Peoples’ Vote – are we ready?

If there is a Peoples Vote it is not clear that Remain would win. For Remain to be guaranteed to win we would be much higher than 10% in the polls.

Our leaders need to understand what is driving people to support Brexit, and have some answers.

Campaigning in this Brexit Capital of the Midlands (Newcastle under Lyme), the reasons people want Brexit are obvious. Some of the reasons have an element of truth; others are totally false, fuelled by the Brexit Campaign and the tabloid press.

Some of the arguments they put forward that we must provide answers to include:

(1)​ The Project Fear, inspired by Osborne, promised a leave vote would plunge the economy into immediate recession and increase unemployment by half a million. An emergency budget would be needed. That has not happened, so why should we believe current forecasts.

Local Brexiteers are claiming since the vote UK growth has increased by nearly two per cent, greater than other EU countries. This does not appear to be true.

We need to publish accurate trade figures. We need to identify how many organisations are now predicting a fall in GDP.

(2)​ Brexit uncertainty is not holding back investment in the UK. HSBC and the China Investment Corporation are investing in a fund to create quality UK companies to invest in China.

We should consider listing potential gains and losses in investment.

(3)​ Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). It is claimed Britain has the second highest FDI in the world.

FDI is complex, and improved global trade and exchange rates cause much of the increase. If they are going to use this we should point out that nearly 40% of our outward investment is with EU countries, as is nearly 50% of our inward investment.

(4) The CBI backs the EU because it receives millions of pounds in funding from the EU.

Rubbish! The CBI is funded by its members. Companies receive EU funding which if the British Government does not match will cause many to cut back.

(5) The vast majority of our laws are controlled by the EU.

This red herring requires clarity. The EU does not control the following areas:

defence, education, health, crime and policing, local government, justice, tax and housing.

Areas connected with trade and environment are subject to EU regulations and laws. Many of these are regulations, which we have freedom to implement, rather than laws. The actual percentage of laws we take from the EU is of the order of 16%.

I hope our leaders are working on how we are going to put our case and how we are going to counteract the rubbish we will get from the other side. Our case must be positive, for example on FDI we just quote the figures, on control we list the areas we have full control. This is no time for personal attacks, on individuals or groups.

Are we ready? There is no visibility that our leaders are prepared for the battle.

* David Becket is a former Lib Dem County Councillor, Unitary Councillor and District Councillor; he has held positions of responsibility at all levels.

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  • John Marriott 3rd Dec '18 - 5:59pm

    @David Becket
    “For Remain to be guaranteed to win we would be much higher than 10% in the polls”. What makes you think that the Lib Dems’ poll ratings really have anything to do with whether a third referendum would result in any substantial change in voting patterns?

    OK, let’s supposed the May deal, Mark One or possibly Mark Two, is rejected by Parliament, a Labour inspired Vote of Condidence fails to dislodge the government and likewise a Tory MPs’ vote fails to dislodge May. Then there’s the Norway Plus option. If that fails then, subject to the suspension of Article 50, we are back possibly to another referendum campaign that might just result in a small ‘win’ for Remain. So what? Nothing is put to bed for a decade let alone a generation.

    I recommend to you Tim Marshall’s recent book on how geography influences countries and their attitudes to their neighbours. We live on an island. We don’t, or at least many of us, don’t think like those living on the European mainland. That’s really why so many of us voted Leave (not me, I might add) and why I could live with the May deal or, better still, the Norway Plus deal, either of which would give us time, during the transition period, to work out our direction of travel, always assuming that events beyond our control allow us to do so.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Dec '18 - 7:31pm

    The lastest YouGov poll (details at ) has Remain in a 10 point lead. Among those who voted Lib Dem in 2017, there are still 22% who back Leave, so I don’t think that our Party’s popularity with the voters has much effect on the final result. What will win a People’s Vote referendum is Get Out The Vote (GOTV) and that means concentrating particularly on younger voters.

  • Sarah Brown 3rd Dec '18 - 7:45pm

    Here’s a Remain advert I’d have loved to see:

    Men going over the trenches, cacophony of machine gun and artillery fire, explosions, screams, fade to pan across a wasteland of blasted trees and mud.

    Air raid sirens, falling bomb noises, yells, cities on fire. Fade to slowly panning backwards over the ruins of Berlin, London, Dresden, etc.

    Then Ode to Joy starts playing quietly. The ruins start to rebuild. Footage of leaders shaking hands, glass and steel buildings going up, robots in factories building cars, airbus wings being made, spacecraft blasting off, satellites being deployed, biologists testing new drugs.

