Tag Archives: brexit

16 January 2019 – today’s press release

Cable: Either Corbyn backs Brexit or he backs the people

Responding to the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s vote of no confidence in the Conservative Government by 325 votes to 306 votes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party cannot procrastinate any longer. Either he backs Brexit or he backs the people.

He has a responsibility, to get off the fence and provide some effective opposition.

The only serious option is what the Liberal Democrats have been calling for since the 24th June 2016, a people’s vote with the option to remain in the

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What should Vince say to Theresa?

So Theresa May is going to be meeting with party leaders tonight and over the next few days to find a way forward on Brexit.

Which party leader is best qualified for facing her down on daft ideas? Our Vince sparred a lot with her when they were in Cabinet together. She hated immigration. As business minister, he saw its benefits and fought for student visas. 

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Confidence trick

There were many times during this afternoon’s Vote of No Confidence debate when I wanted to throw something at the television. I didn’t, because the only things close by were expensive and belonged to my employer.

This country is facing the biggest crisis since World War 2 and the Government and Opposition spend the afternoon slinging insults at each other, pantomime style. When we face a no-deal fall off a cliff which will kill people. Fiddling and burning or what?

It was hardly the stuff of Gladstone, of Lloyd George, of Churchill as Jeremy Corbyn finally moved his motion of no confidence. The Government happily gave it five hours of debate. It was only obliged to give an hour and a half, but wasting time is all it’s got at the moment. The Conservative benches also got to be the most united they have been since last July.

I know that Vince signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence. He kind of had to. I mean, if you’re asked if you have confidence in the government that brought you Windrush, the hostile environment, the rape clause, the benefit freeze, the disastrous implementation of Universal Credit and that’s before you even get to the Brexit clusterbourach, then the only possible answer is “no flipping way.”

However, I’d have amended it to say I have no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition either. I can’t actually remember a time when the Government and the Opposition have been so simultaneously useless.

Apparently, Corbyn is going to keep laying down motions of no confidence as a distraction from having to take a position on the People’s Vote and May thinks she can get away with putting tweaked versions of her deal to the Commons. Does anyone get the irony here? They are happy to keep asking the same questions while stubbornly denying the people the chance to mark the Government’s homework.

Alistair Carmichael confronted Corbyn beautifully on the issue during his speech:

What should we do if Corbyn keeps putting down vexatious motions of no confidence? Well, to be honest, we have to vote for them. If we don’t, that’ll be the one time Corbyn will have got the DUP on side. After that disaster in the Summer we simply daren’t give Labour the chance to say that we backed the Tories.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Sarah Ludford Internationalism and social justice is the liberal way

A cracker of a speech from Sarah Ludford looking back at Liberal figures all the way back to the repeal of the Corn Laws:

My Lords, normally I would try to reflect speeches from across the House in my winding-up, but this evening I will concentrate on the Liberal Democrats. This is partly because the loss of our late colleague Lord Ashdown is much on our minds. Obviously the primary grief is felt by Jane and the family, but we too, his political family, are nothing short of devastated. We badly miss his voice. Tweets of Paddy’s from two months ago remain online; I am afraid they are not complimentary about the governing party, saying,

“and so our beloved country is once again held to ransom by squabbles in a Tory Party who give rats in a sack a bad name”,

and,

“the great unravelling begins. If you want a playbook for what next, look to the Tory civil wars of the Com Laws in 1846”.

The fact is that, unlike Liberal Democrats, whose hallmark is openness to the world, Tories have long been split between international and insular tendencies; that continues today. Some talk, admittedly, about “global Britain” but this seems more about resurrecting the Empire—or at least the Anglosphere—than a true spirit of international and multilateral co-operation. Modern Liberal Democrats can still subscribe to the words of the radical Liberal Richard Cobden, who cited among the benefits of repeal of the Corn Laws that,

“it would introduce through mutually advantageous international trade a new era of international fellowship and peace”.

That sentiment endures, both as the rationale for the European project after 1945 and in the DNA of the modern Liberal Democrat party; no wonder the two are so well-aligned. As my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said last week, a global Britain should be within, not against, a global Europe. Hence one of Paddy’s successors, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, insisted in this debate last Wednesday:

“I am passionate about remaining in the European Union. I venture to observe that I am just as passionate about remaining as those who are passionate about leaving. I respect their passion and, in turn, I expect them to respect mine”.—

Another previous leader, Jo Grimond, in his book The Liberal Future 60 years ago, wrote:

“Liberals dissented from the original decision not to take part in the Iron and Steel Community. A Liberal foreign policy towards Europe would be based on the firm belief that Britain is a part—a leading part—of Europe”.

