Lord Tony Greaves writes…So how would an interim government actually work?

For a start, here is my letter to the Guardian which they did not publish.

It is surely obvious that the best person to head up an interim multi-party government is an interim Prime Minister – a person with no longer term ambitions who is not going to try to use their interim position for their own advancement or that of their party? It should be a person who commands respect around the House of Commons and who is not standing again at the next General Election.

As for Mr Corbyn, can he be trusted on Europe? We all know that he and his closest advisers would like to leave the EU, that he has talked for the past three years about the need to get a “Labour Withdrawal Agreement”, and that he has been dragged kicking and screaming by members of his party to support any new people’s vote. In the highly unlikely event that he could win an overall majority in the General Election that he wants to call before any new referendum, are we confident that he would not abandon any such idea? Jo Swinson is right – he is not the person for the job.

But now we need to take the discussion further. In all the Westminster Bubble blather about who should be the Interim Prime Minister in an Interim Government, no-one seems to be thinking about how it would work. Of course it suits the Bubble to talk about personalities, who is falling out with who within and across the parties. And it means they don’t have to think and expose their ignorance about what the rules say and how the systems actually work.

Jo’s speech and letter were an excellent explanation of where the Remain forces (which at any given moment may or may not include Labour) stand in the short run. Experts in what the Commons might or might not be able to do in their fortnight back in September to stop a hard Brexit on 31st October are working hard on that. There is still over a fortnight before Parliament returns on 3rd September for the politics of it all to evolve, though to read and hear a lot of the current blather you’d think it all had to be done this weekend.

Paul Tyler’s excellent piece here sets out a good explanation of how the present government can be brought down, and what has to happen before a General Election would have to be called. There is still far too much loose talk in the media about the Prime Minister or even Mr Corbyn just “calling a General Election”. But if it does all result in the Queen inviting someone else to try to form an Interim or Caretaker Government, there seems to be no talk at all as yet about what such a Government would look like (other than who might be PM), how it would be constructed, how long it would last and what it would do.

People are saying it would just be to “call a People’s Vote” or new referendum. And then a General Election. But how soon could a new referendum be called? It will need primary legislation both to hold it and to short-circuit the legislative timescale laid down for referendums. Against the determined opposition of very angry Brexiters after Mr Johnson has been kicked out of Downing Street, that can be pushed through Parliament fairly quickly but not very quickly

Whether a new referendum could be held before Christmas, or if it would have to wait until some time after the New Year, there will be a period of time in which the Interim Government is in charge. Where will its members be drawn from? (And specifically for us will Liberal Democrats take part and what do we think about that?) What will happen to the existing Bills (new legislation) that are currently going through Parliament – and in important areas are stuck. Presumably Brexit-related Bills will be dropped – so what will Parliament do? As we have seen recently, a Parliament which has nothing much to do can be a politically dangerous place.

Will the Government be fully staffed up? It will need 20 to 30 Cabinet Ministers but what about all the rest? Who will run the Government Whip’s Office and who will take the Interim Whip? In a practical sense it will not be possible without the fairly full-hearted involvement of the Labour Party. There will have to be protocols that there will be no important new initiatives and that the purpose of running departments is strictly “steady as she goes”, but what about the old Tory initiatives and practices that most of the rest of Parliament finds abhorrent? And a lot of what Ministers do is making decisions about routine business, and indeed not so routine stuff, some highly controversial – the autumn budget, negotiations over the suspension of Stormont, new rail franchises, the local government settlement, umpteen crises and events in the rest of the world, and all the “events, dear boy, events” that will crop up to be dealt with day by day by mainly inexperienced Ministers with no firm party structures or policy frameworks to rely on. And with the best will in the world, some of them will be trying to make a name for themselves whatever the protocols say.

In the meantime – while most leading parliamentary Remainers are tied up just trying to hold things together – the Brexiters led by the leader of the opposition Boris Johnson will be on the rampage both in the Place of Westminster and out in the country. When they warn of mass protests, riots and general mayhem, what they really mean is that they will make sure it happens, always deploring the language of hatred and actual violence, but doing nothing to quell the results of their own activism and reminding us all that “we warned you it would happen”.

Processes, timetables, practicalities, political background. If we are serious that this is all an option if other (legislative) means fail, and if it comes to it we are going to do it, we need to start thinking hard about what, when, and how, and about the political environment in which we will have to fight to succeed.

* Tony Greaves is a backbench Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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  • Richard Underhill 18th Aug '19 - 9:11am

    “events, dear boy, events” is a quote from former PM Harold Macmillan
    The Queen visited him in hospital and he persuaded her to appoint the next Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alec_Douglas-Home
    Historians have noted that the political consequence was that the Conservative Party decided to elect their leader for the first time, only MPs voting, won by Edward Heath, who had been tory chief whip to Sir Winston Churchill https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Heath

  • John Marriott 18th Aug '19 - 9:19am

    Their combined Lordships have done themselves proud. Wise words again. I agree entirely. As for ‘mass protests’ if a No Deal Brexit were to be put on hold, they would be nothing compared with what might happen if the worst case scenario of a No Deal Brexit actually occurred!

    As far as the function of this ‘new’ government is concerned, it should be, in my opinion, firstly to approach the EU to negotiate a new deal, which would probably involve another extension. If this ‘New Deal’ could be found, it then needs to be out to an ADVISORY referendum, where voters would be asked to place the following three choices in order of preference: Deal / No Deal / Remain. The choice which was the least popular would be eliminated and its second choice votes reapplied. With this result Parliament could make its decision.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Aug '19 - 9:29am

    Tory Ken Clarke MP has said that he is willing to serve, Labour’s Harriet Harman MP has said that Jeremy Corbyn should have the first try. If Corbyn tries and fails should he resign the Labour leadership? When John Smith died the Labour constitution was that Deputy Leader Margaret Becket became leader (as for the US Presidency). [Theresa May was wrong to say at PMQ that Labour had not had a female leader]. Margaret Becket eventually decided to call a leadership election, which was won by Tony Blair.

  • Barry Lofty 18th Aug '19 - 9:57am

    Thank you for laying out in understandable language all the options facing the UK in the event that Parliament can stop this present government from enacting their disastrous Brexit and other policies, it is reassuring to read something that cuts through all the waffle.

  • But this post does not answer the question at all.
    Who is this Nelson Mandela who has no personal ambitions but has the eloquence and political skills to lead this National Dis-Unity Government?
    Because that it how it will be portrayed. It won’t be seen as a unifying force at all, but as Bojo says – the politicians versus the people, an elite stitch up using arcane parliamentary mechanisms to force the 17 million who voted leave to submit to unconditional surrender.
    I, personally, don’t predict riots but don’t expect some friendly kiss and make up reconciliation either. This is the seed of abiding hatred in our nation for decades to come and the losers will respond by electing ever more nasty and extreme right wing parties.
    I plead for some voices of compromise to bridge this divide before it is too late.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Aug '19 - 10:41am

    @ Hard Rain,
    I agree.

    The immediate requirement in this time of national crisis is the recall of Parliament, and a dialling down of the poisonous rhetoric. that is leading to death threats and violence against elected political representatives and journalists.

  • I feel the reason why the Guardian did not print the letter is because that newspaper is Labour supportive and fears the revival of the Liberal Democrats also seen across other media outlets trying to discredit Jo Swinson, I suppose it could be seen as complementary.

  • Hard Rain and Jayne Mansfield make very valid points…. and I have to add the attack on Owen Jones was a shocking disgrace.

    I can’t remember such a poisonous political time since the poll tax riots and the miners strike in the Thatcher years. Given this, politicians on all sides – especially in the Liberal Democrats – need to turn down the rhetoric and deal with each other with respect. I can’t say I’m hopeful this will happen.

  • I am no expert but there are plenty of those who can make that claim who dismiss the idea of a quick referendum. The last one took 7 Months to get through Parliament & anew one would face a lot more opposition & time-wasting.
    I would be surprised if any interim Government would last more than a few weeks. Certainly it could ask for yet another Extension from The EU but there’s no guarantee it would get one & that’s just more can-kicking. It could perhaps get The HoC to pass a Resolution approving a Referendum in principle.
    In terms of actually stopping Brexit the only useful move it could make would be to Revoke Article 50.
    Can anyone suggest an acceptable PM who would do that ?
    Of course, if an Interim Administration were to be formed before September 11th it could call & get an Election before Halloween.
    Then all we would have to do is win.

  • David,

    The damage Brexit has done and will do far exceeds the damage Thatcher did. I remember the hatred that led too, and still does ( in this little mining village of mine) but it is as nothing to the hatred Brexit has generated and that hatred will grow. To emphasis my point I’ll just cut and paste a comment from Conservativehome ( the topic he was commenting on was the glory of chloranated chicken).

    Such idiotic pronouncements over Brexit explain why our think tanks are now coming up with ideas like this:

    As a Conservative I believe we shouldn’t be penalising tomorrow’s generations for our decisions today. Raising the pension age to 75 to pay for Brexit impoverishment would do just that.

    As a Conservative and hardline fiscal Conservative, I believe we should in fact cut today’s pension payments by 50% and leave the retirement age where it is. Let the generations that voted for Brexit actually pay for it.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Aug '19 - 1:43pm

    John Marriott: Your suggestion of 18th Aug ’19 – 9:19am is a good idea, except that a new Brexit referendum should absolutely NOT be advisory. It should be a binding referendum, where the result would automatically (perhaps by Staturory Instrument) lead to revoking Artlcle 50, or leaving with or without a deal. Referendums are a bad idea anyway, and the current Brexit mess is a result an advisory referendum being treated as binding. I fear that the same will happen in another advisory Brexit referendum, so the most workable solution would be to set into law what happens. Then it won’t be a question of “implementing” or “ignoring” the result, because implementation would be automatic.

