Lord William Wallace writes…Heading towards a real crisis?

When I first read a commentator in a serious newspaper saying, in the early summer, that the UK was heading towards a potential political and constitutional crisis, of the sort that we have not faced for a century, I thought that was an exaggeration.  Now I’m not so sure.  In the course of the next few weeks, if the Prime Minister’s attempts to achieve a deal to leave the EU which will at once satisfy enough members of her party, appeal to a number of Labour MPs as well, keep the DUP on board, and not provoke a run on the pound and a slump in business confidence, collapse, with less than six months to go before the UK is due to leave, British politics – and the British economy – will be in unknown territory.

The atmosphere in Westminster is surreal.  I ran into two senior Conservatives with whom I have worked this week, both of whom remarked bitterly to me about the behaviour of colleagues within their own party.  Confusion, bitter rivalries, and for some despair, grip many MPs within the Labour Party as well.  Neither House is busy; legislation is thin, while we all wait for the government to send us the weight of bills and statutory instruments needed to arrive at an orderly transition at the end of March.  It’s now almost too late to manage that without emergency sessions and extended sittings.  Even the  trade bill, which has been through the Commons and had its second reading in the Lords, is now stalled until some clarity emerges on what sort of future relationship it needs to cover.  And behind that stretches a succession of bills and statutory instruments, promised for last Spring and postponed by the government’s own failure to agree.

The government statement on Tuesday, as Parliament returned, talked of a possible ‘delay between the end of the implementation period and the entry into force of the treaty on our future relationship.’  That suggests that the current uncertainty, which is leading banks and companies to start moving investment and staff out of Britain, could lead after the 21-month transition period, to a void without an agreed framework. Most trade experts say that it will take 3-5 years to negotiate a treaty which will then require ratification by 27 EU states as well as the UK.  The battle within the Conservatives about whether any ‘temporary’ arrangements should be strictly time-limited is about what happens in 2021, with the ideologues determined that we drop out of current arrangements then, and the pragmatists within the government (yes, there are still a few) recognising that our economy – and our security and foreign policy – need certainty about some continuing framework.

Meanwhile, panic preparations are underway to prepare for a ‘No Deal’ outcome, which begins to look quite possible.  You will have heard of the start of work on lorry parks stretching back for Dover – for up to 10,000 lorries, potentially tying up a significant part of the freight transport fleet.  Stories from Whitehall say that officials are being pulled out of their regular duties into emergency teams to prepare for a No Deal scenario.  Across the water, the DUP is threatening to bring down the government, while the SNP is preparing to campaign for a second independence referendum if the UK crashes out of the EU – which they would probably win. The possibility that the UK might break up, with Northern Ireland opinion moving towards favouring unification with Dublin and Scotland going it alone, looks real.

Liberal Democrats have very little purchase on this drama, being played out within the Conservative Party, also within Labour, while we are sidelined as the fourth party within Parliament.  But we should be actively intervening however and whenever we can.  We’ve reached this pointed because the Conservative Government triggered Article 50 without any agreed plan for how we would leave or what our future relationship would be.  The Prime Minister has survived by putting off many of the most difficult choices, while giving in to hard Brexiteers/English nationalists on her back-benches.  The Labour leadership’s silence on this fundamental issue facing Britain has allowed the government to drift on.  The UK COULD have achieved a well-managed exit, if we had opted for the Norwegian model of the European Economic Area; but the hard-liners vetoed that, and it’s now almost too late to rescue a satisfactory deal.  This is not just the wrong outcome; it’s the outcome of deep incompetence, weak leadership of both major parties, and prejudice and disregard for evidence on both sides.  Tell your MP that, whatever her party; phone in to your local radio, write to the paper, tweet as much as you can.  This is not just an outcome that could well be a historic disaster for England, and for the UK as a whole; it’s a disaster which ought to sink the Conservative Party for a generation, and shake the Labour Party to its core.

I’m torn. I want to stop Brexit.  But I fear that a disastrous ill-managed Brexit would do immense damage to our economy, society, and political life, so half-hope that some patched up deal might save us from that. I hope I’m exaggerating, in my turn – but I worry that my fears might come true.

