Liberal Democrats must enthusiastically occupy the clear pro EU space – nobody else will

The Liberal Democrats have historically been enthusiastically pro EU. The strength of that enthusiasm, it’s fair to say, has not always been uniform. While a small number of Liberal Democrats campaigned to leave the EU, the vast majority of us wanted to remain. That was very clear to the tens of thousands who have joined us in the aftermath of the vote to leave.

As a party during the referendum, we did more than any other to campaign for a Remain vote. That’s quite a staggering achievement given our size and resources compared to the Labour party.

However, there are signs now that the consensus is starting to develop some fault lines. Our position in the aftermath of the referendum has been very clear. We campaign to stay or go back in to the EU at the next election. We want the voters to have their say on the Brexit deal. It’s only polite, really, given that they weren’t given any indication about what it would look like before they voted.

I don’t want to over-egg this particular pudding, but it looks like our general unity as a party on this is now under threat. Many Liberal Democrats  have been very concerned to see that Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg have endorsed Open Britain, the organisation formerly known as Britain Stronger in Europe.  Open Britain accepts the referendum result as final even though they also accept that nobody knows what they actually voted for. They will not be calling for a second referendum which seems to be a bizarre and contradictory stance to me. Norman Lamb clarified in a tweet yesterday that he is still in favour of a second referendum:

However, the mixed messages that his and Nick Clegg’s endorsement of Open Britain sends is not helpful. It is confusing to party members and the general public if we are seen to be having some parliamentarians saying one thing while others do another, especially when these two form a quarter of our Commons party. Of even greater concern than the second referendum issue is Open Britain’s acceptance of restrictions to the free movement of people. In an article in the Sunday Times, reproduced on Open Britain’s website, Norman Lamb, Tory Anna Soubry and Labour’s Pat Macfadden say:

Free movement of people cannot continue as it has done. It has to be reformed. This was not an expression of prejudice but rather a desire for managed migration and concern that rapid immigration can put pressure on public services and local communities. Britain must be open to talent, but with more ability to act if excessive competition in labour markets hurts our economy. For too long we have ducked an open debate over immigration. That was true in the referendum campaign but it is also true of all the major political parties in the past decade or more. As a result, untruths have been allowed to prosper and a balanced debate never materialised, leading many to feel that legitimate concerns were being dismissed. This must change. Calls for reform must sit with a positive argument about the benefits that immigration brings.

It’s not freedom of movement that has to stop, in my view. If we have lots of people moving in to an area, then the local authorities there need to have the resources to deal with that, to build more houses and provide more public services. That’s the proper way to deal with people’s concerns. There is also the very real point that if the economy was more balanced and there were more jobs all over the country, you would find that there was plenty space for everyone who wanted to come here and we would all benefit. Those are the arguments that we should have made during the referendum campaign and should be making now. Let’s face it, if we back down on free movement, that means we won’t have access to the single market. That really will be disastrous for us economically and socially.

I have today removed myself from Open Britain’s supporters list because I think that rolling over for the brexiteers to walk over is really not a good look. I think it is more important to stand up for the opportunities of future generations. As David Howarth told the Social Liberal Forum conference last month, the Leave majority will no longer exist by March 2020 purely on demographics, without anyone changing their mind. Think about what that means. By the time we leave, most people will actually want to stay. The Liberal Democrats must stand up for that majority because it’s pretty clear that nobody else will.

Once the true reality of Brexit dawns, the likelihood is that many more will regret voting for Leave, particularly if what we end up with is the sort of “hard” Brexit that the hardcore leavers want and which we may have no choice but to accept if we invoke Article 50.

We have a clear, unique space which coincides with our internationalist principles. We would be daft not to make the most of that.  We need to shout what we believe from the rooftops.

Tim Farron has made the right calls, so far but he now needs to reinforce them. Nobody grudges him some time off over the Summer, but from now on, we need to see bold, clear, simple messages from him so that nobody can doubt that the Liberal Democrats are the THE progressive pro-EU force in British politics, and THE pro-EU, pro-UK force in Scottish politics. All the parliamentarians need to support his leadership and be very careful about the messages they send out.

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

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  • Simon McGrath 29th Aug '16 - 12:26pm

    There is no contradiction between being a party which wants us to stay in the EU – and will fight a snap election on that basis but also recognising that we are likely to leave, that negotiations will soon start and having a view on what Lib Dems want to see in the negotiations and what a post Brexit Britain would look like in its relations with the EU.

  • Some 30% of Lib Dems voted Leave according to the only poll I bothered looking at. I suppose I may have chosen the wrong poll but if it was right 30% is quite a significant proportion.

  • But, @Simon McGrath, rolling over on free movement is not the way to go. Nor is endorsing an organisation that accepts the result as final.

  • @John Peters: I suspect that figure will fall and even if it doesn’t, it still means that nearly 3/4 of Lib Dem voters voted to Remain.

    We are still in the very early days of this. It’s like that bit between September 1939 and the Battle of Britain commencing. Nothing has happened. There have been no real consequences. Theresa May is trying to give the impression that all’s well. But the bottom will fall out of the economy when the reality hits, especially if we don’t have access to the single market. I doubt people will be much in favour of leaving then.

  • jedibeeftrix 29th Aug '16 - 12:33pm

    “the mixed messages that his and Nick Clegg’s endorsement of Open Britain sends is not helpful. It is confusing to party members and the general public if we are seen to be having some parliamentarians saying one thing while others do another, especially when these two form a quarter of our Commons party. ”

    May I respectfully point out; if one more lib-dem MP endorses Open Britain then the parliamentary party will be broadly reflective of the proportion of lib-dem voters that chose to Leave. The lib-dem’s have a labour style problem, in that the party membership is somewhat out of kilter with the voter base.

    Reading articles like this, I can only assume that gulf is destined to widen!

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Aug '16 - 12:34pm

    I’m only a voter but I’m a big supporter of Open Britain. I don’t think supporting it and Britain going back in the EU is contradictory – it seems to me one of the key things about the organisation is ensuring if we do leave that we get a good deal.

    On free movement I like what it says about false choices. I think if we aim for EU wide reform of free movement then we can get a good deal and reduce Euroscepticism in some of its hotbeds. I want a fair deal regardless, but EU wide reform is the best strategy.

  • Agree with Caron to a large extent. I suspect Open Britain may be tactically unhelpful to the Lib Dems. The party needs a coherent message across a range of issues that give it a strong identity that will serve it well at a time of great political flux. Europe is a prime opportunity to achieve that. This message can easily be diluted and confused by campaigns such as Open Britain. The failures in getting the Lib Dems’ message over in coalition were all too evident. Being collabarative is a good thing but it cannot be allowed to weaken the Lib Dem brand.

  • I find Open Britain depressing and lacking in vision.
    No real surprise as it seems to be in the hands of the Remain campaign people who did not get their act together before.
    Freedoms perhaps need to be looked at together. If movement of people is restricted, so should be movement of capital. They are complementary.

  • John Peters 29th Aug '16 - 1:02pm

    Caron Lindsay

    Your view may be coloured by your convictions.

