The dangers of the ‘people’s vote’

As the Chequers agreement and White Paper evince, the details of the interim package on offer are highly complicated. Submitting the terms and conditions of the Article 50 negotiations to a popular vote would be fraudulent. A referendum would be unlikely to elucidate the pros and cons of the Facilitated Customs Arrangement, the future of the City of London or the Irish backstop protocol. Rather, the hapless voter would face the same dilemma as vacillating parliamentarians – namely, a crude and invidious choice between the government’s Brexit deal and the cliff edge.

Ms. Miller & co make two gigantic misjudgments. The first is that, in the event of a referendum rejecting the Barnier package, the EU would be prepared to open up a new negotiation under Article 50 or to suspend Article 50 until the Brits sort themselves out. Having offered Cameron one new settlement for Britain in 2016 and May another in 2018, toleration of the British will be at an end. There will be no third negotiation. So what would be the referendum question? Moreover, on which side would Lib Dems be campaigning?

The second big mistake is to assume that the Remainers would ‘win’ the second referendum no matter the question. Opinion polls suggest that the outcome would be just as close as the first: certainly the assumption that Remain would win handsomely and settle the business of Britain’s place in Europe is an arrogant one, not supported by the facts.

I fear that the argument on the streets would be about nationalism, xenophobia, and democratic betrayal. The pound would tank. The fragile UK constitution would be put under further immense strain, with the certainty that parliament at Westminster would again emerge emasculated and its political parties split asunder. The nation would end up even more divided in terms of social class, generation, and province. A tight result, either way, could even pitch the country into a revolutionary situation.

The good news for the Brighton Conference is that there is now no time in any event to organise a referendum before 29 March. The EU leaders are readying themselves to confirm that they will not postpone Brexit merely to let the Brits indulge in another crazy referendum.

Liberal Democrats and Labour should accept the inevitable and either support or abstain on May’s package deal, taking what pleasure they can from the division of the Tory party. Once Brexit is done, serious negotiations for the association agreement will get underway. Then a new political party in Britain could organise itself to fight at the election in 2022 on the twin platform of Proportional Representation for the House of Commons and re-accession to the European Union. A modern European party for a modern European country, at last.

 

 

* Andrew Duff was Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England from 1999-2014.

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102 Comments

  • #IAgreeWithDavid

  • William Fowler 8th Aug '18 - 11:29am

    “The EU leaders are readying themselves to confirm that they will not postpone Brexit merely to let the Brits indulge in another crazy referendum.” Another recent post seemed to confirm that the EU was ready to do the exact opposite, so who knows what will happen next. It would be hilarious if Boris became PM, realised that the polls were against him and did a complete U-term, claiming he had got a better deal out of the EU that Cameron to justify it…

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Aug '18 - 12:14pm

    Andrew,
    An excellent piece and a refreshingly sensible relief from the wild flights of fantasy that are the usual fare here.
    I agree with Mark though, you will make little headway against those who have convinced themselves that the Leavers have all now realised they were wrong all along (“well they must have! It’s obvious innit?” ) and that a second referendum would be a mere formality.
    It will actually be a national upheaval which will be horrible for all of us.
    The notion of a European Party has been mentioned before and I also think it could fly as a revitalising force (if it had a plausible economic agenda as well).

  • Mick Taylor 8th Aug '18 - 12:15pm

    I understand the logic that says only a further referendum could get us out of this mess, even if I disagree with it. Andrew Duff’s post is a sobering reminder of the very real risks involved in a third EU referendum, if it were held. Oh, and by the way I don’t accept that a referendum couldn’t be held in time. If the political will is there, it can be done. After all, before the fixed term parliament act a general election used to be over and done with in a matter of weeks.
    Who will provide the charismatic leadership needed to defeat Brexit? Certainly no-one in the Labour Party and sadly no obvious person in the Lib Dems. The Brexiteers have charisma in spades, even if their arguments are like stale oil.
    What those who are pushing the another referendum forget is that in the final analysis it is Parliament who will make the decision, because we are a Parliamentary democracy. My view is that MPs should look at what T May brings back and if it is as awful as many predict, grow a spine and chuck it out and withdraw article 50. Then we can have a general election and people can vote in new MPs to do the job they’re paid for, rather than this supine lot who -with a few notable exceptions – are failing utterly to provide the lead the UK needs.

  • Mick Taylor 8th Aug '18 - 12:16pm

    Snake oil. Predictive text is a real pain

  • I agree with Mick!

  • I have an idea lets ban General Elections. The people are obviously too stupid to take decisions. They might make the wrong one – in fact since the 1920s they always have. The manifestos are a too simplistic a basis a decision to take on anyway. And the civil service will ignore it anyway. They will probably make it on too simplistic grounds anyway – which colour they prefer – red, blue, green or orange.

    After all they have made a decision on which party to have in Government why should they be allowed a change? They are obviously tired out by the immense effort of putting an X on a piece of paper.

    And of course another general election would mean lots of political arguments on the TV which would exhaust their tiny brains. In fact we should ban all political debate in the media – they much prefer Love Island and it is much better for them – they have no appreciation of political issues in a way that professional politicians do who really understand these complex detailed issues. And probably people’s favourite programmes would be cancelled to make way for “debates” which would annoy them. And it would divide the nation as well. We should all become united behind the great leader, Theresa – forever more – amen!

    You are of course absolutely right, Andrew – not!

  • Iain Donaldson 8th Aug '18 - 12:31pm

    Andrew is right up to a point, the deal on Brexit will be too intricate for a simple referendum to tackle, that is why we elect MP’s and run a representative democracy. What is actually needed is for the Lib Dems to go into the next General Election on a pledge that a Lib Dem Government would consider it’s election to be the expressed will of the people that they want us to either remain in or rejoin the European Union (as circumstances require).

    As for a new political party, as the Liberal Democrats have the capacity to both the objectives Andrew has laid down, I think I will stay where I am and fight for the election of a Liberal Democrat Government.

  • To deal with Andrew Duff’s points:

    1. It is all too complicated.

    Well we trust the people to take complicated decisions all the time. Either you are a democrat or you are not. It was used for example as an argument against extending the franchise – women are not intelligent or as versed enough in politics to understand the issues – the same with the non-property owning classes. It is as insulting today as it was then.

    2. There is no time for a referendum to be held.

    There is already talk of delaying article 50 if the talks on a withdrawal deal. If the British Parliament was to ask for a a delay on Article 50 for a referendum to be held it is highly likely the EU bureaucracy would agree. Firstly the EU bureaucracy want as many people in the EU as possible. It and other EU national governments would be seen as being profoundly anti-democratic if it didn’t – not a good look.

