Ten former MEPs write….Why now is not the right time to campaign to rejoin the EU

This weekend at our party conference we will debate our Europe motion, clarifying the party’s policy on our relations with and towards the EU.

The main focus of debate between members is likely to be around  ‘r’. Not the COVID ‘r’, which we have all become used to, but the Brexit ‘r’ word – rejoin. 

We all remember the joy we felt last May when our representation in Europe went from one solitary MEP, Catherine Bearder, to a surprisingly fulsome group of 16 from right across the country – several of whom had not expected to be elected. 

It was a symbol of how strongly people felt about Brexit, and, thanks to a proportional electoral system, their commitment to EU membership was reflected in our election result. 

I can honestly say no one in the party, or outside it, regrets our departure from Europe more strongly than the 16 of us. 

But the world has changed since 31st January beyond what any of us could have imagined.

Hard though it is to accept, for those of us who fought tooth and nail to stop Brexit, most people’s attention is now far more  are now far more focused distracted by on COVID and the implications it is having for their families and jobs, the economy, education and our health and social care services. 

As a party, it would be wise for us  to focus on the fact that only 2% of UK voters now think Brexit is the most important issue facing us. We are back to the sort of numbers seen before the EU referendum was even a thing. Remember that? When no one ever talked about our relationship with Europe – except the Daily Mail!

And we also have to face the fact that, thanks to an undemocratic electoral system that fails us every time, we have a government in power with a majority big enough to push any kind of Brexit through, regardless of the damage it will wreak.

December’s general election was particularly heinous, with our vote growing more than that of any other party, to 3.7 million, yet we  still lost an MP. The Conservatives ended up with 56% of the seats on just 43% of the votes. 

What was very apparent was that the will, the desire, to remain part of the EU family was overtaken by people’s exhaustion with the Brexit debate, fear of letting Jeremy Corbyn into number 10 and a desire, when the chips were down, to just ‘get it done’ and move on. 

Our job now, as the third largest opposition party, is to hold Johnson’s government relentlessly and unstintingly to account, as it fails to deliver what it promised in 2016, and 2019.

And to work as hard as we can to pin the results of Brexit on those lying promises – and not let Johnson hide under the cover of COVID.

As former MEPs who represented our party so proudly in Brussels, we don’t believe that now is the right time to start campaigning to rejoin the EU – even though every single one of us believes passionately that that is where Britain properly belongs . 

Our role as a political party is to win elections. To put people in positions of power so they can effect change. So they can improve the lives of people and their communities.

This country is crying out for a strong liberal voice – and we have to be that voice. But by making ourselves unelectable we will be doing the exact opposite. And we will have failed as a political party.

We have to take heed of the millions of people last year  who thought we weren’t listening when we said we would unilaterally revoke Brexit if they voted us in.

As Ed Davey says, we have to start listening. And we have to convince voters that we hear their concerns. Making ‘rejoin the EU’ a major policy plank for the party right now is not going to achieve that – rather it will make us look even more cloth-eared than we did last year. 

This doesn’t mean we can no longer be the home for those ardent remainers who put their lives on hold for years to fight Brexit. It doesn’t mean we are any ‘less European’. 

We are an unashamedly pro-European party, our leader is passionately pro-European, and we know that remaining as close as possible to our EU friends and colleagues is in the best interests of Britain.

But we can’t campaign to rejoin the EU until we can take the public with us. Until they are ready to hear that message and get behind it. 

The public is not ready to revisit that debate and to hear the Brexit arguments rehashed all over again. 

It’s looking very likely that project fear will soon start morphing into project reality, and as time passes perhaps the tide will turn among the voting public and the call to rejoin the EU will become more mainstream. 

Until then we campaign vigorously for standards to be upheld – in agriculture, food imports and workers’ rights. We keep watch on what happens with medicine and food supplies. We do all we can to protect our academic, scientific and cultural life, and we push for the government to maintain cooperation in defence, security and judicial areas. 