  • Laurence Cox 18th Aug '19 - 1:44pm


    As a Conservative and hardline fiscal Conservative, I believe we should in fact cut today’s pension payments by 50%

    So thanks to you and the Tory Governments you supported we have had the largest increase in elderly poverty in Western Europe: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/18/elderly-poverty-risen-fivefold-since-80s-pensions and you still want to cut their pensions in half.

  • Something that has struck me over the last few days (in addition to the last couple of years) is how few of us understand how our parliament and the rest of our democracy works, which hampers attempts at ‘grown-up’ solutions, and undermines the wider debate, leaving us vulnerable to whoever is best at getting their bluster out there.

    An early issue was in defining the role of an “advisory referendum” and how electoral rules apply, or not.

    The last few days there have been a lot of people talking about what ‘must’ happen, and arguing about what are the rules, versus what people want. I’m thinking specifically about the confusion between needing the LOTO to call a VONC, and that there is no requirement (or even precedent) for them being the one to head up a Government of National Unity. Yet people who supposedly have shared goals are spending time bickering about these things, and only some of them are deliberately spreading misinformation. Granted, many people are confidently spreading misinformation they want to be true without checking the veracity of it, but it’s only possible because the actual rules or conventions are so complicated and poorly understood to start with.

    If we ever make our way through this Brexit mess then not only do we need to clean up the rules for how Parliament operates, along with modernising election rules for the digital age, but we need to find a way to make sure the general public know what’s what. Or if not the general public, at least the people who like to argue about politics on social media.

  • John Marriott 18th Aug '19 - 1:54pm

    Now, let me get this right. Are YOU the ‘Conservative’ or is that a quote you are inserting from elsewhere?

  • Laurence Cox
    It’s worth noting that the dude is also on LDV every day spewing insults and making random ( bonkers pseudo-psychological) assertions about what he imagines the thought processes of complete strangers to be.

  • While this party ‘fiddles’ Rome burns..

    From Today’s media,,,”The UK will be hit with a three-month meltdown at its ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine if it leaves the EU without a deal, according to government documents on Operation Yellowhammer.,,,The documents predict severe extended delays to medicine supplies and shortages of some fresh foods combined with price rises as a likely scenario if the UK leaves without a withdrawal agreement, which is due to happen on 31 October….They suggest there has been a worsening of the risk since documents leaked to the Guardian showed some of the government’s “reasonable worst-case scenarios” (RWCS) involved risk to medicine supplies and disruption to food chains…..The dossier, codenamed Operation Yellowhammer and compiled this month, found up to 85% of lorries using the main channel crossings “may not be ready” for French customs and could face queues of 2.5 days, the Sunday Times reported……

    Still, let’s argue about ‘angels and pinheads’

  • Paul Barker: if there is a will there is a way, use the Emergency Powers Act.
    Overall I do not see any problem with what is happening, the discussions are taking place, Clarke has said he would do the job, Harman says yes but let Corbyn try first, when we all know he cannot get a majority. This will all be worked out in the next fortnight. Labour put the No Confidence Vote on the understanding Corbyn will remain Party Leader but not interim PM. I suspect we will have Clarke PM, Harman, Deputy PM or vice versa.

  • John,
    I think my previous postings long ago nailed my colours to the mast, I’m a Beveridge/Keynes sort of Liberal. I do however like to move outside bubbles and see what the other tribes think. I’ve posted the whitterrings of the corbyoutriders and in this case the angry shout of a Tory. The point I’m trying to make ( and have continually banged my head against a particularly dense wall with our Brexi’s and Lexi’s) is Brexit is increasing devision, hatred and people have started to look for scapegoats. In the case of the Brexiteers it is the remain ” traitors”, in the case of those opposed to Brexit it is the “Brexiters”. Who will win this battle, no one but those that will lose worse are the old and economically inactive who will be portrayed as ” The gammons” who voted to be poorer and deserve everything they get. Brexit was a bad idea, no one was going to come out of this ahead ( save perhaps wee Mogg and his disaster capitalists) and in the end we will spend decades hating each other, what a stupid state we find ourselves in, all because some people followed the Piped Piper of Depeffle to sunlit uplands.

  • OnceALIbDem 18th Aug '19 - 2:54pm

    Jo made a clear promise she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Brexit.

    I would expect every elected and unelected Lib Dem to support that course of action or consider their position untenable.

  • Mike MacSween 18th Aug '19 - 3:00pm

    Lord Greaves raises many perfectly valid questions. The answers to which may be impossible to give.

    The whole GNU idea has been proposed as straightforward, with two versions proposed so far:

    1. Jeremy Corbyn’s – “make me interim PM and it’ll work”

    2. Jo Swinson’s – “make anybody but Jeremy PM and it’ll work”.

    I’m willing to bet hard cash that for every Tory remainer rebel (Oliver Letwin etc.) who could potentially back a GNU, but won’t if Jeremy’s in charge, there will be a Labour MP who could potentially back a GNU, but not if Ken Clarke/John Major/Michael Heseltine is in charge. Party tribalism runs deep. Though not so deep at the bar after Pendle Council meetings with my father, Tony Greaves?

    And those problems are before any questions about how those other people, what are they called again, oh yes, the European Union, might react to the idea of a few more years of this. They, like frustrated Leave voters in the UK, might well just think that a No-Deal “get it over with” Brexit is the least worst option.

    These would be interesting times. If I didn’t live here.

  • Richard O'Neill 18th Aug '19 - 3:11pm

    Aside from the difficult mathamatics of getting a majority, any such govt would be incredibly unstable. It would be astonishing if it lasted more than a few weeks. Overseeing a fresh referendum is implausible whoever is in charge. An election is at least much shorter.

    And this unity govt would not exist in a Brexit bubble. Other events have a habit of intruding. What happens if war breaks out and our European/NATO allies appeal to us. Who is in charge?

  • If the only person who has the power to revoke article 50 is the Prime Minister, what is stopping an interim prime minister “GNU” i.e Clarke, after winning a confidence vote, running straight to Brussels and revoking article 50
    Going completely behind the rest of parliaments back and sticking 2 fingers up to democracy.
    I take it he would have the power to do that?

    I am not asking is he would, I am asking if it would be within his authority to actually do it?

  • Sandra Hammett 18th Aug '19 - 3:34pm

    Allow me to quote from obscure philosopher Monty Python’s work; the Life of Brian.

    The People’s Front of Judea: Brothers, we should be struggling together!
    The Campaign for a Free Galilee: We are!

  • Tony Greaves 18th Aug '19 - 3:57pm

    Mike MacSween: your Dad used to go to the Tory Club round the corner (with one two of his Labour mates) for half an hour in the middle of long council meetings. I never went with him – I was too busy making the meetings even longer…

    Everyone else. How interesting. I publish a piece about how an Interim Government might operate in the time needed before it can call a new referendum, which may be three months or perhaps five, and of the 24 comments there are two positive responses and no positive ideas – or even interaction with the points I raise. No-one, it seems, can think beyond 31st October, or indeed 3rd September! The problem is that unless MPs can see how it is going to work, they won’t vote for it.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Aug '19 - 4:02pm

    I should add that the Tory Club where your Dad went for a mid-meeting pint is now a mosque…

  • The first thing which has to be agreed is should there be a general election or referendum. I think a referendum would be more popular among non-Labour MPs.

    The second question is should a new deal be negotiated. I think the answer has to be yes to ensure Labour support.

    I would suggest 2nd April 2020 for a referendum and if voted for after Easter a general election in May (which I think would be held after the local elections) or June.

    The other issue would be could the new government end austerity?

    Whoever is Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn would have to be Deputy Prime Minister. As we see it as a Government of National Unity then Jo would have to be in the Cabinet as would Caroline Lucas and the Parliamentary leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, the leader of The Independent Group for Change. I would also hope that Heidi Allen would be in it. The issue would be would rebel Conservative MPs want to be in it such as Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin, Philip Hammond, David Gauke, and Rory Steward.

    There would have to be an inclusive way of agreeing policies. Would an inner Cabinet be necessary including people from all the different groups?

  • Tony,

    Your assuming a GNU would be government as normal it wouldn’t. Power would have move to Westminster and to the civil service. I suspect parliament would be unable to agree much more than a referendum and/or a general election. In the mean time the Civil service would attempt to keep the country on an even keel but changes would be as minimal as they could make it. It sounds frightening but we wouldn’t be the first country without a functioning Political leadership, Belgium managed without one for 541 days.

    Belgium to have new government after world record 541 days
    Belgium will wake up today with a new prime minister after a world record of 19 months without government but the incoming administration will not settle longer term questions over the future of the divided country.


  • Roland Postle 18th Aug '19 - 5:01pm

    I’ll attempt something positive… N.Ireland has had no executive for 2.5 years. A couple of years ago Spain went some 10 months without a government. There are other examples. I don’t see why a skeleton UK government can’t keep things ticking over even for the extended time it would take to make a binding referendum certain (presumably longer than an advisory one), as long as the will is there. Yes, outside events will intrude but it’s not as if the current government or the previous one has been particularly on top of events.

    As long as a ‘unity’ government could be formed, assuming Johnson then became leader of the opposition he could call endless votes of no-confidence, but the threat of no deal would be a very powerful incentive to keep supporters of the government on board unless a) a long extension had been agreed or A50 revoked, or b) a referendum was legally unavoidable.

    The dangers are that a) a Corbyn-aligned Labour unity PM would call for a GE rather than following through with other promises, and be supported by loyal Tories to achieve the needed 2/3rds, b) the unity government can’t agree what will go on a referendum (May’s deal, another deal, yes or no to No deal being on there, etc), c) the EU won’t agree to the further repeated extensions, especially considering the budget deadline next year. In all cases it would be extremely helpful to have an interim PM who was willing and committed to revoke A50 as a last resort if the original unity plan became unsalvageable. As I understand that’s as a simple as the PM writing a letter to the EU and could even be done after losing a VoNC.

  • Roland Postle 18th Aug '19 - 5:10pm

    @ frankie Ah yes, the Belgium example is even better.

