Tag Archives: brexit

Vince Cable writes: Lib Dems will be at the forefront of political realignment

It is a year today since I became party leader, and a great deal has happened since.

Thanks to the efforts of so many of our members and campaigners, we had the best set of local election results of the three main parties in England in councils gained and the best overall for us in fifteen years.  We have every reason to hope that next year will be better still – we are already preparing.

The by-election in Lewisham East was our best against Labour for a decade.  Local council contests each week continue to reinforce the positive message our surveys are giving us.

Whatever toxicity attached to the Lib Dem brand after the Coalition has substantially dissipated.  Large numbers will vote for us if they think we have a chance of winning and if there is an effective campaign

As well as winning elections, we are setting out big ideas to change the country.  A few weeks ago, I detailed an ambitious but realistic approach to house building, describing what could be achieved without the impediment of ideological prejudice.

I have also launched a series of initiatives to confront the issues thrown up by the new digital economy and deal with the ‘data giants’; a group is looking at how best to support lifelong learning for people whose future is potentially subject to the upheavals of technological change; another will soon look more broadly at the impact of new technologies like AI and how best to respond to them.

On the core economy, I have set out a revised approach to fiscal and monetary policy which builds on, but does not destroy, existing structures.  We have carried out serious work on land value taxation, which will come before Conference in the Autumn. And I have described how in practice we create a corporate structure which is best described as ‘responsible capitalism’.

On public services, Liberal Democrats continue to lead the argument about the mechanics for funding health and social care with the advice of leading figures in health policy. The Federal Policy Committee has recently set up a new health working group to take forward their work, and to continue our leadership role in mental health policy pioneered by Norman Lamb. Layla Moran, our education spokesperson, has published proposals to address the concerns of parents, teachers and schools, which we endorsed at conference.

The politics of Brexit is moving slowly but substantially in our direction.  Where our calls for a final say on the deal for the public were once derided, more and more people are now joining with us in that campaign.  A highlight of my year was addressing the 100,000 people amassed in Parliament Square for the People’s Vote march.  We remain the leading political force arguing that whatever the parliamentary wranglings over detail, the best course for Britain is to stop Brexit altogether.  Giving the people a choice at the end of this dismal negotiating process is the best way to obtain an exit from Brexit

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Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Lib Dems lead the opposition to Brexit

This week I was chatting to a (pretty senior) press person about the forces of gravity holding Lib Dem polling figures below the double-digit mark. 

Their response was that we were playing it too safe and needed to do something alarming. This was whilst waiting for the Commons’ votes on Monday night. Neither of us thought for one moment that that event might be our current leader and our former leader missing a Commons vote on a Jacob Rees-Mogg amendment designed to make the cobbled together Chequers agreement even less palatable to the EU. The Government won the vote by a whisker – just 3 votes in it. 

So, the fact that 17 Labour MPs went awol and 4 (if you include Kelvin Hopkins) voted with the Government, was lost in the excitement of Vince and Tim having been let off the whip by prior arrangement at a point when it had been deemed safe to do so, and Jo had been paired.

Of course, had it been realised that Labour were going to, unexpectedly, oppose the Government (a rarity when it comes to Brexit legislation) and the vote was going to be a close one, then our arch-remainer leader and former leader would have been in the lobbies. So, the expected, comfortable, Government victory margin was reduced to three. 

It’s a shame they missed this vote, but let’s not despair – we are nowhere near the end of the long Brexit road. There are opportunities aplenty coming up when Vince will be leading our Commons team trying to stop the Government taking a wrecking ball to our economy for a pipe dream.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that the only logical end to this sorry saga will be for the public to have the final say. This has been the Lib Dem position from the start.

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Another way out of the Brexit mess

I have never been on an aeroplane and I do not have a passport, but think of myself as a European. I am also a patriotic Englishman and I love the country in which I was born. My father came here at the age of seven with a sun-darkened skin and speaking with a Greek accent. He was born in Smyrna in 1922. His life, and those of his parents, and my mother’s parents, and my partner’s grandparents were all scarred and disrupted by war and conflict, the consequences of which still reverberate in our lives today.

