Our principled and distinctive position on Europe makes us relevant – don’t abandon it in pursuit of Express voters

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“Support for Brexit is collapsing” screams an article from Business Insider back in June, noting that a majority of Brits want to stay in the EU. Good for us?

“Lib Dems FINALLY listen to Britain as Ed Davey says demand to rejoin EU ‘for the birds'” bellows an article from the Express this weekend.

Ah.

As we all know (and often lament), in politics there is no room for nuance. Labour, post-2016, lost both blue-collared Leavers and metropolitan Remainers when they tried to navigate a nuanced policy on Brexit (something that gave us a path back to relevance, post-Coalition). And before that, there was of course the byword for “a party with no positions on anything” – the Liberal Democrats.

Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood the Lib Dems were a nothing – a party of no principles, which seemed to want to squeeze into the centre ground on any position. In fact, my clearest memory associated with the party was Charles Kennedy on an episode of “Clarkson” trying to squeeze a bottle of semi-skimmed milk between skimmed and full-fat bottles, as Jeremy kept inching the red-top and blue-top closer to each other (if anyone can find this clip to prove it wasn’t a fever dream then please link it in the comments).

This charade of milk-bottle ballet cemented my view of the Lib Dems.

But in 2016, after we lost the Brexit referendum, the Liberal Democrats were clear and unequivocal – we should remain in the EU. And so, I joined – to fight Brexit.

I’m not leaving – since joining, I realised that the party aligns with me on much more than I previously thought (and, I’ve found that where we don’t align often I’ve found the party’s position persuasive enough that I’ve changed my mind). I am through-and-through a Liberal, and a proud party member. I’m sure that’s true of a lot of “my cohort”.

But it’s clear that the party didn’t achieve cut-through until they could set out a clear and unequivocal position. That’s hard, for a Liberal, in a liberal democracy – often the most liberal path is a middle-ground. But where we can – where the liberal position is also the unequivocal one – we should stake out our position.

The most liberal position on Brexit is that we should stay in the EU – and the most liberal position once we’ve left is that we should Rejoin. This has been argued to death and there’s clear consensus amongst Liberals that this is the case (I won’t rehash the debate here) – and it’s about to hit our communities, hard. When it does we need to be there, with a clear and unequivocal stance – not this middle-of-the-road stuff that so predictably gets interpreted by each journalist and newspaper as “What do the Lib Dems even believe anymore?”.

They need to know what we believe.

We don’t need to slap it on the front of our manifesto, or to even campaign vigorously on the subject (it’s not like we do that with the majority of our extensive policy library). We can leave the pressure to pressure groups. But we should bank the good-will, and cement our place in British Politics as the party for people that care about re-joining the EU, as we seek out other strings for our own distinctive bow.

I fear that, by cutting the only string the public see, all we’ll be left holding is a stick.

* James Belchamber is Chair of South West Birmingham Liberal Democrats and runs the Lib Dem Digital forum.

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41 Comments

  • Peter Martin 8th Sep '20 - 10:10am

    “……. it’s about to hit our communities, hard. When it does we need to be there, with a clear and unequivocal stance – not this middle-of-the-road stuff ……”

    OK but suppose it doesn’t hit quite as badly as you might hope for. What if the EU has a lot more problems recovering from the Covid induced recession than the UK? This is going to be a much bigger problem than GFC2008, and the EU never properly got to grips with that.

    The nature of the single currency will mean that a huge Covid bill will be presented to the surplus countries of Germany, Netherlands, Austria and even the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Poland if the non euro countries are asked to make some contribution too. What if the voters in these countries rebel and say ‘no way’? The French were doing this anyway, even before the current problem took hold.

    Our EU leaving bill might appear cheap compared to what we could have been required to contribute to a Covid recovery fund for the EU.

    Best to do nothing for the next year or so, and you can’t do much anyway, until you can see which way things will go.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Sep '20 - 10:45am

    @ James,
    Before discussing rejoining the EU , shouldn’t those of us who believe that is better and more advantageous to be part of the EU than not, be holding Johnson and his dismal government’s feet to the fire? The Brexit they promised appears increasingly at odds from the Brexit they are now raising as a possibility – no deal a good thing, anyone?