    “revoke A50 as a last resort if the original unity plan became unsalvageable”
    I realise this would increase incentive among ardent Remainers to bring down the unity government and trigger the revoking, but the Brexiteers wouldn’t be sleeping so that would hopefully focus minds on the fact that an abrupt revoking would likely be less final than a confirmatory referendum would be.

  • @Roland Postle
    “In all cases it would be extremely helpful to have an interim PM who was willing and committed to revoke A50 as a last resort if the original unity plan became unsalvageable.”

    And that is exactly why I and many brexiters would not support either a GNU especially one that was being led by a remainer as the interim Prime Minister

  • Dilettante Eye 18th Aug '19 - 5:55pm

    Roland Postle

    “In all cases it would be extremely helpful to have an interim PM who was willing and committed to revoke A50 as a last resort if the original unity plan became unsalvageable. As I understand that’s as a simple as the PM writing a letter to the EU and could even be done after losing a VoNC.”

    The Prime Minister cannot unilaterally revoke Article 50. Please refer back to the Gina Miller legal case, who’s purpose was to clarify the law, in that :

    Full Parliamentary approval is required to invoke A50. Which parliament did approve by about 414 votes to 200 (odd). So it follows that :

    Full Parliamentary approval is required to revoke A50

    So No, a PM simply doesn’t have that authority to revoke A50 on a whim, without the confirmatory vote of parliament.
    Thanks go to Gina Miller.

  • Tony asks how long it would take to legislate for a People’s Vote further referendum and actually hold the poll. Of course it depends when you start ! Our cross-party group last winter – with expert contributions from both the Constitution Unit at UCL and Lord Lisvane, former Common Clerk – drafted two Bills for a realistic timetable: a Paving Bill to authorise the Electoral Commission to begin necessary consultation and other preparation immediately, followed by a Bill to update the inadequate 2015 Act, which gave rise to the cheating in 2016. We subsequently estimated that 16/17 weeks would be desirable before the referendum poll, although previous ones had required substantially less.

    So if Parliament could be persuaded to begin the process immediately after return from the Summer Recess it might be possible to enable the public to decide the Brexit outcome before Christmas . However, a January 2020 date might be more suitable.

    The fact remains that it will be the decision of the 27 other EU States on the validity and length of an Article 50 extension that will be crucial. All the signs are they recognise that such a Referendum should be conclusive while a General Election would be all too likely to be inclonclusive.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Aug '19 - 6:18pm

    If we get Boris Johnson out of Downing Street probably Cummings goes as well.

  • @Dilettante Eye

    according to the bbc https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-47668466
    it is not entirely clear
    “Who decides?
    Theresa May or Parliament?
    On this, the ECJ did not give a definitive answer.
    The UK government has a power known as the Royal Prerogative, which allows it to do certain things including deploying armed forces, granting honours and altering international treaties without consulting Parliament.
    So it is possible in theory that Mrs May would be able to revoke Article 50 without giving MPs the chance to vote on it.”

    So there is no way we should trust a remainer mp to become an “interim prime minister” who has thus far got out of their way to thwart brexit

  • Matt,
    There was a time not so long ago when many of the remain persuasion would have bent over backward to take into account your views. That was then, now more and more are seeing the stupidity of Brexit and cries of “We must compromise” are being drowned by the cry of “Let them jog on, I don’t care what they think”. We have, or rather you have polarised society and there will be tears before bedtime, most likely from all of us, but I fear specifically those of the Brexit persuasion will be weeping most as reality shreds their unicorn. Brexit will not be kind to you, red in tooth in claw doesn’t value the weak, survival of the fittest will be the order of the day and few Brexiteers are amongst the fittest. We live in an age when “nice” is dying and “nasty” is taking over, may God help us all.

    Where does stopping no deal get us, but to the conclusion of repeal or no deal in the future. Those running the Brexiteer campaign, Cummings and Co want no deal ( our Brexi’s and Lexi’s might disagree, but they are just the cannon fodder and their views matter not a hill of beans). In the end it’s no deal ( with decades of pain) or revoke, twas always going to come to this. A stark choice.

  • Roland Postle 18th Aug '19 - 7:00pm

    @Dilettante Eye

    “So it follows that : Full Parliamentary approval is required to revoke A50”
    I don’t believe it does follow. During the Miller case it was assumed that revocation was impossible, so that scenario explicitly wasn’t judged on. The thrust of the argument for parliament invoking was that invoking A50 and subsequently leaving would erase citizen’s rights granted by primary legislation and thus had to be done by parliament. Revoking doesn’t erase any rights, and doesn’t seem to overturn even the primary legislation of the Notification of Withdrawal act, because that act merely gave the executive various powers to notify the EU of leaving, prepare to leave, and to delay if necessary (and presumably also to re-notify after a revocation). It doesn’t say we must leave. It doesn’t either grant powers to revoke, but absent another court case similar to the Miller one but based on different arguments, the PM seems to already have those powers. It’s a complex area so I’m ready to stand corrected, but I see no legal parallels between the invoke and revoke scenarios. I don’t doubt it would be challenged in court by Leavers, but that doesn’t mean it would get anywhere.

  • Roland Postle 18th Aug '19 - 7:13pm

    Alternatively, since the Notification of Withdrawal act gives the PM powers to delay, an interim PM could always agree a 99 year delay with the EU. Then we’d be in A50 limbo perpetually and leave or remain eventually a future parliament would have to agree to revoke (unless the EU could be persuaded to de-extend by a future Leave government). Not ideal, but it’s a revocation ‘plan B’ if you like.

  • @frankie

    You keep saying that brexit will hit the poorest the hardest and it is the least who can shoulder the burden that will get hit.
    What you keep forgetting is, that the least well off have the least to lose, they have been hit time and time again by successive governments, even by your party when it was in power and people are still feeling the effects of those today. Threats about Brexit along these lines do not work anymore, as we have become accustomed to it, regardless of brexit.

    I happen to believe that there is a financial crisis coming which has nothing to do with brexit, recession is looming for many countries incl Germany and Italy is not long for this Union, it is going to implode badly bringing those around them with it.
    I happen to believe the further we are away from this, they better we would weather the storm.

    But whenever the next crisis come, regardless of whether we are in the EU or Out, Governments will target the least well off as they always do.
    I would just rather we distance ourselves and be independent from the EU and able to strike our own trading agreements with the world and adapt to changing markets.
    I do not believe protectionist policies of the EU will help the UK at all to weather any storm if we are still a part of it

  • David Allen 18th Aug '19 - 8:18pm

    “Thank you to Tony for bringing us down to earth. The whole thing is a recipe for absolute chaos. As the song goes “Let’s call the whole thing off”. … It is better to concentrate minds on the parliamentary mechanism to stop “No deal.”

    The only problem is that a parliamentary vote against No Deal is unlikely to work. As https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/18/national-government-jeremy-corbyn-brexit points out, the Cabinet Secrtetary has advised that Johnson could just ignore such a vote.

    The problem is that Parliament can’t just decide what it WON’T do. It has to decide what it WILL do. Thus, suppose that on Monday someone like Dominic Grieve gets a bill through the Commons that makes No Deal “illegal”. Then, suppose that on Tuesday Boris puts a bill though that makes staying in the EU after end October “illegal”. Who wins? The answer is, neither of these negative resolutions can hold sway. Parliament has to make a positive resolution, and the last such resolution it made was to leave by October 31st.

    It’s obvious why a legislative approach appeals to the Hammonds and the Grieves. It means they can try to stop NDB without blatant, career-ending disloyalty to their Party. However, it will probably fail.

    So we can’t afford to throw up our hands in horror at the complexities of the GNU. We need to make it work. Unless, that is, we just want to cynically let Boris put NDB through, and then seek votes in its chaotic aftermath. We’re not that underhand. Are we?

  • Dilettante Eye 18th Aug '19 - 8:23pm

    Roland Postle

    “So it follows that : Full Parliamentary approval is required to revoke A50.
    I don’t believe it does follow. During the Miller case it was assumed that revocation was impossible, so that scenario explicitly wasn’t judged on.”

    I think you’re clutching as straws.

    The very point of Gina Miller taking this action, was to legally take the authority of ‘sending our A50 notice to quit’, out of the sole hands of a PM, and put it into the Westminster hands of a full parliament.

    She genuinely believed, that parliament would not vote to send the A50 letter. She was wrong, they did, and now our notice to quit cannot be reversed without a full parliamentary approval.

    For confirmation, take note that Gina Miller, who is not ‘shy’ at telling the media what she thinks, has never once suggested that a PM could simply revoke A50 unilaterally, because she knows (and spent a lot of money to ensure!), that that is not legally possible.

  • David Allen 18th Aug '19 - 8:32pm

    Tony Greaves makes some valid points about the complexity of GNU, but others that are not valid. He suggests that a GNU would need to organise a referendum, which would of course probably take 6 months or longer. That’s far too long for an interim government, who would inevitably have to take substantive political decisions unrelated to Brexit, and also the ticklish decisions about the form of the referendum. All that would be too much to be negotiated between an interim PM (such as Ken Clarke) and an interim cabinet (such as Corbyn and McDonnell). The thing would probably collapse in tears.

    Corbyn’s GNU proposal, I fear, was much better in this respect. Corbyn proposed merely an A50 extension followed by an election, which could be called within a month. A short enough time to resolutely insist on business-as-usual government, no new legislation, nothing to split the interim government apart.

    Yes, a referendum would have been nice, but it is just not a practical thing for an interim government to organise.

    In Corbyn’s proposal, Labour would propose to hold a referendum should they win the election. As things stand, I think that fell a little short of being a promise from Corbyn. Negotiation could seek to tighten that up.

  • David Allen 18th Aug '19 - 8:43pm

    Geoffrey Dron (on the previous thread on “Corbyn’s offer”) said:

    “To get a GNU, needs a successful VONC against the current government. Getting even three Tory names to support the motion would be a major difficulty, but clearing that hurdle on paper still isn’t enough. …. To cancel out (other anti-GNU) votes you need not three Conservative MPs, but fourteen. There is no chance of attracting anything like that many Conservative rebels.”