And now my country has embarked upon a course which could have terrible repercussions for new generations to come. Our government, if that is what it is, appears to have no consistent strategy and no realistic vision of the future. Theresa May, like Donald Trump, shamelessly argues that black is white, and an hour later that white is black, and gets away with it. How can this be! Partly it is because there is no opposition in the Commons worthy of the name: Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins, Dennis Healey, Jim Callaghan and Ted Heath would have eviscerated the third raters who now sit on the government benches in a matter of hours. But it is also because there seems to be no plausible way out of the situation the referendum landed us in.

I was on the People’s March, but I don’t support the Party’s policy of a  referendum on the deal. Leaving aside Justine Greening’s absurd proposal for three options, if a second referendum again supported Leave it would at least settle the matter, but although a Remain vote would ameliorate the economic disaster that will otherwise afflict this country it would deepen the divisions that the referendum created and poison our political system for decades to come.

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The Big Brexit Squeeze

We all know The Squeeze; when we alert voters to the binary choice forced on them by First Past the Post, asking them to drop their preferred option and settle for us.

The Squeeze runs through Brexit. Theresa May tells the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that they might loathe her Brexit proposals, but the alternative is Corbyn.  A wider, presumed “Leave,” the audience is told the alternative is “no Brexit at all.”As that would suit me down to the ground, I am told that HARD Brexit awaits if I fail to get behind whichever fantasy proposal is currently touted.

The biggest squeeze of all, though, maybe around the corner. The government nears collapse; a collapse that would leave the UK rudderless, unable to agree on any deal and, so, inexorably be sliding into a calamitous No Deal Brexit. A General Election, under the First Past the Post system that did so much to create the crisis, would not help. FPTP enforces the party blocks, limiting the choice of the electorate which it then further distorts.

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Tories cheat like a Vote Leave campaign over crucial customs union vote

This country is currently on a path to economic self-destruction because of a narrow vote to leave the European Union in 2016. Today we discovered that the Vote Leave campaign had cheated. And, by the way, that monumental news isn’t even on the BBC’s front page any more.

Tonight, this country was helped along its path to economic self-destruction  because of a narrow vote – 307-301 against an amendment which would have kept us in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. The desperate Tory government pulled a particularly dirty trick to win that vote.

The pairing system has long been a civilising feature of our Parliament. When an MP is indisposed for some reason or needs a night off, they can be paired with an MP who would vote the opposite way. Imagine the sorts of circumstances that you might need that in – maybe a dying parent, or a sick child, or your own illness, or being on maternity leave. Tonight, Jo Swinson, whose baby is just two weeks old, was paired with Conservative Party chair Brandon Lewis. He voted in the crunch votes. He didn’t vote in the earlier votes.  Jo was justifiably furious:

The incident even got a Twitter moment.

After a couple of hours, Lewis tweeted that it had been an honest mistake:

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How we can stop a hard Brexit NOW: The case for the EFTA option

Brexit is an absolute shambles.

Theresa May’s new Chequers deal did little to convince her own cabinet, let alone anybody else, and Labour in opposition are offering nothing either. All the while Britain is bitterly divided, and appears to be close to taking a long walk off of a short pier.

There is however a ready-made solution that could sort this mess out, and that is for the UK to join the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This arrangement already works well for Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and it could work well for Britain too.

By joining the EFTA Britain would remain in the single market, providing peace of mind to the business community, and the hundreds of workers whose jobs currently hang in the balance. We would also have access to the trade agreements that the EFTA states already have with Canada, Mexico and others, which would further alleviate the economic risks of a hard Brexit. In addition, EFTA countries have a significant amount of influence over single market legislation, which May’s plan would not give us. EEA membership would also allow us to retain freedom of movement, which would secure the futures of over 3 million EU citizens currently living here, that this government is ready to betray.

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Abandon Tory #BrexitShambles…

Harold Wilson once said “a week is a long time in politics”… The last few days make that sound like an understatement.

Last Sunday I offered something to Liberal Democrat Voice suggesting that it’s time to switch the language on Brexit into an explicit attack on “Tory Brexit”. The resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson take that a great deal further. I’m writing this now wondering whether there will be another resignation before it is read on Liberal Democrat Voice, and whether we will be in another Tory leadership contest, or hurtling into a General Election.

There’s been forceful …

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Brexit contradictions and scary polls – how do we escape from the mess?