    I haven’t seen any shift in the Leave vote, the traffic seems to be the other way as far as the polls are concerned.

    Almost by definition we can’t stay in the Single Market as that is built on the four freedoms, one of which, free movement, has been clearly rejected by the Leave vote.

    We have no idea what Brexit means, apart from leaving the EU. The Leave vote has given the Government a blank cheque to decide for us, after all we are all in favour of Parliamentary Democracy, aren’t we, we don’t want silly referendums.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Aug '16 - 1:05pm

    Sadie Smith, why if free movement of people is restricted should free movement of capital? So if we have limits of immigration then we need tariffs on our exports and imports? Europe appreciates its exports to the UK and it will hurt both Britain and the EU counties if we have tariffs or other unnecessary barriers to trade.

    Not to mention asking for Britain to be punished if we control immigration and emigration more is electoral suicide, but a lot of people in the UK seem to be saying similarly recently.

  • Colin Paine 29th Aug '16 - 1:06pm

    Thank you Caron for exactly voicing my thoughts. I was an enthusiastic supporter of Stronger In but the successor org is defeatist pandering to soft Brexit Tory and Labour attempts to placate the Leave camp. Norman and Nick should think hard about where they are going here and I agree it would be good For Tim to get a more positive message out than this! I won’t be joining Open Britain and have written to them explaining why – I urge other like minded Liberal Democrats to do the same.

  • The Single market is free movement of goods, workers, capital and services. Any restriction on this is simply not the Single Market. The UK operates its own Single Market, even though there are difficulties, it works.

    Free movement of people cannot continue as it has done. It has to be reformed.
    I was appalled at this statement: what is meant by ‘reformed’ and ‘cannot continue as it has done’? It is open to people to interpret anything between scrapping free movement and a few tweaks to the benefits system. Where is there no longer to be free movement? Only into the UK? At the frontiers of Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary etc?

    Besides outside the EU we will be unable to dictate terms and even now, since 23.6.16 the UK’s voice is sidelined.

    With EU rules, France and other countries would still ban British beef, as the US does. Even if there were an attempt to negotiate a special arrangement with exceptions each of the 27 other States would be able to specify their own exceptions as part of the agreement.

    Liberal Democrats should not be involved in this: at best it offers false promises, at worst it is signing up for Brexit and endorsing the Brexit campaign.

  • They are not saying Free Movement has to stop – but that if can’t continue as it has been. If you look at the treaties free movement was about moving to accept offers of work and to remain their subject to regulations. There was to be no discrimination but that was on grounds of employment conditions and remuneration (benefits etc came under different treaty provisions) That has been widened by the courts and regulation.

    So you could take a very narrow view of free movement and still be consistent with the treaty provisions.

    But we also need to take account of how the world has moved since those treaty provisions were written in 1951, 1957 or 1992 (depending how you count it). The UK once had free movement of Commonwealth citizens to the UK – but I don’t see anyone advocating a return to that because international travel has made that a much less workable position.

  • Trying to look both ways and really doing neither. Just when the Lib Dems are moving forward with some coherent simple messages these two come along AGAIN to confuse people. The party has changed since May 2015, have they?

  • Rightsaidfredfan 29th Aug '16 - 1:53pm

    Two questions

    1. if the lib dems are going to rejoin the eu without a referendum then they are effectively saying that a referendum is not the way to decide the issue, and that the parliament the people elect should decide this issue and not the people themselves directly, via a referendum.

    Now how on earth does this sit with fighting election after election with a promise in the manifesto’s to hold an eu referendum?

    2. If article 50 is triggered, does anyone think the EU will take us back unless we prove to them that the uk population is behind it via a referendum? Don’t you know that the EU accept the result and want us out ASAP.

  • You must hold firm! I was so disappointed to see that Nick Clegg has joined Open Britain, a campaign likely to be as successful as Stronger In!
    We must fight Brexit, & a 2nd referendum is probably our best hope. A hard Brexit is unthinkable, & a soft Brexit undesirable & possibly even impossible. In any case, we want single market access AND free movement of trade, services & people.
    Please stand up for your principles & give Nick Clegg a slap from me! I have been openly campaigning for him (& Farron) for weeks now. I won’t be anymore.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Aug '16 - 2:00pm

    Caron ,the article you write makes it very clear again your position , which is the same as that of Tim Farron , fine .

    Surely you do not seek to silence members of our party who happen to have a more nuanced stance on the EU referendum ? If you do not , you seem to be saying it . Are Norman Lamb and even Nick Clegg , not allowed to express their view because the current leadership think otherwise ?

    When did our party , rather than our leader , decide we would have uniformity after the result ?

    When did any party , let alone a Liberal and Democratic party , have one view expressed unanimously ?

    Uniformity is conformity , and , as our constitution states , we must not be enslaved by it !

    You can put your view strongly , do you not think we are all exactly of the same mindset in this at least , in our all , every one of us , being allowed to put ours ?!

    It seems Norman Lamb is doing something I would expect of our party , more in fact, making common cause with the most sensible in other parties. Why was it three cheers for him when he did so with Caroline Lucas , but boo hiss when he does so with the excellent Anna Soubry or experienced Pat Macfadden ?!

    As for Nick Clegg, it seems to some , he can do no right . When he agreed to the things he did in coalition , he was seen as out of touch , now he seems to more readily accept that Brexit is a likely course , and want to influence it , he is too in touch with the masses ?!

    I do not want to be in a party that has one view . I favour multilateral nuclear disarmament , but do not want unilateralists silenced.

    But unilateral policy making , and worse , imposition of it , I , and many , in large numbers of members do not want !

    There are ways to unite all sides.

  • Reading the article I got a little lost! From what I can read the LibDem’s are pro european union and what that could deliver and not pro the institution known as the EU.

    I do think there is a clear distinction between the two, even if the EU happens to implement many of the features of a european union.

  • I suspect that how to/whether to engage with Open Britain isn’t going to be a big deal. It doesn’t look like a sustainable heavy-hitting organization to me.

    For laudable reasons its founders have wanted to keep it cross-party, but the resulting compromises over its stance are just too big. At worst it will be vague and incoherent. At best it will be complex and nuanced. Neither stands a chance against the straightforward ‘Brexit means Brexit’ from a group who care little for the real cost.

    We are better off sticking to our own clear stance as the most European, collaborative and internationalist party.

    That doesn’t mean we don’t have a couple of tricky policy areas to work through though. As said above, people voted Brexit even in areas where migration isn’t really challenging local public resources. ‘Build more schools etc’ isn’t going to cut it there. Then, if Brexit has already taken place before the next election, just how ‘in any circumstances’, to deliberately reference our tuition fees difficulty, will our commitment to rejoin be?

    Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe that Brexit is a mistake and our place is in the/a European Union. But let’s not let our own enthusiasm stop us from working up a robust enough position on which to fight the next election.

  • Simon Shaw:

    “I think he has very much made the wrong calls, which (as I understand it) is that he accepts the result of the referendum, therefore accepts that we will Brexit, but wants us to fight the next election on a policy of going back in”

    It is the bit in the middle, where I think your understanding is wrong. I know you have a quotation from a day after the referendum, when most thought Article 50 would be triggered within a few weeks or even days, but from what I can see Tim Farron is vowing to fight Brexit – which is, I think, as you would wish.

