Tag Archives: brexit

Brexit: concessions to the left of us, concessions to the right of us…

So, a big announcement, with the outline of a transitional deal. The highlights;

  • The transition period will end on 31 December 2020, three months earlier than sought
  • EU citizens arriving during the transition period will have the same rights as those already in the U.K. at 29 March 2019
  • No veto on new EU legislation during the transition period – the “vassal state” clause
  • Gibraltar excluded unless Spain can be persuaded to reach an agreement
  • No repatriation of control over fishing quotas

So, what does this mean for the Conservatives or for the United Kingdom? Good deal, bad …

Posted in Europe / International and News | 106 Comments

Welcome to my day: 19 March 2018 – the chilly breeze of reality…

Another difficult weekend of cold weather over, it’s time for me to return to my editorial duties for another week, on the 739th anniversary of the Mongolian victory at the naval Battle of Yamen, which ended the Song Dynasty in China. Also, on this day in 1628, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was granted land for settlement.

Admittedly, this isn’t quite as much of a challenge as it might be, because the stocks of submitted articles are close to non-existent. However, we do have a report from Chris Bowers on the “Reclaiming Liberalism” fringe at last weekend’s Federal Conference, challenging you all …

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The dream of a wonderful Brexit

Much has been written about the negative feeling which drove Brexit, but it easy to forget that there is a positive and indeed a romantic aspect too. We fondly cherish the wartime image of Britain carrying the torch of liberty, standing alone against the dark forces which were engulfing the continent.

Beyond that, Britain still retains a dim but influential memory of its empire, of the great and global power we once were. The pens I used as a child at school were inscribed “empire made”, and it was an empire on which the sun never set. Europe, where was that? You might learn a little French if you were lucky but certainly not German, and in any case everyone should speak English.

In those days, just after the war, all Germans were regarded with suspicion and it was not until I was older and travelled to Germany that I realised they were normal human beings. The crucial experience for me came in my early twenties, when I took part in an international workcamp. For the first time, among young people from all over Europe, I realised what it meant to be British.

But for many who voted Leave, the opposite holds true: you can only be truly British by keeping the other nationalities at arm’s length. Why is that? Perhaps because sadly, there are millions of older Britons who have never had the opportunity to go abroad, unlike the modern generation. Why go abroad anyway, when Britain is the only country that matters, and Brexit will restore all our past glories?

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WATCH: Nick Clegg say that Brexit is a monumental waste of time

From the Belfast Telegraph, watch the Cleggster speak at a Conference in Bath about social mobility and Brexit:

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Vince talks to Voice Part 3: A message of hope that Brexit can be stopped

As you know, I managed to grab 10 minutes with Vince, his wife Rachel and some delicious sandwiches just after his speech on Sunday.  You can also read Parts 1,  and 2

I asked him what he wanted to have accomplished by the time we gather in Brighton for Conference in September.

Well I think there are some very specific areas where good work has been initiated – learning accounts, medical technologies, taxation. that will be some meaty stuff to talk about.

But Brexit is going to be the big thing….

We will have a greater understanding by September of exactly where we are in the Brexit cycle. Hopefully the message of hope that this can be stopped will be clearer but even if it isn’t totally clear we will then have one month to stop it and October may be the crucial month so people need to be prepared that this is the time for the big push and to back up what’s happening in the party and at conference with stuff on the streets. That’s crucial.

We are the only party that is mobilising people to argue back with street campaigns. We need to build up the tempo on that working with other campaigning groups. We’ve already started that. It doesn’t stop at the local elections. It needs to keep going over the Summer as the key decisions will be made in the Autumn. I hope that people’s confidence that this is doable is fortified by some victories in the Spring. If we can get the Government defeated on the customs union, that’ll be a start. It’s not the end but it’s certainly the start.

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Vince talks to Voice Part 2 – The message to young people – I’ve got your backs

Another snippet from my chat with Vince on Sunday.

He talked a lot about young people in his speech, showing that the Liberal Democrats have a lot to offer the younger generation who stand to lose so much from Brexit. I observed that he seemed to be saying to young people: “I’ve got your backs.”

Exactly. That partly reflects the new membership in the party – as you know it’s doubled and most of the new members are young and they came into a party that’s relatively old. But the average is now lower than the Labour Party and the Conservatives, which is good.

We see that as positive. I was very struck with the polling data that says that 25-30% of young people are considering voting for us and there’s a much bigger majority amongst young people and it’s reinforced whenever I go round universities. Despite that there are some tricky issues for us at universities as you know, actually the reception is very good, lots of people with an open mind.