So Theresa May tells Brexiteers in the Mail on Sunday that they had better back her or there’ll be no Brexit yet on Andrew Marr, she trots out that old phrase “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

We’re all over the place here. The only option that gives us any control at all over what happens, ironically, is staying in the EU. Then we’ll have influence over the rules that affect us. Theresa May’s White Paper is unpalatable to the Brexiteers who see it as tying us too closely to the EU and to Remainers who don’t see the point in something that gives us less than we currently have with no say on any future changes. No deal is akin to jumping out of an aeroplane at 20,000 feet and convincing yourself that if you land in a soft pile of manure you won’t hurt yourself.

Vince had this to say, which is all very sensible

Within a few hours Theresa May moves from saying Brexit might not happen to casting the spectre of ‘no deal’ and all the disastrous consequences that would entail for the country. These mixed messages and confusions show she is not in charge of negotiations – the Conservatives spent two years to reach a chaotic position that is unworkable.

Trump’s ‘advice’ again illustrates how ill-informed he is and that his interest in Brexit is not to help the UK but to create mayhem.

But then I’m finding myself becoming a bit cynical. Could all the confusion be deliberate?

Remember how confusion was a deliberate tactic during the referendum? One minute you’d have Brexiteers saying “But it’s fine cos we’ll stay in the single market” and the next that we’d be free of the EU and not having to abide by any of its rules. Creating that confusion was deliberate because the Leave campaign didn’t care about the issues. They just wanted to create enough anger to persuade people to give the establishment a kicking.  And it worked.

May seems to be trying the same tactic now, generating anger so that people are focused on that rather than the nightmare process of leaving the EU.

How much better would it be to deal with the cause of the discontent as Chris Bowers said earlier and I‘ve been saying for a long time that we need to inspire with a vision of what a liberal society could look like and how it is much more likely to happen if we forget about this Brexit business?

This Government’s approach to Brexit has been criminally irresponsible. Surely when there’s talk of stockpiling food – and not that much each either, as Adam Bernard pointed out on Twitter:

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We need a two pronged approach to Brexit

Theresa May’s travails suggest we may be close to a breakthrough on Brexit, but we need a new strategy. Normally if you’re making progress, your strategy is working, but something different is required for the final push. Let me explain.

There’s only one way to make sense of Brexit, and that’s to realise that it has nothing to do with the UK leaving the European Union. Or only peripherally. How else does one explain a situation that is already making Britain poorer, hitting hardest those keenest on being out of the EU? How else does one explain the vehemence with which anti-EU views are held, and the ease with which the supposed facts underlying this vehemence can so easily be discredited? And where will we go when we’ve left the EU but the very things the Leavers voted for – primarily lower immigration and greater sovereignty – just don’t happen?

Brexit is largely a protest. Not exclusively – there are some reasonable people who believe we’d be better off outside the EU (though the ones I’ve met have a fairly garbled understanding of how much sovereignty the EU actually has), and the future of the EU is itself somewhat hazy. But Brexit is Britain’s version of the rust belt revolt, a revolt partly based on genuine hardship, and partly motivated by how things seem. Traditional sources of work have gone, workers in eastern Europe and the developing world are paid a pittance to undercut British workers, immigration is out of control such that you can’t get to see your doctor but those who speak a different language have no difficulty, and the shop you knew in your childhood as a hard-working grocer’s is now a delicatessen run by someone from abroad. Oh and those City-types in London are doing rather too well for themselves.

It doesn’t matter how much of this is true. The fact that it seems to be true is enough. Add the growth of social media that allows the spread of views that go unchallenged, plus the relentless anti-Europe bombardment from certain tabloids, and even the most cogent anti-Brexit arguments fail to dent many people’s visceral commitment to it.

The result is that if Brexit implodes and we end up not leaving the EU, there will be masses of anger against the liberal elite, which could create a very dangerous situation. And in electoral terms, the result of an exit from Brexit could be an even bigger backlash against the Liberal Democrats than we suffered in 2015. Getting a referendum which we then win (and getting it may prove easier than winning it) won’t be enough to see off this anger. Somehow we have to separate membership of the EU from the sense vast swathes of Britain’s rust belt have that no-one is listening to them.

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LibLink: Layla Moran: Don’t be fooled: The Chequers Plan is economic suicide

You might be fooled into believing, because of the gnashing of teeth amongst the Tory Brexiteers, that the plan thrashed out at Chequers, on which today’s White Paper was based, is hardly any Brexit at all.