    3. “The first [big misjudgement by remainers] is that, in the event of a referendum rejecting the Barnier package, the EU would be prepared to open up a new negotiation under Article 50 or to suspend Article 50 until the Brits sort themselves out.”

    It seems relatively simple if we we vote to remain – Article 50 was never effective – we never quit, we remain on the same basis.

    If people vote to leave but not with the agreed deal this is not the remainers’ position but then the EU MIGHT prove difficult. I suspect that especially EU national governments would be sympathetic as not seen as being anti-democratic. But of course in any negotiations either side can say this is my “best position” take it or leave it. But to attack remainers on this is unfair as it is not their position.

  • 2/2

    4. “The second big mistake is [for remainers] to assume hat the Remainers would ‘win’ the second referendum”

    That is not a mistake I am making or I think most Remainers. If Remain was say 10% ahead at the beginning of a referendum and it is less than that at the moment then there is at least a 40% chance that Leave would win – sampling error, systematic errors (online polls seem to favour Remain systemically), the campaign itself. A remain decision cannot feasibly be taken by professional politicians without a democratic reference – either a referendum or a General Election where a majority of Remain MPs were elected.

    5. A referendum would be too divisive.

    I am frankly suspicious of Lib Dems who want to clamp down on political debate and discourse – we trust the people to discuss things. Whatever I would suggest it would be less divisive than the politics of the Thatcher era in the 80s or the poll tax riots of the 90s. Democratic politics is rumbustious. But it is better being the pliant submissive slaves of our political “masters”.

  • The idea that the defeat of Brexit in a “Final Say” vote would produce feelings of betrayal, civil unrest, rioting on the streets etc is regularly heard. To me, it carries a threatening undertone of “don’t challenge us, or else”. More important, it is pure conjecture. Equally likely is that the country would heave a collective sigh of relief, many soft Leavers discovering that they had been Remainers all along, for most people like to be on the winning side and few would want to continue to be associated with a now thoroughly discredited Brexit folly.

    However, insofar as there may be something in this commonly expressed fear, it presumably owes its force to Cameron’s assurance that the result would be for all time. Of course, he had no right to say that, you might just as well state that an election result is for all time. You might just as well say that when you make a Will, it will hold for all time, when everyone knows that a persons latest Will always cancels the previous ones. It is time to think more logically about these things

  • Mick Taylor 8th Aug '18 - 3:30pm

    Proof please Martin. Article 50 is a clause in the one of the EU treaties.Nothing to do with parliamentary elections.

  • Venetia Caine 8th Aug '18 - 3:46pm

    A three-way referendum – Leave, the Deal, or Remain, with a single transferable vote – would be much better informed now than the 2016 decision was. Of course we shouldn’t be starting from here, but Cameron got us into this mess, and we have to find a way out of it.

  • A three way vote may or may not not be on the table, because crashing out unilaterally does not seem to be a viable or feasible option.

    However, assuming 3 options were on the table, a good article on how the results could best be processed is here:

    https://infacts.org/theres-more-than-one-way-to-count-a-three-way-peoples-vote/

  • paul holmes 8th Aug '18 - 4:07pm

    As an MEP Andrew Duff was so emphatically pro the full blown ‘EU Project’ that many MP’s like myself would wince everytime he wrote an article or made a speech for fear of tbe damage it could do in electoral terms. So when he writes such a hard nosed appreciation of Referendum reality even the most avid Remainer should pause for thought.

    His last sentence though is, as David Raw says, unrealistic fantasy.

  • When faced with danger as I species we either fight, fly or freeze with fear. The argument for “either support or abstain on May’s package deal” falls into a “freeze with fear” and abstain or “run away” and vote for it. The correct response is fight against this stupidity.

    I know it is fashionable to think “OK let the Tories go over the cliff and we will sort everything out afterwards”, but that is making some dangerous assumptions

    1) That the damage done is bad enough that people will be shocked to their sense but not bad enough that it cripples us for year.
    2) The Leavers will accept a new agreement with the EU after the effects of Brexit are seen

    Both assumptions are unlikely. When people look back at the disaster they tend to look at the people involved as either Brexiteers or Remainers with a third group labelled the “Taggalongs”. I suspect that Brexiteers will not be well thought off but people will say at least they believed in their fantasy which is better than the “Taggalongs” who knew it was wrong and just “Taggedalong”. I’d recommend the Lib Dems stay committed to their principles and resist the temptation to emulate too many politicians in the Tory and Labour party who can’t resist “taggingalong”.

  • Little Jackie Paper 8th Aug '18 - 6:54pm

    Joseph Bourke – ‘The Nation state in an increasingly globalized world of multi-national companies and economic and military giants can only exercise significant influence through participation in multilateral organizations such as the EU and the UN and alliance such as Nato.’

    I was thinking about this. What you say is I’m sure true. But during the debates about the Iraq war it struck me that arguments about the UN were at best strange. The argument seemed to be that invading Iraq was OK if the UN said so. To be clear I would have been hell bent against that war whatever the UN said, and I’d have opposed even if there had been WMD. But at the time so much comment seemed to be to the effect that Britain should, ‘know its place,’ and should not be ‘big stage’ or the like. Such sentiment had some resonance I felt.

    This is just my own view, but it felt like this idea of significant influence via the supranationals was not much the offer of meaningful influence, more than the offer to get embroiled in other people’s wars. Perhaps such a perception was not unreasonable. To the political classes this was a trade off well worth making – whether that was true across society at large I’m much less sure.

    And I got the whiff of similar sentiment around the EU referendum. That this idea of ‘having influence in supranationals’ was really just an invitation to have other countries’ problems foisted onto us. Hence the budget got such a high profile. The fact that it is the EU, the UN or anyone else is neither here nor there. Isolation is the wrong word, but that referendum felt symptomatic a wish to keep ourselves to ourselves. ‘Take back control’ could easily have been taken as ‘stop hawking this country as having the answers.’

    Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m starting to wonder if 2016 was really a symptom. The root cause was a wish NOT to be a big-time influential player and accept the corollary. What to think about that is another matter, however I think the question is reasonable enough. Too many are too starry eyed about supranationals.

    Or maybe I’m totally wrong!

  • To me there is no alternative to another vote. I do not know which way it will go but feel it will be decisive and that will have the probable effect of being accepted by 99% of the electorate, thereby clearing the present wide and unhealthy divisions.

  • @John King
    All those methods are terrible. The flaw with the Borda count is shown this way:
    Imagine a seat with 3 candidates, blue, red and yellow, it’s marginal between the red and the yellow ones, even though these are quite close together and have a lot of mutual second preferences. Basically people who want to influence the result can make their vote count double if they lie on the ballot paper and tactically put the blue party second.