We say loudly and proudly that we are unashamedly a pro-EU party, which clearly differentiates us from Labour and still offers a political home to all pro-Europeans. 

By working to achieve closer relations with the EU, and highlighting the folly of Brexit as it unfolds, we will prepare the ground to make it easier for us to rejoin at some point in the future. 

But this is a long game, and we must make our moves tactically and cleverly. Rejoin is not for now. 

For those reasons the majority of our former MEP group will be supporting  Amendment 2 on Sunday which supports the longer term objective of UK membership of the European Union. 

Caroline Voaden
Catherine Bearder
Sheila Ritchie
Lucy Nethsingha
Shaffaq Mohammed
Dinesh Dhamija
Judith Bunting
Irina von Wiese
Martin Horwood
Bill Newton Dunn

 

* Caroline Voaden was MEP for the South West of England from May 2019-January 2020.

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58 Comments

  • Yeovil Yokel 26th Sep '20 - 9:19am

    Thank you for all you did in the European Parliament in the short time you were there (and thank you also for turning out on a cold damp Saturday afternoon in Crewkerne last December to try to help us win back Yeovil!). Your penultimate paragraph sums up your argument nicely, and you have persuaded me that it is the right way to proceed, for now.

  • You are right, we simply have to keep our powder dry for that battle (campaign to rejoin the EU) which will come – but that time is not today.

  • Andy Hinton 26th Sep '20 - 9:31am

    Nigel Farage and the chorus of Euroskeptic media outriders that ennabled Brexit, of course, famously won their case by careful stealthy tactical politics, keeping their powder dry until everyone agreed with them.

  • I completely agree with the sentiment of this article. After a referendum, and two general elections, having rejoin as a policy plank now, would repel more than it would gain and provide easy ammunition for your political enemies and their powerful media interests. By all means restate your pro EU stance, but the Lib dems should be about internationalism as well. What foreign policy, economic and scientific endeavours does this now provide.

    But be hard and call out all the claims made by Leave and Tories during those campaigns. Have a fact check team, and hold the Tories to account for that they said and what actually happens.

    Not only are they breaking away from the EU, they are breaking up th UK, with a border with NI, giving credence to Scottish nationalism and now with a potential permit to enter Kent, installing barriers into England.

    Tend your wounds, mourn and reflect, then come out fighting.

    There said it.

  • It’s great to see the party support rejoin. And I agree that this time the party has to take people with it as it prepares for a future return – something that wasn’t done with previous pro-EU campaigns.

    Which is precisely why I prefer amendment one, which calls on the party to be prepared to make the case for EU membership, taking the public along with the party this time.

  • Rebecca Taylor 26th Sep '20 - 9:43am

    I don’t think anyone is expecting the LibDems to start a rejoin campaign right now. However, we can be absolutely clear that we still believe the UK is better off in the EU and that our long term aim would be to rejoin. I’m not sure we’re doing that now.

    One of the reasons Brexit is happening is a failure (yes even among LibDems the most pro European party) to stand up for EU membership for decades, while the anti-Europeans kept up a constant drip drip of anti EU stories and rhetoric that changed the debate.

    On a more forward looking note, I have heard it said that Brexit itself will be the best advert for EU membership. As a country and as individuals we took the benefits of our EU membership for granted (most of us didn’t even know what they were), so having them removed will shine a light for many.

    I only wish we don’t have to go through an absolute Brexitastrophe to get there
    * crosses fingers for least damaging Brexit *

  • Innocent Bystander 26th Sep '20 - 9:58am

    I thought this a well composed and rational contribution. A Rejoin platform is a decade away when the EU will have either morphed into the United States of Europe or reverted to a giant trading cooperative. Although I am pro Europe it is hard to see the former.
    It seems to want to extend its borders ever Eastwards which may end in ‘trouble’.

