Tag Archives: brexit

Lib Dems seize election initiative – calling for pre-Brexit poll on 9th December

The Observer’s Michael Savage reports tonight that the Liberal Democrats have a plan to allow Boris Johnson a pre-Christmas election. But it would mean that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would be taken forward by the next Parliament. Or maybe not. If the Lib Dems win a majority in a December 9th poll, PM Jo Swinson would revoke Article 50.

If the Conservatives lost the election, there would almost certainly be a majority for a People’s Vote so either  way the path to stopping Brexit once and for all would be clear.

This plan is great because it means that Boris Johnson can’t accuse us of being scared of an election. Why would we be when we have the chance to make the biggest gains in our existence?

It also shows up the so-called official opposition who have been less than pro-active in trying to find a way out of this mess.

See Michael Savage’s Twitter thread here.

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ALDE Party Congress – Boris Johnson’s best friend speaks…

Even for those whose interest in, and knowledge of, European politics is limited, the identity of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg recently became rather better known after a recent intervention in the Brexit debate.

Xavier Bettel is here in Athens, and was one of the speakers at the opening of the Congress. Here’s what he had to say…

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Wiliam Wallace

On Saturday, William Wallace closed the debate in the Lords for the LIb Dems. He said that during all the hours of debate, he’d not heard any positive arguments for the deal. People were just saying that we needed to get Brexit done.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, has just said that remainers do not admit that the EU is not just an economic project. The European Union has always been a political project. The memorandum presented to Harold Macmillan in 1961 made it very clear that it was in our political interests to join the European Economic Community and that the Washington Administration were strongly of the opinion that Britain should do so. In Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s speech moving the Second Reading of the European Union accession Bill, he also spelled out that there was a political dimension to it. It was never the case that we were never told that it was more than just a common market. This is a peace project. It is how we deal with our neighbours, and it is important that we do deal with our neighbours.

This has been a long debate. I have listened carefully but have found it extremely difficult to hear any positive arguments for the deal. The arguments are mainly of exhaustion—“let’s get Brexit done”—or that there is too much uncertainty and at least this will end it, or that at least it is better than no deal. Another argument is, “It’s not too damaging economically. Well, it’s a bit damaging but not as damaging as some of the economic forecasts have suggested”. So what are the Government promising us that we will gain in return for these economic costs, whether they are modest or severe?

Here, I fear that we enter a looking-glass world in which facts and evidence are turned on their head. I heard Jacob Rees-Mogg on the radio yesterday saying that leaving the EU with this deal will strengthen the UK. No one in this debate has agreed with that idiotic remark. Many of us are deeply concerned that this is the beginning of the break-up of the United Kingdom. It takes us towards the potential reunification of Ireland, and certainly it takes us further towards the independence of Scotland. As the son of a Scot and as someone who has a son currently living in Edinburgh, this is a matter of personal, as well as national, concern.

We are told that we will regain sovereignty over regulations and standards but it has not been explained why that is so important. We are also assured that we want not to lower any of the standards but to raise them. However, perhaps we want not to raise them idiosyncratically so that we have different good ones compared with those of the European Union and America. Why that is so important, the Government have totally failed to explain.

The Prime Minister says in his Statement that,

“the greatest single restoration of national sovereignty in our parliamentary history”,

is part of the aim. I much prefer what was said by Geoffrey Howe—a man I much admired on the Conservative Benches—when he talked about the need for Britain to learn how to share sovereignty and how we would hold on to greater influence over our own affairs if we learned to share with our natural friends and partners. After all, we do not control our future prosperity. That lies in the hands of companies such as Hitachi, Nissan, Tata, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus, with their headquarters outside this country. When, and if, we leave the European Union, we will discover whether they are willing to stay committed to this country. If they move out and if foreign investment dries up, we will be in deep trouble and the economic assessments will prove to have been too modest in their gloom.

Then we are told that we can negotiate our own free trade agreements to our greater advantage. With whom? With India, China, Russia and the United States? Would the United States be more generous to the UK than it has been with the EU? That looks extremely unlikely. The world is at present moving away from free trade, as is the United States, and we in our turn are moving away from the world’s largest free trade bloc and single market.

Then we are told that leaving the EU will free us from bureaucracy. We have heard about the need to have new rules of origin, VAT receipts and refunds, ​and customs checks. That is a substantial extra collection of bureaucracy on cross-border trade. The withdrawal agreement and the future framework talk about a Joint Committee with a range of specialised committees that will manage our new relationship. We will need very large numbers of extra officials to manage those, as well as doubling the staff in our bilateral embassies because we will no longer be able to negotiate multilaterally in Brussels.