But it was not just Liberals in our Liberal Democrat heritage who carried the flame for Europe. My noble friends Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank and Lord Taverne came via the Labour Party and the Social Democrats. They reminded us in this debate how they were part of that brave contingent of 69 MPs who defied the Labour leadership and its three-line whip to vote to join the then European Community in 1971. My noble friends Lord Wrigglesworth and Lord McNally, also once SDP, stressed internationalist principles too. They were led by Roy Jenkins, later our Liberal Democrat Leader here in Lords. In the epilogue to his European Diary as President of the European Commission, Roy recounts the formation of the SDP, noting simply and unremarkably that,

“the SDP and its Alliance partner maintained a wholly committed European position”.

Roy Jenkins also harks back much farther in our political roots when, in his biography of William Gladstone, he quotes from Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign, when he was much concerned about atrocities in the Balkans against Bulgarians and Montenegrins. Gladstone, he records, spoke of a,

“nation called to undertake a great and responsible duty”,

in regard to “the peace of Europe” and the need for,

“right and justice to be done”.

These are uncanny echoes of Paddy Ashdown’s insistence that we had to take an interest in the Balkan wars of the 1990s and take on a responsibility to protect in particular the Kosovars and Bosnians being subjected to ethnic cleansing on our continent.

In her very generous comments about Paddy Ashdown in her debate on the western Balkans last Thursday, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, said:

“During the Bosnian War in the 1990s, most politicians, including some from my own party, pontificated from a distance. Lord Ashdown went in and out of Sarajevo during the longest siege in modern history, across a risky mountain route and through a tunnel burrowed into the city”.—

Hence, when my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire wrote a slim Penguin tome for the 1997 election called Why Vote Liberal Democrat?, in words he could repeat today, he wrote:

“Nostalgia for an imperial past, combined with hostility to closer cooperation with Britain’s neighbours, offers no credible way forward … Liberal Democrats are internationalist by instinct and by intellectual conviction … We believe that Britain can achieve more through sharing sovereignty and pooling power than by standing alone … Britain is a European country. Our international interests and responsibilities start with our concern to promote peace, stability and prosperity within Europe, in partnership with our European neighbours”.

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15 January 2019 – today’s press releases

You never quite want to believe the predictions, especially when they are in your favour, but it can’t be argued that tonight wasn’t a massive rejection of the May deal. Here’s what was said in the aftermath…

  • Cable: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit
  • Brexit Must be put Back to the People – Welsh Lib Dems (see here)
  • Cable: After Govt defeat the only way forward is a People’s Vote (see here)

Cable: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Responding to the no confidence vote tabled tonight in the House of Commons, Leader of the Liberal Democrats …

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Vince: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Well, that was quite something. I had thought the estimates of a 200+ majority against were expectation management, so a defeat of less than 100 looked great.

But, no. The vote was lost by 230 votes. The biggest defeat in living memory.

A Government with a competent main opposition party would be in serious trouble.

But what was Theresa May’s instinctive reaction? She started talking about how this put EU citizens at risk. I mean, really. She turned them back into bargaining chips. I, for one, am not having that.

Jeremy Corbyn has finally won a motion of no confidence but when that is lost tomorrow, he will have to make up his mind whether to back a People’s Vote or not. We can only hope that he will listen to the almost 80% of his members who want Labour to back that.

Jo Swinson was the first Lib Dem to say anything after the  vote – she raised a Point of Order to  how Parliament could assert its authority to bring about a People’s Vote. In his response, Speaker John Bercow seemed to indicate on his reply that he would allow amendments to that effect.

Vince confirmed that he had signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence and would support it and challenged the Labour leader to get behind a People’s Vote.

Brexit is becoming a national humiliation.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned since the referendum to give people the final say on Brexit. Theresa May has failed to persuade her party, failed to persuade Parliament and failed in her attempts to scaremonger MPs to back her.

The Prime Minister now needs to pull her head out of the sand and start acting responsibly by taking the ludicrous threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table. The only way forward for the country is through a People’s Vote where people have the right to choose to stay in the EU.

It is also time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.

Willie Rennie also called for a People’s Vote to ensure that the Prime Minister couldn’t just look to her party to sort it out:

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Lib Dems vs Brexit Joan Walmsley: The people must have an informed choice

Joan Walmsley tackled the “will of the people” argument in her speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, asked us to be optimistic. I would not be a Liberal Democrat if I were not.

I have great respect for the House of Commons and am optimistic that next week honourable Members will do the right thing. They will vote against making their constituents poorer, damaging the future of their young people and removing this country’s influence in Europe. They will vote against Mrs May’s deal and reject the disaster of leaving the EU without a deal. Let us be clear, to use a favourite phrase of which the Prime Minister is so fond, especially when she is about to obfuscate: our economy would suffer both from her deal and no deal.