    The best way to decide between 3 options is to use the de Condorcet method. Voting is as per STV but in counting you examine all the options in pairs (A vs B, A vs C and B vs C), looking at all the ballot papers each time and find the option that can beat every other option in a straight 2-way fight.

  • OnceALibDem 8th Aug '18 - 7:23pm

    @Martin – “OK Article 50 could be extended, but only if the UK took part in the European elections.”

    What’s the basis for this – (or indeed the idea that MEPs could remain in office after a nation state leaves the EU).

    The degree to which some people are becoming disconnected from reality is amplified by the level of discussion of which electoral system a referndum could be conducted under when there is nothing close to a majority for a referendum.

    Mick is right it could be introduced quickly *with sufficient political will* – but we are light years away from that. And a referendum would need time for consultation on the rules and question under PPERA.

  • Andrew, as a staunch remainer and Peoples Vote fan I can assure you that I do not assume we would win a Peoples vote, and I don’t know any remainer who does. Frankly I don’t know how anyone can be certain of anything in politics these days.

  • @Little Jackie Paper

    I THINK that you slightly misrepresent the role of the UN and I am far from an expert so apologies if I do too.

    There are two aspects for the UN. Whether aggressive “action” is deemed legal in international law and whether the security council passes a resolution in favour of action. The permanent members of the security council can veto a resolution. There is nothing forcing a country to take part in such an action that is something for individual countries to take part in such a war. Indeed China supported the North Koreans in the Korean war when support for the South Koreans was “sanctioned” by the UN – partly because Taiwan held China’s place on the security council and Russia was boycotting the Security Council. So we could not have participated in the Iraq war even if the UN “sanctioned it” and that a majority didn’t – including France indicated they were troubled by it.

    Nato is primarily a DEFENCE alliance where other members will come to defence of others if it is attacked.

    On the EU – obviously the argument has raged! But in essence it is about nation states that are neighbours coming together to agree things either unanimously or through qualified majority voting (voting according to their population). It makes sense for mobile charges not to be higher just because you move across a border say from France to Germany or from Belgium to France. It is odd that I can freely look for a job if I move 20 miles one way from Hampshire to Sussex but not from Hampshire to France (when we leave). This is perhaps understandably more keenly felt on mainland Europe and we probably feel much more unconnected – separated by a “moat”. There is also more of a tradition in say Germany of individual sovereign areas coming together and keeping strong regional powers while pooling some sovereignty. England has been a centralised state for over 2,000 years as we have discussed in other threads. Neither wanting to cede power downward to the regions or it seems to sensibly talk to our near neighbours.

    We are of course party to a wide range of organisations, conventions, courts and treaties – some global, some regional, some bilateral, some like the Commonwealth (OK with a very limited role) based on some degree of common heritage that limited our ability for sovereign action because it makes sense to talk to and solve problems with our neighbours, friends and fellow inhabitants on this planet.

  • William Fowler 9th Aug '18 - 7:18am

    It is part of the incompetence of Cameron that when setting up the last referendum he did not clarify when the fiscal cycle of the EU would end and that any exit should logically coincide with that date. You can imagine the rage of the Brexiteers if you told them a second vote, because of the timing, would mean exiting in another six/seven years time to coincide with the end of the next EU fiscal cycle and MEPs tenure. At least it would buy the country some extra time. The other solution is some form of associate membership with exclusion from the parliament but some form of settlement process on future laws, which would leave the Euro countries free to integrate and the UK free to trade with the EU.

  • Peter Martin 9th Aug '18 - 10:53am

    Whether it’s just a referendum or ‘people’s vote’ or whatever else you want to call it, the electorate will likely accept any arrangement which makes sense for both parties.

    We just need to look at how things work in places like Monaco and the Channel Islands which aren’t in the EU and aren’t subject to the supposed 4 freedoms. There’s a precedent been set in these places which just needs to be developed to suit the larger economy of the UK.

  • @Peter Wrigleu

    “We should remain true to our constitution, hammered out over the years….We are a representative parliamentary democracy.

    We are not a representative democracy. If anything what has “been hammered out over the years” we are a representative democracy that takes constitutional issues by referendum.

    Of course Formally we are an absolutist monarchy in that she (formally through Royal Assent) makes the laws, decides to go to war (through the Royal Prerogative) etc. Today she graciously decides to delegate those powers to her Parliament and ministers. Conventions have grown to how that is done – and referendums on issues such as Europe, Scottish devolution/independence is one of them – along with laws such as Her Majesty’s Parliament will be dissolved after a maximum of five years.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Aug '18 - 12:32pm

    Let’s nail the nonsense about there not being enough time for a referendum. If our party is serious about it, then it should get a bill drafted. This could tackle all the issues raised on this site, so that if a majority in the commons do want a referendum then the bill would be ready to be presented. As I understand it MPs can get the help of parliamentary draftsmen in preparing bills. Then through the aegis of Mr Speaker time can be allowed for the necessary debates and votes.
    And no, it doesn’t have to be approved by the electoral commission if parliament decides otherwise. The EC is just a public body appointed by parliament not a law unto itself. Laws are decided by Parliament and no-one else. (In this sense of course Parliament includes the Royal Assent).
    Arranging a referendum is not the problem. Getting a parliamentary majority for it is.
    Having said all of the above, I still think Parliament should do the job for which it was elected and kick this nonsense out and withdraw article 50.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Aug '18 - 12:37pm

    @Michael 1: In terms of national referenda there have been three. Two on the EU and one on the Alternative Vote. Sure there have been referenda for parts of the UK. But huge changes to our governance have been passed by Parliament without referenda, so they are the exception rather than the rule. Our accession to the EEC was decided by parliament and it was not until Harold Wilson decided to prevent a split in the Labour Party that we had the first Europe referendum.
    Our constitution is clear. Parliament is supreme and cannot bind its successors.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Aug '18 - 12:42pm

    Though I wish it weren’t so, it looks as if we’re going to have to accept whatever the Prime Minister negotiates or not. I’m beginning to see a commitment for a referendum in say 3 years time on whether to remain where we are or go for a closer relationship with the eu. By then we will have a better idea of how the eu is evolving.

  • Chris Lewcock 9th Aug '18 - 1:02pm

    In a three-way referendum the most probable and worst possible outcome would be one in which remain “won” with (say) 45% of the vote leaving 55% split between two different versions of leave. That would poison politics for a generation. In or out please.

  • OnceALibDem 8th Aug ’18 – 7:23pm:
    The degree to which some people are becoming disconnected from reality is amplified by the level of discussion of which electoral system a referendum could be conducted under when there is nothing close to a majority for a referendum.

    Indeed. Almost as absurd as holding a referendum at the behest of people who don’t accept the result of a referendum.