    More to your point is surely the question of a second referendum. I think Tim Farron has said that the issue should be put to the electorate in an election, which again, I thought would be more your line.

    We can see already in current news how Brexit will be bogged down in French and German elections. Negotiations are bound to get bogged down when it involves discussions with politicians who have nothing to gain from appearing to offer freebies to the UK, and whose prime focus are their own elections. I do not see Brexit completed before 2020.

  • Though perhaps ridiculous, maybe people wouldn’t have such a problem with free movement if it could be controlled so their area got the job creator or Dr that it needed and had the proper funding to support the influx of people. At the moment people’s perception is that they are just knocked further down the list (be it housing or NHS or school admission) as similarly or more needy people crowd them out and the resources needed to support are cut away at.

  • If, as Mattin says above, Brexit gets bogged down and hasn’t happened by 2020, our own position will be easier to manage: we wouldn’t have the ‘rejoining under worse terms’ line to defend against and it wouldn’t be ‘undemocratic’ because we would be due an election vote anyway. Which is precisely why the Brexiteers will go all out to make sure it has happened.

  • I’ve just returned from an enjoyable morning delivering leaflets in sunny, 75% Remain Camden. The leaflet has this bold headline: ‘Join Us – In our fight to keep Britain in Europe’.

    In drafting the leaflet, I worried a bit about whether we are fighting to keep Britain in the EU, or the EEA, or something new….whether we are fighting to keep Britain in (whatever), or to take Britain back in (whatever) after we have left…etc etc

    Then I realised we can tie ourselves in knots about these things, and meanwhile miss the opportunity to get over the core message that headlines this piece. The Lib Dems now occupy a unique space in British politics – we have been pro Europe and we will remain pro Europe. That’s the core political message we need to get over, to a captive audience that is currently much bigger than our opinion poll rating, even if it is just shy of 50%.

    And yet…if we also want to engage in serious conversation about how we might keep/get Britain back into the EU (or in my view more likely, a reformed non-eurozone group of member states in a single market), we need to accept that will entail some compromises on our ideals. Building alliances, not just with those in other parties, but also with the electorate as a whole. So to that end, I have reluctantly concluded that I can’t agree that freedom of movement is a red line. Lets not say at this stage that all good Lib Dems must close our ears on this issue and talk to each other only. Unless there is some movement on freedom of movement, I don’t fancy our chances in any 2nd referendum. I know views may differ on this within the Lib Dems, but lets separate the party position, from the ongoing pro-Europe fight, which is necessarily broader but less pure and liberal.

    We are playing a long game that will require compromise. But in the short-term lets not miss the political opportunity by arguing with each other!

  • paul barker 29th Aug '16 - 2:58pm

    I completely agree with Caron on this, our position should be unambiguous.
    I havent left Open Britain because they seem to be saying that they are shifting to a membership based organisation, where the members will decide the policy. For now I will wait to see how that consultation of the members develops.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Aug '16 - 3:00pm

    James King

    You speak such real sense ! My point is that we can agree with each other without alienating other members who are actually internationalists for Leave , yes actual members who wanted us to Bexit !

    We need to understand the electorate even those for Remain , like me , of part immigrant origin ,do not like the party mantra on no discussion or policy addressing rightful concerns on it !

  • But isn’t the referendum a once in a generation thing? Don’t you have to shut up, eat your cereal and accept the result so that healing can begin?

    The Lib Dems would be a laughing stock if they oppose a possible Scottish ‘which union’ referendum where there has been a clear material change of circumstances since the independence referendum and there is a majority in the Scottish parliament with a fresh, explicit mandate for it, yet support a second (or third if you count the 1970s one) UK EU referendum without any such change of circumstances. The double standards would be just too obvious to be a credible position for a grown-up party.

    So, we shall look forward to the Scottish Lib Dems avoiding that inconsistancy by not opposing the referendum legislation in the Scottish parliament.

  • gordon hyde 29th Aug '16 - 3:09pm

    As a party our position must be unambiguous.Farrage did not get the result he wanted by hedging his bets and neither did Thatcher.The forces of Fashism must be defeated and we must remain in the EU.Unless we fight 100% on that issue there is no point in going on.

  • I like your analogy with the phone war, Caron, except that in 1940 no one thought that everything was going to come out all right, whereas at the moment, because the dire predictions of the Remain camp have not befallen the country in the two months since the referendum most people think that all will be well. It won’t. We are already seeing frightening signs of polarisation – demands to sack civil servants for not implementing Brexit, or to strip Branson of his knighthood for showing disrespect to the leader of the Labour Party. Brexit on terms which will not do immense damage to the future of this country is impossible. I am reading Jon Savage’s “England’s Dreaming” at the moment: by 2020 when the effects of Brexit may begin to be felt you would need to be in your 60s to have clear memories of how grim much of the 1970s was. Well, the 2020s are going to be worse because at least a sizeable proportion of the population of the 70s had seen hardship before. The political response will be the growth of extremes. For the Liberal Democrats to say now to those who voted leave: “Sorry, but our view is that you were wrong” might be construed as being anti-democratic, but it is the right thing to do for the country, and history will prove us to be right.

  • Cameron was very clear before & during the referendum that in the event of a vote to Leave he would activate Article 50, no ifs, no buts, no second referendums and no blocking by parliament.

    Time to respect the voice of the people.

  • Alan Depauw 29th Aug '16 - 4:21pm

    As an overriding objective, I would like the LibDems to commit to staying in the EU through whatever political means available. LibDems should also commit to seek readmission if those means fail. Free movement is an integral part of membership and its benefits should be explained and promoted, not avoided.

    This position may not win the support of the majority of the electorate. But it will attract a sizeable minority which, as Caron says, demographics will cause to grow. Maybe we’ll not be waiting that long. The state of the economy will be the catalyst. What will certainly grow over the months and years ahead is uncertainty; with an inevitable and likely early impact on jobs and prospects.

    But in any case, LibDems should remain true to their convictions. Weasel words, such the paragraph from Open Britain cited above, are of a kind too often associated with liberals. Caron above recalls the phoney war. To take the analogy further, the reason we had hope the war could be won was because of a courageous politician who, through the hardest times, stood firm for his beliefs.

    Let LibDems do the same. The tide will turn.

  • Patrick C Smith 29th Aug '16 - 4:50pm

    My own inclinations are in line with those members supporting EU Remain and a second constitutional vote to get a new political mandate and would look to the untested PM to go to the country by holding an early General Election in Spring 2017 to test the Brexit issue again with voters.

    There are further contingent constitutional questions with no obvious answers or solutions looming on the EU Brexit horizon over the coming 2/3 years.

    1.To raise Art. 50 must surely only occur if parliament holds a potential Brexit package debate and then an individual conscionable vote by each MP : and at the present time 75% of elected MPs are EU Remainers and elected on that basis in 2015 and who campaigned to Remain on June 23rd 2016.