* William Wallace is Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional issues in the Lords.

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  • John Marriott 14th Oct '18 - 9:15am

    Stopping Brexit completely would mean that the wounds it has already influcted would not heal for a generation, if at all. Lord Wallace is right. It really is up to the Tories and Labour to sort things out. Any further attempt to crash the party would smack of opportunism at best and cynicism at worst.

    As I said in another post, with a country still more or less equally divided, nobody is likely to get all of their cake and be able to eat it. A black and white solution to a black and white question is how dictatorships function, but not so called democracies.

    Next month’s summit, and possibly an extra one in December or in the early New Year, should give us a far better idea how things are panning out. As the Germans might say, given how much they depend on a functioning EU; “Abwarten und Tee trinken”.

  • Christopher Curtis 14th Oct '18 - 9:17am

    This summed up my feelings exactly.
    I’m a committed remainer and always will be, but I find myself hoping that if the peoples’ vote can’t be won, there might be some kind of cobbled together fudge to avoid the worst consequences of the repeated, shameful manipulations within the Conservative and Labour parties.
    It is tragic to see small, unrepresentative groups (including the shrinking Conservative membership) hold all of the rest of us to ransom while playing their power games with real lives. It’s a breakdown of democracy: the abandonment of consensus, inclusivity and compromise. It started with Thatcher and is coming home to roost now.
    I don’t like the language of moderation and centrism, but maybe we should continue to emphasise (in the face of political insanity) that we are the party of reason, open discussion, inclusive debate, building consensus, compromise and sustainable decisions that work for the interests of the whole country.

  • “Stopping Brexit completely would mean that the wounds it has already influcted would not heal for a generation, if at all.”

    And not stopping Brexit will cause worse wounds for longer.

    If we fail to stop Brexit we will all be preoccupied dealing with the immense damage that will be done to our economy and our society with masively decreased income and massively decreased goodwill from the rest of the world.

    If we do stop Brexit, we will then have the time and the energy to say, “OK, now let’s fix what’s wrong with this country”.

  • Peter Watson 14th Oct '18 - 10:20am

    @Rob Parsons “If we do stop Brexit, we will then have the time and the energy to say, “OK, now let’s fix what’s wrong with this country”.”
    Sadly, if Brexit is stopped then we’re simply back to where we were a couple of years ago (though perhaps even more polarised) with no political party looking any more likely to “fix what’s wrong with this country” than they ever did.
    What was and is needed is a message that gives positive reasons to support remaining in the EU and ideas which address the concerns of those who believe Brexit might change their lives for the better.

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '18 - 10:32am

    @Rob Parsons
    So, it’s man the barricades, then? Talking to friends (and they are still friends) and relatives, who voted to leave the EU, it is pretty clear that, given another opportunity, they would still vote to leave. It’s a bit like Trump supporters still backing their ‘Leader’ regardless of all the adverse publicity. You just cannot airbrush the vote two years ago out of history. It happened and it was democratic, even if the question put had more holes in it than a colander.

    I have long supported the economic argument to remain, and I still do. However, if it is impossible to convince a clear majority that it’s the right one – and by that I mean remain support being over 60% at least and holding firm – we are back to the sentence of mine that you quoted at the start of your post. By the way, that verb should, of course, have been “inflicted”.

  • It’s hard to see a good way ahead. Brexit going ahead with no deal or only a temporary customs union will damage the economy and studies seem to indicate that the lower paid would suffer most. Extreme Brexiters have talked about removing employment rights (see today’s Observer). Stopping Brexit could lead to a surge in right wing support and unrest on the streets. The Express and Mail would have a field day! The whole government exercise so far has been against a background of party management and it probably is within the Conservative party that things will be settled one way or another.

    Nevertheless, I intend to be at the Peoples Vote march as I think only another referendum could sort things out, albeit still with a major reaction from leavers if remain won. The upside is that the Tories would probably fall apart.