  • Phil Wainewright 26th Sep '20 - 10:34am

    This debate is not about *whether* we are the party of rejoin, it’s about *when* the country rejoins, and on what terms. Yes, Brexit is a disaster for this country and I heartily wish we weren’t leaving. But rejoining isn’t going back to what we had before, it will be a completely new trade negotiation. For a start, it very likely means committing to swapping sterling for the euro. Are we ready to sell that to the electorate?

    If we project ourselves as the party of rejoin no matter what, how can the electorate trust us to go into those negotiations and secure the best deal for Britain? Taking a stance that we want to rejoin when the time is right isn’t betraying our principles, it’s looking out for the best interests of the country.

  • richard underhill 26th Sep '20 - 10:39am

    Caroline Voaden | Sat 26th September 2020
    Andy Hinton 26th Sep ’20 – 9:31am
    The election system was not a common system agreed by the European Parliament.
    In the UK there were two systems, the better of which elected Naomi Long, leader of APNI.
    STV is also used for the large euro-constituencies in the Irish Republic.
    Nigel Farage was elected in Kent, the reality is that his numerous followers were cannon fodder.
    Boris Johnson’s sister was not elected. She is not a Tory.
    Appointing an ex-MEP to a paid job as trade advisor to this government sets a regrettable standard of integrity, What are his competences?

  • I can see that much effort went into composing the above post. At first glance it seems to perform contortions in order to get so many contradictions into one article. But was does the MEPSpeak actually say?

    It says that we love the EU and must Re-Join, but, er let’s not actually tell anyone that last bit. Everyone else has moved on and we could end up looking silly.

  • Robert McMaster 26th Sep '20 - 12:01pm

    According to YouGov, Brexit is one of the top 3 most important issue facing the country for 51% behind health and the economy (both 53%).

    In addition, a clear majority has consistently since July 2017 said that in hindsight the decision to leave was wrong and that if there was another referendum they would vote to remain (including in December’s election in terms of votes for parties supporting another referendum). There has not been a poll putting Leave ahead since 2018.

    I think LibDems did badly in December due to 2 factors:
    – the arrogance of suggesting they could win an outright majority
    – determination to keep Corbyn out being greater than the determination to keep Johnson out.

    I agree that it is vital that the LibDems hold Johnson’s feet to the fire over what he’s promised for Brexit but also to take a clear pro-EU stance that is clearly communicated to the public. This needs to start now if it’s to have an impact in time for the next election.

    https://www.facebook.com/87941536701/posts/10158434996991702/

  • Peter Martin 26th Sep '20 - 12:15pm

    One simple and cost free policy the Lib Dems could adopt would be to stop annoying those of us who never fell in love with the EU with their continuing misuse of the term “Europe”. The real Europe incudes Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine, Serbia, and a large part of Russia up to the Ural mountains. Plus smaller countries/entities like Georgia, Monaco, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

    The UK will still be in Europe after we’ve fully left the EU.

    So it’s not that Leavers were anti-European, it was that we didn’t agree with their version of what “Europe” meant. If you mean the EU don’t use the word ‘Europe’.

  • Of course we should reapply as soon as possible. After the damage done by Covid 19 rejoining the EU would help to mitigate the damage. The policy would get Nigel Farage and UKIP going again thereby reducing the Tory vote!

  • You do realise that if an EU FTA is not in place in three months time consequences for British people will range from inconvenience to catastrophic and unlike C19, hoping for a vaccine next year, Brexit will carry on giving.
    With the policy promoted here the LibDems can not claim to be the alternative with an alternative solution if any relationship is resolved at WTO terms it would take years to renegotiate even if we were in power. Being pro-EU should mean rejoin. Only getting votes on that basis would provide a chance the EU would take a partner in the UK seriously.

  • I’m sorry Caroline but I get really annoyed by comments like “But we can’t campaign to rejoin the EU until we can take the public with us. Until they are ready to hear that message and get behind it”.

    Is that the threshold we apply to all policy decisions? UBI, trans rights, a Federal UK?

