Revoking Article 50 would not break our democracy

So the Government was defeated twice last night, which paves the way for MPs to set the agenda on Wednesday.

However, it managed to see off a perfectly reasonable amendment from Margaret Beckett which would have made sure that the House would have had control of what would have happened if we got to 7 days from the deadline with no deal in place.

This amendment was defeated by 3 votes. 8 Labour MPs voted with the Government against it.

The fact that so many votes are so finely balanced is really worrying. Theresa May would see getting her Brexit deal through by one vote as a victory. That would mean probably a decade of uncertainty and a whole generation pretty much sold down the river.

If you are making a major life choice, for example getting married or, I guess, the more appropriate analogy is getting divorced, you have to be sure you are doing the right thing.

MPs are obviously conflicted so the obvious answer is to preserve the status quo before any further damage is done. We are at the point where revoking Article 50 is the only option we have.

That would have its problems, for sure. People do have some genuine concerns that such a move would be harmful for democracy.

I hope I can allay some of those fears.

Every credible large sample poll has put Remain in the lead in the last few months. Over 5.5 million people have felt moved to sign a petition which essentially calls for the government to just make Brexit stop. Twice in 5 months the streets of London have been filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters.

All of these things suggest that the decision of 23 June 2016 is out of date. People usually just put up with stuff. But when millions express their displeasure in unison, the Government really ought to take notice. To proceed with such a massive change would be wrong.

Revoking Article 50 would not break our democracy. It is already broken. The referendum was enacted by a Parliament which was not the Parliament the people asked for. The Tories would never have had the majority to do it if number of seats reflected votes.

We should revoke Article 50 and then look at how we can make Parliament more representative of the country in every way. That way the decisions it makes will more properly reflect people’s needs. Brexit is not the answer to people’s struggles and will make the poorest poorer.

We should look at this moment as an opportunity to properly address the divisions in our country. The solution is making sure everyone has somewhere warm and secure to live, can provide the basics for themselves & feels like they can influence their destiny.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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42 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Mar '19 - 2:08pm

    This tries to contribute a real solution but asks more questions than answers. Though it does not in fact ask at all.

    You state that fears can be allayed. Yet at no point in two years has anybody engaged with the reasons for Brexit.

    William Wallace tried. Vince Cable too. They were excoriated. TIG refered to the duty of government first being security. They emphasised our nation. They were called promoters of Dog whistle politics.

    Some have recognised, with just this week past , water shortages in this country at worrisome levels, that , green politics mean high immigration is not good in a small land mass, with pollution and lack of housing. It is not good for developing countries, whether in east of Europe or Commonwealth nations, their peoples depleted for our economy, is unsustainable. They who say it are excoriated plus.

    If this party engaged with its own members it would see most of us do not call the Independent Group , authoritarian centrists , and are not of the view that everything that is not just as we like it is awful or the exact opposite of what we want.

    It is the case that some of us, those of us of immigrant stock, but patriotic British, are those who often, like, Trevor Phillips, seem most capable of asking questions and relating to people other than ourselves, who might not have the same views. We understand that people who might be wrong about issues, or situations, are yet, not to be insulted as racists. We get, that older people who voted Brexit, are not to be ignored because they are not young, and are on their way out.

    Allay the fears of those who voted Brexit, and be a Liberal Democrat, and you do all this, and more. Admit the coalition gave little hope, and was very miserable, and that this party is yet.

    We need the politics of JFK, and Harold Macmillan, optimistic, realistic.

    We have no such candidates in this party who can connect well, as they denigrate too much.

  • Sean Hyland 26th Mar '19 - 2:37pm

    If you have reached the point at which you are considering divorce,to use your analogy, I’m not sure that maintaining the reasons that brought you to that decision ,the status quo, is the right thing to do.

  • When you get divorced it’s easy enough to get remarried again, Sean. Ask Elizabeth Taylor. But once we lose our rebates and opt outs and all the other things the other EU countries envy us for, we never get them back.

  • Paul Barker 26th Mar '19 - 3:10pm

    The thing that that broke our Semi-Democracy was agreeing to have a binding Referendum that would overule Parliament. With that act of monumental cowardice The House of Commons destroyed its own legitimacy.
    Hopefully our Party system will be broken too.

  • >If you have reached the point at which you are considering divorce,to use your analogy…
    The trouble with this analogy is that it wasn’t the UK Government that was considering divorce from its partner, the EU. It is more like one of the parents got fed up with the children complaining and so put the divorce decision in the hands of the children and got the answer they weren’t expecting/didn’t want to hear…

    It is going to be interesting to see whether in the coming days the parents reassert their relationship and put the children in their place; something everyone expected May to do directly after she was appointed back in 2016…

    I suspect, the fact May hasn’t had extensive dealings with children, unlike Thatcher, is a factor in why she is having problems asserting herself over certain members of her party…

  • Arnold Kiel 26th Mar '19 - 4:46pm

    The reasons for Brexit had nothing to do with EU membership. The leave vote was the child saying: divorce your partner who, as you tell me, is distracting you from me. It turns out, this partner is more interested in the child’s welfare than the parent that professed to be distracted. What the parent really wants is more neglect with impunity.

