So Labour’s against a no-deal Brexit. Are we supposed to be grateful?

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Spokesperson Keir Starmer has been all over the media this morning proclaiming with great certainty that Labour is against a no-deal Brexit.

He actually said that with a straight face. You’d never have thought that Labour could have headed the prospect off at the pass by ensuring that the Article 50 Bill had a parachute attached to it so that we didn’t fall off the edge of a cliff. They could have ensured that we continued to stay in the single market and the customs union way back in January.

And don’t get me started on their lack of spirited campaigning during the referendum.

What is worrying me is that whenever the predicament we are in as a country starts to become clear, both Tories and Labour start trying to shift the focus onto No Deal in the hope that anything that eventually emerges from the negotiations will seem better in comparison. There is no better. There is only less horrendous. There is no satisfactory outcome other than staying in the EU.

As business gets seriously worried and it starts to dawn on the public that this Brexit idea is an absolute shambles, it looks very much like Labour is going to find itself on the wrong side of public opinion if it doesn’t actively look for a way to drag the country off the ledge.

Nothing we are hearing from Labour at the moment gives me any sense that the leadership is shifting its position.

John McDonnell might wring his hands on the sidelines all he likes. What Labour needs to do is pull a shift at actually opposing the Government.

In a tweet this morning, Vince gave them a good telling off:

Meanwhile, Tom Brake called on Labour to agree to an “exit from Brexit” referendum:

The Lib Dems will work with any party to stop a ‘No Deal’ scenario and would vote against a No Deal outcome in Parliament. ‘No Deal’ would mean ports at a standstill with ferries unable to unload and load, aircraft stranded at airports and manufacturers operating ‘Just in Time’ production reduced to ‘Never on Time’.

The spirit of cooperation amongst parties opposed to a damaging Brexit should extend to the Labour leadership, who were totally absent during the EU referendum. They must back the multi-party call for the British people to have a vote on the final deal. This is the only way to secure an exit from Brexit and avert the destructive consequences of Brexit.

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

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  • nigel hunter 15th Oct '17 - 4:17pm

    Is it me or is there no coverage of out position on the media? Are we being squeezed out cos we have a solid position on ‘Exit from Brexit’ so we are not newsworthy enough?

  • Nom de Plume 15th Oct '17 - 4:34pm

    This is nonsense from Labour. By voting for Article 50 they made ‘no deal’ the default position. All it takes is for negotiations to stay at the present, unresolved, first stage and come 30 March 2019, Britain will be out of the Single Market without a trade deal. Given the splits in the Tory Party, this is quite possible. They are complicit in this mess. I do not see what parliament can do about it.

  • paul barker 15th Oct '17 - 4:36pm

    This is fairly astonishing cheek on Labours part but it does involve a small move in the Right Direction. The Labour position is quite consistent in its own way – offend as few Voters as possible. Public Opinion seems to be shifting slowly against Brexit so Labour shifts with it, equally slowly.
    Whether Parliament actually can stop a No-Deal Brexit at this stage is debatable, the Legal/Constitutional position is unclear. All this finessing may be too late.

  • Nom de Plume 15th Oct '17 - 4:39pm

    To be slightly pedantic, it will be 1 April 2019 when Britain will be out.

  • Nom de Plume 15th Oct '17 - 5:11pm

    @ paul barker

    British Parliamentary approval for the invasion of Iraq was approved by 412 to 149 votes.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '17 - 5:15pm

    Sure, we can all want one, but, can anyone explain how the EU can be forced to give the UK a good deal?

  • Nom de Plume 15th Oct '17 - 5:24pm

    @Peter Martin

    They will not get a better deal than Switzerland or Norway has. I do not see the Tories advocating either of those. They first need to settle this divorce bill issue (outstanding obligations as the EU sees it). In my opinion the biggest problem is internal Tory politics.

  • Laurence Cox 15th Oct '17 - 5:48pm

    Labour’s main reason for subtly changing their position is that they still want an early General Election, and their best chance is if the DUP get unhappy enough to ditch their C&S agreement with the Tories over the Irish border issue. They can reasonably count on the votes of the SNP, ourselves, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens, but they need the DUP’s 12 votes to overtake the Tories. No deal would mean a hard Irish border on the basis that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Oct '17 - 5:51pm

    John McDonnell on Andrew Marr this morning was confident that sufficient numbers can be found in Parliament to defeat a No Deal threatened outcome, and said Labour is willing to work with any party on this. ‘No deal is not an option’ , he said firmly. He may surely be right that there would be a majority there of that opinion, if it comes to the crunch.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Oct '17 - 6:12pm

    I don’t think this is any change in the Labour position. They still have the same “Cake and Eat it” approach as the Tories, ruling out the Single Market as a final deal.