I want to turn to the future framework. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, that there has been a remarkable lack of attention to this document, although it is extraordinarily important. The Prime Minister has offered us no coherent vision of the future relationship. Someone has to look at this to see where we are going. One hundred and forty-one paragraphs of the political declaration cover a very wide range of issues, including data protection; participation in European programmes on science and innovation, culture, youth exchanges and education development; the European Neighbourhood Policy; intellectual property; family law co-operation; transport; energy; fishing; global co-operation on climate change; sustainable development; health and epidemics; foreign policy, security and defence; the UK contribution to joint defence operations; intelligence exchanges; whether we have access to the European Union Satellite Centre; space co-operation, about which it says very little because we have not got very far; cybersecurity; illegal migration, counterterrorism; et cetera. That is all to be negotiated, ideally by December 2020. That is not going to be very easy, but it is at least the intention.

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Ed Davey: Lib Dems will push for a referendum

We are trying our best to win a People’s Vote, said Ed Davey tonight.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, he talked about Boris Johnson’s failures, and said that Lib Dems would continue to work with other parties to try to secure a People’s Vote. Watch here.  He added that the important thing was to hear about an extension to Article 50 first then work out where to go next.

He pointed out that an election wouldn’t necessarily solve the Brexit issue but a People’s Vote would.

He noted that Labour had failed to support our amendment to the Queen’s speech today. It called for a People’s Vote but wasn’t called because it didn’t have Labour support.

So all that fuss last night was simply a smokescreen to detract from their failure to do what most o their supporters want.

Channel 4 later reported that the Government was going to go on strike if it didn’t get its own way on Monday.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday Julie Smith: This deal is not in the national interest

We continue with our Lords speeches on the special Saturday sitting. This next one is highly significant. Julie Smith had not voted against the triggering of Article 50 because she felt that we would have to leave. She has changed her mind and explains why;

My Lords, it is normally courteous to thank the Leader of the House for repeating Statements from the Prime Minister. However, on this occasion, I rather wish she had not. The Prime Minister articulated a view, reiterated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, that he hopes that the two halves of our country—the 52% and the 48%—can now speak with one voice. I made a similar comment in July 2016, straight after the referendum.

I am a democrat and was willing to respect the result of the referendum. It is a matter of record that I did not vote against triggering Article 50. During the referendum, like the Government, I was very clear and said time and again that a vote to leave meant that we would leave. However, the fact that I believe in democracy does not necessarily mean that I have changed my mind, any more than any of my fellow Liberal Democrats have done, about the importance and value of membership of the European Union. That the Prime Minister could stand in the House of Commons this morning and say, “I have not heard anybody over the last three and a half years make a case about Brexit other than in practical terms” is deeply disingenuous. The fact that people have been arguing on the basis of the situation we are in does not mean that we have changed our minds. I have not rehearsed the pre-referendum arguments over the course of the last three and a half years, because we had already had that debate. That does not mean that I do not think that membership of the European Union is by far the best thing that this country can aspire to.

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Of course the Lib Dems oppose exposing our NHS in future trade deals

If you’re seeing attacks from Labour types on social media tonight, saying that we didn’t vote for their amendment which, amongst other things, called for the NHS to be protected in future trade deals, ignore them.

Political parties often do this. It’s a silly game and I don’t like it when we do it, either.

It goes like this.

You lay down an amendment that has a bit of good stuff in it, and you combine it with something that another party just isn’t going to go for. Then when they don’t vote for your amendment you go after them on social media.

Today Labour’s amendment read as follows;

At end add ‘but respectfully regrets that the Gracious Speech does not repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to restore a publicly provided and administered National Health Service and protect it from future trade agreements that would allow private companies competing for services who put profit before public health and that could restrict policy decisions taken in the public interest.’

Now I know that many, including me, in this party had concerns about the reforms in the 2012 Act. But there was some good stuff in there, on social care and on mental health, both issues very important to us. So even if we think that the Act isn’t perfect, we would go with amending rather than appealing it.

So we didn’t vote for the amendment.We didn’t vote against it either. We abstained.  However, we have good form on the NHS and trade deals.  For a start, we have on very many occasions challenged the government on exactly this point. We do not want to see the NHS undermined by Donald Trump, thank you very much. Vince Cable used to challenge the government on this all the time. Look at this from February last year:

The Prime Minister’s non-answer to my question today can only infer that our NHS is indeed for sale under the Conservatives.

Her pathetic non-committal response, failing to even mention our health service once, stands in stark contrast to guarantees given in 2015 by the EU trade negotiator with the US during the TTIP negotiations that our NHS would be protected.

Unfortunately Brexit Britain, standing on our own, will be in a far weaker negotiating position.

 

Ed Davey said here that “we must make sure that the NHS is not up for grabs in any trade deal.”

Jo Swinson also talked about the danger to the NHS during the leadership campaign in an interview with the Standard. 

At the time of the Brexit vote we had Obama. Now the world is much more unstable. There’s the rise of China, Putin, strong men leaders — do you want to be at the mercy of these superpowers? They aren’t going to be giving us great terms on a trade deal; there’s chlorinated chicken, the NHS is on the table. Frankly that is a cause for concern.

