Reversing Brexit

Once out, the pin can’t be put back in. Or can it?

Yes it can, so long as the strike lever has not been released. And that is the position we are in with Brexit. In theory, article 50 can be revoked if we act fast, but the clock is ticking. And According to both Emmanuel Macron and Alastair Campbell, editor of the New European, we have little time left. At some point, the EU will go into full self-protective mode and focus on performing a clean amputation. In grenade terms, the strike lever will have been released and the explosion will be inevitable.

That is why we have to move swiftly. According to Campbell, the time window after our August holidays will be slim. “When the political season resumes, we had better have got our act together”, he writes, ”or else this thing is happening”.

There are formidable difficulties facing us. Though we see tantalising signs of a national change of heart, a lot of energy has built up behind the Brexit juggernaut which means that simply aborting it is well nigh impossible.

Disarming the grenade

Brexit has been aptly described as an act of national self-harm, and self harm has a considerable cathartic value. It is like a wave which rears up before crashing and dissipating its energy on the beach. Anyone who has ever been distressed enough to think of harming themself will tell you that it is not much use being told “forget it, and just carry on as normal”.

So any move to stay in the EU cannot be case of “forget Brexit and carry on as normal”. Whilst I don’t fool myself that I know what the answer is, a couple of modest suggestions would be:

1. The EU assure us that they will tighten their borders. Chastened by our threat to leave, they should address our Leavers and promise them a secure ring right round the EU, including ourselves. Protecting us all from uncontrolled immigration from the rest of the world.


2. The BBC come off the fence and support the EU. As a respected authority they could be a counterweight to the strident din of the Brexit press, ensuring that the information hitting the public has some degree of balance. Why shouldn’t we have a few David Attenborough style documentaries alerting us to the fact that our liberal values are an endangered species?

So what can we do?

Nobody has much control over how the EU plays it, and the BBC is certainly not likely to jump to attention merely because John King says so. In my campaign group we are playing our small part, talking to people about their right to have a say on their future. Once it is in the air, a realistic possibility, I believe the forces demanding another vote will grow.


These are my thoughts as a non-expert, pending the appearance of Nick Clegg’s handbook for remainers.  His book “How to stop Brexit and make Britain great again” is due for publication on 5th October. Billed as a step by step guide to defeating Brexit, the book sounds almost too good to be true. I am presuming of course that it won’t divulge everything, no point in letting the other side know our complete strategy in advance.  But if it encourages some action, it will come not a moment too soon.


* John King is a retired doctor and Remain campaigner.

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  • Philip Knowles 23rd Aug '17 - 10:51am

    Yes Article 50 can be revoked but even Theresa May will find that U-turn difficult to make without a real justification.
    What needs to happen is we to pick holes in the tissue of lies which persuaded people to vote Leave.
    Every time that the Brexit team come up with proposals the true costs of those proposals need to be examined, dissected and then explained to the public.
    There are also key points about immigration which need to addressed and hammered home. The ‘3 month rule’ needs to be enforced. The announcement yesterday by Lincolnshire NHS to hire foreign GPs because they can’t get British ones. The impact on universities for both academics and students.
    Leave won because, for years, there has been an incessant drip of ‘fake news’ about the EU. We need to do the same thing. Every time something is announced which will be impacted on by leaving the EU it has to be pounced on.
    Realisation will eventually hit home.

  • The BBC can’t come off the fence as it is supposed to be free from political bias. Essentially you’re asking it to produce pro EU propaganda in the form of overt bias which is not ethical given its legal remit. If you want to pressure privately owned self funding organisations that are roughly the equivalent of the press, then ITV is your Uncle. I personally would have no problem with a privately funded pro EU channel. Alternatively you could argue that the EU needs it’s own centrally funded equivalent of Russia Today.

  • I’m sorry but to expect the BBC to take an overtly pro EU stand is not only naive but downright dangerous and illegal…… and illiberal. Churchill tried to do it in 1926 and was told by John Reith where to put it. I can imagine the howls of outrage from remainers if the opposite proposition was put by Brexiteers.

    My own view is that nothing much can be done publicly until the outcome of the negotiations becomes clear. Then, by all means go in heavily having used the time in between to build bridges in parliament. We should also use that time to develop relevant policies to deal with issues such as poverty, inequality and workers rights in order to get away from the perceived (and I think real) notion that the Lib Dems are a one trick pony.

  • To Glen, David
    The BBC values even-handedness and rightly so, but they use their common sense. They don’t give equal airtime to climate deniers and ecological programme makers, and they don’t put out programmes celebrating the joys of elephant and rhino hunting. There is a difference between even handedness and false balance. The rhino hunters can howl all they like and so can the Brexiteers but the BBC has to exercise responsibility. It is not easy – most infamously they gave scant cover to the demonstration on 25 March, preferring the entertainment value of Nigel Farage . Trump has also grabbed more than his fair share of media attention.

    Reith was a great figure from broadcasting Dave, but I seem to remember he set himself up as a final arbiter of public morals, and came in for some criticism on this account.