  • “Liberal Democrats have very little purchase on this drama, being played out within the Conservative Party, also within Labour, while we are sidelined as the fourth party within Parliament.”

    You do the LibDems a great disservice Lord Wallace, in the event the political class achieve their aim to undermine and reverse the democratic decision of the majority, in the biggest national vote ever in this country, then I have no doubt the party will receive its just reward at the ballot box at the next GE, whenever that may be.

    Your party will pay a political price , and no early attempt such as this to try and minimise your role will allow you to escape, I mean who could forget the attempts by the unelected LibDem ‘noble’ Lords to scuttle the decisions of the elected house.

    As ye sow, so shall you reap.

  • We are in a crisis now. The reality is that there is a fair amount of work which should have been done to leave the European Union. The work has been done by civil servants. The same work has been done by the European Parliament and by the Commission. The whole issue could have been settled months ago.
    However we have a weak and ineffectual government. No one will face up to the reality of the decisions which need to be made, and in fact have been made. Unless we face that major problems are caused by our electoral system, until we face up to the need to control the media, in short until we enter the twentieth century things will continue to get worse. The twenty first century is I am afraid beyond us.

  • Tom,
    Facing the fact that are issues are down to us, rather than blaming some one else seems to be beyond us as a society. Perhaps Brexit will finally make us face our place in the world and the need to reform our society, poltical class and economy. I fear however no matter how bad it gets twill always be someone else’s fault, I mean our present state is the fault of the EU and not our failing poltical and managerial class, just ask the brave Brexiteers they will tell you it is so, without the EU they would have bounded ahead; unlikely as they can’t even organise a march or win a vote with out American and Russian help.

  • Peter Martin 14th Oct '18 - 12:13pm

    When I saw the title I thought, for just a moment, that perhaps at least one Lib Dem had woken up to the trouble was brewing in Italy. But, perhaps surprisingly for the most pro-EU of all UK parties, the article was just another addition to the long list of Brexit articles. What happens over the channel doesn’t seem to arouse much interest.

    The EU’s problem with the common currency and deficit countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal etc is much more serious than anything the UK has to cope with. Even previously successful countries like Finland are having big trouble adjusting their economy to the euro. The problem is that the EU is trying to achieve the impossible.

    In any currency union we can see that money will always gravitate to already wealthy areas. The poorer regions will end up in debt and recession and the coffers of the wealthy areas will overflow with unspendable surpluses.

    You can’t get around this by devising a rule to say that this shouldn’t happen. You may as well have a rule saying that water should flow up hill.

    Larry Elliot is one of the few to have the right take on the looming problem of Italian and other eurozone debt. As he says:

    ” The risk is not that one country will jump out of the burning building but that the building will eventually collapse with everybody in it.”


  • Rob Parsons 14th Oct '18 - 1:15pm

    John Marriott: I think “influcted” has a nice ring to it, actually 🙂

    I agree we cannot just airbrush the 2016 vote out of history. And I agree a lot of Leave voters are determined to uphold their vote. But a lot are not, and the opinion polls this year have consistently shown majorities to remain. I have no problems about the margin. If a less than 4% margin was sufficient to take us out then a less than 4% margin will be sufficient to keep us in.

    Whichever side wins, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people. Leave winning will hurt a lot more people than remain winning, and I’d much prefer it if leave voters were the unhappy ones. There is no perfect answer to this quandary, but stayng in is far the best of the available ones.

    Peter Watson: it would be easy for us to be back where we were two years ago, but a lot of people have learned a lot in that time. No, I don’t expect either Tories or Labour to change much – they each still have too many interests vested in the status quo. But we can still fight for what we belive in and what is needed – moving investment and prosperity northwards and westwards, fixing the land and housing markets, making sure that everyone pays their taxes, fixing the rotten way people are represented in our political system. And that’s just for starters.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Oct '18 - 1:51pm

    Lord Wallace talks sense. The main problem though, is , in leaving it , no pun intended, to other parties, this one is too oriented to stopping the whole thing , so much so, that any notion of doing the best deal is not forthcoming from spokespeople , nearly enough from any parties.