We need to be a wee bit careful when we are under social media attack from Labour or (or SNP types for that matter). We can be inclined to think they must somehow be right – when in fact the trolls are at best grossly misrepresenting the facts.  It is hardly surprising that Labour want to throw some mud to deflect attention from the fact that their MPs helped get the awful Withdrawal Agreement Bill over its first parliamentary hurdle last night.

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Time for a fresh start

My former boss, Tim Farron, was frequently heard to say that a party never lost a general election because its manifesto wasn’t long enough.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto process, whilst very democratic, has one fundamental weakness.  It starts from the bottom up with dozen of policies on top of which the party will then attempt to impose a central message, rather than with a core narrative, which it will then illustrate with a series of eye-catching retail policies.

For the European elections the party communications staff very successfully circumnavigated this difficulty by ignoring the content of the manifesto altogether and simply plastering “Bollocks to Brexit” across the cover.

But the challenge of making a general election manifesto short enough to win an election still remains.   The devil has all the best tunes and there is no doubt that the Conservative message of “Get Brexit Done” seriously resonates on an emotional level.  We are seeing it in their steady climb in the polls and in the willingness of nineteen Labour MPs to endorse a Withdrawal Bill which they surely know is even more deeply flawed than Theresa May’s.  And we see it in the Labour party’s ambivalence both to a general election and to opposing the Withdrawal Bill outright.

At the same time, the Lib Dem message seems to have lost some of its emotional appeal.   It is still a vow to ‘stop Brexit’ but it feels more resigned “We will fight on” but lacks an imperative for the public to support it.

So what should be the Lib Dem equivalent to “Get Brexit done”?  The attractiveness of the slogan is that it speaks to the overwhelming sense that this has all dragged on too long and that we are all just desperate to make it stop.   Of course, getting the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed would in no way “make it stop” – it would merely just trigger the next stage in the negotiations which would drag on years.

What the Lib Dems need to be shouting from the rooftops is that the only way to “make it stop” is to revoke or overturn the referendum result. Whatever way you look the sense is that the last three years have been an unmitigated disaster for Britain: whatever way you want to go we are currently headed in the wrong direction with politicians at war with each other and ignoring the people.

But “make it stop” is not enough.  It is an instruction not an impulse.   Instead, the sentiment that most attunes with people’s emotional need to rewind and start again is a fresh start.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Jeremy Purvis on the potential break up of the UK

At the weekend, Lib Dem Lords basically tore apart Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, highlighting its danger to our prosperity and to the very make up of our country. Jeremy Purvis highlighted the threat to our country.

For the first time in our union’s history, part of our union will be under the legislative authority of a foreign entity in which the people living in that area will have no representation. Part of our union will have the laws governing its economic policy and trade regulations set by a foreign entity whose rules they will have no say in. Taxes affecting businesses and consumers will be set by that foreign entity but their representatives will have no vote on them. To be clear: according to the schedules to the new backstop, 371 laws and regulations that would not apply to Great Britain would automatically be applied to Northern Ireland. On 1 October, the noble Lord, Lord Duncan, stated:

“Any deal on Brexit on 31 October must avoid the whole or just part—that is, Northern Ireland—being trapped in an arrangement where it is a rule taker”.—

That is what the Government propose today. The Conservative Party frequently lauds the fact that it is the Conservative and Unionist Party owing to its role in the defeat of Irish home rule, but it now puts in front of us a proposal for the UK to be one country with two systems. We can see elsewhere in the world how effective that is. Yesterday, this “one country, two systems” Brexit was hailed by the Foreign Secretary as terrific news for Northern Ireland because it will stay aligned with the EU. Presumably, he will now say that doing so is also open to Scotland.

The deal is utterly contrary to the Government’s position when they adopted the UK internal market framework, which this Parliament debated, and when they explicitly said that there would be no division within the four nations of the union. Given that it is also the opposite of what Boris Johnson presented to ​the DUP conference, when he said that this would never happen under a Conservative Government, there is little surprise that the lines in the sand have been washed away by waves of duplicity. As my noble friend Newby said, in January the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, stated:

“We will give an unequivocal commitment that that there will be no divergence in rules between … Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.—

The House can make its own mind up about where equivocation lies. Yesterday, the Home Secretary spoke doublespeak with alacrity on the BBC. She claimed that the deal takes back our laws—but not the 371 of them that apply to Northern Ireland and, therefore, the jurisdiction of the European court. She said that it takes back our borders— but it creates a new border between the nations of our island and, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, indicated, a new European Union border within the United Kingdom for the first time in our history. She said that it takes back control over our money—but we will be a tax collector for the EU, and the UK bodies in Northern Ireland will be forced to apply EU taxes that they have no role in determining.

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Sam Gyimah MP writes: Why it would be a fatal error for Parliament to pass Boris Johnson’s Deal in three days

In the almost 10 years I have been an MP, I have never seen the timetable for debating a Bill become such an issue.

But, it’s not just because it’s to do with Brexit.

Let’s be clear…the Deal we are debating is a constitutional treaty between the UK and the EU and its 27 member states that will set the foundations for our lives for decades to come. It is not like any deal that most people have been familiar with or negotiated in their time.

