LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt writes about the need for a new politics in Britain

We seldom consider the view of British politics from beyond our shores, something even Liberal Democrats are poor at. So, here’s a perspective from someone whose view matters, regardless of what his opponents might say…

Guy Verhofstadt has written for Project Syndicate on what he sees as being necessary for Britain to move beyond Brexit. He starts with a précis of the current position;

The populist revolts in the United States and the United Kingdom have each reached a critical juncture. At the start of his third year in office, US President Donald Trump is presiding over the longest federal government shutdown in history. Having painted himself into a corner, he remains largely at the mercy of congressional Democrats to negotiate an end to a crisis he created.

Likewise, British Prime Minister Theresa May, having failed to secure parliamentary approval for her Brexit deal, now must negotiate either with the opposition Labour Party or with Tory Brexiteers and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionists who prop up her government.

He then works his way through the problems before, perhaps giving some grounds for optimism, suggesting;

In this context, British requests to extend the Brexit negotiations should be assessed in good faith and granted if more time is needed to settle technical matters. But no extension can go beyond July 2, 2019, as that is when a new European Parliament will be seated, following an election in May that will be a battle for Europe’s soul. With populists in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere campaigning against the EU’s foundational values, European politicians have much more than British domestic political squabbles to worry about.

But let nobody be mistaken, he says, Europe will move on. But can British politicians do the same? He concludes;

It is time for British politicians to come out of their trenches and start talking. Only Britons can move their politics from adversarial zero-sum brinkmanship to constructive consensus-building. Such a change in the UK’s political culture is long overdue.

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  • Ian Patterson 28th Jan '19 - 1:42pm

    We really, really do not need this type of intervention at this time. A finger wagging Eurocrat is not helpful!

  • Mick Taylor 28th Jan '19 - 1:51pm

    Verhofstadt is many things but a Eurocrat is not one of them. A former Belgium Prime Minister, Guy is an elected MEP and leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament in which our sole MEP is a member.
    He is speaking as a leading European Liberal, not on behalf of the Commision or the Parliament and he is worth listening to. Some people really ought to get their facts in order before rushing in to condemn

  • Finger wagging bureaucrat ??? More to the point, his analysis seems pretty spot on to me, or if you disagree, then with which bit ? All this “fed up with Johnny Foreigner telling us what’s what” is really getting a bit much.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jan '19 - 3:05pm

    I suspect that Ian Patterson was simply pointing out that the way these comments will be portrayed in the media is unlikely to be helpful to the Remain campaign.

  • John Barrett 28th Jan '19 - 3:08pm

    There is a lot wrong in British politics today as there is a lot that is far from perfect in the EU.

    One of them (in the UK) is the belief by many that only those who know, or completely understand, the full implications of what they have voted for should be allowed to decide the future. If such decisions are taken by ill informed masses, then it follows that such decisions might not be accepted or acted on by Parliament.

    It may be the case that those voting leave did not know exactly what was to unfold, but who really does know exactly what will unfold in the future if we leave, or remain in the EU?

    I suspect that the exactly same argument will be seen with more force and equally dangerous consequences if the public deliver a Corbyn led government.

    If such an event unfolds I doubt anyone, even the most informed person, could predict exactly what would unfold over the following years. Maybe this is why calls for a second vote are unlikely to gain much support by many in the Labour Party.

    Brexit may be bad, but I would predict that a Crorbyn government would be worse.

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Jan '19 - 3:31pm

    Expanding on Guy’s fitting parallels: the UK government is shut down since around 1000 days.

  • Guy should concentrate on his own country. His own nation is seriously going to break into two two separate countries. In fact his own country did not have a functioning government at one point due to the tension between the two major communities who live there. He should focus his immense energies on healing his own divided nation. Not hectoring the British about how great the Imperialist EU is.

  • Other countries, supranational institutions and corporations need an adult at the tiller of the UK, not thuggish nationalism and neo-communist opposition. He is right – Britain has gone from an adult rational liberal global nation to a parochial backwater with people forced to pick a side between hard left rabid militant trade unionists and far right Empire Loyalists.

  • @Stimpson
    Oh dear, here you go again … “thuggish nationalism” vs “neo-communist opposition”, etc! As if Leave vs Remain isn’t divisive enough for our country to have to contend with! Never mind any serious attempt to address all the other social and economic divisions and inequalities which contributed to, or have been exposed by, Brexit – you instead seem to revel in militant libertarian ideology and political polarisation.

    You always write with such simplistic and absolutist certainty – but is there no room for compromise, balance or nuance in Stimpson’s world?

  • I am sorry but there is no compromising with the extreme left, nor the extreme right.

    I do not want compromise with the EDL or ERG nor the POA or ASLEF. Their views are all abhorrent.

    Compromise with moderate Labour and moderate Tory figures is absolutely fine, but not these extremists.

  • ALDE -Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – is not just the name of a grouping of national liberal and democrat parties in the European Parliament. It is also the name of a distinct party. So you can be a member of a national party which belongs to the ALDE group, you can yourself be a member of the ALDE party, or both. Likewise for candidates. If readers perusing the ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth saw there was a Lib Dem candidate AND an ALDE candidate as is theoretically possible , how would they vote? In a European? a UK? a devolved national? a local election? You will probably think me childish, but voting for the ALDE candidate in a parish council election would be a pleasure.

  • Nigel Baldwin 30th Jan '19 - 11:29pm

    If my deepest fears are realised barring serious reforms, this country could see a civil war or even a revolution in my lifetime.

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