    Sometimes important issues need someone brave enough to lead. There is no place for a Liberal party that only ever campaigns for issues AFTER they become popular. Sometimes someone needs to stand up and make the case. We can’t leave this one to the Greens and SNP.

  • The country will not, and cannot, re-join. The EU will never agree to honour the opt-outs, rebate, budget contributions, exemption from aspects of closer integration and other concessions. It is misleading to speak of re-joining when clearly the conditions would be very different. However, the party can make a new case to join the EU in the future.

    The new case must explain why it would be beneficial to join the Euro and Schengen, to accept eventual fiscal union, centralised taxation by a central treasury, financial support of EU wide covid related costs, support of countries adversely affected by the failing currency and much, much more, such as more progress towards country status.

    It will not be possible to ignore these issues or pretend that they do not exist. This has been the policy since we joined the EU first time around. I have never seen this party or any other try to make such a case. It is to argue against sovereignty and the people will not be fooled a second time.

  • This is absurd. The Lib Dem’s identity is as a pro European party, most target seats are pro remain and there were huge swings in some of these seats in 2019 by remain voters to bring them into contention as winnable seats.

    Abandoning rejoin is a mistake and will alienate members and supporters. Being the party of rejoin would be a distinctive identity at the next election and is perfectly democratic and constitutional.

    I urge people to vote against these kinds of motions.

  • John Marriott 26th Sep '20 - 3:05pm

    Yes, by all means keep your powder dry; but, will there be an EU worth rejoining in a few years’ time? In his article in today’s Guardian on Trump (worth reading for that alone), Jonathan Freedland refers to an essay written back in 1970 by Andrei Amalrik, ‘Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?’. Had I read it at the time I would also have questioned his sanity. However, he wasn’t far off the mark, was he?

  • Peter Martin is right. This is not about Europe. It is about membership of a political construct that splits opinion on the consequences for democracy, sovereignty and who should make our laws.

    But I also agree with Andrew Hickey. If the party wishes to join the EU in the future then that must be its aim and the purpose of its campaigns. What sort of aim is it to remain passive in the forlorn hope that the voters will eventually demand to join the EU at some point in the future?

    My position on Brexit is crystal clear. The Lib Dem position on the EU is as clear as mud. Either you want to join the organisation or you don’t. Sitting on the fence is a failed Labour policy.

  • Paul Pettinger 26th Sep '20 - 3:09pm

    Lib Dems don’t have to make campaigning to re-join a priority right now, but what they shouldn’t do is echo the cackhandedness of revoke by signalling to voters that their commitment to EU membership is wavering. It undermines the Party’s distinctiveness and raises fresh doubt about the ability to trust the party. This is bad politics and I’m disappointed in the former MEPs who are backing the leadership on this. Real friends help you avoid mistakes

  • richard underhill 26th Sep '20 - 3:49pm

    “December’s general election was particularly heinous, with our vote growing more than that of any other party, to 3.7 million, yet we still lost an MP.”
    At the the time I thought that our previous leader had misjudged the situation, doing a deal with the SNP when things were going so well.
    She was given too much power. In this party we elect a leader, not a fuhrer, doing that can lead to serious mistakes, but who will bell the cat?
    Yesterday’s Question Time with Fiona Bruce and Ed Davey is repeated on the parliament Channel at18.00. Includes Ed Davey MP. (Channel 201)

  • Why are the people being moderate and sensible always lectured on treading on eggshells so we don’t annoy those with whom me disagree, when the other side are not just “a bit annoying” but genuinely abrasive and obnoxious we are told to suck it up or called snowflake for objecting.

  • Well till you campaign to rejoin you have not only lost me as a member but also have lost my vote as I have had enough of party politics before the good of the country

  • Chris Miller 26th Sep '20 - 6:25pm

    Fully agree with the two comments immediately above, by Paul Pettinger and Pete. Clarity is a virtue, and wobbling around in the middle hasn’t done Labour much good. Most party members and potential LD voters are pro-European and pro-EU, and (at least in England and Wales) there’s a clear gap in the market for that position.