  • Peter Watson 9th Aug '18 - 1:43pm

    @Jeff “Almost as absurd as holding a referendum at the behest of people who don’t accept the result of a referendum.”
    I detect a degree of sarcasm there, but it’s a very important point.
    By making it party political, Lib Dems bring an awful lot of baggage with them when calling for another referendum, not least a very inconsistent approach to referendums on EU membership in general, and the 2016 one (and a re-run of it) in particular.
    A non-party-political, single-issue pressure group with the stated aim of remaining in the EU, could call for the result of the 2016 referendum to be overturned with a clear conscience and might have had a larger and more receptive audience.

  • OnceALibDem 9th Aug '18 - 3:47pm

    @Martin – that’s interesting. And problematic. It wouldn’t seem possible to extend the Art 50 deadline beyond the Euro elections without allowing the UK to take part. if the UK is still an EU member then that is a right under the treaties. If the Govenment decided not to run elections there could be challenges to the infringement of peoples’s EU rights.

    If those elections do take place then there is a bunch of organisational issues (including party’s selecting candidates!) that follow from that

  • @Peter Martin
    Re The Channel Islands
    I think you will find that the situation is a bit more complicated than you seem to suggest. I would recommend the following site for a more detailed insight into many Brexit matters.

    https://brexitfactbase.com/

    You may have to register but it is well worth it.

  • David Evershed 9th Aug '18 - 7:32pm

    It is surely time to remove the word ‘Democrats’ from the party name.

    The Liberal Party is anyway a much stronger name.

  • Katharine Pindar 9th Aug '18 - 10:10pm

    The time to campaign for another referendum is now, as Michael Romberg says. Ideas for delaying Article 50 implementation, for a fudged Brexit deal with fanciful hope in a transition period, or for leaving next year and hoping to come back in some impossible future – all useless in my view. Posters such as Michael 1 and George Kendall above have effectively demolished Andrew Duff’s approach. We need a three-way referendum decided on by Parliament, which can indeed be carried out this winter as Mick Taylor says.

    How can that be? Through Parliament’s ‘Meaningful vote’, hard fought for and won from this would-be autocratic Government. Labour MPs plus the Lib Dems, the Scots and the Tory rebels, could carry a vote for a Referendum. Meantime it’s up to us to carry on enlarging that slender majority now seen in the Opinion Polls, to win such a People’s Vote when it happens.

  • @Mick Taylor

    I appreciate the point that referendums have come about largely as a convenient mechanism for Prime Ministers and leaders. However saying that is a bit like saying that Parliament itself came about as a convenient mechanism and a “political reality” for Monarchs to gain consent through consulting with nobility, barons and clergy etc. to raise taxes. Or that the supremacy of House of Commons over the House of Lords rather than vice versa came about through the political realities of the legitimacy of an elected chamber.

    It is clear that the ’75 referendum was a convenient mechanism for Wilson to manage his own party and the Scottish devolution referendum of 1979 for Labour to buy off Scots Nats votes – especially with the provision that 40% of the electorate had to vote yes.

    However, whatever the origins, given the history now of the European referendums, referendums on Scottish devolution and independence, Welsh devolution,Northern Irish Good Friday agreement, AV and local referendums on elected mayors etc. – it is unlikely that any major constitutional change would now be introduced without the agreement of the people in a referendum. It makes sense for the people to have the final say on the “rules of the game”.

  • OnceALibDem 10th Aug '18 - 1:08am

    “Through Parliament’s ‘Meaningful vote’, hard fought for and won from this would-be autocratic Government. Labour MPs plus the Lib Dems, the Scots and the Tory rebels, could carry a vote for a Referendum. ”

    These are two different things. The ‘meaningful vote’ is a one off vote. A second referendum would need three readings (requiring two votes) in both Commons and Lords plus a committee and report stage all carried out in the teeth of trenchant opposition by a significant minority who are well versed in Parliamentary guerilla tactics.

    And the timetable is in the hands of the government – there is not AFAIK a single example of a bill being passed into law that didn’t have at least tacit support from the government of the day.

    Mick is totally right that a referendum bill can be passed (relatively) quickly but he included the phrase ‘political will’ . Without that the idea of passing such a bill is a non-starter. And very soon (in terms of Parliamentary sitting days) the time to do that will run out.

  • Dr Carol Weaver 10th Aug '18 - 1:54am

    Andrew sees things from an EU perspective not just a British or Lib Dem one. There are many points for it to consider such as the European Elections next year. Also the EU might soon want to work on a new treaty with a more two tier EU (a closer Eurozone with other members being more peripheral).

    If the UK somehow managed to have a 3 way people’s vote resulting in remain then a new EU treaty would bring up the whole referendum thing again due to our referendum lock. The EU would not want us to veto that treaty.

    So I think the deal, no deal or remain has to be decided upon by the will of parliament (and it’s unlikely to be no deal).

    Yet, at the risk of sounding like a Yes Minister script writer, we need to support the people’s vote without necessarily wanting it.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Aug '18 - 11:03am

    ” Posters such as Michael 1 and George Kendall above have effectively demolished Andrew Duff’s approach. We need a three-way referendum ”

    Andrew was merely introducing an air of reality in this fetid atmosphere. The chances of a rerun of the referendum were always tiny and they are now utterly negligible. It’s mid August 2018 now for pity’s sake. We leave next March.
    You may “need” a referendum – so what? I need the elixir of eternal youth and we are both going to be disappointed. There is a huge opportunity for the LibDems in the current political turmoil if only the unhelpfully passionate wing could listen to down to earth voices like Andrew and offer the public practical answers rather than emotional campaigns that were doomed before the ink was dry on the placards.

  • To Michael Romberg
    Thanks for your thought provoking post on referendum design, and the links.
    You have not mentioned use of the Condorcet rule, which seems to have some consensus among polling experts, as being a valid, trusted and possibly the most accurate method.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Aug '18 - 4:54pm

    @ George Kendall. I agree with everything you write here, George, except your unexpected pessimism in thinking ‘May will get her hard Brexit through’. Remember that there is still supposed to be a majority for Remain in the Commons. It seems to me that the intransigence of both May and Corbyn will have to yield in the end to the force of the majority. But we do have to keep working for it, locally and nationally, and the timetable is indeed short.

    @ Dr Carol Weaver. The difficulty with Parliament deciding to Exit Brexit is that it might well cause outrage in the country. The democratic outcome is for the People to decide.

    Yes of course everyone has to consider matters like the European Elections next May, another vital reason for getting the proposed referendum this winter. But what evidence have you that the EU might soon want to work towards a new Treaty accepting a two-tier Europe? As one of those considering European matters continually, I would have thought they had enough problems without envisaging Treaty change at present. The de facto two-tier system may suit the central powers well enough, and they are surely working towards strengthening the Eurozone without worrying about
    Britain being outside it. They want us back for our financial contribution, for solidarity, and to strengthen Europe against the difficulties caused by President Trump, and surely those are stronger motivations.

