want to move on from. Labour is calling this better.

  • Laurence Cox 29th Dec '20 - 9:57pm

    Frost & co negotiating a Brexit deal requiring adherence to obsolete standards and software; you just couldn’t make it up. I hope our MPs go for them over this.

  • Jenny Barnes 29th Dec '20 - 9:57pm

    Oh dear. Still, I suppose Mr Davey is much like Mr. Starmer. Brexit is a Tory project through and through, and we should, ofc, say adnauseam what a bad idea the whole thing was and is, but as to voting on which of the two offered disasters the Tories have come up with? Y O Y O Y bother. It’s their project, they won, they own it.

  • David Evershed 30th Dec '20 - 2:24am

    The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. Membership of the EU is not at issue

    What is now at stake is whether to have a trade deal with the EU or not.

    Liberals have always previously had a primary principle of supporting free trade and internationalism.

    So it is a dramatic change of course for Lib Dem MPs to vote against a trade deal with the EU.

    Is there a need to revive a Liberal Party with free trade and internationalism at its heart?

  • Peter Watson 30th Dec '20 - 2:36am

    “we’ve spent all my political life fighting off accusations of fence-sitting and being wishy-washy so do we really want to just sit on our hands?”
    I was mightily p****d off several years ago when Lib Dem MPs abstained in the vote on whether or not there should be an investigation into determining if Jeremy Hunt had broken the ministerial code of conduct. In fact, looking now at those posts, I’d forgotten just how angry I was, and afterwards I stopped referring to the Lib Dems in the first-person: no more “we”, “us” and “our”. That abstention was truly a cowardly and unprincipled bit of wishy-washy fence-and-hands-sitting.
    But I’m not so sure on this occasion. At best, nobody will really notice or pay much attention to what the party does, but at worst, a vote against a deal risks being portrayed as a petulant, self-destructive vote for no deal. Unless it can be presented clearly and simply as something other than voting on a binary deal or no deal choice, I think there is nothing wrong with joining the debate to reaffirm the party’s opposition to any form of Brexit and then abstaining rather than back either of two undesirable options.

  • Peter Martin 30th Dec '20 - 4:59am

    For several years Lib Dems have been saying:

    “Closing Parliament to force no deal would be an outrage”

    “If we make Jeremy Corbyn PM, we’ll leave with no deal”

    “A No Deal Brexit will not just impact finance and manufacturing – it will be a disaster for cereal producers too”

    “Lib Dems sign cross-party Bill to stop no-deal”

    But, now there is a deal……….

  • The MPs have no reason to apologise for this decision. I am greatly relieved that they avoided a mealy mouthed abstention. If people whose politics we do not like want to vote with Lib Democrats whose politics they do not like, that’s up to them.

  • Andrew Tampion 30th Dec '20 - 6:49am

    David Evershed is right voting against free trade with the EU: you just couldn’t make it up.

  • John Marriott 30th Dec '20 - 7:56am

    @Geoff Reid
    “Mealy mouthed abstention”, hey? Lib Dems have tried testosterone politics before – pace ‘Revoke’. Trying to be tougher than the toughs just doesn’t cut much ice with our electorate. Didn’t someone once say that “the meek shall inherit the Earth”?

    As I said earlier, voting against a deal, any deal, will be viewed by many as being in favour of no deal, because that’s the choice before parliament, whether you like it or not.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '20 - 8:29am

    No-deal is not on the order paper. The only thing that MPs will vote on is whether to approve the deal that Johnson & co have brought back from their Zoom meetings with Brussels. And the vote isn’t even binding, so even if the deal falls in Paliament, the gvt could just ratify it anyway, or it could request an extension (a move that Lib Dems would support). If the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal, then it will have been because the government chose for that to happen.
    So the only thing that the Lib Dems have to decide is whether this deal is an improvement on what we have right now, which is an EFTA-like arrangement, and this is probably the only thing Lib Dem MPs could vote for at this stage.
    Any flak the Lib Dems get for allegedly “supporting no-deal” will be temporary, and the argument will quickly become one of those that our partisan enemies like to bandy about but which gain little traction from the general public. At the risk of sounding like David Evans, our poll ratings are such that a risk of temporary unpopularity is no risk at all, and the choice is between oblivion (if our MPs vote for the deal) or the possibility of revival if we vote against the Deal and ensure that our hands are clean of it.

  • I would be more comfortable with abstain. This is because the treaty is not static. The starting point spelled out is a bit rubbish, but much better than no deal. But the interesting part is the committee structure the defines a process of continuous engagement with the EU through which systematic improvement should be possible. I am unclear how far we can travel without writing a whole new treaty, but it seems to me that a constructive approach would be to be clear that the party will be working towards rejoining the single market, with the effort starting 1 January 2021.

  • I am delighted we are voting against. This “trade deal” is the first in history to actively apply masses of red tape, barriers and costs to what had been frictionless trade. We are already starting to see reports of how the details damage business and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Then as we move through the vaccination phase and people try to resume their lives we will see endless stories about how the barriers to travel damage people.

    The Tories own this. They are already moving through sneer to smear to attack in their response to the fishing industry’s factual complaints. Labour are choosing to back this, so that when they try and attack it later “but you voted for this” will be all we can hear.

    So standfast against short term sniping about “backing no deal” and look to the spring when the true horrors of this deal are well known. A Liberal Democrat party that is allied with business especially small business and allied with consumers and citizens for their personal freedoms has to be the right approach for our continued recovery.

  • Yeovil Yokel 30th Dec '20 - 8:58am

    Keir Starmer has described Johnson’s deal as “thin”. It’s not, I don’t have to have read the details to know that it’s rubbish, and the Tories own it. The Lib Dems will be damned whatever we do – I would rather therefore be damned by the right-wing press than by most of our supporters. Any MP who votes for this deal will be kissing the Tories’ ar**, err, shoes.

