LibLink: Shirley Williams: Bring all sides together to negotiate our future with Europe

While Tory and Labour parties rip themselves apart, the Liberal Democrats have spent a great deal of time offering ideas and solutions. The latest is Shirley Williams in today’s Observer:

She succinctly sums up the mess we are in:

With every passing day, the problems confronting the new prime minister multiply. The balance of payments worsens, the pound sinks against the dollar, the London property market, no longer attractive to ambitious young bankers and financial experts, declines and Brexit begins to look more and more like snake oil.

How do we face those challenges? Well, it needs strong government and opposition:

To get through the business of negotiating an alternative to membership of the European Union, and to do so without our country falling apart, will require patience, tolerance of different and often strongly held views and good, grown-up government. None of these were evident in the bitter, brutal referendum debate. We need not just good government but a serious, responsible opposition as well.

She draws parallels with the mess of the Labour Party in the 80s.

Yet much of the parliamentary party is in despair. Some on the hard left, like the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ party, saw Corbyn’s election as an opportunity to piggyback into power, using the same entryist tactics that so nearly destroyed Labour and succeeded in splitting it in the 1970s. Jeremy Corbyn is seen by many Labour voters and supporters as an incorruptible politician. But he is not seen, particularly by most of his MPs, as a natural leader nor a man willing to compromise.

So what is the best way forward?

First, we must see the committed involvement of those representing all sides of the debate in the UK, in the renegotiation of our relationship with the EU. Second, all parties represented in parliament should take part in a committee to oversee the negotiations.

Parties that supported staying in must be part of this committee including Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Greens, as well as the pro-Remain element of the Conservative party. Consensus has to be reached before any deal is struck and any proposed deal must be approved by the committee before it is submitted to the government.

An all-party approach is essential if the country is to be drawn together again. The result of the referendum was very close and a new round of battles could irreparably split the country even to the point where the UK might fall part. This would be a terrible price to pay for the referendum outcome.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Leave The EU 10th Jul '16 - 6:18pm

    (Iceland is in Europe, not the EU – all the best.)

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jul '16 - 6:56pm

    Yes it is good to see ideas for a multi–party approach from Shirley and also from Michael Moore. At the top of the page here on the right is still a link to Vince Cable’s OP – still the most rational and reasonable approach yet from a front line politician.

    But note we are dealing in all three suggestions with ways to make Brexit work well and liberally.

    In my opinion that means EEA. There is a chance that we may be able to negotiate a minus or two and a plus or two. But really – the quick deal – that provides order and stability is EEA. From which some fine tuning may be possible subsequently.

    Note also that, if the party got behind EEA (straight up), it would be supporting the four freedoms of the single market. It would divide the Tories in months to come (and possibly Labour on similar lines) and would set up the big confrontation with UKIP.

    There is no avoiding such a confrontation with UKIPery in my view and better it were conducted on our Liberal territory. Both the Tories and Labour want to delay this as they have the most to lose in terms of political territory, but that is appeasement and the price of appeasement is also delay in getting an agreement with EU27.

    Under a May premiership it looks like Art 50 triggered in late spring 2017 and the final deal 2019 in time for a 2020 General Election. We should be saying that this is too long to wait and that an EEA deal could be agreed before the end of this year – to the benefit of the economies across Europe (EU and non-EU).

  • David Allen 12th Jul '16 - 5:23pm

    Good idea.

    If the Tories won’t set up an all-party committee, the Opposition parties should do it anyway.

    We could all (except perhaps Carswell!) come together over Scotland. We could help the SNP avoid independence (!) by negotiating a federal solution which enabled Scotland to retain EU membership.

    To win on that single issue, we’d only need a handful of rebel Tories. Ken Clarke are you listening?

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