    2.The Tories have a waver thin majority that can be toppled by losing a couple of By-Elections and the Upper House has become the champion of free voting and is unlikely to concur with EU Leave, without knowing what substance comes next : post Brexit.

    3.There are to be important potential political landscape changing Elections in France and Germany in 2017.Some are predicting a movement of the right in view of international terrorism. This would mean, if so, a strengthening of Liberal principles of internationalism,individual freedom and human rights post Brexit vote and demonstrate clear water to the British voters.

    The British voters will be looking very closely at the L/D Brighton Confernce EU voting.Besides 20,000 new L/D post Brexit members- as to how solid the motion is supported in favour of a continued pro EU set of campaign policy values, at the coming Brighton Conference, so to roll out to the Electorate in all new Elections, in unanimity.

  • Barry Snelson 29th Aug '16 - 4:54pm

    I recognise the passion here but none of it makes sense. What is the aim? A second referendum? Would there then be a third? and then a fourth? Why would Referendum 2 be seen as any more conclusive than Referendum 1 ?
    I didn’t vote leave but my acquaintances who did are still quite convinced they were right and a new referendum might show an even more emphatic Leave percentage.
    The damage Brexit will do will take years to emerge as real project fact and any more project fear will be ridiculed by our Tory press.
    This is only my personal opinion but for a section of the party to call for a second referendum is pure blind alley folly. Another section of the party isn’t and the only other voice calling for one is the desperate and impotent Owen Smith. Why do we want to join him as eternal also rans?
    Our strategy should be to shut up about yet another referendum (the first was traumatic enough not to be repeated) and mobilise.
    May and her three unwise monkeys just can’t succeed. Their mission is too complex and they aren’t even a united team. We should attack, personally, the competence of May, Hammond, Davies Fox and Johnson. They will give us plenty of ammunition for Heaven’s sake. Show no mercy. No let up. We can take back those seats if we show some ruthless ambition.
    Our theme now should not be the frankly undemocratic “We lost so let’s have a replay” to a strident “Where is the plan? When business and the country is in such need of leadership why are you bickering amongst yourselves?”
    I accept these are only my own thoughts.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Aug '16 - 4:56pm

    I don’t see how Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg can be blamed for holding a different view on the response to the referendum result from the one that Tim Farron seems to hold. Until Conference have had a chance to vote on the issue, the party does not actually have an official policy.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 29th Aug '16 - 5:00pm

    @Caron “Nor is endorsing an organisation that accepts the result as final.”. The results almost certainly are final, unless you want to see a UKIP landslide followed by a Brexit on UKIP’s terms?

    I would honestly struggle to think of a more pro-eu politician than Nick Clegg. The fact that he seems to be accepting brexit should tell you something, that it’s almost certainly inevitable. I think your side would be wise to unite around getting the type of exit deal you want rather than trying to overturn a democratic decision and damaging the party’s reputation in the process.

    To refuse to accept the results of a referendum when lib dem manifestos in the past have contained promises to have one while arguing that PR needs to be a top priority since a FPTP parliament doesn’t reflect how people voted, then claiming that it’s OK for such an unrepresentive parliament to overturn an election result that does reflect how people actually voted is something I don’t think will go down well at all.

    The status quo always has an advantage in referendums and this time was no exception. Not only that but the government used public money and public websites like HMRC’s website to try and get us to remain but it didn’t work. Even the threats of a punishment budget couldn’t stop us.

    According to yougov 49% of those that voted remain now believe we should leave and only 45% of that 48% of remainers believe that the result should be overturned. 69% of people now want Brexit and 22% want the result overturned. The lib dems are at risk of doing serious damage to their party, they could end up looking like they don’t accept democracy.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Aug '16 - 5:01pm

    I am, however, very disappointed to see Open Britain talking about controls on immigration, and seeming to endorse the view that immigration puts pressure on public services and communities.

  • @ Caron, Agree with the main thrust of your article, Caron, with one exception in your response : ” It’s like that bit between September 1939 and the Battle of Britain commencing. Nothing has happened”.

    The Battle of Britain started on 10 July, 1940 and something did happen between then and September, 1939. It was called ‘Operation Dynamo’, the evacuation of the BEF : from Dunkirk. Between 27 May and 4 June, 1940, 338,000 troops were evacuated.

    The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers (dead, wounded, missing, or captured) from 10 May until the surrender of France on 22 June. 3,500 British were killed and 13,053 wounded. For every seven soldiers who escaped one man was left behind as a prisoner of war – one was my Uncle Walter, wounded when defending the perimeter – fortunately not against the 1st SS Division who would have despatched him. The majority of prisoners were sent on forced marches into Germany. Walter spent two weeks on a stretcher without painkillers in a cattle truck on a train.

    I mention this not to be picky, Caron, but because an early memory is of the joy when he finally got home in 1945. We should remember these ordinary blokes who did extraordinary thing (sadly, mostly gone)……. and because I believe in a Britain in a Europe at peace with itself….. as did Mum, Dad and Walter.

  • @Martin “I do not see Brexit completed before 2020.”

    For that to happen, there will have been significant delays in the invoking of Article 50…

    Which seems possible given the panicky and uninformed statements recently made by Iain Duncan Smith, who in his radio interview was trying to scapegoat Remain supporters for the seeming delays the Brexit camp are having in getting their act together…

    So I suspect that come January 2017, we may see little real progress from the Brexit camp on a practical way forward, but plenty of disagreement and finger pointing as to who is to blame for the lack of progress; hence only a fool would invoke Article 50 in such circumstances…

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Aug '16 - 5:16pm

    But Caron, don’t you see how undemocratic and elitist the party would look, if we continue to argue that the result should be ignored. Slogans like “The party of the 48%”, give the impression that the party is not interested in the 52 %, and has nothing to offer them.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 29th Aug '16 - 5:17pm

    @”Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Aug ’16 – 5:01pm
    I am, however, very disappointed to see Open Britain talking about controls on immigration, and seeming to endorse the view that immigration puts pressure on public services and communities.”

    Endorse the view that immigration puts pressure on public services and communities. That’s not really a view it’s more of a fact. The debate is around whether the benefits outweigh the negatives. Opinion on on whether immigration is worth it or not tends to be divided along social class lines as the benefits and pressures that immigration brings are not distributed equally. The rich tend to gain the most and the poorest seem to lose the most.

  • Neil Taylor 29th Aug '16 - 5:22pm

    I recently joined LibDems on the basis that they were the only party 100% committed to fighting for the UK remaining in the EU. I was therefore horrified to find that senior party members were willing to support Open Britain, an organisation that seems to have capitulated in a Vichy government inspired move (as we are on a WW2 theme) . Apart from anything else, 15 million plus “Remain” votes are a very worthy target for the next GE, when hopefully LibDems can start to re-establish a position of Parliamentary influence, and therefore have a say in EUropean affairs.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Aug '16 - 5:22pm

    Caron, if, by your claim that by 2020, Leave will no longer have a majority “purely on demographics”, you mean that many Leave voters are elderly and will have died by 2020, then I really feel that that argument is highly insensitive.

