Tag Archives: brexit

Actually, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP could help win a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon was on the Peston show today talking about various aspects of Brexit. One thing struck me when she was pressed on the issue of a People’s vote of the Brexit deal. She said that the SNP won’t be the block to that but if there was to be another EU referendum, the big question for Scotland would be what would happen if we got the same outcome, where Scotland voted to remain and Wales and England voted to leave.

To be honest, I think it would be so much better if the SNP threw their massive campaigning energy behind securing a vote that means we can all stay in the EU. I reckon we could do a lot better than the 62-38 result. To be honest, the SNP sat the last one out. Our local SNP didn’t do much because they said they were tired after the Scottish elections.  It was the Lib Dems who ran the street stalls and did all the work.

It is unlike the SNP to be tired. For three years up to the Independence referendum in 2014 they were everywhere. They campaigned their hearts out. For the last month of the campaign, you couldn’t go to the shops to buy your rolls in the morning without seeing a posse with saltires and Yes leaflets. In that referendum, there was an 84.6% turnout. In the EU referendum, only 67% of people voted.

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Vince Cable talks about his mother’s mental illness, his father’s racism and overcoming prejudice in a moving and candid interview

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You probably don’t know that Vince Cable was on Radio 5 Live as the birthday guest on Sunday night because it’s not really been reported anywhere. It’s worth catching up on it though because it’s one of the most open, personal  and moving interviews I’ve heard him give. He’s mentioned the racism he and his first wife Olympia faced as a mixed race couple before but in this

Vince was 75 last week but he said that he was both physically and mentally fit – he was introduced as a dancer and black run skier. His age isn’t an issue, he says. He says he’s well received amongst audiences of young people and derided by older people.

He said there was a period in politics when it was important to be youthful, citing Kennedy, Blair and Cameron but talks about a blend of youthful innovation and experience is necessary.

Growing up in York to ambitious working class parents, he learned about aspiration and ambition. He says he was a bit lonely when his brother arrived at 11. HIs mother suffered post natal depression and spent some time in hospital as a result. He has talked before of the role of adult education in helping her recover from that. His brother was fostered for a while and his father had to look after him.  He said people were quite cruel about it and taunted him about is mother going to the “loony bin.” He says we’ve made some progress with that sort of attitude.

The idea of women working when he was growing up was frowned upon. He sees this as adding to his mother’s loneliness. His father was a very traditional person who had campaigned to stop women teaching and who believed in a hierarchy of races.

He talked of forming a “little liberal cell” in his house with his mum, who defied the instructions to vote Conservative she received from her husband.

It was playing Macbeth in the school play which helped him overcome his awkwardness as a teenager and he spoke of how his involvement in a drama group led to his first relationship – with Lady Macbeth.

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More defeats for the Government on the Brexit deal – but does it matter?

Am I the only one not to be too excited about the Lords riding a coach and horses through the EU Withdrawal Bill?

Before I explain why, let’s look at how the Lords have improved this Bill. When I say improve, it is all relative. There are some things you really can’t polish.

The Government defeats have come thick and fast, with Lib Dem lords leading the way.

1 and 2 on 18th April: An amendment in favour of staying in the Customs Union and  another limiting Minister’s powers to water down our rights

3- 5 on 23rd April when they took out the bit that removed the references to the Charter of Fundmental rights and the bites that gave ministers and preserved the rights of citizens to use the principles of EU law to challenge the government

6-7 on 25th April when Lords restricted the so-called Henry VIII powers which gave Ministers the right to do what they pleased without much in the way of referral to Parliament.

8-10 on 30th April  passed two amendments which gave Parliament a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, allowing Parliament to decide what happens if it rejects the deal. Peers also passed Lord Dubs’ amendment on reuniting refugee families

11 -14 Last night their Lordships decided to keep us in the single market, give greater scrutiny of Brexit proposals to Parliamentary Committees, give Parliament powers against ministers using statutory instruments and remove the date of exit from the EU from the Bill.

So the Bill is now something that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox have nightmares about. It’s less horrendous than it was, and it would be even more so if the Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal had been passed.