    Brexiters use a cheap trick: they insist on sticking to the chosen but wrong means (the divorce). If one asked for the demanded ends (attention), they could be better achieved without divorce. From an ends-perspective, revocation is not only justifiable but necessary.

  • Revoking Article 50 isn’t a solution in itself. It doesn’t change the fact that the country voted to leave the EU (however much we might think people have changed their mind, it’s only actual votes that count). Revoke Article 50 to hold a general election or to hold another referendum – fine (although neither of these are a guarantee of a resolution either). Revoke Article 50 to have more talks and keep the country in limbo – pointless.

  • Tony Greaves 26th Mar '19 - 5:07pm

    Excellent posting and some pretty hopeless comments if I may say so. This is the time for campaigning leadership not aimless café chat!

  • Isn’t it time that the party had a clear policy on referendums. Things like what subjects should qualify, how they should be triggered, the criteria for writing the question. Little things like that.
    Is it not time we began to take democracy seriously?

  • Paul Barker 26th Mar '19 - 5:34pm

    Can I ask if The Party Leadership have come to any clear decisions about the Indicative Votes tomorrow ?
    Specifically, will Our MPs be putting forward
    a, Revoke Article 50
    b, A Peoples Vote ?

  • Just a couple of questions, if the Lib Dems are so European, why do they want all the opt outs from EU stuff? It stands to reason that the countries without the opt outs will always put themselves before those with opt outs… or is there some kind of British exceptionalism going on here.

    Also, being as the EU parliament seem to have just passed their new copyright regulations, what do the Lib Dems think about Article 13? Are they for it, or agin it?

  • As I understood last weeks EU meeting the Governmernt has to pass the PM’s deal this week, not next week, this week. If it does not pass whether by 1 or 100 votes the Government has to go back to the EU with “another plan”, by the 12th April. So providing common sense operates tomorrow night and on Monday there should be an alternative plan ready by Tuesday to discuss and agree in Brussels. The MPs have been working to create the legislation to accompany anything they agree upon, which might well be the PMs deal!. So it should not be too difficult.
    Me I am breaking ranks and would be happy if we stay in the Common Market and Customs Union as an addendum to the PMs deal. I reckon that could well be a compromise to pass.

  • If you look at the opinion poll produced by John Curtice two things strike me.
    1. People who didn’t vote and have not therefore nailed their flag to the mast are coming down on the side of remain, at a rate of over two to one.
    2. The number of leave voters doesn’t add up, it seems a discernable number now claim they either didn’t vote or voted remain.

    O and 7% think Brexit is going well, I suspect a considerable number of con merchants would love to have that list of people.

  • @ Andy Hinton

    Well that went well didn’t it!

  • Richard Underhill 26th Mar '19 - 6:38pm

    Margaret Becket has apologised for nominating Jeremy Corbyn as leader and isnow living with the consequences.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Mar '19 - 7:00pm

    Labour MP Margaret Beckett apologised for nominating Jeremy Corbyn for leader.

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Mar '19 - 7:13pm

    @ Roland,
    So Mrs May’s inadequacies are due to the fact that she hasn’t had extensive dealings with children.

    How very Andrea Leadsom of CV fame. How very cruel.

    Presumably, if you have a medical condition you will only find empathy and understanding from those who suffer from the same complaint. For how can , for example, oncologists ( cancer experts) understand, empathise with, or know how to properly care with sufferers who have an experience that they themselves have no experience of ?

  • To use divorce analogy. I’ve never known anyone who backs out of it and ends up happy, they tend to just divorce later. The other thing is it only takes one spouse to keep divorce proceedings going, where as to stop it you need both parties to agree.

  • I signed the Art 50 petition but more to be heard than in expectation. Govt says it will ignore it and so I think we must be realistic, accept that we are out, all rebates and benefits lost, and then start the campaign for re-entry immediately.

    When the public turn on the brexiters, as it will, this time pro-EU supporters must be as relentless in finding fault with the new status quo and be as obsessed and ruthless as the quitters have been for the last 40 years.

    Meantime, find other liberal issues to push for – PR surely. There is likely a recall petition in Brecon & Radnor ….

  • Denis Loretto 26th Mar '19 - 8:07pm

    The purpose of the indicative votes is to seek some way forward that can achieve a majority in the House of Commons. There is not the slightest possibility of revoking Article 50 without even putting that to the electorate getting anywhere near a majority. So let’s not waste time on it. In my view the only real hope now is the Kyle-wilson amendment whereby the May deal is passed subject only to a referendum between it and remaining in the EU.

