Observations of an ex pat: Wanted: Brave British politician

Wanted: Brave British politician

Experience: Must be a dyed-in-the-wool Brexiteer, preferably a senior member of Theresa May’s cabinet.

Duties: The person chosen for this demanding and vital role must be willing and able to swallow their pride, admit their error and put the interests of their country before self and party. They must be able to withstand abuse from former colleagues and friends;  even death threats from the public.

They must tell the British public in clear, concise and indisputable language that they were wrong. They must make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that leaving the European Union was a misguided dream that is turning into a nightmare.  They must say that the Brexit negotiated by Theresa May will reduce the former greatest empire in world history to the status of European colony. Furthermore, that the only alternative being discussed by the British government—a No Deal Brexit—would seriously weaken Britain’s economic and political position in the world as well as threatening the livelihood and standard of living of every inhabitant of the British Isles.

The person eventually chosen for this position must be highly persuasive.  They must be able to convince voters who previously believed them that Britain would be better off outside the European Union that in fact—after more than two years of negotiations—it is painfully obvious that they would have been wiser to vote Remain in 2016.

Then there is the subject of Project Fear, which has recently been renamed Project Hysteria. The chosen applicant must unequivocally back up the experts who have said that Remainers are absolutely correct to be frightened of the consequences of Brexit and completely justified in being hysterical about the prospect of a No Deal Brexit.

The dream of a plethora of free trade deals to replace European ties must be dispelled. The successful applicant should point out that Britain is leaving the world’s single largest trading bloc for a completely uncertain future. Its former empire—the Commonwealth—has moved on and formed trading relationships with other countries.  As for the United States, that government has made it clear that The arrangement negotiated by Theresa May’s government is an unacceptable basis for a free trade deal with America.  At the same time, it should be obvious that a No Deal Brexit would place Britain in the position of a supplicant forced to accept whatever terms an American First Trump Administration is prepared to offer.

Britain’s responsibilities to the rest of the world must also be spelled out in no uncertain terms.  Its long history of democracy, liberty and pragmatism must be called into play. The British people must be told that Brexit not only weakens the United Kingdom. It will also have a ripple effect on countries around the world. Those closest will be hurt the most: Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The rest of Europe will also be damaged economically and politically. Britain’s voice in the world’s corridors of power—which has long been a voice of reason—will be reduced to a whisper because it voluntarily abandoned its influence in Europe.

The position described must be filled immediately. The House of Commons begins its final debate on the Brexit deal next week. The government has promised a vote within days,  although it should be noted that identical promises have been made in the recent past. The successful applicant must be prepared to rise from parliament’s green benches on Monday, or shortly thereafter, and make the case for reversing Brexit.

Finally, the successful applicant must tell British voters that duty to the national interest is greater than an obligation to a political pledge. That every effort was made to fulfil the promise of the Brexit referendum, but that  it was an impossible task and that the British people must accept that their best interests lie within the European Union.

Remuneration: A prominent place in the history books as the person who did the right thing.


* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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


  • Innocent Bystander 4th Jan '19 - 9:09am

    But they might not think they are wrong.
    They might think you are.

  • You could make this shorter by saying
    Wanted Pro EU unelected technocrat (dictator?). Must be willing ruthlessly quash protests and ban political opponents to the ideology of Pan European Identity, because an elected anti-EU government could take Britain out of Europe without a referendum.

  • Sandra Hammett 4th Jan '19 - 9:37am

    Unfortunately what you have just described is a dictatorship. The country needs to decide to remain through debate and consensus, not be told they are fools for wanting something different by those with power, essentially saying that their opinions don’t matter, that’s how this entire shambles began in the first place.
    Have we really convinced enough people that staying is best that winning a second referendum is assured? Is there enough time? I don’t know to either; my hope reserves are running pretty low, so much wasted time, so little effort by those who are supposed to hold the government to account.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jan '19 - 9:59am

    “They must tell the British public in clear, concise and indisputable language that they were wrong”

    Remainers have never really deviated from this line. It didn’t work in 2016 and it probably won’t work any better if and when we have another referendum.

    IF we are to remain a member of the EU why not tell us why we should be optimistic about its future? Why we shouldn’t be worried about the demise of the centre left and the rise of the far right there! The rise of the far right means the demise of democracy generally.

    Tell us about how Emmanuel Macron is reforming the French economy with the full support of the French people. Tell us about how he is bringing down levels of unemployment. Tell us about how the European democratic parties are seeing off the rise of fascism. Tell us how EU, Greek, Italian, Spanish etc politicians are all working together to bring jobs to the peripheral regions and reduce unacceptably high levels of unemployment. Tell us how the EU is encouraging more regional democracy in places like Italy and is going to allow them greater freedom to set their own economic policies.

    If you are interested in the EU tell us something good about the place, FCOL !!!

