Momentum builds behind Brexit deal referendum

We shouldn’t assume that our failure to break through in the General Election means that people don’t agree with our policy on a referendum on the Brexit deal.

Polling is consistently showing that a majority of people are coming round to that position. For that reason, it would be unwise for us to ditch it.

A Survation poll carried out less than two weeks ago found that 53% of those who expressed a preference favoured a further referendum.

A poll of Scots for STV similarly showed that 61% of those polled said they wanted to see a referendum on the deal. This is particularly interesting given that 70% didn’t want a referendum on independence at the moment. It is significant, though, that 22% of those want to wait and see what happens with Brexit, so that argument isn’t entirely over.

Over at the Huffington Post, Tom Brake set out the case to continue wth our policy on a second referendum:

I do not agree with the view that we should just remain silent during the negotiating process and accept any deal the Government comes up with. This issue is far too important to give the Government a blank cheque. This is like saying that after a general election we should just accept and rubber stamp all decisions until the next election, without holding the Government to account.

I believe, even more strongly than a year ago, that just as people were able to vote for departure from the EU, they should be given a vote on our destination in our future relationship with the EU.

If the process started with a referendum, why shouldn’t it end with another one?

As the compromises and realities of Brexit unfold following the negotiations and a deal is struck, the British public should be allowed to decide, in a referendum, whether it is the right deal for them, their families, their jobs and our country. Whatever the result of that vote would be, that decision would carry a much heavier mandate then one by a small clique of politicians in Westminster.

If you were a Brexit voter for example, would you settle for a deal that still meant paying into the EU budget? Wouldn’t you want a chance to have a say if you disagreed with the Government’s deal?

That is why the Liberal Democrats will continue to push the Government for a public vote on the deal at the end of the negotiations, so people are given the choice to vote for that deal or to remain in the EU.

What’s interesting is that we are also constructively arguing for a cross-party cabinet committee to lead the Brexit negotiations and come up with a deal that should reflect a political consensus – and therefore be more likely to be accepted in any referendum.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross-party joint cabinet committee to be established to negotiate Brexit. This committee would be made up of MPs, selected by their parties and representative of the political make-up of parliament. The team would become the front line of negotiations with Brussels and ultimately have to agree to the final deal, which could then be put to the British people.

This is a moment for those in the centre to gather together, whatever our parties, and work in the national interest. I am determined that the Liberal Democrats will be a constructive opposition in this parliament and will play our part in bringing the country together, working with people of all parties and none, to fight for the best possible deal for you, your family, your neighbours and our country Britain’s future relationship with Europe will be the most important issue in our country for years to come. As the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Brexit, I will continue to fight for an open, modern and inclusive Britain.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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23 Comments

  • David Becket 25th Jun '17 - 3:07pm

    Then why did only 7% vote for us, there must be something else going on

  • John Barrett 25th Jun '17 - 5:38pm

    David – what you say is true.

    Some years ago in the Scottish elections the majority of people agreed with our policy of giving children more PE at school and the leader at the time mentioned this policy in almost every interview he gave. Sadly we had a fairly disastrous election result.

    What was obvious to many (excluding the leader and those advising him) was that while many people may have agreed with that particular policy, it was not the number one issue for many, and was not in the top ten for most others. It had produced very favourable results in focus groups run by the party, but there was no evidence at all that voters would vote for us because of it. The same is true for our “second referendum” policy.

    7.4% was a disaster and unless we begin to understand why so few people voted for us in so many seats, we will find it very difficult to move forward.

    Saying that the polls are moving in our favour on this policy does not take away from the fact we lost 375 deposits.

    It will take much more than a few policies, even if the public agree with them and a new leader to regain the trust and support of the millions of our former voters who now support other parties. It will require effective community campaigning over many years, possibly decades, combined with a national profile and message that resonates with the public, along with a lot of luck, or events to unfold in other parties that are outwith our control that could work to our advantage.

  • Roger Billins 25th Jun '17 - 6:55pm

    The ” Second Referendum” as it was perceived, was a huge vote loser. Most Remainers gave up when Article 5o was triggered. The truth is going to be more prosaic. A friend, who is a competition lawyer, suggested and I very much agree, that nobody understood how difficult was of divorcing a couple who lived together for over 40 years. I think David Davies realises that now. The reality is that the whole thing will go out with a whimper rather than a bang !

  • Andrea Clifton 25th Jun '17 - 7:12pm

    You really are on another planet. Until people like you who appear to have a regular platform understand the ordinary lib/dem member we will remain in the wilderness.We don’t want glory, we want our country to be a stable place to live. If that means supporting Brexit so be it. Stop throwing your dummy out.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Jun '17 - 8:06pm

    @John Barrett: There is a big difference between the hour of PE nonsense – a real tragedy in itself given the radical stuff that was in that manifesto – and a referendum on the Brexit deal.