    It is the reticence of politicians to challenge the hollowness of Johnson on his ‘oven ready’ deal etc., that needs to be happening now, not some time in the future. It is the job of politicians to challenge the nonsense that the electorate are being fed.

    I really rate Keir Starmer, but I am not sure that his, give them enough rope etc., will be effective given the skill Johnson and al. demonstrate when it comes to scapegoating to divert attention from their incompetence.

    I don’t think that an uncritical approach to the benefits of belonging to the EU will change hearts and minds,. It is certainly not my standpoint. I suspect many that one hopes to win over, will be more open to sharing my own view, that it is better to have influence to make changes within the EU and collaborate to make improvements that are mutually beneficial, than isolate ourselves further.

    Those who I know voted remain in the referendum, had different political leanings, Conservative, Labour, Greens, Lib Democrats etc. This time round maybe collaboration with those who have a shared aim, rather than party political competition will be more fruitful.

    Given that there still seems to be those , much younger than me, in your party who think the revoke policy was a good thing, I am not too optimistic that when it comes to the EU, a sizeable number in your party have learned much. I hope I am wrong.

  • I think that our Party can have a simple and clear position.

    1. Leaving the EU was a mistake.
    2. Having left, we believe the results will be bad for the UK, but are open to being proved wrong. Time will tell.
    3. If our expectations prove correct, we will campaign in 2024 for the UK to rejoin, with an internal UK decision making process that commands majority support and unites the country and whatever number of nations are still left in the UK at that time.

  • It was proven last year that if the Lib Dems identify themselves as a party that is only about EU membership and nothing else then they will be wiped out in elections.

    There is zero point in having an identity than nobody actually wants to vote for. And they clearly don’t.

    The identity is one of being open, willing to work with others, pro-trade and pro-business but with a social conscience. A party with that identity will naturally support EU membership, but wanting EU membership is not the identity, and EU membership is not a requirement to achieving the aims of the identity.

    Right now there a lot of soft Tories who must be pretty disillusioned with a government that has stumbled from one disaster to the next and is currently threatening to rip up an international treaty. These people aren’t generally xenophobic, many may still be pro-EU, and they’re pro-trade, which requires being open and friendly with other countries. These voters are up for grabs and if the Lib Dems don’t make a big pitch to win them over, they’ll just go and vote for the now much-less-scary Labour party, which has quite sensibly shut up about Europe for now.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Sep '20 - 11:16am

    I voted Lib Dem in every election up to now since 1997. I voted to Remain. I am not an Express Reader. I live in an English seat where once, the Lib Dems were the main opposition to Labour.

    Neither are my parents Express Readers, who aren’t anywhere near as interested in Lib Dem politics as I am, but have had the same voting pattern since 1997 (and voted either SDP, Alliance or Liberal depending on the options, when that was a thing), live in an English seat where once, the Lib Dems were the main opposition to the Tories.

    I am struggling to persuade my parents that a) the Revoke policy was principled. They might have grudgingly accepted a second referendum, but were sceptical about that. They also do not believe that there is a mandate for rejoining the EU at this stage, and are worried that to propose it risks too much social and political division. They are, however, very very anxious that there should be no further significant separation from the EU, and would like to see the country rejoin the EU in the future.

    Both I and they are sceptical about Ed Davey, and see him as too close to the Tories during the coalition, so in saying this I cannot be accused of being a Davey loyalist.

    Both I and they would never vote for a party that had ruled out rejoining the EU indefinitely.

    But if Labour plays its cards right and argues articulately for a close trading and strategic partnership with the EU, we will vote for them if the Lib Dems allow themselves to be caricatured as the party of unilateral unequivocal Rejoin, without describing a plausible process of negotiation and democratic consent.

    You don’t need to sell me or my parents the idea of rejoining the EU, you had as at ‘EU’. You need to sell us the process for doing so and persuade us that the debate will not divide the country further. Otherwise we will vote for a compromise option.

    Your leader says he will listen to the people (I’m not sure I entirely believe him but, anyway). So you start off by strawmanning your own loyal voters who want to rejoin the EU (but as a nuanced future aspiration) as ‘Express Readers’ who exhibit the worst characteristics of your political opponents and can be freely demonised. I can’t sell this level of blinkeredness to my friends and family.