    Peter Martin is correct, this party does not, and never did, a strong critique of the EU or neighbours. On EU policy , on French intransigence over refugees or migrants, at the borders, on the wave of national feeling, liberal oriented Europeans are not offering much other than, status quo.

  • Constitutional crises concern a problem or conflict in the function of a government that the political constitution or other fundamental governing law is perceived to be unable to resolve.
    The Brexit conundrum has parallels with the Asquith government and the People’s budget of 1909. Following the defeat of the budget in the Lords, Asquith called an immediate general election declaring that “the will of the people…must within the lifetime of a single Parliament, be made effective”.

    The verdict of the election, however, was inconclusive. The Conservatives made substantial gains and the Liberals depended on the support of Labour and Irish Nationalist MPs (eager to see Irish home rule) to continue in government. The Lords, meanwhile, took the view that the Budget now had a popular mandate and passed it in April 1910.

    Almost immediately the Government introduced its Parliament Bill, and held a second general election. The election in December 1910, however, resulted in little change, with the Liberals and Conservatives both winning 272 seats. The Liberal government continued with Irish Party support (based upon a committment to Home Rule for Ireland) until the formation of a national government when WW1 broke out.

    There are probably only two options ahead – the kind of patched-up deal that Lord Wallace refers to that would probably require Libdems replacing the DUP in a supply and confidence agreement with the Conservatives or a binary in/out People’s Vote.

  • chris moore 14th Oct '18 - 2:43pm

    Hi Jack,

    It’s great that you’ve made a living and fortune on the property and stock markets.

    But how is that relevant to Brexit? Why are you telling us?

    I’d be far more interested in some cogent remarks as to what benefits you think leaving the EU will bring.

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '18 - 4:54pm

    @Jack Graham
    Your excoriation of the hapless ‘frankie’ says more about you than him. I have to say that his riposte is one with which I can’t help but agree. However, and sorry if this comment is also strictly off piste from the current argument, while your money making activities are in no way illegal and laudable in some circles in their opportunism and have indeed helped augment many a state or even occupational pension over recent years, they symbolise in many ways what is basically wrong with the British economy.

    The reason that owning and/or sometimes renting multiple or even single properties since the 1970s has been seen as almost a licence to print money is because successive governments have abjectly failed to build or to encourage the building of sufficient homes to meet demand.

    As ‘jack moore’ has said, if you are going to base your philosophy of life and, indeed, our national future post Brexit, on the kind of exploitation you describe, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '18 - 6:22pm

    Thanks for your support, David. Sorry, CHRIS Moore, I’m getting confused again.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Oct '18 - 8:59pm

    Lots of so-called experts (usually right wing US economists) have been predicting the failure of the Euro since it started. I remember clearly attending a session or two at an ASSA conference in San Francisco, where the thesis of imminent collapse was enthusiastically pushed. That’s over 10 years ago and the Euro is now a much safer currency than the pound and now runs along with the dollar as a reserve currency. No-one would ever claim that there aren’t problems in the EU or that the Euro comes without conditions, but those predicting its imminent fall have been wrong so far and I see no reason to think that they might be right in the future.

  • Philip Knowles 15th Oct '18 - 8:20am

    @Jack Graham
    The role of the House of Lords is a reviewing one. It cannot ‘over turn the decisions of the elected House’. What it can, should and must do is ask the elected house to think again.
    When the elected house is trying to do the impossible – and Theresa May’s red lines are impossible – it is the job of the HoL to say think again, That should have prompted the HoC to think again but they, of course, driven by self-interest carried on.
    WTO rules will enforce a hard border in Ireland because WTO rules say there must be. A deal with the EU which allows goods (and people) to move freely between Eire and Northern Ireland but not into the rest of the UK means that there must be a border between NI and GB because the EU must protect its border integrity because WTO rules say they must do.The only other option won’t happen because Jacob Rees-Mogg doesn’t want it to happen.
    The House of Commons voting for the impossible doesn’t make the impossible possible. The Lords gave them an opportunity to see sense. They refused.