    Music raises to a crescendo, messages flash on screen: 70 YEARS OF PEACE! PROSPERITY! FRIENDSHIP! BRITAIN IN EUROPE IS A BEACON TO THE WORLD!

    Fireworks go off from the Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye. Beethoven carries on blaring away.

    VOTE REMAIN ON (whatever date it turns out to be).


    Instead we’ll get some brain numbing shxxx about customs unions.

  • This article falls into the trap of arguing about the economy, rather than seeking to move onto the issues that motivated large numbers of Leavers in 2016, such as sovereignty. Thus, it’ll certainly help keep existing Remainers onside, but it’d fail to make much of a dent in re-aligning the voter coalitions to get the crushing win either side in this hypothetical referendum would need to properly resolve this issue.

    I’d begin by saying that the narrative needs to be about control – and how the EU helps us have that control. Next it needs to be boiled down to a clear message, repeated endlessly and with tight discipline. It must be packaged in the flags of the UK, and never in the EU flag. The Remain/Return campaign cannot be run by people who’ve never won a national election, must have tight control over the message, and cannot relapse into believing that if only voters were ‘educated’ on issues, they’d actually vote Leave. Sadly, I see essentially no evidence that continuity Remain is prepared to anything other than talk to itself about issues that it thinks are important. This issue is too important to be left to such amateur tactics.

  • John Barrett 3rd Dec '18 - 9:05pm

    Sarah – The visuals in your proposed advert would be stunning.

    The only problem is that it is simply not true. The 70 years of peace are not as a direct result of our membership of the EU.

    There was a time of peace in Europe after the war and before we joined the EU and no doubt we will still be at peace in Europe if we leave.

    Those who have already made similar claims that the peace in Europe is directly dependent on remaining in the EU have found many others have already shot down that line.

    It is also something that Leavers will highlight as to why to not believe what those wanting to remain say. We have been caught out before producing adverts that came back to haunt us. Remember the “No more broken promises” broadcast. At the time the visuals and production values were admired, but the promises were still well and truly broken.

    The EU played its part in the prosperity of many, but NATO and many other factors outside the EU have kept the peace.

  • I’d read the following and address what Matthew d’Ancona writes

    Let’s be honest about what’s really driving Brexit: bigotry

    As he points out many a Brexiteer is happy to be poorer, as my father-in-law and brother-in-law both put it

    “I’m happy to be poorer as long as the ???s go home”

    In their particular case the Eastern Europeans are not the people they dislike most, the further East or South a person comes from the more they dislike them. The one scenario that scared the bejesus out of both of them was the statement “Well if the Poles don’t come and the Tories still need cheap labour were do you think they will get it from?”. They did bluster about getting the Doley’s to take up the slack, but after pointing out there are very few doctors or nurses on the dole, they just muttered something about “We will get by”.

  • jayne Mansfield 3rd Dec '18 - 10:34pm

    @ Frankie,

    If I was a bigot, I would have voted leave. But I do not believe that all those who voted leave were motivated by bigotry.

    There are numerous reasons why people might prefer to take a financial hit than contemplate another 5 million people immigrating to Britain.

    Given the number of people who live in relatively impoverished states in other parts of the world , and the number of people who face forms of bigotry in far too many of their own countries, the question might be, how many people can this country admit and sustain and still be a pleasant place to live?

    Maybe the fundamental question that we should be addressing is , what is the maximum population that people think is acceptable for this country given its resources? It is a conversation that we seem fearful to hold.

  • Pieter-Paul Barker 3rd Dec '18 - 11:09pm

    Tim Oliver is absolutely right, economic arguments will not change hearts and minds. Argue with pride that our country is at the heart of international co-operation, not just the EU but also the Commonwealth, NATO, Geneva Convention and so on. Working together with other countries does not mean being told what to do. It’s up to our Government whether to have a subservient relationship with the USA or EU or China, we have greater control by being members and having strong alliances across the world.

  • Frankie
    So you don’t get on with your in-laws. Like, that’s never happened before.
    I don’t dispute that there is bigotry involved in some portions of the Brexit vote. What I would point out is the tendency to endlessly waffle on about the age or background of (whilst ignoring the complexity of anomalous data) and to attribute only negative motives to your opponents is itself bigoted. Whilst talking about the views of a newspaper opinion piece as if it is anything more than one man’s opinion, Martin, is selective to the point of being simply an example of confirmation bias.

  • The thing that the remain camp must never say is that ‘things are going back to the way they were’. the truth is that things will never be the same again. Lessons have to be learned across all strata of politics and policy, in Europe and especially in the UK. Damage has to be repaired and that will take a long time. Reversing the Leave decision is only the beginning.