But if the Bill comes through the Commons in this form, I’ll be looking to borrow a hat from Paddy Ashdown.

Once the Lords is finished with it, MPs get to vote on whether they accept the Lords amendments or not. The Government may offer concessions which MPs accept, or they may simply strip the amendments out. This is where the natural majority in the Commons for staying in the customs union and the single market could show itself, or it might bide its time, waiting for the Brexit deal vote.

I won’t be holding my breath for MPs to write staying in the single market and customs union into the Bill. However, if I’m wrong, then the Government will either implode in a toxic cloud of frothing brexiteer bile or MPs will be back the next day and the PM will make it an issue of confidence just like John Major did over Maastrict. Actually both of these things could happen. It would be dramatic, that’s for sure. Although a vote of no confidence wouldn’t necessarily mean a general election with the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the political environment would be very excitable, the markets would go nuts and rebel Tories might well end up backing down. Alternatively, the Tories could just go into screaming meltdown. If it wasn’t the future of our country at stake, it could be pretty thrilling to watch.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Creative industries face serious threat from Brexit

Edinburgh relies on the creative industries. For a month a year, the city is home to all sorts of weird and wonderful productions from all over the world during its iconic Festival and accompanying Fringe. It’s not surprising that the city’s Lib Dem MP is a massive supporter of the creative industries. Christine Jardine has written for the Scotsman about the damage Brexit stands to do to evens like the Festival.

She outlines the threat to the creative industries:

UK Music has warned that touring and live events will be at risk because of the potential loss of technical talent from the EU. And all events will lose a valuable stream of talent from the EU. Talent which is its life blood.

But it’s not just the impact on culture. It will have an impact on the tourism it supports. Tourism is worth around £127 billion a year to the UK. That’s about 9 per cent of GDP. Across the UK, it supports approximately 3.1 million jobs. It incorporates about quarter of a million small and medium-sized enterprises. Its growth is on a par with the digital sector we hear so much about.

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Are we getting the messaging wrong on Brexit?

Recently, an active and experienced Liberal Democrat campaigner challenged me over the party’s messaging on Brexit. He suggested that this was coming across as confused. My first instinct was to defend what we have been doing, but on reflection, I think he has a point. The aim of this article is to ask the question a little more widely.

From the inside

My impression is that there our parliamentarians and media office have been doing an outstanding job in trying to hold the government to account in the mess over Brexit, and of making people aware of this. I was in …

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Amber Rudd resigns – what does this mean for the Home Office, Brexit…and the PM?

So Amber Rudd resigns tonight.

In some ways it’s remarkable that she didn’t go sooner. I mean, I’ve seen ministers resign because of a snow storm or be sacked for eating a pie. Here was a Minster staying in office when her department had ruined the lives of British citizens.

She couldn’t survive the leak of a letter from her to the Prime Minister outlining an “aim” of increasing the number of enforced removals by 10%. An aim is sufficiently within the ball park of a target to constitute the most serious offence a minister can commit – misleading Parliament so she’s gone before she had to face the opposition tomorrow.

However, unless the immigration system is going to be completely dismantled and rebuilt from scratch to make it treat people with dignity and respect, it doesn’t really matter who the Home Secretary is.

If I were Theresa May, I’d split the Home Office up into one department that deals with nationality, citizenship, asylum and immigration and another that deals with crime and security. The culture of those two parts needs to be very different.

I thought much better of Amber Rudd before she made that awful Conference speech in which she talked about companies having to report how many immigrants they employed. I had hoped that she would quietly roll back some of the hostile environment nonsense that has been so damaging. I’d like to think that she is a better person than her inability to sort out the mess she inherited at the Home Office would suggest.

I am slightly worried about the balance in the Cabinet. Rudd was the strongest pro-Remain voice in the high level Committee that deals with Brexit and would no doubt have been sticking up for staying in the Customs Union. Whether she will take up that cause on the back benches remains to be seen.

I just about choked on my hot chocolate when the BBC’s Clive Myrie referred to her resignation as a “devastating personal tragedy.” I rather think that the lives of the Windrush generation British Citizens and others that have been ruined by the “hostile environment” policy more closely fit that description. That said, this presumably takes Rudd out of the running to replace Theresa May when the time comes.