Our economy is not just some economist’s theory. It provides the means to protect the most vulnerable, the young who need education, the old who need care, the unemployed who need benefits and jobs, the poor who need affordable homes, the workers who need efficient transport to work and decent pay, and all of us who rely on the NHS. All this is threatened by every possible form of Brexit. It has become clear over the past two and a half years, to all who are not too blind to see it, that the deal we have as members, and could keep if we wish, is the best we could get with our biggest trading partner, neighbour and friend. Let us not be lured by the fantasy that we will negotiate beneficial trade deals around the world that would more than make up for loss of trade with the EU. This is a typical unicorn promised to the electorate by a campaign funded by money about which very serious legal questions are being investigated. Through our EU membership, we have trade deals, not just with 27 other countries, but with 88. All those would go if we left the EU without a deal.

I respect the way in which Mrs May has tried to get a good deal while leaving the EU. But she became the architect of her own failure when she stated her red lines, which made it impossible for her to take us out of the EU without damaging our economy and curtailing opportunities for our young people. She has given two and a half years of respect to the “will of the people” ​as she puts it, although I find it hard to understand how someone who is so keen on the will of the people is so reluctant to ask them for it.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Menzies Campbell: Deal does not deliver promised utopia

Ming Campbell’s take on the Brexit deal was that it didn’t deliver what was promised and put the UK in a much more precarious international position.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, not least because he drew attention to the absence to any reference either to Wales or Scotland in the documents with which we are concerned.

I have wondered to what purpose I would be here, and I suspect my purpose now is served by the opportunity to support the amendment put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. Nothing of substance has changed since the earlier debate. Although I have had the opportunity to look very quickly at the document produced in relation to Northern Ireland just before this debate began, I can see why the Government perhaps chose not to put it out before, because it really does not bear any serious interpretation, not least of course because the matter of the protocol is still covered by the advice issued by the Attorney-General on 13 November last year. Paragraph 16 states that—I am reading short—

“in international law, the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place, in whole or in part”.

That remains the legal position. The document of today can have no effect of any kind on that.

As we consider these matters, the authority of the Prime Minister diminishes almost before our eyes. There was a government defeat last night and another one this afternoon. One thing which has certainly changed as a result of Brexit—and I hope your Lordships do not find the advice too alarming—is that you can throw away your copy of Dicey and, if you are lucky enough to have a copy of John Mackintosh’s seminal work, The British Cabinet, you need not have much regard to that, because the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility has now been abolished by this Cabinet. It reminds me of the old Latin tag, “Quot homines, tot sententiae”—although, in these more enlightened days, one should perhaps say, “Quot personae, tot sententiae”. The Cabinet is now apparently at liberty to contradict the Prime Minister and to take issue with Cabinet colleagues, and for all that to be played out in public. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister’s capacity for negotiation has been adversely affected. If she loses next week’s vote on the document with which we are concerned, it may not be a constitutional crisis, but it will most certainly be constitutional chaos.

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What next?

Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water. This has been true for a while, but with no obvious mandate for the Withdrawal Agreement, however it is tweaked, the political future for the Prime Minister looks bleak. Her steel and resilience have been tested many times before and have so far survived, but the seemingly hopeless situation before her now may be the final time that Mrs May bleats out her rhetorical tangents. With a government in disarray and a poignantly undecided Opposition, the Lib Dems need to find a logical and realistic Parliamentary solution to break the impasse.

There is not yet any majority for anything in the House of Commons. The next few weeks may well change that, but it shall be a time of unprecedented turmoil and uncertainty. Mrs May was perhaps correct to say earlier yesterday that no Brexit has a more genuine chance of getting through Parliament than no-deal. Let us hope so. That said, it will certainly take some trying to turn over the referendum result in such a short period of time. 

The hard-Brexit rabble have proved themselves to be zealous and ineffective over the year, and their logistical failures in the Commons are doomed to continue. If there is a majority for one thing on the green benches, it is that against no-deal. The very notion of not having a proper and palatable relationship with the largest trading block in the world seems impractical at best and economically cataclysmic at worst. The first mission of the small yellow-striped army inside the Commons should therefore be to rally against such an eventuality. 

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: David Steel on “the complicated lunacy of Brexit”

David Steel did not mince his words in his contribution to the Brexit deal debate in the Lords. He talked about the need for Government to do something to help those who were struggling.

My Lords, exactly three weeks ago today as I was leaving the House to go home for the Christmas Recess I passed three people sleeping in our entrance to the Underground station. It was reported next day that one of these had died in the night—on our own doorstep! That typified for me the paralysis of the Government over these last two years, as they have had to concentrate on dealing with the complicated lunacy of Brexit. Homelessness, the delays in the NHS, the chaos on our railways, the shortage of teachers in our schools, even the lack of legislation to deal with drones, and so many other issues, have had to be neglected while every department of government struggles with the consequences and divisions of Brexit.​