  • To Katharine

    “Parliament deciding to Exit Brexit might well cause outrage in the country”

    Some people will be outraged, whatever happens. They will shout their outrage through the megaphone of the Sun, the Daily Mail, etc. But should those who shout the loudest always get their way? I don’t know about you but if someone was yelling at me to jump off a cliff, I would tell them to get stuffed. Bear in mind too that Brexit is totally without substance, a temporary fad. It will surely be forgotten some day, alongside plans to travel to the centre of the earth, build clever machines to trap aliens, and any number of other daft ideas and enterprises. Parliament should dispose of it now if they had any sense.

  • It’s all very well for Andrew Duff to say that we should just vote with Theresa May or abstain. I did not vote LD in order for our party to support the Tories or abstain!
    The best that May can hope for is a Norway type deal where we basically remain a member, but without a vote. This will satisfy no-one. Are Tory MPs really going to vote for this? May will need the support of the opposition to get this through. Are they going to be stupid enough to follow Andrew’s advice & support her & then share the blame? There is no majority for no deal so the only way out for May will be to call a General Election or a referendum on her deal. As she fears a Corbyn victory she will probably argue that a referendum on the deal is the only sensible & democratic way forward. The question could have 3 options so that no-one could say that their choice was excluded. No deal, May’s deal or Remain. It would be by STV. All the polls show that Remain would win convincingly. That would settle the argument democratically.

  • “The second big mistake is to assume that the Remainers would ‘win’ the second referendum …. Opinion polls suggest that the outcome would be just as close as the first… I fear that the argument on the streets would be about nationalism, xenophobia, and democratic betrayal. … The nation would end up even more divided …. A tight result, either way, could even pitch the country into a revolutionary situation.”

    Yes, these are all reasonable fears. But what about the alternative? Everyone, leavers included, now agrees that Brexit, whichever route is chosen, will go horribly wrong. If we just let it happen, and chaos ensues as everyone expects, there will certainly be civil unrest. Many Leavers have been driven crazy by tabloid propaganda – Yougov showed that the majority of Leavers would prefer the return of terror to Ulster to the abandonment of the Brexit cause. These Leavers “know” that Brexit will be bad, and they are ready for the consequences. They will blame the Remainers for the failure of Brexit. They will be ready to riot.

    Brexit stands for revenge by society’s losers against its meritocratic winners. It was loser power which elected Trump and which voted for Brexit. The chaos of Brexit, if it happens, will be the springboard for that revenge to turn violent. A referendum would not eliminate the risk of a violent outcome – but it would reduce it, not increase it.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '18 - 1:01am

    David Allen, I don’t think it is helpful to suggest that Leavers are ‘society’s losers’. Nearly half the nation’s voters had many causes and many viewpoints for voting as they did, as has been extensively analysed. While the Brexit debate has indeed been divisive, the situation is not as apocalyptic as you suggest. The outrage of a few is heard through the megaphone of our free Media.

    John King, you focus on that megaphone effect. But I believe that another referendum is, quite simply, the right, democratic, way forward. The people should be given the chance to change their collective mind, and, recognising the great harm that Brexit would do to the country, to reject it.

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '18 - 6:33am

    @ David Allen,

    I don’t know if I’m one of ‘society’s losers’. That’s for others to decide. You’re welcome to call around for a cup of tea some time and assess the quality of the carpets etc! 🙂

    My reason for voting leave is largely that the EU is run in an undemocratic way. There was no popular clamour for the Euro, or Schengen or the large scale enlargement that we’ve seen in recent years. People everywhere were basically happy with what we had in EEC/EC days. If the EU had been more democratic we wouldn’t be where we are now. It was the PTB in Europe, the ‘elites’ if you like who have stuffed it all up!

    So Brexit is a consequence of all that. The EU is now bad export market. Then there’s the asymmetric immigration pattern. The eurozone is an economic disaster area. I really don’t believe anyone has any idea of just how bad. Look up the problems with Target 2 for starters. How often does the MSM mention those?

    So what does anyone expect? That we should all love a failing project?

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '18 - 7:31am

    I realised when writing the previous comment that I was largely against the EU on the basis of what i would consider rational reasons.

    But, tbh, I don’t feel any emotional attachment to the European project. The truth is I don’t feel ‘European’. I feel British. It doesn’t mean I don’t like Europe or Europeans. If the EU was more successful I’d be happy to stay in. But I don’t like it enough to want to be a part of what I don’t really see ever working well.

    Others do feel much more European and that is due to some emotion than us leavers just don’t feel. No amount of rational argument is going to change that

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '18 - 8:44am

    @David Allen “Brexit stands for revenge by society’s losers against its meritocratic winners.”
    I’m glad that Katharine and Peter (from different sides of the Brexit debate) have already challenged this pretty awful comment.
    It’s not so much the word “losers” that I think is unacceptable (I think we all know what you mean, and perhaps many Brexiters do feel that they have lost out when it comes to sharing the benefits of EU membership), but the notion that us Remainers are “meritocratic winners” which implies that the “losers” are deservedly so because they’re simply not as good as us.

  • @Andrew Duff
    Not withstanding all of the above

    “We have nailed our colours to the mast”.

    The amount of criticism we get on social media re Vince and Tim not being present to vote in that amendment debate is nothing compared to what would happen if we ‘either support or abstain on May’s package deal’ .

    If the party really wants to commit suicide they will listen to you. Alternatively this op ed should be completely ignored.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Aug '18 - 10:15am

    David Allen is half right .It was an act of revenge against an economic elite unaffected by the recession by those for whom employment and basic support had become increasingly insecure .Blaming migrant labour and the EU was all about lashing out at somebody when they could not get the powerful to listen to their concerns.The truth is there were no winners or losers from Brexit just victims and those harmed by globalisation and financial austerity because the greedy were poorly regulated and the rest of us helped bail out their casino economics.

  • Denis Loretto 11th Aug '18 - 10:59am

    Two points –
    1. It has often been said that Article 50 was drafted in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for it to be implemented. Lord Kerr could no doubt give an authoritative comment on this. Certainly it is now being demonstrated that the two year period is clearly inadequate. I reckon an extension of that period is becoming essential and I have little doubt that a request for this would be granted provided it was clear that the UK parliament was minded to use the extra time constructively. Do bear in mind that while Britain (and Ireland) stand to be the worst casualties of brexit many of the 27 will also take a serious hit – especially from a disorderly exit..

    2. If there were to be a “people’s vote” at some point, I cannot see how it would be proper for the alternatives to include “crashing out” without any deal. All but a small minority of MPs know that this would be an utter disaster,. How could it be right to offer it to the electorate? There should be a straight choice between the best deal that can be extracted from the negotiations on one hand and staying in the EU on the other hand.