There are actually two deals here – two Brexits being negotiated. We have the deal for Northern Ireland, which is soft-Brexit, and the deal for the rest of the UK which is clearly a hard-Brexit.

So, we are being asked to analyse each deal on their own, how they interact together and how they link us with the EU in three days?

It shouldn’t be acceptable for the Government to give us this little time to properly scrutinise their plans. Nikki Di Costa, an expert on Parliamentary procedure and close advisor to Boris Johnson, said only a few months ago that four weeks isn’t enough time to debate Theresa May’s deal, so 72 hours is absolutely shocking and an affront to our democracy.

To put this in perspective, we will have spent longer discussing the Wild Animals in Circuses Act, something which affected 19 animals at the time of debate, than debating the future of our country.

A line often used by Brexiteers is that we have had three years to debate this. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is the first time we have seen the actual wording of the deal. What we have been debating up until now are the different ways we could leave the EU, but the Deal we have been presented with this week is the first time we have seen the actual plan and the legal consequences that flow from that and it needs proper scrutiny.

The Government is trying to weaponise the emotional aspect of this debate by saying ‘Get It Done’. But we have to get real and understand what this Deal will mean in the months ahead.

Boris Johnson will be able to go for No Deal in December 2020 and Parliament will not be able to stop it – all he has to do is fail to present any Free Trade Deal to Parliament and we will simply crash out.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Jonny Oates

This deal is the beginning of a tortuous process, said Jonny Oates when he spoke in the Lords, and it would be the poorest who would be hit hardest. Here is his speech in full:

My Lords, the Prime Minister, we are told, has succeeded where all said he would fail. He has returned apparently triumphant, with a deal that the nay-sayers said could not be done. Or so his champions claim. Not all the nay-sayers doubted he could do it. I certainly did not, and I suspect that many others who have studied him over the years did not either. Experience suggested that he had just the qualities to succeed. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said, he is the quintessential showman, the man of smoke and mirrors who always prefers style over substance. It is not so hard, after all, to get a deal if you do not care much about what is in it or anything about the people you are prepared to betray to get it.

The Prime Minister is well practised in the art of abandoning people who are no longer of interest to him, as the DUP is now finding out. I cannot pretend to have huge sympathy for the DUP, because if you make government a purely transactional matter to get what suits you, you should not be surprised when the entity you are transacting with repays you in kind.

Nor do I have much sympathy for the DUP’s claims that the deal breaches the consent principle. It did not seem to care much about the consent of the nationalist community, or indeed the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, when it backed the disastrous policy of Brexit. We all failed Northern Ireland ahead of the referendum in not recognising the full extent of the difficulties that would be thrust upon its people, but no party failed it more than the DUP, which has done more to undermine the union than any allegedly unionist party in history. It is living proof of the adage that tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

So much then for how we have got here. What about where we have actually arrived? It is a dismal location. Someone described it to me as lipstick on Theresa May’s deal, but that implies something more attractive, and the changes that the PM has secured make it less attractive, ​if that is possible. It is nothing like the outcome promised in the referendum: it undermines the integrity of our union; it makes one part of our country subject to the courts of the European Union, which the Brexiters told us was unforgivable; it puts a border down the Irish Sea, which the PM told us would be unconscionable; it will make us all substantially poorer—estimates suggest, as the noble Lord, Lord Reid, has said, that the deal will leave people around £2,000 worse off on average; far from having millions to spend on the NHS, we will have billions less to spend on everything. So much for the promises of the leave campaign. These are not abstract consequences; they are real-life consequences that will impact people up and down the country.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Sarah Ludford – No progressive politician could vote for this deal

Sarah Ludford is very much in our thoughts at the moment. It’s only three weeks since her husband, Steve Hitchins died. On Saturday she was in her place in the House of Lords pulling apart this appalling Brexit deal. She reminded peers that it was being sold to the Tory right wing as a delayed no deal. She talked about how it would mean more bureaucracy for businesses in Northern Ireland and all of us as we lose things like our pet passports and seamless access to healthcare. She warned of the effect on workers’ rights, saying that no progressive politician could vote for the deal.

My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Reid; I agreed with every word. I found the opening remarks of the noble Baroness, the Leader of the House, somewhat perplexing. She reproached those of us arguing against Brexit for not arguing for a federal Europe. The clue is in the name: “remain”. We just want the status quo, not to expand or change our existing terms of membership.​

I agree with Tony Blair—not something I used to say. He rightly says that the Government are using the,

“sentiment of ‘let’s get it done, let’s get it over with, end the agony’, to sweep away proper scrutiny of what is a profoundly bad deal for our country”.

Tony Blair is right that:

“You don’t take a decision of destiny through a spasm of impatience”.

Boris Johnson had previously damned the division of Northern Ireland and Great Britain through regulatory checks and customs controls down the Irish Sea, declaring that:

“No British Conservative government could or should sign up to any such arrangement”.