In one of our debates at the end of last year, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, told us that it was for Parliament to assert itself and get things sorted out. It could, for example, revoke Article 50. He is of course correct, but that is one option over which the Commons should hesitate, because it would mean Parliament contradicting the referendum result. That is why, although like the late Paddy Ashdown I was initially doubtful, I have come around to the view that a people’s vote is necessary to take that decision. I do not for one moment believe the scaremongers about civil unrest, provided that we hand it back to the people to decide whether, in the light of all the realities, they really wish to leave the European Union.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Christine Jardine We all deserve better than this deal

It was almost midnight when Christine Jardine finally got to her feet to make her speech. She talked about how her constituents are even firmer in their view that we should remain in the EU and, crucially, she highlighted how the deal fails Leave as well as Remain voters. She called on MPs to rise to the enormity of the occasion and do what’s best for the country.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). I rise to oppose the Government’s motion and to give largely the speech that I was due to make a month ago, when the vote was pulled. My stance has developed over the past two and a half years, during which my party has campaigned consistently in Parliament and in communities across the country for the people, not the politicians, to have the final say.

As we approach the denouement of this Brexit drama—or perhaps it is a tragedy—my thoughts drift back to 24 June 2016. What prompted the country to vote for Brexit? I agree with the hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns). An entire generation faced the prospect that their children and grandchildren would not be as well off as they were, having been left behind and failed by globalisation. More than two years ​later, I do not believe that this Government have provided either any solutions to those issues or a coherent way ahead.

We have heard a lot this evening, mostly from Conservative Members, about delivering on Brexit. May I plead with them that actually we have something more important in this House to deliver, and that is the wellbeing of the country? When the electors go to the ballot box and send us here, it is not simply to follow an instruction; it is to have the courage to do what we believe is right for us, for them and for the entire country. That is where we are just now.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Roger Roberts says young people must have a say

Last year, Roger was on the front page of the Daily Mail for upsetting the Brexiteers.

Now, the octogenarian Liberal Democrat had two of the most prominent Tory Brexiteers in the Lords intervene on him in his speech.

My Lords, those who argue for this deal say that the people have voted and that we must honour that. The people voted two and a half years ago, when they were a different constituency. Many of them have now departed and millions more are now eligible to vote. Therefore, we are disregarding the views and the future of many of these young people. Not only that but we are withdrawing from the European Union, which means that we are withdrawing their European citizenship. These young people were born into European citizenship.

Lord Lilley (Con)

Does the noble Lord intend to have a referendum every two and a half years?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

That is not my intention, of course, but I shall mention something in a moment that might go in that direction. As I said, we are denying young people their voice in this issue. People change their minds. Even Prime Ministers can change their minds. The Commons were to have a vote in December; now they will have a vote in January. If the people are not allowed to change their minds but the Prime Minister and parliamentarians are, we are denying a democratic right to the people.

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14 January 2019 – today’s press releases

As we start another week, is there an emerging consensus on where we go next? Tomorrow sees the meaningful vote in the Commons, whilst tonight saw a somewhat less meaningful one in the Lords, although it perhaps offers a portent of what is to come…

  • Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote
  • Cable: Research shows UK companies hit hard by ‘Leave’ vote
  • Lib Dems: EU letter changes nothing
  • Lords defeat ’embarrassing setback’ for Theresa May

Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote

A cross-party group of MPs has today (January 14th) published legislation to bring about a ‘People’s Vote’ referendum on the Government’s Brexit deal in …

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In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Good Will.

As Remainers, we have lived by the first two parts of Churchill’s famous saying from World War Two in our fight against Brexit. We have been by turns both resolute and defiant.

Now, on the verge of victory (not yet certain I know but looking more likely) we need to start looking at how we can be magnanimous and promote, hopefully, good will. To do this, we need to look at the reasons why some many areas outside the main metropolitan areas voted to leave the EU.

The lack of affordable housing, the concentration of economic development in the Home Counties …

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Chris Fox The vulnerable and less well off are most at risk from Brexit

We continue our look at how Lib Dem parliamentarians are arguing against the Brexit deal and for a People’s Vote.

In this instalment, Chris Fox debunks Tory clams that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t cost jobs and highlights that the poorest will suffer most.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and I look forward to working with him when we move into Committee on the Trade Bill.

When the Minister was looking in our direction, he spoke about the need for clarity. I understand that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defra is organising a new unit in his department with the express remit of “seeing through the fog” of Brexit. I also understand that the department is finding difficulty in recruiting people to take on this task. Meanwhile, the Government are stress-testing their own ability to create fog. We have already heard the lighter side of Project Grayling today but actually it is not funny; it is quite sad and rather pathetic that a government department led by a Minister is going out and trying to prove how serious the Government are about a no-deal exit, and doing it completely incompetently. I do not know who does due diligence in the Department for Transport but the big question is: who did due diligence on Chris Grayling?

