Lib Dems vs Brexit: Tom Brake PM’s deal is a fiction, a chimera, a mirage

Tom Brake’s speech in the Brexit debate was a candid one in which he took responsibility for his part in creating the set of circumstances where so many people voted Leave.

Brexit, and the way it is being handled, is a national embarrassment. Worse than that, it is a damaging international embarrassment. That great tactician, David Cameron, devised what he thought would be a cunning plan to staunch the decades-long Euro bloodletting in his party: a referendum. But the referendum, instead of acting as neat sutures to bind together the ideologically driven Brexiters and their more rational colleagues, has taken a scalpel to the Tory party’s jugular, and—critically, and far more significantly—to that of the country, too. Driving the country to the brink, and in some cases being willing to drive over it, is overwhelmingly the Tories’ responsibility.

Of course, the Leader of the Opposition has a cameo in all this, demonstrating the same aptitude for leadership during the Brexit campaign as he has since. However, as a long-standing Member of Parliament, I share some of the blame for not tackling the conditions that led to a majority voting for Brexit. That blame must be shared by successive Governments—not this one, not the one before, not the one before and, indeed, probably not the one before that either. I regret not being active enough in promoting the benefits of being in the EU for students, research, common standards, medicines, and investment in, for example, the hospital where the PM launched the NHS 10-year plan, which received £50 million in EU financing, or the potteries factory where she gave her speech yesterday, which received £400,000.

I was not outspoken enough in rebutting the ludicrous, infantile and mendacious claims that Brussels-based British newspaper correspondents made about the threat to British pink sausages or standardised condom sizes. Most importantly, I regret the failure to tackle deep-seated concerns in some towns and cities over the failure to invest in infrastructure and under- performing schools and to rebuild proud communities devastated by the loss of heavy industry. I regret that devolution was not pushed hard and fast enough and that responsibility, funding and accountability for delivering jobs, skills training, bus and train services was not vested in politicians closer to those reliant on such services. ​Those challenges remain, and we owe it to those who voted for Brexit and, indeed, to those who voted remain to address them.

Does anyone in this Chamber believe that Brexit and the PM’s so-called deal provide solutions? They do not. Nothing that leaves us poorer can. The PM’s deal is nothing of the sort. It is a fiction, a chimera, a mirage. The political declaration comes in at a measly 26 pages. Compare that with 1,598 pages in the Canada-EU trade deal. According to the PM’s statement yesterday, the real deal—our future relationship with the EU—may not be struck until as late as December 2022, and some consider that wildly optimistic. That is one of the reasons why her deal will be defeated today.

With the red lines that the Prime Minister chose for herself, I do not doubt that this is the best deal that she could secure. Unfortunately, it is a bad deal, so where next? We expect the PM’s deal to be defeated later, no deal has been rejected by Parliament, and a fresh round of negotiations with the EU is unlikely to be sanctioned by the EU. The Prime Minister is left with one option: put the deal to the people in a people’s vote and offer them the choice to stay in the EU.

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  • David Becket 20th Jan '19 - 2:25pm

    Nothing will be achieved by 2022. Fox, who promised 40 deals would be ready by March 2019 has achieved nothing, he cannot even replicate deals with countries that have a deal with the EU. It is a mirage, we need another vote.
    Fox blames other countries for not being ready to strike a deal, as he blames remainers for stealing Brexit. That is the art of Brexit, blame everybody else, in particular the EU, for the ills of this country
    Rubbish. It is Brexiteers like Fox, Davies and Johonson who have stolen Brexit, if it was ever there to steal. They made fantasy promises they could not keep, and when the three of them were put in charge of the process they achieved nothing in two years.
    Add an intransigent PM and an ineffective leader of the opposition and it is not difficult to see why we are in a mess. The country deserves better.

  • David Evans 20th Jan '19 - 2:29pm

    No, the PM can simply continue to kick the can along the road, run down the clock, offer a few political bribes here and there, pretend she is listening, give in on minor points on universal credit etc. and say a few nice things about worker’s rights, unions etc for Labour and call a snap general election on breaking the deadlock, wait for all those voters who consider the other extreme unthinkable to come to her rescue.

    Possibly, just possibly, the Lib Dems will forge an alliance of those who know the catastrophe any form of Brexit will create, which will take control away from the government and give the British people a vote on the deal.

    I hope we are not waiting for Theresa May to give in, because she won’t, but instead are working massively hard talking to other key players to get an agreement in place that can be announced to the public (if necessary at the start of a snap election campaign) to undermine those who would destroy our country rather than give the people a real say in the matter.

