LibLink: Dick Newby: Parliament, Article 50 and the case for a second referendum

Lib Dem Leader in the Lords Dick Newby has been writing about the EU referendum and Brexit for the Reimagining Europe website.

He is clear that Brexit will not resolve the problems which motivated people to vote to leave:

The overarching message which I take from the result, is that very many people feel alienated from the way the country is run and are worried about their economic futures. They don’t see the benefits of recent social and economic change. And they see large scale immigration as a threat, not as a benefit. Brexit alone would not assuage these fears, not least as it is likely to be accompanied by a weaker economy and-huge uncertainties for many years about Britain’s place in the world. Immigration is unlikely to be significantly curbed, because the vast majority of migrants come in order to fill gaps in the labour market which will not suddenly disappear. Being outside the EU will not create thousands of indigenous doctors and nurses or make many more unqualified young people suddenly become willing to become poorly paid farm labourers or carers. The answers to people’s alienation must rest in making their lives more fulfilled – by providing better housing, better education and training and more jobs. These policies are needed irrespective of Brexit but now assume a new urgency.

In an ever-more uncertain world, there are dangers in Britain becoming isolated:

Whilst Britain remains an EU member, Theresa May is involved, at the regular EU Council meetings, in discussions with her co-leaders in discussions on security , defence and migration. After Brexit, there would be no regular political forum in which the UK would take part in such discussions. This must be harmful for our country and for the well-being of Europe as a whole.

And he makes the case for a referendum on the deal:

The people decided via the referendum to start the Brexit process. Given the many different views which the leave voters had about what Brexit might actually look like, it is inevitable that many of their hopes will not have been fulfilled by the final deal. In my view it is therefore logical and sensible for the country as a whole, via a referendum, to decide whether they believe that the deal is better than continued EU membership.  Far from being undemocratic, as some Brexiters claim, this is the only way to ensure public endorsement of what by any measure, is the largest decision facing the country.

You can read the whole article here. 


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  • Yet another article pretending that the EU vote was about everything except the EU.
    Brexit will solve the problem of being in the EU. Believe it or not a lot of British people simply do not feel any attachment to the European Union at all. Just about the only people who can be relied on to vote for MEPs are UKIP supporters! Otherwise voting consist of pitifully low turn outs and a vague ballot paper tick done as an afterthought in local elections.

  • The reason UK citizens will not take low paid jobs is that the EU treaties have inbuilt clauses that allow citizens of other EU states to be paid the minimum wage in the state they come from.
    One simply sets up an agency in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, etc. all states with a lower minimum wage. The agency advertises jobs in the UK and pays the workers the minimum wage in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, etc.
    This is the result of big business lobbying the EU to allow them slave labour legally and above board. It also prices UK nationals out of a job. Once this loophole is closed UK businesses will have to pay proper wages to UK nationals to do the job. Then UK nationals will work.

  • “Far from being undemocratic, as some Brexiters claim, this is the only way to ensure public endorsement of what by any measure, is the largest decision facing the country.”

    This might be a fair enough argument if a second referendum were to offer more than two choices, under some kind of AV system.

    But the two-choice referendum being suggested by Tim Farron is deeply undemocratic, mainly because it fails to offer the option of “leave with no deal”. Polls show that this option is currently more popular with the public than any other single option, and almost all the people who favour it would have been on the winning side last year. To not even offer them that choice in a so-called “destination” referendum, while allowing “stay in the EU” to be an option despite its rejection last June, is about as fundamentally undemocratic a stitch-up as it’s possible to get. How could such a vote be said to offer the possibility of “public endorsement”?

    Incidentally, you don’t have to be a “Brexiter” to find the Lib Dem proposal undemocratic – I’m a Remainer and I have spoken to many other Remainers who feel the same way.