  • Working towards an EU policy for the next Westminster election is perfectly reasonable and is not incompatible with advocating specific policies for Brexit. In a representative democracy, “accepting” the membership of the House of Commons is clearer than “accepting” the result of a referendum. Joining a “successor to Stronger in Europe” (a funded referendum umbrella group) seems profoundly unhelpful. Let’s hope nobody will be inviting MPs to sign a pledge! But we need policies that cope with a General Election whenever it comes.

  • Leave The EU 29th Aug '16 - 5:38pm

    “Open Britain accepts the referendum result as final even though they also accept that nobody knows what they actually voted for.” – Leave hammered the point ad infinitum re: “take back control” of UK parliamentary sovereignty, immigration control and controlling money that would otherwise be sent to Brussels, etc.- and they won against the odds – so it seems to be that both Leave and those who voted to leave had in mind what they wanted to achieve. All the best and peace.

  • @Caron,

    ” nobody knows what they actually voted for ”

    In 1975 I voted in favour of the Common Market as sold to us as a trading block.

    nobody voted for what followed.

  • Leave The EU 29th Aug '16 - 6:19pm

    @petermartin2001 “remain campaign spelled out in no uncertain terms just what the leavers would be voting for. We were informed about all the disadvantages of life outside the EU.

    So we did know what we were voting for. You told us often enough!” touché :-).

  • Kim Spence-Jones 29th Aug '16 - 6:39pm

    Noone is talking about possible changes in the EU over the next few years. I suspect that Brexit has caused enough ground shocks for tectonic shifts to be possible.

    It seems to be a tactically excellent position to say “the referendum was a clear vote against accepting the status quo; now that the ‘in’ option is different, and the ‘out’ option is clearer there are good reasons to ask the new question”. Hopefully we can find a more sound-bite way to express that!

    Whether it’s better to ask the new question in parliament or in a second referendum is debatable; personally I’d favour the referendum, given that with this approach we can avoid the charge of just asking the same question again until we get the ‘right’ answer.

  • Peter Davies 29th Aug '16 - 6:51pm

    I can’t remember meeting a single voter who thought they were voting for an EU better than the one Cameron had negotiated. Many were voting remain in spite of believing many of the negative myths.

    Among those who voted leave I met some who voted for a UK “open to the world” where the EU and all the other trading blocks would give us free trade deals “because it’s in their interests”.

    I also met leavers who were voting to close the borders, deport all foreigners and force everyone to buy British.

  • Alastair Thomson 29th Aug '16 - 7:20pm

    Given the massive uncertainty about when and how Article 50 will be triggered (and, in particular, what if any role parliament may have in scrutinising and debating the terms of exit) supporting Open Britain seems a perfectly sensible tactic at present.

    The new group acknowledges the reality of the referendum vote and the factors which led to it while providing a cross-party platform for organising and marshalling the broad coalition of voters who wished to stay in the EU.

    Of course it’s not a ‘clear, unique space’ – but getting effective results in the future may well involve flexibility and a willingness adapt to conditions no-one can yet envisage once the weaknesses of the government’s case become more exposed. That is likely to need alliances with pro-EU Tory and Labour politicians and voters.

    Concentrating on a “clear, unique space” for Liberal Democrats from which to “shout what we believe from the rooftops” risks focusing on a marginalised safe space from which to thrash out points of dogma while the practical influencing of change happens elsewhere.

  • Leave The EU 29th Aug '16 - 7:34pm

    @Peter Davies “I also met leavers who were voting to close the borders, deport all foreigners and force everyone to buy British.” – no doubt such people could be found, however none of the prominent Leave representatives thought that including Nigel Farage. All the best and peace.

  • As a party we should not box ourselves in policy-wise at this stage. Right now, without Article 50 being invoked, almost anything is a possible outcome. So we should (in my opinion) campaign to not leave to EU. If there is a way to sway public opinion back towards remaining then we should do it. Whether the mechanism is a second referendum, or a General Election won by a party with a pro-EU platform, or whatever, we should keep the option open.

    Once Article 50 is invoked and the 2 year clock starts ticking I don’t see any conflict in supporting a cross-party campaign to stay as close to Europe as possible whilst also supporting a second referendum once the exit terms are known and retaining a policy aim of re-joining in the future if we do leave.

  • Stevan Rose 29th Aug '16 - 9:04pm

    I wish we would all wait and see what shape of Brexit is being proposed before deciding on a future European strategy. And in the meantime fight for the least damaging option. I wouldn’t hold your breath for anything definitive any time soon – May cannot be the PM who presided over the loss of Scotland from the UK and a solution that avoids that will take a long time. Brexit with the single market fully intact would be near impossible to oppose.

  • Nigel Jones 29th Aug '16 - 9:10pm

    @Petermartin2001; “Many who supported the remain campaign voted for the EU as they would like it to be.”
    This implies reform of the EU and I agree. Therefore it is important that we make it clear we do not accept the status quo in the EU, but believe everyone is better off working together across Europe to improve things. That can include tweaking the rules about freedom of movement, having detailed decisions made as close to the people as possible and an understanding across Europe, that to be successful the EU does not have to go for ever greater integration across the board. For so many, the EU is remote, they have been deceived by the leave campaigners in thinking the EU controls more of what we do than is the reality and they understandably fear the concept of ever greater union.
    These are among the reasons I want us to remain, but without spelling out issues like this, people will think we are entirely happy with the EU as it is.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Aug '16 - 11:54pm

    ‘It’s not freedom of movement that has to stop, in my view. If we have lots of people moving in to an area, then the local authorities there need to have the resources to deal with that, to build more houses and provide more public services.’

    Motherhood and apple pie, surely?

    Even if this sort of rapid reaction was feasible, politically or economically (which I doubt) it still does not change the stark fact that freedom of movement lacks reciprocity. The great irony is that what is not needed is not less free movement, but more. If 2 million young, unemployed headed to Latvia, Romania and Slovakia tomorrow for jobs/welfare/housing tomorrow then everything would be ok and we’ve have had a 90% REMAIN vote.

    For too long liberals (not per se the LDP) have had an approach to promoting the EU where there is a strange mix of
    -exhortation (it’s a 2-way street)
    -trivia (you might need to queue at the Magaluf passport desk)
    -boomer class wishlists (holiday homes and ski-seasons in Austria)

    What’s been missing is any sort of community, for want of a better term. At best the EU has been, ‘for,’ the easy-living. At worst it’s been basically telling people not to worry that workshops have headed to Bulgaria because globalisation means there are pound-shops to compensate.

    Yes, the LEAVE argument was frustrating to put it mildly, but the point overall was not unreasonable. Not nearly enough of the population have had a meaningful stake in the European project. Why exactly would anyone vote for non-reciprocal movement with maybe a bit extra for the local council sort-of?

    The distaste for free movement is a symptom, not a cause. The cause is an EU with gaping asymmetries. That is the reform we need, but (reasonably) the EU wants the priority for reform to be the EZ. Quite the pickle, but scolding the voters won’t do anything except make a few feel warm inside.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Aug '16 - 11:59pm

    Nigel Jones – ‘they have been deceived by the leave campaigners in thinking the EU controls more of what we do than is the reality.’