    That said, with a few years to go before the next election, perhaps we could talk more about the Common Market in the meantime? Plenty of scope there to criticise Tory incompetence on trade and borders, and reemphasise that European freedom of movement is a great idea. Going up against people with an irrational hatred of Polish plumbers will put us in a good light with our target voters.

  • Peter Davies 26th Sep '20 - 6:54pm

    ” no one ever talked about our relationship with Europe – except the Daily Mail!”. Could that be why the Daily Mail won?

  • Paul Barker 26th Sep '20 - 7:08pm

    This is a classic example of setting up a “Straw Man” in order to knock it down.
    No-one is suggesting that we “Campaign” to Rejoin in 2024, simply that we say what we actually believe if we are asked.
    Eds rather mild statement about this has already had Our Enemies (in The ghastly form of The Daily Express) crowing about our surrender.
    For us to change policy now (after nearly 60 Years) would simply confirm our image as “Nice but Pathetic”.

  • John Stevens 26th Sep '20 - 9:03pm

    This is a grave mistake imv.

  • Christopher Curtis 26th Sep '20 - 11:18pm

    I just can’t begin to express how bad things like this article and especially today, Ed’s interview in the Guardian make me feel. I’ve spent most of the day trying to decide whether to resign from the party. It’s not just whether the motion is passed, it’s the obvious orchestrated campaign to sideline the issue which made me join the party, and which encapsulates so many other ways in which our democracy and even the possibility of keeping our basic human and liberal rights is being cynically and determinedly destroyed: Dacre and Moore in charge of Ofcom and the BBC? When will we see what Brexit is all about and recognise the liberal imperative to fight all of it?

    If we can’t hold deep and permanent beliefs and values at the same time as campaigning for specific achievable goals within the current context, we are completely lost. We can’t lurch from position to position, being different parties in different places and at different times depending on who we are targeting and what we think (usually wrongly) is most likely to get us votes. We need to be consistent, not for tactical reasons but because we must be honest. It’s still true that Brexit was wrong, no matter how many voters tell Ed otherwise and it’s still true that being a committed member of the EU is best for Britain and for all of us, no matter how many voters say otherwise and if those are true, then the sooner we re-join, the better.

  • Those were the days when political parties MPs, promised whatever to be elected, then voted as independent’s, ignoring constituents voting instructions.? An elected replacement, would replace any divergence from orders, and remove a by election and costs.

    The point us, MPs, are elected to present constituents voting instructions to Parliar, refusal of reversal of instructions will be reason to be suspended and Possibly replaced asap, with constituents voted given priority. Any legal dispute, can proceed after voting presented. This was after the Withdrawal vote, was imo, dodgy, it needs correcting before another fiasco. Imho. oxo42.

  • Martin Cahn 27th Sep '20 - 2:13am

    I do not agree that because only 2% of the public think that it is an issue that we should abandon having rejoin as our formal policy and I think it is a mistake to weaken our policy. Because it is not an issue, means that having that policy will not be harmful. We are not looking to convert the hard line Brexiters, they are lost causes, we are looking to convert the moderate 30% of Tories and centrist Labour in seats we can win – which are mainly Tory held. We need to be consistent – that is our strength. The proposed policy will give the impression that we don’t care, will cause us to lose many committed members (including, possibly in the long run, myself) and do nothing to capture our target voters. I will be voting first for amendment 1, and if that is not successful Amendment 2. We need to be ready with the policy ready for the right moment, which could be once the impact of Brexit becomes evident. It could become an issue very rapidly next year.

  • The framing of this is very poor. Saying “Brexit isnt the number one issue – we need to listen to voters about what is their number one concern
    ” – that argument can be used for 100 other causes, education, healthcare, minority rights.