  • A second referendum on Brexit terms seems, on the face of it, to be a reasonable, democratic choice.
    However Brexit terms must be openly debated with public participation and MPs truly representing their electorate rather than taking an elitist, archaic view of themselves as the only people capable of deciding what the country needs and dismissing the electorate as uneducated, racist bigots.
    The referendum campaign then needs to be run as a non political exercise with MPs taking personal positions based on their personal opinions and not as party run campaigns.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 28th Jan '17 - 5:01pm

    Thought the article was accurate,

    The turnouts at elections in the U.K. are in the main pitifully low. Why, because many feel their vote is worthless. I live in a place where you could stick a blue rosette on a donkey and it would get elected, no trouble. The same goes for certain Labour areas, our voting system is not one for actually encouraging the electorate to partake, when you consider only around 37% of the whole electorate voted for Brexit, not what one would call overwhelming is it. The winner takes all stance is one reason, note one reason, so many feel politics today serves them not. It’s far too easy to say Brexit was solely about the EU and not recognise there is deep seated apathy regarding our governance and deep seated resentment towards those who wheel power over us without much accountability. Would there have been a vote for Brexit if so many of our citizens had not been cast adrift? Personally, I think not, we can surmise, but one for sure Brexit was brought about by the many who feel angry and frustrated. Brexit is an illusion in my book, if people think for one minute our governance minus the EU will somehow transform their lives, when underneath lurks the same fundamental fault lines that will continue to scupper any illusion of people actually having a genuine and meaningful say in their capacity to shape Government policy and more importantly in their governance.

  • nigel hunter 28th Jan '17 - 7:11pm

    In or out of the EU jobs will be needed One that I think is good is Apprentice nurses where nurse assistants get training on the job. They eventually become nurses. It gives a feeling of achievement,you are worth something. a job with education to care for others. If a job is seen as important and rewarded people will fill these vacancies. This system could lead to nurses entering the care in the community system where jobs could expand as the population becomes older

  • I would not object to a further referendum on the details of the exit deal, I agree with Stuart in that putting remain on the ballot, whilst not having leave with no deal is a could well be viewed as a stitch up and a blatant attempt to re-run and overturn the June 23 result deliberate attempt to overturn the June 23rd vote, which to my mind is what Nick and Tim have been trying to do by almost any means since that day.
    I wonder what they would say and do if they got their way and the result was similar?
    Would they accept a further referendum if remain won by a similar or even smaller margin… Still I am all for full scrutiny and parliamentary sovereignty so if they want to campaign against the decision they obviously have every right to do so, personally I’d be happy to have it sorted via an election not sure other parties would go for that though.
    I have to wonder if Nick and Tim would be quite so supportive of a further campaign if they got the decision they so badly want.
    All this support of democracy and due parliamentary process does encourage me to believe that should Scotland ever get another referendum that the rest of the U.K. including the U.K. parliament would have to have some say on any exit deal if not the initial vote to leave anything less would, I believe lead to some serious legal challenges.
    I wonder if Nick and Tim would campaign for that?

  • oops! apologies, but not for the sentiment- lesson to self don’t try to type on train!

  • Daniel Walker 28th Jan '17 - 8:44pm

    @Rob Norman “The reason UK citizens will not take low paid jobs is that the EU treaties have inbuilt clauses that allow citizens of other EU states to be paid the minimum wage in the state they come from.”

    Could I have a citation for that? Because this page says that local minimum wage must be observed even for “posted” staff.

  • John McHugo,
    The alternative is not being in the EU. It’s no big deal. As for the rest of your argument, it just involves invoking the current go to bogeyman.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jan '17 - 9:46pm

    February will be momentous for all Liberal Democrats. In Parliament as the White Paper and the Bill to activate Article 50 appear, our numerous Peers and few but determined MPs will be seeking to insert a clause in the Bill that the country as a whole must decide via a referendum whether they believe that the deal is better than continued EU membership. They will speak out for our country’s future and for our people’s rights: it will be good to do.

    At the same time, Liberal Democrats all over Britain have the chance to join in active politics by supporting our candidates in the Copeland and Stoke Central by-elections, to be held on February 23. These are exciting contests. Each is occasioned by a sitting Labour MP understood not greatly to favour the current Labour Party leadership standing down. That puts their candidates at an immediate disadvantage. In these constituencies as in many others Liberal Democrats achieved lowly results in the 2015 General Election while UKIP candidates progressed. Nationwide since then, though, Lib Dems have made progress while UKIP has been riven by grotesque internal wrangles.

    The Tories of course regard their chances in these by-elections as very good. Their Prime Minister has made a strong speech and asserted Britain’s importance to the new US President. We must do our part to curb Tory hegemony by frustrating their hopes. Please read the piece ‘Maybe not! We must not let Theresa get away with it’ of June 23, and give your active help to our excellent candidates: it will be worthwhile.

  • John Barrett 29th Jan '17 - 11:59am

    I added this to another discussion on LDV on this issue, but think it worth repeating here.