    But we get nothing at all. At least we haven’t since the last French Presidential elections.

    We can all read in other sources just what is going on over the channel and we don’t like it. From a left perspective it isn’t consistent with people’s human rights. From a right and more selfish perspective, we sense a huge crisis developing there. The Italian banking system is facing a trillion euro bust and, if we don’t leave soon, we’ll be required to dig deep to bail them out in the not too distant future.

    I’ve never quite understood the line that it’s rats who leave the sinking ship. Anyone with any sense would surely want to do the same!

  • John Marriott 4th Jan '19 - 10:15am

    Well said, Sandra Hammett! I just wonder whether our ‘ex pat’ had his tongue firmly in his cheek. If not, then I think that we should put Brexit out of ‘Arms’ way! Telling people that they are wrong may be the direct approach; but it is likely simply to stir up even more trouble. If this is a sample of things to come from him, perhaps we should take Brexit at least out of ‘Arms’ way and try a much more subtle approach.

  • John Marriott 4th Jan '19 - 11:00am

    First of all, sorry about the repetition. Since submitting my orginal comment I’ve been pondering an approach that might just gain some traction. The trouble with the author’s suggested approach is that it simply smacks of so called ‘Project Fear’ Mark Two. Of the 38% of the adult population who voted ‘Leave’ there is a significantly large and vociferous hard core, who will clearly not change their mind, some of whom may indeed turn to violent protest if the decision to leave the EU were simply reversed and could be passively augmented by those who object to being told they they didn’t understand what they were voting for.

    Around 27% of the adult population didn’t vote at all. Can we assume that most of them would support no change? The truth is that our nation, or at least most of England, is horribly divided. Somehow, any way forward has got to acknowledge this division, which may not heal for many years. What many people, including large sections of British Industry, would appear to support is a close alignment economically with the EU, which would be beneficial to both sides. That’s why, before anyone nails their colours to the ‘Remain’ mast, every other avenue needs to be explored. A modified ‘May’ deal, a Norway Plus including membership of EFTA or whatever it calls itself today, needs to be explored, because they reflect in a more nuanced way the fact that we Brits really are different from our neighbours on the European mainland.

  • Barry Lofty 4th Jan '19 - 1:58pm

    The leave campaign won the referendum two years ago by a very slim majority and if recent polls are to be believed that majority has now transfered to the remain side. The Brexiters have never acknowledged the closeness of the original vote and made no moves to reconcile any differences of opinion with remainers and with today’s reports saying that the majority of Tory members would support a hard Brexit and with an awful Labour leadership I am beginning to feel the worst,I hope not though. A compromise would be better than nothing but I would not trust the leading protagonists on the leave side to show any compromise as a hard Brexit would suit them personally down the ground.

  • What is needed now is a party which is prepared to explain clearly the advantages of the European Union. The real E.U. that is.
    We have the first democratic international institution. Our choice of a country is between working on making democracy work, starting with our own country, and following the ideas of a new internationalism advocated by those seeking to get rid of what protection for the poor there is in this country.
    OK the forces supporting the new feudalism are strong, but that is no reason why there should be at least an attempt to fight for the ideals of creating a decent society.

  • Bit puzzled by some of the comments. The article says we need a BREXITEER MP to admit they were wrong.
    How is that Project Fear 2? Or dictatorship? How is that even ‘you’?

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '19 - 10:30am

    Why ‘Project Fear 2(sic)’? Because, to use the Leave campaign’s phrase, to adopt the tactics mentioned in the article is simply making the same mistakes again. It’s the idea of telling “the British public……that they were wrong” that I, and presumably other contributors, find hard to justify. What if they were right? You see, the impression that the Remain campaign gives is that everything in the EU garden is rosy, which is far from the case. As someone who would prefer to stay in for economic reasons alone I acknowledge that membership was never that straight forward. For that reason, if enough Leavers could be persuaded to accept a compromise (after all, the ‘winners’ of the referendum only represented around 38% of the adult population and should never forget that fact), so would I. Now, that’s surely not dictatorship, is it?

  • It’s a plea for a strong charismatic leader to take control. The tone of the article is aggressively assertive, must do this, must do that and must do it immediately which precludes any possibility of being elected. Thus it reads like a call for a special almost magically persuasive leader to tell the public what’s what and unite the nation. These are pretty dictatorial and authoritarian concepts. Also many liberals warn us about illiberal democracy or elected dictatorships, so argument that “appealing to the electorate” specifically excludes either possible interpretation is highly debatable. But as I’ve already pointed out the time scale means this mythical strongman/woman must act first and seek endorsement later.