    That’s probably broadly true, if your putative GNU leader is Corbyn. However, there are more than 20 Tory rebels who want to take legislative action to stop No Deal. If (or when) that action falls, they will have to decide if they truly want to stop No Deal. They can do that by supporting a GNU. Our task should be to find a GNU formulation they can support.

  • Dilettante Eye 18th Aug '19 - 9:01pm

    “Alternatively, since the Notification of Withdrawal act gives the PM powers to delay, an interim PM could always agree a 99 year delay with the EU.”

    Nice bit of lateral thinking, but not possible.

    Please also note that today the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, on the authority of the PM has officially signed the order to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which was legislated for some 12 months ago, but not signed.

    Theresa (the Remainer) May conveniently forgot to allow the signing of that repeal document, so that it became open ended to continuous (remainer dabbling) extensions.

    Now that the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 document is signed (today), any further extension would be a pointless and academic exercise because from the 31st Oct, supremacy of law making reverts back from the EU to the UK.

  • Roland Postle 18th Aug '19 - 10:36pm

    @ Dilettante Eye

    The EU Withdrawal act is clear repeal happens on ‘exit day’ not any specific date. It’s the very first thing mentioned: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2018/16/crossheading/repeal-of-the-eca/enacted

    The Notification act gives PM powers to change ‘exit day’ to align with any extension agreed. That’s already happened twice since the EU Withdrawal act was passed.

    I’m not sure what Stephen Barclay signed today because the EU Withdrawal act was reported as brought into force by David Davis back in 2018. Maybe today’s is just the ‘The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Commencement and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2018’ which appears to be more of a set of choices and boring technicalities which again are irrelevant until exit day.

  • To actually get any sort of Vote of No Confidence through parliament, and any sort of new government in place, the Remain forces will need to work with Jeremy Corbyn and his followers. They are not a majority, even within the Labour Party, but they have numbers that are significant enough (surely greater than the number of our MPs) to give them a major rôle.

    We also have to deal with the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is no idealist, but a tactically shrewd political operator, who will without doubt place his own benefit (as he sees it), and the benefit of the Labour Party (or, more specifically, his own faction) above either the good of the Remain camp or of the UK generally. In all likelihood he believes that he can make profitable political hay out of either Brexit or No Brexit, and is mostly concerned with managing affairs in such a way as to cause maximum embarrassment to the Conservatives (and, to a lesser degree, the Liberal Democrats).

    Given these facts, if we really want to stop Brexit, we need somehow to get Corbyn and the Corbynistas on board. That hardly means capitulating to Corbyn’s demands! But it does mean understanding that an appeal to his idealism will hardly work; a much more effective strategy will be finding a way to convince him that whatever plan is agreed to among the Remain forces will ultimately provide political benefit to him and his faction, e.g., will position him most advantageously in a GE. It is quite possible that arguments can be made that the Labour Party will perform *better* in a GE if its leader is *not* in government, thus insulating them from the wrath of frustrated Leavers and giving them free rein to criticise any decisions made by the caretaker government. It should be possible to convince Mr Corbyn that agreeing to a non-Labour-led caretaker government of a few months is the best way for him to have a chance at five years in Downing Street; whereas being a short-term PM amid what will doubtless be storms of controversey will lose him the GE and leave him just an asterisk in the record books.

  • There is not a hope in hell of Corbyn getting into No 10, we are not going to see a Labour Prime minister for some very long time to come, and this is coming from someone who had voted Labour in every election bar 2.
    The only chance corbyn would have at no 10 is if the numbers where there to prop him up with a coalition government with the Libdems and considering the kind of vitrol we have been seeing from Jo Swinson and other leading members of the party, that’s a bit of a damp squib and a none starter, dont’ you think?

    I am afraid, even people like me, who have been life long labour voters and occasional LD voters, but passionately believe in brexit and leaving with or without a deal, will now hold our noses and Vote Boris, to get Brexit over the line.
    I suspect Boris to return to form a new government with either a small majority or the assistance of the DUP and some new Brexit Party MP’s.
    It will be a very strange day for me putting my mark in the box of a Tory, I am glad I have a postal paper and I dont have to walk in shame to the booth.
    But then when it is all finally done and dusted and Armageddon fails to raise it ugly heads, when our natural political friends stop vilifying us at every opportunity for our beliefs, hopefully we will all be able to come together and start getting on with some real politics and addressing the major issues that are affecting the people of our country, improving lives and standards and chances for all 🙂

  • “The EU Withdrawal act is clear repeal happens on ‘exit day’ not any specific date.”

    Only partly correct. The act defines ‘exit day’ as a specific date – see s.20

    This was 29th March but is now (thanks the the snappily titled The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 – para 2) Oct 31st. As often pointed out by David Alan Green the UK leaves on that day by operation of the law.

    LIke you I’ve no idea what Stephen Barclay has signed.

  • Jeremy Corbyn may or may not have a chance at becoming Prime Minister by winning a GE. (Though there have been any number of highly unlikely PMs; who in 1922, for instance, would have thought that Ramsay McDonald would have become Prime Minister just two years later?) However, even if he has no chance at all, that does not matter; the important thing is that he surely thinks that he does. He hardly got where he is without more than a healthy dose of ego.

  • Also, @matt:

    Let’s suppose that you and your friends on the far right who “passionately believe in Brexit” achieve your desired result. You can hardly sincerely believe that the thing will be “done and dusted.” Oh, we’ll certainly be “addressing the major issues that are affecting the people of our country”; but all of those “major issues” are going to be complications arising from Brexit because neither you nor your friends nor Boris Johnson have seriously thought through the implications. You’re just proceeding on blind faith or, as you put it so strangely, “passion,” ignoring the consequences in favour of a blind rush ahead. You cannot get shut of Brexit so easily.

    After a successful Brexit as well as before, the all-consuming subject of politics will continue to be Brexit. If you really want to get back to normal politics, the only way back is through abandoning this quixotic quest for a Europe-free Britain. Geography knows no politics. Regardless of referenda and campaign slogans, Britain is part of Europe, has always been part of Europe, and always will be part of Europe. The EU is simply a political realisation of that fact. Attempting to exit from something you’re a natural part of is a Sisyphean task (and therefore impossible). Should Brexit go through (and that does seem like the most probable outcome) in less than a decade the UK will be back in the EU again, because it is in our interest and it is in the other 27 countries’ interests as well.

    Given that, why waste time, political capital, and good will by leaving in the first place?

  • Geoffrey Dron 19th Aug '19 - 3:51am

    Rather than a GNU, maybe cooperation with the Gaukeward Squad will produce better results.

    A key focus for the Remainer Tory MPs is how to use legislation ostensibly linked to governing Northern Ireland as a way to pass legislation to stop the UK leaving the EU on Oct 31.

    Let’s see how things develop.

    I’m not committed to stopping Brexit. My approach is: 1) Brexit with a sensible FTA (not May’s WA) OK; 2) No deal Brexit with prior parliamentary sanction OK, 3) No deal Brexit by excluding Parliament from the process not OK.

    That said, I suspect we’re out on 31/10 and the question will be possible re-entry in a few years’ time but with EU now well down the federal path. I reckon that I wouldn’t be the only 2016 remain voter who’d have problems with this.

  • Andrew Tampion 19th Aug '19 - 6:42am

    The obvoius problem with a Government of National Unity to deal with the current impasse is the requirement that all shades of political opinion should be represented. However it is doubtful that those proposing such a government would invite leavers to join or that any leaver would accept.
    Geoffrey Dron makes the point that rejoin an EU that was well down the Federal route would be problematic. It seems to me that EU wil be well down the Federal route even if Brexit doesn’t happen which is one reason why those of us who oppose a Federal EU feel that Brexit is the lesser of two evils.

  • David Allen 18th Aug ’19 – 8:43pm………………….However, there are more than 20 Tory rebels who want to take legislative action to stop No Deal. If (or when) that action falls, they will have to decide if they truly want to stop No Deal. They can do that by supporting a GNU. Our task should be to find a GNU formulation they can support…………….

    But LibDems had that chance; GNU talks with Jeremy Corbyn. If, during those talks it became obvious that he couldn’t command enough support, THAT was the time for an alternative proposal. Shouting, “We won’t talk with Corbyn”, meant that there were no talks at all.
    BTW I note that Harriet Harman said she would back the Corbyn-led temporary government as a first option, but could be open to other possibilities if this did not garner enough support. It seems that Jo Swinson’s naming of HH was rather premature to say the least.

  • jayne mansfield 19th Aug '19 - 8:46am

    @ Matt,
    Many people thought that there was not a hope in hell of someone with the character of Boris Johnson, or ‘Boris’ as you call him had a cat in hell’s chance of getting into number 10, especially as Paul Dacre says, as the leader of the party of the family.

    I can understand why people have voted ‘Leave’. If over many years politicians had listened to them and shown the nous to accommodate and sort some of the reasons why they are so angry, we might not be in the crisis situation we are now in.

    I just don’t understand where you get your optimism that those who feel that they have been ignored for too long will find they have a saviour in the likes of Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and people of that ilk.

    Brexit, with or without a deal is not an end point but a start, and a start of something that I fear that the available evidence demonstrates, many who voted leave will come to regret.

    In the meantime, we have a bunch of MPs who would argue amongst themselves rather than form a united opposition to what you wish for our country, all of whom consider themselves to be the ‘grown ups’.

  • Lord Greaves scolds us for not roundly endorsing his concept of a GNU led by a unifying figure. The problem is that such would be angrily denounced as a RCG (a Remainer Coup Government). A total defeat of those who voted Leave is a guarantee of even more bitter dissention not reconciliation. We need bridge building, Lord Greaves. We need to heal our nation.

