The campaign against Brexit continues

So far a majority in the House of Commons supports the advice of the British people to leave the European Union (EU). The Government, elected by 25% of voters, continues to impose its destructive hard Brexit vision on the 48% and many leavers who wanted to remain in the Single Market. We also made a decision in the 1975 referendum, and then by a far larger majority, to remain. Taken together this suggests there is no ‘settled will’ as to how we wish to associate with our European neighbours and largest export market. Democracy is much more than just one or two votes. There is no finality in any democracy. When a political party loses an election, it does not stop arguing for what it believes in. Given the losers of the 1975 referendum did not stop trying to reverse that decision, why should remainers, who are also patriots, be asked to stand down now?

We have an unelected Prime Minister speaking outside Parliament proposing what she knows to be a half-baked sketch for Brexit which is not best for Britain. The White Paper isn’t a plan either – it’s a poorly drafted wish list of desired outcomes. She says she wants a good deal with the EU. Yet Lib Dems know any deal the Government does or doesn’t conclude will not be good enough. If leaving the EU were such a good policy, the Government wouldn’t have been so afraid to subject it to full Parliamentary scrutiny.

Brexiters perpetrate a misleading, if not self-delusional, narrative on the economy and particularly trade. It is true the “sky has not fallen in” on the economy. However, the past is no guide to future performance. The last 7 months is a short time frame, and shows we are still benefiting from being in the EU Single Market. But much investment in the UK is on hold, and some financial firms are already relocating some operations out of the UK. Brexiters downplay the 15% depreciation in the pound but let’s see how the Just About Managing (JAMs) and others enjoy the resulting 3% inflation, higher energy prices and forecast decline in real living standards as Brexit bites.

Being ‘free’ to conclude free trade deals will result in less trade and employment. British citizens currently have the freedom to travel to, study in, work in and export to another 27 EU member states. Why should many who have enjoyed these benefits of EU membership over the past 40 years, deprive future generations of these very same opportunities? So for the sake of our youth in particular let’s continue opposing this Government taking its trumpeted great step forward over the precipice.

We can still hope there will be amendments to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) bill, in particular retaining membership of the Single Market. Why have a hard Brexit, when we can have an easy EEA (European Economic Area)? We should also continue to press for protecting the rights of resident EU citizens, and another referendum on the actual departure terms the Government negotiates. Voters deserve the right to confirm whether or not they are happy the Government has achieved a better deal with the EU than what we enjoy now.

Unfortunately, it seems the Government is determined to trash our economy and United Kingdom on the altar of reducing immigration. The former Home Office Minister does not seem to understand she is now Prime Minister. Leaving the EU will not stop the half of migrants who come from outside the EU. Brexit Britain’s economy and ageing population will still need immigration. EU professionals and others are particularly needed to work in services, the NHS, construction and in our countryside. We need foreign students who create employment up and down the country. Some Brexiters admit leaving the EU will not reduce overall immigration substantially, so what’s the point of making the UK poorer and disunited for the sake of some 10% fewer entrants a year?

Being a member of the Lib Dems is a key step in fighting Brexit. No other national party has such a clear position against Brexit. Other than standing as a candidate and helping local campaigning, if you want another channel for your pro-European interests and campaigning energies, why not join the Liberal Democrat European Group  and our Liberal Democrat European Group Facebook group?

* Nick Hopkinson is chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) and former Director, Wilton Park, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Feb '17 - 1:35pm

    So much better to refer to campaigning against a hard Brexit, Brexit is happening whether we like it or not, argue it should not and you are re hashing the previous debate, and playing into the hands of those who say we want a second referendum, rather than, a first referendum on the deal !

    We are not united in fighting Brexit now, we are on securing a compromise Brexit. Even a glance at this site shows that is the unity position. Many are unhappy with the government , a Liberal does not or should not swing to the complete reverse on everything , but be at least sometimes, nuanced.

    Or is Liberalism now something called EUism ?!