Don’t believe that fiction, says Layla Moran, writing for Politics.co.uk.

First, though, she compares and contrasts two holders of that high office of state of Foreign Secretary:

The contrast between Carrington and Johnson is striking. Carrington served in Churchill’s cabinet yet was the more modern figure, seeing the importance of nations working for the common good. Johnson, in contrast, invited a photographer to capture for posterity his

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LibLink: William Wallace Aggressive language from political extremes and media will spark violence against MPs

Our William Wallace writes for Politics Home about the dangers of the language used in political discourse.

Almost at the same time, the Telegraph tweeted this:

Tom Brake was quick to call them out:

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Rees-Mogg: Back Seat Driver

Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg

I remember the first time I heard about Rees-Mogg, it was on Have I Got News For You where they were joking about Rees-Mogg taking his nanny with him when he went out canvassing. I was a PPC during the last election, and I remember when the results were coming in through the night when North-East Somerset results came in Rees-Mogg was standing there with a huge Tory ribbon. Even the Tories were disappointed when the BBC announced he had won. So how did a man who is a backbencher, considered eccentric and not particularly popular come to be in a position that he can threaten the Prime Minister?

Rees-Mogg was a minor player during the referendum but now as Michael Gove, and Boris Johnson (who has recently left government) are/were restricted to what they can say (believe it or not), It created a vacuum for Rees-Mogg to step into. Nigel Farage seems to be busy cultivating his relationship with the American President after failing (seven times) to get into parliament and is not seen on television commenting on Brexit as he once was.

The European Research Group (ERG) was set up In July 1993 by Sir Michael Spicer, in response to growing concern about Britain’s continued integration into the European Community through the Maastricht Treaty and its members include David Davies, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Iain Duncan Smith and Sajid Javid among others. Jacob Rees-Mogg took over from Suella Fernandes as the Chair this year (Suella Fernandes resigned as a junior minister on 9th July as she was not happy with the Chequers agreement reached by the Cabinet on 6th July).

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Layla Moran: Brexit is a mess and we need a People’s Vote

Ahead of this afternoon’s Lib Dem Commons debate on the People’s Vote, Layla Moran has been on Victoria Derbyshire to talk about what a mess Brexit is turning out to be, how people didn’t really know at the time of the referendum exactly what it was going to mean and how we need a People’s Vote on the deal.

See a clip here.

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Jardine: Hunt faces an impossible challenge

Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine clearly doesn’t envy Jeremy Hunt’s task – even if he can’t do any worse than his predecessor:

Jeremy Hunt has been set a devastatingly low bar by his predecessor when it comes to basic competency, with him leaving a litany of errors in his wake. Hunt does, however, also face an impossible challenge when it comes to advocating for Britain around the world at a time when his Conservative government are doing huge damage to our economy and influence in their pursuit of Brexit.

The public demand better from their government than the farce that

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LIVE THREAD: Davis (and Johnson) quit, takes junior ministers with him…

23:59 A fascinating day comes to an end. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our coverage, and do continue the debate via the comments section. Goodnight from all at LDV!

21:34 And I think that that’s it as far as the Cabinet and major posts go, as Geoffrey Cox becomes the new Attorney General.

No women, very little new blood, but it looks as though the Brexit/Remain balance has been broadly maintained.

It does feel like an administration limping from one crisis to the next, but like the grey skies over mid-Suffolk this evening, you can’t rule out thunderstorms. And who’s that coming over …

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Davis, Baker and Braverman quit, welcome to my day: 9 July 2018 – the day the Conservative Party breaks?

The overnight news that David Davis has resigned as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and that his junior Ministers, Steve Baker and Suella Braverman have gone with him, is the first public sign that the Chequers Accord is not the panacea that it was first thought to be.

I’ll be trying to keep up with developments here, but it may be that we are in a state of chaos. What larks, eh?

But seriously, what does this mean for the Government and for Brexit? And how should Liberal Democrat’s respond? Is it, as I would suggest, time to call …

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Help our MPs choose their Commons debate – last chance to have your say

Lib Dem MPs have a relatively rare opposition day debate this week. They are approaching it a bit differently by giving you a chance to decide the subject.

What’s particularly brilliant is that you get to vote preferentially too. That’ll be useful for next year’s Ashdown Prize organisers to note.