  • OnceALibDem 11th Aug '18 - 1:17pm

    Vince has today said that a referendum could be legislated for in weeks. Though as is usually the case he illustrates this with examples of emergency legislation with wide agreement across Parliament. That also needs setting against the context that Parliament will only sit for 64 days between now and the end of the year (though that can of course be altered if needed).

    The electoral commission has recommended a 6 month gap betwen legislation being passed and a referendum. Again not binding but an idea of the time needed to efficiently organise a referendum.

    On the other side though – and an illlustration of a very short timescale – the referendum for the Good Friday agreement took place on 22nd May about 7 weeks after the agreement. But again there was wide agreement in Parliament about that (I’m not sure if it needed legislation)

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/final-say-vince-cable-brexit-referendum-eu-uk-leave-no-deal-vote-a8486091.html

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug '18 - 1:24pm

    If there is another vote, a Peoples’ vote, why not invite the EU leaders like J-C Juncker to openly campaign for Remain? Maybe Arnold Kiel could help write their speeches?

    There could be calls for the UK’s “Unconditional surrender” to the EU! That could just do the trick! Who knows?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Aug '18 - 1:54pm

    Innocent Bystander is correct, the opinion of some here also, a measured article until the fantasy. If this country leaves in March, from the EU, we are not, as a nation returning for generations most likely unless it changes, which it must. If it is as is, if the party goes to the electorate to return, it must be on a deal so excellent it is better than now, or the party shall be consigned to nil points!

    I think a new politics, needs something nobody in this party seems to have much, belief in something with real conviction, and then the ability to really do it with courage.

    And I do not mean return to the EU, I mean get about improving Britain as a result of believing in this country!

  • Peter Martin 11th Aug ’18 – 1:24pm:
    If there is another vote, a Peoples’ vote, why not invite the EU leaders like J-C Juncker to openly campaign for Remain?

    If he could stand up for long enough perhaps he could repeat his previous message?…

    ‘Leave EU and we’ll make your lives a misery: Juncker’s warning to Britain’ [May 2016]:
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/leave-eu-and-well-make-your-lives-a-misery-junckers-warning-to-britain-7h2k90t8g

    Britain would be shut out by the rest of the European Union and treated like deserters if the country voted to leave next month, Jean Claude Juncker suggested yesterday.

    The president of the European Commission broke his promise to David Cameron not to intervene in the referendum and told Le Monde that Britain after Brexit would not “be handled gently”.

  • Jeff,

    I don’t think the EU would campaign for remain. One it would be counter productive and two I don’t think they care that much anymore. It’s like having an old friend who won’t give up the booze and ciggies, tis sad but their demise is their fault and nagging them won’t make any difference you just have to accept you’ll be attending a funeral soon. The only ones suffering by our decision are us. Brexit has paralysed the political system for the last two years, hobbled the economy and set friend against friend and neighbour against neighbour. There are no sunlit uplands all that is left is a bunch of Brexiteers gamely marching to the cliff because admitting they are wrong is too much for them to do. So gamely sing “We believe we can fly”, mutter to each other “They need us more than we need them” trot out the theory that “WTO means everyone will have their own personal unicorn” and don’t be surprised that history is less than kind to you.

  • Dr Carol Weaver 11th Aug '18 - 7:07pm

    @Katherine

    These changes have been discussed in academic circles for years (with many of us having written about them in journals) and it looks as though a more formal two-tier EU could be necessary sooner now rather than later, almost certainly requiring treaty change.

    https://moneyweek.com/486782/macrons-plea-for-eu-reform/

    We shall see.

  • Jonathan Pile 11th Aug '18 - 9:20pm

    This is an honest but disappointing article to read. The Peoples Vote is the necessary step for a truthful, legal vote on the Brexit reality. Parliament is not legally bound by the 2016 EU Referendum, and in the light of the illegality, lies and cheating – any parliament with backbone would strike down the result. Only a General Election or a Referendum can undo the damage of 2016. There is no guarantee that we can win apart from the determination of 30 million Brits to have a say. 16 million voted last time, 2 million Young People couldn’t vote but can now, 3 million Non-British but valued EU Citizens whose lives are still in limbo couldn’t vote, 2 Million British Expats and 7 million people who felt content not to vote but then immediately wished they had voted Remain. Then all those Leavers like Danny Dyer who know they were lied to.
    We have to stop Brexit or else the Britain we knew is gone . Millions of Small Businesses are mad as hell about the damage of Brexit and Lies told. The Tide is turning. We need to keep marching until Brexit is dead, the word is struck from the dictionary and the Liars are driven from parliament and those Criminals who broke the law are in Jail

  • “Submitting the terms and conditions of the Article 50 negotiations to a popular vote would be fraudulent. ”

    In the 2016 referendum, the terms of the “special deal” that David C negotiated were submitted to a popular vote. “Remain” was “Remain on the (worse) terms negotiated by David C”, NOT “Remain and don’t disturb the status quo”.

    That means, based on the author’s article, that either the 2016 referendum was fraudulent OR, alternatively, that it NOT fraudulent to hold referenda either on David C’s “special deal” or on whatever deal, if any, that T May manages to negotiate.

  • Katharine Pindar: “David Allen… While the Brexit debate has indeed been divisive, the situation is not as apocalyptic as you suggest.”

    So you hope. Every catastrophe, from the First World War to the Nazi atrocities in the Polish ghettos, has been preceded by a multitude of voices declaiming that it will all turn out OK and that it is silly to panic. Actually, rational fear saves lives. Brexit could trigger something pretty much akin to a new British civil war. Don’t tell me that’s a crazy thing to say. History says that it sure isn’t.

    Peter Martin “I don’t know if I’m one of ‘society’s losers’. … My reason for voting leave is largely that the EU is run in an undemocratic way.”

    I’m sure there are a large minority of Leave voters who are not vengeful “losers” and opted to leave on a rational basis. Sorry Peter if you feel unjustly attacked. But my focus is on the majority of Leave voters, who told Yougov that war in Ireland would be preferable to abandoning Brexit, and who call our judges “enemies of the people”. Peter, don’t you accept that many of the people who march alongside you are pretty extremist and obsessive?

  • Peter Watson: “the notion that us Remainers are “meritocratic winners” … implies that the “losers” are deservedly so because they’re simply not as good as us.”

    I have to apologise for not making my views clearer. On the one hand, I don’t approve of Mr Angry (Michael Howard – type) loser politics, whereby less successful people seek revenge on more successful people by voting Trump, or by voting Brexit, thereby delighting in hitting back at the meritocrats. On the other hand, I also don’t approve of “meritocracy”, the conceit (peddled initially by Blair) that inequality is absolutely fine provided that the people who win out are the people who, somehow or other, are the most deserving.