  • “The Government, elected by 25% of voters, continues to impose its destructive hard Brexit vision on the 48%”

    Is that really an honest way of using figures. It’s like saying the Lib Dems with less than 6% of voter support are trying to impose their will on the 52%.

  • Peter Martin 13th Feb '17 - 2:18pm

    “Brexiters downplay the 15% depreciation in the pound but let’s see how the Just About Managing (JAMs) and others enjoy the resulting 3% inflation….”

    I don’t believe anyone wants to downplay any particular aspect of Brexit. But a major problem with UK thinking over the last few decades is that a high pound is good for everyone. There are many people who can be described as “Just About Managing” who work in the steel and other manufacturing industries which don’t manage to exist at all if the pound is too high.

    We need to take a look at the German attitude to their currency. They now use the euro (to cheap for their economy) to keep their exporters happy. Previously they kept the DM as low as they could.

    The best way to help the JAMs is to ensure that there is a healthy manufacturing industry to provide relatively well paid jobs. The high pound may benefit the finance industry of London but that’s not where the JAMs work!

  • We had a huge majority win for Brexit in our area but all of us now are regretting it. We don’t want hard Brexit, in fact we now don’t want Brexit now. We will never vote for Conservative or Labour because of Brexit. You are the only party we know that’s against Brexit The Liberal Demorats you got our vote from now on

  • The real risk to the economy is not the low pound but British exporters facing a barrage of red tape when they try exporting their goods to Europe. Our customs offices are woefully underprepared for this and if we do face a hard Brexit in 2 years time be prepared for business to fail as their stock sits in ports waiting to clear customs.

    Frankly I’m now in the wait and see mindset. There is little we can do to stop Brexit. But if this turns out to be a massive failure then we can turn to the British people and demand they put the sword to the conservative and labour parties and my bet is they will, in a big way.

  • @malc – “Is that really an honest way of using figures.”

    I agree, people get confused between the total electorate and votes cast. Thus a more ‘correct’ statement would be:

    The Government, elected by 25% of votersthe electorate, continues to impose its destructive hard Brexit vision on the 48%63% and many leavers who wanted to remain in the Single Market.

  • ethicsgradient 13th Feb '17 - 3:22pm

    The first paragraph of this is, makes me feel like I am trapped in a room which is itself a massive kaleidoscope!

    it is almost to the level which Sir Humphrey might be proud of… 25% imposing on the will of 48%, lets now combine referendums which are 42 years apart to form a settled will… arghhhhh…. what mad magician’s words are these?

    To quote Oolon Colluphid’s book ‘well that just about wraps it up for God’.

    “…..for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing”

    to get back to reality. We had a referendum where there were 46,500,001 registered voters. 33,577,342 people exercised their right to vote (72.21%). 17,410,742 people voted to leave (51.89%) while 16,141,241 (48.11%) voted to remain.

    A difference between votes for leave and remain was 1,269,50.

    The notion of combining referendum results separated by 42 years is the most laughable. Are we jut going keep running totals ad infinitum? Should we do the same with general elections and keep a running total since about 1830? The liberals might even still be in power with a continuum from the Gladstone years?

  • ethicsgradient 13th Feb '17 - 3:30pm

    Edit to my first post:

    Difference in votes was 1,269,501 (missed the 1 off the end)

    41 years between referendums rather than 42.

    … I’ll change my fish.

  • David Allen 13th Feb '17 - 3:54pm

    “Leaving the EU will not stop the half of migrants who come from outside the EU. … Some Brexiters admit leaving the EU will not reduce overall immigration substantially”

    This may, in fact, understate the case. Analysts think the fall in immigration from the EU will probably be no more than 15%. Further, they point out that future free trade deals with e.g. Australia and India are likely to include preferential immigration rights – so Brexit may well end up INCREASING overall immigration into Britain!

  • All PMs are unelected (as PM).

    All PMs are elected (as MPs).

    Lazy jibe.