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Jo Swinson: I’ll take my baby in a sling to protest Trump

When Donald Trump visits the UK on Friday 13th July, many Liberal Democrats will take to the streets to protest against the racist, misogynist, transphobic, views he holds and the actions he has taken in Government to undermine human rights.

On today’s Peston on Sunday, Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson said that, if she’s able, she’ll be among them, just as she was on the Women’s March last year the day after the inauguration.

Her baby will be just weeks old at that time and she says that she’ll take the wee one to the march in a sling because he is anathema to British values of respect for others.

She also talked about our prospects in the local elections. Vince had been quite modest about it on Marr and Jo continued in the same vein. She said that we were looking to get a foothold back in areas where we had been wiped out four years ago. She added what we are all experiencing – that our reception on the doorsteps is much friendlier and enthusiastic than it was then.

On Amber Rudd, she was clear that if the Home Secretary had misled Parliament, then she would need to go. She also said that Cabinet Ministers don’t see every memo and what we really needed to do was to have a positive debate on the benefits of immigration.

She was on Sunday Politics later on with Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin talking about the customs union.

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Vince on Marr – Rudd, race and the need for a People’s vote on Brexit

There must be an election happening or something. We have had Vince on Marr this morning and Jo Swinson is on Peston as I write.

He was quite measured on Amber Rudd. Rather than call outright for her resignation, he said we needed to hear what she had to say to Parliament tomorrow. One of two things is true:

Either she misled Parliament or she was the last person in the Home Office to know about removal targets.

A later comment by Brandon Lewis on the same programme intensifies the case against Amber Rudd.

Lewis bullishly defended the removal targets, saying that we had to get rid of those bad criminals and illegal immigrants, didn’t we? It is very easy to become an illegal immigrant. A tiny error on a complicated Home Office form can mean that you lose your status. You are given no chance to rectify it. Yet the people responsible for an almighty scandal such as Windrush get off with a few critical newspaper headlines.

I actually hope that Amber Rudd didn’t deliberately mislead Parliament because I don’t want her replaced by some extreme Brexiteer like Gove or Grayling. There is nobody in the Conservative Party who is going to give the Home Office and immigration system the treatment it deserves: dismantling completely and being rebuilt in a fair and compassionate manner which inspires the confidence of those who use it and those who advocate on their behalf.

Back to Vince. He said that most people who voted for Brexit did so for legitimate reasons, but that racism was a factor.

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Layla Moran: Public Accounts Committee report shows Government in Brexit chaos

In a report published today, the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee slams the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s approach to Brexit. The Chair, Meg Hillier, had this to say.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy appears to be operating in a parallel universe where urgency is an abstract concept with no bearing on the Brexit process.

The Department is responsible for around a fifth of the work streams the Government must complete as the UK leaves the EU. It is an extremely important, challenging and time-sensitive workload.

Yet the Department told us it had not re-prioritised its overall programme of work, had not begun procurement for around a dozen essential digital systems and could not provide vital information about its workforce.

We have grave concerns about this apparent complacency, compounded by the lack of transparency on the Department’s progress with what in some cases will be critical projects.

Our Layla Moran is a member of the Committee, said that all that BEIS had done was add to the sense of chaos surrounding Brexit:

A functioning business and energy department is crucial to the future success of our economy, the fact that there is no confidence about its preparedness for Brexit is deeply concerning.

The Liberal Democrats have asked BEIS on several occasions how it will spend allocated funds on Brexit but so far we have not been given any substantive information.

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Don’t be fooled by Labour’s posturing on #peoplesvote

In the last few days we’ve had some tantalising hints that Labour may be willing to support a public vote on the Brexit deal. John McDonnell said on Friday that Labour weren’t ruling it out. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said on Marr that if there were sufficient public demand, Labour might think again.

So should we all breathe a sigh of relief and think that this might happen any time soon?

Not a chance.