  • Bill le Breton 15th Oct '18 - 9:29am


    > we should be actively intervening however and whenever we can.
    agreed – but we haven’t.

    > the Conservative Government triggered Article 50
    did we vote and campaign against triggering A50?

    > The UK COULD have achieved a well-managed exit, if we had opted for the Norwegian model of the European Economic Area
    Agreed, but have we ever acted inside Westminister or outside (dual approach) to campaign for EFTA/EEA?

    What are we doing to make the Transitional Agreement the best it can be – do we have an outline of such an Agreement that we would support?

    Actually all our eggs have been in the Exit to Brexit camp. Such a policy of protest may turn out to be wise. However the price of this is that we have failed to articulate and campaign for a a practical solution.

    A former leader wanted us to not be a party of protest but to be a grown up and professional Party.

    If he was right then, he should be right now.

  • Paul
    I think some of it is trying to pre-empt Frankie’s line of attack. Most of the Kid’s posts consist of assertions about people or entire groups of people he has no means of knowing, opening with deliberate childish attempts to annoy “bless” and so on . Plus, IMO, it’s the kind of back and forth you used to get in chat rooms when people were trying to be funny. On top of which there appears to be that whole “I’ve pulled myself up by me bootstraps” thing, with Jack’s posts. The thing about the internet is there’s gaps missing in the way people interact because so much of communication is non-verbal. When you reduce it to text the nuances of meaning can be lost through the limitations of the medium . Brexit is a heated subject for some and a bit of pent up anger can surface. I don’t know, that’s just my thoughts.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '18 - 12:15pm

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “…. and the Euro is now a much safer currency than the pound and now runs along with the dollar as a reserve currency”

    It depends on which euro. There’s German euros and there other euros like Greek and Italian euros. The smart money moved out of Greek euros and into German euros before the crisis blew up there in 2015. The Italian wealthy are now doing the same if they weren’t before. They don’t believe the popular fiction that there is only one euro.

    Up until now the incentive to the wealthy has been to keep their money in Italian euros by paying something like 3-4% on Italian Government bonds. Whereas if they buy German bonds they might even have to accept a negative interest rate ie be charged for the privilege of lending to the German Govt. If there is really only one euro would there be these kinds of variations?

    The interest rates on Italian euros would be even much higher, were it not for the activities of the ECB. So far the Italian banks and Italian wealthy have gambled that the ECB is not going to pull the plug on the Italian euro and so 3-4% is a nice little earner for them. The less support the ECB gives now the higher the rate will go and the more money will everyone earn from Italian Govt bonds.

    Except of course if they decide to pull the plug completely! Then it really is doom-time for the euro as an EU common currency.

  • Indeed Bill “A former leader wanted us to not be a party of protest but to be a grown up and professional party.” Of course it was put that way because it would imply that those who opposed the mess he was making could be implied to be immature and not grown up.

    We only have to look at how the party did not grow but shrank to 10% of its former size under his leadership, to realise who were in fact grown up enough to consider the long term impact of what was going on.

  • @ Chris Moore

    Hi Jack,

    ” It’s great that you’ve made a living and fortune on the property and stock markets.

    But how is that relevant to Brexit? Why are you telling us?

    I’d be far more interested in some cogent remarks as to what benefits you think leaving the EU will bring.”

    I haven’t made a living wheeling and dealing, I worked in Communications and Electronics to earn my living, sometimes employed, sometime self employed. sometimes agency, I decided not to rely on governments who speak with fork tongues for the long term financial security of myself and my family, a wise judgement in hindsight, I have not made a fortune, I have become secure.

    It is not relevant to Brexit

    I was simply responding in language he may understand.

    What benefits leaving the EU will bring:

    I don’t want to live in an EU that according to one of it greatest advocates Nick Clegg, will be much the same in 5 years time, because in my world if you stand still you are effectively going backwards as others march on.

    I don’t want to live in a protectionist club that protects and pays European farmers subsidies to grow inferior produce, whist keeping out high quality produce from the developing world. Exports that would help grow their economies.