    The reality is that both Labour and the Tories agree however on a transitional deal that is effectively Single Market. The question of the deal or no deal will be kicked down the road in 2019 by both Parties, and the EU will be happy with that. Staying in the Single Market and Customs Union resolves all the main issues: citizen rights, Northern Ireland, frictionless borders and even the divorce bill because we will still be contributing and at the 11th hour the EU will postpone that too. I am pretty sure manoeuvring us into this transitional deal is the main aim of the EU negotiators and this has been accepted by May and Hammond.
    We have been doing surveys in Huddersfield with a choice of 3 Brexit deals. Staying in the Single Market is much more popular than a hard Brexit, and staying in the Single Market as a transitional deal only is not very popular. I think we will be in this waiting room for much more than 2 years, and the Liberal Democrats need to accept this as a likely outcome, even if it is worse than Remain

  • Nom de Plume 15th Oct '17 - 6:26pm

    @Andrew McCaig

    I am more of the impression that the EU negotiators want the Tories to make their minds up so that than can get this thing settled. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Government wanted to muddle along a bit longer. Wasn’t it Theresa May in her Florence speach who suggested the transition period?

  • paul barker 15th Oct '17 - 6:58pm

    The Legal situation is unclear & would probably have to be resolved in “The Courts.” Which Courts is another question. Some people who should know are of the opinion that a Vote by The House of Commons cant reverse Article 50. It may be too late to avert disaster whatever MPs want.
    Incidentally, I looked on Labour List to see what they say & theres nothing. Perhaps they arent allowed to work on Sundays.

  • Labour follow slowly behind the electorate. As the electorate change so do Labour. Leadership no but they may reap a reward for their caution. As to the Tories, they are trying to make a virtue out of a necessity, problem is there is no virtue in hard Brexit only pain. They are rewriting history “We said it would be hard” no you fecking didn’t you said

    Liam Fox: A UK-EU free trade deal will be ‘one of the easiest in human history’ to negotiate

    LONDON — Trade Secretary Liam Fox believes that a post-Brexit free trade deal between Britain and the European Union will be “one of the easiest in human history” to negotiate.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning, Fox suggested the only hurdle that could get in the way of a comprehensive free trade deal being agreed quickly would be if “politics gets in the way of economics”.

    Fox — who campaigned passionately for Britain to leave the EU last year — is confident that a future trade relationship can be agreed within the two-year Article 50 period, despite expert warnings that it’ll be rife with complexities and likely to take up to a decade to negotiate.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Oct '17 - 8:08pm

    Peter Martin – ‘Sure, we can all want one, but, can anyone explain how the EU can be forced to give the UK a good deal?’

    Hard to say. On the money side of it neither the UK nor EU position makes a great deal of sense to me. On the more general side of it I’m at something of a loss as to why the EU would not hold informal negotiations prior to A50 notification. That would have made a great deal of sense. The European Parliament seems to have envisaged informal negotiations (p3):

    P7 talks about a ‘phasing out’ of EU rules, and I take that as tacitly suggesting a transition period.

    Were I to put up here what my Hungarian friend has to say about the EU’s unwillingness to hold pre-talks on the status of EU citizens I expect I’d be banned for life from LDV.

    Certainly the Treaty envisages ‘arrangements’ and a ‘framework’ being put into place. How good they can be is another matter. Personally, for the short-term at least, the EEA IN EU OUT option is the one to follow.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '17 - 8:20pm

    There seems to be a sense of impatience on the part of the EU that the UK hasn’t committed to settling its “divorce bill”.

    But does anyone actually know what this is and how the figure is calculated?

  • Peter/Jackie

    It’s a case of power politics, they have the power and wish to demonstrate to the world the EU isn’t to be trifled with. We lack the power to change that and must tag along with what ever they decide or jump off the cliff onto the rocks of WTO rules. The problem brave Brexiteers have is they under estimated the risk and over estimated our strength. Many still do but they are starting to wise up to the peril they have placed us in, all be it only to cast around to find a scape goat for their decision. I expect the screw to be turned and turned again and as much as we may squeal we are in no position to change the out come. You may squeal for us to join the EEA but at the end of the day that would be at the discretion of the EU, everything bar the hardest of Brexit is at the discretion of the EU. Reality what a female dog it is, if only Tinks would ride too our rescue on a purple unicorn, if only she could.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Oct '17 - 9:43pm

    I must say that ever since the election campaign, I am very pleased with Labour. Unlike us LibDems, they had and have a lot to lose. Their moves towards remain are brilliantly calibrated and timed. Excellent job of Starmer/McDonnell today announcing a vote against no-deal while deflecting the accusation of defying the referendum result by this. I am sure this happens in close collaboration with Brussels. They understand that continued stalemate and the increasing likelihood of no-deal will terrify British citizens, businesses and politicians to a point at which only a comprehensive deal can pass the HoC, remaining being the logical, and by then accepted default. Their intention to get there without another referendum is admirably bold.