  • Peter Davies 27th Sep '20 - 7:43am

    The prospect of rejoining may be more than ten years away but a successful campaign takes that long. Every time something bad happens because of Brexit, we need to make sure people blame Brexit and the liars that sold it to them. We also need to make sure that people know that we were the people who tried to stop it and who will, when the time comes, lead the campaign to take us back.

  • John Marriott 27th Sep '20 - 8:53am

    All this talk about rejoining. As I wrote yesterday afternoon, are you all sure what you might be campaigning to rejoin? Indeed, will there be anything to rejoin in, say, ten years’ time?

    Regardless of the direction of travel of the EU, I would vote IN A REFERENDUM to rejoin tomorrow on the same terms that we had when we left. However, I reckon the chances of that being the case are not that bright. After all, didn’t the UK government tell the Scots wishing to vote for Independence that they would have to reapply to join the EU on very different terms from what the rest of the UK were enjoying?

    So, why make yourselves hostages to fortune? Give the dust time to settle, which whether with a deal or not, it hopefully will and then decide your policy. Oh, I forgot, it’s CONFERENCE TIME!

  • “Voters were not persuaded at all. Instead they supported Labour who supported a People’s Vote and thought that we were unreasonable in supporting revoke. “

    If you look at the actual results despite the disappointing national picture in individual seats there were enormous swings to the Lib Dem’s, some of the biggest ever seen creating a new list of target seats where the demographic is for the first time in history aligned with the parties core values.

    Why was Europe not a point of difference during the leadership election?

  • Changing our stance, Or just adopting a policy that gets spun by the media as such risks losing a lot of members. I would estimate Half of them.

    The only thing that should be formally dropped is “Cancel Brexit,revoke A49” perceived as our flagship policy at GE2019.
    Pedants will point out this is no longer an option. But This is needed to send a message that this is dead and decently buried.
    What should replace it is an ambition to rejoin after a people’s vote IMHO.
    Sure , it’s a long way off in polling terms. But it stakes us out as unambiguously a pro EU party.
    This should be our USP

  • Nom de Plume 27th Sep '20 - 10:45am

    It would be better to have this debate in January, when we better know what Brexit means. Personally, I don’t mind a step-by-step approach to the EU or a simple Rejoin message. The first is a cautious approach and the second a radical approach. It is possible to have a policy and not use it as main campaigning point, rather to address other issues.

  • Richard Easter 27th Sep '20 - 10:46am

    As said before, good luck selling the euro to the British people… More chance of Corbyn being elected than the euro being accepted.

    EFTA membership is the way to aim for long term.

  • Antony Watts 27th Sep '20 - 10:46am

    As acouple of excellent commenters the Guardian theother day pointed out, the EU is NOT a political organisation. It is a legal construct based on what individual nations want to have in common. And which is for the nations good.

    The problem in UK is that we regard the EU as a semi-nation with political aims. WHen we must get our own house in order legally to even begin to talk to them.

    The evidence is clear, Frost and Barnier are talking severely at cross purposes. And the conclusion that we will leave without a “deal” is in no doubt. But the EU, as such, will not give up, their task is to negotiate, as they have done with Turkey for 30 years…

    Our task is to set UK on a path that coincides with the desires of 27 other nations, then we can talk.

  • clive trussell 27th Sep '20 - 10:48am

    Apparently, around “only” 50% of remainers would support cancelling brexit – that amount would give us a dam site more than 6% of the vote we have now!

  • So if we want to aling ourselves with the EU this is what we have to believe is best for UK. And if Lib Dems want to be in the EU, this is what we have to sell to the public:

    1.   The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.

    2.   The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

    3.   The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.

    It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.
    It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.
    It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.

    4.   The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.

    5.   In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.

  • Paul Barker 27th Sep '20 - 1:52pm

    The Independent has a report about a botched Conference Stitch-up with nearly half the people who supposedly wrote the European Motion backing an Amendment, claiming The Motion put to Conference did not reflect what they voted for.