    The right to make every decision in the interests of the UK and the British People alone.

    The right to control our borders, whether it happens is another matter.

    The right to not be dragged off to languish in a Greek jail for months without my guilt being proved under the EWA, and the continental system of jurisprudence.

    The right to control our resources, all of them for the benefit of the UK, and British communities. (e.g Fishing)

    The right to financially support our industries if necessary, not to let them be destroyed by EU rules with the complicity of the UK government as happened with our merchant shipbuilding and high energy use strategic material manufacturing. I want the people to know who to blame at the ballot box when a British political party acts against their interests, rather than using the EU as a scapegoat.

    I could go on, but you tell me the tangible benefits for the majority of British citizens of our membership, and please spare me Erasmus scholarships, data roaming or the EU spending of our own money that we gave them, under their regional schemes.

  • @ John Marriot

    “As ‘jack moore’ has said, if you are going to base your philosophy of life and, indeed, our national future post Brexit, on the kind of exploitation you describe, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.”

    So looking after my own interests and that of my family is exploitation, well I never.

    Here’s a little anecdote that you might find interesting. In the days of the Liberals and the SDP I dallied with the idea of the new party, and became involved at a relatively minor level, but especially the social fund raising type of activity. It made me quite envious in social conversations over a period of time that some of the movers and shakers in both groups had little cottages in the Dales or Wales, they were off to that weekend, I wonder how many LIbDems have second homes, or houses that are far too big for their family. Then of course we had the MP’s expenses thieving, with nearly all of them paying of the mortgage on a second home with their expenses which they would then own, the scam even carried out by those who could commute from Westminster to their main home.

    I have exploited nobody other than my own resources, how many elected LibDems can honestly say that. Parties who live in glass houses, really shouldn’t through anything.

  • Jack Graham & “frankie” (and anyone else to whom this could apply) : It would be greatly appreciated if you would desist from personal abuse and instead limit any comments you may wish to make to relevant issues under discussion. Otherwise, you are clearly in breach of LDV’s comment guidelines which specifically provide, inter alia, that contributors should “focus on the topic, not what you know or think you know about the personalities of other commenters or the author of the blog post”.

  • Jack Graham 15th Oct '18 - 2:05pm

    @ Phillip Knowles


    I don’t disagree with your interpretation of the role of the House of Lords, however I find it rather odd that a body that the LibDems/Social Democrat Party and Labour have always wanted abolished, has been cynically used in recent months to try and undermine a democratic vote. And let’s be honest here, that is exactly what your 85 peers were trying to do.

    You have 85 now, and in time they will fade away, and it seems unlikely you will get many more until some sort of pro rata balance is returned. I wonder if you would remain so supportive of the institution if your numbers came down to the 21 Lords, which would be a fair percentage equivalent of the 2.5% of the seats you hold in the elected house, which I have no doubt in the case of the EU debate would have been more respectful of the referendum vote.

  • John Marriott 15th Oct '18 - 3:03pm

    @Jack Graham
    Regarding the word ‘exploitation’, there are, I believe, two meanings. The one you chose to be offended by means to take unfair advantage of people. The one to which I was referring and which I explained in my post was to take advantage of circumstances, which is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. My argument, regarding the lack of housing, for example, was that, had somebody been doing their job properly, this situation would not have arisen.

    Regarding stocks and shares, in which I have also dabbled as a former member of a ‘Share Club’, the motto we were taught was only to ‘invest’ an amount of money you could afford and which you were prepared to lose. Call me old fashioned if you want, but I would rather see our country’s future dependent more on making and selling things rather than largely shuffling money around in the City.

    Oh, and that question of the House of Lords. Since when have the Lib Dems, or Labour for that matter, been in favour of a single chamber parliament? What many of us want to see is a reformed upper chamber, with members either directly elected or, in the case of a federal system, my choice would be to have it peopled with delegates nominated by the nations and regions of the U.K.