  • @Hard Rain – A total defeat of those who voted Leave is a guarantee of even more bitter dissention not reconciliation. We need bridge building, Lord Greaves. We need to heal our nation.
    It is going to take much more than bridge building… However, the obvious first step is to rescind our Art.50 notice and restore (as far as is now possible) the status quo and let things settle – giving time for ardent Brexiteers to calm down from their tantrums. Then and only then can we talk seriously about reconciliation and sensible framworks for resolving local problems, our future relationship with Europe and its political institutions. However, this won’t be a quick process, given how long Westminster has taken over the relatively simple WA.
    If however, the UK were to leave deal/no deal then there won’t time to do any reconciliation or bridge building; other matters will be more pressing…

    @Geoffrey Dron – My approach is: 1) Brexit with a sensible FTA (not May’s WA) OK
    You do realise that the WA is not a trade agreement, it is merely the agreement of the account that needs to be settled and the creation of a favorable environment in which FTA’s can be negotiated.

  • @David-1

    Why do you assume that i am on the far right just because i support brexit?

    Actually I am a left of centre voter who on the political compass has more in common with labour and LD.
    Just not on brexit.

    I have nothing in common with Boris Johnson, priti, or the Moggs of this world when it comes to the rest of their politics. I just happen to believe that the UK is best placed outside of the EU and the tories at this present time are a means to an end.
    After that is done I look forward to a Labour or Libdem Government as long as corbyn and the momentum crew are not at the helm of it and introducing the kind of fairer kinder politics that supports society as a whole.

    With regards to the EU, I happen to believe it is unlikely to be around in 10 years time unless they somehow get rid of Italy, who is going to bring it all crashing down.

    That is what I believe 100 % to the core and the reasons for my vote

  • Dilettante Eye 19th Aug '19 - 10:50am


    “However, the obvious first step is to rescind our Art.50 notice and restore (as far as is now possible) the status quo and let things settle – giving time for ardent Brexiteers to calm down from their tantrums.”

    With such a subtle sense of humour as that, you seriously deserve a spot on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe.

  • Rif Winfield 19th Aug '19 - 10:56am

    Dear Tony,
    Thanks for this. Your analysis is exactly correct, although I would add that many people have already been giving much consideration to how the proposals would operate. I think also that we need to consider the effect on the electorate when we take the proposed actions, and what the consequences would be in the general election that would follow, particularly as that it likely to result in a majority for angry Brexiteers.

    Best wishes,

  • Rif Winfield 19th Aug '19 - 11:01am

    To expand on previous comments:
    While the media have been consuming themselves as to who would be the interim Prime Minister in any putative interim government, there are other key roles to consider. Given the financial crisis which will not cease during this interim period, who fills the office of interim Chancellor will be as crucial as that of Prime Minister. And the offices of Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary will be almost as significant during this period. None of them (and perhaps some of the other Cabinet posts in an interim government) should be filled by MPs who plan to stand again at the general election, or who harbour other personal political ambitions. And all must agree to resign their individual parties’ whips during the interim period. Who are we going to get to do this?

    Given the fact that in the current Parliament, those whose votes will be needed to back the formation and continuance of this interim government will be overwhelmingly on the Labour benches, it is clearly going to need a current Labour member as interim PM to secure their allegiance. So clearly Ken Clarke is a non-starter, but certainly Harriet Harman (Jo’s other nominee) fits the bill. It might be possible (if he is willing and plans to stand down at the election) for Vince to fill the role of interim Chancellor, which should satisfy most Remainers of whatever party. The other key roles will obviously have to be negotiated, and this discussion is – I hope – already taking place in Westminster. Clearly at least one pro-Remain Tory will need to be given a significant role, and from the size of their HoC contingent alone, the SNP will need to be also given a role (and probably, the guarantee that they will be allowed to hold another referendum on independence). And what will be agreed in these talks about the policies and strategy of the putative interim government?

  • Rif Winfield 19th Aug '19 - 11:02am

    and to conclude my remarks:
    Whatever the result of all this (and obviously the very first – and very, very urgent – requirement for the interim government must be to ask for an extention for Article 50, on the grounds both of holding an immediate referendum (although “immediate” should be qualified on grounds of practicality) followed by a general election. If our desired outcome from the referendum is achieved, and Parliament then revokes Article 50, there are going to be millions of very disgrunted Leave supports – as you say. So we have to consider the likelyhood that, at that general election, while we can count on a substantial growth in the number of LibDem MPs, Labour on current expectations is likely to lose a substantial number of seats to either the Tories and/or to a resurgent Brexit Party. In fact, I’m pretty certain that this is what Farage is counting on. So the new Parliament will nprobably have an overal majority of hard-right Conservatives and Brexit Party MPs – all furious at being deprived of their dream. What are they going to do in those circumstances? And what do we do in anticipation of this?

  • @Matt: If Brexit goes through, it’s not the EU but the UK that will fail to survive the next decade.

    How am I supposed to take seriously arguments which, in the same breath, claim that the EU is on the verge of dissolution and that the EU is set to become a Federal Superstate?

    I did not suggest that you were personally right-wing; however, your primary political allies are, and leaving the European Union has been a pet project of the extreme right for decades, and its aim is to create a more nationalistic, a more xenophobic, and a more intolerant UK. The nature of this project is not something you can personally change by wishing it to be otherwise.

  • I’d like to apologise for my previous post.


    It’s far too generous to Tony Greaves.

    Corbyn made a simple, clear proposal – That a caretaker government should secure an A50 extension, remove the panic threat of No Deal Brexit, and then call an election (readily done by Parliamentary vote or failing that by the VONC mechanism, defeatable only if the Tories voted to keep the caretaker PM in power). All that could be done within a month, and so there would be no need for the caretaker government to decide anything else at all. It could be steady-as-she-goes on everything but Brexit.

    Greaves has put up a different proposal of his own, that the caretaker government should also organise a Brexit referendum before the election. That, he points out, would take a much longer time, and cause a host of practical difficulties and reasons for internal conflict within the caretaker government. But – Corbyn never made that proposal! Corbyn’s proposal was that a referendum would be held AFTER the election, if Labour won it, in which circumstance Labour would have plenty of time to organise it properly.

    Greaves has constructed a total straw man, simply in order to knock it down. Why? Would Greaves prefer No Deal Brexit to go ahead, if the alternative was to allow Jeremy Corbyn a role in saving Britain from that disaster?

  • David Allen 19th Aug '19 - 1:06pm


    An Article 50 extension would be very easy to obtain. The EU have explained that a Geeneral Election would be a suitable reason for allowing an extension. From their point of view, the Johnson Government is a nightmare. Anything that might replace it with a different Government would be welcome.

    But perhaps you meant to ask “are you sure that enough members of the anti-No Deal Brexit forces would vote for an A50 extension followed by an election”?

    Well, one might argue that Labour could be scared of an election. Clearly they aren’t. The Remain parties, who have a clear lead in the polls on the Brexit issue, should welcome an election, and can expect a massive vote. The only people who might have qualms are the Tory rebels, who would prefer to stop NDB by legislation. But sadly that is their very own unicorn, because (according to the Cabinet Secretary) Johnson can just ignore a negative parliamentary resolution which does not decide on a positive alternative course of action. When the Tory rebels realise this, they will have to decide whether they could accept an election. Because nothing else can stop NDB.

    But perhaps you meant to ask “what’s the point of a GE, if it just brings Johnson back”?

    OK, that’s the downside risk! However, we are being offered the choice of going over the cliff, or playing Russian roulette. If that is the choice, you must choose Russian roulette. Remember, Remain can trounce No Deal Brexit. The bookies currently have No Overall Majority as odds-on, Conservative Overall majority at around 7/4 against. Good odds I’d say!

  • David Evans 19th Aug '19 - 2:21pm

    David (Allen), but surely it is clear what Tony (Greaves) is proposing and why it has to be different from what Jeremy Corbyn proposes.

    Jeremy Corbyn has always been clear – he wants a Labour Brexit (i.e. a Corbyn Brexit) and to achieve this he needs to renegotiate the deal. Hence he needs a general election. As far as he is concerned, offering a referendum on his deal is a price worth paying. Especially as he will get to control the government campaign.

    Theresa May wanted a nice(ish) Tory Brexit (i.e. a Theresa May Brexit), a bit vicar’s daughter One Nationish, and her deal tried to deliver that. But she didn’t want to share it with others and didn’t look to find allies from the start.

    The ERG want an extreme Tory Brexit, devil take the hindmost, and those in the middle as well. This is why they need Boris Johnson in power so they can get their way while he plays at being King of the World.

    The Lib Dems want the British people to decide, so that one individual does not get their hands on the massive power of the government machine to drive their personal agenda. That is why the Referendum has to be decided by a GNU. Hence it has to be complicated.

    A quick FPTP general election will just deliver another person with all the power, as a Lib Dems we know that is what got us into this mess in the first place, and as the Lib Dems have learned (I hope) simply getting into government is the easy bit. It’s what you do when you are there that counts. Tony Greaves is just pointing out what it will take.

  • Roland,

    the obvious first step is to rescind our Art.50 notice and restore (as far as is now possible) the status quo and let things settle – giving time for ardent Brexiteers to calm down from their tantrums

    Your obvious first step and everything you suggest would not bridge bridges and would be a huge mistake. The only legitimate way to revoke Article 50 is with a referendum. If the people vote to stay in the EU then Brexiteers can campaign for another referendum to vote to leave. If Article 50 is revoked without a referendum then the Brexiteers will attack the nature of our system where referendums can just be ignored rather than overturned by another referendum.

    David Allen,

    Please can you provide a link to the advise from the Cabinet Secretary which you refer to in your 1.06 pm comment of today?

    Rif Winfield,

    I disagree, the cabinet of a Government of National Unity must include the current leaders of opposition parties in the House of Commons. I suggest the following:

    Caroline Lucas – Environment
    Ian Blackford – Scotland
    Liz Saville Roberts – Wales
    Anna Soubry – Trade and Business
    Heidi Allen – Work and Pensions

    Jeremy Corbyn – Deputy Prime Minister
    John McDonell – Chief Secretary to the Treasury
    Emily Thornberry – Foreign Affairs
    Keir Starmer – Brexit
    Tom Watson – Culture, Media & Sport
    Jon Ashworth – Health & Social Carer
    Andy McDonald – Transport
    Andrew Gwynne – Local Government
    John Healey – Housing
    Dawn Butler – Women & Equalities
    Tony Lloyd – Northern Ireland
    Nick Brown – Chief Whip

    Could Margaret Beckett be Leader of the House of Commons?