    I agree with your point, but…

    The fact is that the closest most people get to, ‘something the EU does,’ is free movement. If a lot of people have a view of the EU conditioned by large influxes it’s neither hard to see why nor understand.

    The UK government has found it far, far too easy to hide behind the EU. And we, as voters, need to take our share of the blame for that.

    But let’s at least be honest – free movement is a very big issue that is very real. If people are on the downside then that’s going to be their view of the EU. Whether liberals like it or not people are going to believe the evidence of their own eyes.

  • Peter Bancroft 30th Aug '16 - 12:29am

    Open Europe has decided to cede the point on immigration (and implicit the EEA) which was the one remaining practical dividing line between pro-Europeans and anti-Europeans. If Open Europe intends to side with the Davis, Foxes and Farages of this world in arguing that a vote to the European Union also means a vote to leave the EEA then this country urgently needs a new political force to fight them.

    Saying “our current systems can’t handle the current pace of change, therefore we are going to try to slow that change down” is inherently conservative and attacking immigration for domestic mis-management and inequity is simply unacceptable.

    I can see why Eurosceptic Lib Dems might want to associate themselves with this group, but not any pro-European ones. At a party level I don’t know if I really have any red lines, but if I did calling for either the UK to leave the EEA or for the freedom of movement to be restricted would surely be it.

  • “Britain could be granted a “special status” in its relationship with the EU once the terms of Brexit have been hammered out”, a German foreign minister has said. Michael Roth did not detail what such a relationship might look like, but said it would likely differ from that enjoyed by the likes of Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. In an interview with Reuters, he said: “Given Britain’s size, significance and its long membership of the European Union, there will probably be a special status which only bears limited comparison to that of countries that have never belonged to the European Union.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Aug '16 - 2:12am

    Little Jackie

    Very sound analysis , I do not agree with all your views but like your realisation that the public are where they are on this and why

    Peter Bancroft

    Well done for at least revealing that there are Eurosceptic Liberal Democrats ! I am not such , making the distiction between Europhobes , and Europhiles I am a Europragmatist !

    James g

    You say it as it needs to be , that we might get something unique , all to play for , which is the hand I want to be playing on this , and as a party encouraging.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 30th Aug '16 - 6:21am

    @Peter Bancroft “If Open Europe intends to side with the Davis, Foxes and Farages of this world in arguing that a vote to the European Union also means a vote to leave the EEA then this country urgently needs a new political force to fight them.”

    Then you’d be fighting the pragmatists on your own side, damage your party further and get no where.

    If leaving the fours freedoms regardless of how the majority of the population feel about them is so unacceptable to your party then your party should never have supported having a referendum on the EU in the first place and given the idea credence in the same way as I would never support having a referendum on the death penalty or pretend to support one. You guys said for years that a referendum should be held about being in or out.

    You had five years in national government and all we got was more neoliberalism. And as for housing I see that lib dems are still being elected locally by promising to “protect the green belt”… You guys are as responsible for this as the rest of the political establishment.

  • The Lib Dems must be pro EU, pro open borders, and pro globalisation.

    We have a communist leading Labour and a petty nationalist leading the Tories.

    I do not want deals like Hinckley point shelved due to xenophobia. I do not want the return of Grammar schools, Brexit or immigration caps.

    I also do not want the protectionist communism of Labour. Corbyn hates the EU, hates open markets, hates investor rights and hates globalisation.

    We have to be bold and loud about our message. The younger Corbynite vote who are not ideologically wedded to trade unionism and nationalisation, but are internationalists can be won over. Similarly the liberal Tory vote who are pro globalisation and anti nationalist can be won over.

  • Patrick C Smith

    ‘2.The Tories have a waver thin majority that can be toppled by losing a couple of By-Elections and the Upper House has become the champion of free voting and is unlikely to concur with EU Leave’

    Let’s ignore the result of the referendum and if that doesn’t work lets get the unelected Upper House to block it .

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to dump democracy ?

  • John Peters 30th Aug '16 - 8:53am

    Love them or hate them you have to chuckle at the Lib Dems.

    So the 2020 general election slogan will be

    What do we want? To rejoin the EU.
    When do we want it? In 15-20 years when we have met the Euro convergence criteria.

  • Worrying statement on BBC Five Live at 8.30 a.m. on 30th Aug:
    Presenter Nicholas Campbell stated, in a piece about border controls, “Now we have left the EU…”
    This sort of misleading statement adds to the news that we are already outside Europe.

  • I fought for a Remain vote, think that Brexit is a disaster for Europe as much as for Britain, and I haven’t yet joined Open Britain (the name reminded me of Open Europe, an organisation I thought ambiguous about the EU). But I’m not in favour of an imposed single conformist view of Lib Dem policy. Also, I’m doubtful of a second referendum, its legitimacy and whether it would miraculously suddenly deliver a ‘Remain’ vote — though I suspect that the May Government will at the end of the day put their Brexit deal to Parliament for acceptance. I’m for a decidedly pro European Lib Dem stance, but nuanced and flexible enough to take account of how negotiations develop in this unprecedented new and complex terrain. Finally, perhaps we should heed Ed Ball’s warning to Corbyn against confusing loud shouting from one’s own side as being the same as widespread popular support.

  • Stimpson.
    I honestly boggle at some of your comments to the point where I’m beginning to suspect satire. So let me get this strait it’s ok. no it’s a moral duty, for Britain’s nuclear future to be built by Communist China and to have British utilities owned by foreign nationalised industries, but owning them ourselves is immoral and dangerous. Also we must have open borders to further the cause of liberalism even though voters will not vote for them and they actually lead to the illiberal forces becoming more popular. Possibly as populism is the big danger maybe it’s our liberal duty to suspend democracy until Britain is ready for a borderless future or foreign investment or something!

  • Geert Bourgeois, the Flemish Prime Minister recently said:
    “There is a growing consensus in EU capitals that it would be fatal mistake to try to ‘punish’ Britain… More and more people now agree that there has to be a ‘soft Brexit.’
    “I can’t imagine a situation where we have more barriers on trade in both directions. You [Britain] are our fourth biggest export market. It is in our mutual interest to find a solution, and the majority of the EU now agrees that anything other than a soft Brexit would have a huge cost.
    “We will be able to negotiate a trade agreement. It may be sui generis but it can be done.”

    Now isn’t this (and the previous quote) almost exactly what Leavers said would happen? When willLiberals have broad enough shoulders to admit they were wrong and move with the times?