  • Arnold Kiel 23rd Aug '17 - 4:56pm

    Technically, Art. 50 can be revoked anytime before the divorce agreement has been ratified by any European legislating body. Rejection of such revocation by any EU- or memberstate-body would be tantamount to the UK being kicked out of the EU (which the Lisbon treaty does not foresee) without any agreed terms.

    Politically, the sooner would be the better, but I am afraid the British public and political class will need all the time available to accept, engineer, digest, and formally express this U-turn. It will, among other things, require some major changes to the cabinet, likely including the PM, if not another general election. But it would undoubtedly be worth it.

  • I am astonished by this article. It is not the first day of April. It does not seem to be packed with humour. How can this be serious?

    Let us emerge from fantasy land.

    The EU has every reason to control its borders and it should, but in this respect it is completely incompetent and has demonstrated this fact totally and consistently.

    The BBC is completely Anti- Brexit and that is obvious despite its obligation as the National Broadcaster and the demands of its Royal Charter.

    Even so, the Corporation is not quite stupid enough to guarantee is own destruction just yet.

  • John King.
    False equivalence. This isn’t about science or animal cruelty. It’s about turning the BBC into the official mouthpiece for unwavering 28thstaters who just can’t accept what happened. There is no will in BBC to enact it, no real support for it amongst the public forced to pay for the BBC and no wider backing. So It ain’t gonna happen and is frankly little more than daydreaming about what might have been. . which at some point the Lib Dems will have to move on from.

  • Bill Fowler 24th Aug '17 - 8:05am

    Well, Vince Cable et al need to camp out on Merkel’s doorstep and persuade her to come out with a major concession such as no access to benefits, social housing etc for the first five years for new immigrants (perhaps for those countries outside the Eurozone as they slowly merge into a single union), which then gives the UK an excuse to have a second referendum. And someone needs to take senior Tories aside and point out to them that the result of brexit is soft Marxism from Corbyn and co not some wonderful low tax, low spend independent UK.

  • robin bennett 24th Aug '17 - 9:26am

    The EU in the past has found a way of accommodating anti EU electorates in Ireland and Denmark. Bill Fowler suggests one initiative. Another would be allowing the UK a ceiling on annual immigration from the EU – say, 100,000? Then calls for another referendum should succeed in Parliament. Mrs Merkel must not be stubborn on retaining free movement of people, and hopefully she will look at this when she (as seems likely) forms another government after the German election

  • We have been through all of this before and the EU rejected it so comprehensively it was humiliating for Cameron. It was also just tinkering around the edges and unlikely to satisfy those who wish to restore control of these matters.

    It would be more responsible to help ensure that a good deal is reached rather than try to undermine it at every opportunity. At this stage that policy is a sure vote loser.

  • Peter Hirst 24th Aug '17 - 1:18pm

    I think the economic effects of Brexit should figure heavily in any reverse or soften Brexit strategy. This plays both to our leader’s strengths and to the most obvious trigger in most people’s minds for a change of heart. Also, if the electorate can accept some managed migration in order to secure our economy, we can start to draw up a plan that goes some way to respond to the soft Brexit supporters as well as our remain voters.

  • I think the economic effects of Brexit should figure heavily in any reverse or soften Brexit strategy

    That’s a good idea. Probably the reason the vote went the way it did was because the Remain campaign hardly mentioned the economic factors. If they had, things might have been very different.

  • Laurence Cox 24th Aug '17 - 3:28pm

    I have been following a related thread on the UKPR web site What is not clear is whether Art 50 is irrevocable or not; all we have so far are lawyers’ opinions. Clearly, if the UK notified the EU that it wished to withdraw its Art 50 notification and all the other 27 countries agreed then it would be revoked. They might however place conditions on accepting the revocation, such as eliminating the UK budget rebate and the Schengen and Euro opt-outs. In that situation, or if any of the remaining 27 countries did not accept the revocation, then the issue would have to be decided by the ECJ as the body authorised to rule on EU treaties.

    Because of this, I do not think we can rely on the revocability of Art 50 before the ECJ has ruled on it. We therefore need a fall-back position. It is my argument that we should announce as soon as possible through a vote in Parliament that leaving the EU does not constitute leaving the EEA. We have to give a minimum of 12 months notice to leave the EEA under Article 127, and Article 128 specifically says that a country joining the EU or EFTA must apply separately to the EEA Council for membership, hence the EEA is a legal entity that is separate from both the EU and EFTA. A fallback approach that kept the UK within the EEA would avoid the cliff-edge dangers that would otherwise occur if negotiations between the UK and EU fail as they seem to be doing.

  • Bill Fowler 24th Aug '17 - 3:56pm

    The EU, faced with a hard brexit and no UK money or us staying as before with the net 10 billion contribution would surely go for the latter… bear in mind that the UK is too big to fail, as to do so would cascade the whole fiscal system down the drain.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Aug '17 - 5:03pm

    Arnold Kiel 23rd Aug ’17 – 4:56pm
    Technically, Art. 50 can be revoked anytime before the divorce agreement has been ratified by any European legislating body.