  • Rif Winfield 15th Oct '18 - 3:57pm

    The break-up of the United Kinddom is not the worst possible outcome, and would be less of a trauma than that occasioned by Brexit. Not that I’m actually advocating this; I’d prefer a proper federal basis for the UK, or perhaps a confederal one. But it would be less calamitous than Brexit. And I back entirely John Innes’s comment that, as a Liberal, if Scotland secedes and Ulster chooses to rejoin the rest of Ireland, Wales will follow them out of the grasp of an intolerant England.

  • Peter Hirst 15th Oct '18 - 6:51pm

    The important thing is to salvage something from this disaster. Whether it is a people’s vote, a general election or a change of PM, we need to claim credit for it. We have the advantage of being united, consistent and thinking long-term and we need to take advantage of this.

  • We are asked to believe a fantasy list of benefits of leaving the EU, and asked to outline the benefits. Well they will become clear as time passes meanwhile the benefits of Brexit pile up.

    Ford’s European boss, Steven Armstrong, said: “For Ford, a hard Brexit is a red line. It could severely damage the UK’s competitiveness and result in a significant threat to much of the auto industry, including our own UK manufacturing operations.”……….
    He rubbished the Canada-style trade deal championed by Brexiters such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying existing arrangements between the EU and Canada involved time-consuming customs and border checks. “If this was introduced for all UK-EU trade, the level of congestion and blockages at the ports would undermine our just-in-time manufacturing system,” he said…….
    Armstrong’s comments, a change of stance from Ford’s vow in April to remain in the UK whatever the outcome of Brexit talks, echo similar sentiments among carmakers such as Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW……
    Drugmaker AstraZeneca’s chairman said it had put investment in manufacturing on hold owing to confusion about the ease with which medicines will be able to flow between the UK and the European Union.

    In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, Leif Johansson said preparations for Brexit, which include stockpiling medicines and spending £40m to build laboratories outside the UK, were distracting the company from day-to-day business.

    He confirmed plans revealed by the Cambridge-based company last year to suspend investment in manufacturing in the UK. “If a transition deal does not make clear what will happen in the future, we will maintain our decision not to invest,” he said.


    So forgive me if I get angry with Brexiteers, they have done much to make me angry and as the fruits of their decision roll in I suspect I will be far from alone in being angry with them.

  • Philip Knowles 16th Oct '18 - 7:04am

    @Jack Graham
    A tangible benefit of being in the EU is bi-directional tariff free trade. It meams that my cousin can export his lamb to France and get a better price. It means that we can buy French cheese, German cars, Italian prosecco, Spanish oranges and Danish bacon without paying an average 20% import duty.
    And UK manufacturers like Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and the business I used to work for can export to our closest market without any tariff and non-tariff barriers.
    It means we can go on holiday without getting a visa and come back without having to pass through customs.
    It means that a British manufacturer doesn’t have to get separate approval from every single country to export to them.
    When Margaret Thatcher persuaded the rest of the EU to creae the Single European Matket in 1992 it was the biggest boost to British business ever. Overnight my business could, and did, export to the whole if the EU without any barriers. In 5 years we more than doubled our exports.
    Every manufacturer in the EU works to the same, common standards. The UK has input to those standards. Leaving makes us a rule taker and no other trade deal we can make will allow us to be a rule maker. The EU has the global clout to have its standards accepted worldwide so we will continue to manufacturer to those standards.

  • Sandra Hammett 16th Oct '18 - 9:13am

    Strange how every side is now hoping for true deadlock and their preferred resolution to it; May hoping to force through a decidedly fudgy Chequers, hardline Brexiteers waiting it out for a no deal, Labour hoping for a general election and Remainers hoping on a People’s Vote.
    Yes I have listed them in order of probability.

  • @ Phillip Knowles


    Well I give you the chance to give me a list of benefits, and you identified 6 benefits, which were actually two because apart for visa free holidays, the other five were all the same thing. You do know that the vast majority of British businesses trade exclusively in the British internal market.

    So in a nutshell Philip with you, it is all about the money, and nothing but the money, and it doesn’t matter a toss about the social and cultural impact. Do you know I have never had anything other than the same type of answer when I have asked Lib Dems this question, although unlike many LibDems you did at least offer one reason, rather than a blank stare.