    Would Philip Hammond take on Defence?
    Would Dominic Grieve be Attorney General?
    Would David Guake take on Justice?
    Would Rory Steward take on International Development?

    Would Jo take on the Home Office?
    Could Vince be Chancellor of the Exchequer?
    Could Layla Moran get Education?

    With a non-Labour PM this would mean a split Cabinet 13/13.

  • Peter Watson 19th Aug '19 - 2:44pm

    @David Evans “The Lib Dems want the British people to decide”
    I think the party only wants the British people to decide to Remain. I don’t think the party will accept the British people deciding to proceed with any sort of Brexit!

  • Roland Postle 19th Aug '19 - 2:54pm

    “It might be judge better to have a post Brexit minority government with a fractious parliament than an unchecked majority right wing, doctrinaire, scorched earth Brexit government.”

    Indeed. The biggest danger here is not only No Deal but No Deal plus 5 years of Johnson ruling with a strong majority. I think it’s most likely to happen if a GE is held a few days after leaving with no deal, which is exactly what he’s been rumoured to be planning/hoping for. Once we’ve left he no longer has significant threat from Farage and Brexit Party splitting the vote, and at the same time only a few days in most of the negative consequences of ‘crashing out’ won’t have materialised.

    A botched vote of no confidence could trigger this scenario. However Johnson could also call an early an election at the optimal time for him and in all probability Corbyn wouldn’t be able to stop himself whipping Labour to support it. So really the only way to prevent it is to prevent no deal itself.

  • David Allen 19th Aug '19 - 2:58pm
  • David Allen 19th Aug '19 - 3:27pm

    David Evans,

    “Surely it is clear what Tony (Greaves) is proposing and why it has to be different from what Jeremy Corbyn proposes.”

    Well, Greaves wrote 1044 words about “interim government”, which was of course first proposed by Corbyn. Nowhere did Greaves explain that his concept was fundamentally different from Corbyn’s. The nearest he got was “People are saying it would just be to “call a People’s Vote” or new referendum. And then a General Election.” Quite why he didn’t properly clarify that his ideas were quite different from Corbyn’s one can only guess.

    “That is why the Referendum has to be decided by a GNU. Hence it has to be complicated. … Tony Greaves is just pointing out what it will take.”

    Well, you might say that. He is pointing out a list of formidable complexities. Paul Walter’s gloss was “Thank you to Tony for bringing us down to earth. The whole thing is a recipe for absolute chaos. As the song goes “Let’s call the whole thing off.” In a sense I think Paul Walter is right. But the complexities mainly disappear if you go back to the original Corbyn proposal (OK, ideally without Corbyn in charge of it!).

    Don’t misunderstand me, I agree that a referendum would be ideal. But we won’t get it from a GNU. We will only get it if an election takes place, with an A50 extension in place, Johnson forced to campaign for his NDB against Opposition parties who have shown they can work together, and an election result which denies Johnson a majority (an odds-on chance according to the bookies).

  • Peter Hirst 19th Aug '19 - 4:17pm

    Surely revocation or an extension are possible by a simple vote of the HOC. If not we might need a GNU following a vote of no confidence. I care less about who leads it than it avoids a no deal Brexit.

  • Dilettante Eye 19th Aug '19 - 5:07pm

    Michael BG

    Why keep up this daft pretence of a Government of National Unity, when it’s nothing of the sort?

    Which bit of the Government of National Unity can be classed as Unity, when your plan is to stuff it to the gills with remainers. No, I think your GNU would be more accurately categorised as an attempted Remainer coup.

  • nigel hunter 19th Aug '19 - 5:17pm

    Why not have a remainer coup after the mess that leavers have helped produce and the right wing coup that is going on..

  • John Peters 19th Aug '19 - 5:43pm

    @nigel hunter

    Boris has a mandate to leave the EU, with or without a withdrawal agreement.

    An ad hoc government formed from a remain supporting group of MPs has no mandate.

  • John Marriott 19th Aug '19 - 9:16pm

    Peter Watson is right. As Henry Ford famously said, his customers could have their Model T in any colour they liked “as long as it was black”. It’s a bit like that with the ‘People’s Vote’, isn’t it? If it really does happen do NOT assume that Remain would win this time round, especially if Article 50 is extended yet again. Why would the campaign be greatly different from last time? Remain could well start with a good lead again only to see it clawed back and even surpassed on polling day by the usual suspects.

    A ‘choice of three options’ preferential referendum might offer a more flexible approach than a straight binary choice. However, if the remainers continue to use the ‘more or less the same in ten years’ time’ approach then they are clearly missing a trick. If they really want to shake things up on both sides of the channel they should challenge the federalist direction of travel which is not set in tablets of stone. I reckon that they might find quite a few fellow travellers if they do. I’ll be honest with you. I’d much rather stay inside the tent, because I really do believe that life outside could be so much more difficult. The only federalism I really want is the one I believe we need on these islands.

  • Richard O'Neill 19th Aug '19 - 11:03pm

    Agree with John Marriott on this. A second referendum still doesn’t fill me with confidence remain will win. Looking at the Guardian and the Independent I think we are just going to have a retread of 2016. Scare stories and the intervention of business leaders, middle class celebrities and political grandees. It didn’t work last time, it won’t work this time

    For ages the remain camp has advocated a second referendum as if it were synonymous with remaining in the EU. But the public might go the other way again.

    Nonetheless there is no other democratic way to overturn Brexit. The only other alternative is to accept some form of soft Brexit.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 19th Aug '19 - 11:30pm

    Oh dear. an article that raises very many valid and interesting points I want to get a feel of what people are thinking but lost the will to read all the comments about 1/3 of the way through.
    However a quick skim does not get the the heart of the matter, which is exactly what would this GNU do ? to say nothing of how long it would last for ? would the GNU decide that after forming itself or would it be laid down in some sort of order ? I have a mental picture of some sort on extinct bird, a nice well meaning one, before it was such, flapping around rather helplessly and then getting eaten up by a bigger nasty bird with no principles except survival.
    Of course the whole point is to “stop brexit” one way or another and I leave that to constitutional experts, but down here on the ground ( and I know M’lud Greaves inhabits such too) there are massive issues not being addressed at all, and they are the very issues that caused so many to opt for “brexit” as soon as possible. they see no other way out of a life of helplessness, hopelessness, and just being plain ignored.
    We know that it is these very people who will be worse off with Brexit, but exactly what are Lib Dems and anyone else interested in the great GNU doing about it, or planning to do anything about it ?
    To say nothing of who or what does anything about the next budget, and all the other issues to be dealt with.
    What I would really like as an interim government that got an extension for Brexit for about 5 years, and in the meantime had an all party plan for the next 25 years to tackle the big issues not being dealt with. the climate crisis; funding the NHS; long term care plans; eradication of poverty; and most of all giving all those who need it most some hope and know they are listened to. Even, radical for a Lib Dem to say, given a real voice and some power.
    Now you could say that is living in cloud cuckoo land. It isn’t as cuckoos throw incumbents out of the nest, and it will have to be done differently.
    so who becomes extinct ? the rich and powerful – not likely. The planet as we know it, the poor, the ill and those with no hope – probably.

  • Thank you David Allen for the link, from there I have found the text of the letter from Sir Mark Sedwill (https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1165830/Brexit-news-Jeremy-Corbyn-Sir-Mark-Sedwill-letter-Boris-Johnson-no-deal-EU-labour ) and the relevant sentence seems to be, ‘The timing of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is a matter for the European Council under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty’ and Parliament …”

    It does not state that “Johnson can just ignore a negative parliamentary resolution”. However, I think that even if legislation is passed mandating the PM to ask for an extension to Article 50 Johnson is unlikely to comply.

    Dilettante Eye,

    A Government of National Unity is a phrase to differentiate this government from a simple coalition government. The list of my suggested Cabinet members includes members from most parties in the House of Commons and includes Remainers and Leavers. I don’t know the position of the Labour members, but of the Conservatives Philip Hammond, David Guake, and Rory Steward supported leaving with Theresa May’s deal. It just excludes hard-line Brexiteers.

    John Peters,

    It is questionable whether Theresa May had a mandate for anything after the 2017 general election. However, a Government of National Unity would need to seek a mandate. Jeremy Corbyn wants to do it by having a general election and others, including me, by having another referendum. There is no mandate for a no deal Brexit. During the referendum campaign the people were told getting a deal with the EU will be the easiest thing in the world because it would be in their best interest. The Conservative manifesto in 2017 promised to get a withdrawal agreement but didn’t actually say we would leave with no deal.

  • If a Government of National Unity can command a majority of the House of Commons, by definition they have a democratic mandate.

    They may well not represent a majority of the British electorate, but the only solution to that is to replace FPTP with a more representative system.

  • @MichaelBG
    Your National Unity government excludes, as you say, hard-line leavers. It is, however, stuffed with hard-line remainers which means it is the opposite of “Unity”.

  • Mick Taylor 20th Aug '19 - 9:27am

    What is being proposed is not a GNU but a GOAT(govt of all the talents) and the problem with goats is that they tend to turn and kick you when you least expect it. The only GOAT I can bring to mind was when Charles James Fox had his sole spell in government and that didn’t end well.
    We need to think more simply. That means revoking Article 50 and giving voters their say on this issue. Under FPTP this is problematic as with up to 4 parties with around 20% the result could be in a range from a huge Brexit majority to a Lib Dem overall majority and there’s no way of knowing. So unless a GNU or GOAT introduces PR then the whole project is filled with HUGE risk. In answer to Tony’s so far in answered question we should not be part of a GNU/GOAT but offer supply and confidence to include all moves to stop Brexit

  • Actually I think we need a Cobra

    Coalition of Brexit aresholes.