  • I agree with Tony Greaves (as per usual).

  • Alex Macfie 26th Mar '19 - 8:43pm

    “Our only MEP, Catherine Bearder, voted against Article 13, so I guess you can take that to be our position”

    Indeed. I find it frustrating that many people don’t seem to get that as Lib Dems, we have specifically liberal ideas on how EU laws should look, and these determine how we vote in the European Parliament. Frustrating but not surprising, as we said nothing about these things in the last European election campaign. Virtually no mention of the Lib Dem or ALDE Euro-manifestos, or our candidate for President of the Commission (Guy Verhofstadt). The concept that there are political, ideological differences between different party groups in the European Parliament on what they think EU law and policy should look like is scarcely given any thought at all. No wonder voters never took EU elections seriously. If they did (had been encouraged to), then there would have been more MEPs like Catherine Bearder, rather than Nigel Farage.

  • Alex Macfie 26th Mar '19 - 8:58pm

    @Adam: “Well that went well didn’t it!” What’s your point? As a Lib Dem/ALDE MEP, Catherine isn’t responsible for how MEPs in other parties voted, any more than Lib Dem MPs in the Westminster Parliament are responsible for how Labour and Tory MPs vote.

  • Peter Chambers 26th Mar '19 - 8:59pm

    @Paul Barker
    Binding referendum? It was advisory. So said the supreme court.
    (R (on the application of Miller and another) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Appellant) [2017] UKSC 5, [2017] 1 All ER 593)
    So how is the legitimacy of the Commons supposedly broken?
    The Commons has legitimacy from democratic elections. It is part of the sovereign parliament.

  • Helen Dudden 26th Mar '19 - 9:04pm

    I think relationships are built on trust, and ideals in common.
    If there is little common ground before a marriage then it won’t get better after.
    We are all entitled to make choices.

    This is the EU I see, weakened by too many decisions that suit a few, a relationship needs working at, and also wanting to be there. Both of these types of relationships are common in this example.

  • @ Alex

    My point is that opting out of various aspects of the EU as some sort of compromise between Europhiles and Eurosceptics clearly didn’t work.

    Likewise, any liberal ideas about a future European idea of copyright law have now clearly been rejected.

    I just wonder what’s going to happen after the next European elections… if the dominant European party turns out to be the far right, and begins to promote policies of that type throughout Europe, will the Lib Dems support this in the interests of European unity?

    All this support for all things European seems rather nebulous to me. What does it mean in practical terms if the rest of the continent starts goose-stepping?

  • @Jayne Mansfield – I used the word ‘dealings’ precisely because it covers a wider range of engagement than A.Leadsom implied; I have worked at different times with a couple of very good management consultants, who had been primary school teachers prior to a career switch, both said their classroom experience directly helped them deal with boardroom ego’s.

    As for your other point, I would say that people with caring responsibilities generally get better with experience – I see this in myself, both in my work engagements involving vulnerable adults (people with learning disabilities, or physical disabilities such as deafness and paraplegia) and in my sports coaching of children. However, there are some truly gifted people who put the rest of us to shame.

  • Got my text telling me that the petition will be ignored. Not surprised; just disappointed!

  • If May and her government will not revoke Article 50, it’s time for the people and Parliament to revoke May.

  • Revoke Article 50 petition.
    The government Brexit Department response is unsatisfactory.
    Clearly the government is in no position to deliver an outcome which is good for everyone. If the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement, the economy will be damaged. Did millions in the UK vote for a no agreement exit from the EU? Was that on the ballot? To break the deadlock a people’s vote is needed where the issues are properly addressed and the consequences outlined of a no deal exit.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Mar '19 - 6:33am

    @Adam: Decisions made in the European Parliament are political, in the exact same way as decisions in national Parliaments are. Thus, as Lib Dems, we will support and promote liberal ideas in the EU, as ourselves if there are European Parliamentary elections in the UK and we get MEPs elected, and in solidarity with our liberal sister parties otherwise.
    Lib Dems would not support any move towards far-right politics in the EU, any more than we would nationally. As I said there are political, ideological differences between the different groups in the EU Parliament just as there are in national Parliaments, and they supporting and oppose each other’s policy proposals on political, ideological grounds. Supporting the principle of the EU does not mean slavish obedience to any dominant political grouping there, any more than supporting the UK means slavish support for Theresa May’s Tory-DUP administration.
    So if you want to shift EU policy to a more liberal direction, you need to vote for liberal parties in European Parliamentary elections. And the corollary is that liberal parties need to promote what they have been doing, as liberals, in the European Parliament. This is something the Lib Dems have never done, instead allowing European elections to become a proxy for domestic political arguments (and BTW whether the UK Is in or out of the EU is just such a domestic political argument). But promoting our specifically liberal ideas for the EU in EU elections would counter ignorant ideas such as that we uncritically “support [all things European”.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Mar '19 - 9:01am

    @ Roland,
    I have read you posts and all I can say is that you are better than that. Better than someone who uses anecdotes, ( of two former teachers who chose not to remain at the chalkface).