    Grow up. Get practical. Persuade the country, don’t demonise it, or you will split your party around an artificial divide and fade into irrelevance even faster.

  • I am a 100% European, but we need votes, not ideas, we must disentangle ourselves from past mistakes and policies and change, change, change.

  • I suspect some of the Euro countries will offer Brit’s sweet deals to emigrate and invest there, once we have finally left, but it will probably need a net worth of Euro 250-500k to get on to a fastrack to a EU country’s passport and hence regain FOM. This is the only realistic thing you can do in the next couple of decades, aside from moving to Scotland or NI, either likely to go independent. So get saving.

    The Welsh are unlikely to break off from England, no chance of the latter voting to rejoin the EU.

    I agree that we would be better off as individuals in the EU but business/trade/markets it is mutable, companies adjust to the way things are and you can make a case either way. Current posturing is more of the same, there will be a reasonable deal in the end, Boris will get a round of applause for being a clever chap, and life will go on.

    It is individuals who will get done over, both from lack of easy access to the EU and a lack of protection from the state and big companies.

  • Paul Barker 8th Sep '20 - 12:44pm

    This is a question of Honesty, something that Voters value & something we should follow because its Right.
    Most Voters with an opinion already assume we are in favour of rejoining, any wobbling will simply be interpreted as Cowardice.
    I assume that Ed simply “Miss-spoke”.

  • Julian Tisi 8th Sep '20 - 12:45pm

    I agree with Dan Martin (above) and also sadly Matt (Bristol). We have left the EU, the country was badly scarred by the experience and most voters don’t want to revisit the argument for now. If we keep flogging this dead horse we will look like obsessives who don’t give two hoots for democracy (we can argue all we like about the referendum result but the public aren’t buying that it was illegitimate and can be ignored).

    I believe it’s possible to continue to say we believe that Britain’s best interests are served by membership of the EU – as I believe we should – while conceding that now is not the right time to rejoin.

    As for the argument we have to avoid nuance to get elected where did Revoke get us?

  • David Allen 8th Sep '20 - 1:04pm

    Daily Express: “Lib Dems FINALLY listen to Britain as Ed Davey says demand to rejoin EU ‘for the birds'”

    It’s really important that a political leader should be able to coin a memorable phrase, one that sticks in people’s minds and defines what a party stands for. “You’ve never had it so good” said Macmillan. “The lady is not for turning” said Thatcher. “A penny in the pound on income tax” said Charles Kennedy. All phrases which resonated with the public, and boosted the ambitions of the leaders who used them.

    Well, now Ed Davey has found a phrase that could stick in everybody’s mind, which is that his Lib Dems think that rejoining the EU is “for the birds”.

    He has trumped Nick Clegg, who told all left-of-centre voters to stop voting Lib Dem, and thus managed to reduce the Lib Dem vote share from 20% down to 6%. But at least Clegg told his right-of-centre supporters they should stick around, which accounts for the 6%. Ed Davey has now told Lib Dem supporters that only those amongst them who are ardent Brexiteers should stick around. Sheer genius!

  • John Marriott 8th Sep '20 - 2:13pm

    @Mohammed Amin
    So, “leaving the EU was a mistake”. Are you so sure? Your second comment is more realistic. The problem is that nobody really knows for sure yet. Some people reckon that the dying Nelson actually said; “Kismet, Hardy”. Yes, fate can prove an untrustworthy bedfellow. Who would have bet that we would be spending most of this year stressing about a virus?

    @James Belchamber
    “The most Liberal position on Brexit is …etc”. I agree with the first part; but surely, what should follow is something like “but we will wait and see how it pans out before deciding what to do”. Now THAT’S a ‘Liberal position, isn’t it?

    @Peter Martin
    I see you have switched your attentions to this latest EU article. By the way, unless I missed it, I’m still wondering whether you are prepared to give us a few more of your thoughts on why the Weimar Republic came a cropper, as the EU itself could if it’s not careful?