    Why you all think that it is acceptable to stuff us with a load of passive Gnu’s that are easy prey animals and pickings for the eu is beyond me and will not be acceptable to the electorate or a majority in parliament

  • Matt. As a prIze BA you reveal your total ignorance of the EU and how it works. Maybe you should actually find out the facts – especially about the veto – before you write anything else. Commenting about things that can’t happen is the hallmark of you and your fellow BAs.

  • @Mick

    I know exactly how it works thank you
    So why we would form a Government of EU europhilles who would bend over backwards for the EU is beyond me.
    That is why the brexit party does so well in the Euros as we do not wish to send a team to Brussels who will constantly sign us up to more EU and will not fight for british interests.

    All this talk of “unity” is a complete farce when all the posts that we are seeing are suggestion of stuffing a government with ardent remainers,
    even suggestions from some of just revoking article 50.

    You are not interested in forming a “unity” government at all, you are not interested in democracy, you just want to gerrymander what you can to stop Brexit.
    Even if the Libdems got their wish for another referendum which they have been banging on about and they got another election that returned more Libdem Mp’s and the referendum result was again to leave the EU, do you think for one moment that Liberal Democrats would respect the referendum result and pass the votes and legislation needed in parliament for us to leave?
    Absolutely not a chance in hell that they would, they would do the same as what they had been doing now and trying to block it at every opportunity.
    So why support a peoples vote in the first place?
    Why not just be honest and say we want to revoke article 50, that is what we will campaign for and that is what we will make a condition of entering into any government.

    Learn the lessons from 2010 no more lies and broken promises

  • Dilettante Eye 20th Aug '19 - 10:47am

    I learned a new word yesterday, it’s zugzwang. And it’s increasingly evident that hard core remainers whether they yet realise it or not, are in a state of zugzwang.

    Zugzwang is a term for a chess dilemma, whereby a player must make the next move, but already knows that that move cannot improve the situation, but only make it worse.

    As maddening as it must be for those hard core remainers who simply find Brexit (of any form), intolerable, a point of acceptance must surely arrive, not least for your own sanity.?

    Tis unfortunate for those who have no hope of Brexit acceptance, but all the cack-handed anti Brexit ‘chess moves’ being mulled over on these recent threads, are becoming little more than the equivalent of kicking over the chessboard in a desperate fit of remainer pique.

  • Matt,

    If there was another referendum and the Act set out what happened if the people voted to leave then it could be brought about by a regulation and it would not matter that the Lib Dems voted against it so long as a majority of MPs voted for it, which I think is likely. Then as we would have left, the Lib Dems could be part of a government to negotiate the trade arrangements and sort out the economy so it works for everyone and no one is left behind or feels left behind.

  • @Michael BG

    But Michael, it would matter how Liberal Democrats voted as it is a matter of trust and restoring faith in politics.
    You cannot tell me that the Liberal Democrats would not try their utmost hardest to find a way to block it, or frustrate it whatever…
    And to me that is disingenuous to be campaigning for something, if you would then not support the outcome of it.

    It would be far better to be open and frank and say, we do not believe brexit and we want to repeal article 50, that is what we are campaigning for and that would be a condition of us entering any form of Government.

  • David Allen 20th Aug '19 - 1:10pm

    To be fair, the phrase “Government of National Unity” is a bit of an overclaim, and can be pilloried as such. We need a better phrase, one which acknowledges that political opponents would be coming together in what they perceive to be the national interest and taking political risks in order to do so, but one which stops short of claiming that the whole nation is on board and that everyone agrees what the national interest entails.

    “Caretaker government” and “interim government” are clearly more honest and objective descriptions of what is proposed, and they do usefully convey that the arrangement must be temporary. That would not be possible if the new government were to take on the responsibility of organising a referendum. There would be bitter wrangling over the question on the ballot paper, two-way versus three-way referenda etcetera, and the process would take 6-12 months. During this time, a loose coalition would be faced with decisions it was not set up to take, such as how to prevent a run on sterling, whether to bomb Syria, or whether to accept Trump’s cash off for Shetland. It would fall apart. The original concept, that the government would get an A50 extension, get rid of the imminent threat of a disastrous No Deal Brexit, and then dissolve itself, is the only practicable option.

    And the name? What about “Disaster Rescue Government”?

  • David Allen 20th Aug '19 - 1:11pm

    I meant “cash offer for Shetland”.

  • Paul Barker 20th Aug '19 - 1:37pm

    We seem to have got a bit lost here, I would like to make a series of short points :
    1. The Libdems are an overwhelmingly Pro-EU organisation, those commenters arguing for Brexit are simply wasting their & our time.
    2 Our MPs are trying to find a way to stop Britain crashing out of The EU, any Temporary Administration is just one possible way out.
    3. Any Government made up of MPs opposed to a No-Deal Brexit is likely to be very short lived, thus –
    4. Such a Government cannot organise a Referendum, there simply not enough time or agreement.
    5. And therefore asking for an Extension to hold a Referendum is pointless.
    6. The Temporary Administration has only one Real option, call an Election for before the Exit Date.
    7. Any Referendum can’t be held before next Summer at the earliest.
    8. No-one has any idea how The Election will turn out & any Result will not have much Democratic Legitimacy.
    9. In June 2016 Britain declared War on itself, any Post-Brexit Unity is a long way off.

  • David Allen. It may have escaped your notice, but the Liberal Democrats are currently defending a Holyrood msp seat in Shetland in a by-election. Are you suggesting Shetland should amalgamate with Greenland ?

  • @Michael BG – “Your obvious first step and everything you suggest would not bridge bridges and would be a huge mistake.”
    The trouble is, neither will actually delivering Brexit.

    Whilst ardent Brexiteers – away in their emotional alternative reality – think everything will be okay, having blinded themselves to the full ramifications of no deal Brexit, because their emotional thinking stops at “at least we’ll be out”. Post-Brexit, as Mogg and others have either admitted or alluded to, life won’t be easy for many decades, so effectively we can expect post-Brexit the crowd to turn on the rabblerousers and it become open season on Brexiteers; yes, we might be out but no one will be in any rational state of mind to build bridges. Plus as just the WA has fully consumed the UK government for the past 3 years, I fully expect post-Brexit governments to be fully consumed sorting out the mess of Brexit; whether it be the total chaos of no deal, or the frantic negotiation of trade deals etc. before we leave the Single Market.

    So the first sensible step really can only be one that does the least amount of further damage to the country and leaves all options on the table. However, how this is achieved will be important, hence why it really has to be a Conservative (since they created the current mess) and ideally a Brexiteer who actually withdraws our Art.50 notice. Because, what is clear withdrawing our Art.50 notice needs to be seen as a rational move and not as a remain victory. This shouldn’t be too difficult, given many Brexiteers believe the EU will collapse within the coming decade.

  • This won’t be seen by the average citizen as a GN “U”, but as a GN ” O” .
    Government in Name Only
    For Paul Barker, some voices here are not Brexiteers, ( I voted Remain), but what we are calling for is a compromise way out. Those Reamainers who call for the complete repudiation of 17 million voters and their unconditional surrender are not solving any problem at all but are slashing ever more angrily at an already gaping wound.
    The only response I got from previous such calls was a declaration that reconciliation could only begin when the Brexiteers had stopped throwing tantrums. Please will some sensible people emerge who will meet halfway.

  • @Paul Barker
    Would agree with all your points.
    IMO the GNU is fraught with problems in construction and legitimacy. It is dangerous to pin any hopes on it.
    Priority has to be to find a parliamentary way of stopping ‘no deal’ as of 31st Oct.
    If it comes to a vote of no confidence we are into constitutionally murky ground. The FTPA is silent on what happens in the 14 day period between confidence votes, The act talks only in terms of ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ and there would have to be a change of this, through some sort of action via or by the monarch, within the 14 day period, for an alternative government to be appointed. Convention has been for any government losing a vote of no confidence to offer it’s resignation but the fact that the act anticipates a further parliamentary process would seem to supersede this convention. In fact the act tends to assume that the end of a government is automatically a GE. BJ does not have to resign and could just procrastinate with measures to restore confidence and wait for the second vote to trigger a GE, set for after 31st Oct. If it comes to the point of a no confidence vote the strongest constitutional way forward is to accept JC’s offer. At that point we have to hope that enough Tories will be willing to sit on their hands as I can’t see them supporting a Labour government. He would then have to approach the Queen, with a view to forming a new government. This in turn would mean that the Queen would have to dismiss BJ. ‘One would not be amused’
    The strange thing is that I can’t see BJ going to the country against a background of chaos at the ports and the pound in free fall (1st Nov would be his best bet, but that’s a Friday?). Therefore I think we also need to be prepared for a GE before 31st Oct. Fasten your seat belts.

  • David Allen 20th Aug '19 - 4:13pm

    David Raw – I trust you will have recognised that my tongue was firmly entrapped in my cheek when I postulated selling off Shetland to the Donald. That said, you never know with the Donald. At least he had the decency to offer money for Greenland. Whereas with the UK, he’s just a vulture waiting for Brexit to kill us off before he pounces and gobbles.

  • David Allen 20th Aug '19 - 4:40pm


    “IMO the GNU is fraught with problems … Priority has to be to find a parliamentary way of stopping ‘no deal’ ”

    The problem is that the parliamentary legislative route is at least as seriously fraught with problems. Parliament cannot bind the government to act on a purely negative resolution (“don’t do No Deal”), because Government can legitimately respond “So what the heck should we do, you haven’t made a decision. We could sign May’s Deal but we don’t want to, we could revoke A50 but we don’t want to, we could ask for an extension but we don’t want to. The constitutional experts tell us that, since you lot haven’t made a positive decision, we are entitled to ignore you and do what we want to do.”