  • @ John Marriott
    ‘because they reflect in a more nuanced way the fact that we Brits really are different from our neighbours on the European mainland.’
    Sorry John but I can’t let you get away with that. That is the reason England is ‘horribly divided’. Divided between cosmopolitan and rural, old v young, remain v leave.
    It is an attitude that has led to millions of deaths in the 20th century. It is an attitude that is fortunately dying. That is why we will end up back in the EU even if the people who still hold to this belief manage to inflict it’s last poisonous vestige into the body of the nation this time around. Today’s young generation are so much better than the one that has gone before and I can’t wait for them to come of age in our political institutions.

  • OnceALibDem 5th Jan '19 - 12:15pm

    “That’s why, before anyone nails their colours to the ‘Remain’ mast, every other avenue needs to be explored. A modified ‘May’ deal, a Norway Plus including membership of EFTA or whatever it calls itself today, needs to be explored”

    Fine. You have 84 days.

  • P.J
    What lead to millions of deaths in the 20th Century was lack of respect for national borders, the belief that history leads one way and that nationally based democracy was not up to the task of dealing with the modern world. This was the basis for the advancement of various forms of totalitarianism. The other thing about these kinds of border ignoring expansionist beliefs is that they tend to be utopian.

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '19 - 1:22pm

    For most of my adult life I have been conscious of an antipathy between many Brits and their immediate neighbours. I’ve lived and studied in both France and Germany in the 1960s and 1970s and have also lived for three years in Canada. I reckon that gives me a right to have an opinion.

    I have come to the conclusion that, partly through history but more particularly through geography, the clear majority of our citizens really do have a different view of the world than do many of their European neighbours. I’m not saying that I agree with them, especially from the experiences I have already outlined. It has a great deal to do with not having been conquered since 1066 and, in many ways, being able to live our own lives independently. Quite frankly, I don’t really understand the logic of you argument and, judging from other responses, I appear not to be alone.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Jan '19 - 4:11pm

    @ Tom Arms,

    ‘ They must tell the British public in clear, concise and indisputable terms that they were wrong’.

    No. Remainer politicians have been telling leavers this for two years. And like Sandra Hammett, I do not know whether enough people have been won over to the remain view.

    How about-

    ‘They must tell the British public in clear, concise and indisputable terms that they were right to do so. Just as those who voted remain in 2016 were right to do so. This is because none of us had the necessary information on which to make an informed choice. All of us were prey to politicians and others who had an agenda.

    Two years later, we now know nature of the deal that Mrs May has negotiated. We know the economic cost of those negotiations over the past two years. We also know the social costs. We also have a clearer idea of what the economic and social costs will be depending on whether we remain or leave the EU.

    We now have this clearer picture of what the costs and benefits of staying or leaving the EU are, we are all, both initial remain and leave voters, in a better position to make a decision based on this new knowledge gained over the past two years.

    What is needed now, is more time for all of us to reflect on our original decision, no matter how we voted in 2016.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Jan '19 - 5:09pm

    Jayne Mansfield 5th Jan ’19 – 4:11pm
    AND acknowledge that the electorate has changed over the past 2-3 years.
    Labour MPs should get behind their Brexit spokesman, Yes, ALL of them.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Jan '19 - 6:02pm

    @ Richard Underhill,

    Sorry Richard, but I am not prepared to celebrate the fact that some old people are no longer with us. And some young people are quite upset when grandma and grandpa, leave voters in life, are no longer around.

    Labour MPs, like MPs of other MPs should act in accordance with their best judgement. One can only debate the issues and hope that all MPs act in good faith and having weighed up the issues, act in the best interests of the people they represent.

  • @John Marriott
    Hi John. Your response does not surprise me. I would love to have time and space to have a longer dialogue but that’s not possible on a forum such as this. I would ask you to think about who was conquered in 1066 and by who. I suggest that with a name like Morriott your lineage would be somewhat on the side of the people doing the conquering. Which brings me on to the whole issue of ‘story telling’ in the binding the nation state and peoples sense of identity. I do not think that our story telling is serving us well at the moment. It seems to be locked in the Dunkirk/Blitz/Empire narrative and those were not happy time however much you wish to glorify them. My reference to the 20th century is an example of how story telling within Germany for example can lead nations to do terrible things. Whilst not suggesting we are comparable I would ask you to examine the stories which make up our sense of self and nationality and to think about them and whether they drive a positive vision for our country.

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

  • Mark Frankel
    ' an atmosphere of structural individualism pervades our lives. Common needs are repeatedly neglected ..' But the welfare budget is five times the defence budge...
  • Mary Fulton
    Cheer up! Current polls suggest we could win 10% of the vote and around 65MPs - just about perfect proportionality…....
  • David Langshaw
    Just to add to the Singapore imagery, it's worth remembering that the Japanese advanced all the way down the Malayan peninsula on bicycles....
  • Geoff Reid
    In the midst of the alarms and excursions of an election campaign - and the necessary simplifications - it is very refreshing to be reminded of the ground on wh...
  • Bill Le Breton
    Fantastic piece. Thank you....