    Oh Arnold – I think you’re making things up again, aren’t you? You must learn to distinguish between what is the case and what you think should be. (It’s sort of the opposite of Hume’s Is/Ought problem.)
    In fact, “technically” Art. 50 makes no provision for revocation at all, and specifically provides that the notice takes effect two years after it is delivered unless all 28 states agree to delay it – pretty much the opposite of what you claim. (For sure, there’s nothing to say that “delay” couldn’t be agreed to be infinite, making it tantamount to revocation; but to reiterate, that would require the active consent of all states.)

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Aug '17 - 5:05pm

    Bill Fowler 24th Aug ’17 – 3:56pm
    The EU, faced with a hard brexit and no UK money or us staying as before with the net 10 billion contribution would surely go for the latter…

    Assuming that states will behave rationally in their own best interest is … exactly what got us into this mess in the first place, isn’t it?

  • May I ask a simple question? Reversing Brexit, which is the purpose of this subject, would probably result in commitment to joining the Euro at some point, increasing our budget contribution, reversing our opt out on Schengen, and participating fully in the further integration plans of the EU.

    Is it LD policy to commit to all of these?

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Aug '17 - 9:14pm

    No – it’s LD policy to close our eyes tight, wish really hard, and when we open them, none of this will have happened… In fact, whilst we’re wishing ourselves back to 22 June 2016, perhaps we could go for broke and go all the way back to 22 April 2010? It all looked so much better then…

  • My statement in the article that article 50 can be revoked in theory was based on what I understand is the opinion of the guy who drafted it.

  • Now, I am really confused. I wouldn’t take Alastair Campbell’s word for it, or Macron, for that matter.

    Malcolm Todd seems to have the most realistic assessment by a long way.

  • Bill Fowler 25th Aug '17 - 8:14am

    Last night Macron was sprouting off about limiting the movement of unskilled workers, exactly what a lot of people in UK want, it would be really mad if after brexit EU did indeed move to do what caused a lot of people to vote no.

  • Dr Carol Weaver 25th Aug '17 - 11:41am

    John King, Laurence Cox

    The Europa website says:
    “Once triggered, can Article 50 be revoked?
    It is up to the United Kingdom to trigger Article 50. But once triggered, it cannot be unilaterally reversed. Notification is a point of no return. Article 50 does not provide for the unilateral withdrawal of notification.”
    However there are indications that the other 27 might agree.
    Many member states want deeper integration but others do not, so in the future there could be a more formal two tier membership. The UK remaining a member would actually help both sides in influencing and creating this outcome.

  • Peter
    I have heard a small number of Leave voters arguing they would have voted Remain had we had full-throated commitment to the Euro, Schengen and tax harmonisation! An argument I found difficult to rebut, I must be honest!

  • Laurence Cox 25th Aug '17 - 12:48pm

    @Dr Carol Weaver
    That is a legal opinion, with exactly the same force as John King’s statement that the author of Art 50 intended it to be revocable. Until it is tested in court, and that means the ECJ, there is no definitive decision on what the wording of Art 50 actually means. This is why I think that it is so important that we separate leaving the EEA from leaving the EU. Continued membership of the EEA outside the EU would mean that we would be no longer subject to the EU’s CAP and CFP. As the CFP has been the main grievance of British fishermen, particularly in the South-West, supporting this would show that we have been listening to the voters. At the same time the EEA Agreement maintains the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital, so minimising damage to the UK economy.

  • Bill Fowler 25th Aug '17 - 1:23pm

    As it stands membership of the EEA would make a nonsense of the no vote, as unrestricted EU immigration would remain a problem, my solution of no benefits, social housing etc for the first five years still seems the only way of squaring the circle. But if you do that you may as well stay in the EU.

    However, do agree that it is a good fallback position if things get nasty…

    I do think Corbyn and Co are playing a clever waiting game, ready to step in and save the country at the last moment if it is the only way they can get into power.

  • Dr Carol Weaver 25th Aug '17 - 2:45pm

    Whilst I agree the EEA is a good fall back position, we need to fight to remain a member of the European Union which includes the customs union as well as the EEA. It also means that we keep our influence.

    “The EEA Agreement provides for a free trade area covering all the EEA States. However, the EEA Agreement does not extend the EU Customs Union to the EEA EFTA States.” (EFTA website)

  • Laurence Cox
    Frankly, the CFP is a bit of an Aunt Sally on this for the fisherpeople. The main grudge is that with depopulation of species they do not want to listen to the biologists about fish stocks / don’t agree with their figures / believe them to be out of date. They also have grudges about quotas, some of which is down to the producers’ organisations in this country and earlier quota sales, especially to Spanish fishing companies. They should look at the situation in the 1960s before we joined the EEC with the “Cod Wars” with Iceland, to see that there is no utopia created by leaving the EU. I would be 90% certain that the best agreements they can get after leaving the EU will be no more favourable than now.

