Nick Clegg: We need more than warm words and bromide from May

In his first few hours as our EU Spokesperson, we’ve had more sense from Nick Clegg than we’ve had from the whole government in the four awful weeks since the referendum.

Tonight he was on Radio 4’s PM programme saying that it was really important that we started to see some detail from the Government on its plans for Britain’s exit from the EU. We need, he said, a very detailed plan to extricate ourselves from the complex web of economic and legal ties between us and the EU.

He said that if the Government wanted to retain the closest possible ties with the single market, their own backbenchers would kick off.

You can listen to his interview here from about 39:30.

In a piece for the i newspaper, Nick pointed out a few discrepancies between what the Tories say they want and the likelihood of it happening without compromise:

Theresa May can’t, for example, promise that we will be able to enjoy all the benefits to our economy that full access to the world’s largest borderless single market will bring, without accepting freedom of movement in return. So which is it? What matters more – our economy and jobs or clamping down on immigration?

David Davis, Theresa May’s new Brexit minister, appears to believe the single market is just a free trade arrangement. It isn’t. Free trade means removing tariffs so that companies can trade without paying different levels of tax on the goods they buy and sell. But the single market is much more ambitious. It is about harmonising all the standards and regulations that apply to goods and services across Europe, so that companies can trade with each other on a truly level playing field.

So it’s good that someone is on the case. He sets out his own plans:

Whatever your views on Brexit, it is in everyone’s interest to make sure what happens next is debated openly and scrutinised properly.

That’s why, over the coming months, I will be working with academics, lawyers and other experts to hold the Government to account and to flush out the answers that British people need about their country, their economy and their futures. To do that, I’m prepared to work openly and collaboratively with people of all parties and anyone who believes that Britain must remain an open economy and a tolerant, outward-looking nation.

Fox, Davis and May should be very worried by Nick’s appointment. He has the expertise to hold their feet to the fire like nobody else in British politics.

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18 Comments

  • Good to see Nick back in the headlines and he is most definitely the best man for the job.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jul '16 - 10:28pm

    I want Nick Clegg and other UK politicians and commentators to take a more British nationalist position. I’m not a nationalist but I don’t see why less free movement means less free trade. As Alan Juppé, former French Prime Minister has said: “if Britain wants restrictions on free movement we can talk about it, but they should think about their expats”.

    Juppé’s position is fair because he doesn’t think less free movement also means counter measures on trade. It means measures against immigrants will also affect expats.

  • I suspect Scotland will be making it’s own plans to attempt to retain membership of the EU.

  • Barry Snelson 20th Jul '16 - 10:54pm

    This is just the ticket and I am pleased to see this eloquent voice being employed like this.

    I would counsel care. Don’t demonise those who voted Brexit, Use staff to keep careful records of all May and her Mates’ boasts so they can have them shoved up their noses.

    Attack their competence and broken promises. We must depict them as useless blunderers.

  • Glad to see Clegg doing front bench work again!

  • Bill le Breton 21st Jul '16 - 9:07am

    “He said that if the Government wanted to retain the closest possible ties with the single market, their own backbenchers would kick off.”

    Anyone like to try and clarify what is going on here – what is our objective?

    Are we, with the help of these experts, going to maintain that whatever the Tories come up with is wrong and to build momentum for a reversal of the Brexit process?

    Or are we going with their help to try to define the best possible version of Brexit? And to list our red lines? And if so, does it really matter what Tory back benchers think of our solution?

    Should we be concerned if the GOvernment comes forward with proposals that they cannot carry through the House of Commons with their votes alone? And if those proposals meet our criteria would we use our votes to support it or vote against?

    Will we withhold support subject to a second referendum? And how would we campaign in that referendum – for the proposed version of Brexit that meets our criteria or against?

    The Leave campaign was reprehensible. But many of the ‘fears’ raised by the Remainers have proved to be overstated … The Treasury under Osborne is seen to have been politicised – as does the Governor of the Bank of England. Our campaign seems not to have minded that and not to have seen the dangers.