  • Richard Underhill. 30th Dec '20 - 9:23am

    Rockall is British and it should be possible to use the surrounding waters for fishing if the government is awake.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Dec '20 - 9:28am

    When I saw the many lorry drivers, parked up, trying to get home over the holidays it really made me think.
    How many actually had the virus in the flawed test checking? Very few toilets and no running water. I was pleasantly amazed, how they were fed by local residents. These lorry drivers, have covered many miles to bring us produce and food.
    Can politics be so negative? Could there have been further thoughts on the EU and its future?
    I did feel quite sad, as they began their journey from their lorry parks. What an ending to our association with Europe.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '20 - 9:44am

    John Marriott: “will be viewed by many as being in favour of no deal” no it won’t in the long run. By the next election no-one will care whether a vote against the deal might have led to no-deal (which in any case it would only if the government allowed it to). Voters don’t think about the counterfactual, they think about their lived reality, and they will blame the economic mess caused by Brexit on whoever voted for the Deal. So Labour will share the blame with the Tories. However, in the extremely unlikely case of Brexit being a success, the Tories will get all the glory (as with the Falklands War).

  • Paul Barker 30th Dec '20 - 9:53am

    In voting Against We will be voting with the Parliaments of Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland, its only the tired Westminster Establishment in favor.

  • Barry Lofty 30th Dec '20 - 9:59am

    As ever I am angered at the position our country finds itself in and reading this morning that the ERG group of Tories will support Johnson’s Brexit deal just confirms my opinion that the Lib Dems should vote against it, at least we can hold our heads high! I agree that Lib Dems will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

  • John Marriott. Any good dictionary sees “mealy-mouthed” as lacking in clarity rather than short on machismo!

  • John Marriott 30th Dec '20 - 10:31am

    @Alex Macfie
    When it comes to the Lib Dems the public actually has rather a long memory. Take the little matter of tuition fees, for example. How many people still throw that back at you on the doorstep and in the media?
    @Barry Lofty
    I have to disagree with you on this, especially as you have just written such nice things about me following Part On of my article in yesterday’s LDV (Part Two due out this afternoon, folks!). Occupying a principled position is honourable and it might salve a few consciences; but, if I judge the public opinion correctly, it won’t get you very far electorally. At some point, the dog needs to give up that bone and find something fresher. How about saving the Union, if you think it’s actually worth saving, which is in real danger of going down the toilet?

  • Nonconformistradical 30th Dec '20 - 10:41am

    I agree with Barry Lofty 30th Dec ’20 – 9:59am

    If the ERG supports this deal it is a terrible deal for our country

  • @John Marriott: The fundamental difference with tuition fees is that the thing that we voted for was passed, and directly affected people’s lived reality. Our attempts to explain it as the least bad option, and better than what the Tories would have implemented on their own, went down like a lead balloon. The equivalent of tuition fees in the case of this Brexit deal is voting FOR it, because it would be seen as a U-turn on our anti-Brexit position, and would lead to us sharing the blame for the destruction caused by Brexit. If the tuition fees fiasco is anything to go by, we might even get the majority of the blame, despite providing only 11 MPs.

  • David Evershed sums up the logic very succinctly.
    To vote against is a vote for no deal. To use such a vote as a protest runs the risk of deliberate misinterpretation, association with other groups voting against and possible ridicule.
    Abstention implies lack of support for the deal without actually voting for no deal and seems the apprpriate choice here.

  • Peter Watson 30th Dec '20 - 11:10am

    Surprisingly, a poll by Opinium reported on last night (link to data here: suggests that the split for those who voted Lib Dem in 2019 is:
    59% think MPs should vote FOR the deal
    14% think MPs should vote AGAINST the deal
    11% Neither
    17% Don’tknow

  • Peter [no surname]: The ERG MPs intend to vote for the deal, leaving the DUP as the only pro-Brexit group to vote against. Our other companions in the No lobby will be the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Caroline Lucas and the anti-Brexit Labour rebels. Anyway we’ve dealt before with sharing voting lobbies with people we don’t generally agree with. It’s really not an issue.
    Peter Watson: It’s not what people think now that matters, it’s what they’ll think in 2024. There was once a majority of voters in support of the Iraq War.

  • John, You are right when you say – Whatever Lib Dem MPs may say, the riposte will be on the lines of “You voted against the deal so therefore you must be in favour of no deal”. But that is just the short term, almost certainly by those who have no interest in truth, honesty or the future of this country beyond a few people like themselves. Indeed they despise our party for standing up for the good things they so hate.

    In the long term when it is clear that Boris Johnson has agreed a deal that gives freedom of trade in goods to the EU, an area that is massively skewed in the EU’s favour by £97b, and no deal in services where we have a surplus of £18b, and as our financial services sector will migrate from London to Frankfurt. People will see more and more that this deal stinks. Indeed No deal will be seem to be better than this deal.

    That is what might just, with courage and flair from our leaders, get us out of this Conservative shambles. Kier Starmer’s Labour won’t, nor will the SNP (Sorry David Raw).

    We are on our own now and we have to build a new future for Liberal Democracy in Britain. Being right, when Labour and the Conservatives are wrong is a good place to start.

  • @ David Evans Just for clarity, David, I have never voted for the SNP or been a member of that party.

    However, I now believe the actions of the UK political parties at Westminster will inevitably lead to Scotland as an independent state almost certainly in the European Union.

  • Peter Watson, it’s not surprising to me. The MPs can spin their choice however they like but the actual real life decision to be made is this deal or no deal. It is not this deal vs the current deal or anything else. We should support this treaty on the basis that it provides a foundation on which to rebuild the country’s relationship with the EU. Future governments can easily augment and expand upon this meagre start. Keir Starmer is speaking a lot of sense, honestly.

  • In a complicated situation like this it is more important to be clear and united on why you’re voting than how. Voting against and putting forward an amendment makes sense. It is important that politicians justify how they vote and perhaps allowing a free vote would be another option.

  • It’s more important for the Lib Dem’s to evolve their position on Europe. Firstly we should commit to giving Scotland more sovereignty and allow them to potentially rejoin the EU, with the same offer then being made to NI. We should say we are working to save the Union… it could give us a strong vote in Scotland from Unionists

    A yes vote would undermine Brexit in England and Wales and from there we can offer a referendum to the rest of the U.K…. but in the meantime we state our intention is to rejoin the SM and CU to abolish Tory red tape and to allow NI to rejoin the U.K…

  • If the UK were a federally constituted entity, would it be possible for parts of it to be in the eu and other parts out of it?

  • @ Peter Hirst, “Voting against and putting forward an amendment makes sense”.

