LibLink: Nick Clegg – Elected representatives will do the right thing on Brexit


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In the Financial Times (registration needed), Nick Clegg writes very realistically about the prognosis for Brexit:

Public opinion has shifted a little in favour of the Remain camp, and a lot towards wider concern about the impact of Brexit on the NHS and the economy. But it remains firmly enveloped in an indifference towards the details of the negotiations, and a sullen belief that politicians should just “get on with it”. Advertising campaigns by anti-Brexit groups will not, on their own, shift opinion in a big way.

Equally, while there are abundant signs that Brexit has already had a chilling effect on economic growth, it has not (yet) done so in a dramatic enough fashion to force a rethink. And those who hope for a level of unforgiving detail in the Brexit deal will hope in vain: there is a shared interest between David Davis and Michel Barnier not to scare the horses, either in Westminster or the European Parliament, before the definitive votes this winter. They both want a deal, and both are happy to delay the really tricky choices about the future EU-UK relationship until after parliamentarians can do anything about it.

So MPs will have nowhere to hide. They are unlikely to be rescued by last minute developments. They will be left alone with their own consciences.

You can read the full article here.

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7 Comments

  • Andrew Daer 9th Apr '18 - 7:27am

    The question of whether MPs will do the right thing is one that was originally raised by Ken Clarke. After the referendum he announced that his duty as a pro EU MP was to vote in the best interests of his constituents, but most MPs say they have a higher duty to “respect the will of the people”, even when they are wrong. However, we must assume (from the way they voted themselves) that a majority of MPs would still prefer to kill off the Brexit process when the details of the deal have been put before Parliament.
    If what we now know about Brexit had been know before the referendum it is hard to believe that Leave could have won (this, of course, is why Leavers don’t want another vote). However, those who voted Leave are defiantly defending their decision, claiming, among other things, that making the country poorer was actually one of their aims, and that of course they knew that immigration would still be necessary. Some still claim will do brilliant trade deals with super-powers like China and the USA, on the assumption that GB Ltd will have more clout than the EU (pop. 500 million). The truth is that Brexit brigade are totally in defensive mode, and nearly everything they say is a rationalisation.
    The chances of a further referendum on the results is still in the balance, but regardless of that, MPs have a duty to throw out the deal and exit from Brexit if there is clear evidence that Brexit will do harm. Not least of the factors MPS ought to be thinking about is the NHS. Leave campaigners promised increased spending on the NHS, and indeed it will desperately need more cash as more of the population reach the expensive 85 plus age bracket, so if the economic damage from Brexit is likely to far outweigh cancelling the £8bn we send to the EU, Parliament must vote to stay inside the EU, in order to save the country from the consequences of a disastrous decision which was based on mistakes and lies.

  • Denis Loretto 9th Apr '18 - 9:22am

    As Nick says there is little hope of any clarity on the ultimate outcome until after the brexit date of March 30 2019. I fear this will mean not only public complacency or worse but also not enough of those MPs who are well aware of the historic mistake the country is making being willing to risk their political futures by voting accordingly.

    Unlikely though it is, the only hope I see is persuading such MPs at least to realise more time is needed and to vote for an extension of the Article 50 period. This would also remove the “vassal state” objection to the transition period and retain for longer UK involvement in EU decision making.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Apr '18 - 10:01am

    We should campaign for a mechanism in parliament whereby parliamentarians can show their dislike of how Brexit is going that allows a greater proportion of them to vote to reconsider and delay the final decision if not reject it outright.

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Apr '18 - 12:23pm

    Just like Trump, who fancied becoming president without enjoying much being it, our Brexiters fought to win a referendum, without developing a blueprint of economic and political life outside the EU, or any appetite for carrying out the process professionally. Trump is staring at the next election, just as Brexiters are staring at March 29, 2019. It is all about winning without purpose.

    Crossing that dateline undisturbed is now their only remaining goal, and serious negotiations can only bring disturbance. Every public engagement with the EU will just produce further proof that no Brexit-promise is deliverable. The Government will therefore do as little as possible to advance the visibility of a future relationship. Consequently, another referendum would be pretty much a second referendum on the same question: a shaky and broadly talked-down status-quo vs. promised sunny uplands. The desirabililty and winnability of such a repeat-referendum is highly questionable.

    So Parliament is indeed the country’s only hope. MPs hopefully understand that, whatever they do, a political crisis will follow. If they confirm Brexit, the nation’s walk towards the cliff’s-edge becomes irreversible, and the following delusion will massively damage the credibility of both large parties and with it the functionality of the political system. If they stop Brexit, popular backlash will be the smaller problem; I believe relief would be predominant. The crisis will come from the sudden disappearance of a national purpose: since 2010 it was about recovering from the GFC and fixing the budget, and since 2016 it was Brexit. The only national purpose available in that situation would be total European immersion, the only right strategy, but the one for which the British people were least prepared by its political class.

    I find it impossible to calculate the repercussions of both scenarios, and assume that most moderate MPs do not feel much more confident. One likely outcome is a massive renewal of faces in the Commons, as very few will be able to look their electorate in the eye by 2022. Brexit, aborted or seen through, will not produce winners. Which makes it easy: vote your conscience and take your chances.

  • Peter Martin 9th Apr '18 - 2:17pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    We were asked the question: Do you want to remain or leave the EU? The answer was 52:48 for leave. We weren’t asked about remaining in the customs union or the single market. However, I don’t remember any remainers making the argument that we could leave the EU but stay in one or the other of these. It’s an entirely reasonable argument to say that we shouldn’t have been asked. But – we were. There were a few politicians who were against it. All the SNP were, I believe. Ken Clarke voted against. But no Lib Dems did. That’s democracy at work.

    So having asked the question, and been given the answer, our politicians have to negotiate with the EU. As the EU rely on us as a good customer, ( we buy a lot more from the EU than they buy from us) , we have better cards in our hand than many on this blog would have us believe.

    We’ll have to see just what happens. But there’s a lot to be said for making a clean break with the EU and then starting negotiations. The EU are clinging on to the hope that we’ll change our minds if we have a bad deal. So they’ll naturally offer us a bad deal!

    The sky won’t fall in if we have to trade on WTO terms for a while. We’d even survive OK if the rest of the world imposed sanctions on us. Regardless of what we thought about the nature of the Pre-1990 South African Apartheid regime they showed how it was quite possible for a country to survive, and even prosper, when official trading links were severely curtailed.

    It’s not as if we’ll be at war with the EU. At least I hope not! I’m sure VW, BMW, Audi etc will still want to keep their market share over here. If they don’t, we’ll buy from somewhere else.

  • Martin Land 9th Apr '18 - 9:17pm

    I really don’t want to leave the EU but if that’s the price we have to pay to shut up Blair, Ashdown and Clegg once and for all it almost seems worth it.

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