    The only Parliamentary route that would probably work, in my opinion, would be to belatedly approve the Barnier/May Deal. That, as a positive and clear decision, would or should be binding. Though Johnson would no doubt throw all his toys out of the pram. It might be necessary to VONC him and replace him with Rory Stewart!

    And would it be worthwhile? Well, it would avert the cataclysm of No Deal Brexit, it would establish continued frictionless trade with Europe, it would put paid to a flood of chlorinated chicken. But it would embed the UK, for the long term, in a customs union which we could not control. Turkey has agreed something similar, because Turkey as a supplicant to the EU from outside has had to accept that inferior terms are better than no terms at all. We would be in a similar position. We could expect trading regulations etc to gradually change in our disfavour. Every time such a shift happened, Eurosceptic forces would shout about unfinished business and vow to renege on the Deal. In the long term, it would not last.

    We can’t rely on the parliamentary route. We should try to make GNU (or as I had it, “DRG”) work.

  • @David Allen
    Just as an Idea.
    It could repeal the Fixed Term Parliament act.

  • David Allen 20th Aug '19 - 6:38pm

    @P.J. – Yes, the FTPA deserves to go. But right now, handing back control to a rogue PM, who could take “gaming” his free choice of election date to a whole new level, might be a risk to be avoided.

    To digress – What I’d (ideally) put in place of FTPA is GE by National Lottery. It works like this. Camelot build a special machine, which starts by containing 48 balls. One ball says “Election now!” And the other 47 balls are blank.

    For the first 12 months, Camelot do not run the machine. From then onwards, Camelot draw one ball each month, and do not replace it – Until the “Election” ball comes out. Then, rules kick in to organise a GE as soon as practicable. After the GE, the electoral lottery starts afresh.

    That would, on average, deliver an election every three years. But as the PM would have no way of predicting when it would happen, we would see an end to both “pre-election giveaway budgets”, and also to the “we can do what we like, we’ve got ages before we face re-election” mentality.

    Just a thought!

  • following on from my comment at 10.23am this morning

    I really would be interested to hear an honest answer from LD’s

    If Liberal Democrats were successful in winning a vote of no confidence against Boris and were able to form a unity Government and that Government secured an extension to article 50 in order to hold a second referendum.
    Parliament legislated for that referendum and then dissolved in order to hold a General Election as proposed.
    If Liberal Democrats happen to win that General Election and return us with Liberal Democrat Majority or even as the largest party in a coalition with a Liberal Democrat Prime Minister.
    If the following referendum then returned a result of either leave the EU without a deal or with the Current TM Deal. Would a Liberal Democrat led government and Prime Minister then respect the vote and sign the papers to take us out of the EU?

    I am curious as to what a Liberal Democrat Government and Prime Minister would do in these circumstances, since they are against brexit at all costs????

  • Yeovil Yokel 20th Aug '19 - 7:58pm

    matt – that’s an awful lot of “If’s”.
    But let’s say a Lib Dem government was formed after a General Election, having consistently campaigned against Brexit for several years: then you could safely assume that a majority of the British electorate had decided that they were opposed to Brexit as well – this would probably be confirmed in a post-GE referendum, and then we could all breathe a huge sigh of relief and get on with our lives.

  • @Yeovil Yokel

    “then you could safely assume that a majority of the British electorate had decided that they were opposed to Brexit as well – this would probably be confirmed in a post-GE referendum,”

    No you cannot assume that at all.
    With the 3 main parties all polling in the high 20’s you cannot assume that the electorate were opposed to brexit, you can take from the results that the country was still divided.
    If that was the logic we were going to take then 2017 election returned another Tory Government whose mandate said that we would be leaving the EU and we should have got on with it.
    You dodged my question all the same.
    The question was
    If the General Election resulted in a Liberal Democrat Prime Minister
    and the following Referendum returned a Vote to Leave either with the deal or without a deal.
    What would the Liberal Democrat Government / Prime Minister do?

    I think it is a fair enough question considering what the Liberal Democrats are proposing with this Unity Government / 2nd Referendum / New General Election

  • Geoffrey Dron 20th Aug '19 - 8:58pm

    This GNU has no legs


    Send for the vet to put it out of its misery?

    Amending NI-related legislation, as I said above, offers best chance of avoiding no deal, but it’s a slim one.

  • Yeovil Yokel 20th Aug '19 - 9:18pm

    matt – “The question was: ‘if the General Election resulted in a Liberal Democratic Prime Minister and the following Referendum returned a Vote to Leave either with the deal or without a deal….’ ”
    Well, the two notions in your hypothetical scenario are incompatible. We’re talking about the Lib Dems winning a GE more than 3 years after the Referendum, not the Tories forming a minority administration 1 year after the Referendum.
    But if the first happened we could look forward to 20+ years of peace, prosperity, progress, and environmental protection; and since the second wouldn’t logically follow on from the first then I’d be doubly delighted. Really, matt, ask a silly question………
    And that’s my honest answer.

  • @Yeovil Yokel

    No it is not a silly question at all.

    In your first response you said
    “But let’s say a Lib Dem government was formed after a General Election, having consistently campaigned against Brexit for several years: then you could safely assume that a majority of the British electorate had decided that they were opposed to Brexit as well ”
    A party getting a majority of the seats in parliament does not necessarily mean that they got the Majority of the UK vote, isnt that the whole reason that Liberal Democrats keep carrying on about wanting to change to STV? Complaining about Governments winning elections on 30+% of the vote??
    So you could not argue as you say that because the Liberal Democrats won the election, you could now assume the country was against Brexit.

    It is for this reason that I am asking my very valid questions to the party.
    LD,s are calling for this VONC, National Unity government, 2nd referendums and General Elections.
    But I want to know what LD’s would do if they got all these things, found themselves actually heading the government with a Liberal Democrat Prime Minister and yet a Referendum result which still resulted in the majority of people wanting to leave.

    Given the circumstances that the Liberal Democrats are calling for these new Votes, it is only proper that they set out what they would do if they actually found themselves in Government.

  • Matt,

    I think it is fine to campaign for a general election and if it is lost to oppose the policies in the new government’s manifesto.

    I think we have been clear – we oppose Brexit even a soft Brexit and wish to stay in the EU. We want a referendum as the only legitimate way to overturn the referendum vote to leave so we can stay in the EU.

    I thought I had answered your question. If the Referendum Act did not set out what would happen if the people voted to leave as legislation which could just be brought into law by a government regulation but would need the government to get acts though Parliament I can’t see how we could be in the government. If you think we achieved a majority in the House of Commons in the general election following a referendum which voted to leave then the situation would be different and I think we would neither leave or revoke Article 50 but would ask for more extensions.


    You didn’t make it clear that you want a Conservative Brexiteer to revoke Article 50 without a referendum where the people vote to stay. I just don’t think it is realistic.

    Geoffrey Dron

    That is quite an interesting poll. I wonder if the figures for cross-party government would be better if it was to hold a referendum rather than a general election. Ken Clarke has the most support as PM!

    I believe that Boris Johnson would ignore legislation to mandate him to ask for an Article 50 extension.

  • @Michael BG

    The reason the question was important to me is because…..

    Overall, I would consider my politics to be more inline with Liberal Democrat / Labour, more Liberal Democrats these days. Apart from on Brexit.

    As a rule, I would not normally vote in a General Election and be persuaded on just one particular policy, I would way up all the policies before making my overall selection. However, on this occasion Brexit is important to me as I feel it is imperative that the UK leaves. So I find myself in this odd position where I feel as though I need to hold my nose and vote Tory on this occasion.

    You have confirmed what I feared. Should Liberal Democrats and other arch remainers get their wish for a Vote of No confidence, which then gets an extension for article 50, Legislates for another referendum, then immediately calls a new general election.
    Should that General Election be called BEFORE the referendum and Liberal Democrats by some stroke of miracle found themselves in Government as the largest party and leading a coalition government, then the following referendum result returned another result to LEAVE the EU. The Liberal Democrats would not honour the result and they would seek to block it somehow, or continuously seek extensions to keep us in.

    To me that is completely dishonest and shows that the Liberal Democrats and other remainers should not be calling for a 2nd referendum when they blatantly would still not accept the result and find anyway possible to block it from happening, should they find themselves in a position of power.

    If it is Liberal Democrat position that they will block Brexit at all costs, then the parties position should be for demanding and campaigning for revocation not a 2nd referendum.
    It is for that reason why I and so many others would not support this unity government and if there was a vote of no confidence that brought forward another GE, will find ourselves in the odd position of holding and noses and voting a tory for the first time in our lives

  • Matt,

    I don’t speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrats I was expressing my view of what has been said and not said. I have made my own position clear, that I think it is legitimate for those who oppose the result of a referendum to do everything in their power to fight the result being implemented while recognising that it is legitimate for it to be implemented and that for it not to be implemented the referendum result has to be overturned in another referendum.

    I do not understand why anyone would vote for us to leave the EU as it will make us worse off economically for some time afterwards. Perhaps if I lived elsewhere in the UK I would have a more negative view of the United Kingdom and feel that it would be better for my region to be separated economically and legally from the UK. I remember listening to Chris Huhne years ago make the case for the UK to join the Euro and I thought about the case for Yorkshire to have its own currency.

  • @Matt – The problem is that as Brexit has been allowed to wander it’s merry course, doing anything other than sitting dazzled in the incoming headlights is increasingly unrealistic. Revoking Art.50 is an act of “taking back control”, whereas Boris going cap-in-hand to the EU and asking for another extension as he is likely to do…
    The problem is that the ardent Brexiteers have wound themselves up to the point that anything that isn’t directly leave will be taken as some form of ‘remoaner’ victory rather than the application of commonsense and acting in the interests of ALL. However, I also get the problems with an out-and-out remainer victory with where we are now.

    I’ve always maintained that remaining in the EU is the best way to actually leave the EU as it is currently constituted. The laugh is, that if we had voted remain, we would be at the EU 2019 conference that was agreeing the direction of travel for the coming decade…

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