    Mrs May felt obliged to tell the world that she and her husband had been unable to have children. It is something that she has had to deal with, but as far as whether she has experience of dealings with children, neither you or I can know. She may be a doting hands on auntie or whatever.

    Mrs May’s behaviour and incompetence appals and alarms me. It manifested itself when she was Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister, but I don’t believe that we can assume that the personality and behaviour traits she exhibits when dealing with people can be attributed to her childlessness. That would be a very dangerous assumption to make about women who can’t, or choose not to, have children.

    I signed the ‘Revoke ‘ petition fully expecting that it would not make the slightest difference. Disseminating ‘Best for Britain’ information seems to have had more success when it comes to a change of mind by initial leave voters.
    .

  • Peter Martin 27th Mar '19 - 9:36am

    @ Caron,

    The Leave side are keeping relatively low profile at the moment waiting to see how things will turn out. That will all change if Art50 is revoked. All hell will likely break loose! It is exactly what the far right would like to see happen to justify a campaign of direct action. They’d say ‘democracy has failed’ and they’d be right.

    @ John King,

    “But once we lose our rebates and opt outs and all the other things the other EU countries envy us for, we never get them back.”

    Why do you want them in the first place? If you have a belief in the EU you should want to be in the whole way. No opt-outs, use the euro, be a part of Schengen etc. Or are you saying the EU is fine providing we don’t have too much EU?

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “The reasons for Brexit had nothing to do with EU membership.”

    And this opinion is based on your extensive travels in the UK and the conversations you’ve had with ordinary people? I doubt it!

    I’d advise you to actually do that, though, and then you’ll at least have some idea of what you are talking about. I’d also advise you, for your own wellbeing, to moderate your tone a little though. The average voter doesn’t like to be told they are the child and you are the parent who knows best. They won’t appreciate terms like ‘unconditional surrender’.

  • Laurence Cox 27th Mar '19 - 10:24am

    Time to start hammering Labour now without mercy as Barry Gardiner (Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary) admits that Labour is not a Remain Party on the Today Programme this morning. From the BBC at 10:01 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-politics-parliaments-47696409

    Quote

    One of the ideas MPs will consider later would require a public vote before any deal could be ratified, known as a confirmatory referendum.

    The shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner has warned that Labour could have difficulty supporting such a plan because it could suggest that they were a Remain party – which was not the case.

    “The Labour Party is not a Remain party now. We have accepted the result of the referendum,” he told the Today programme a little earlier.

    End Quote

  • Any new referendum would need to be binding. It should be tied to a specific Withdrawal Agreement, which would be automatically implemented via statutory instrument if the Leave side won. This is how the AV referendum was done.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Mar '19 - 1:27pm

    BBC radio World at One is announcing Labour party whipping for today, after PMQ, including a three line whip for a proposal in the name of Margaret Becket.

  • A mythical army of leavers will arise. Absolute spherical objects. They don’t exist, what does exist is hammering keyboards on the Daily Hate or Depress website, a few are trampping through the countryside pursued by “led by donkeys” loudly proclaiming Nigel’s pronouncement and asking where is he. Dark money may promote WTO on fakebook or Twitter but actual legions ready to rush to the street not at all. Nigel once promised a 100,000 man march to force through Brexit, eventually when he managed to organise one he hasn’t managed to keep it in three figures for two days running. So bleat away, you lack the number, you lack the will and you lack the ablity to cause mayhem. Paper delusional dragons the lot of you. Your time has passed either step aside or be pushed.

  • Peter Hirst 27th Mar '19 - 6:23pm

    Revoking Article 50, though the right thing to do would do nothing to heal the divisions in our country. It should be combined with a mechanism agreed cross-Party that ensures that either there is a comprehensive package of measures to address the concerns of the leavers or a promise of a further referendum down the road and possibly both.

  • Terence Jeffries 27th Mar '19 - 7:25pm

    We are all looking for the best deal regarding Europe, any way you look at it we really already have the best deal ! You cannot influence anything being outside of the club, best to change the things we don’t agree with from within the EU. All the nonsense about our contributions are right wing propaganda and some are downright lies ! Remain-and get the best deal from within.

  • @Jayne Mansfield – I note your informed and considered rebuff to my comments. Rather than try and justify my comments, I am reflecting on your observations.

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