For a start, Emily Thornberry’s threshold to determine what might be a suitable level of public demand to get them to change their minds was 80-90%. You don’t get 80-90% of people backing anything. Even the Monarchy at the height of the much loved Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations  was only getting 75% support.

So let’s not hold our breath waiting for the Labour leadership to back a vote on the deal. But why are they doing this? It’s all part of their deliberate tactic of making their policy as ambiguous as possible. This is exactly what the Leave campaign did, too. Nobody understood what Brexit would mean because they tried to make sure that the details were as non-existent as possible.

The reason they’re drip-feeding it all now is because there are some important local elections coming up. A lot of them are in Remain voting metropolitan areas in places like London and Manchester. They must be getting some indication that their stance on Brexit is costing them so they are trying to make it sound like they might just go for the vote on the deal.

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Paul Tyler writes…Was the Brexit poll compromised?

That is the question the Conservative Chair of the investigating Commons Select Committee asked last weekend.  Hitherto, his Ministerial colleagues have seemed determined to turn a blind eye to all the recent revelations of possible illegality by Leave campaigners.

Will they be more forthcoming this afternoon ?     My Question to be discussed in the Lords reads as follows:

“Lord Tyler to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are satisfied that current electoral law adequately prevents the misuse of personal data in United Kingdom elections and referendum campaigns”

The HOUSE magazine has published some background for this mini debate:

The revelations come thick and fast.   Daily – sometimes it seems like hourly – we learn that our personal data may have been misused in ever more controversial ways.  In particular, ingenious development of Facebook material appears to have played a key role in targeting both positive messages and contrived attacks in the Trump election campaign AND to secure the Brexit result of our own 2016 EU Referendum.

So far Ministers have hidden behind a reassuring report from the Electoral Commission about the conduct of that referendum.  However, that was issued months ago, long before the detailed analysis from Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer began to gain traction, and the whistleblowers from Cambridge Analytica, AIQ and the Leave campaigns emerged to give their evidence.   Since the turn of the year the alleged network of illicit collaboration has caused the Electoral Commission, the Information Commissioner and the House of Commons Culture Media & Sport Select Committee to open new investigations.  The latter, led by Conservative MP Damian Collins, is being especially pro-active, and their witness list in the next few days is itself an indication of the vital role Parliamentary Select Committees can now play.

Despite apparent BBC attempts to minimise the significance of all this increasing weight of evidence (presumably because other media have provided the investigative journalism) there are signs of growing public unease.   Have we as nation been conned, just like so many in the US ?    Has our personal data been “scraped” for this purpose ?   Are our very strict laws, which seek to protect our elections and referendum campaigns from being bought by billionaires and foreign governments, up to the job?

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Brexit from afar: a Caribbean perspective…

I thought that it might be interesting to find out how Brexit looks from beyond the European Union, and this week’s commentary comes courtesy of the Barbados Advocate, and its columnist, David Jessop.

He starts by summarising what he sees as the current imponderables – the Irish border, the role of the UK Parliament in terms of the final position and, interestingly, the fault lines in both the Conservative and Labour Parties. And then, he turns to the likely impact on the Caribbean Commonwealth;

None of this helps remove the continuing uncertainty for the Caribbean about the possible shape of its future

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder: Brexit threatens the very fabric of the Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday agreement works to keep the peace in Ireland and Brexit threatens it, says Catherine Bearder in an article for the New European. She illustrates the difference it has made to one community:

In the early days of the Troubles, the British Army opened a barracks in Forkhill to accommodate around 600 soldiers right next to a housing estate. Helicopters regularly took off and landed over the roofs of these homes, some even damaging them. The army controlled the television signals as well as the street lighting. It was one of the most dangerous places for British soldiers.

No one wants a return to those days.

The residents of Forkhill had been looking towards the future, not the past. On the site of the old barracks they are building a community garden and a wider project called the Peace Forest Ireland Initiative which aims to plant 4,000 trees on both sides of the border in memory of those who died during the Troubles. This is an ex-military site being redeveloped as a clear signal that the local community is moving forward, putting the past behind it.

Brexit puts all that at risk, she argues, so those who have to live with the consequences should get the chance to say if they agree with the Brexit deal:

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We must make a passionate case for staying in the EU!