  • @David Allen

    “Analysts think the fall in immigration from the EU will probably be no more than 15%”

    You are not taking into consideration that none of the Migrants will be able to have access to in or out of work welfare and no access to social housing. All of which are scarce resources.
    They will only be able to apply for these benefits if and when they are granted Indefinite leave to remain or apply for permanent residency.

    Is it the case that Liberal Democrats are now going to do a U-Turn and say they do not see the rising welfare bill as a problem? That would be a huge contradiction to the time that they were in government when the party said that the welfare bill was to high and voted for a freeze in benefits, benefits cap and the bedroom tax etc.

  • Arnold Kiel 14th Feb '17 - 7:18am

    Nick takes the right perspective: Brexit will be a financial and human disaster that can be stopped because it must be stopped. Let us not get distracted from this simple fact by irrelevant voter arithmetic, currency-nonsense and democracy- or sovereignty-blabla. People were manipulated into a wrong choice most of them will regret bitterly. The question is: will that happen soon enough?

    The “chances” are not bad: the UK economy will now visibly turn down while the eurozone shows signs of recovery. NHS/social care, home-building, prisons, energy supply, transport, benefits, all will move from crumbling towards collapse, with no money available to fight against that. The fall in GBP only helps with respect to local content of UK exports, which is not that great in the manufacturing sector: these islands of dreamers mostly assemble continental components and materials based on global bluepints. New trade deals, anyhow a hoax, are many years away.

    While this is happening, Brexit negotiations will turn sour, because another massive Brexit-lie will come to light: the concealment of a 40-60 billion exit-fee (which is logical and was predictable).

    LibDems should therefore not resign to “Brexit will happen”, the only leave-slogan still alive and in use, but fight it all of the way. The exit-referendum is possibly a useful tactical twist for now, but of course not what should happen. Apart from winning council-seats and by-elections on that basis, top LibDems must reach out to reasonable Labour and Conservative MPs to start revitalizing the remain-majority in parliament that still exists under a cover of lies and threats. This majority has 2 years to reassemble and resurface, and the LibDems are the natural leader of this return to reason.

  • In a referendum relatively free of intimidation, 95% of the German people voted in 1933 to leave the League of Nations. Official propaganda equated the League with acceptance of the Versailles Treaty, which was false except in so far that membership implied accepting the loss of Alsace-Lorraine.
    My respect (and, I suspect, that of modern Germans) goes to the 5%.

  • Michael Meadowcroft 14th Feb '17 - 2:30pm

    [1] The steering group for “Leeds in Europe” met last Saturday morning – plus a number of keen individuals who just turned up. It is an efficient and co-operative team promoting street campaigning, media initiatives and lobbying. It is interesting that a number were not involved at all in politics prior to the referendum. There was only one avowed Labour activist present but a number who have recently left Labour over Brexit.
    Everyone is a rejectionist rather than an “improver”.

    [2] Has the quotable comment in the Agenda section (page 5) of last Sunday’s Observer by Stewart Lee been noted? Having announced the previous Sunday that he was joining the Liberal Democrats, he stated this time: “Without truth or shame there is nothing to keep the Brexiteers in check, except Tim Farron. Unlike truth or shame, Farron at least has the advantage of being an actual living thing, rather than an abstract concept. This must count for something I suppose, but the huddled masses edged towards Tim by an utter disappointment with Labour’s Brexit performance are running on hope.”

    I hope that the party makes much more of its well-earned popularity on this issue of principle than it did on Iraq.


  • ethicsgradient 14th Feb '17 - 2:50pm

    @Alan Depauw

    so let me get this straight, so that I am understanding your post correctly. you are equating the following?

    The referendum held in November 1933 (after Hitler had become Chancellor and had the SA burn down the Richstag in Feb 1933 dissolving parliament) which was held at the same time as the new richstag elections with the British EU referendum of 2015 that was held as a stand alone election free from involvement of any other elections in that period? Is that the comparison your making?