    It used to be easier to campaign against inequality. Lord Snooty, whose wealth was inherited from robber baron ancestors, deserved to be cut down to size by heavy socialist-inspired taxation. Then along came Blair, who promoted the idea that we needed a different kind of upper class, the Bransons and the Beckhams who deserved what they had earned. Fifty years ago, many middle class professionals accepted that working class poverty needed to be addressed. Nowadays, all too many middle class professionals think they deserve to keep their hard-earned salaries. They also think they simply deserve to remain engaged with an EU which has helped to bring them such professional successes.

    Let’s be clear about this. The notion that it is hard work that brings success in life is largely spurious. That is a convenient fiction. What brings success is primarily inherited wealth together with good luck. The Tories exist to help the lucky successful to get rich and stay rich. We should have different aims.

    So – It’s a shame that the hard Right have exploited the legitimate grievances of society’s losers, and channelled them into the false cause of Brexit. A century ago, the hard Right in Germany similarly explited the legitimate grievances of society’s losers, and channelled them into a far more pernicious false cause. The Brexiteers are deluded. But so, to a substantial extent, are “meritocrat” Remainers.

  • “Let’s be clear about this. The notion that it is hard work that brings success in life is largely spurious. That is a convenient fiction. What brings success is primarily inherited wealth together with good luck. The Tories exist to help the lucky successful to get rich and stay rich. We should have different aims.”

    Very true but not a truth the Tories or the majority of the media wish to publicise. They’d rather push the fallacy that with hard work you can be Richard Branson or David Beckham. This rather feeds into the British exceptionalism myth and if we don’t succeed why then it is someone else’s fault probably a doleie, a cripple or an immigrant (as an aside the US push the similar fallacy but on steroids). Accepting that your life chances really do depend on your parents wealth and contacts is not a truth that those that benefit wish to become a common truth. Yes we should do more to change this “truth” but the first step is accepting that it is a “truth”.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '18 - 7:04am

    @ David Allen,

    “Peter, don’t you accept that many of the people who march alongside you are pretty extremist and obsessive?”

    Your line of thinking is a problem right throughout the EU. The left and centre-left are so scared of providing any sensible opposition and criticism to the austerity economics which is imposed, mainly by the Stability and Growth Pact, that they’d rather just about cease to exist than say ‘boo’ to the unelected EU commission. That’s something only the far right do! Right? Well it is if you want the far right to hoover up all your unwanted working class support!

    @ Dr Carol Weaver , @ Katharine

    (DCW, Please note correct spelling of K’s name 🙂 )

    The two tier idea is more than just an “acedemic ” point. It’s being floated because, essentially, the present structure of the EU/Eurozone is unviable. As an engineer I know how difficult it can be to get something to work properly even when the theory says it should. It’s just about impossible when the theory says it shouldn’t.

    And the theory of the present EU structure indicates that too many euros will end up in the wealthy parts, leaving the poorer parts in recession because they have too few. These have to be lent back but the loans then create debts which simply can’t ever be repaid. Besides that they are against the rules! The EU is big on rules.

    In other words what is happening in the EU was entirely predictable from theory. Goodness knows what anyone there was thinking about when they decided to have 19 countries share a single currency. The ECB is good at fudging the rules, to try to make the best of it, much to the consternation of the Germans! I don’t know how it will end but it can’t go on like this much longer and I can’t see it ending well.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '18 - 7:19am

    As I mentioned spelling, I suppose I should correct my own bad spelling! It’s ACADEMIC !

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '18 - 7:36am

    @ frankie,

    “Let’s be clear about this. The notion that it is hard work that brings success in life is largely spurious.”

    It depends on what you mean by ‘success’. Most people do work hard and want to work hard both for their families and communities. It doesn’t mean they necessarily have the financial success in terms of the high profile people you’ve mentioned but they aren’t failures either.

    I travelled down to London last week on one of Richard Branson’s trains. The train driver and all the other railway staff were all successful in getting me there on time. Their hard work does matter.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Aug '18 - 9:31am

    Dr Carol Weaver: what academics write about doesn’t necessarily reflect realities on the ground. With respect, that’s a pretty feeble reference you have given. I don’t doubt that a two-tier Europe may have been much discussed, but what I was and am objecting to was the idea that the EU is likely to formalise this any time soon. The two tiers are informally in place anyway.

    Peter, thanks for the note on spelling my name! As an engineer, I would have thought you could agree that the present informal division works for those countries like ours in the outer zone. I agree with you that ‘the left and centre-left’ should have done more to criticise the EU and propose reforms. On austerity, our party is of course against its continuance in Britain, and perhaps if we stay in can contribute to thinking about reform of the Stability and Growth Pact. We won’t be in the Eurozone, but with the challenges facing the EU now, perhaps reform will emerge from within anyway. I hope so.

  • Dr Carol Weaver 12th Aug '18 - 1:55pm

    @Katharine

    “what academics write about doesn’t necessarily reflect realities on the ground”

    So someone else who thinks experts should be ignored. Someone who also thinks that academics do not talk to practitioners at high levels or advise them.

    Would Katharine be saying the same about medical or scientific academics?

    What a pity that there is not more respect amongst Lib Dems. I am beginning to have some sympathy with Andrew’s desire for a new party.

    Forgive me but I shall not be contributing any more to this thread.

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Aug '18 - 1:57pm

    “The notion that it is hard work that brings success in life is largely spurious. ”

    Cheek! My parents were as poor as Church mice but encouraged me to work hard and study and develop useful skills and knowhow.
    And I have for decades and the notion that those of us who have worked long, long days in high pressure jobs have robbed those who, with the same natural talent, couldn’t summon up any energy but preferred to sit back, proudly declare their victim status, and blame everyone else is offensive.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Aug '18 - 7:31pm

    Dr Carol Weaver, I do not admire your petulant response. May I point out that to suggest that what I wrote showed I was ‘someone else who thinks experts should be ignored’ is an illogical response. I should have been pleased to read any reference from you that indeed showed your expertise or that of colleagues, but I note you are rapidly quitting the field, so I will retain my opinion.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Aug '18 - 7:47pm

    ‘Brexit could trigger something pretty much akin to a new British civil war.’ As a counsellor, David Allen, I am used to people catastrophising, but I doubt if your opinion there is widely held. The fact is that others maintain that a similar catastrophe could follow if we REJECT Brexit. Both views cannot be right, and I doubt that either is, but it must be painful to hold such an opinion, so I sympathise with those so upset by dark forebodings. I think the next six months are crucial to getting Parliament to accept another referendum, which now seems happily possible for Remainers to win; but I believe British common sense will continue to prevail for the majority, either way.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '18 - 10:24pm

    @ Dr Carol Weaver,

    “So someone else who thinks experts should be ignored”

    I don’t think Katharine said ‘ignored’. But can we be clear about what type of experts we are discussing here?