Elsewhere, Iain Duncan Smith has been vocal about the benefits of a no-deal exit. He does not,

“believe that a single job will be lost”,

in a hard Brexit. It is not for me to challenge his belief system—I will leave that to the Lords spiritual—but I am able to refute what is clearly a false claim. Take, for example, a small engineering firm on an industrial estate just outside Hereford employing 30 people. It is very successful. Unlike some firms, the owner has looked long and hard at his situation and has talked in detail with his largely continental European customer base. He has prepared for no deal and the imposition of borders, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. In that situation, his plan is clear: he will make 10 of his staff redundant.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Dick Newby The World is looking at us with pity and amazement

The Lords have also been debating the Brexit Deal and, as in the Commons, Lib Dems have been arguing for a People’s Vote. This is Dick Newby’s contribution:

My Lords, it is somewhat odd to be debating an identical government Motion with a month’s gap, during which time, in the Brexit negotiations themselves and despite the announcements the Government have made today, there have been no significant developments whatsoever—a reality reflected in the Commons simply continuing its adjourned debate on the topic rather than having a new Motion or amendments.

There was therefore a temptation to simply repeat the speech I made on 5 December. I was attracted to this option by the true example of a vicar friend of my wife’s who, having preached a sermon on a Sunday morning, found that his colleague who was due to ​preach at evensong was taken ill during the day. Stepping into the breach and having no time to prepare a second sermon, he simply repeated the one he had given in the morning. He was therefore rather disturbed to see in the congregation one of the churchwardens, who normally only attended in the morning but who had had visitors for lunch who wanted to see the church. At the end of the service, the vicar greeted the churchwarden with some trepidation. The churchwarden approached the vicar beaming. “Another corker, vicar”, he said. It was clear that he had not listened to at least one, and possibly both, of the sermons. But I suspect that your Lordships’ House is somewhat more attentive than the average churchwarden, so I shall repeat neither the speech nor the exact arguments I made a month ago.

The challenge in fashioning another speech, however, is that, as far as the withdrawal agreement and political declaration are concerned, nothing of substance has changed. I am unaware of a single MP who threatened to rebel last time but has pledged to support the Government this time around.

Although nothing has changed in the agreement itself or the views of MPs, this does not mean that nothing has changed beyond Parliament. The first thing that has changed is that the Government have stepped up spending for a no-deal Brexit. Given that the Commons will never vote for a no-deal outcome, as evidenced by yesterday’s vote, the spending of billions of pounds against an outcome that is simply not going to happen was always going to be a colossal waste of public money. But the way in which the Government have chosen to do this has turned mere profligacy into farce.

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12-13 January 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

There haven’t been that many days of such high drama in Parliament to compare to the next few. How badly will Theresa May lose in the Commons? Will it be enough to force a change of policy? Can the Conservative Party cling together?

We’ll see soon enough but, in the meantime, here are the weekend’s press releases…

  • Grayling has lost the plot
  • Short-term sentences of 12 months or less must be scrapped now
  • Corbyn has failed the test of leadership
  • Cable: No-deal is a choice and the Govt can stop it

Grayling has lost the plot

Responding to claims from Chris Grayling that blocking Brexit could lead …

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Lib Dems vs Brexit – Ed Davey on what Paddy would have thought

Sir Ed Davey, in his speech against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, looked at it through Paddy’s eyes.

He also spoke about his experience of European co-operation when he was Climate Change Secretary when Putin was overstepping the mark in the Ukraine.

My friend, Lord Ashdown—Paddy—is being buried today in Somerset, so I hope that the House will allow me to speak about this deal as I think Paddy would have done. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) might not have known about the burial service, but my friend Paddy would have been able to apply his critical faculties to the deal and judge it on the basis of what was good for this country. That is what he would have done. I worked for him for nearly 30 years, beginning as his economics adviser, and when he talked about Europe, he talked about the way in which countries needed to co-operate and work together. Internationalism was in his liberalism. He talked about how, working with other countries, this country could regain sovereignty and regain control over global capitalism, and the multinationals that sought to undermine the interests of individual countries, people and corporations. His view was that we were stronger and had more control. That was his approach to the European Union.

However, things went much deeper than that. Paddy was a soldier and a diplomat, and he brought that experience and those beliefs to the European question. It was his commitment to peace and to patriotism—he loved his country—that made him such a strong pro-European. We see that in his books and his speeches when he talks about the dangers of rising nationalism and protectionism around the world. He worried about Trump, Bolsonaro and Brexit, and he thought that Britain being in the EU was one of the best ways of combatting those rises in nationalism and protectionism. In his work in Bosnia, he talked about how the EU’s institutions were bringing peace not just within that country, but within the Balkans. Indeed, if we look at what is happening, the EU is one of the magnets that is ending the hostility between those countries, and it can play a key role. It is an engine for peace, as it has been across Europe.

