Open Britain divides opinion

Yesterday’s announcement of Stronger In’s rebranding as Open Britain pushing for greatest possible openness, and greatest retention of the benefits of EU membership post-referendum has divided opinion.

Statements like this one

Despite being drawn from different political parties, all of us campaigned proudly and passionately for Britain to remain in the European Union. The result was not the one we wanted, but of course we respect the democratically expressed verdict of the British people.

The UK may have voted to leave the EU, but the certainty ends there. What does Brexit actually mean? Europe will continue to be our biggest trading partner and a pivotal ally in a range of areas, from national security to climate change. The negotiations to leave will be long and complex with unprecedented stakes, not least maintaining the Union. All of us who value our United Kingdom must be vigilant against the result being used as a catalyst to break it up.

have been read as giving up on EU membership, and maybe that is what it means. I have always said respect but don’t accept the result, just as you should respect the result of an election and fight for a better result next time.

And this

However, we must learn lessons. June 23 was a moment of change. The strength of feeling is clear. Free movement of people cannot continue as it has done. It has to be reformed. This was not an expression of prejudice but rather a desire for managed migration and concern that rapid immigration can put pressure on public services and local communities. Britain must be open to talent, but with more ability to act if excessive competition in labour markets hurts our economy.

For too long we have ducked an open debate over immigration. That was true in the referendum campaign but it is also true of all the major political parties in the past decade or more. As a result, untruths have been allowed to prosper and a balanced debate never materialised, leading many to feel that legitimate concerns were being dismissed. This must change. Calls for reform must sit with a positive argument about the benefits that immigration brings.

has been interpreted as giving up on free movement and therefore on the single market. I think it has more in common with Vince Cable’s observations earlier today.

These two quotes were taken from the times here, and looking below the line (I know), the first two comments we see are:

Ah yes – the very name “Open Britain” is of course an imputation that Brexit is all about a “Closed Britain”; this slur is then consolidated by your liberal sprinkling of Clegg like lazy remainer messages “pulling up the drawbridge”, “nostalgia is not a strategy”, “a vote for a more insular and less inclusive country”, “turn our face against the world”, “untruths have been allowed to prosper.”
So, despite your faux mea culpa on the issue of immigration – it seems you haven’t moved on but remain stuck with all your insulting straw man arguments.

and

Free movement doesn’t need reform. It needs to cease.

The British people voted to regain control … and that includes controlling who may come here to work; how many and under what circumstances.

These 3 Remainiacs need to learn that they lost the argument.

This is the division of opinion to which I refer. The first one says “Shut up. The people voted for a more open Britain; you didn’t understand.” The second says “Shut up. The people voted for a more closed Britain; you didn’t understand.”

The official leave campaign message was outward-looking – it said we can stand tall in the world. It was the unofficial message that was all about immigration. The government will never be able to satisfy both sides (or either?) of the leave campaign on this, and it is absolutely right that we should challenge them to take a position – and the better of the two. This is the wedge issue that could destroy leave from the inside and it has to be exploited.

You want another vote on this? So do I, but not now. Not until the government has taken a position on openness, betraying half the leavers, the effects on the economy have become more apparent, and there is a detailed deal on the table (reality v reality, as opposed to the reality v fantasy of June). Vote before that happens, and we will lose again.

We want another vote (but not now). Open Britain are hammering on the wedge that might win us that vote. We are pushing in the same direction. The real division of opinion is on the other side.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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31 Comments

  • Leave The EU 30th Aug '16 - 6:45pm

    “Shut up. The people voted for a more closed Britain; you didn’t understand.” – “control” and “closed” are not necessarily synonymous, such as Australia’s points-based system. All the best and peace.

  • Stuart Irving 30th Aug '16 - 7:00pm

    I work in the software industry. A points system is pointless.

    In my last round of recruitment I did not have one serious application from a native brit. Several from the EU and a few from further afield resulted in two talented new recruits, both immigrants.

    In your job, would you trust the Government to pre-vet all your applicants? I wouldn’t! People outside of my industry don’t realise that the skills we need change with frightening speed, there is no way they could keep up.

    I do not want a points system, it would be a costly handicap to productivity.

  • No Open Britain divides the peculiar purist opinion of the Liberal Democrats rather like Momentum divides Labour opinion.

    I don’t understand the intellectual rut the purists have about free movement of Labour. What is the hangup about planning migration – like they do everywhere outside the EU? What is the psychological rut and paralysis that you have that will drive votes away? We need a one nation Liberal party that challenges the excesses of the Tories and is a clear alternative to Labour.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Aug '16 - 9:28pm

    Yes I agree, taking a position on the negotiations is not giving up on the EU. We can’t just have the brexiters draw up all the plans.