    I suggest you get on the BBC Parliament i-player, Peter, and watch the Keir Starmer speech. If voting against wins today, what is at the moment a shabby unsatisfactory deal will become a no-deal. Anything else is, I’m afraid, is just gesture politics.

  • John Marriott @ John it does not mean I do not agree with you on many subjects but I am convinced of my position on this subject and that the Lib Dems should continue to endorse the benefits of membership of the EU, we are where we are but it does not change my view going forward, after all the ERG group have never stopped campaigning, over the years, against to EU for their own selfish reasons.

  • John Marriott 30th Dec '20 - 12:48pm

    @Alex Macfie
    I chose tuition fees purely to illustrate what a long memory the electorate appears to have, not whether or not the decision of the Lib Dems in coalition was to support them or not. Personally speaking, I could be cynical and say that, just as Cameron allowed a pledge to hold an In/Out referendum to be included in the 2015 Tory Election Manifesto, thinking as he apparently did, that his party would never gain a Commons majority, so Lib Dem candidates signed that NUS ‘pledge’ to abolish tuition fees in 2010 thinking that, with declining poll ratings before Cleggmania kicked off, they would have next to no change of fulfilling it.

    Talking of having a long memory reminds me of the last time I stood for election in the County Council elections in 2013. Of the little canvassing I was able to undertake that year, I do remember a gentleman at one house, who, when he saw me at his front door, started our brief conversation with the question; “You’re that SDP bloke, aren’t you?”

  • As a LibDem member I am very disappointed that we are voting against the deal and think that pragmatic Keith Starmer got it right — a vote against is in essence a vote for no deal in the last-minute circumstances. I am so fed up I am thinking of leaving the party — and I can’t honestly see Sir Ed, who is burying his head in the sand, winning many (or any?) new members. More years in the wilderness beckoning!

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '20 - 1:02pm

    John Marriott: Yes voters may have long memories, but principally for things that politicians cause to come to pass. They may also remember who voted against something that has proven a success. But if the measure proves a failure, that it was supposedly the alternative to something worse won’t matter. So voters angry about the Brexit Deal won’t be grateful to anyone for averting no-deal. They most likely won’t even remember all that talk about no-deal. And as I wrote before, it really isn’t This Deal vs No Deal. The government can avoid no-deal if it so chooses, even if the Noes win. If the deal doesn’t pass and no-deal happens, it will be because the government chose that course of action.

  • David Evershed 30th Dec '20 - 1:04pm

    Further to Peter Watson pointing out the strength of Lib Dem voters opinions for their MPs to vote in favour of the deal, Lib Dem Remainers are even more strongly in favour of MPs voting for the deal as follows:

    LibDem Remainers
    – MPs should vote for the trade deal 63%
    – MPs should vote against the trade deal 9%


    Why are LibDem MPs so out of touch with LibDem Remain voters?

  • Peter Watson 30th Dec '20 - 1:12pm

    The Opinium poll findings that surprised me are consistent with a YouGov poll ( that shows for Lib Dems (I don’t know if this is 2019 voters or current voting intention):
    66% think MPs should vote FOR the deal
    9% think MPs should vote AGAINST the deal
    26% Don’t know

    This is not because Lib Dems think it is a good deal (
    7% think it is a good deal
    31% think it is neither good nor bad
    39% think it is a bad deal
    24% don’t know

    On the face of it, Lib Dem MPs are at odds with their own supporters and I wonder what, if any, the consequences of this might be. I’m still surprised by the proportion that favour voting for the deal, and would guess that Brexit-fatigue is a large factor. Perhaps the biggest risk is that Lib Dems will be perceived as still banging on about Brexit, preaching to the (dwindling) choir, not having moved on, etc. so should make efforts to counter that impression.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '20 - 1:16pm

    David Evershed: I refer you to my comment at 30th Dec ’20 – 11:18am. The danger with chasing current polls is you get left behind when public opinion changes (which it will, once the reality of this bad deal kicks in). The idea that this vote is Deal vs No Deal is government spin. If the government wants to avoid no-deal, it can, howsoever the vote goes.
    I am in the slightly unusual position of agreeing with David Evans. Voting against the deal will cause us some flak, but only in the short term and mainly from people who would never support us anyway. Voting for the deal will be tar us in the long term in the same way as tuition fees — voting with the Tories on a bad measure saying the alternative was something worse. And unlike with tuition fees, In the case of this Brexit deal we don’t even have justification that we helped formulate the measure and made it more acceptable than what the Tories would have done on their own. We are in opposition to a majority government, so were not consulted on the Brexit deal. Vote for this and we vote for a 100% pure Tory law.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Dec '20 - 1:21pm

    I find it helpful Caron gives such a good reason to support abstention, though she prefers the vote against.

    I believe abstaining the far better stand to take.

    We cannot support the deal as it is not ours to do or have our finger prints on. The Labour party, SNP, Greens, and our party, ought to coordinate abstain. “We all say, yours Tories, not ours. We shall pick up the pieces.You created this mess.”

    Ed Davey is doing his best. But it is as ever very negative. He lacks anything very positive. Lik the “vision,” he said he would have….?

  • David Evans 30th Dec '20 - 1:35pm

    David Raw – Indeed I know you are a Lib Dem through and through, but methinks you do have just a bit of a soft spot for some of the SNP’s work in Scotland.

    Peter Watson – The for the Lib Dems are a bit odd. If you look at how the Lib Dem Remainers split, they come out more in favour of vote for the deal than Lib Dem Leavers (which have to be deduced) who come out 22% vote against. Definitely a result of the absurdities of small samples.

    David Raw – I’m afraid I am totally unimpressed with Mr Starmer’s I want to vote with the government but moan about it later stance, which is gesture politics. The motion will certainly pass because both major parties want to be seen to support it. It is principled and not gesture politics to vote against a bad thing just because the Conservatives have deliberately run the clock down and made the possibility of getting a good deal impossible.

    Voting for someone else’s s**t because they have abused their position to give you only two bad options (as Lib Dem MPs did so many times in coalition) is not gesture politics. It is simply being weak.

    All in all, just as with our principled stand on Iraq, it is right to oppose it, because the long term impacts of this deal will be the disastrous. And if our leaders have the nous and ability to get the message out there, it is the one way our party may rebuild in less than the 40 or 50 years it took our and many other generations of Libs and Lib Dems to do it last time.