    Those party members who think a second referendum is a good idea, should read the following words of Tim Farron from a couple of weeks before the June vote last year.

    “The idea of a second EU referendum, suggested by Farage earlier this week, is not only a pathetic attempt at a comeback by a failing “Leave” campaign, it also ignores the history of these sort of referendums.
    Successive independence referendums for the state of Quebec in Canada popularised the phrase “neverendum,” and eventually the independence movement collapsed. Farage and those supporting Brexit should take note: undermining the validity of a referendum and ignoring the democratic choice of British people will not make you more popular (something other nationalist parties in the country should also understand). Nor will it encourage more people to support your cause in the first instance.
    The UKIP leader regularly accuses the EU of not listening to the democratic will of countries. So maybe, just maybe, he should live up to his own words for once and listen to the choice of the British people.”

    The question was clear: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The result was close, but the answer was clear.

    Had the result been as close in the other direction Tim’s words in the quote above would have appeared on many party press releases.

    A second vote is not something Tim or the party supported before the vote and it smacks of hypocricy asking for it now.

    It would be ironic if the party supported the unelected House of Lords in any attempt to amend legislation to provide one.

    Therefore I assume that is what we are about to do.

  • The June 23rd referendums was faulty in a number of respects. Although enacted as advisory, it was presented by the Government as mandatory, a position endorsed by Labour. It set no minimum turn out requirement, nor any minimum majority, though both are standard features of mandatory referenda. The choice offered was a simple, remain or leave with no mention of a future, alternative destination. NEVERTHELESS, that was the referendum and it produced a narrow majority in favour of leaving the EU. I regret that but I accept it.
    My point now is that things are moving on. We are now talking about the proposed destination. Many people – I won’t say all and I won’t say most, because I simply don’t have that information -“are expressing their concern about what the future holds. This is why I believe that when a plain is put forward it should be fully and freely debated by all MPs, and that MPs should thereafter be entitled to a free vote; they cannot be bound by so-called manifesto promises that were never actually made.
    Under those circumstances, since it is new issue to be decided, and an extremely critical one to get right, it is entirely legitimate to hold a separate referendum with a choice – the deal is a good one and should be accepted, or the deal is a bad one for Britain, and we should remain in the EU until or unless we can negotiate a better one. That is not thwarting democracy; it is upholding it.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Jan '17 - 7:56pm

    Well said, Ian. An evening to feel emboldened, after reading about Tim’s fine response to Trump and his excellent Andrew Marr appearance. As for the previous entry above, room for a chuckle: – ‘Infamy! Infamy! These chaps have got it in for me!’

  • Andrew McCaig 29th Jan '17 - 9:27pm

    John Barrett,

    I don’t think the two circumstances are similar at all…

    If we had voted to Remain, that would have been the status quo; people knew what they were getting (in fact that was a big part of the problem: Cameron could not make outrageous promises using non-existent money because the day after the referendum people would have been asking where the NHS money was, etc). It has long been Liberal Democrat policy to hold an in-out referendum in the event of Treaty change, which would be a change in the status quo. I presume that would have continued. So I agree with Tim’s quote that you helpfully supply above.

    But we did not vote for the status quo, we voted for a change will affect everyone for decades, including people not even born yet. And we do not yet know what that change will be in very significant ways. Some Brexiteers such as Dan Hannan said repeatedly during the campaign that we could have a Norway-type deal, for example, but May has taken that off the table already. Personally I am confident that if UKIP had been allowed to define the precise terms of exit at the time of the referendum (and not allowed to promise money to the NHS that did not exist), Remain would have won, but of course I cannot know that because we did not have a referendum on that. In two years time the exit deal will be clear and it is entirely possible that the Remain deal will also be different. Having another vote after that cooling off period will settle the issue, since if we vote Leave again, we will be out very soon after. If we vote Remain we go to the Treaty Change rule, I assume..

    So yes, I think the official Party position is quite consistent with Tim’s previous words. It is also democratic (how can calling for a vote ever be “undemocratic??). The main criticism that can be levelled is that in may not be possible, because the rest of the EU states almost certainly need to change article 50 to allow it. I think they probably would though..