    Are you comparing the idea of the loss of the physical territory of Alsace-Lorraine which had been swapped and disputed for decades between two counties with the notion that Britain wanted to repatriate sovereignty and decision making powers over the UK? So loss of territory with ability to self-determination?

    it just doesn’t hold up as anglous situations. Let alone touching on the notion that by inference you are suggesting those who voted to leave are in some way equivalent to Nazi supporters?

  • ethicsgradient 14th Feb '17 - 2:53pm

    ‘analogous’… typo above…

  • David Allen 14th Feb '17 - 4:11pm


    You point out that, whilst Brexit may not cut immigration, it should cut the cost of benefits payable to immigrants, because EU immigrants will cease to be eligible. We’re talking about EU immigrants, such as the gang labourers of the Fenlands, who are already badly exploited. You implicitly acknowledge that they will still come, but will be worse exploited.

    Where your remarks run out of steam is where you, as a Brexit supporter, ought to be telling us whether you consider that that outcome of Brexit is a good thing or a bad thing. You avoid comment on this.

    Instead, you seek to divert attention to the Lib Dems, and you argue that since the Lib Dems have in the past sought to reduce the cost of benefits, ergo they are not allowed (by you) to oppose the cost reductions that may flow from Brexit. That’s about as valid an argument as to say that, just because Joe sometimes saves money by buying the buy-one-get-one-free offer, Joe must therefore be in favour of saving more money by always buying the cheapest item on the shelf (or, indeed, by shoplifting!)

    Instead of trying to tie the Lib Dems in moral knots of your own making, don’t you think you ought to address the moral consequences of your own standpoint, and tell us whether you support the higher-immigration, lower-immigrant-welfare consequences of Brexit?

  • @ethicsgradient
    The point I’m trying to make is simple. The majority, however assertive, is not always right. And when it is wrong, badly wrong; when it would lead our children to an impoverished future; then what is needed is not collaboration, but opposition.

  • @David Allen

    “Where your remarks run out of steam is where you, as a Brexit supporter, ought to be telling us whether you consider that that outcome of Brexit is a good thing or a bad thing. You avoid comment on this.”

    I do not avoid anything. I will regard the outcome of brexit as a good thing, when it happens as long as we have control over immigration and are free to make our own trade deals with the rest of the world

    “Instead of trying to tie the Lib Dems in moral knots of your own making, don’t you think you ought to address the moral consequences of your own standpoint, and tell us whether you support the higher-immigration, lower-immigrant-welfare consequences of Brexit?”
    The moral knots are of your own making, not mine. Your parties policies are inconsistent. On one hand in Government, you said welfare spending was to high, you capped benefits, supported sanctions, workfare, bedroom tax etc. Then on the other hand you argue for uncontrolled immigration from the EU, knowing full well that the majority who come are reliant on in work benefits / social housing, housing benefits etc, all of which pushes up the welfare budget that your party spent 5 years saying was out of control.
    I support lower immigration, I also support an immigration policy where no migrants are entitled to in / out of work benefits or social housing, until they have obtained either indefinite leave to remain or permanent residency.
    I support an immigration policy where we welcome skilled migrants from across the globe where we have a skills shortage, no matter what continent they are from.
    I also support a system where we grant temporary visa’s i.e 12 month working holiday visas, just as they do in Australia for unskilled migrants, its a wonderful way to travel and earn at the same time. Point being it is a temporary visa and does not allow the holder entitlement to state benefits or housing or to bring family members with them.

  • ethicsgradient 15th Feb '17 - 2:42am

    @Alan Depauw

    I get your point; I still think it is a poor analogy to draw.

    with regards to how brexit will work out. We just do not know. My view is I think the UK will do very well outside the EU, while having a good trading relationship with the EU. there are many dangers and problems that remaining in the EU would bring us. For instance the Greek crisis is getting ready to hit the EU once more.

    We cannot know at the moment whether the the 48% or the 52% will prove to be correct or indeed if it the final outcome is somewhere in between ( the UK muddling along, doing ok). I think it was easier to know what might be about to come with Hitler as it was all there written in his book in 1925, written while he was in prison for his rebel rousing putsch.