  • Michael Hall 30th Dec '20 - 2:16pm

    Frankly it seems inconsistent for our MPs to vote against this deal, when the Party has consistently campaigned for a deal, having accepted the reality that there will not be a second referendum on Brexit. As Caron has mentioned, the deal will (almost certainly) be approved by Parliament, and our MPs do not really want the deal to be rejected, which would result in a no-deal Brexit, an unimaginable disaster for this country. So it is somewhat disingenuous to vote for something we would regard as a disaster. It is unrealistic to propose that there should be an extension of the transition period, as the effective exit date I January is prescribed by law, and it is quite clear that the EU would not agree to an extension and our Parliament will not agree to ask for one. I thought it was now established that we are a “party of power” not a “party of protest” so voting in Parliament is not to be treated as a game. It is all too real, the situation we face. A vote against this deal will clearly be seen as political posturing, and a heads-in-the-sand approach. It will do nothing to improve our credibility with the electorate, and will surely be unlikely to a difference to the outcome of the vote. But we cannot rely on the Labour party and extremists in the Conservative party to vote for the deal, and if we do so we are not being true to ourselves. There is a real risk, however small, that the vote will go the wrong way and the deal will be rejected, so that we leave with no deal on 1 January. Please do not let us make this mistake. We should not vote for something we do not want to happen – we should be more careful about what we wish for.

  • The way that the party – and particularly our MPs – have behaved throughout would make a case study of how to maximise the chance of getting precisely nothing of what you want.

    At each stage when compromises were on offer that might have left the UK within the Customs Union or Single Market, LibDems have adopted a purist position and refused to engage, and then did the same in the most risible election campaign the party has ever mounted. All of this led directly to where we are, and our country will be the worse off for it.

    Today’s vote doesn’t really matter one way or the other.

  • David Evans 30th Dec '20 - 2:46pm

    Lorenzo, you suggest – The Labour party, SNP, Greens, and our party, ought to coordinate abstain. “We all say, yours Tories, not ours. We shall pick up the pieces. You created this mess.”

    But we all know that is not going to happen. I really do suggest very strongly that you and indeed all Lib Dems stop believing in impossible things. It really is a waste of time.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Dec '20 - 2:47pm

    So I find myself apparently in a minority of members. I am not sure that a better deal could have been achieved, given our country’s weak negotiating position, but clearly it is not as good as we have wanted. We had no say in it, and neither have most parliamentarians. It is the only deal on offer, and the alternative was to leave finally without a deal at all which would have been a disaster, so I remain of the opinion that we should abstain.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '20 - 2:52pm

    Michael Hall: I think it’s pretty obvious that with 11 MPs facing a majority government, we are not a “party of power”. The reason we are in this position is that we squandered our position when we were a party of power. A party of protest is the only thing we can be until such a time as we are in a position to participate in government, when we have to hope that the party will conduct its role more carefully than it did under Clegg.
    Once again, it’s only government spin that voting against this deal will lead to No deal, and it’s the same Tory trap that we fell into time and again in the Coalition. You say an extension of the transition period is “unrealistic”, but it’s entirely the choice of the government not to pursue that route. It could still do so if (as isn’t going to happen) the deal is rejected in Parliament. If no-deal happened, it would be the government’s own doing, and “The Lib Dems made us do it” won’t wash.

    Ian: There was never a possibility of leaving the EU within the Customs Union or Single Market in the previous Parliament, unless there had been a change of government, and led by someone other than the Labour leader at the time. It was JC’s obstinate refusal to step aside, to allow for the selection of a PM acceptable to all components of a potential GNU, that necessitated the snap election as a last-ditch gamble.
    But all that is irrelevant now, the same as the potential implications of no-deal will be forgotten soon after the deal is passed today (which it will be). The important thing now is to make the Tories own Brexit and the mess it will get the country into.

    “Today’s vote doesn’t really matter one way or the other.”

    Technically this is true, as the vote isn’t even binding on the government. This is why the assertion that voting against will automatically lead to no-deal is pure Tory spin.

  • Christopher Haigh 30th Dec '20 - 3:26pm

    It’s a pretty certainty that the agreement will get passed no matter how the Libdem’s vote. However the EU have negotiated in good faith and we should support them or abstain for sake of our future good relations with the EU.

  • It was the EU that insisted that the price of membership was sovereignty. We could not have both. This deal gives us free trade and sovereignty. It is very much better than no deal, and in my view, better than a future in which our remaining sovereignty would be under future threat as the EU forces more integration to deal with its huge debt problem.
    The party should accept democracy and move forward. Though when I read suggestions about how the break-up of the Union could be brought about in order to gain revenge for Brexit I really do wonder if this party deserves a future.

  • Peter Chapman 30th Dec '20 - 3:42pm

    So pleased our MPs have voted against.I will always be against leaving the EU and am so glad the party has shown at last what it stands for….I have not changed my opinion since 1973 and am so glad I can at last say my party voted for what it believes in. the brexiteers never changed their opinion on 73 and I will not now. I believe events will prove us tight to oppose the Tory / Labour me a reason to remain an active member of the Party.

  • David Evershed 30th Dec '20 - 3:59pm

    So that’s eleven Lib Dem MPs who are not in favour of trade deals and internationalism.

  • Barry Lofty 30th Dec '20 - 4:22pm

    I will try to say again, the anti EU MP,s never gave up trying to destabilise our relationship with Europe over many years why should we stop promoting the benefits of the union? Voting against this deal just enforces the Lib Dems belief that there was no better deal than one we had, anyhow that’s my belief right or wrong.

  • Richard Elliott 30th Dec '20 - 4:52pm

    This deal was clearly going to pass by a large margin and a third party (neither govt or official opposition – govt in waiting) is not so restricted by pragmatism and should express its values and policy through its vote. We all remember the consequences of voting for things we didnt believe in during the Coalition. Voting against is not a vote for no deal but it says that not only is this a bad deal but that a different one could of been achieved while honouring the vote to leave. Voting for this deal would be to again pitch our values and policy, and leave many of us wondering what is the point of LDs.