Of course, as man who was born in Northern Ireland, Paddy would look at the threat to the Good Friday agreement with serious concern. Nearly 3,600 of our countrymen and women died in the troubles, but few have died since the Good Friday peace agreement. People inside and outside this House should think carefully about anything that puts that at risk. Paddy certainly did, believing that the EU was a way of gluing people together and moving away from past hostilities.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Vince Cable takes on the WTO Rules argument

We always like to record Lib Dem contributions to significant parliamentary debates when we can. There is no more significant debate than that going on over the future course of Brexit – or otherwise.

Vince spoke on the first day of the debate and he tackled the Brexiteers’ assertions that the WTO Rules are just fine if we have a no deal Brexit.And he should know, because he’s actually done trade negotiations. He totally demolishes the idea that WTO Rules a) mean much b) can be enforced and c) allow smaller countries to trade freely without being bullied by more powerful ones:

One problem of having extended debate and resumption of debate is that we are getting a lot of repetition and recycling of arguments that we have heard many times before. For that reason, I want to focus on one specific issue, which is the idea of World Trade Organisation rules and exactly what they mean. The term “WTO rules” is used casually in every pub, and in every radio interview I encounter, but I suspect that many of the people who use it are not at all clear what it means.

Before getting into the detail of that, I will make one general point about no deal, which was brought out rather brilliantly by the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), who got to the heart of this very well. He exposed the fact that no deal is actually a choice. It is not just something that happens; it is the conscious choice of a Government who could choose to revoke article 50, as the Father of the House keeps reminding us. That may be a difficult ​decision and a very unpopular one, but article 50 could be revoked, and by choosing not to revoke it, the Government will be choosing to have no deal, with all its catastrophic—or so they tell us—consequences.

Let me narrow down to the specific issue of what the WTO rules would be if we found ourselves in a no-deal world. The basis on which I speak is that many years ago, long before I came into the House, I was part of a small community of international trade specialists and got involved in negotiating the so-called Uruguay round and then the Doha round as part of the World Trade Organisation—or, as it was then called, the general agreement on tariffs and trade. I saw at first hand the way in which the WTO system operates. I realise that there is no longer just a small community of anoraks, which is what we were. A large number of people now consider themselves experts on trade policy, but the glibness with which the term “WTO rules” is applied leads me to believe that there are probably not too many anoraks, because there are some very real difficulties in applying WTO rules.

The World Trade Organisation is to trade what the United Nations is to peace. It has some admirable principles, but I think most Members, and certainly those on the Government Benches, would consider it seriously negligent of us to make our national defence dependent solely on the rules of the United Nations. Rules have to be enforced, and they have to be effective.

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Lib Dems want a People’s Vote to stop Brexit. Corbyn can’t say what Labour would do

The Sunday morning political programmes can be summarised as follows: Tory psychodrama (Sophy Ridge had three rounds of it), Labour obfuscation and Lib Dem consistency and clarity.

Just imagine that you were the Leader of the Opposition. You’re supposed to be showing leadership on the most important issue of most of our lifetimes. You talk about how you want a General Election, though you haven’t actually bothered to do anything to make one happen.

Then you’re asked what your policy in that General Election would be on the said major issue. Surely to goodness you would have something to tell people. You wouldn’t go on about how it still had to be decided by some party meeting. Surely you would have done that preparatory work already.  I mean, you’ve been going on about this General Election for months.

At least, if you wanted to show that you had even basic competence to run the country, you would be able to say where your party stood. If your policy was coming from principle and value, it would be instinctive.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine any of this. It’s actually happening. The two paragraphs above is pretty much what Corbyn said on Marr this morning. And it’s pretty much what Rebecca Long-Bailey said on Sophy Ridge.

Corbyn did say, though, that if there was no General Election, he’d prefer a Brexit deal to a People’s Vote. He thinks he can go back to the EU and get what are essentially terms of full membership without being members. He said he wanted a customs union that enabled us to have a say in trade deals. And a unicorn that poos glittery rainbows. He didn’t say that last bit, but he might as well have done.

No wonder that Tom Brake tweeted:

Compare and contrast with a brilliant interview from Vince. He was incredibly clear and consistent.

  • Lib Dems want a People’s Vote because we oppose Brexit
  • Lib Dems oppose a Norway style compromise because we’d have all the expenses of EU membership but none of the say on policy
  • Cross-party working is happening and essential not just now but after this is all over to bring country together
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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Layla Moran: I want an open Britain, not one that closes itself off

In full, below, Layla Moran’s speech against Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

It will come as no surprise to anyone, I am sure, to hear that I will not support the deal. I am determined to do everything I can to secure a people’s vote, with the option to stay in the EU and exit from Brexit. After all, that is what I was elected to do when I overturned a Tory majority of nearly 10,000 with the help of a progressive alliance of voters from across the entire political spectrum. I am still regularly stopped in the streets by constituents who just want an end to this mess. One lady said to me the other day, “I didn’t vote for this Brexit. Please make it stop!” Is not that the refrain we are hearing from everyone—“Make it stop”?