  • Leave The EU 30th Aug '16 - 11:37am

    “This sort of misleading statement adds to the news that we are already outside Europe.” We are leaving the EU (a political superstate in the making), not Europe (a geographical continent) :-). All the best and peace.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Aug '16 - 1:42pm

    Realistically the ball isn’t in our court, so what should our reaction be? Well with only 8 MPS we’re fighting a guerilla war not WWII so we have to be flexible and attack easy targets until we build up support for our party. Yes, we have an opportunity to attract pro EU supporters, so it’s a good idea to have people in place in any pro EU organisation, but we must wait and see how events unfold and if we think it’s a bad deal for the people of Britain then we must say so very loudly, attacking each disaster as it occurs. Will we get dribs and drabs of information about what’s going on, or will May, as I suspect, try to keep negotiations secret until the very last minute? During that time we can decide what sort of EU we as a party would like to see, hopefully coming up with measures for reform where we think it’s needed. In my view this has to include an alternative to austerity as an economic policy, which has had major impact on the poorest in even wealthy EU countries and which has exacerbated the effects of free movement.
    We will still be up against the power of the anti EU press machine who are likely to deny that there are any bad economic consequences of Brexit even when it becomes blindingly obvious to everyone just what a hole we are all in. What is happening in the Labour Party is likely to have a huge effect on Britain’s political landscape and there will also be elections in other EU countries which may well be influenced by Brexit and have an influence on the terms we can achieve. We are in a very fluid situation, so let’s stay firm to our principles but be prepared to react quickly.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Aug '16 - 1:49pm

    I think it’s also time for us to think more widely about our internationalist stance. Some commentators on LDV did not want us to stay in the EU because of its protectionist economic policies. I can remember many people being upset when we joined the common market that we had to abandon trade deals with Commonwealth countries. We have to be ready with alternatives if or when Brexit happens.

  • Matt (Bristol) 30th Aug '16 - 1:55pm

    I don’t know about Open Britain, and I don’t know about what Nick Clegg thinks he is doing, but my pennorth on this is:

    – Tim has gambled on positioning us as the party that we advocate for a government with a mandate for continued membership or re-entry, if the opportunity is presented to us.

    – That means (to me) that we have to continue to say, hard and loud, throughout the post-Brexit process a) where is the specific mandate for this deal, which you have negotiated after agreeing to leave the EU? and b) how will you get that mandate? and c) hello, people of Britain, do the answers we are getting to a and b still make you comfortable about giving the government the mandate you gave them in June 2016? Continued pressure is key. (Oh, and d), whose interests do these trade deals you are presenting to us genuinely serve, Mr Fox?).

    – I am comfortable with the idea that there is no constitutional imperative for a second referendum, and I am also comfortable with the idea that a second referendum (if it is to confirm whether to go ahead, post-negotiation) could be held with a higher threshold than 50% to require the undoing of this year’s referendum.

    – But … ruling out a referendum all together seems to risk being portrayed as flipflopping (as how otherwise will we obtain our mandate for re-entry?), whilst insisting on it seems a bit doctrinaire.

    – This requires very careful message management. But it is critical that we decide, and relatively fast, whether or not we as a party will back the commitment made by Tim, and completely re-tool our party’s identity as the party that will seek a mandate for continued membership, re-entry, or at the very least close ties with the minimum of separation between us and the other EU states.

    – If we are not going down that road, we are going to have to ask ourselves, why are we undermining this man who has made this calculated risk on our behalf, and if we aren’t going to back him, why will we not sack him?

    It’s not where my instincts immediately led me personally post-Brexit, but I back Tim’s act of political courage.

    People are coming to us on this issue and we are gaining airtime and respect, but we need to act now and act swift and talk coherently.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Aug '16 - 2:49pm

    I feel rather conflicted by the positions that some of our MPs have taken. I hope that we would all agree that the referendum was advisory; that Parliament is sovereign, but has to take account of the will of the people as expressed in the referendum. The problem with unconditionally activating Article 50, is that it leaves us in a weak negotiating position. The EU can simply play hardball with us (useful for deterring other countries thinking of leaving) and at the end of two years we are out and can only trade on the basis of WTO rules. This, in my view, would be a disaster for the UK.

    Now, how can we avoid this? First, I have seen it mentioned that Article 50 is quite loosely drawn and there is nothing to stop Parliament passing an Act to authorise negotiation under the terms of Article 50, including a binding referendum to ratify the final deal and with secession from the EU not taking place unless the referendum was passed. This would be a better referendum than the one we had because people would know what they were voting for. I am enough of a democrat that if they still chose Brexit, I would accept it and not campaign to re-enter the EU.

    So, I want to see our MPs taking a stand on the sovereignty of Parliament against the Executive and insisting that Parliament sets the terms for activating Article 50.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Aug '16 - 3:27pm

    Let us be flexible and open to discussion among ourselves during this period of immense uncertainty. Freedom of movement in the EU already seems to have been limited, as a result of the refugee arrivals, and there may well be changes made, at least after the French and German elections. I think we should be discussing more fully the reforms we would like the EU to implement in future, so as to contribute to that fluid situation. For instance, should there be more national and less central control? To my mind the only things we should be certain about are – a) we do not want ever-closer union. so in that respect are with the Outers, and – b) since 75% of our young people who voted wanted to remain, it is for their futures above all that we will continue to express our absolute commitment to staying in the EU.

  • John Mitchell 30th Aug '16 - 3:43pm


    “Isn’t the referendum a once in a generation thing? Don’t you have to shut up, eat your cereal and accept the result?”

    I do agree that there is a risk of a conflict here. Both the Lib Dems and Labour under Owen Smith would be facing two ways on referendums. They’d support another referendum on membership of the European Union but not on whether Scotland should remain within the United Kingdom.

    I strongly feel as though the result of June 23rd 2016 must be respected. Does that mean I would oppose all future referendums on the matter? No. However, to place ourselves against the majority of opinion and on a vote that has just took place does not strike me as democratic at all.

    I believe we would be best placed in trying to get the best deal we can on Brexit, or at the very least seeing what it will look like in practice.

  • Matt (Bristol) 30th Aug '16 - 4:47pm

    I am not – personally – arguing for a second referendum to un-do the Brexit vote.

    I am arguing that we should not categorically rule out a referendum to approve and confirm the final post-Brexit deal, which is unwritten and unmandated, at this time. But a general election would be an equally valid way of seeking a clear mandate.

  • Stuart Irving 30th Aug '16 - 7:36pm

    Regarding the statement that after 2020 pure demographics will result in a remain majority and its apparent insensitivity. Really its only maths, I did the sums weeks ago. We took the measurement already and ignoring data is to join those Michael Gove fans who don’t trust expertise. This calculation doesn’t account for any rise in death rates during a near-term recession but that only brings the date forward.

    The tyranny of the majority cannot be more adequately shown than in a government abdicating its parliamentary responsibility by doing something the people it is governing… don’t want and never wanted!

  • Simon Banks 30th Aug '16 - 9:57pm

    I have plenty of reservations about Open Britain, but their position against a second referendum seems to me not unreasonable. The vote was on leaving the EU, not just on a specific deal. What Tim Farron has rightly said is that we will campaign at the next general election (whenever it is) for EU membership. If anti-EU forces lost a general election before exit was finalised, that would undermine the Brexit vote and could lead either to it being overturned by Parliament, or more likely, to a second referendum.

    We should indeed be in the forefront of continuing pro-EU arguments, giving a voice to and recruiting the many angry and worried people who voted REMAIN and felt the main parties let them down. We should be careful, though, that this does not begin to seem like our one and only big issue, since to many people it has limited relevance to the domestic issues they care about and it is possible for very illiberal people to support the EU. We should also be making real efforts to get back into the genuinely dispossessed communities (the Merthyrs, not the Clactons) which form only a small part of the UKIP-led anti-immigrant movement and where people can be convinced their problems are down to social inequality and economic exploitation and can discover that something can be done. This will be very hard, but we must do it

  • But a general election would be an equally valid way of seeking a clear mandate.