    Members of the public including LD voters understandably want to move on and avoid a no deal – and the deal will happen, so being blamed for something that didnt happen is not the bigger problem. We can maintain our pro-Europe position in opposition to Tories and Labour, and leading up to the 2026 uk/EU review we can argue strongly for a different closer relationship from having opposed the particular deal that was put to parliament.

  • I am persuaded that the Lib Dem’s were right to vote against it, maintaining their distinctive pro-European position.

    The bill was always going to pass easily. Yet the deal shows all of the flaws in Brexit – trying to reconcile the views of those Brexiteers who fantasise about a deregulated Singapore style economy and those who want to go down the route of protectionism.

    The best way to trade globally and at the same time safeguard the rights of workers and consumers whilst providing cultural and social opportunities for UK citizens was as a fully paid up member of the EU.

  • Richard Underhil 30th Dec '20 - 5:19pm

    30th Dec ’20 – 3:42pmsi
    When we voted YES in the 1975 referendum there was no provison to leave.
    We should have opposed it at that time.
    PLAN AHead.

  • Richard Underhill. 30th Dec '20 - 5:29pm

    Katharine Pindar 30th Dec ’20 – 2:47pm
    So I find myself apparently in a minority of members. I am not sure that a better deal could have been achieved, given our country’s weak negotiating position,

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Dec '20 - 5:53pm

    David Evans

    My friend, I share with other Liberal Democrats a once in a while tendency to be as you refer, overly optimistic or regularly idealistic.

    But I amongst fewer, have an excuse, for as an actor, in the musical, Man of La Mancha, have sung…

    To dream the impossible dream
    To fight the unbeatable foe
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go…

    This is my quest
    To follow that star
    No matter how hopeless
    No matter how far…

  • We went along with the Torres in 2010 in the National interest. This time we are entitled to vote against a bill which we believe to be against the National interest

  • Mike Falchikov 30th Dec '20 - 7:05pm

    Of course our MPs should vote against. It’s a bad deal in a situation we should never have allowed ourselves to be in. The fact that we are withdrawing from the Erasmus scheme says it all about this government – “mustn’t let our young people get contaminated by too much contact with those Europeans.”

  • David Allen 30th Dec '20 - 7:37pm

    Starmer is not voting for the Brexit deal for any of the rational principled reasons that have been suggested here. He is voting for Brexit because his focus groups tell him that his lost “red wall” voters want Brexit, and he thinks that the best way to win them back will be to pander to them. I suspect his tactics are wrong. The “red wall” voters won’t want a Vicar of Bray leader who fights for Remain and then declares for Leave. They will stick with Boris, as long as Brexit isn’t an obvious failure, because (irony of ironies) Boris appears to be consistent and principled, or at least, more so than Starmer.

    Nobody is going to think that the Lib Dems, or Nicola Sturgeon for that matter, have voted for No Deal. They have both made it quite clear that that was not the basis for their votes. Just imagine, if two years hence Brexit look like a mess and some Tory dares to get up and claim “You lot voted for no deal!” Will anyone believe that for one minute, when Ed Davey’s riposte can be “Rubbish, we fought against Brexit for years, we never wavered, we voted against Brexit, not like that face-both-ways Mr Starmer, and you are just talking complete nonsense if you suggest we ever voted to leave without even making any agreement with the EU!”

  • @ David Allen Did you actually watch Keir Starmer’s speech today, Mr Allen ?

    A simple yes or no would suffice.

  • Paul Murray 30th Dec '20 - 9:53pm

    It appears to me that the Lib Dem position was entirely performative. If Labour and Conservative ERG members had voted against the deal such that it required the Lib Dem votes to prevent No Deal then how would Lib Dem MPs have voted?

  • Yeovil Yokel 30th Dec '20 - 10:48pm

    Another possibility, David Allen, is that Starmer has been leaned on by one of his leading paymasters, arch-Brexiter and Corbyn-supporter Len McCluskey of the Unite Union.

    According to two LSE academics (specialists in Politics and Constitutional Law), the choice facing MP’s today was not between Johnson’s Deal and No Deal – put very simply, if the Bill had been voted down then the UK’s trading relationship with the EU would not have defaulted to ‘No Deal’ on 31 December but rather to the existing treaty arrangements (LSE British Politics and Policy,, 30 December 2020). Thus Lib Dem MP’s acted perfectly properly in voting against this Bill today, and the next few months and years will probably prove them to have been right.

  • David Evans 31st Dec '20 - 1:22am

    Lorenzo, I admire your musical and thespian attributes, but I would suggest that rather than make light of it with an amusing anecdote, it would be much better for you, I and the rest of the Lib Dems to stop dreaming the impossible dream and spending our time telling others about it, and instead accept it would be so much better to spend the time organising our party to make the most of things in the real world.

  • David Evans 31st Dec '20 - 1:30am

    David Evershed – I’m not sure where you get your idea from, but I would describe it more accurately as 11 Lib Dem MPs are against bad trade deals, where one side incompetently gives much more than it gets, and isolationism.

  • David Evershed 31st Dec '20 - 1:40am

    David Evans 1.30am

    The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. Membership of the EU is not at issue

    What is now at stake is whether to have a trade deal with the EU or not.

    Liberals have always previously had a primary principle of supporting free trade and internationalism.

    So it is a dramatic change of course for Lib Dem MPs to vote against a trade deal with the EU.

    Is there a need to revive a Liberal Party with free trade and internationalism at its heart?

  • Richard Underhill. 31st Dec '20 - 8:16am

    stand up for what you believe

  • John Marriott 31st Dec '20 - 8:25am

    I see that the Lib Dem glitterati have felt the need to justify theIr MPs voting against the Deal. Is this a case of a guilty conscience, a display of manhood (womanhood might have produced a more pragmatic approach), defiance, buyers’ remorse, purity or a combination of all of them? Whatever it may be, it has hardly raised a stir in the media so far.

    Jim Forrest’s response is, I am afraid, typical of the cocksure europhiles, whose hubristic certainty of the ever powerful and everlasting qualities of the current model displaying the sign ‘EU’ has much to do with where we are now.

    It cannot be a given that the European Union will carry on doing what it says on the tin. Open it up and some may argue that the mixture is already smelling a bit too rich. Perhaps a few less ingredients might not be so bad. Given the current economic clout the EU has, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we will be poorer outside its sphere at least in the short term. Then those of us, who voted to remain, can say “We told you so” if it makes us feel better.