Now, he says that this is a fantastic arrangement. It is a looking-glass world. Can the Minister, in winding up, clarify how these arrangements comply with Section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, which makes it unlawful for the Government to enter into arrangements whereby Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory from Great Britain?

It is astonishing that the Chancellor refuses to give us a new economic analysis, but both government and independent figures suggest that every household will be around £2,000 worse off than even under Theresa May’s version—a drop of 6% or 7% in GDP. The weaker Canada -minus trade relationship that this Government envisages, compared with Mrs May’s association agreement, will worsen that prospect. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, told Radio 4 yesterday that access to the customs union and single market would be good for Northern Ireland’s economic stability and security. Excellent. So why is such access being torn away from England, Scotland and Wales? It would be good for us too. Instead, the Government want to cut the rest of the UK adrift from the continental internal market. This does not honour the heritage of Mrs Thatcher.

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Super Lib Dem Lords on Super Saturday: Dick Newby on the economic impact of the Deal

The House of Lords also sat on Saturday. We’ll be publishing or Lib Dem Lords’ s speeches in full. First up is Lib Dem Lords leader Dick Newby who said that the Government was trying to avoid scrutiny of a deal which would have a detrimental effect on our economy and the union.

My Lords, your Lordships’ House is sitting on a Saturday for the first time since 1983 and for only the fourth time in 80 years. These occasions have typically been to debate a serious foreign threat to the vital interests of the United Kingdom: the outbreak of the Second World War, Suez, the Falklands. Today, we sit on a Saturday to try to resolve a serous internal threat to the unity and future of the Conservative Party. There is no reason, other than the Prime Minister’s macho commitment to leave the EU by 31 October, for the Government’s decision to recall Parliament today.

Such a timetable is a complete abuse of the parliamentary process. It does not allow the appropriate impact assessment to be made, for the relevant Select Committees to consider the proposals, or for the Commons and your Lordships’ House to give proper consideration to the withdrawal Bill. It barely gives us time to read and compare the documents. The withdrawal agreement itself—some 535 pages—was available for the first time for noble Lords to pick up from the Printed Paper Office just this morning.

We certainly have not had time to identify and work out what some of the changes mean. For example, the sections in the political declaration on dispute settlement and the forward process have been substantially rewritten. Why? Parliament is being asked to approve these changes with no effective ability to question Ministers on them. It is a disgrace.

It is, of course perfectly understandable for the Government to want such a timetable, because if they were to give Parliament time to look at the deal properly, a number of its highly undesirable consequences would become clearer. There would, for example, be time to have an economic assessment. Latest figures from UK in a Changing Europe suggest that the hit to GDP of this deal would be about 6.4%. This is broadly in line with the Government’s own analysis of last November, which suggested that, with the kind of restrictive immigration system the Government have in mind, such a deal could have an even bigger effect. For the north-east, north-west and the West Midlands, the fall in GDP would be considerably higher again.

There would be greater time to expose the fact that, as a consequence of the new deal, EU components of goods manufactured in the UK will no longer be treated as of domestic origin. Given the low proportion of UK content in cars, for example, this would have the effect of making it impossible to export any car manufactured in the UK to a third country duty free, even under a free trade agreement. This raises the spectre of the end of bulk car manufacturing in the United Kingdom.

More time would enable us to examine the threat to the level playing field on environmental standards and employment rights, which were guaranteed in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement but are now relegated to the eminently amendable political declaration, with no presumption there that we should follow future improvements in standards under EU rules. More time ​would give us the opportunity to question whether, as the Conservative John Baron has claimed, the Government see this deal as leading to the equivalent of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period next year.

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How super Lib Dem MPs contributed to Super Saturday

Here are the Lib Dem contributions from our MPs in yesterday’s “Super Saturday” debates.

First up was Jo, basically telling the Prime Minister that he was too feart to put his deal to the people:

The Prime Minister’s deal removes protections on workers’ rights. It puts a border down the Irish sea and, according to the Government’s own analysis, will damage our economy on a scale greater than the financial crash. Today, hundreds of thousands of people will be outside demanding a final say in a people’s vote. Is not it the truth that the reason why the Prime Minister refuses their calls is that he knows that, if given the option, the people will reject his bad deal and choose to remain in the European Union?

Which he didn’t answer, of course.

Then Luciana tackled him on the fact that the Government hadn’t even provided back of a cigarette packet figures for how the deal would impact on the economy:

The Prime Minister’s Brexit Secretary was on television this morning. He confirmed that no economic analysis of the deal has been done. I ask the House to let that sink in: no economic analysis of the deal, on which we are all expected to vote today, has been done. How does the Prime Minister anticipate that Members on all sides the House can, in good faith, be expected to vote on a deal today that will impact on our country for decades to come?

Answer came there none. And the same when Sarah Wollaston had a go later:

Evidence matters, Prime Minister. How can he possibly assure our constituents that this is a good deal if he has not carried out an economic impact assessment of what it will cost them? If he has carried that out, why on earth are we not able to see it as we debate this today?