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Sep '20 - 2:15pm

    Julian,

    I think I’m a notch or two more enthusiastic than you about rejoining, I just think those who want to rejoin need to be realistic about the challenge, not just bellow their principles into the void.

    In my fantasy land I would like the policy to be something like:
    – We will not call for a formal renegotiation to rejoin before the 2024 election
    – We will always call for the closest formal arrangement possible with a significant number of shared institutions
    – From 2024 a Lib Dem majority government would ask for an indicative vote in the House of Commons on reopening negotiations to rejoin, organised by groups of MPs from the constituent nations of the UK
    – If a majority of MPs from each constituent nation voted for it, or over 75% of all MPs without a majority from every nation, the government would then hold a referendum on reopening negotiations to rejoin
    – If the indicative vote failed, the government would not reopen the issue during that parliament
    – If the subsequent referendum failed, the government would not reopen the issue during that parliament
    – If any resulting negotiations successfully yielded a deal, the terms of that deal would be put to the public in a referendum before formal re-entry into membership of the EU.
    – the party would pledge to not make rejoining the EU a ‘red line’ in any coalition negotiations, but would hold out its aspirations for both rejoining and a clear democratic process.

    So there would be a firm aim to rejoin and not a giving up of the aspiration, but there would be a clear process, a democratic test, and a ‘quadruple lock’ of MP vote, referendum, negotiations, referendum.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Sep '20 - 2:15pm

    (continued…)

    To be honest, I would see this as a position from which to lobby Labour, rather than the basis for a government, as it would act as a model for those in Labour who would wish to go further than their party’s anticipated compromise position.

    I suspect this is still going to put off some, but it would represent a regrouping of the Lib Dem position, and also a shoring up of the party’s democratic credentials.

    I think where the leadership appear to be going wrong, in my view, is that in hearing the voices of doubt about re-entry, they seem to think that the resolution can be by executive fiat – ie Ed says ‘we won’t do this’. The damage to the party’s credibility done by Revoke was to the sense of the party’s regard for an apparently democratic mandate. Another ‘leap in the dark’ based on an individual’s will does absolutely nothing to address this and enhances the reputation of being ‘as bad as the others’ in terms of U-turns.

  • Paul Barker 8th Sep '20 - 2:35pm

    Time to point out (Again) that as far as most practical stuff goes, we havent Left The EU yet.
    The current (July) figures of 150,000 Redundancies a Month are before “Leaving” has any effects.

    Big Business seems to be finally waking up to what “Actual Brexit” may mean for them & they dont like what they see.

  • Sue Sutherland 8th Sep '20 - 2:50pm

    I agree with Mohammed and Martin. It’s a simple message and recognises we might be mistaken. Basically we have lost the argument and a Brexit government has been voted in. That’s the political reality and we are a political party not a single issue pressure group.
    As for the mechanism required to seek to rejoin the EU, in the foreseeable future it would require at least one of the two main parties to have rejoining in their manifesto and another Referendum to seek the views of the general public.
    In the meantime I hope the party will work on a package of measures to improve our democracy, which would hopefully include regulation on how a Referendum should be conducted. We need to be a party of the future not the past.

  • I can’t recall but surely when we had the original referendum in the seventies, the terms of joining were clearly set out, yet the last referendum no such clarity existed. If the LibDems want to do something useful they should insist that the exit deal for Scotland should be agreed before a referendum so that at least everyone knows what they are actually voting for. Such good sense from a political party would surely be approved of by the voters.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Sep '20 - 3:24pm

    Frank, it’s consistent with the original Time Farron-era second-referendum-on-the-EU-after-negotiation policy, Vince Cable was in fact nodding in that direction during the run-up to the 2019 Euro-elections… and even some of Jo Swinson’s statements during the leadership contest against Ed Davey implied a regularisation of the referendum as a constitutional tool. Late 2019 seemed to set fire to all that, and everything went up in smoke and we were left with unilateral revocation based on a plurality of votes, not a majority.

    You can pull away from ‘revoke’ without letting go of ‘rejoin’ but in my view you have to be prepared to put constraints on yourself by a referendum-style process with some pretty stiff tests, and accept that may mean – even if you get into government – you may not get the ability to act like the Tories and grab for everything you want in the event of gaining the slightest finger on power.