Last week I wrote an email to an actively pro-Remain party colleague. Events had led me to believe that a referendum on the Brexit deal might indeed be possible, so what I wrote was: if we do manage to secure a second referendum, are there any plans afoot for the Remain camp to fight a vastly better campaign than it did in 2016? To lose one referendum might be considered a misfortune; to lose two would be the height of carelessness.

The key to winning a referendum on the Brexit deal lies in inspiring people that the EU is worth supporting …

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – Elected representatives will do the right thing on Brexit


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In the Financial Times (registration needed), Nick Clegg writes very realistically about the prognosis for Brexit:

Public opinion has shifted a little in favour of the Remain camp, and a lot towards wider concern about the impact of Brexit on the NHS and the economy. But it remains firmly enveloped in an indifference towards the details of the negotiations, and a sullen belief that politicians should just “get on with it”. Advertising campaigns by anti-Brexit groups will not, on their own, shift opinion in a big way.

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LibLink: Robin Teverson: It is the fuel poor who are destined to feel the post Brexit chill

There are many ways in which Brexit will harm the poorest people in our society. The cost of heating their homes is one which Lib Dem Peer Robin Teverson highlighted in a article for Politics Home this week:

The good news is that excepting a major failure in replacing the Euratom regime that regulates our nuclear power sector, and if we manage to replicate Euratom’s nuclear cooperation agreements with our overseas nuclear equipment and fuel suppliers, Brexit blackouts are not the threat.

But even here there is little room for complacency. Our home-grown replacement for Euratom – the beefed-up Office for Nuclear

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Brexit: what will happen to the European Social Fund?

The Work and Pensions Committee has been conducting an inquiry into the future of the European Social Fund.

This fund provides £500 million each year

“for employment support programmes for people who struggle to access and benefit from mainstream support.  This includes disabled people, ex-offenders, and the long-term unemployed.

The future of ESF-type funding after Brexit is currently uncertain. Leaving the European Union could offer the UK an opportunity to design its own, improved version of the funding. The Committee is considering the case for a successor fund to the ESF, and what this fund might look like.

The report released yesterday says the government will create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) which “will serve a similar purpose to the existing European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI—of which ESF is one)”.

But will it?

Witnesses in the inquiry emphasised that the transition between European Social Fund monies and future funding must be “seamless and immediate”. A gap in funding would be a ‘nightmare scenario”. 

Just one example given was the testimony by Steve Hawkins, Chief Executive of Pluss. This is a Community Interest Company who supports people with disabilities in finding employment. Mr Hawkins outlined some of the issues faced:

Rural isolation, for example, where people are further away and require additional support, whether it be housing issues, transportation needs, training or confidence building, a whole range of things that need to be addressed fundamentally before they are in a position to sit in front of an interview panel and secure a job.

The Work and Pensions Committee says:

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Brexit on the streets in Bishop’s Stortford

On 31 March, as part of the Liberal Democrats’ national Europe Day of Action, Hertford and Stortford Liberal Democrats were out in the market place in Bishop’s Stortford.

This was mainly about talking with people about Brexit and hearing their concerns – though we also collected 136 signatures on a petition for a referendum on the final deal.

At a principled level, it’s essential to talk with people who voted Leave if there is to be a realistic prospect both of reversing Brexit and healing the divisions this saga has exposed.

Although many of the comments echoed previous stalls, this time felt different. My ear was caught particularly by people expressing deep worry over Brexit. I’m used to people being pleased to see us at a stall and keen to sign a petition, but what was new was the sense of people wanting to talk about why they are worried. The sense seemed to be “now it is getting serious”. The big difference here seems to be the emerging story of the involvement of Aggregate IQ and/or Cambridge Analytica in the referendum, and whistleblowing from people involved in the Leave campaign about possible rule-breaking.  The realities of those will doubtless come into focus in due course, but it seems to have rattled people. It’s one thing to accept a vote that’s not gone the way you would like. It’s even possible to do that when you fear that some of those voting didn’t really understand the issues. But the fear emerging is that this has gone much further in the direction of undermining the democratic process itself That is unsettling people. If Brexit is to be understood to be legitimate, it is essential that these charges are investigated. A referendum on the deal won’t help people unless they can be sure that its result can be trusted.