Tom Brake challenged him to rule out leaving at the end of the transition period without a deal:

Would the Prime Minister agree to pass an Act making it unlawful for us to leave at the end of the transition phase without a deal?

And he refused to do so. Quelle surprise. But look at what he said, while thanking ministers and civil servants for procuring the deal:

I respectfully say to the right hon. Gentleman that I do not think their position has been made easier by measures passed in the name of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). Not a good idea!

A bit of a contradiction since he’s been hailing this brilliant deal he brought back with the Benn Act in place.

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Jo Swinson on “What’s next?”

Embed from Getty Images
Use the arrows above to see a slide show of today’s People’s Vote march

After today’s historic session in parliament, which has extended PM Johnson’s unblemished record of defeats, Jo Swinson has written to party members with the following summary:

After today’s votes, the fight to stop Brexit continues.

Hundreds of thousands of people are marching outside Parliament, where I’ve just finished voting, to demand a final say.

After today’s votes, Boris Johnson must obey the law and send a letter asking for Article 50 to be extended.

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Norman Lamb: I can’t vote for this deal

Norman Lamb has been part of the MPs for a deal group in Parliament. He has from the start wanted us to agree the least damaging form of Brexit.

This morning he has tweeted a short video to explain that he will not be supporting this deal.

I think it is important to acknowledge how hard this will have been for him and to reflect on what he has said about the abuse he has received. We are better than this. Watch here.

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The last time the House of Commons sat on a Saturday

I remember the last time the House of Commons sat on a Saturday. It was in the immediate aftermath of Argentina invading the British Falkland Islands. The British Government had pretty much neglected the islands and their inhabitants, who didn’t want to find themselves under Argentinian rule.

I was 14 years old.

I spent the 1982 Easter holidays decorating my bedroom under instruction from my Mum with the new radio station Moray Firth Radio playing in the background. On the hourly news programmes, syndicated from Independent Radio News, Anna Soubry gave us up to the minute accounts of what was happening 8000 …

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The one thing about this Brexit deal that everyone should know

Basically it is being sold to the ERG as staking the ground for no deal in a year’s time.

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Daisy Cooper on why Boris Johnson’s deal is so bad for our country

I first met Daisy Cooper when we both had tea with Tim Farron in Portcullis House as newbie Federal Executive members at the end of 2012.

She is someone who has no problem with speaking truth to power and she quickly became a very trusted colleague.

I hope very much that we’ll have her as the MP for St Albans after the next election. She has put in so much work. She reminds me of Jo Swinson when she was campaigning to win East Dunbartonshire in 2005.

Today, she put a brilliant analysis of why Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is so bad on her Facebook page. With her permission, here it is. Share widely.

The PM’s so-called ‘deal’ is an attempt to pull the wool over peoples eyes and deliver a hard no-deal BREXIT by the back door. Worse still, it deletes the UK’s commitment to workers rights and environmental standards, which Johnson’s Conservative would happily trash. Here are three important facts:

1. Voting for Johnson’s deal is voting for No Deal in a year’s time. With no backstop (which ensured a soft Brexit), if Tories fail to get a hard Brexit Free Trade Agreement, it’s no deal at the end of 2020, as ERG will never vote for the transition to be extended.

2. Johnson’s Deal is bad for workers’ rights and the environment. The commitment to a “level playing field” by adopting these EU standards has BEEN DELETED from the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement and now appears only in the aspirational Political Declaration.

3. Otherwise the deal still has all the flaws of Theresa May’s Deal. It introduces red tape bureaucracy as the UK will have to collect tariffs for the EU (derided by Johnson himself a year ago as a “crazy system”). It puts a border down the Irish Sea. It hastens the break-down of the Union and the UK (with Scotland already saying it wants the same advantages as NI, which will be subjected to an emulated customs union & single market arrangement). And it will open the door to smuggling, which will fund criminality and dissident activity. Northern Ireland is so divided it’s assembly isn’t even sitting at the moment – now it will have to uphold an international treaty and, whether it likes it or not, will have to hold “border polls” (referenda) every few years, and/but not until 2025.

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17 October 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Lib Dems: Brexit deal must be put to the people
  • Record high knife crime offences shows Tories failure to act
  • Lib Dems: Brexit deal must be put to the people

Welsh Lib Dems: Brexit deal must be put to the people

Commenting on reports that a deal has been agreed between the EU and the UK Government, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds, said:

It is remarkably clear that Boris Johnson’s deal would be bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment.

His deal will create a hard border down the Irish Sea, hurting Welsh farmers

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Jo: The fight to stop Brexit is far from over

So Boris Johnson has struck an eleventh hour deal which he intends to put to Parliament as hundreds of thousands of marchers take to the street demanding a People’s Vote.  The Lib Dems will be meeting at the Duke of Wellington Arch in Hyde Park at 11 am.

Jo’s reaction was pretty clear. We continue to fight to stop Brexit:

The fight to stop Brexit is far from over.

Boris Johnson’s deal would be bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment.