    Any party putting forward a referendum proposal now, post-Cameron, has to have a reasonable scenario for what it would do in both outcomes.

    It may be that Ed Davey feels he cannot do so and be credible. Not that I feel the ‘for the birds’ statement is any more credible, to be honest.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Sep '20 - 3:53pm

    If we must have another EU referendum, it must, ABSOLUTELY MUST, be binding. Make it so that a vote to rejoin Automatically (by Statutory Instrument, written into the legislation) triggers the start of negotiations, and word the legislation so that it is watertight and as difficult as possible for either side to get around by trickery. No more, ABSOLUTELY NO MORE advisory referendums that people pretend are binding.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Sep '20 - 4:16pm

    Alex — fine by me.
    So that means either:
    – a future majority Lib Dem government that wants to rejoin, but is prepared to legislate away its ability to override a referendum that would prevent that outcome
    – a future Lib Dem junior coalition partner that can extract a legally binding referendum from the senior partner and ensure no-one wriggles on it.

    Any Lib Dem leadership in future (even after PR) that thinks reaccession can be achieved without a referendum, is in my view insane.

    Equally, any Lib Dem leadership that think reaccession can be shelved as an agenda for the party (like some Liberal leaders in the 1890s tried to wriggle away from the unachieved aim of Home Rule for Ireland) are also insane or trying to split the party.

  • I have commented several times that I am a reluctant remainer. Personally I think the EU is driving itself into a untenable position of a system driven by France and Germany wherr there is no direct consent via referendum or otherwise by the public and driven by political and now emergency ideology will create the seeds of nationalism, hence Brexit or the recent launch of another anti eu party in Italy. I didn’t vote for the Lib dems and let ny membership lapse after the fracus of the J swinson election where a inner cadre focused on this very narrow agenda. I believe that lib dems with there pro trade, pro international approach will be the best course. They can talk about talking to the EU in regards to cooperation arrangements etc but should not try and force the EU issue and rejoin, as again we will be smacked down. We can br pro Eau and pro international and wr nust also be prepared to be critical of the European Union where necessary. The recent hardrning of the Mediterranean borders frim asylum seejers and the lack of any movement in regards to Hun

  • Let’s not forget that it was LibDem MPs refusing to participate meaningfully in the Letwin ‘indicative options’ process that failed to put both the a Customs Union and Single Market across the line. In a parallel universe somewhere, our MPs were prepared to work Co-operatively across party with the likes of Ken Clarke and Hilary Benn and the CU/SM option won a majority and was taken forward to implementation.

    We don’t have any high ground on this issue.

  • Sorry… It issues, Hungary and Poland are a major concern. Perhaps we shoukd be looking at commonwealth and other international libeeal parties ti cooperate with to burnish the parties credentials.

  • “The recent hardrning of the Mediterranean borders frim asylum seejers and the lack of any movement in regards to Hungary and Poland are a major concern”

    As someone from continental Europe I find this sort of comment frustrating in the extreme. The EU (relative to its population) admits a lot more asylum seekers than then UK does. The British commentariat have propagated a myth about fortress Europe vs global Britain but anyone comparing UK immigration and visa rules with those of pretty much every EU member state knows that it is much more fortress UK than fortress EU.

    As regards Hungary and Poland, the criticisms are never well articulated beyond a left-wing dislike for socially conservative right-wing governments that keep getting reelected. In case people have forgotten, the UK had Section 28 banning “promotion” of homosexuality in schools on the statute book until the end of 2003. Poland decriminalized consensual same-sex acts in 1932, 50 years before that was the case across the UK. And the system of appointment and retirement of judges in the UK does not bear up very well compared with some of the principles relating to independence of the judiciary. Indeed, Ireland only in the last ten years had a referendum to reduce judges pay. I would have thought that in the context of trying to convince the UK electorate to support EU membership, criticizing the EU for not interfering sufficiently in other EU member states might not be the best approach to adopt.