    The LibDem role in this game is helpful, but possibly not very rewarding: that of a trailblazer that has first said the unspeakable, helping Labour to uphold a leave-appearance as long as necessary. For the country, gratitude might eventually be justified, though.

  • Martin,

    I think May and Co are scared of reality. they hope to put off the day when reality bites as long as possible. At the moment it is nibbling but it is lining up to tear their harris off. They then will have to come up with an excuse and like the fox with no tail I suspect there’s will be no one needs a harris, harris are only useful for sitting on and brave Brexiteers don’t sit.

    Once there was a Fox who got his tail caught in a trap. As he struggled to release himself from the trap, he lost his long fluffy tail. At first the Fox was ashamed to show himself among his fellow Foxes. Suddenly he had an idea. He called all his fellow Foxes for a meeting. When they all assembled the Fox proposed to his fellow Foxes that he had taken off his tail and they should do the same with theirs to look as pretty as him.

    He tried explaining to all his fellow Foxes that having a tail causes lots of inconveniences especially when chased by enemies. He failed to see any benefit of having to carry around such a useless tail.

    One of the fellow Foxes stood up and said “That is all very well my fellow Fox but I don’t think you will be standing here advising us to lose our tails if you had not happened to have lost your tail yourself.”

    All the fellow Foxes agreed and began to laugh.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Oct '17 - 10:11pm

    Peter Martin – ‘But does anyone actually know what this is and how the figure is calculated?’ The fact that no one seems to have a ready answer to this is a part of the problem. The EU is just one big open-ended deal.

    The oddity is this. I keep hearing that the much-quoted £350m a week was a terrible lie and a huge overstatement. 52 weeks times 2 = 104 weeks. 104 weeks times £350m = just under £36.5bn. Be interesting to know how the EU comes up with some of its numbers which, according to reports (I know, I know) have been markedly higher.

    One of the many advantages of the Norway option is that the finances become more transparent – It is precisely what we should do as a first step.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Oct '17 - 10:26pm

    The large figures sometimes touted are because of liabilities going far beyond 2 years, pensions for EU employees being one obvious one.
    However I would have thought it was up to the EU to define the basis of the calculation and I think they are deliberately prevaricating. It is the normal thing for negotiations only to really get moving at the 11th hour, and the EU negotiators know the approaching cliff edge will sharpen minds…

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Oct '17 - 10:32pm

    Andrew McCaig – ‘The large figures sometimes touted are because of liabilities going far beyond 2 years, pensions for EU employees being one obvious one.’

    Probably. The Norway option would, of course, remove this issue and give far more transparency.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Oct '17 - 10:34pm

    Arnold Kiel – You’ve not read the 2017 Labour Party manifesto I assume?

  • Jackie,

    Times change and Labour have come to the conclusion Brexit is becoming less popular and they are moving away from it. If by some chance it becomes popular they will move back to it but I suspect as reality bites they will be moving at warp factor away from it. Political opportunism certainly but on this issue Labour are happy to go with the flow and the flow isn’t going in favour of the Brexiteers.

    Responsibility a heavy weight on the shoulders of Brexiteers and one they ain’t used too. For years they stood on the sidelines shouting I could do better than that, but now they are on the pitch they are finding the opposing team are running rings round them. Perhaps they should have trained and planned before putting themselves forward as world beaters.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Oct '17 - 11:16pm

    Andrew McCaig 15th Oct ’17 – 10:26pm
    “The large figures sometimes touted are because of liabilities going far beyond 2 years, pensions for EU employees being one obvious one.”

    This justification baffles me. Question: when Britain joined the EEC in 1973 was it exempted from any liability for such obligations incurred prior to accession? When the East Europeans joined from 2004 onwards were they likewise exempted? Or does this strict liability for paying for what you’ve committed only apply one way?

  • We are against a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and, now, so are Labour…How Dare They! Don’t they realise that they are trespassing on our territory…

    If this article, and those posts supporting it, weren’t about so serious a matter it would be laughable…
    Strange how we were able to co-operate with an extreme right wing government (for the good of the country???) and vote through policies that were the opposite to our core beliefs and yet, on perhaps the most serious matter that has faced this country since WW2, we won’t work with a party that agrees with us…

    You couldn’t make it up!

  • William Fowler 16th Oct '17 - 8:56am

    Labour believe in the democratic mandate of the referendum, hence Brexit support up to this point. Corbyn says he would still vote to stay in the EU despite appearing lukewarm in the past. That says to me that just about anything could happen next.

    Does Merkel want to destroy the Conservative Party for failing to deliver a positive result in the referendum and threatening a low tax/low spend regime that is at odds with other major EU countries rather than the UK which has a long history of overpaying for European products and is therefore loved by EU manufacturers? It begins to look that way to me.