I think the Brexit issue is probably number one on their list of priorities and we are the only party that’s giving them what they want and thinking about their future. I’d say that for many of those, things like climate change and environment are way up there and we are the only one of the major parties with a strong green message.

One of the other things that polling showed was that Remain vote has huge subset hasn’t yet forgiven us for the coalition. How do we get over that?

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What can we expect from Vince today?

Vince has a couple of jobs in his keynote speech today. First of all, he has to continue to stake our claim to be the Party that wants to stop Brexit. The Party is stepping up its anti-Brexit rhetoric. Tom Brake explicitly told Conference yesterday that Brexit was such a disaster for the Country that we would be doing all we could to ensure that people got a say on the final deal. Catherine Bearder MEP said that “the Emperor is stark naked.”

But that is only half the story. This Conference has made some key proposals on other issues that voters care about – dealing with the housing crisis by giving local authorities radical new powers to build more houses, reforming schools by replacing OFSTED and abolishing SATS to reduce stress to pupils and teachers. Today we’ll have some serious proposals to give the NHS the investment it needs. This is part of building a programme of policy that looks to tackle inequality and poverty in this country. Expect Vince to talk about that.

We can also expect him to really have a go at Labour. We’ve seen a it of that already at the Conference. Yesterday, Simon Hughes highlighted Labour’s huge failures on housing which let a whole generation of young people down. He’ll also highlight Corbyn’s complicity with the Tories on Brexit. 

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Tories must ditch red lines for the Rock

In this week’s New European, Vince Cable says that the British citizens on Gibraltar must not be sacrificed in the Brexit negotiations.

Clause 24 of the EU 27’s joint negotiating position, published in April last year, included a Spanish veto over the application of any deal between the EU and UK over Gibraltar. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said it was “plainly obvious” that such a veto would be part of the EU’s negotiating guidelines. Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, described clause 24 as “discriminatory and unfair”.

A footnote to the draft legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement published last month confirmed that this veto would also apply to the transitional period. The Gibraltarian government has rightly pointed out that “by its very definition, transition is a continuation of the existing European Union legal border” and therefore this veto cannot apply.

Spain’s claim to Gibraltar is fatally undermined by the statistic that 98% of Gibraltarians want to remain British and there is no sign of that view changing. The Conservatives’ first act in response to the publication of the joint negotiating position should have been to insist on the removal of clause 24 – instead they gave us a general election that further weakened the Prime Minister’s bargaining power in Europe, because she ended up losing her Parliamentary majority.

Fortunately, Spain’s hard-line stance has slightly softened. Foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has been clear that he doesn’t want a border closure, which last occurred under General Franco in 1969. Such a move would be mutually damaging: disastrous for the 13,000 people who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar and leave the Rock with a staff shortage.

But the veto remains and Gibraltar’s politicians have sounded out legal opinions that would see them take the European Commission to court over clause 24.

Moreover, Spain continues to demand joint control of the Rock’s airport, which is, after all, British infrastructure on British soil. This might seem a reasonable suggestion for a post-Brexit relationship, but this should be seen in the context of even the seemingly reasonable Dastis pointing out that “sovereignty is something we aspire to, that we are not renouncing”.

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Lib Dems help win Lords concession on citizens’ rights after Brexit

Regular Lib Dem Voice contributor and Lib Dem peer William Wallace has won a major concession from the Government as the EU Withdrawal Bill makes its way through the House of Lords.

Don’t get me wrong, the words EU Withdrawal Bill send a cold shiver through my heart, but anything we can do to make the legislation less awful has to be welcomed.

Under pressure from peers the government stated that they will commit to upholding the rights won from our membership of the EU. This includes upholding key parts of existing rights such as the EU Working Time Directive.

Speaking last night in the Lords on behalf of the government, Lord Duncan of Springbank,

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A longer read for the weekend… Sir John Major’s stunning speech on Brexit in full

Embed from Getty Images

We don’t often feature speeches from members of other parties. But this speech made on Wednesday by Sir John Major is worth reading through in full. The text was published by the Mirror. At the bottom of the text is a video of the speech from the Guardian channel on YouTube:

I would like to express my thanks to the Creative Industries Federation, Somerset House Trust, and Tech London Advocates for the opportunity to speak here today.

Brexit matters to our creative industries. They express our culture and values – but give so much more.

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The 2017 general election – the much overlooked rebalancing of British democracy

The British Election Study has been issuing data concerning the 2017 election based on their “face-to-face” process. They maintain, for example, that the much-acclaimed “Youthquake” of 2017 was in fact a myth.

