More Brexit Logic?

Following yesterday’s Parliamentary votes, we now face the following

1. We cannot have a no-deal Brexit because Parliament has voted against it

2. We cannot have no-Brexit because the referendum voted for Brexit

3. Therefore, we have to have Brexit with a deal, but

4. We can’t have Theresa May’s deal because Parliament has voted against it twice

5. The groups opposing Theresa May’s deal are:

  • The ERG/DUP who want to remove the Northern Ireland backstop
  • The Labour party, (maybe plus SNP and Lib Dems), who want a customs union

6. To get her deal through Parliament, Theresa May needs to agree to one of these diametrically opposed demands

7. The EU will not accept the removal of the Northern Ireland backstop, and are immovable on this because

  1. a border is universally ruled out, and
  2. logic dictates that no border requires a common customs area, so the ERG/DUP option is out

8. The EU would likely accept a customs union, so the Labour option is workable

So, the choices really available are

  1. A new deal including a customs union, therefore backed by Labour and agreeable to the EU
  2. A People’s Vote
  3. A general election

A new deal with a customs union is a softer Brexit, and this is a reasonable interpretation of the close 52%/48% referendum result. The 48% vote against Brexit gives no democratic basis for a hard Brexit. The ERG/DUP group is then hung out to dry.

This is probably the preferable option, but if, as seems likely, Theresa May declines to take it, then, given that a general election may well deliver another hung Parliament, a People’s Vote is the only other logical way forward. It should offer the only two logical options of Brexit with a customs union, or Remain.

* Geoff Crocker is a professional economist writing on technology at and on basic income at His recent book ‘Basic Income and Sovereign Money – the alternative to economic crisis and austerity policy’ was recommended by Martin Wolf in the FT 2020 summer reading list.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Becket 14th Mar '19 - 1:43pm

    Brexit with a customs union is not what Lib Dems want, but if it is the best option to break the deadlock we should support it. It is the next best option after remaining in the EU, and reflects the closeness of the vote.
    Leadership please!

  • Excellent summary of where we are and I agree with Geoff’s conclusion. Brexit with a customs union is not what the Lib Dems want in a perfect world, but this is far from a perfect world and this seems like a fair compromise that gives everyone a bit of what they want.

  • John Marriott 14th Mar '19 - 2:24pm

    AT LAST, a bit of common sense. But will it survive? I sincerely hope so.

  • Bob Roberts 14th Mar '19 - 2:29pm

    What is the situation with Freedom of Movement and striking trade deals under this customs union plan?

  • Barry Lofty 14th Mar '19 - 2:33pm

    I could not agree more with the two previous posts, this Brexit mess has been crying out for a compromise like that but Mrs May has only got her eyes on the ERG group and the DUP . If only we had a Prime Minister who genuinely cared about bringing this country together, some hope I am afraid. As ever a Conservative leader who cares more about their party above national interests.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Mar '19 - 2:47pm

    Sorry chaps, but I’m a ‘No surrender’ guy on this one. For me the only solution is no Brexit. You can’t compromise on principles and any so-called ‘soft Brexit’ isn’t acceptable to me and shouldn’t be acceptable to Liberal Democrats. I don’t see the ERG and Mr Farage offering to compromise and neither should we.
    We know that any other solution is worse than what we have now. So staying in a fighting for change is easily the best option.
    Let’s hear no more talk of compromise. We know that an exit from Brexit is the only way and we have to fight for what we believe in and what’s right for our country.

  • Arnold Kiel 14th Mar '19 - 3:09pm


    9. Any future arrangement should be sustainable.

    Once in the customs union, continued single market membership is a logical conclusion: in the absence of UK-only trade deals, i.e. tagging along the EU, continued full EU-alignment becomes the logical default in terms of commercial orientation (also called Norway+). Becoming a rule-taker will be rightly challenged from day 1, as the UK would gain nothing from giving up its seat at the table.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 14th Mar '19 - 3:28pm

    What makes you think a GE would result in another hung parliament? I think it much more likely that it would return a tory majority which would inevitably result in a hard brexit.

  • Peter Watson 14th Mar '19 - 4:38pm

    @Nick Collins “Sarah Wollaston of TIG has tabled a motion for a referendum …”
    The BBC refers to the “cross-party amendment (h) from independent MP Sarah Wollaston, the SNP’s Philippa Whitford and Joanna Cherry, Lib Dem Tom Brake and Labour’s Neil Coyle”.
    The timing of this amendment may or may not be wise, but if Tom Brake and the Lib Dems are involved then it begs a question about why Lib Dems aren’t seen to be leading on this.

  • Peter Watson 14th Mar '19 - 5:33pm

    @Nick Collins “Sarah Wollaston of TIG has tabled a motion for a referendum with a choice between May’s deal and remaining in the EU …”
    The BBC reports that “Independent Group MP Dr Sarah Wollaston’s amendment, which called for an extension of Article 50 for another referendum to take place, has been rejected by 334 votes to 85 – a majority of 249.”
    Regardless of Labour abstentions and concerns about the timing of the amendment, that is a majority of the House of Commons voting against it. Might some present this as a final rejection of another referendum or does the wording of the amendment allow more flexibility than that?

  • Andrew Tampion 15th Mar '19 - 7:19am

    Mr Burke
    At the risk of being a pedant “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” is a quote from the Sherlock Holmes story The Sign of Four. Occams Razor is the philosophical principle that in the absence of any other evidence the simplest of two or more competing hypotheses is more likely to be correct

  • Michael Romberg 15th Mar '19 - 9:58am

    A customs union is not a soft Brexit – unless you are a manufactured good.

    If you are a person, a soft Brexit would involve freedom of movement.

  • Brexit has become something akin to the movie Groundhog Day.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • John Waller
    Part 2. So, we swapped the Black Sea cruise for a research trip to Svalbard and Greenland, to learn about retreating winter Arctic sea ice and melting glaciers...
  • Martin Gray
    Exactly Peter....The Social aspect of the EU is a myth. Didn't save one factory or one job loss . And those workers who were on the MW zero hours contract in ...
  • Peter Martin
    I'm somewhat puzzled by continuing assumptions, shared by both former remainers and former leavers, that the EU is somehow a leftist/progressive organisation v...
  • Jeff
    Marco 14th Apr '24 - 1:37pm: The OBR estimates that GDP is 4% lower due to Brexit,… No. They forecast a reduction in “long-run productivit...
  • Jeff
    expats 14th Apr '24 - 4:00pm: I’m only surprised that you haven’t referenced more Daily Express trade bonuses… I don’t often cite the ...