    It is worrying if many adopt a “no compromise with the electorate” position. I’ve seen all immigration controls being called pandering to racists – so is the position throw the borders open worldwide and watch the instability? No, this is a complicated issue and we should have a nuanced debate rather than worry nuance dilutes the messaging.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Aug '16 - 9:38pm

    In theory the referendum was about migration of EU citizens, but it became about migration overall, ignoring the number of returning UK citizens, ignoring the numbers of illegal entrants and overstayers and trying to persuade people of non-EU origin that there would be room for their friends and families if the UK left the EU. If the UK leaves the EU there will be less money available for government spending in general.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Aug '16 - 10:08pm

    I think Mr Otten that you need to be a bit careful about conflating a (well-founded) suspicion of the UK government with a love of the EU. I’d agree that LEAVE was a less than stable coalition of a range of world views. But then I got a sense that a good number of REMAIN voters were not exactly about to belt out Ode to Joy on their way to the ballot box.

    In no sense was the UK referendum a ringing endorsement of the EU’s record or vision, and some remainers might do well to remember that.

    If May can put together some sort of a Norway type deal that is looser on the EU’s rules and has a sharper distinction between free movement of labour and free movement of people she might well get somewhere with the voters. Yes, UKIP types will be annoyed, but frankly they’d be annoyed at anything and May doesn’t need them. She’s probably delighted at the prospect of not needing them if anything.

    Can there be some sort of outcome that brings together the soft leave and soft remain into a workable coalition? I think you are dismissing the possibility too lightly Mr Otten.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Aug '16 - 10:17pm

    Just one other thought on free movement Mr Otten. Suppose there was a second referendum – what would change. The only honest line I can think of is something like this:

    ‘Staying in the EU will, in all likelihood, result in very high levels of net inward migration. There can be no promises that current trends will reverse. Further enlargement will likely mean higher inward migration. This is irrespective of pressures on the UK state’s services.’

    Whatever LEAVE said, and for sure it came with small print to say the least, I don’t think too many remainers were keen with confronting voters with the above line and I don’t see what would be different.

    If there could be a Spanish style crimp on free movement, that might be different….

  • Leave The EU 31st Aug '16 - 12:16am

    @Stuart Irving – I happen to work in a field (for many years) with close connections to immigration to Australia, Canada and the UK and have seen first-hand how people are selected by English ability, etc. – if Australian IT companies, which country has a working immigration points system, are not able to get the staff they need in a reasonable manner, then please share a link. All the best and peace.

  • Peter Watson 31st Aug '16 - 6:42am

    @Stuart Irving “In my last round of recruitment I did not have one serious application from a native brit.”
    Surely Lib Dems should be shouting about how they can address the causes of that (whether it be unattractive salaries or insufficient qualified people, etc.) rather than giving the impression that the only way to address a shortage of skills is immigration. Importing labour is a quick fix but it risks encouraging employers and government to cut costs by giving up on training and developing employees and citizens.

  • Jenny Barnes 31st Aug '16 - 9:09am

    The referendum I voted in was about whether or not we should “leave the EU”. It was no more, and no less, about immigration than it was about spending another £350 million a week on the NHS. Some people may think they have psychic powers and know why people voted the way they did, but actually they don’t.

  • John Peters 31st Aug '16 - 9:19am

    Jenny Barnes

    I hear you sister, I was called and I answered,

    “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

  • Leave The EU 31st Aug '16 - 2:18pm

    @Jenny Barnes “Some people may think they have psychic powers and know why people voted the way they did, but actually they don’t.” – with respect Leave did repeated polling and knew what to focus on to win, which they did. All the best and peace.

  • Leave The EU 31st Aug '16 - 2:21pm

    @Nick Hopkinson – “Brexiteers didn’t provide a manifesto of what Brexit looks like so the actual Brexit deal has no legitimacy.” – with respect the official Leave campaign’s slogan was “Take Back Control” of immigration control, parliamentary and budgetary control, etc.. All the best and peace.

  • Jenny Barnes 31st Aug '16 - 3:35pm

    “Leave did repeated polling and knew what to focus on to win, which they did. ”

    And of course the sample was completely representative? and everyone who answered the questions not only told the truth at the time, but voted the way they said they would and for the reasons they said they would?

    Would you like to buy a bridge?

  • Leave The EU 31st Aug '16 - 3:44pm

    @Jenny Barnes – Leave won: they won because they identified through polling what people wanted and campaigned on those issues and won on those issues against extreme opposition – it is somewhat baffling that anyone would seriously try to make out that did not happen. All the best and peace.

  • Leave The EU 31st Aug '16 - 3:47pm

    @Jenny Barnes – PS if you seriously think that “immigration control” etc. is not an issue for a large amount of UK voters, then UKIP is waiting. All the best and peace.

  • “The people” didn’t vote to leave the EU. 37% of the electorate voted Leave, which does NOT give the Government a mandate to proceed to Brexit. It would be unconstitutional for the government to proceed without having permission from Parliament to do so; the referendum was no more than a UK-wide opinion poll in its legal effect.

  • James Spackman 31st Aug '16 - 5:52pm

    @Leave The EU

    LibDems have been campaigning on taking back control of decision-making by putting it in the hands of ordinary residents since at least the 1950s and Jo Grimond. We call this ‘community politics’.

    The principle is called ‘subsidiarity’, which is supported by the EU in various ways, particularly by balancing individual sovereignty against national sovereignty.

    For example EU competition rules last year guaranteed common roaming pricing for mobile phone users across the continent, putting an end to companies like O2 or Vodafone charging 10x more for the same service.