    Another case of “cake and eat it” I am afraid.

    On a more general base, people need to get their heads round the fact that regulation will need to take place, and be rather more accepting that sometimes regulation will stop them doing things that commercially or personally they may wish to. In an increasingly crowded world, with more pressure on wildlife and ecosystems around us, things cannot continue without that regulation, whether it comes from the EU or elsewhere. It is, on issues like fishing, where the problem crosses borders where the need for international cooperation is even more pressing.

  • Andrew Tampion 26th Aug '17 - 5:39am

    John King
    The Nick Clegg you hope will show you the way to stop Brexit: would that be the same Nick Clegg who became the leader of the Liberal Democrats with 62 MPs and 22% of the vote and resigned have lead the Party to disaster with 8 MPs and 8% of the vote? The man who inherited 10 seats in the European Parliament and 12% of the vote and resigned with 1 seat in the European Parliament and 7% of the vote.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Aug '17 - 6:52am

    Andrew Tampion, – And the same Nick Clegg who, in 2008, was arguing passionately that the public must have the final say on EU membership in an in/out referendum!

  • Andrew Tampion 26th Aug '17 - 9:23am

    Catherine after all these years of reading your sensible and well reasoned comments on LibDem Voice I would never have guessed that you were the type of person to kick a man while he’s down. Speaking of which, the same Nick Clegg who Nigel Farage comprehensively beat in both the radio and TV debates in 2014

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Aug '17 - 12:40pm

    Andrew Tampion, I’m not sure what to think about that remark?
    Actually, I ought to say that I thought it was Nick Clegg who out-performed Nigel Farage in that debate. Nick Clegg could always put a case movingly and eloquently. It was just such a pity that he did not stand by the principles he expressed so powerfully up to 2010.
    The promise to let the public have the final say on EU membership in an in/out referendum was just one of many promises that seemed to be forgotten once they had been used to win votes.

  • Andrew Tampion 26th Aug '17 - 2:18pm

    Catherine Jane Crosland
    I sometimes become a little whimsical when I contemplate with near despair our once great party lead by second rate politicians. Forgive me.
    As far as the in\out referendum pledge is concerned it seems to me that the reason it was made is that the need for a referendum on any further EU changes was self evident but Nick Clegg thought, wrongly, that while the British might vote against say Maastricht they would never vote to leave. So that the in\out referendum was an attempt to fix any referendum to ensure a yes vote should further EU constitutional changes. There was never a pledge to a referendum other than in the context of a vote to approve further changes. Perhaps I am being too cynical. But on the other hand I think the pledge to a referendum itself was genuine.

  • David Evans 26th Aug '17 - 3:18pm

    Catherine has rather hit the nail on the head when she says she ‘thought it was Nick Clegg who out-performed Nigel Farage in that debate’. Nick did outperform Nigel Farage in the debate, if you were a died in the wool liberal.

    Sadly, the purpose of an election debate is not to make your true followers feel good, but to persuade those more undecided that your view is the best. In that regard Nick totally failed, as he did in so many other ways between 2010 and 2015, and as a result of that failure our party’s future is still on a knife edge to oblivion, and our country is certainly on its way out of the EU, possibly also on its way to near oblivion.

    The chance of a Macron-Campbell reverse are pure fantasy.

  • Alex Macfie 26th Aug '17 - 3:30pm

    The big problem with the Clegg/Farage debates was that they were totally irrelevant to the election campaign in which they were held. MEPs have no role in deciding any specific country’s position in the EU: they legislate for the

  • Alex Macfie 26th Aug '17 - 3:33pm

    The big problem with the Clegg/Farage debates was that they were totally irrelevant to the election campaign in which they were held. MEPs have no role in deciding any specific country’s position in the EU: they legislate for the EU as a whole. By agreeing to the debates, Clegg validated the Farage narrative that MEPs don’t matter and that the only choices on the table are uncritical support for everything any EU does, and withdrawal. Also by leading the Lib Dem Euro election campaign, he associated the Lib Dem MEPs with the Coalition, when MEPs were not bound by the Coalition Agreement and we should have been emphasising our MEPs’ independence from what was going on at Westminster and their unique position in terms of UK politics, in being able to promote the undiluted Lib Dem position on matters affecting the UK.

  • I shouldn’t bank on us being on the way out of the EU, David Evans. To much can go wrong with that – very easy for the whole Brexit thing to fall apart under the only too obvious weight of its own contradictions.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Aug '17 - 5:14pm

    Andrew Tampion, I think in 2008 Nick Clegg was saying there should be a referendum on EU membership, not just on any possible changes to the EU. It was only later that this policy evolved into a policy of calling for a referendum only if there was a major new treaty. He may have been genuine at the time in saying that he supported a referendum. But promising a referendum implies a promise to respect and honour the result of that referendum. That is the promise that Nick Clegg has clearly broken.