The next few days will set the direction of our country for generations, and I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit.

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Brexit: the penny drops as Sir Humphrey is wheeled in amidst the “whiff of sexism”

Sir Ivan Rogers, former UK ambassador to the EU, had to have an uncomfortable conversation with the then Prime Minister, Theresa May in 2016. He told her:

…you have made three commitments in good faith to different audiences, but they are not really compatible with each other.

You have said to the Irish, under no circumstances will a hard border be erected across the island of Ireland.

You have said to the Democratic Unionist community under no circumstances will there be divergence from the rest of Great Britain.

And you have said to the right of your own party that you are heading out of the customs union.

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15 October 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Car firm job losses show Johnson’s disregard for British business
  • Welsh Lib Dems: Poll shows we are now third party for Westminster
  • Lib Dems call for urgent action to tackle rising hate crimes
  • Lib Dems table People’s Vote amendment to Queen’s speech

Car firm job losses show Johnson’s disregard for British business

Responding to the reports that one in three car firms are cutting jobs, Liberal Democrat shadow Brexit Secretary Tom Brake said:

It is time Boris Johnson woke up to the fact that the manufacturing sector, and the automotive industries in particular, are suffering badly from Brexit-related uncertainty. Jobs are being lost, investment is down

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Johnson’s Proposed Brexit Deal: Chances and likely Impact on UK economy and public finances

Whist there is history of EU negotiations going to the wire and wee-hours of coffee-fuelled (now smokeless) last minute give-and-take, these events tend to be about intra EU matters such as the EU budget or the “musical chairs” argy-bargy of who agreeing who and which country gets which plum jobs within the European institutions. 

Can a modified deal therefore be agreed between the Johnson government and the Commission in time to put forward to the European Council on October 17-18? 

On a range of probabilities, yes, but it is a low-probability one. But it would essentially require the PM to essentially converge – if not fully cave in – to the EU demands.  The chances that the required sequence of steps: agreement, Council blessing, agreement by UK parliament (inc DUP and ERG), and before askance from the other EU27 plus the European Parliament can all be addressed remains unlikely. 

The baseline remains that there will be no FULL agreement in place although the PM could then go to the electorate with a partial agreement that allows him to argue that he has “delivered” pre October 31st  even if the Benn Act kicks in for an extension (which as I have argued could go on to June 2020).

Johnson v May Deal Basics

  • The Johnson deal is to effectively agree that Northern Ireland will continue to, in effect, remain in the status quo governed by EU rules for all goods AND with no border checks with the Republic of Ireland
  • The UK will want to exit from compliance with EU rules on labour and environmental standards where previously there was to be no divergence from EU law
  • The J-deal seeks full flexibility for free-trade deals with 3rd countries where previously it was for services only AND
  • A Good-only EU-UK trade deal akin or “Canada minus”

Implications

  1. Not completely addressed so far but Northern Ireland would in effect become something between the Isle of Man and a full Home Nation and may well set in train the move towards full Irish unification. Leaving aside parliamentary arithmetic and the DUP, put to a referendum, voters in Northern Ireland would likely agree to this.
  2. Both the Johnson and May deals represent a worse outcome economically for the UK vis-à-vis the REMAIN position. 
  3. Modelling undertaken by Professors Menon and Portes (and excluding spillover effects such as a more brutal potential Scottish Independence) have shown that living standards – as measured by per capita incomes –  would decline more under the Johnson deal than under May’s…and both are worse than the current status quo of REMAIN.
  4. That there would be an ouflow of EU workers by up to 600,000 over the coming years partly compensated by an inflow of non-EU workers – with the result of labour shortages in key sectors inc NHS, falling productivity 
  5. No fiscal savings from exiting (aka the £350m per week fallacy) because the UK would have to set up its own agencies where currently the work is delegated to EU bodies, raise its own aid financing currently carried out by the EU and lose access to funds returned through Structural funds and grants for R&D and education
  6. And A WORSENING short-term fiscal scenario relative to REMAIN: around 2% of GDP worse off or equivalent to between £40-60bn.
  7. Beyond the macro-fiscal, there should be alarm bells ringing at the implied roll-back of structural reforms (Competition Policy, State Aid, Consumer Rights, Labour rights et al). The current Johnson deal is arguably even worse from a macroeconomic context and potentially imply a roll-back of a basic framework of labour and consumer rights not seen for generations

Summary

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We must put the case for Remain and do it repeatedly in the public domain

I sent our local newspaper a letter giving ten points for Remain; they published it on 1st October with the heading “Ten reasons for us to have a new vote”. That is because I prefaced it by saying “Let me express my joy should there be a public vote to remain.” My reasons were affected by my responding to Brexiteers’ previous letters expressing joy at leaving. I am showing this here because I think we need to be saying much more of this. So many people are unfortunately no longer interested in what goes on in Parliament but their reaction …

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Are you marching with the Lib Dems to stop Brexit next Saturday?