Whatever its cause, the sense of worry is serious. Good government relies on those in power acting in a way that contains the anxieties of the population.  Right now Brexit means the Tories are failing to do this, and Labour are not doing a good job of showing they would be better at it.

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The lighter side of Brexit – why we staged our April 1st satire

“The town that wants its own Brexit” was of course a spoof story, but the people are real enough. For Dick Vos read Richard Vos, Liberal Democrat party organiser for Stratford- upon-Avon. Jack Prince, in case you didn’t guess, is myself. We are members of Stratford4Europe, one of the more active and dynamic of the regional pro-European groups.

What we were aiming to do was to inject a bit of humour into the Brexit debate, which has got somewhat bogged down in sterile circular arguments. Humour can cut through the ice where intellectual arguments fail. It can also be therapeutic. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say. So in healing the wounds of a deeply divided nation, it should have some value.

We have certainly found that is true in the case of the Brexit café, a local initiative pioneered by Sophie West which has brought together Remainers and Leavers for friendly discussions. Whilst not comedy, this relies on good humour. At the national level there are initiatives such as the ‘Number 10 Vigil’ – live songs and entertainment featuring a lookalike Boris Johnson, which is no longer confined to Downing Street but has been travelling around the country on the Brexit Truth Bus.

Satire is often the best way to make serious points. For example, the folly of the First World War was poignantly highlighted by the film “Oh! What a Lovely War”, and with no loss of respect for the great fallen. Similarly “The town that wants its own Brexit” highlights the constraints of parochial thinking, with no loss of respect for Leavers.

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The town that wants its own Brexit

A campaigning group in Stratford-upon-Avon believes that Brexit does not go far enough. Or rather, come close enough. They want to implement Brexit locally, so that the townsfolk can enjoy the advantages in advance of the national negotiations, without being held back by delays or transition periods.

Jack Prince and Dick Vos, leaders of the new movement, see no reason why the principles behind Brexit cannot be rolled out immediately to benefit everyone in the town. The group they have founded, dubbed STRIP (Stratford Independence for the People), has expanded from a founding nucleus of 6 to a present total of 28.

“We are hoping the public will not refer to us as strippers, like they call UKIP voters kippers”, says Prince. “So far this doesn’t seem to have happened; I think people recognise that we have a perfectly serious point to make, which deserves to be respected”.

The aim of the group is to let locals take back control of their own affairs, without interference from bureaucrats in London who do not understand the town’s history and special status.

“Stratford was a great place in Shakespeare’s day, and we want to make it great again”, explains Vos, “but we must cut the red tape that has tied our hands for so long. Give the town back to those who actually live here, not the ones who are just passing through, taking advantage of all our facilities”.

Thousands of foreign tourists invade Stratford every year, traipsing through Shakespeare’s birthplace, causing damage for which locals must foot the bill.  Not to mention the traffic congestion and additional road repairs needed. So should a wall be built for security, following the example of York and other famous English towns in the past? 

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Electoral Commission investigate possible funding abuse by Vote Leave

The Electoral Commission is again investigating Vote Leave after whistle-blower Shahmir Sanni who worked for BeLeave came forward to say that when the sum of £625,000 was given to them by Vote Leave, it came with clear instructions as to how the money was to be used. If this is true, then it would be a criminal offence. Mr Sanni also asserted that most of the cash was spent on a firm linked to Cambridge Analytica.

Chris Wylie, former Director of Research at Cambridge Analytica, told MPs this week that the company’s actions during Brexit campaign were “a breach of the law”. Cambridge Analytica and its parent company provided analysis for Vote Leave ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. The research, Wylie went on to say, likely breached UK’s campaign financing laws and may have helped to swap the outcome.