    Bluntly, whether kids had an hour of PE or not was not going to affect that many lives. Brexit, especially the way the Tories are blundering towards it, is going to be a disaster for most of us. As that becomes more apparent, perhaps people will demand another say.

    Whether we get the credit for suggesting it at an early stage is another matter, of course.

    @Andrea Clifton: If opposing a Government set on a reckless course is throwing my dummy out of the plan, I do so with pride and will keep doing so.

    To those of you asking why only 7% voted for us, it’s because we really didn’t get our message across well. We should have said on day 1: If we win, we’ll revoke Article 50. I’d have taken the 20% of the vote that we would probably have got if we had taken that radical approach. It’s one we need to take in another General Election. We also need to get it known out there that Article 50 is revocable. On the doorsteps, people don’t realise it.

  • Allan Brame 25th Jun '17 - 8:15pm

    @Andrea Clifton
    Are you certain that is what the ‘ordinary Lib Dem member’ wants? Or just what you want?
    Remember, a sizeable proportion of our members joined after the Brexit disaster. No doubt a good number of these thought they were joining a party that was dedicated to the fight against Brexit, certainly against a hard Brexit.
    If we resile from this position, how many of these ‘ordinary’ members will be renewing their membership?
    The whole debate over our future relationship with the EU is very fluid. What credibility will we have if we suddenly start being pro-Brexit, especially at a time when the whole Brexit project is running up against stark reality?

  • Arnold Kiel 25th Jun '17 - 8:46pm

    I am in support of upholding the 2nd referendum demand, even though I hope it will not be needed to stop Brexit. It currently signals: nothing is clear, nothing is decided, and the British people should continue to be open-minded about leaving or not. More time is needed to successfully introduce the idea of Article 50 revocation in the public discourse, but we will get there.

    When the time comes, the case will be clear, and public opinion will allow Parliamant to pull the plug on this crazy nonsense. At that point, the public majority to remain will appreciate being spared the horrors of another referendum. The EU will certainly agree, but also this agreement can more easily obtained in quick backroom-deals among politicians than as a formal prerequisite for another referendum to be conclusive.

  • Caron -people on the doorstep were only too well aware that we stood for opposing the Referendum decision. They were not however very clear about anything else we stood for, despite our excellent last minute Manifesto, as we had spent the last year banging on about one single issue -an issue where most people had accepted the result and moved on and so saw us as an irrelevance.

    We fought the 2014 Euro elections as ‘The Party of In’ and lost 13 out of 14 MEP’s. We fought this GE on a platform of opposing the Referendum decision and we fell from 7.9% of the national vote to 7.4%. Why on earth do you think that having a third go will produce a different result?

    Yes we should campaign hard on getting the best Brexit deal possible. It is after all about the only thing that Parliament is going to be dealing with on a timetabled basis for the next 2 years. But we also need to be much more visible, loud and persistent on the issues that are most concerning voters such as Austerity, NHS, Police, Education and Fire Service and Benefit cuts, year by year real terms pay cuts, housing (especially Social Housing), to name a few. We -and the electorate -used to know where we stood on those issues.

  • Peter Martin 25th Jun '17 - 10:21pm

    If the process started with a referendum, why shouldn’t it end with another one?

    That’s a fair question which deserves an answer.

    There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be another referendum if it had been generally there would need to be more than one in the event of a Leave vote. I don’t think there is any suggestion that we’d need another one if there’d been a Remain vote.

    But as far as I can remember, there was no-one saying that. Remainers were presumably wary of making the argument that we could all vote Leave in the hope of getting a better deal from the EU.

    But, nevertheless, if Remainers had wanted additional referendums they should have said so at the time.

  • David Beckett

    ‘Then why did only 7% vote for us, there must be something else going on’

    Because the majority (Remainers & Leavers) accept the result of a democratic vote?

    On a separate note what was put in front of voters regarding the second referendum was incomprehensible.

    Scottish indie result – like – no need for another referendum.

    Brexit vote – Don’t like – must have a second referendum.

  • John Barrett 25th Jun '17 - 11:01pm

    Caron – the similarity I was pointing out was that in both cases, (and in many others I have mentioned in previous comments on this site), the public was clearly not responding to what we were saying, or appeared to be that interested in the policy – regardless of how important or non important it was.

    Then and now, and after the tuition fees fiasco, the message was the same from those who could not see the problem. They kept on saying everything will be ok, if only we stick to our guns.

    In recent years I have watched our MPs being wiped out, many of our MSPs and MEPs going the same way, , hundreds of councillors losing their seats and now our national vote share drop to 7.4%.

    After each loss, the message from the party establishment, leader, spokespeople and other voices is often the same, “change nothing and all will be well”.