Next Saturday, as Parliament sits for the first time on a Saturday in 37 years to try and sort the Brexit mess, a massive People’s Vote march will be taking place. MPs will be able to hear the end of the rally in Parliament Square.

The Lib Dems will be marching in support of a People’s Vote with the very clear aim to stop Brexit.

We will be meeting at 11 am at the Duke of Wellington Memorial Statue at Hyde Park Corner.

In October last year, I made the 800 miles

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Why revoke!

Revoke and put a stop to itIn an ideal world a referendum result would be annulled by a subsequent referendum, the symmetry is undeniable. This is why it has been and is Liberal Democrat policy to support a referendum in which the electorate can choose between a realistic Brexit agreement and revoking Article 50 to remain in the EU. Unfortunately. there is little chance this can happen for the simple reason that there is no Brexit agreement that Brexiters agree upon, nor anything they are likely to agree upon. Nonetheless if Johnson and his inner circle settle on a particular Brexit, it should be put to the electorate.

Three years on from the referendum Brexiters have manifestly failed to find a plan to implement the result. Instead Brexiters have boxed themselves in.  Mrs May. seemingly ignorant of the difference between the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and with a nasty, obsessive fixation about immigrants, issued senseless red lines and quickly sunk herself into a hole. She vainly endeavoured to pander to the most fanatical Europhobes for whom she, nor anyone else, could ever be anti-EU enough.

This failure was unsurprising, the surprise is that anyone might have thought it possible to find agreement between Brexiters who dreamt of an unregulated global free market and Brexiters who dreamt of closed borders and protectionist policies.

May threw away a Conservative majority and Johnson’s purge of the moderates has rendered his putsch incapable of governing. An election beckons, but that too is in the hands of the opposition. 

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10 October 2019 – today’s press release

Govt threats to deport EU citizens are appalling – Jardine

Responding to comments by Branden Lewis that EU citizens living in the UK could face deportation, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Christine Jardine said:

I am absolutely appalled. I have just been at a school where a Hungarian-born pupil told me she was scared about Brexit, and now I learn that the Conservative Government is threatening to deport people like her.

Brandon Lewis has finally confirmed what we’ve known all along: Boris Johnson has no intention of keeping his promise to automatically guarantee the rights of EU citizens living

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The EU logic for an extension through to the summer of 2020 and implications for the UK

In a nutshell, the 7-year EU Financial Framework runs 2014-2020. More straightforward for the management of the EU budget for the European Commission and a neat end-point. Or is it?

The noise out of number 10 to be un-cooperative to our continental partners may prove to be temporary bellicose “humbug” to use the PM’s own recent rhetoric – not least if the UK’s common interest in avoiding further regional turbulence in the Levant: military, economic – should US President Trump’s threats to destroy the Turkish economy bear fruit, further potential conflagration into an already fragile middle east that could lead to further issues of migrants that Turkey itself has been in effect paid by the EU to keep in situ through the ‘EU-Turkey refugee agreement’ through a €6bn pledge of which half has already been disbursed.

From the EU’s perspective therefore, there is no other major big EU-wide decisions in the offing for another year that Britain could threaten to either derail or upon which to simply do a spoiler akin to Farage’s MEPs turning their backs in the European Parliament. For EU capitals and the new incoming Commission and European Parliament a year offers enough time for the UK to go through the political catharsis: post October 31st “do or die” deadline gone, an election, perhaps a referendum, who knows maybe yet another election still, a possible Scottish referendum..

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LibLink: Luisa Porritt MEP: Britain’s Democracy Gap

In an article for Politico, Deputy Leader of Britain’s Lib Dem MEPs Luisa Porritt argues that the behaviour of the British Government is damaging democracy in this country.

A British government that is threatening to march the country out of the European Union because it claims its institutions are “undemocratic” shut down its own country’s parliament last month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson uses incendiary language and accuses those who disagree with his Brexit policy of “terrible collaboration” with the EU.

Britain today is increasingly out of step with the basic principles of democracy it once would have championed.

The Brexiteers, ironically, decry the EU as undemocratic. That’s simply not true:

Compare that with what’s happening in Brussels. While my British parliamentary colleagues were shut out of their chamber against their will, members of the European Parliament have been pressing on with urgent issues.

The European Parliament is scrutinizing the incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s new team and has taken a strong stand against nominees with potential conflicts of interest. MEPs have also set an ambitious agenda to tackle the climate emergency and ensure that the EU’s member states uphold the rule of law — something our own government needs reminding of.

How far, she notes, we have fallen:

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9 October 2019 – today’s press releases

  • New figures show 2.7 million EU citizens without Settled Status
  • Swinson: Millions in Britain value our place in the EU

New figures show 2.7 million EU citizens without Settled Status

The Liberal Democrats have warned that the Government is failing to guarantee the rights of all 3.6 million EU citizens in the UK, as new official figures show that fewer than 1 million people had been given Settled Status by the end of September.

The latest EU Settlement Scheme Statistics, published today by the Home Office, show that 929,600 people had been granted Settled Status by the end of September 2019 – meaning …

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