I think there is a case to answer by Vote Leave, BeLeave and Cambridge Analytica but I am not sure that it would have changed the 52:48 percent result. A plausible argument is that Leavers misled voters by stating that there was no economic downside to Brexit, no risk to the UK single-market benefits and off course the £350 million a week promised to fund the NHS. All these points were and could have been further countered by Remainers as they had the time and funds available to do so. However, we do have strict laws regarding elections and the question is were they exploited by Vote Leave. 

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Why we should “Stay” and not “stop Brexit”

Much of our campaign since the 2017 general election has revolved around the “Exit from Brexit”. We need to win over Remainers; by having a clear and repeated anti-Brexit position, the electorate will know what we stand for.

There are a few problems.

Firstly, we are not “anti-Brexit”, we are pro-EU. Every time we say “Brexit”, we evoke certain thought patterns within the minds of voters, particularly the so-called ReLeavers (those who voted Remain but feel we should Leave because of the referendum).

We normalise Brexit. We make it seem mainstream. In an effort to be radical outsiders, we make Liberal Democrats seem like they want to do something weird that nobody voted for. As such, we should avoid the term at all possible costs. For starters, Tom Brake should no longer be our Brexit Spokesperson but our EU Spokesperson.

Secondly, “stop Brexit” terminology forces our current campaign to be negative.

Thirdly, in many areas of the country, we are trying to win over Leave voters.

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A year to Brexit – time to remember that we could and should get out of this mess

A year ago, I watched in sorrow and horror as Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process, motivated more by keeping her restless Brexiteers in check than what was actually good for the country.

With just a year to go before we are scheduled to leave the European Union, most of the really difficult issues are unresolved and every day the problems become more apparent. From the Irish border to how we sell and buy the things we take for granted from abroad, to the reappearance of roaming charges to uncertainty over aviation to nuclear safety, we still don’t know how our post Brexit life will take shape.

That’s partly because Theresa May has chosen to pander to the hard right gung ho Brexiteer elements in her own party rather than build support for a more moderate cross-party approach.  The negotiating tactics have been ridiculous, disjointed and devoid of any sort of strategy. They are making this country look very stupid on the international stage which isn’t a good look for our forthcoming leap into isolation.

When you have an international trade war being ignited by a protectionist in the White House, surely you are better off ganging up with 27 of your mates rather than entering negotiations alone and powerless.

21 months on from the referendum, we know that Brexit is much more complex than was at first portrayed and there is little sign of a fawning world queuing up to offer us trade deals that are even half as good as the one we currently enjoy from within the EU.

People are brining up Brexit a lot on the doorsteps. They think it is a really bad idea, but think we are stuck with it. The message from Liberal Democrats today must be very strongly that we can get out of it – and we will. We have to offer tangible hope to people.

Vince Cable kicked off an Easter weekend of intensive Lib Dem campaigning on this issue, saying:

Today the Liberal Democrats are launching our biggest ever campaign outside an election.

Article 50 was triggered a year ago and since then few concrete steps towards a deal. May’s tactic of kicking the can down the road has meant that no tangible progress has been made, and year ahead is overloaded.

In the coming months, the country faces two critical issues. One is on membership of the Customs Union, which we must remain in, as it is essential to our supply chain industries and solving the matter of the Irish border.

The other is that it must be made clear what a ‘close transition’ truly means – at the moment it is just a messy vacuum.

The poorly-handled negotiations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal means that there is, rightfully, a heightened sense that any Brexit deal must be signed off in a test of public opinion. This must include the option of an exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie said:

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Taking back control of our borders? A reality check, Part 2

No leading Brexiter has problems with goods, services, and capital flowing freely. They even want to leave the “protectionist club” EU, even though part of the leave-vote in deprived regions has been caused by the capital exodus that replaced local industry with imports. I will nevertheless focus on the leaver-“concern” people.

The borders of any island are “controlled” by the departure- and arrival- (in case of expulsion) approvals of countries across the water. In a rule-based order, e.g. the EU, other countries execute the UK’s wishes, and thereby underpin the widespread national border-controllability-illusion. The growing refugee-crisis should make the contingent nature of these conventions abundantly clear. Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, etc. will not absorb Millions of people forever. Ironically, an island-mentality impedes the realisation that the continent’s physically enforceable land borders are much less reliant on international rules than UK beaches.