That is my issue with the deal. The Prime Minister’s deal has only 26 pages about what comes next. It will take years to get that right. Meanwhile, the fact that the air has been sucked out of this Government and the economy will continue to suffocate society. The very causes of Brexit—inequality, injustice, the incomprehension of parents that their children’s future will not be as bright as theirs—will continue to be ignored until this is over. We have to be honest with people: Brexit will not solve any of those issues.

There is only one way to make this stop, and that is a democratic exit from Brexit. Support for that, as much as many in this House are trying to ignore it, is growing. Poll after poll shows that the will of the people has changed since 2016. Add to that Russian interference, Cambridge Analytica, the leave campaign being fined for breaking electoral law and dodgy DUP donations, and is it any wonder that people are dismayed? Does that surprise us at all? In a democracy, as has been said, people should be able to change their mind. If they want to vote for this deal, let them, but if they want an exit from it and to keep the deal we already have, let them have that.

One group that Brexit affects more than anyone else is EU citizens in the UK. These people are our friends. They have built relationships and careers in this country. They deserve so much better than this shambles. Is it not shameful that they are being asked to pay £65 to continue to live in their own homes and stay in their jobs? Although I welcome the announcements of Oxford University and my local NHS trusts that they will pay the fee for their staff, it beggars belief that they even have to offer. How much public taxpayer money has been offered to overcome the charge? That suggests to me that the Government should scrap it now.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Jo Swinson “Even my five year old knows that unicorns aren’t real”

This week the House of Commons has been debating Theresa May’s deal. Liberal Democrats have been explaining why Brexit is a bad thing and why we need a People’s Vote.

Here’s Jo Swinson making one of her five contributions in the Chamber on her first week back from parental leave.

Two and a half years ago the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised to tackle society’s burning injustices. I for one was glad to hear that speech, and I hoped that it would mark a real change in direction from this Government.

We could debate endlessly the reasons why people voted to leave the European Union, and of course they were varied. For many, however, there was a feeling that the system is broken, that working hard is no guarantee of getting on, and a fear that their children will end up worse off than they are, earning less, finding it harder to secure a decent home. People, rightly and understandably, feel angry about that. However, instead of the radical changes needed to our economy and society, the energy and attention of our Government have been sucked into the black hole of Brexit. Nothing has changed for those the Prime Minister vowed to help. Those injustices still fuel discontent. We have an underfunded universal credit system bringing misery to thousands. We are in the midst of a housing crisis in which many children are living in heartbreaking conditions and vulnerable people are sleeping on our streets—and dying on them, too. None of that will be resolved by leaving the EU. None of that will be resolved by the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

The leave campaign said we would take back control, but to many of my constituents—to the mother of two who contacted me because she was worried about her family’s security after the Prime Minister called her husband a “queue jumper”; to the scientist concerned about jobs in Glasgow once the life sciences industry loses vital European funding; and to the businesses that do not even know on what terms they will be able to sell to our biggest trading partner in three months’ time—it feels like we are doing the very opposite.

Five years ago, I fought passionately to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. Together, we are stronger. Our economy is more successful and our influence is greater. We can pool risks. Our businesses benefit from selling to a larger market, without barriers. We share values. We share our history. We share a desire for our loved ones in different parts of the country to be able to live, work and travel where they want with ease. I am certain that Scotland’s best future is in the United Kingdom, and for the same reasons I believe the United Kingdom’s interests are best served within the European Union.

In 2017, the people of East Dunbartonshire elected me to fight for Scotland’s position in the UK and for the United Kingdom’s position in the EU. That is the manifesto I stood on. The Liberal Democrats have led the fight for a people’s vote so we keep the benefits of our EU membership and remain a leading and influential member of the world’s most successful economic and political bloc. I am delighted that so many MPs from all parties are coming together and working beyond party lines for the public to have the final say on a deal, with the option of keeping our EU membership.

She was challenged by an SNP MP about independence at this point and continued

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In pictures: Lib Dems campaigning to stop this Brexit carry on

It’s kind of lucky that this weekend is a national weekend of Lib Dem action. Coming just 72 hours before Parliament makes the most momentous decision of our lifetimes – or not, we hope – it’s great to see that Lib Dems have been out on the streets making the case to stop Brexit by means of a People’s Vote.

Here’s some pictures from all over the country.

Remember how heavily Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk constituency voted to leave? Have a look at this.

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Save the Date: Monday 14th January, 7pm

On Monday night at 7pm, the party will release a new video. It promises to be something that grabs us in the gut and will make a powerful case for a People’s Vote. The trailer looks good.

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11 January 2019 – today’s press releases

Time to take a deep breath, and work out who the Government is. Is it the centre-right modernists, led by Amber Rudd? Is it the opportunistic wannabes, led by Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt? Or, is Theresa May in office but not in power? Hard to tell from the outside.