  • Denis Loretto 16th Oct '17 - 11:55am

    It is the issue of the divorce bill that will stop the 27 permitting the negotiations to proceed to Stage 2. On Ireland and the rights of expatriates there are clearly difficulties to be overcome but perhaps both sides are singing from the same hymn sheet in enough harmony to meet the “sufficient progress” test.

    So why the problem on money? I reckon lack of trust is the answer. The appalling misjudgement was made by the UK side of going to the first stages of discussion armed with legal opinions that questioned the legal obligation for the UK to make any payment whatsoever. While this was no doubt aimed at strengthening the UK negotiating position it actually shocked the EU side into insisting upon absolute and irreversible undertakings on this issue including figures. The later reversal of the UK position in the Florence speech was obviously too little to remove the distrust that the earlier attempt to argue nil liability had caused. Only real progress on this front will now break the log jam.

  • OnceALibDem 16th Oct '17 - 3:50pm

    If public opinion moves significantly against Brexit then Labour will follow and will, in all probability, end up in the same place as the LIb Dems in about 9-12 months. The Lib Dem stance will then be not, ‘we are the only ones who are right’ but ‘ we were right first’. That is a much less strong position.

    The big problem will be that a referendum on the deal or staying in the EU may not be on offer as the more protracted the negotiations the less likely the EU27 (and it would need all 27) would be to allow a revocation of Art50.

    The only place I find stuff like this though is to come here. It’s all well to say “In a tweet this morning, Vince gave them a good telling off:” but Vince has 108,000 followers on twitter so its really an insignificant thing but does create a huge echo chamber. When I speak to ex-Lib Dem colleagues they don’t seem to get just how little penetration the Lib Dem message is getting in the ‘real world’ as their social media is full of Lib Dem commentary.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Oct '17 - 4:22pm

    Yes, but, OnceALibDem, public opinion on Brexit is moving our way, according to the latest YouGov poll, and perhaps our steady stance of opposition which is widely known is contributing to that, even if people don’t know about Vince tweets or party press releases.

    I think now our party has to think beyond the current negotiation difficulties over payments, the Irish border and citizens’ rights, to consider what can be done before the deadline of March 2019 to ensure staying in. We should not let the Tories and Labour cook up a transitional deal and say that that’s all that’s needed in the post March ’19 time. It isn’t. Do people expect we will be able to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union after that? Not without accepting the Four Freedoms and EU regulations as far as I can see – including free EU immigration for jobs.

    Business, we are continually told, needs certainty. There is no certainty in a transitional deal unless the deal at the end of it is also known, which neither Tories nor Labour are likely to spell out, transfixed as they are on outwitting each other at whatever cost to the country.

  • Arnold Kiel 16th Oct '17 - 5:42pm


    exactly right. The next thought, for which LibDems must pave the way is that transition without a final deal does not protect against a no-deal-scenario. It even weakens the UK’s bargaining-position further, as all bridges would be burnt, i.e. every single EU-member can then block or conditionalize re-entry.

    Whoever wants to keep the rebate and Gibraltar (possibly even non-Schengen or GBP) must pull the plug before April 2019.


    the Labour manifesto served its purpose at the time. But times are changing fast these days. How could one be respectful of the “will of the people” in 2016, but not in 2017/18/19 (or maybe of their real needs)?

  • OnceALibDem 16th Oct '17 - 9:05pm

    “perhaps our steady stance of opposition which is widely known is contributing to that, even if people don’t know about Vince tweets or party press releases.”

    Perhaps is a mighty big word. There is a bad tendency in politics to assume that things happen the way you hope they will.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Oct '17 - 9:49pm

    Not a tendency I am prone to, however. One attempts to be realistic, to continue to contribute a little to our excellent cause, and generally resist the temptation to sneer from the sidelines.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Oct '17 - 11:58pm

    You are right, Martin, I believe – the Irish Border question does not look capable of a ready solution, despite the fact that the finances question is being said this evening to be the main obstacle to progress in the current negotiations.

    However that proceeds, Arnold is correct in pointing out that the no-deal scenario, which isn’t in my view at all probable for the moment, would be a real and present danger once the drawbridge had been pulled up in April 2019. As he agrees, a transition without a final deal being understood is of no use. It would merely prolong the fantasies of the Brexiteers, to the harm of our country.

  • Denis Loretto 17th Oct '17 - 1:04am

    I am only too well aware of the lack of any viable idea as to a way forward for the Irish border. What I meant by “singing from the same hymn sheet” is that both the UK and the EU are at one in wanting a way forward that maintains an open border in Ireland. Therefore this should not be used as a reason for refusing to commence talking about a trade deal while still seeking a solution in Ireland. . I have no doubt that it is the divorce bill and the distrust on this created by UK hamfistedness that is the real holdup.

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