Leaving this aside, border control has a pull and a push-aspect: attracting people you want and repelling the others. Brexit certainly has not helped the former, but let us focus on the latter which is widely regarded as the problem at hand.

To inspect the effectiveness of push-strategies, it is instructive to look at non-EU immigration: Despite official hostility, barbaric retentions, unjustifiable expulsions, inhumane income thresholds, asymmetric legal recourse, nonsensical student-counting, and arbitrary quotas, the Home Office has consistently missed its target. The absence of a civilised, sensible, and effective immigration policy where “full control” already exists, is quite remarkable. There must be strong economic and social forces at work that dwarf the means of a committed Government. 

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Tom Brake: People are entitled to know if Leave won by cheating

Yesterday, Tom Brake led a debate in Parliament about the allegations of cheating by the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum.

You can read the whole debate here.

As I listened to the debate, I felt that the atmosphere was reminiscent of the hostility Charles Kennedy faced when he got up to oppose the Iraq war. Apart from the Minister, there were no substantive speeches from the Tories, but they did shower Tom with contemptuous and irrelevant questions in an attempt to detract attention from the serious allegations.

Charles Kennedy was widely shown to have been right in 2005 and …

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Was Corbyn right to sack Owen Smith, after he advocated a referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal?

One answer is horror: there’s a compelling case for asking the British public whether the Brexit that is negotiated is what they actually want — not least because the dishonest and contradictory messages from the Leave campaign mean that many who voted Leave will find a large gap between the deal that is offered and what they thought they had voted for.

But an Exit From Brexit means healing the deep divisions that it has exposed, not just a narrow vote the other way in a referendum. That means bringing across many of those who voted Leave, and engaging …

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British exceptionalism – why even the Liberal Democrats need to get over themselves

One of the most dispiriting aspects of British politics over the past two years has been the often expressed view that Europe needs us more than we need them. We are the fifth (or sixth, maybe soon seventh) largest economy in the world, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, etc etc. And yes, we have influence, for good or ill. Other countries look to us for support, or for leadership, and we have some of the world’s leading operators in a range of fields.

But it is all too often what is seen to be good for Britain which …

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WATCH: Brake: The British people are entitled to the truth

In a video this morning, Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake revealed that he had reported the alleged collaboration between Vote Leave and BeLeave to the Police and that he would be raising this in Parliament tomorrow.

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“I know that Vote Leave cheated” – should be a game changer but will it make a difference?

In case you missed it, here’s the shocking video on Channel 4 News tonight where a young man who campaigned to Leave alleges that the Leave campaign overspent.

This young man, Shahmir Sanni, has complained at being outed by a former Vote Leave campaigner who now works in Downing Street.

There’s more in the Guardian:. The controversy centres on a donation to BeLeave, an organisation targeting young people run by former Liberal Democrat Darren Grimes.

What he has spent months coming to terms with is that this donation may not have had anything to do with BeLeave’s creativity and flair. “Vote Leave didn’t really give us that money,” he says. “They just pretended to. We had no control over it. We were 22-year-old students. You’re not going to just give nearly a million pounds to a pair of students and let them do whatever.”

To Sanni’s mind, what this means is: “They cheated.”

With this on top of the Cambridge Analytica stuff, the legitimacy of the referendum result must be called into question.

Tom Brake said tonight:

These allegations are stunning and touch directly on one of Theresa May’s closest advisors.

The British people expect fair play and campaigns to abide by the rules – they must not be cheated. These allegations must be examined by the police. If they represent what happened it is outrageous and shameful.

The referendum had a very narrow outcome. One of the biggest exercises in democracy must not turn out to be one of Britain’s biggest electoral frauds.

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Euratom was not on the ballot paper

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The Treaties of Rome of 1957 founded the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to create a European market for nuclear power. Its membership includes EU member states and has cooperation agreements with third-party countries like Canada, the US, South Africa.

In its Brexit White Paper that invokes Article 50, the UK will be leaving Euratom. Euratom is legally distinct from the EU but is governed by EU institutions and therefore this UK Government is …

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