    It is possible to see a future outside of the EU and as each day passes more and more businesses seem to see potential in a Britain forming new relationships with the 27 and with other countries. They are moving steadily in a ‘We’re Leaving and We’re Making the Best of It’. Are we going to be ‘dragged’ along in that direction? Or to die in the last ditch?

    Are we putting the tactical cart before the strategic horse?

  • The big question is are we going to end up with a free trade deal with the single market or will we be part of it. If we are part of it then we can’t expect to be able to control movement of people, we will have to pay into the EU. If we are aiming for free trade with the single market then we may be able to control our borders but the price we pay will be levied against the all important financial services sector.

    My view is that the government are going for the latter, free trade with the single market. That’s the only way as I understand it the government can meet the objectives of leave. The follow up question is at what cost?

  • Peter Bancroft 21st Jul '16 - 9:49am

    Bill Le Breton:
    “It is possible to see a future outside of the EU and as each day passes more and more businesses seem to see potential in a Britain forming new relationships with the 27 and with other countries”

    What’s the evidence for this assertion? I’m seeing no sign of a wave of businesses excited by the prospect of having to leave the EU. Indeed, I’m seeing senior businessmen educating themselves for the first time on what leaving the EU would mean and having to tear apart their current strategic plans.

    Eddie Sammon: “I’m not a nationalist but I don’t see why less free movement means less free trade.”

    The UK is currently in the Single Market, which Nick Clegg helpfully explains in the article. It seems very unlikely that the UK could stay in the Single Market but not honour ones of its core freedoms (freedom of movement). An alternative is a new free trade agreement, but these can never be as broad as the Single Market and would be unlikely to include financial services passporting and a number of other areas.

    Less free movement means less free trade.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '16 - 10:18am

    Hi Peter, I’ve read the article, but my opinion is it is bullying to put lots of pre-conditions onto a free trade deal. Again, a lack of free movement affects expats so it is fair. We are not asking to continue free movement rights for Brits but not for Europeans.

    I don’t care if there is a zero percent chance of the EU accepting the deal that I think is right. I’ll still say what I think is fair. I speak as someone who has been looking at work in France recently too, so I don’t have any anti-continental axes to grind.

    Best regards

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Jul '16 - 10:26am

    @Bill le Breton
    “many of the ‘fears’ raised by the Remainers have proved to be overstated ”

    Far too early to make such a sweeping statement.

  • Barry Snelson 21st Jul '16 - 10:50am

    To Bill,
    My stance on objective is that May’s Muppets hold all the cards and that some “Breixty” type event will occur before the next election. Our powers are very limited. She has a majority and the Tories will close ranks behind her, come what may.

    There can’t be a second referendum. It would be impossible to frame a yes/no question and deal with the result. Would a ‘no’ mean throw the whole Brexit into reverse?

    Neither we, nor parliament, will have any opportunity to impede May. We must also be careful not to be seen to be wishing for an economic disaster for our nation. That will get zero sympathy.

    I repeat, our attacks should be on the Tory competence, aiming at their personalities (Fox, Hammond, Davies, Johnson). Target their own hype and weaponise their broken promises. We could win back a lot of seats lost to the Tories if we paint them as boastful, arrogant and failures as we approach 2020.

  • Peter Watson 21st Jul '16 - 10:53am

    @Graeme Card “Good to see Nick back in the headlines”
    Really? http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nick-clegg-spent-8000-remaking-8461379

  • David Davis, Theresa May’s new Brexit minister, appears to believe the single market is just a free trade arrangement. It isn’t. Free trade means removing tariffs so that companies can trade without paying different levels of tax on the goods they buy and sell. But the single market is much more ambitious. It is about harmonising all the standards and regulations that apply to goods and services across Europe, so that companies can trade with each other on a truly level playing field.

    Some here have share David Davis’ misconception.

    There are no preconditions for any negotiation if the UK is outside the EU, but the Single Market is what it is and only EU member states can change how it is defined. Of course this would involve widespread consensus amongst the member states, as would any alternative trade negotiation.