But I was very interested in this graph, tweeted by James Kanagasooriam:

There are a number of conclusions to be drawn from this graph. Much has been made of the fact that the Tories had quite a chunk of Remainers voting for them – particularly in the South of the country.

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Cable: May allowing Brexit extremists to neuter any chance of acceptable deal for UK

Vince Cable had this to say  about Theresa May’s speech:

Theresa May has once again prevaricated from making serious decisions about our future. Her speech outlined all the reasons why we should stay in the single market and customs union, but she will carry on regardless, driving us out to placate brexiters in the cabinet.

May’s diminished authority is allowing Brexit extremists to neuter any chance she has at getting an acceptable deal for the UK.

With a listless government beholden to hard-line Tories the only way to protect our future is ensure a referendum on the final deal. Surely, If May believes in her strategy,

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: A shadow over the Edinburgh Festival

In an article for the New European, Christine Jardine highlights the threats to our cultural events, most notably the Edinburgh Festival, posed by Brexit:

 

But sadly if our creative industries are not protected world class events like the Festival, Glastonbury, and many others may find that musicians used to touring Europe freely with no issues over EU crew or equipment licenses could find the whole process becomes slower, more expensive and just downright difficult.

They might opt to take up other opportunities on the continent or elsewhere.

Music development organisations and other cultural groups might also find themselves without the vital funding stream previously provided by the EU.

But that is the immediate effect. There could also be collateral damage for one of our other most important industries if they cease to be the cash cows the tourist industry has come to depend on.

And the scale of visitor numbers attracted by the Edinburgh Festival every year demands a huge hospitality sector in which an estimated 50 per cent of the workforce come from other EU states.

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LibLink: Tom Brake: Boris and Davis aren’t the only ones suffering from “Delusionitis”

In an article for the Huffington Post, Lib Dem Brexit Spokesperson forensically takes apart six arguments made by the Tory MP for Sutton and Cheam in a letter to his constituents.

Tom tackled the assertion that the thought of a referendum on the deal would encourage the EU to give us a bad deal.

So far, the negotiations have clearly demonstrated that the EU is in a much stronger negotiating position, with our Government capitulating at every turn. In fact, when asked in December to name a concession that the EU had made, the only thing EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier could think of was that he did not “at this stage insist that the UK should pay the removal costs” for EU agencies. This should come as no surprise as the EU’s GDP is five times larger than ours. In other words, Brexit will damage our economy much more than theirs.

The EU’s position has been clear from the very beginning; The integrity of the Single Market must be protected and is non-negotiable. This does not mean punishing Britain by giving it a bad deal. It simply means that a country that does not accept the four freedoms, the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and contributing to the EU budget, will not enjoy the exact same benefits of the Single Market membership. Neither a Hard Brexit nor a second referendum is going to change the EU’s position. We know what is on offer, and the ball is thus in the Government’s court to decide what type of future relationship with the EU it wants.

He also poured scorn on the idea that the Tories could be trusted to maintain the workers’ rights that the EU currently guarantees:

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The fundamentals of Brexit don’t change – so opposition to it is a matter of principle!

“If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, then you have seriously misjudged the gravity of the situation” – goes the rather silly adaptation of Kipling’s famous line.

I am not suggesting that Liberal Democrats are losing their heads. But I am suggesting that we are the only British political party that appears to have judged the gravity of the situation on Brexit. For certain, we are the only political party that is brave enough to oppose it explicitly. We know that the least privileged households will be the most harmed by Brexit.

I have …

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Brexit isn’t just causing problems with Northern Ireland

One of the most astonishing things about the last few days is how willing Brexiteers have been to jeopardise decades of peace in Northern Ireland.

Most of them are old enough to go better. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and remember the turmoil. I had relatives who missed being blown up by a matter of minutes. The loss of life and violence and uncertainty was horrendous and that time should not be easily or lightly forgotten.

But it’s not just that part of the UK that’s heading for constitutional issues because of Brexit. The failure of the Scottish and …

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Brake: Major is right on Brexit

So, John Major is the latest figure to suggest that a referendum on the Brexit deal might not be a bad idea. 

While he did not enjoy being “out of step” with his party, the stakes were so high than he felt obliged to speak out at such a crucial moment in the negotiations.

“Leaving Europe is an issue so far-reaching, so permanent, so over-arching that it will have an impact on all our lives – most especially on the young and the future,” he said.

“With only 12 months to go, we need answers, not aspirations.”

While he was not actively calling for a further referendum, he said the “option” must remain open to a “sovereign” Parliament to insist upon.