  • David Allen 30th Jan '17 - 1:28pm

    Stuart said: “The two-choice referendum being suggested by Tim Farron is deeply undemocratic, mainly because it fails to offer the option of “leave with no deal” ”

    Stuart implies, and then stops short of actually saying, that we need a three-choice referendum. But that’s just a recipe for total confusion. What happens when none of the three options wins majority support? Yes, we could use AV, and have everyone vote 1-2-3. Then what happens for example if the initial result is Remain 48%, Leave Deal 30%, Leave No Deal 22%, and the second round is Remain 52%, Leave Deal 48%? Nobody would agree what conclusion was legitimate.

    A referendum MUST be two-choice. A better question to ask is – What should the two choices on offer be?

    We have to think about what the consequences would be if the voters (and, possibly, the Government also) did not approve of the deal available from the EU. To make “Tumble out into no deal, no viable trading position, and imminent financial chaos” the only other option would be a non-starter. It would, in fact, force voters to vote for a Brexit deal they didn’t want, simply because the alternative on offer was too terrible to contemplate.

    To make “Remain – for now” the alternative, on the other hand, would not close off any of the options. Farron could campaign for “That’s it sorted!” Fox might campaign for “Go back and strike a better Brexit deal!” Farage would no doubt campaign for “Just get out and never mind the consequences!” All these options could, and probably would, then be decided by means of a General Election.

    We need a two-choice referendum, and “Leave with no deal” cannot viably be one of the choices on offer.

  • David Allen

    The * Remain * option was eliminated on the 23ed June 2016. There are only Leave options available.
    No amount of liberal,… ‘Snowflake’ mentality,.. with their constant tantrums, and petulant foot stomping is going to change that fact.
    Leavers will NEVER again accept or tolerate, EU law above the primacy of our own elected parliament.
    THIS,…is not even negotiable. There is NO Remain option.

  • David Allen 30th Jan '17 - 4:52pm

    J Dunn, you are obviously dead scared to know that there IS a Remain option. That’s why you feel the need to deny it, umpteen times over!

  • What bothers me David, is that * some * of a liberal mind clearly struggle to accept the new unfolding political reality. Those same liberals also refuse to accept a democratic outcome here in the UK [and it seems also within the USA?], and seem not to understand that civil war is the only option they have left, if you are intent on abandoning democracy.
    If you,… point blank refuse to accept the Leave referendum result,.. and I point blank refuse to accept a second referendum, or a third,…, until you get the answer you are happy with….. where do we go from there.?
    Democracy,.. and more importantly,..accepting the results even when they are not what you would wish, is the gossamer thin wall, between civil peace, and the return of the pitchfork.? You trash democracy at your peril.
    Is this liberal EU fetish, so worth an escalation into a civil war.?

  • @ J. Dunn. You could (if they let you in) move to the USA where it appears you would be much happier under a President who lost by 3 million in the popular vote but who still claims to have a democratic mandate. It’s your ‘Leave option’ – and one less for the next ref, – so acceptable all round.

    You could still post on here and let us how you are getting on. As the Proclaimers and Alistair Cooke- would say, a veritable “Letter from America ?” ……. with a chorus of “J.Dunn no more”.

    On the other hand, you might find it more prudent to stop upsetting yourself by not posting on here implying civil war, Lord save us

  • Richard Underhill 30th Jan '17 - 9:51pm

    Nicholas Cunningham: The Poll Tax was the love child of Ken Baker and Margaret Thatcher, with Norman Tebbit presiding over the Tory desire to tax people whose incomes derived only from welfare. People dropped off the electoral register. They did not all rejoin when the “community charge” was abolished.

  • David Raw
    I’ve no interest in the USA or Trump. My reference was to the similarity,.. in that UK liberals and USA liberals, are only happy with democracy, until it ‘goes horribly wrong’, and doesn’t produce a rersult they want.?

    As the Stones would say :
    “ You cayn’t awlways git wut you want…..

    There is a strange attitude developed in the new [often indulged young], liberal mind which seems to think that a percieved ‘democracy gone wrong’, somehow violates and thwarts their warped sense of entitlement. This odd attitude is encompassed in the very apt term ‘Snowflakes Generation’.

    As I said in an earlier post, we have entered the era of melting snowflakes, where there are no safe spaces anymore. Time to grow up I’m afraid.

    When it comes to the prospect of a civil war, I merely point out that democracy is the antidote. I accept the EU referendum result,.. but clearly some liberals do not. So it follows that if liberals, now wish to throw away the democratic process,.. what is next,.. if not a civil disturbance.?

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