    Disagree, a discrete vote is needed on the exact details of Brexit; just as we had discrete votes for joining the EEC, deciding to leave and should have had a discrete vote over joining the EU (ie. the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties). It was this absence of a vote over the EU that set the ground for the rise of UKIP, remember Nigel Farage’s stance, before it changed into a full blown EU out, was that Westminster hadn’t given the British public a say in this important change in our relationship with the EEC/EU; Westminster had been far too keen on joining the gravy train without regard to the British people.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Aug '16 - 8:08am

    Stuart Irving, I think you rather missed the point of my previous comment about the insensitivity of talking about the Leave vote “disappearing” by 2020 “purely on demographics”. I wasn’t referring to whether or not this prediction was accurate. I was just saying that the way Caron made this point was highly insensitive. I’m sure she didn’t really mean it to come across this way, but she made it sound almost as if she felt that the probable “demographic” change was good news, despite the fact that this change would have been caused by the deaths of a large number of people. To imply that good will come out of someone’s death is always insensitive. But I’m sure Caron did not really intend it this way.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Aug '16 - 8:44am

    Stuart Irving, I do also very much doubt whether the demographic prediction is actually accurate. It is true that the average age of people who voted Leave seems to have been considerably higher than that of those who voted Remain. But I understand that people aged 75 and over were quite likely to vote Remain. It was people aged perhaps 60 – 74 who overwhelmingly voted Leave. The vast majority of people now aged 60 – 74 will, of course, still be alive in 2020.
    Obviously the demographic prediction also depends on teenagers who were too young to vote this year, reaching voting age. But unless these young people turn up at the polling station in larger numbers than their slightly older brothers and sisters did, they are unlikely to tip the balance towards Remain.
    But your argument also assumes that everyone who voted Remain last time would still be pro Remain. By 2020, we will probably already have left the EU. If there was a Brexit deal that seemed reasonably favourable to Britain, it is likely that many people who originally voted Remain, will have come to accept the new status quo.

  • Catherine,
    The demographic argument also assumes that the Remain vote is solid and the Leave won’t grow. I would argue that as Article 50 will certainly be triggered before 2020. Remain would then effectively be arguing to re-join the EU which will be a vastly more problematic stance to take, especially if the economic sky has not fallen and immigration shows signs of slowing.

  • @catherine crosland: It’s not just about people dying. It’s about younger people, who are more emphatically in favour of Remain, joining the register. There is a massive inter-generational unfairness in older people taking a decision which will damage the opportunities of younger people. Many of those who voted to Leave are older, wealthier pensioners who have already had so many advantages not available to the new generation. The fact that 16 and 17 year olds were not given a vote as they are now in all but Westminster elections in Scotland is completely reprehensible.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Aug '16 - 4:17pm

    Caron, yes I would agree that 16 and 17 year olds probably should have been given the vote. But we should accept that older people did not deliberately set out to “damage the opportunities of younger people”. Presumably many believed, sincerely if mistakenly, that leaving would be in the interests of younger people too.
    And even “wealthier” pensioners have, on balance, had fewer opportunities in life than are likely to be available to today’s teenagers.

  • Caron wrote

    “Once the true reality of Brexit dawns, the likelihood is that many more will regret voting for Leave, particularly if what we end up with is the sort of “hard” Brexit that the hardcore leavers want and which we may have no choice but to accept if we invoke Article 50”

    Actually opinion polls show there’s no regret. If repeated there would still be 52-48 in favour of Brexit. Yes some Brexit voters may feel misled by the £350m a day claim. Equally there are Remainers who feel they were over-sold the doom and gloom of the economy imploding.

    We may get a “hard Brexit” – equally we may get a “soft Brexit” such as Norway style EEA…

  • Peter Watson 2nd Sep '16 - 8:32pm

    NoBrexit.UK “it’s also not undemocratic if Brexit were to be blocked in the Lords”
    Isn’t there a convention that the Lords will not block a government policy which was in its election manifesto. Holding an in-out EU referendum and honouring the outcome was a clear pre-election promise by the Tories, so it could be very hypocritical and undemocratic for Lib Dems to use the unelected House of Lords to block that.

  • @Peter Watson – The Lords can act in the “national interest” and so are free to ignore convention if they deem enacting a manifesto pledge isn’t in the national interest…

    As for the LibDems making use of the HoLs; well the system is the system and we have to work with what we’ve got! So if it is undemocratic according to some then so be it… But then leaving the EU on the vote of 1 in 3 electors can’t be called democratic either.
    I assume you are happy that the LibDem’s in the HoL’s are opposing and making substantive changes to the Investigative Powers Bill; another Conservative manifesto commitment…

    However, I expect the biggest outcry over Brexit will be when the various Brexit fractions see the government’s Leave proposals don’t support the Brexit they thought they voted for…

    @John B – Re: “Once the true reality of Brexit dawns, the likelihood is that many more will regret voting for Leave”

    I think it is too early to draw conclusions. We’ve had a referendum, with a result that wasn’t anticipated. David Cameron’s decision not to prepare a Brexit plan before the referendum did everyone a favour as it meant the whole country had time to reflect and think about what Brexit could mean to them, rather than move straight on to critiquing the government’s plan. If the government’s plan is to step off a cliff without
    a parachute or hang glider then I suspect people may well regret voting Leave and having mindlessly chanted “Brexit means Brexit” at anyone who questioned their fanaticism…

  • It was made quite clear during the referendum campaign by David Cameron that if the vote was “leave” there would be no second referendum the result would stand and there would be no turning back. This was understood and people voted on this basis. Any attempt to ignore or undermine this democratic mandate is not worthy support by anyone who values our hard won democratic traditions. To say people were “lied” to just doesn’t wash, how many Lib Dem MP’s resigned to fight by-elections after lying about student grants? Oh yes I’ve just remembered, none.

  • David Evershed 4th Sep '16 - 12:01pm

    It is disappointing that so many Lib Dems are in denial about the result of the referendum ……..

    ………. and also disappointing that so many Lib Dems are anti democratic by not accepting the result of the referendum.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Sep '16 - 8:21pm

    David Evershed: Is the opposition undemocratic for campaigning against the government after losing the election?

  • Leave The EU 4th Sep '16 - 8:43pm

    @Alex Macfie – With respect, perhaps voters are concerned about things appearing to be “bait-and-switch”: advertising one thing and not getting it, or something substandard ( – it was spelled out by David Cameron and apparently in his national “advice pamphlet” that there was one choice: “stay in or leave the EU” and it would be enacted by the government.

    Personally, I think that once Brexit is fully complete and the UK is outside the EU, and people want to campaign to make another referendum to rejoin, then I would respect their opinion, although do not give them much chance at all (status quo voting weight would favour Leave this time) – what may “stick in the craw” ( for people is the thought that the UK will not leave before the vote might be overturned, when all thought they understood “the rules of the game”. All the best and peace.

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