An email from Alistair Carmichael landed the other day:

On Tuesday 10th July, our MPs have an opposition day debate in Parliament.

This means that we can pick one topic and have MPs debate and vote on it in Westminster.

And we want to hear what you think MPs should be

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Vince: PM’s plan weakens Britain

I should have actually written it on here, but I reckoned that the number of Cabinet ministers resigning today would be zero. Whether that holds up when they start to get grief from their constituency associations is yet to be seen.

It was always clear that whatever came out of the Chequers summit today would be less than what we have already.

We can’t get as good a deal as we get from being a full member of the European Union. We should be in there shaping hhe EU response to the challenges facing us all whether they be on security or …

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YouGov Polls

Since the Brexit referendum media and politics seems to have turned anti-European but it seems that the public opinion is slowing starting to shift towards being more pro-European. There is increasingly despair among the public about the lack of leadership and success with the Brexit negotiations. Two years on from the referendum vote and we really don’t know where we will be and what will be agreed over the next 5 months. A YouGov poll has consistently found that about two thirds of those polled feel the negotiations are going badly.

Below I have collected a number of YouGov polls around Brexit. They make for interesting reading.

Surprisingly, a recent YouGov poll found that 31 percent of Tories say the government’s Brexit decision is wrong. This compares with 73 percent of Labour voters and 83 percent of Lib Dem voters. Because some voters think that the government now has a duty to implement the referendum 30 percent of Remainers want the government to go ahead with Brexit. Although, those who were undecided, during the referendum, are beginning to gradually favour staying in the EU.

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Cabinet Playing Whiff-Whaff with Theresa May

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on through generations, says that “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

Ministers are under pressure to spell out the type of relationship we should have with the European Union. The crunch summit at Chequers is for the Tories to settle their differences although they are strong views on both sides, this Tory summit is supposed to provide an agreed way forward. Michael Gove has alleged ripped up a document that explained the customs partnership proposed by Number 10. The Defence Secretary has told his department that if he doesn’t get the £20 billion he is asking for he will remove the Prime Minister (PM) as he made her, he can break her. The MoD budget for 2016/17 was £35.3bn, and because of the weak position of the PM we now have the US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, warning us that France would replace the UK as America’s closest ally in Europe if we don’t increase our defence spending. Moreover, then there is Boris with his bog roll comment and even worse his inflammatory private and a rather coarse dismissal of business concerns about Brexit.

The PM is getting bullied. How can we have a deal when groups within Cabinet are pulling in a different direction and believe they will achieve their objectives without any fear of consequence. Power is perceived and not something that’s tangible, a loss of that perception leaves the PM in a very vulnerable position and makes it very difficult for her to pursue an agenda and therefore lead. Talk about being pushed from pillar to post.

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Tories claim credit for EU Directive giving greater rights to holidaymakers.

So the Scottish and Northern Irish schools have broken up and people are starting to head for the sun. Although, to be honest, they might as well have stayed at home this year. I’ll bet you by the time I head to the Highlands at the end of August, the weather will have well and truly broken.

Anyway, I digress. Anyone heading on a package holiday will have greater rights today. This is not because of anything that the Tories have done, although they show they have the brassiest neck in the history of the universe by claiming credit for it.

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Options to Remain

An option to remain in the EU is an essential part of any people’s vote. But should it be just one option? That immediately creates a disadvantage compared to the Brexiters, who habitually have at least two options on the table – for example, a negotiated settlement or leaving with no deal.

On the surface of it, a 3-way vote might seem workable:

  • Remain in the EU
  • Accent the negotiated settlement
  • Leave with no deal

Indeed, some might argue this would favour Remain, since the Leave vote would be split. If the alterative voting system …

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What chance for British people to retain their EU citizenship?

I guess it is unsurprising, but there has been a jump of more than six times in the number of British people seeking citizenship of another EU country. 

I look at these figures with more than a touch of envy. One of the worst things about Brexit is losing my EU citizenship. It’s not just about freedom to travel. It’s about belonging to an organisation that has democracy, peace and human rights at its heart. The EU flag is the only one I have ever felt comfortable wrapping myself in. There is somewhere on the internet a video of me …

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In praise of being a by-election candidate

It’s 18 months since Jamie Reed resigned as the MP for Copeland, forcing a very unexpected by-election.