  • David Evans 20th Jan '19 - 2:33pm

    Alternatively, the PM can simply continue to kick the can along the road, run down the clock, offer a few political bribes here and there, pretend she is listening, give in on minor points on universal credit etc. and say a few nice things about worker’s rights, unions etc for Labour and call a snap general election on breaking the deadlock, wait for all those MPs who consider the other extreme unthinkable to come to her rescue.

    The PM has all the power of the executive behind her. Unless we work with others to take it away from her.

  • At last a politician who “gets It”. For far to long politicians have lived in a happy little bubble where the fears of the ordinary folk fail to penetrate. How many of our elite know people who work for minimum wages, how many understand the fears of working wage packet to wage packet, how many realise that a quick turn around on the NHS for a ailment can mean keeping a job and preventing the wolf smashing down your door, dammed few it would appear. The issue is people like Cameron and Clegg where born to the snowflake elite and cannot and do not connect with the problems of the majority of us. We need more people in politics who can connect with the people because they come from the people rather than being part of the bubble elite. Politicians need to tackle the real issues we face instead of spending time arguing “How many economists can dance on the head of a pin ( for our economist friends, that depends on how fat the economists are, how big the pin head is and which dance they are dancing; for info they tend to get the most on, if they are dancing the conga, with a large pin head and emaciated economists).

    I would offer one suggestion look for policies that make people feel more comfortable. We common people don’t ask much, just stability and a feeling that life is getting better, fail to achieve that and you better strap in for a rough ride.

  • People voted for Brexit for many reasons, but the majority voted for Brexit because they though it would lead to a better UK. Now many thought a better UK was one with less “furrins”, others thought it would be better because Cameron and Co would be getting a good shoeing and would learn, others thought it would be better because our politicians would be in control. Well if Brexit taught us anything we depend on the “furrins” for skills we don’t teach, Cameron and Co don’t learn and our politicians are useless. We have blamed the EU for our own failings, a sun lit Brexit doesn’t exists and claiming “My Brexit” would have been better is at best delusional at worst a out right lie. Now if you can only get through life by lying to yourself, who am I to judge, we all do it to some extent, I do however object to you dragging me along with your delusional lie.

  • I am pleased to read the comments/confession by Tom Brake which are refreshing but he doesn’t mention the elephant in the room which was a factor in the Referendum, however much we try to pretend not i.e. immigration. Where are the politicians who are willing to say immigration brings great benefits (economic, health service etc) AND some challenges, notably in the landscape of insufficient housing and inadequately staffed school classes with children speaking multiple languages. If there is to be another Referendum (which I think is needed), can someone be honest enough to address this? If Remain win (which I assume will decide the matter, it won’t be best of three!) and it is not discussed, this will alienate large swathes of people even more alienated from politicians than they are already. This is what leads to extreme right-wing/left-wing parties or people not bothering to vote. I fear all of these.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Jan '19 - 3:34pm

    A refreshing read, good for Tom Brake, coming clean like that. Now, as Richard C. suggests, the benefits of immigration will need to be stressed – as well as the enormous benefits we have had from being in the EU – if the hoped-for new Referendum campaign is finally agreed as the only compromise left standing.

  • Loads of candidates are not in place. This sort of situation happened in 1974 started as a “Who governs the government or the Miners”, very soon it was about everything else. Will cost a small fortune, result probably another hung parliament with up to 50 SNP members gains mainly from Labour and holding the balance, what then for Scotland and Brexit? Seems to me too too many improbables, more likely to go for delaying Article 50, before Parliament does it for them, (according to Newsnight last week, this was being propogated by the Brexiteers in the Cabinet!)

  • David Murray 20th Jan '19 - 8:40pm

    Theresa May’s deal was comprehensively rejected by Leavers and Remainers, and only supported by those in the government’s pay, plus a few others. So there is no point offering this option in a ‘People’s Vote’ versus a ‘No Brexit’ alternative. The Brexiteers would say that a binary vote of that kind would not represent their view of a clean break from the EU, which Leavers voted for. Theresa May herself said that if her deal was voted down, the choice left would be between ‘No Deal’ and ‘No Brexit’. That is the choice that should be put to the public: Brexiteers supporting ‘No Deal’ and Remainers supporting ‘No Brexit’. That must be seen to be fair to both sides of the argument, and should result in a conclusive result, once all the fantasies have been stripped out, and the benefits or otherwise of either option have been fully considered. Extend Article 50 and go for it! Lib Dems should not support any version of May’s dead deal as an option.

  • Tom Brake’s list of issues about the EU which should have been rebutted is impressive. How about a list of the positives? And how about campaigning for them?
    And how about a serious discussion about Ireland and how to build on the Good Friday agreement?

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