  • John Barrett
    I would challenge your assertion about “NATO keeping the peace”. NATO is a military alliance – they do not keep any peace. It is arguable – and I did indeed argue – that NATO should have been dissolved when the Soviet Union and its East European allies broke up, and were allowed to pursue their own paths. It is very arguable that relations with Russia would not be in the same parlous place had NATO gone.

    And the other problem with your argument is that Remain has never said there would be an immediate large scale war, but that breaking up peaceful political and economic alliances leads more probably to war than staying in them! The obvious case study there is the League of Nations. I know these are difficult things to prove, but surely the concept of working democratically together to address wider cross border issues is better than a go it alone situation where no nation has the wherewithal to tackle alone.

    To my mind the two key issues are to comprehensively rubbish their two most powerful arguments 1) That the EU is undemocratic – and frankly we need to start at home here, as some people here make that argument! and 2) That freedom of movement is somehow the driver of increased immigration. We have the evidence now, that when EU immigration drops, non-EU immigration increases. It’s the economy, stupid!

  • Steve Comer 4th Dec '18 - 10:11am

    I think Sarah’s suggested images would be very powerful, and accurate. The whole purpose of the ECSC/EEC/ was to make another European war impossible. NATO did not do this, it was formed to defend its members against the perceived threat of the Soviet Union.

    David makes some good points, but the logical arguments were on the Remain side last time, but the appeal to irrational emotion was more powerful. The problem we had was that the Remain campaign was dire, and hamstrung by Cameron who cared more about the Conservative Party than he did about the nation. I also feel there was complacency amongst those who wanted to stay in the EU,.

    in 2016 Party politicos were more interested in the Local Elections the previous month, and not enough was done to recruit others who were not party hacks to the cause. Pro-EU forces have since had a massive wake up call, and are more motivated than I can ever remember (much more even than 1975).

    We can win, but we need to enthuse the under-30s that they must votes as this is about their future. Dry talk about trade deals and migration figures won’t cut it, we need to show vision, passion, and commitment.

  • David Becket 4th Dec '18 - 12:08pm

    I am pleased that this post has started a debate that looks forward to after the Commons vote. I will not answer any of the points, there are a lot of valid arguments that we need to thrash out.
    Steve Comer is right, it was emotion that won the Brexit vote. We need to make trade figures emotional, possibly we should employ Stephen Fry.
    I would only add one point. If May loses we should not support a vote of no confidence. She got us into this mess, she must get us out of it.

  • @David Becket

    Stephen Fry’s latest contribution is well worth a look.

  • Peter Martin 4th Dec '18 - 2:42pm

    @ Joseph,

    I tend to agree with you. The Leave side have been pretty quiet since the last referendum but they’ll be back into action with a vengeance as soon as another one is called. If another one is called.

    I expect the tone of the Leave campaign would very nationalistic, even more so that last time, with calls for everyone to “stand up for Britain”, “no surrender to the EU” etc. There’ll be a call to show patriotism and solidarity. If these sentiments take hold there could well be a landslide vote for Leave.

    In which case, although it will produce a result that I approve of, it will bolster some very unpleasant far right forces in our society. I’d much rather we focused on the neoliberal anti-democratic nature of the EU but that’s unlikely to be the main focus.

  • The cure for popularism is to let populists try to govern. the one plus side of Brexit would be the look on the faces of the Brexiteers as one by one they realised their own personal Brexit was not coming to pass. They would also fall to pieces they fragmented in upon themselves, but it would come at a high economic cost.


    i don’t hate my in-laws and more than I hate you. I just feel sorry for their inward looking “my little village” outlook on life, tis sad they are so scared, tis sad they are so small minded but tis their cross to bear not mine.

  • Frankie
    Where did I say hate? ” Don’t get on” is not the same thing as hate.
    I don’t live in a village. I’ve pretty much always lived in cities. The mythology of cities is that they are centres of culture, but when you live in them it’s not that different to living outside of cities except a lot of the housing is worse, driving is a nightmare, the crime rates tend to be higher, the social problems are more pronounced and there’s more litter. Most of the eulogising of urban life is utterly ridiculous. I like cities mainly because I like being near to train stations, poking round markets, the way they look in the rain, I’m more fond of buildings than nature and it’s what I’m used to. I can’t imagine not living in one. But, in all honesty, I equally can’t blame suburban or rural people for not thinking our cities are hubs of global awesomeness, because they are not.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Dec '18 - 6:25pm

    I think there will be substantial maneuvering before we get to a people’s vote. This could be further discussion with the Commission to improve our deal or a change in PM or a general election. The government won’t want to go into a further referendum without something to show for its negotiating or at least a semblance of regaining its credibility, assuming the deal is rejected.

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