  • David Evans 26th Aug '17 - 5:59pm

    Tim 13 – Having spent five years arguing with those who said “don’t bank on us being on the way out of politics, because of our performance in coalition …”, I am used to hearing those who are whistling in the wind to hide their own embarrassment.

    Nick destroyed trust in our party and so many people did nothing about it. We were almost annihilated in the 2015 election and so we didn’t have the MPs to stop the Tories from holding their stupid referendum and then losing it, and they are now taking the UK out of Europe.

    The one thing the Conservatives know is how to win elections and keeping a pledge is one of them. In less than two years we will be out of the EU even if in the short term it looks very little different from how it is now. It will be a disaster for the UK, but we won’t be allowed back in because the terms – membership of the Euro, loss of rebate will simply be too big a price to pay.

    Your chance has gone, just like Nick Clegg’s. Get used to it before it is too late.

  • Andrew Tampion 26th Aug ’17 – 2:18pm.. There was never a pledge to a referendum other than in the context of a vote to approve further changes……..

    Thank goodness. We all know Nick’s record on pledges….

  • David Evans
    I was at least as negative as you on the party being “finished”, at least for a long time, and tbh, the fabled fightback could hardly be described as anything more than anaemic. So I certainly didn’t “whistle in the wind” on that.

    On the point of “the Conservatives knowing how to win elections”, I think we can all laugh at that after June 8th! Their weakness, which may well get worse rather than better as the Parliament goes on, and the contradictions inherent in the Brexit process as envisaged by various different Leavers, means that various pledges WILL be broken, indeed, famously with the NHS £350 million, in some cases are already acknowledged to have been broken. So taking as hard a line as you are doing seems rather counter-intuitive as things stand now. A year ago, you would have had a lot of evidence behind such a statement, now, you are on a knife edge.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Aug '17 - 10:05pm

    We are in a position nationally which may offer hope of reversing Brexit, because the Government continues to ask for more than the EU authorities are prepared to give – for example, to have a new customs arrangement which is as good as continuing in the EU customs union. The question arises, when the Government eventually accepts that we can only have a poorer situation outside than we had inside, what will they do? There was a majority of Remainers in Parliament and in the Cabinet, so it is unlikely they will agree to the harmful WTO terms. This may be the moment when Jeremy Corbyn and co. drop the ambiguity and declare that we must remain, and the combination of Opposition MPs including ours with definite Remainers in the Tories may lead to Parliament actually voting to request the 27 for us to stay, in an outer ring as we are now, and with agreed management of immigration. But since the only fully democratic solution is to ask our people whether they agree with this, we should continue to demand a second referendum.

    The EU has desperate problems, and wants us to stay. One of its major problems is the migrant situation, and I disagree strongly with John King’s suggestion that we should demand the EU tighten its borders. What we should be doing is contributing to relieving the pressures, whether of the migrants flocking from Libya to Italy or those from Morocco to Spain, by working with governments and offering sea power as much as possible. Let us show ourselves willing to engage with EU problems, and at the same time ask for the sort of reforms which we will hope to see.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Aug ’17 – 10:05pm:
    There was a majority of Remainers in Parliament and in the Cabinet, so it is unlikely they will agree to the harmful WTO terms.

    Harmful? To the EU maybe, but not to the UK. Under WTO MFN current UK exports to the EU would be subject to around £5 billion in tariffs (paid by EU consumers) of which 80% would go to the EU Commission. This has already been offset three times over by the fall in the pound’s value. If the UK chose to continue applying the same tariffs then imports from the EU would be subject to around £12 billion in tariffs, all of which would go to the UK Treasury (less collection costs). That money could be used in many ways to help UK industry – reducing Corporation Tax, scrapping Business Rates on manufacturing premises (as for agricultural buildings), cutting employer’s NI contributions, increasing investment in research, education and training, etc.. The UK may decide to eliminate some tariffs, particularly those which punish developing countries and inflate the price of many products from chocolate to oranges.

    ‘Mitigating the impact of tariffs on UK-EU trade’ [January 2017]:

    Post-Brexit, in the event of there being no trade treaty, UK exports to the EU-27 could expect to suffer tariff costs in the region of £5.2 billion, but the corresponding exports from the EU-27 to the UK would face costs in the region of £12.9 billion. These figures were advanced in previous Civitas research as a strong argument that it is in the best interests of the EU-27 to agree a trade treaty to permit tariff-free access to their markets to the UK.

  • @Malcom Todd

    Members can leave the EU, but they cannot be kicked out. Reversability of an Article 50 evocation is, for obvious reasons, not regulated. But revoking the notification would state: the UK wishesto keep, among all other existing agreements, its financial obligations, citizens’ rights and the Irish border situation unchanged. If any other member wished to object to that, it would have to bring about divorce settlements on these three issues, i.e. impose something on the UK with support from the remaining 26 members. How?

    You may call this making things up, but in the absence of reliable legal expert opinions, I am just thinking through the implications of a reversal notice in light of what is known about Article 50 which was obviously not designed for practical use.