    Voting against EU membership was a vote against subsidiarity and individual sovereignty, and against taking back control.

    The confusion perpetrated by Leavers about what ‘Brexit’ actually means shows they have no idea or interest in ‘taking back control’. Leading Leavers like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage were prepared to say anything, however dishonest, to win the vote and further their personal ambitions at the expense of ordinary people.

    Leave created chaos, now we must take back control from them.

  • Leave The EU 31st Aug '16 - 6:05pm

    @ James Spackman “Voting against EU membership was a vote against subsidiarity and individual sovereignty, and against taking back control.

    The confusion perpetrated by Leavers about what ‘Brexit’ actually means shows they have no idea or interest in ‘taking back control’. Leading Leavers like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage were prepared to say anything, however dishonest, to win the vote and further their personal ambitions at the expense of ordinary people.” with respect Leave overwhelmingly repeated the phrase “take back control” in terms of parliamentary sovereignty, immigration control and control of the UK budget, as opposed to it being decided by non-UK individuals in Brussels. Furthermore Boris and Michael put a lot at risk by voting for the possibly losing side and Nigel resigned when the job was done – where is the “personal ambition” in that? All the best and peace.

  • For example EU competition rules last year guaranteed common roaming pricing for mobile phone users across the continent, putting an end to companies like O2 or Vodafone charging 10x more for the same service

    But aren’t they just going to raise their general rates to compensate, meaning that those who don’t roam much or at all will lose out in order to benefit the minority who do travel internationally a lot?

  • Peter Watson 1st Sep '16 - 9:02am

    @Guest ‘“The people” didn’t vote to leave the EU. 37% of the electorate voted Leave, which does NOT give the Government a mandate to proceed to Brexit. It would be unconstitutional for the government to proceed without having permission from Parliament to do so’
    Like it or not, the Tories were elected to Government (by an even smaller proportion of the electorate) with a very clear manifesto commitment:

    We will let you decide whether to stay in or leave the EU
    We will legislate in the first session of the next Parliament for an in-out referendum to be held on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. We will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU. And then we will ask the British people whether they want to stay in on this basis, or leave. We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome.

    How liberal or democratic is a Lib Dem position that a governing party’s manifesto commitments do not give them a mandate, or that it is acceptable simply to ignore promises made to the electorate?

  • Also this from the £9m leaflet – `this is your decision the government will implement what you decide`. There in black and white.

  • @Tim re: roaming charges
    “But aren’t they just going to raise their general rates to compensate, meaning that those who don’t roam much or at all will lose out in order to benefit the minority who do travel internationally a lot?”

    Well perhaps you should also ask yourself whether it is right for users of domestic networks to benefit by having their service subsidised by roaming users?

    However, given the final position is that as from the 15-June-2017 the operators will not be able to charge an extra roaming fee, I suspect the market will radically change! Because within the single market the operators are unable to discriminate between subscribers, so if the UK networks put their prices up excessively then expect people to move to another EU mobile operator… So in this final scenario are those who don’t roam very much actually losing out?

  • Tony Dawson 1st Sep '16 - 4:13pm

    They even managed to choose a name which has already been gobbled up by an organisation promoting accessible tourism within these isles:
    http://www.openbritain.net/

    Amateurs or what? I have a sneaking feeling that someone is paying them too much for them to be amateurs but for why?

  • Simon Banks 1st Sep '16 - 6:05pm

    If Open Britain accepts the Brexit vote as final (different from not arguing for a second referendum) and accepts a need for further restrictions on immigration, what, other than that dread phrase “the centre ground”, does it stand for?

    I wait to see.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Sep '16 - 9:34am

    Stuart Irving

    I work in the software industry. A points system is pointless.

    In my last round of recruitment I did not have one serious application from a native brit. Several from the EU and a few from further afield resulted in two talented new recruits, both immigrants.

    I work as a university lecturer in Computer Science, and I teach core programming. Is that the sort of thing you are looking for?

    If the problem is that too many of those who have Computer Science degrees don’t have the necessary skills, or don’t have the right attitude, I could say more on that. Or do they just not apply in the first place?

  • Yellow Submarine 4th Sep '16 - 7:45am

    There must now be a 99% chance of A50 being invoked. So it’s entirely understandable if many Remain Campaigners want to know focus on shaping Brexit and limiting the damage. On the other hand EU secession is so existentially awful other may not want to give up on the 1% chance of stopping Brexit in the 4 or 5 months we have left. Either approach is rational. It’s a matter of judgement and taste.

  • Maisie Paddon 14th Nov '16 - 6:32pm

    On the topic where Theresa May is looking to remove 7 of her majesty’s royal charters, including the one where University’s should relinquish their freedom for course creation and research objectives to the government. Is this a repeat of Germany in the 1930’s and how fascist states behave where the truth is removed for the convenience of those in power. We’ve already seen Theresa May’s government since they came to power in July deny climate change as well as the general name calling coming from their side rather that the use of real proper debate. JS Mill who promoted the idea of debate in government to ensure accuracy of information and peoples liberties upheld would turn in his grave!!!

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