    I am prepared to believe that the Independent story is an exageration but this looks very bad. If Ed Davey is behind the move to change the Motion behind its proposers backs then he needs to seriously rethink his approach. Stitch-ups are not The Libdem way.

  • This, and Davey’s comments related to it today, are being, and will be, interpreted and reported by the media as the LibDems abandoning Remain and switching to a neutral-/pro-Brexit position.

    That’s not a position I support and is one where I would have to reconsider my votes for the LDs in a constituency and council area where the LDs gained seats due to their clear opposition to Brexit.

  • Just a simple question, “What do you say when asked about the policy on the EU”?

    Starmer was pressed by the government’s voice on the BBC, Laura K., about his ardent support for remaining in the EU; his reply, “That battle has been lost” wasn’t deemed ‘realistic’ enough and she continued with that line of questioning..
    How much more intense will that demand be on a party whose last two elections were fought almost entirely on ‘Remain’?

    There is no way this party can pretend that the EU is not a central plank of it’s policy; pretending otherwise will just make a mockery of it’s past, present and future…

  • As one who has made clear my Brexiteer credentials many times, I can be fairly objective about this dilemma.

    A policy which is to make the case to join the EU in the future will attract ridicule about fighting old battles, failing to move forwards and obsession with the EU. On the plus side it is honest, gives the party freedom to be open about the subject and it informs the voters.

    To say that Brexit is history and deny the existence of the policy will attract less ridicule in the short term. But it means that the party is either dishonest or divided on the policy. At some stage in the future the truth will emerge and quite rightly, questions will be asked. In the meantime, many members will feel let down. Personally, I wish that all parties should accept the democratic vote and get on with running our own country just like the vast majority of other countries.

    My advice is three fold. It is always better to tell the truth and face the consequences. It would be very much better to resolve the matter now than at any other time in the future. If it is not resolved, it has the potential to undermine the party’s chances of recovery.

    Having said all of that, it looks as though the leadership has already decided.

  • As I understand it, the EU is a group of nations that have signed a set of treaties that define the way they will work with each other. By rejoining the EU, I assume people mean that we will sign the relevant treaties agreed by the current members. As Pete rightly points out, that means we will not be part of the club on the same terms as we had when we left. As Pete also noted, the full set of obligations defined in those treaties would be unacceptable to most people in the UK (notably using the euro as our currency). Thus seeking to rejoin in that sense is unlikely to work. But there is nothing to stop us negotiating a new set of treaties. It will take decades, it will be hard work, but it will happen one way or another. In fact it is already underway (the trade deal that is being negotiated now). It seems to me that the right way forward is for the Lib Dems to spell out the type of relationship we want with our European neighbours and explain the kind of treaties we would then negotiate. This could start today, but it might make more sense to see the results of the trade deal first — if there is one.

  • John Marriott 28th Sep '20 - 9:15am

    Yes, ‘Andrew’, let’s first see if they can cobble together a trade deal.

    As for the future, none other than arch Europhile, (Professor?) Timothy Garton Ash has an article in the Guardian today entitled; “Germany has had a golden age. The future will be harder”. Yes, every dog has its day and that certainly applied to us and our ‘Empire’ as it applied to the Romans and could well apply to the EU, even China as well. I reckon that, if they re-elect the Orange Man In November, our cousins across the pond could be facing the same prospect.

    So, to all you EU luvvies, who are considering ripping up your Lib Dem membership cards I say; “Make the grand gesture if you want; but there really IS more to life and politics than nailing all your colours to one mast”. I failed to renew my membership a couple of years ago for other reasons. I have not ‘left’ the party as such as, given a decent candidate and a fairer voting system, I would vote for it again. That’s why I keep writing to LDV in the hope that some of the party’s ever youthful idealism might be tempered with a sprinkling of reality. Life cannot wait for the Lib Dems to decide who they are or might want to be. Why not just wait and see, especially when ‘Conference fever’ dissipates?

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