  • @ Robin Bennett

    If only the EU could accommodate the desire of a majority of our population to restrict the number of EU nationals coming into the UK there might be some hope for ending Brexit. Our own government would also have to change its ways and ensure that the UK does not gold plate EU regulations.

    There does not appear to be much movement on the behalf of the EU to take steps to ensure we don’t leave, or even help those of us who don’t wish to leave by making staying in the EU acceptable to the majority of the UK population.

    @ Laurence Cox

    While there is an argument for staying in the EEA I am not sure the majority of our population would like that because of the free movement of people.

    @ Katharine Pindar

    If the EU were rational and pragmatic they would want to offer us terms that we could get the British people to agree to. However they are not doing this. They do have a problem – who would they hold discussions with about what is needed? Certainly not the government; certainly not Corbyn both of who don’t want to talk about not leaving the EU; not us because we do not seem interested in a deal which controls the free movement of people.

  • Andrew Tampion 27th Aug '17 - 6:35am

    Catherine Jane Crosland
    We an argue about the detail but the substance of my point is that Cleggs record as the leader of leader of our party any one who relies on him to come up with a cunning plan to reverse Brexit is likely to be disappointed.
    At the risk of being controversial the only good thing about Clegg losing his seat in the recent election is that had he been elected it is likely that he not Cable would have become leader unopposed after Mr Farron’s resignation.
    Arnold Weil I’m sorry but for an intelligent person you really do say some silly things. In this thread You are confusing the legal with the political. Legally there is clearly no provision for withdrawing Article 50. Obviously it may be that the EU would be willing to allow it to be withdrawn. But as Malcolm points out that depends on the unanimous agreement of the 27. But what if one or more of the 27 make there agreement subject to the UK joining the Euro or Schengen?

  • Antony Watts 27th Aug '17 - 7:18am

    What o we want? FREEDOM
    When do we want it? NOW

    And that is the core issue of the EU, its core benefit “Free movement of goods, services, capital and people. Ever closer union between the PEOPLES of Europe”

    That is a freedom for you and me. In addition “The EU is the part of the world
    that has managed, uniquely, to combine and enshrine in common treaties the respect for fundamental rights, pluralism, social justice, non-discrimination, environmental norms and mechanisms (however tentative) for collective security.”

    Don’t let our current obsession with neoliberalism (= everything has a value and your life is determined by your value) blur our vision of the global group we wish to live in.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Aug '17 - 7:21am

    Andrew Tampion, I’m sure you are right in saying that anyone who expects Nick Clegg to reveal some cunning plan that will succeed in reversing brexit, is going to be disappointed. But the point of my comment at 6.52 am yesterday, was that it is ironic that a man who once argued passionately that the public should have the final say on EU membership in a referendum, should now be publishing a book entitled “How to stop Brexit”.

  • Bill Fowler 27th Aug '17 - 7:45am

    Except for food, which anyway will be cheaper from many countries outside the UK, tariffs on imports can be compensated for by lowering the rate of VAT so the end price remains the same… and as mentioned the ruined state of the pound makes tariffs on exports not a problem. But the bureaucracy involved won’t be pretty!

    Now Corbyn and Co have said that for the transition period he wants to stay in the common market and customs union etc… testing voters’ reactions? If Labour does a U-turn and says stay in EU, second referendum etc do we all vote for them?

  • Bill Fowler 27th Aug '17 - 7:48am

    Just a thought, if there is a vote in parliament on a second referendum would there be a majority for letting 16-17 year-olds vote as well as it is going to affect them more than most? You can imagine the vast majority of people under 30 being keen to stay in.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Aug '17 - 9:21am

    There’s no inherent electoral benefit to keeping pledges. What if the pledge proves unpopular? The Tories likely saved themselves from defeat in 1992 by breaking their Poll Tax pledge.

  • Philip Craxford 27th Aug '17 - 12:05pm

    @Jeff. Yes, harmful to the UK. The terminology here about is mitigating ill effects not about the benefits of leaving (Pro-Leave seem to have become rather tight lipped recently on those ‘benefits’). Having read the publication, it is interesting but it is intentionally limited in scope so the conclusion is only somewhat useful and does not sustain the weight of the headline figures you quote due to too many variables and assumptions.

    Of course the elephant in the room that you glibly passed over is the state of the currency which severely curtails ‘wiggle room’.

    @Anthony Watts – Right on!

  • @ Antony Watts

    You might what everyone in the EU to have the right to live and work in the UK, but the majority of the British public want fewer people coming here from foreign countries to live and work.

    If you want to live in the UK which is a member of a Federal EU with a centrally agreed fiscal and monetary policy you need to recognise it can only come about by us staying in the EU and the EU giving up the uncontrolled freedom of movement within the EU to make that possible and making much more effort to assist the poorer regions and never treating a member country like Greece ever again.