It will not be a surprise that Tom Brake our Brexit spokesperson thinks he’s right:

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Boris “a real embarrassment” says William Wallace

Our Lib Dem Peer and regular LDV contributor William Wallace is an Emeritus Professor in International Relations. He is more qualified than most people to comment on foreign policy. In the Lords debate on the EU Withdrawal on Monday, he was incredibly critical about the Foreign Secretary – and that was before Boris’s bizarre comparison of the congestion charge boundary to the Irish border after Brexit.

Here’s the whole of that speech:

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The Tory-Labour Brexit bandwagon rolls on…time for us to shine

How do we get across to all those young people who voted Labour thinking that they were against Breixit on to our side?

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech today brings Labour about a millimetre further away from the Tories than they were yesterday. Corbyn has been dragged kicking and screaming to support membership of “a” customs union but not the single market. That’s not a million miles from Theresa May’s bespoke arrangement where we will apparently be able to do what the hell we want without sticking to any of the EU’s rules.

Our digital people have put out a nifty little video linking May and Corbyn’s position and saying that the Liberal Democrats are the only party opposing Brexit.

The problem is that our capacity to reach the very people we need on side has been limited. The young people who voted Labour so enthusiastically have not yet forgiven us for the Coalition years. We have an awful lot to say to these young people, not just on Brexit but on housing, education, opportunities. We’ve actually got something hopeful to offer them. We’ll give more of them a say by letting them vote at 16, we’ll build more houses so that they somewhere decent to live, we’ll give them wider, more accessible and better choices when they leave school.

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Brake urges Corbyn to back single market membership

We know from the Observer that Jeremy Corbyn is now coming under public pressure from 80 senior figures to back participation on the single market to save public services.

Our Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

Jeremy Corbyn has been weak on Brexit, and his continuing failure to back Britain’s place in the single market and customs union is economic self-immolation. I am pleased to see that there are progressives in the Labour party willing to call him out on this. Liberal Democrats believe Britain is stronger in the European Union, and avoiding Brexit and the damage it will do to our economy is crucial in building the world class public services the public deserve.

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LibLink: Dick Taverne: The MP who beat Eurosceptics to hang on to his seat

A passionately pro European MP faces deselection by an anti-European local party. What happens then?

You could imagine this scenario unfolding for a fair few MPs today, but one person actually had this happen to him  and he survived. In 1972, Dick Taverne’s local Labour Party in Lincoln deselected him or voting for us to join the then Common Market.

It wasn’t the end of the world for him. He resigned as an MP and fought the subsequent by-election as an Independent and won.

He writes about his experience in this week’s New European to give moral support to any MPs in a similar situation today.

What also swayed a lot of votes was my appeal that politicians should put country first, constituency second and party third.

Burke proved popular. Indeed Roy Jenkins, not a natural populist, temporarily became a popular hero and told me that taxi drivers would wind down their windows if they passed him and shout: “You stick to your guns, mate.”

Are circumstances less favourable for a deselected dissident today? They are probably more favourable. At that time, party loyalties were much stronger than now. When I announced I would stand as an independent, the general view in the media was that I had committed political suicide.

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The Bus Oxford tried to ban comes to Edinburgh

It was freezing cold in Edinburgh this morning but that didn’t stop a crowd of people gathering to welcome the Is it Worth it? bus. Remember when Boris traversed the land with a bus with a big fat lie on the side of it during the EU referendum? Well, anti Brexit campaigners have funded a bus tour with the truth, as outlined in the UK Government’s own analysis, emblazoned on the side.

The bus spent an hour parked in the historic Royal Mile. In fact, it was parked right outside the City of Edinburgh Council’s City Chambers.  This is a very different attitude than Oxfordshire’s Conservative Council which has decided to stop the bus parking in the centre of the city on Monday. Apparently they can’t have political messages on the highway.  Does that mean that anyone having political posters in their cars will be banned from parking in the city centre during elections? I suspect not. Layla Moran spoke out against this ban. From the BBC:

Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran, said the bus should be allowed and the ban “can only be seen as a politically motivated move”.

She added that both Conservative and Lib Dem buses had visited the county during the election.

The SNP’s  Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry said that she personally saw the arguments in favour of a “second referendum.” However, we should not assume that the party would vote for such a measure in Parliament as there’s a catch. She said that the party would be seeking a guarantee that if Scotland voted to remain in the EU, that the wishes of its citizens would be respected. As a federalist party, some might argue that we should have sympathy with that argument. After all, in the US federal system, Rhode Island has the same sway on issues like this as California. We want to bring the country together, though, not pursue yet more divisions. On the other hand, of course, all the arguments about the Irish border would be duplicated about the Scottish border. It is clearly to the advantage of the whole UK to stop Brexit.