I’d never intended standing for parliament.  I was very content running my own business and being a local (lowest level – unpaid) Councillor, campaigning on a local issue I was passionate about (keeping our maternity services).

Copeland was not a winnable seat (we had no Lib Dem councillors there and all the Lib Dems were in Stoke fighting Nuttall) but by-elections command a lot of party and media attention, so being the candidate gave me the chance to do many things I couldn’t have done in an unwinnable seat in a general election for example:

– Copeland contains Sellafield – the hub of the nuclear industry.  Our nuclear experts were very worried about the consequences of the UK pulling out of the Euratom agreement as part of Brexit.  Lord Teverson and Baroness Featherstone helped me get this issue rapidly on the Westminster agenda.  Because I was raising it in Copeland, the main party candidates had to know about it so their parties had to help them and this issue quickly gained cross party attention.

– I was also very concerned about a particularly toxic academy issue we faced.  The other candidates didn’t properly understand it but by raising it again and again and explaining it in depth at hustings I was able to make sure they did.  To her credit, Trudy Harrison (the elected Conservative MP) has got herself onto the Education Select Committee and is working hard on this issue.

– I was able to drive forward my work on our maternity issues with the help of Norman Lamb, Baroness Brinton and the local media.

 – I was able to be a role model for the kind of evidence-based inclusive democracy I believe in, for example I was able to set up hustings in areas that felt neglected.

I got high level training on working with the media and plenty of experience.  I got the support of very experienced politicians and my fantastic agent Andy Sanger and so was able to learn a great deal very quickly.

The credibility I gained during the by-election meant that I was elected to Cumbria County Council last May.  From there I’ve been able to continue to protect maternity services and I’ve been able to have a positive impact on more issues than I can count.  

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LibLink: Layla Moran “Airbus shows businesses are running out of patience with our Government”

Layla Moran has been writing on Huffpost on the fallout from Airbus’s announcement that it will pull out of Britain (with the loss of thousands of jobs) if there is no transition deal on Brexit.

She writes:

The difficulty for those of us campaigning against an extreme Brexit ripping us out of the world’s largest market is that not enough people feel that the economy is nose-diving.

Take Airbus. It is looking for a breakthrough later this week at the European Council meeting, or else. It was a brave announcement, that if we don’t secure a decent trade deal, it is likely to move factories and jobs abroad – brave not for the act of leaving but for coming out and saying it.

So why did Airbus risk such an announcement? Because this wasn’t a threat. This was the first stage of its disinvestment from the UK; the risk of a no-deal Brexit is now simply too great, and too soon. Even a company the size of Airbus cannot afford to risk £1billion a week.

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Brexit: It isn’t all over yet – not by a long way!

Several comments on LibDem Voice last week argued that we’re all too late to stop Brexit: ‘it’s a done deal.’  Except that it’s not: we have a government that still has no clear idea of what future economic relationship it wants to have with the EU after we leave, and no coherent proposals for managing our future borders with the EU.  9 months from the date on which the UK is committed to leaving, Theresa May is holding together a divided Cabinet by endlessly postponing hard decisions that would trigger resignations from one side or another. The odds are rising on a political crisis towards the end of this year, as hard Brexiteers call for Britain to crash out of the EU without a deal, the Prime Minister promotes a formal exit which will leave us still following EU rules for an extended transition period (‘Brexit in Name Only’, or BRINO), and business protests that they lack any guarantees about future rules to encourage investment in Britain.

Remember what No.10 was saying about the timetable a year ago?  To manage an orderly exit, we would negotiate a package of measures with the EU by June 2018, to be agreed at the June EU Council.  That would allow time for the necessary legislation in the UK, and ratification both here and in other EU states, to be completed before March 29th next year.  We are now reaching the June European Council, after months in which David Davis has assured us that the negotiations ‘are making good progress’, and find that there is no package and little attention to Brexit on the agenda. Number 10 is now briefing the media that there may be ‘serious’ negotiations at the October European Council, but that agreement on key issues may be postponed until December.

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Telling Tales

The government is keen to play up the supposed benefits of Brexit. We are now getting to the ‘business end’ of the negotiations and as expected all is not as it seems. The government is talking up walking away with no deal instead of an accepting a bad deal (a bad deal would be an admission of its failure to negotiate with the EU) with the Brexit dividend that will be used to provide the NHS with a birthday present. Regarding the dividend, the Institute of Fiscal Studies made it clear that this was twaddle.