    @ Alex Macfie

    I do not recall all Conservative candidates signing a personal pledge to replace domestic rates with the Poll Tax. Can you provide any evidence that they did? It was in the Conservative manifesto of 1987 following a green paper in 1986 and so therefore was not a pledge in the same way as our not increasing student tuition fees pledge was.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Aug '17 - 7:56pm

    Bill Fowler – this latest news from Labour, that they will support staying in the single market and the customs union during the transitional period (of uncertain length), confirms to me that they are playing a clever game. It doesn’t seem to me the ‘dramatic shift’ of the Observer headline, but merely the latest soft-shoe-shuffle, seeing how far they can continue to keep both Brexiteers and Remainers believing in them, which they have played effectively through ambiguity until now. If and when they do agree to staying in beyond the transitional period (a present fudge which I think our party has already denounced), it’s important that the country knows that it is the Liberal Democrats who have supported the right policies all along.

    Michael BG – ‘ If the EU were rational and pragmatic they would be offering us terms that we could get the British people to agree to’ – don’t you think, Michael, that there is a game going on with both the EU and the Government withholding cards to see what the other side can come up with? But anyway the ‘free movement of people’ has already been modified on the Continent, and there should surely be some sensible evaluation here of how many EU citizens are needed for the various sectors of the economy , ready to start bargaining on economic requirements.

  • Arnold Kiel 27th Aug '17 - 8:37pm

    @ Andrew Tampion,

    can you (or Malcolm) show me where the requirement of a unanimous acceptance of a withdrawal notice by 27 members is regulated? Isn’t that also a political assessment? Note that Britain’s Article 50 invocation was addressed to EU institutions, not member states.

    Even if that were required and not obtained, what would happen next? How about you thinking through the implications of your assessment for a change? You are now introducing the idea of a conditional acceptance of a withdrawal notice; surely, that would also have to be unanimous. Very unlikely. Call me silly, if you wish, but leaving is started (and stopped) as a unilateral exercise, leading to a new relationship once a divorce settlement is ratified by all bodies involved or 24 months expire without result and revocation (then WTO applies). If the UK revokes, only the status quo, as reconfirmed by the British government can be considered an agreed basis. Other member states may have different expectations at that stage, but no alternative arrangement has been established. Again, under which terms would the UK leave in this situation?

  • @ Katharine Pindar
    “don’t you think, Michael, that there is a game going on with both the EU and the Government withholding cards to see what the other side can come up with?”

    The negotiations regarding the terms of Brexit are completely different from the EU offering terms for us to stay. If the EU had the political will to try to get the British public to vote to stay in the EU it would do something to try to make it possible.

    “free movement of people’ has already been modified on the Continent,”

    I am not aware of any rule changes; all I am aware of is some talk about the need to look at the rules. Please can you post a link to the ones you know about?

    @ Arnold Kiel

    To be clear there is no written process on how to stop the Article 50 leaving process. There is only a method to delay the process. Some argue that because there is no process, the article 50 process can’t be stopped; some argue that because other international treaties which some EU members are not party too assume all processes can be halted before they are complete that the article 50 process can be halted. The legal position is not clear. People just have opinions. Only the CJEU can decide if the process can be halted. This is why at the end of last year and the beginning of this I advocated that the party bring a case to get a ruling from the CJEU.

    There is another position which states a political decision could be made to stop the process and many who hold this position believe that the UK terms of membership could be changed at this stage. Like you I believe that changing the UK terms for the worse could not happen even if a political decision was taken to stop the process. However it is possible for the EU to change the EU treaties to improve our terms of membership as part of a political deal to keep us and I assume any treaty changes would have to be agreed by all countries.

  • Dr Carol Weaver 28th Aug '17 - 1:15am

    Arnold Kiel

    “show me where the requirement of a unanimous acceptance of a withdrawal notice by 27 members is regulated? Isn’t that also a political assessment? Note that Britain’s Article 50 invocation was addressed to EU institutions, not member states.”

    The Council and the European Council represent the member states. Voting must be unanimous in Foreign Affairs. See the Treaty of Lisbon which is our current treaty.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Aug '17 - 9:39am

    Modifying free movement on the Continent, Michael BG, is a question on which I, a generalist taking a broad view, am not going to be able to satisfy you who are precise and detailed on figures, and very helpful to the rest of us in that way. I was thinking of the restrictions that individual EU countries such as Denmark have put on immigrants, on the overall limitations which the EU as a whole allows – requiring people to leave if they have not found a job after a few months – and also about how Visegrad countries have closed their borders to migrants. In short there is change and struggle going on in the EU, and not a resolute unity which would defy British attempts to reach a rational agreement on how many EU people can continue to come here to work. That’s how it appears to me, anyway.
    Jeff, thank you for the figures on WTO tariffs, but the idea of us leaving the internal market and the customs union involves so much more harm than having to pay tariffs that, as you know, even the Labour Party is revealing opposition to it now.

  • @Alex McFie – I’m afraid you are totally mistaken with your line ‘There’s no inherent electoral benefit to keeping pledges.’ If you don’t keep a pledge you are a liar. That is how many people now regard the Lib Dems.