    As many on this site have repeated. One sign of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing, and then expecting a different result.

    When will we learn?

  • Andrew Melmoth 26th Jun '17 - 12:13am

    The thing that puzzles me about the second referendum policy is that in the last year I’ve seen very little sign of any credible attempt by the Lib Dems to persuade Leavers to change their minds. Where is the strategy to win a second vote? For instance, was voting against the invocation of article 50 a sensible step if you want Leavers to give you a hearing? I’m afraid it all looks more like a branding exercise rather than serious politics.

  • Mark Goodrich 26th Jun '17 - 3:33am

    As Caron says, it would be a peculiar piece of Lib Dem madness to ditch the policy just as starts to become popular!

  • @John Barrett @paul holmes

    Brexit was the top issue in the general election according to lord Ashcroft polling.

    Clearly the biggest vote loss came after the coalition. History shows that it takes time for parties to rebuild their vote. And in this election in addition all the “minor parties” lib dems, greens, UKIP suffered a squeeze.

  • It would be completely bonkers to ditch one of the few distinctive and increasingly popular policies we have got.

  • adrian sanders 26th Jun '17 - 8:43am

    People ignore the views of long-experienced and successful campaigners such as Paul Holmes and John Barrett at their electoral peril. Neither are calling for a policy to be abandoned, but for our other policies that matter to peoples’ immediate lives to come more to the fore.

  • The interesting thing about these figures is that they seem to vary according to how the question on a Brexit referendum is phrased. At its root, the idea of getting the final say is perfectly reasonable, given that its plainly obvious that no-one voting really knew what they were voting for. However, it seems that the idea is easy to de-rail when you throw about concepts such as ‘respecting the vote’, sore losers and anti-democratic.

    John is right too, sometimes people believe in a policy, but not enough to switch votes when there are other issues at stake. IMO, we struggled to break through on those other messages, and that was for a variety of reasons. Our reduced numbers in Parliament meant we had a reduced platform and our opponents did their best to run interference, as we’d expect, and for all that May ran a disastrous campaign, she wasn’t daft in running the election before the pain of the negotiations became too obvious.

    It sounds arrogant, but broadly true to say the public weren’t ready for the policy. In particular, people from other parties weren’t prepared to support it, and in many cases, were prepared to sabotage an idea they knew to be sound so they could gain party advantage. Away from the election, their approach will soften, as we’ve already seen.

  • The LibDems have become a single issue party; just ask anyone on the doorstep…A few may remember something about ‘legalising drugs’ but that’s about it….
    Peston’s polling yesterday suggested that the Leave/Remain percentage is almost identical to that of one year ago…

    However, I believe two things…1) There will be a parliamentary vote on the final deal and 2) The two main parties will take all the credit for it….

  • Our mistake re the EU was to talk too much about another referendum; and not enough about the damage awaiting the UK through quitting the EU. We only want another referendum because this damage is not yet apparent; and we believe people may want to re-consider when the damage becomes evident. So we should highlight the likely damage at this point; and only reference another referendum in that light. Too many people I have spoken to think we want a re-run of the Remain/Leave referendum.

    A major problem in this election was that it fell into a lull/hiatus in terms of the EU — a year since the vote and Article 50 just invoked, but before any actual negotiations were under way. Corbyn, aided by unexpected Tory incompetence, was able to turn the election into a debate on public services and austerity. So our main ‘pitch’ was marginalised. It is maddening to see so many Remainers voting for anti-EU Corbyn, but Labour exploited the anti-austerity message well, and he came across as less ‘hard’ over the EU than Theresa May, so Labour looked a safe bet. I also think this time round Labour picked up the protest vote (ie a lot of people who voted for him didn’t think he could possibly win, but saw him as the best way to constrain T May). Might not be that way next time.

  • @Mark, Michael and Robert. Year after year during the Coalition we were slaughtered at every election – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. Year after year the armchair strategists/keyboard warriors told us it would all come good as long as we stuck to our amazingly good strategy.After all everyone they talked to thought our policies and strategy was right so the voters were bound to catch up eventually.

    We are now on the brink of electoral oblivion.

  • Yes, we need to keep a referendum on the negotiated outcome as a policy objective.

    If we drop this, I would have no alternative but to reduce the party membership by one.

  • Red (ex-)Liberal 27th Jun '17 - 8:01pm

    I would’ve kept my LibDem membership for longer than 6 weeks if the LibDem members I encountered weren’t so pro-Brexit. Some of us have families under threat of being forcibly split up by the state over Brexit. I would never vote for any pro-Brexit or Brexit accepting party.

  • Daniel Walker 27th Jun '17 - 8:40pm

    @Red (ex-)Liberal I think you must have been unlucky, then. The party policy opposed to Brexit was pretty overwhelmingly carried at Conference.

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