    I shan’t be one of them, because, although it will be tough and there is no absolute guarantee that the ‘British people’ (note the choice of nationality) will again rise to the challenge as the Brexiters keeping reminding us that they did in 1940, if Johnson and Williamson are serious, then perhaps we in England in particular will get proper devolution of decision making and a vocational education system, whose demise over many decades has replaced a nation of hard working manufacturers and exporters with a nation of highly educated and not so highly educated consumers, who are apparently quite happy for other nations to make and sell them what they desire. On the other hand, unless we stop moaning and follow JFK’s advice about doing something for your country, we could still end up, in (now) Lord Phillip Hammond’s words, as a kind of ‘Singapore on Thames’, a bargain basement emporium paying low level wages with sweatshop level conditions of service.

  • “(Starmer) is voting for Brexit because his focus groups tell him that his lost “red wall” voters want Brexit, and he thinks that the best way to win them back will be to pander to them. I suspect his tactics are wrong. “

    I agree that his tactics are misguided. People focus on the fact that Labour lost support from leave voters between 2017-2019 but ignore the fact that they failed to win back or turn out remain voters (20% of whom voted Conservative) and soft leave voters who are primarily concerned about other issues)

    Many of those “red wall” seats actually voted for Thatcher. They simply don’t vote for left wing Labour leaders who don’t understand their aspirations.

    You could see a path to Labour winning 300 odd seats by focusing on seats that were 45%+ remain and accepting that hardcore leavers will probably vote for Johnson again. Then if the Lib Dem’s get 25+ seats a government is viable.

  • John Marriott: We don’t need to say “We told you so”, just attack the government over the inevitable mess that the country will be in because of this Brexit deal, and voting against it means that we won’t have to justify having voted with the government on its flagship policy. It doesn’t matter if our No vote “has hardly raised a stir in the media so far.” It’s not what people think now that matters, it’s how it will be viewed in 2024, when the reality of Brexit will have kicked in, and people will be voting on how the majority Tory government has handled the crises of Brexit and Covid, and not on what might have happened had Parliament voted anainst the Brexit deal in a non-binding vote on 30 December 2020.

    Anwyay here’s why defeat of the deal would not have automatically led to a no-deal Brexit.
    The vote wasn’t binding, so if the UK did crash out with no deal, it would be entirely of the government’s choosing. But trust me, no-one is going to care in 2024.

  • John Marriott 31st Dec '20 - 11:54am

    @Alex Macfie
    Can you be 100% sure that leaving the EU will be an unmitigated disaster? How do you define ‘disaster’ in any case? Just as a lockdown might tide us over until the vaccines kick in, this ‘deal’ might just buy us a bit of time to decide where we really want to go on the world stage. Prevarication on the part of the opposition parties in the autumn of 2019 played into Johnson’s and the Tories’ hands. Even more uncertainty by continuing the debate would just add to the misery. They talk about ‘try before you buy’. Well, we’ve bought it and are about to be trying it out. So let’s just wait and see.

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '20 - 12:15pm

    @ Marco,

    ‘Many of those “red wall” seats actually voted for Thatcher.’

    Such as?

    “They simply don’t vote for left wing Labour leaders who don’t understand their aspirations.”

    Left wing Labour leaders will always be subject to a barrage of dirty tricks. Tony Benn was always shown with staring eyes in the press! I have met him and I did notice that he has a tendency to not blink quite as often as most but that’s really neither here nor there in determining anyone’s suitability for anything at all.

    If you’d care to speak to Red Wall voters you’ll find that many now speak about the late Tony Benn in a very respectful way. That is, of course, largely but not entirely, because of his views on the EU. It is hard now to realise that the Labour Party was once a Eurosceptic party. It isn’t now at Parliamentary level – but the sentiment is still there at grassroots level. The Blairites made sure that any potential Parliamentary candidates, at least in winnable constituencies, were of the ‘right sort’.

    The kind of views shown in the link below were simply banned!

    So many Red Wall voters would say that it is more the Party moving away from them than vice versa.

  • We may consider leaving the E U foolish, a step back in time, contrary to this countries internation role, leaving us to negotiate with everyone else, more complications and effort compared to the previous arrangment. But it will not be a disaster, except perhaps for Gibralter!

  • @ Peter Martin

    Such as Darlington, Scunthorpe, Barrow and Furness, Bolton North East, Birmingham Northfield and Bridgend to name a few. Direct comparisons would be difficult due to boundary changes.

    All of the above won by New Labour led by pro EU Blair with huge majorities.

    When will Socialists such as yourself stop blaming the media and accept that you cannot win elections from the hard-left, Eurosceptic or otherwise?

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '20 - 1:41pm

    @ Paul Fisher,

    I read that John Redwood abstained in yesterday’s vote too. I’m sure he’d be in total agreement with your line of reasoning.

    @Alex Macfie @ John Marriott,

    “Can you be 100% sure that leaving the EU will be an unmitigated disaster?”

    It will all be about our economic performance relative to that of the EU. We both will have problems getting back to something like a degree of normality.

    There won’t be much in it. If anything the EU will have bigger problems because they are much more hung up on their internal boundaries than we are. We don’t see Govt spending in terms of the wealthier regions bailing out the poorer ones with repayable loans. But they do.

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '20 - 1:56pm

    @ Marco,

    Yes these seats were won by Labour but you claimed ‘Many of those “red wall” seats actually voted for Thatcher.’ As far as I remember Mrs Thatcher was a Tory!

    “pro EU Blair” ?? No-one was actually sure where Blair stood at the time. See the link on my comment of 12:15pm

  • Alex Macfie 31st Dec '20 - 2:45pm

    John Marriott: Nobody can be 100% sure of anything, except that we’re all going to die, and night follows day etc. But when most respected economists say it will be a disaster, it seems a reasonable prediction. Anyway, in the unlikely event of Brexit proving a success, the Tories will get all of the glory. That’s how it played out for the Falklands War (conducted under a Tory government, supported by both Labour and Alliance, won by the UK and considered a success; electorally the Conservative Party was the only beneficiary).
    As for “continuing the debate”, the debate is going to continue for a very long time, whether you like it or not, shifting to the real-life consequences of Brexit. What do you suppose the Lib Dems should do? Hold off from criticising the government over the consequences of Brexit in order to “move on” from it? That’s exactly what Johnson & co want to happen, use Brexit as an excuse to do what they like with no oppositoon, because opposing the government is “continuing the Brexit debate”.