Just over a year ago the Office for Budget Responsibility (the governments’ official forecaster) estimated that as a result of lower economic growth because of Brexit tax revenue would fall by 2020/21 by £15 billion. It should also be noted that UK’s growth has gone from the faster-growing economy in G7 to the lowest other than Italy’s. This fall in revenue significantly surpasses our net contribution to the EU. The Institute of Fiscal Studies notes that there will be less rather than more money for the NHS and other services.

If we take our commitment to pay the agreed £45 billion plus a long-term obligation to pay pensions identified (until the need is exhausted), government’s commitment to support agricultural and the scientific research in universities – where then is the dividend for the NHS?

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Watch: Jane Dodds on Welsh Lib Dems’ vision and campaigns

Yesterday, I caught up with Jane Dodds briefly at the People’s Vote rally in Parliament Square. Wales voted to Leave in the referendum, so I wondered if people there were now starting to wonder if they had made the right decision.

Jane is offering a vision of hope and optimism to Welsh people with particular focus on tackling inequality and loneliness so we talked a bit about how that’s going.

Here’s our chat:

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Dick Newby: We will not rest until we have stopped Brexit

In the final throws of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, MPs were left focusing on just one issue – the significance of just two words in relation to a parliamentary Motion that the Government would bring forward in the event of ‘no deal’ with the EU on the term of Brexit.  

The two words were “neutral terms”—a phrase, incidentally, which most of us have never heard before. The view of the Lords was that “neutral terms” would prevent the Commons having the opportunity to express a view on the merits of the Government reaching no deal in the Brexit negotiations, and on what should be done next. The Government argued that their formulation was necessary to preserve the constitutional role of Parliament and that anything else would mandate the Government in completely unacceptable ways.

Between the Bill leaving the House of Lords on Monday evening and it returning to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon, the Government clearly thought deeply about this matter and realised that their understanding of parliamentary procedure on Monday was flawed. They produced a Written Ministerial Statement which, in lay man’s terms, says that it will be up to the Speaker to ​decide whether or not any government Motion would be amendable, and that, in any event, there is nothing to stop the Commons debating any Motion that they want to on this issue. We have since seen a battle of spin as to whether this represents a significant climbdown by the Government or whether winning the vote represents a victory. 

I sincerely wish that Dominic Grieve had supported his own amendment on Wednesday. But if I am disappointed, neither the Government nor Parliament can take any satisfaction from what happened. 

This week’s events demonstrate the contempt in which the Government hold Parliament. First, they try to muzzle it by putting “neutral terms” into the Bill. Then, fearing defeat, they publish a Written Ministerial Statement just minutes before the debate in the Commons which rips up their earlier justification for using the “neutral terms” ploy. At every turn they demonstrated their only consistent characteristic: the determination to survive to another day. If there were a World Cup in kicking the can down the road, the Government would win it hands-down. But the can cannot be kicked down the road for ever.

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Two years on….

So what were you doing two years ago today?

June 23rd will forever go down in history and not just for being Mary Reid’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mary, by the way.

It was a beautiful day in Livingston. I spent the day handing out leaflets, wandering round the college doing what I could to persuade people to vote. We had a good reception. We’d spent the weeks leading up to it campaigning hard and were exhausted after a gruelling Scottish election campaign. The SNP, bless them, were knackered and barely lifted a finger.

The Livingston band of helpers went rogue in the last week. We had been told that we had to hand out leaflets and not knock on any doors. We completely ignored that instruction and actually did some talking to people and I think it was a productive use of our time because we did change minds.

We didn’t lose in Scotland. Every single constituency voted to Remain, but I think we could have done better than the 62-38 result we got. We wouldn’t have found 1.3 million but we could certainly have narrowed the gap by some margin.

While we were ahead reasonably comfortably at our count in West Lothian, results from elsewhere made us wince and swear. Every so often my friend would ring and there would be much mutual swearing. In every election result there are so many what ifs. What if it had been a nice day in London and the storms and floods hadn’t depressed turnout? What if the Remain campaign hadn’t been so eye-meltingly, frustratingly awful?

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