    And sadly it is people who continually refuse to accept that fact because they can’t admit to themselves that the party betrayed a lot of people in 2010, who are responsible for the mess we are in. Even worse they are responsible for the fact that things are still getting worse.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Aug '17 - 6:13pm

    You are right, of course, David, to say that we must keep our pledges, and the fact that we broke a major one in the early days of the Coalition disastrously lost us trust in the voters’ eyes. I think it was David Allen who pointed out earlier that the electorate expected better of the Lib Dems, and therefore our fall from grace was greater.

    Facts are that the Tories get away with lies time after time (Boris Johnson for one cannot be trusted), and now here is Labour shamelessly ditching what the voters will have regarded as a pledge, to leave the EU, its internal market and customs union, its insistence on the four freedoms and its court of justice, as soon as possible. This is all to be postponed sine diem, without a word of regret, or apology to the Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn sacked from his Shadow Cabinet for voting to stay in the single market. What are the voters to conclude, but that, once again, politics is a dirty business?

    We are among the fallen angels, but honestly not as bad as either the Tories or Labour! Let us try and raise standards again, as we have begun to do by consistently making the same demands regarding the EU, to stay in the single market and the customs union and to seek a second referendum. And we alone also uphold democracy, by seeking that democratic outcome.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    An MP’s individually taken personal pledge is different from the things a political party says in its manifesto it will do. We all really need to understand the difference. So among the fallen angels it is our MPs who are not trusted because it is them as individuals who can’t keep their personal pledges.

    I don’t think all of Labour’s candidates in the recent general election promised individually that they will ensure the UK leaves the single market and the custom union.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Aug '17 - 12:54am

    The logical conclusion of that argument, Michael, is that you shouldn’t believe the pledges made in the party manifestos, because they are some sort of lower level of honesty. I don’t believe the public think that, they do expect those pledges to be kept.

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    Indeed, a manifesto sets out what a political party wants to do, it is not a personal pledge from each candidate to vote a certain way on a particular policy. Our MPs and candidates in 2010 made individual personal pledges to vote against all increases to tuition fees, the manifesto stated we would phrase out tuition fees over a number of years. I believe voters would accept that we couldn’t phrase out tuition fees because we were not a majority government, but there is no reason for voters to forgive our MPs for breaking their personal pledges which they could have kept. People are used to political parties not implementing everything in their manifestos (plus most people don’t know what is in party manifestos), however they are more aware of pledges which are made which are more binding than manifestos.

    With regard to restricting the free movement of EU citizens into the UK, there is more discussion of the UK’s failure to use the existing rules to restrict EU citizens coming here and removing them but there wasn’t much discussion of the new rules Cameron got regarding claiming benefits. Of course it is possible that the EU will put into place more restrictions to the free movement of people, but the mood music is still that the UK must accept the free movement of people to be in the single market.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Aug '17 - 8:45pm

    Michael, hi again, I think, though I say it in a friendly way as I hope that you also are doing, that that argument is getting to the stage of angels dancing on a pinhead! Of course it’s morally worse that individual MPs break a pledge than that a party manifesto promises are broken, but I suggest to the majority of the public that difference won’t be noticed. In short, the fact that Nick Clegg voted for the increase in tuition fees and Tim Farron didn’t is not likely to have been widely known and appreciated during the Coalition years. I don’t myself know, do you, which of our other MPs voted with Tim, and which abstained, as they could have done without dishonour? And I don’t need to know; but to most people the fact is that the Lib Dems in government broke their pledge, and we are regarded as having collective responsibility. The point I was making still stands, I believe, that the Labour Opposition is now breaking what will have seemed like a pledge to ordinary voters, and will offend many who voted Leave.

    Actually if I am right that weakens duplicitous Labour and strengthens the dishonest Tories – a plague on both their houses! say I, of course – which would seem to be a reason for Labour to be as unwilling as the Tories to call for another early election, since they may be further away than ever from winning an extra 60 seats. If both parties are stymied, maybe a second referendum gets nearer…?

  • @ Katharine Pindar

    (All posts should be seen as being in a friendly way unless they are clearly personal attacks rather than disputes over opinions or facts.) You are correct people do not see individual MPs responsible and while Tim and Stephen Lloyd might retain Lib Dem voters of 2010 better than Vince or Tom Brake ( most people only remember that Liberal Democrats broke their personal pledges over tuition fees. However I expect some of those who voted for us in 2010 link this broken pledge with our political broadcast where Nick Clegg promised no more broken promises. So maybe we are more adversely affected than other political parties because we were not seen like other political parties and we presented ourselves as different. I remember saying on doorsteps when a person said, “you (all politicians) are the same”, that no we Liberal Democrats keep our promises.

    The Labour Party made 10 pledges for the last general election ( none of them were about voting a certain way on a certain issue they are more general except for “create a million jobs and build a million homes”. There was no pledge about leaving the EU, the single market or the customs union.

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