    Nick Clegg looks likely to prove a thorn in the flesh for Brexiters. Populist, rabble rousing, unsubstantiated assertions will no longer be able to blunt Clegg’s scalpel. Surprisingly, Nick Clegg could yet be important to a Liberal Democrat renaissance.

  • Neil Sandison 21st Jul '16 - 11:48am

    Bill do we know how much it is costing the country to implement the former chancellors and Mark Carneys actions in terms of quantative easing and further reductions in corporation tax ?. How long we can sustain those actions ?
    Every action has a price even if it is not immediately noticeable in the economy.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Jul '16 - 2:00pm

    @Peter Bancroft – this http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/agentssummary/2016/jul.aspx among other sources.

    @Nonconformist radical: sure not ‘rosy’ but I don’t think I said that. What hasn’t happened is the much mooted collapse. When Joe Otten wrote on this site pre-vote that markets would be hit, I suggested that it would be a buying opportunity. It has been.

    Too early to make a sweeping statement? I just believe that ‘asset prices are based on rational expectations of future fundamentals’. The market’s opinion as of now does not match the opinion of those predicting asset price declines, interest rate rises and postponements of hiring and investment decisions.

    @BarryS, thanks for endeavouring to answer the question. It is a pity that nowhere has anyone in authority told us exactly what our policy is – other than to hand it over to Nick Clegg to decide. That is the Nick Clegg who was bag carrier to Leon Brittan during his ill-fated trade negotiations with China, and who drove our Party to the brink of destruction. Just saying.

    Neil, I am not sure that they have started – or do you mean the fact that the outstanding QE has not been reversed? My thinking has been that monetary policy was too tight in 2008 and the main cause of the recession. It became too tight again in 2010 when King did not sufficiently offset the Coalition’s fiscal tightening, that it was right at about the time of the announcement of Carney’s appointment, when loosening was anticipated, but soon after tightened (passively) as the exchange rate rose – producing a very weak recovery. Cable warned about that exchange rate rise.

    How much does loosening monetary policy cost if it produces growth higher than would have been otherwise?

    With inflation close to zero (and a one time price increase following depreciation is not inflation) I would have thought that using monetary financing to fund business tax cuts would be a good idea.

    Apart from our own monetary policy ineptitude the other biggest cause of our weak economic performance since 2008 has been the monetary policy ineptitude of the European Monetary Union (via the ECB).

    Europe will recover when the Eurozone collapses, allowing Germany and Austria etc to have a single currency and a political union, and allowing the rest to be free to depreciate their own currencies and preserve their wonderfully unique cultures.

  • I don’t know why Mr Clegg is so sniffy about bromide. According to one study, bromine (as bromide) is an essential cofactor in the peroxidasin catalysis of sulfilimine crosslinks in collagen IV. This post-translational modification occurs in all animals, and bromine is an essential trace element for humans.

    (McCall AS, Cummings CF, Bhave G, Vanacore R, Page-McCaw A, Hudson BG (2014). “Bromine Is an Essential Trace Element for Assembly of Collagen IV Scaffolds in Tissue Development and Architecture”. Cell 157 (6): 1380–92. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.009. PMID 24906154.)

  • David Evershed 21st Jul '16 - 6:41pm

    Thank goodness Nick Clegg has moved the Lib Dem position away from re-joining the EU to debating the best arrangement for the UK outside the EU.

  • David Evershed wrote:

    “Thank goodness Nick Clegg has moved the Lib Dem position away from re-joining the EU to debating the best arrangement for the UK outside the EU.”

    Nick Clegg does not have the power to move the Lib Dem position away from anything, because he ceased to be leader just over a year ago. He would not be able to move it away from re-joining the EU in any event, since the UK is still a member of the EU and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, given that the United States has a vested interest in Britain leading a stable Europe, and has (almost certainly) made this clear to David Cameron and Theresa May.

    There will be face-saving concessions, of course, but they will be ones brokered in Washington, not in Downing Street or Brussels.

    There are no “good” deals outside the EU, just a selection of very bad ones.

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