If the SNP insists on this condition, it’s effectively a wrecking one because it is unlikely to get the support of otherwise sympathetic MPs from other parties. We need to get a majority of MPs to vote for a referendum on the deal in the Commons. It would be pretty outrageous if the SNP deprived the whole country of a parachute from this Brexit disaster.

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How Brexit could strengthen us

Amid all the bad news about Brexit – the lies on the bus, the shrinking economy, the paralysed opposition, we are prone to forget the benefits it is bringing us. I am talking about our understanding of the European Union. Politicians who have for years loftily ignored it are at last being forced to find out a bit about how it works. Large numbers of the population who had hardly heard of the EU before the referendum are gaining some glimmer of what it’s all about.

So a nation for years isolated …

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Cable on Davis speech: Brexit Secretary Secretary makes strong case for staying in the EU

In a speech tomorrow, Brexit Secretary David Davis will demand that the UK’s regulatory standards are accepted across the EU post-Brexit. He will ask for “mutual recognition” and “close, even-handed co-operation”.

Responding, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:

David Davis might as well be making the case for staying in the EU. He appears to be acknowledging the great achievements of the Single Market – a British idea introduced by a British government – yet the Conservatives want to leave that and the Customs Union.

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What more do we need to try to do to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the EU?

It seems to me that our position on Remaining in the EU is that people will see that we will be worse off outside the EU than in it. When they see the deal which is negotiated, they will have their ‘Road to Damascus’ moment and a significant proportion of the British will want to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU.

I don’t think that will be happen. The 2016 referendum was fought on a campaign which stated we would be much poorer outside the EU than by Remaining in it. That campaign failed to get a majority of the British people to vote to stay in the EU. I can see no reason why, if there was a referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, the result would be different. We would be doing the same thing as in 2016 and expecting a different result.

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Campbell: May’s speech shows that staying in the EU is best for Britain’s security

Lord Menzies Campbell gave the Lib Dem reaction to Theresa May’s speech on post-Brexit security:

Everything Theresa May said in this speech illustrated that being in the EU is the best way of securing our security objectives.

This was an opportunity for her to show some pragmatism. She could have shown willingness to compromise on the European Court of Justice so as to break the logjam on the European Arrest Warrant and to make sure we have access to Europol’s information.

The problem she has is that to decide is to divide – Conservative Brexiteers inside and outside her Cabinet will be up

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No love lost on the road to Brexit

Vince’s Valentine’s Day column for Times Red Box contrasted the consistency of the Liberal Democrats on Brexit with the split Labour and Conservative parties. He said that our party was “open to refugees.”

For some MPs, I do anticipate that the myopia of the Labour and Conservative parties could drive them away from their folds. Liberal Democrats, unsurprisingly, have a liberal policy on refugees and will welcome with open arms and an open mind anyone from a different political tradition who wants to join our party. However, many aghast rebels will retain old tribal loyalties but nonetheless choose to vote with the Liberal Democrats on Brexit issues. I welcome that too.

Beyond Westminster, we need an effort in the country to mobilise public opinion on three key points: firstly, that Brexit is not inevitable; secondly, that the best and only democratic way to stop Brexit is through a vote on the final deal; and finally, that the Government’s deal will not be better than staying in the EU. It is in this respect that Liberal Democrats are critical. None of the many groupings springing up to take on the pro-European mantle have what we can bring to the table: a young, enthused membership of 100,000 troops to campaign on the ground.

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“A back of a fag packet speech” – Tom Brake on today’s Boris speech

Embed from Getty Images

Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson, Tom Brake has responded pithily to Boris Johnson’s speech on Brexit:

Boris Johnson is completely deluded about Brexit. This speech wasn’t about the most important issue facing our country right now, this was about Boris’ ambitions to become the next Prime Minister, and it probably wasn’t much help on that front either.

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On BBC Newsnight, Vince explains why hard Brexit is anything but liberal

On BBC 2’s Newsnight last night, Vince made a very good job of laying out why a hard Brexit is far from liberal:

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John Stuart Mill would have supported hard Brexit, says Boris

From the Guardian:

The foreign secretary called (the EU) a “teleological construction” that was “ends driven”. He said the founding fathers of the common market decided to create a “new sense of political identity by legal means” – but claimed this went against liberal thinking. “(John Stuart) Mill would say that the national group, the group that most associate with each other, govern each other. But this was a new idea to try to transcend that.”

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