  • @ Peter Martin

    Those seats I named were ones that switched from Labour to Conservative in 2019 and prior to that had been held by Labour for a long time hence meet the definition of “red wall” seats.

    However in the 1980’s many such seats were won by the Conservatives under Thatcher including the ones I named.

  • John Marriott 31st Dec '20 - 7:26pm

    @Alex Macfie
    You mention the Falklands War and reckon that the winners in 1983 were the Tories. I would argue that the real winner was FPTP. Not only did it deliver Mrs T a majority. It also saved Labour’s bacon. If you don’t believe me just look at the percentage of votes cast for each party.

    On another thread you allude to the ‘forgetfulness’ of the electorate. I’m not so sure. Many don’t appear to have forgotten tuition fees. I think that selective forgetfulness may be a better description. At the moment the Lib Dems fail to feature on most radars at the moment, except possibly as the object of ridicule by most commentators. Even if Brexit does turn out to be an unmitigated disaster, do you really think that the party will be the beneficiary? I would like to think so; but I’m a realist.

  • Alex Macfie 31st Dec '20 - 8:55pm

    John Marriott: Yes FPTP did save Labour’s bacon, because its vote was much more concentrated than that of the Alliance. However, it was still strong in most of the Red Wall seats where the Tories have now taken over, leading me to think that it’s losing a large part of its core vote.
    I have already explained why the tuition fees issue does not apply to this vote the way you seem to think it does. I didn’t say voters are “forgetful”. It’s not that they don’t remember political things from the past. Rather, i said that they tend to remember things that are directly relevant to their lived realities, and this does not include counterfactual scenarios (which are of interest only to political geeks). In other words, they will be too concerned about the real-world consequences of the Brexit deal that was ratified to give any thought at all to what might have happened had it not been ratified. The Lib Dem votes on tuition fees caused the passage of something that directly affected people’s lived realities in a bad way. The Brexit deal will also directly affect people’s lived realities, and almost certainly in a bad way. But the Lib Dems will not be seen to have contributed to that, because they voted against the deal on 30 December. Voting for the deal would have been our TuItion Fees II, because we would be once again in bed with the Tories. It could be Labour’s Tuition Fees I.
    Lib Dem electoral success does not depend on where they are on the national radar. Especially in local elections, we succeed on the strength of our ground campaigns. But these only succeed if we have marked our territory correctly, which is why we had to vote against the government yesterday, to give us the moral authority to attack it going forward. Forget that the vote was about the Brexit deal. This was the Tories’ flagship policy. Any criticism of the government from Labour over its consequences will be met by, “But you voted for it”. We, at least, won’t have that problem.

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '20 - 9:59pm

    @ Marco,

    The seats you mention have always had more Tory support than you might have appreciated. Northern constituencies, in what Southerners often mis-perceive to be solidly working class areas, haven’t necessarily been solidly pro-Labour. For example Bolton NE started off with a Tory MP after its inception in 1983. The score, in total, since then has been Tory 4 Labour 6.

    Three of those Tory wins were by Peter Thurnham who was on the centrist wing of the Party. ie Pro EU. He resigned to join the Lib Dems in the 90s.

    So Bolton NE doesn’t really count as “Red Wall”. Neither does Bolton West. An ex Liberal seat!

    An example of Red Wall would be Leigh, Andy Burnhams old seat, which had been held by Labour from 1922 to 2019

    If Labour has proved that you can’t win elections from the left, as you’ve claimed, does it follow that the Lib Dems have shown that it’s much worse to try to win them from the centre?

  • Alex Macfie 1st Jan '21 - 9:26am

    Peter Martin: I nswered your last question once before: Labour has a core vote, the Lib Dems don’t. The 2015 and 2019 elections (in different ways) show for Labour the consequences of taking its core vote for granted. The next election may show similar, if by voting to support Johnson’s Brexit deal it is seen to be taking its Remain voters for granted.

  • John Marriott 1st Jan '21 - 11:02am

    With New Year silence from the Editors, I’m not sure on which thread to post this little vignette. Caron’s seems to have attracted the most responses so far so here goes.

    The true definition of ‘Cakeism’

    The scene is a coffee shop in Brussels in the Spring of 2021. Boris Johnson enters, immaculately dishevelled as usual and sits down at a table. The waitress arrives…

    Waitress: Bonjour, monsieur, qu’est-ce que vous voulez?

    Boris: I see you are still offering free cake today as you were doing late last year to encourage people to come and sample your wares, so I’d like two slices of Black Forest gateau, please and a second free cup of coffee with which you kindly furnish me last time.

    Waitress (switching to perfect English): I’m sorry, sir, but, if you had read the small print, you would have seen that each English customer only gets one free slice of cake and one free cup of coffee. Anything more you will have to pay for. The old offer now only applies to people with an EU club card.

    Boris: (harrumphing in true Johnsonian fashion): That’s preposterous. I came in at the end of last year and I got two slices free and wasn’t even charged for a second cup of coffee.

    Waitress: The house rules changed on 1st January. The original offer now only applies to EU club card holders. So, what will it be; one slice or two?

    A Happy New Year to you all!

  • Peter Martin 1st Jan '21 - 11:57am

    @ Alex,

    You’re right that Labour’s problem in the 2019 election was to try to reconcile its Leave and Remain inclined voters. In the end we managed to do neither and lost the many votes of both. Jeremy Corbyn ran a good campaign in 2017 by adopting a wait-and-see approach, thus avoiding the issue, but it was clearly not possible to repeat the trick in 2019.

    Your comment demonstrates the problem Lib Dems are continuing to have. As from today, if not the 1st Feb 2020, there are no such categories as Remainers and Leavers. We’ve left the EU so we can be Rejoiners , or Remainers, in a new sense, if we want to remain as we are, ie out of the EU.