  • “We have an unelected Prime Minister ”

    Nonsense. Prime Ministers aren’t elected. LDV talking nonsense as per usual.

  • A: please explain, Prime Minister normally comes from the leader of the majority party, who is elected by the party membership. In the current case that did not actually occur.

  • Daniel Walker 16th Feb '17 - 7:32am

    @theakes As I suspect you know, there is no statutory definition of Prime Minister, but the de facto requirement is “can command a majority of the House of Commons” In practice, this means the leader of the largest party. The parties elect leaders in various ways; Theresa May was elected according to the Conservative Party’s rules, which do not require referring to the membership if the candidate is unopposed.

  • Anyone can pick and choose stats to support any argument. And that stuff about 1975 is irrelevant, I would have voted to stay in if the EU was still like the old Common Market, but it is nothing like it. Thank goodness we are leaving!

  • @Nick Hopkinson
    “. Usually, constitutional change in a democracy requires a two thirds majority”

    Funny how Liberal democrats did not insist on this for the AV referendum isn’t.

    ” If I can agree that the PM is of course elected indirectly by her party, Brexiters should honestly also accept that the EU also operates though a system of indirect election.”

    Absolutely not, the 2 are not comparable at all.

  • @Simon Shaw

    What you said it is just a cop out. Either you believe in something or you don’t it’s called being consistent with your arguments and views and not being a hypocritical opportunist.

    In my opinion, true democracy referendum can only be achieved when it’s a simple majority, enhanced majorities / minimum turn outs are undemocratic in my opinion.

    As for the Prime Minister / EU Commissioners, you know my opinions on that, we have had the same discussion on numerous threads, there is no need to go over old ground which gets us nowhere

  • Richard Underhill 19th Feb '17 - 8:28am

    matt 13th Feb ’17 – 7:01pm: Keeping the coalition together was essential for both parties as Ken Clark has said in his memoir, Kind of Blue. There is constant pressure from financial markets.

  • @martin

    Are you really suggesting that the 17 Million + people who voted to leave saw the matter as having very little importance? Is it really your suggestion that Millions of people {the biggest turn out in history} Queued up to vote in polling stations across the country because they had nothing better to do that day?

    I really am struggling at audacity of some people.

    I think this party really needs to have compulsory workshops for members to teach them all about the constitution and what they have supposedly signed up for

    @Simon Shaw
    Why is it a “cop out”? Perhaps you could explain.
    It was a cop out because it was inconsistent; your argument is that it was ok to have a simple majority for the AV referendum, but it’s not ok for the EU referendum where you believe it should be an enhanced majority / Minimum turn out? Your argument being that changing our electoral system is “easier”. How you can claim a change to our electoral system is easy is beyond me, Considering the amount of years it took to get parliament to legislate for a referendum in the first place, also are you suggesting that a change to our voting system is somehow insignificant?
    You either believe in enhanced majorities or you don’t, in my opinion it is wrong to change the rules when the time suits just because you seek to take advantage when the mood takes.
    @Richard Hill
    That’s another cop out, your saying that the party really did not believe these things “welfare cuts”, they just said them in public to appear to the tories that they believed them in order to keep the coalition sweet. Well forgive me, if that’s how you do politics is it any wonder so many MP’s were lost in 2015

  • @Simon Shaw

    Yep we disagree, no surprises there.

    I believe in simple majorities, in my opinion its the most democratic way, the majority of people who abstain by not voting due to indifference are excluded from the results. That leaves only the people who do vote and all votes being equal, in my opinion means that a simple majority can be the only true democratic choice. Nothing is going to change my opinion on that, so I suggest we agree to differ, otherwise were going to go round and round in circles and bore everyone to bits

    “In the particular case of Brexit, many of those who are most directly affected were indeed specifically excluded.”
    Which people would that be then? Are you talking about the people not older enough yet to vote?

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