But there are still other things ticking over, and there are issues way beyond Brexit, as today’s press releases show…

  • Causes of mental ill-health in schools must be tackled
  • Lib Dems: Penny has dropped with Hunt
  • Lib Dems: UC needs investment, not just reform
  • Lib Dems: Pigs more likely to fly than Brexit legislation to

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10 January 2019 – today’s press releases

I’m posting on the fly today, as I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by other things. So, if this posting changes before your very eyes, don’t be surprised… It’s a bit like Brexit in many ways, a kaleidoscope of images, none of which you can ever recreate again…

  • Lib Dems in bid to change asylum seeker employment rules
  • Cable: Moment of reckoning for our economy
  • Cable: No confidence in Govt or Corbyn
  • Lib Dems: We will use “any means possible” to secure proper Brexit debate
  • Lib Dems call for Venezuelan President to step down
  • Blackwood appointment shows Tories ignoring demands for House of Lords reform

Lib Dems

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Desperate Brexiteers try to pick and choose

According to The Independent, during the second instalment of the Brexit ‘Meaningful vote’ debate, Downing Street has agreed to let the Commons pick and choose around the crucial Backstop articles in the agreement Theresa May and Brussels reached. The agreement is legally binding, an official agreement or treaty between London and the EU.

On the Institute of Government website last December, former IoG expert Simon Hogarth said such an option could mean Downing Street violating its international obligations it freely entered into. That’s what the Hugo Swire Amendment is proposing.

If the Brexiteers in Downing Street or the Commons think this is going to wash in international politics, they are completely bonkers and political ignoramuses.

The Dutch know from bitter experience how swift, tough and compelling the international reaction will be if any country, Great Britain or small Netherlands, tries to opportunistically tinker with such a legally binding international agreement.

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9 January 2019 – (the rest of) today’s press releases

You can hardly blame my editorial colleague for publishing one of today’s releases a bit earlier in the day than usual. After all, our unwritten constitution isn’t often redrafted on the hoof, as it were, as Parliament hurtles towards a possible unintended ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Is there anyone out there who can rally enough MPs behind them to at least apply the brakes?…

  • PM shamefully sides with Putin, not people (see here)
  • Lib Dems: People do not trust politicians to take the final decision on Brexit
  • Parliament ‘takes back control’ from a failing Govt (see here)
  • Corbyn letting down his party and country

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8 January 2019 – today’s press releases

It seems that, no matter how late I publish this feature, the Press Team are still up and working. Last night, the final press release came out at 11.58 p.m., so is included in today’s batch…

  • Drone reforms are vague and lack resources
  • Social housing neglect due to lack of political will
  • Dover delay is a national embarrassment
  • Cable: Bumbling Govt taking ‘Dad’s Army’ approach to Brexit
  • Lib Dems: Govt defeat shows no deal not an option
  • Lib Dems: Drone sighting shows urgent need for regulation
  • Lib Dems defeat Govt on loan charges

Drone reforms are vague and lack resources

Responding to the Government annoucement that the police will …

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Government defeat! Cross Party amendment requiring MPs to consent to no deal preparations passes

Yvette Cooper’s cross-party amendment which ensures that the Government would have to get the explicit consent of Parliament for no deal expenditure passed in Parliament tonight. This amendment was signed by Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green MPs.

I always like that moment in the Commons when the tellers line up in front of the Speaker. Those on the right are on the winning side. And if it’s the opposition MPs, you know that the Government has been defeated.

The margin was just 7 votes. 303-296.

There’s a bit of a  health warning with this, though. This doesn’t indicate how the vote on the draft withdrawal deal will go. The Tory Brexiteers would have voted with the Government and they oppose the deal. People like Nicky Morgan voted with the opposition and she will be supporting the deal. And, of course, you’ll have Labour Brexiteers voting with the Government.

If it has use, it’s about building relationships and trust across parties, amongst individual MPs which may help later.

Tom Brake said the Government must now rule out no deal:

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 17th Jan - 1:45am
    Expats, I think I have been clear that I support Libdem housing policy as updated last spring https://www.libdems.org.uk/spring-18-f4-local-government-housing This policy includes allowing receipts from the...
  • User AvatarMartin 16th Jan - 11:48pm
    Vince and our other parliamentarians need to remind Mrs May that her self imposed red lines are the stumbling block. We should not promise much...
  • User AvatarYeovil Yokel 16th Jan - 11:43pm
    “What should Vince say to Theresa?” - my reply would be unrepeatable, but my advice to Vince (not that he really needs it) is not...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 16th Jan - 11:18pm
    It was a fair point from Gove, there was a tme when we favoured a referendum. To many we give the appearance of inconsistency on...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 16th Jan - 11:11pm
    @david Warren, I must eat my words when I say that I do not detect a groundswell for a change in voting system. There was...
  • User AvatarFiona 16th Jan - 11:09pm
    David, no tying in knots required to distinguish between a vote to validate the details of a massive constitutional change and a vote to instigate...