    As a matter of interest EU tariff free trade has allowed Ford to close all its vehicle manufacturing plants in the UK, relocate them to the mainland, and additionally with EU money they also transferred Transit production to Turkey outside the EU from Southampton. They now add massively to our manufacturing trade deficit.

    Perhaps I am missing something, but where is the benefit for ex Ford car workers in places like Dagenham or Hailwood. It is no surprise that Ford are the biggest whingers in the car industry over Brexit, because they will rightly be left on the wrong side of tariffs for their decision to stiff their British workers for greed.

    “It means we can go on holiday without getting a visa and come back without having to pass through customs.”

    When was the last time you had to get a visa in advance to go any of the normal places UK citizens go on holiday outside of the EU, and if you want to bring the conversation down to this sort of minutiae, outside of the EU, we will be allowed to buy duty free goods again.


  • Jack

    Money does matter, and we will have a lot less of it if we leave than if we stay.

    That issue is complicated by the fact that what counts is not just the amount of money we have but how it is distributed. As it stands, far too much of it gets distributed to rich people and not nearly enough to everyone else.

    If we stay in, we will have more money, and a greater chance of seeing it distributed more fairly. EU directives on tax havens which are about to come into force will have considerable effect, and, as a member, the Uk will have to go along. UK governments on the whole have shown ittle interest in this kind of action, viz the tax havens we still manage, and touch as little as possible. Leavers’ visions for the UK outside the EU seem to be tax haven rich rather than tax haven lite.

    You want other advantages. OK, employment, health, safety and environmental rights – all of which it is clear they want to compromise in he name of “taking back control”. it should be clear to everyone by now that “taking back control” means taking back control for our elites, not for everyone else. In fact, it seems clear that our elites don’t actually ant to leave the EU. They want us to leave the EU so that they can exploit us more effectively.

  • Bill le Breton 16th Oct '18 - 4:47pm

    William, what another William writes today,
    ” there is no disgrace in doing some fresh thinking. If a negotiation is not succeeding because of inflexibility on the other side, a prime minister can look at new options altogether, just like anyone doing a business deal or buying a property. Of course, this situation is enormously more complicated and time is running out, so any new idea has to be about a simple, almost off-the-shelf solution. The idea assiduously pursued by Nick Boles MP, of joining the EFTA pillar of the EEA for a strictly limited three years, thus creating a Norway-style relationship with the EU while a permanent free trade deal is negotiated, is worth thinking about as a way of changing the whole framework of the talks. It would involve a bigger step out of the EU to begin with, immediately leaving its agricultural and fisheries policies, for example, but a realistically slower move to a new relationship. As an alternative to chaos it could command wide support.”

    William Hague, In today’s Daily Telegraph.

  • Rob
    To have any meaningful impact on the climate you would need to stop most manufacturing, virtually all travel and lot more within the next twenty years. The EU is about promoting increased trade , not limiting it. This is what gets me about the liberal orthodoxy at the moment. It wants you to believe that you can increased trade, unlimited travel and ever increasing population all at the same time. The vague answer to all this is usually things like we need new green technology and more housing or infrastructure spending or something. The former his based on the hope some boffins of some sort will turn something up and the latter reduces the impact of population growth to a dwelling space. Whilst glossing over or ignoring the impact on land, water supplies, waste disposal, the damage caused by increased manufacturing, food production and so on. It’s all over the shop and full.

  • Rob Parsons 17th Oct '18 - 1:53pm


    To have any meaningful impact on the climate requires working internationally with as many other actors as possible. The EU is no more about increasing trade than any other country or body. I might suggest somewhat less – look at the actions that have been achieved on climate change and environmental damage that this country would have been extremely unwilling to sign up to on its own.

    The temper of the EU is more likely to change as the opinions of the people change than the UK governmetn on its own is. The UK establishment is still largely in the grip of neoliberalism. While much of the EU also is, much of it is not. I see much greater hope of effective action on climate change from the EU than from the UK alone.

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