  • Frank West 3.08 pm
    The UK joined the EEC in 1973. The 1975 Referendum was a mechanism to avoid a split within the Labour government, which in fact it did some years later.Interesting some Conservatives at the time didn’t vote because they considered referenda were not part of the British constitution.
    The issues were more clear cut in 1975 however the political side of the EEC was played down (greater union). Britain clearly benefited from having complete access to European markets.
    Today the picture is much more cloudy and not one that can be reduced to simple slogans.

  • As a Brexiteer, I have made my views clear. However, the great majority here favours rejoining the EU and the debate is about what the policy should be. I think the party should tell the truth and state that it wishes to rejoin at a suitable opportunity.

    I just have one question, are there any circumstances in which the party would not wish to re-join the EU?

  • This is pretty simple. The party to set some tests by which Brexit can be judged a success or failure. If it’s a success we accept the result and move on. If it’s a failure we go for a referendum.

  • Here’s what Ed should have said.
    “The Liberal Democrats believe the UK belongs in the EU. That hasn’t changed, and will not change. What [i]has[/i] changed is that the Brexit argument is over. We can’t stop Brexit any more. It’s happened. We’ve left the EU. That’s a new reality, and we have to adapt to it. It’s not even clear that the EU would [i]have[/i] us back at this point. It would be arrogant for us to talk about rejoining till we know they’re up for it.
    “So, our focus in the next few years will be on helping people deal with the awful consequences of Brexit. On their jobs, on their wages, on their rights. I passionately believe that we will be back in the EU one day, and that’s what the Liberal Democrats want. But the route to getting there will not happen overnight, and we now need to prioritise other issues until the country – and the EU – are ready to have that debate.
    “So, be in no doubt, the Liberal Democrats want to rejoin the EU. But now is not the time to push that as a full-on campaign. We need to save the country from its ruinous consequences.”
    Unfortunately that’s not want he actually said. So now I’m spending part of my week trying to stop members and supporters – people I persuaded to join/vote for us on the basis we are pro-EU – from leaving us.
    I also must admit I didn’t hear Ed say in any of the 47 hustings meetings that rejoining the EU was ‘for the birds.’ Maybe I missed that one.
    It’s all a bit disheartening, to say the least. And I’m hoping conference can get us back on track with a motion saying something akin to the above.

  • Peter Martin 9th Sep '20 - 6:41am

    What’s the point of having a “principled and distinctive position” if the EU doesn’t, as it shouldn’t, want us back in anyway? We rejected their idea of how the EU should develop, not in 2016, but some 15 years earlier when we didn’t fully implement the Maastricht Treaty by rejecting the euro.

    The introduction of a common currency was about much more than saving travellers the trouble of changing their money at the borders. It, together with the Schengen agreements, was aimed at actually removing those borders. Removing borders means having a single country of a United States of Europe.

    That’s what the EU needs to achieve to survive. I’d say the odds are against that happening, but we should now stand aside and let them get on with it without being a hindrance.

  • Antony Watts 9th Sep '20 - 9:03am

    This is what we are talking about – do we support it or not??

    1.   The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.

    2.   The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

    3.   The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.

    It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.
    It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.
    It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.

    4.   The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.

    5.   In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.

  • Ian G L Jones 9th Sep '20 - 9:34am

    I also agree with Mohammed Amin. Without the policy principles that we stand on we are nothing but opportunists seeking votes at any price. Something we have already been accused of and something I want no part of.
    Our commitment to the principle of a reformed and reforming EU must be clear to everyone. So should how we manage to move from the Battle of Brexit (lost) to address the current political crisis of our immediate post-Brexit relations with the EU. Finally, we must remain grounded on the message that both Europe and Britain are better placed to achieve a free, just and progressive future when we are together and Britain is a full member of the EU – at some point in the not too distant future.
    Too achieve this – the 2024 GE must be the last one ever fought using First Past The Post. How we achieve that is going to challenge many current positions held by members, officers and especially activists.

  • Peter Martin 9th Sep '20 - 10:00am

    @ Antony Watts,

    “……aiming at full employment and social progress…..”

    Saying is one thing. Doing is another. The austerity economics which are hardwired into various Treaties and detailed in the so-called Stability and Growth Pact don’t allow National Governments to do what is necessary to create full employment.