    The Queen famously asked a collection of ‘experts’ at the LSE why they didn’t see the GFC coming. They had no answer. She could have asked why the eurozone doesn’t work very well. Or why we have a ‘productivity puzzle’. The state of the EU is the result of the best supposedly expert advice available from Europe’s leading universities.

    Economics seems to be different from other academic disciplines. There’s hardly any consensus. We have Marxist experts, Post Keynesian Experts, New Keynesian Experts, Neoclassical experts, Austrian School experts, Chicago School experts, Monetarist experts, Ordoliberal Experts etc etc. They all disagree with each other, so they can’t all be right and they can’t therefore all be experts!

    There’s too much politics involved for it ever to be any different. IMO.

  • Peter Martin 12th Aug '18 - 10:33pm

    @ Katharine,

    “As an engineer, I would have thought you could agree that the present informal division works for those countries like ours in the outer zone.”

    Since the 2008 GFC I don’t think it does work. It was OK before that. The EU now consists of economically depressed countries or mercantilist countries. They are bad export markets. The resultant trade deficit needs to be financed by someone in the UK borrowing and that gives us a debt problem. Both public and private sector.

    In any case this is a “The EU is fine and long as we don’t have to have too much EU” sort of argument. I tend to the view that we should either be totally in (euro, schengen, no opt outs etc) or totally out.

  • Innocent Bystander 13th Aug '18 - 12:40pm

    Peter,
    Quite correct and I liked your contribution. Those experts can not all be right. They can, of course, all be wrong.
    There is no such animal as an apolitcal economist. Their political opinions drive their theories and thus they are not to be compared to those who are learned in science or medicine.
    I can’t help observing that the British have won the Nobel Prize for Economics eight times and our economy is a basket case soon to implode and China has never won it and are buying up everything in sight.

  • Peter Martin 13th Aug '18 - 3:19pm

    @ Innocent Bystander,

    You’re right that theoretically everyone could be wrong. But I’d say it was unlikely and, at least, one has to be closer to being right than the others.

    So which one? Just as Chemistry has to start off with a theory of what atoms and molecules are, so Economics should start off with a theory of what money is – especially fiat money which is not backed by any gold or silver. We need to understand why it has a value.

    As far as I can make out, there is only one group which starts off with a sensible theory on this and then takes it from there. It takes a bit of getting used to but once the penny drops it’s all pretty much straightforward after that. I can’t see why there is any argument. TBH.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartalism

  • David Allen 13th Aug '18 - 3:33pm

    “As a counsellor, David Allen, I am used to people catastrophising”

    That must surely be a candidate for Snarky Remark of the Year!

  • David Allen 13th Aug '18 - 3:51pm

    Katharine Pindar,

    “‘Brexit could trigger something pretty much akin to a new British civil war.’ David Allen… I doubt if your opinion there is widely held. The fact is that others maintain that a similar catastrophe could follow if we REJECT Brexit. Both views cannot be right”

    Oh yes they can. When too many people lose their cool and end up simply spoiling for a fight, any decisive outcome can trigger that fight. Rangers v Celtic used to be a case in point, and it didn’t make much difference which side won!

    Certainly a rejection of Brexit by parliamentary vote could trigger a revolt of the “betrayed” Brexit voters. The fear of such a revolt is obviously why so many “remainer” Labour MPs are keeping quiet and allowing Corbyn to have his way. But equally, going ahead with Brexit could trigger civil unrest, because it is bound to go badly, and it will then turn into a blame game.

    Ironically, I do share your belief that a referendum is the least worst option. Andrew Duff, in his OP, opined that a further referendum “could even pitch the country into a revolutionary situation”. My view is that whatever we do there are dangers, but on the whole, a second vote is more likely to minimise trouble than either enacting Brexit, or unilaterally abandoning it.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Aug '18 - 9:16pm

    David, sorry you thought my remark sounded snarky. I was merely reflecting a little sadly on how over-the-top debate has become, at least among political anoraks. I expect there will indeed be a lot of shouting whatever happens, but I look forward then to the quiet mass of the people being incredulous about way-out minority views, and either ridiculing them or just quietly getting on with whatever lot they are landed with.

  • David Allen 14th Aug '18 - 7:54pm

    Katharine “David, sorry you thought my remark sounded snarky. …. but I look forward then to the quiet mass of the people being incredulous about way-out minority views, and … ridiculing them…”

    You look forward to commanding a fantasy army of snarks, who will join you in using ridicule as a substitute for rational debate!

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Aug '18 - 1:27am

    Ridiculing over-the-top minority views seems like a reasonable reaction to me, David Allen. I’m not supposing you will hold them, when the dust settles, since I have read your comments here for years and not usually disagreed with them. If you have read mine and any of my articles you will know that I generally use rational argument. And ‘a chimerical animal of ill-defined characteristics and potentialities’ I certainly am not! Just a fellow Lib Dem activist. Could it be you have had a bad experience of counselling? It does happen sometimes. Yes I do a bit of counselling, for which I am trained, but my heart is in working for our wonderful party, to try and bring about a better Britain.

  • David Allen 15th Aug '18 - 1:48pm

    Yes Katharine, you usually argue rationally. All the more surprising to see you abandon rationality.

    “Ridiculing over-the-top minority views seems like a reasonable reaction to me, David Allen. I’m not supposing you will hold them, when the dust settles”

    Can’t you recognise these words as another exquisitely crafted piece of applied snarkism? Your suggestion is that I will soon see the light and abandon my “over the top minority view”, thereby escaping the ridicule which you are oh-so-entitled to direct toward me. That’s frankly much more deviously, snarkily annoying than a straightforward honest insult would have been.

    No I haven’t had a bad experience of counselling. That’s just another version of “maybe some dreadful personal experience explains why you are disagreeing with me, because nothing else could justify your doing so”.

    A good counsellor surely needs a bit of self-awareness, the capability to see their own flaws, not just project flaws onto the other person. Please think about that!

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Aug '18 - 8:22pm

    You are assuming I was associating ‘minority over-the-top views’ with you, David. I was not. Why do you take all this so personally, when I was reflecting broadly on the extravagant views of a minority of Brexiteers and of Remainers alike? I was not avoiding disagreement with you, being used here to tolerant interchange of views, but didn’t understand why you seemed so angry. I have myself refrained from attempted patronage and personal insult, and I would request you to do the same. I shall not in any case continue this mini-debate, as I am sure the author of this article would prefer that we looked more widely at the issues he raises.

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