    I expect it will take Lib Dems some time to adjust to a new reality. But the sooner that happens the better. We don’t want a right wing UK with economic austerity, high unemployment, and a roll back of the State etc etc. So we do need to get back to the politics of left and right. The danger is that our future politics will be defined by a historic treaty as happened in 1920s Ireland with the formation of Fianna Fail (anti Treaty) and Fianna Gael (pro Treaty). That didn’t do Ireland any good and it won’t do us any good either.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jan '21 - 12:11pm

    @ John Marriott,

    Where is this café in Brussels where we can still get one slice of free cake etc? In my travels in EU countries I don’t remember even being offered a discount!

  • @ Peter Martin

    “does it follow that the Lib Dems have shown that it’s much worse to try to win them from the centre?”

    I am happy to acknowledge that the Lib Dem’s do best when leaning centre-left (certainly on economic and welfare issues, less so on social and cultural issues).

    However I would like to see this combined with a resolute civil libertarianism and resistance to nanny state measures. It is essentially a question of how to reconcile the social and classical liberal traditions.

  • John Marriott 1st Jan '21 - 1:30pm

    @Peter Martin
    I was trying to inject a bit of allegorical humour into the mix. Were you?

  • Alex Macfie 1st Jan '21 - 2:06pm

    @Peter Martin: OK, so we anti-Brexit people are Rejoiners now, rather than “Remainers”. However, I don’t think future UK politics will not be defined by this specific treaty, but instead by a broader sense of “drawbridge up” versus “drawbridge down” — politics based on values rather than social class. Brexit represents a victory for populist, narrow, nationalist “drawbridge up” politics. It’s for the “drawbridge down” people to regroup and continue fighting our corner. Here Labour has probably made a mistake by voting for this treaty, pandering to its supposedly “drawbridge up” supporters in Red Wall areas, while supposing its “drawbridge down” supporters are reconciled to the new Brexit order.

    The Brexit deal won’t be remembered fondly, except by a few Brexit fanatics, if its consequences prove to be negative. The next election won’t be about the Deal itself. It will be about the real-world consequences of the deal, with the parties who voted for it being held responsible for them. You need to think of Wednesday’s vote as being not about Brexit, but about supporting the Tory government. Labour got into bed with the Tories on Wednesday, and will find it difficult to criticise the Tories over the real-world consequences of this flagship Tory policy because Labour MPs supported it.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jan '21 - 3:26pm

    @ Alex,

    I agree that the deal isn’t exactly wanted anyone wanted. It’s a compromise. But having spent the last few years warning of the dangers of “no-deal” it does seem rather churlish that Lib Dems should want to vote against an EU trade deal. The only one that is on offer.

    There has always been movement of people in and out of the UK. That’s happened before we were members of the EU/EEC, it happened during our period of membership and it will continue to happen after we’ve left. With the possible exception of periods of wartime, the “drawbridge” has never been up. That won’t change – except that everyone will be now be processed equally regardless from where in the world they originate.

    @ John Marriott,

    Humour? No. I’m just annoyed I’ve missed out on my free cake!

  • Alex Macfie 1st Jan '21 - 4:31pm

    @Peter Martin: Once more, with feeling. There was never any danger of “no deal” from the government being defeated on Wednesday. The vote was on implementation NOT ratification, which the government would have done via Royal Prerogative, regardless of Parliament’s opinion. So the question was NOT whether to have that deal or no deal, but on whether the deal on offer was better than what the UK had already. If the government had been defeated, then the most likely course of events would have been a technical extension and followed by ratification (again by Royal Prerogative) in 21 days. But again, no-one is going to care about this “no-deal” debate in 3½ years, because voters don’t deal in counterfactual scenarios.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '21 - 6:07am

    @ Martin,

    According to your argument the electorate should have asked the same questions in all elections after we joined the EU in 1973. ie “We know what the damage is, but where are the benefits? – You said there would be benefits, – where are they? ”

    It wasn’t just a question of what “economic forecasters anticipated”. They’ve shown, over the years, that they can’t correctly anticipate very much at all. By the early 90s we had the figures to compare GDP performance both within and without the EU/EEC.

    In the 20 years before joining (1953 – 1973) our growth rate was double the growth rate of the 20 years afterwards (1973- 1993) . Unemployment was lower and so was inflation. Housing was also more affordable for younger buyers. Admittedly TV was only in monochrome but so it was in the EEC too!

  • John Marriott 2nd Jan '21 - 10:03am

    @Peter Martin
    I don’t know how old you are; but I lived through the periods you describe. I started full time employment in 1966 and, except for the period 1970 to 1974, when I was working abroad, carried on until 1999.

    There is no doubt that, while I was at secondary school (1955-1962) the U.K. did enjoy a boost in manufacturing and employment, although it is interesting to note that, thanks to US led investment after WW2, West Germany’s GDP had apparently overtaken ours by 1951. It was largely the complacency of management and the ‘Little Englander’ attitude of militant trades unions that led to a decline in manufacturing that continued well into the 1970s before it finally succumbed to Thatcherism and the ‘Big Bang’ in the 1980s.

    You talk about low inflation. Well, when my wife and I returned from abroad in 1974, we found that house prices had QUADRUPLED in the previous four years and, within a couple of years after our return, inflation was running at 25%!

    While the fault for much of this could be laid at the door of No10 (Heath’s ‘dash for growth’ and the ‘Barber Boom’), I would in no way exonerate the TUC and the Labour Party, not forgetting the 1973 Yom Kippur War and OPEC’s reaction to it (three day week etc).

    Two things ultimately saved our bacon, firstly our joining the EEC in 1973 and secondly, the coming on stream of North Sea oil, which, unfortunately for our future as a manufacturing nation, gave the Thatcher government the cushion to finance unemployment benefit to allow it to pursue its policies of slash and burn.

    I am convinced that, had Britain been the eight signatory of the Treaty of Rome back in 1954 we would have benefitted mightily from the resultant economic growth and, indeed, had the Attlee government taken us into the Iron and Steel Pack three years earlier, we might have been able to shape the direction of travel more to our liking. By the time we finally joined, the good times were largely over. We grabbed the lifeline, thank you very much, paid our dues, and, when we thought we were back on our feet, waved bye, bye.

  • “it does seem rather churlish that Lib Dems should want to vote against an EU trade deal. “

    Because it’s the first trade deal in human history to make trade harder not easier.

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