    Consequently the EU is not a good export market for the UK. The resultant imbalance in trade gives us a debt problem. If employment prospects were better in the EU the movement of workers across UK borders wouldn’t have been anywhere near so asymmetric. People don’t usually choose Manchester in preference to Malaga for its better weather.

    In other words they choose the UK for its better employment prospects. And why wouldn’t they? There is nothing wrong with that per se. But if we have our own economic problems too then, human nature being what it is, any newcomers will get the blame and feel resentment. That’s what’s happened and that’s what led to Brexit. Is anyone surprised? It was all so predictable.

  • James Belchamber 9th Sep '20 - 10:04am

    “This is pretty simple. The party to set some tests by which Brexit can be judged a success or failure. If it’s a success we accept the result and move on. If it’s a failure we go for a referendum.”

    I like this approach from Christian – this would be a much better approach from Ed. Set out that we as a party think that Brexit will be a disaster, that we should Rejoin the EU, and if it becomes apparent that we are wrong then we’ll change our mind.

    They have until 2024 to prove how glorious Brexit will be, and to convince us. Until then, we’ll stick to our guns.

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Sep '20 - 11:22am

    But James, you’ve retranslated what Christian said.
    He said referendum on rejoining if tests met; you said ‘we should Rejoin’.

    If the Lib Dems go into an election saying ‘we should rejoin’ the legacy of the Revoke policy will be that it will be heard to be proposing a unilateral act of government.

    I say, Rejoin if it is proved to be the democratic will of the people, possibly after multiple tests. Not unconditionally. This must be clear.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Sep '20 - 11:40am

    Yes, our policy should be to rejoin when that is the wish of the British people that we will campaign to persuade. Until then we will campaign for as close a relationship with Europe as is possible. The actual tactics and strategy might be slightly more nuanced but that is our overriding position.

  • Jayne mansfield 9th Sep '20 - 5:38pm

    @ Andrew Whitchurch,
    We will all be moving to Scotland and voting SNP then.

    It is a lovely country with affordable housing.

  • Alex Macfie 9th Sep '20 - 6:04pm

    Matt (Bristol)

    “a future majority Lib Dem government that wants to rejoin, but is prepared to legislate away its ability to override a referendum that would prevent that outcome”

    I think that’s a risk we would have to take (I’ll leave to lawyers the details of how it could be legislated). Enough of Schroedinger’s Binding; any future referendum will need absolutely binding rules about what happens afterwards. I’d rather have legal certainty that the UK cannot rejoin (until another popular vote says otherwise) after a No vote in a future referendum than the option being available of trying to join anyway (which would be consistent with Parliamentary democracy but risk accusations of “thwarting the [advisory] referendum result”). We got into this post-Brexit mess because the government interpreted the result of the referendum as it saw fit, and made up the rules as it went along because there weren’t any (the 2016 referendum legislation said nothing about what would happen after the referendum). The only way of having a workable process is to frame the process so that there no possibility of government or anyone else making up the rules because the rules are set in stone.

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Sep '20 - 8:23pm

    Alex, I entirely agree with you. A credible, measurable, moderate ‘rejoin’ offer with a credible democratic process that notches up slowly, and a safety-valve for democratic eurosceptics.

    Get me that and I’ll keep voting Lib Dem.

  • I agree with the article. The pro-EU position is a distinctive one.

    The issue with the Lib Dem election campaign was primarily a failure to communicate clear positions on other issues e.g health education crime etc that voters care about most.

    I didnt like revoke but that was because I thought it was bad tactics with regard to target seats not because there was anything undemocratic or unconstitutional about it as there wasn’t.

    Most of our 2024 target seats are remain leaning but more like 50-60% remain so there is a need to appeal to soft remainers and soft leavers who care more about other issues.

    I am far far more comfortable with rejoin than revoke. And I could live with a Common Market 2.0 type deal but that would be dismissed as “Brexit in name only”. I dont think it is (we would leave the CFP etc) but it would be hard work to convince people otherwise.

  • Why the EU?

    Simple. It is better, more advanced to be a large crowd of like minded, peaceful,law abiding people thana small globally insignificant island with barriers all round and a stuffy, snobby attitude to “foreigners`’

    Get over it, EU is a better future.

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