The final deal: what would we say?

If there is a referendum on the final deal about leaving the European Union, what would we say? Here is my starter:

Background

We recognise that the vote to leave the EU was fuelled (in part) by dissatisfaction with growing levels of inequality, and felt pressure on cultural values and identity. So we need to address a) the reasons why staying in the EU is better than leaving, as well as b) how we are going to address inequality in the UK and the identity issues tied up with some of our suspicion of foreigners. I think it is also important to make the point that staying in the EU is not the goal. It is a step towards our goal of ensuring that this country works for everyone, and not just the élite.


This is not just about the EU, it is about how we run this country, and about the fact that we can run this country better for the benefit of everybody in the EU rather than out of the EU.

1) The EU is not perfect, but neither is the UK. Leaving the EU would not take back control for us, it would take back control for the elites who want to rule us unfettered by considerations like human rights. An example is discussions within the EU about measures to combat tax avoidance by multinationals and the super rich, measures which have consistently been resisted by the UK government. Staying in the EU is actually more likely to help us make our own country work for everyone.

2) As the EU is not perfect, we need to work with other countries on securing reforms which are in the interests not just of British people, but of ordinary people all over the EU. These would include rules on tax avoidance, which we should embrace rather than resist; making rules of agricultural production and fishing more sustainable and fairer throughout the EU; ensuring that the single market works better for everyone.

3) While we work more closely with the EU, we will not allow that to be a distraction from solving the problems caused by selfishness within this country, for many of which the EU has been wrongly held to blame:

  • We will rebalance funding to reduce regional inequalities throughout the UK.
  • We will build more houses where they are needed, including a significant expansion of genuinely affordable housing
  • We will reverse policies that have plunged millions into poverty or misery, and particularly the punitive policies being directed at unemployed, sick and disabled people
  • We will end the deliberate underfunding and the creeping privatisation of the NHS
  • We will change educational policy so that teachers can teach rather than constantly attending to targets
  • We will work with the EU and with every other country in the world to reduce tax avoidance
  • We will amend employment law to bring security and minimum standards to the gig economy
  • We will attend to the pressures caused by immigration, including organising a fairer and more responsive system for funding local services put under strain by population growth

These policies reflect the standards and the approach we have always brought to our policies, as exemplified in our constitution:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Our relations with the other members of the EU and our commitment to work for the people of this country are not in opposition to each other.

They are part and parcel of the same thing.

* Rob Parsons is a Lib Dem member in Lewes. He blogs at http://acomfortableplace.blogspot.co.uk

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12 Comments

  • Thanks Rob. Somebody had to push the boat out on this.

  • @Barnaby

    What would you say is the key reason you have for wanting to leave the EU?

    I am neither a remain voter or leave voter – in actual fact I abstained.

    However I am interested in hearing from Liberal Democrats who support leaving

  • Raising the issue is very helpful. However we really must get away from this taking back control nonsense. The control of our country is very firmly in the hands of our government, whether they agree to exercise it or not. Language is very important. We have got control. Unfortunately we have a weak and and disorganised government who do not know where they want to go. We have very much control of our borders, including the sea border between England and Ireland. If we haven’t why was I requested to show my passport when I caught the ferry to Dublin a few months ago?

  • Simon McGrath 13th Feb '18 - 12:23pm

    Can you explain why you think more NHS services being provided by private contractors (like your local GP) is a problem? and what it has to do with Brexit ?

  • @Rob
    It is a shame that this op ed has had so little comment. It seems like an honest attempt to unite a divided nation/party. Whilst the particulars lack scope and detail they would seem to be in the right direction. Personally I hate the use of the word ‘DEAL’ when it comes to our negotiations with the EU. it is confrontational, arrogant and antagonistic. What happened to words like agreement and accommodation. This Government’s approach to Brexit is not only generating a division between ourselves and the EU, it is doing the same in the country as a whole, not to mention between England, Scotland, Wales and N.I. Brexit is going to adversely effect many people and regions and the way things are going there could be mixed feelings about how to deal with that.

  • Barnaby: Before we joined the EU the UK was suffering a continual decline, possibly because our leaders were unable to do anything to stop it. There is no evidence that anything has changed in that respect, in many ways things are a lot worse so your views are completely worthless.

  • Peter Hirst 14th Feb '18 - 1:49pm

    I agree that we must address the fundamental concerns of those who voted leave. Perhaps by linking with the disadvantaged in other eu countries they might have more clout. This was already being done by social media. By devising mechanisms so those who feel dis-empowered by globalisation can better communicate their fears and concerns, we can give them confidence that they are better off in the eu. We must make contact with them in whatever way they receive information.

  • Nick Collins 14th Feb '18 - 2:52pm

    “I have yet to hear a convincing argument for staying in based on evidence not hysteria”

    Funny that; I have yet to hear, or read, a single cogent argument in favour of leaving.

  • Rob Parsons 14th Feb '18 - 2:56pm

    Barnaby, 12th Feb ’18 – 4:57pm apologies for the delay in replying and taking up your points. Other things have been occupying me.

    I think you have partly made a valid point and partly misunderstood what I was trying to do here.

    Where you say “Most of the rest of your piece seems to generally ignore the EU altogether, falling back on domestic politics.”: yes that was precisely the point. The EU gets the blame for a lot that is wrong with this country, despite it not being the EU’s fault. We need to pay attention to those ills, whether or not we stay in the EU. This is a way of saying that is what we will do. The need to blame the EU unfairly for issues over which our own politicians have control will diminish if we actually do something about them.

    “You also seem to think that we are incapable as a country to conduct our own affairs in the interests of the British people without EU supervision.” I have no idea where you get that impression from. Perhaps it is your own perception of the EU as a superstate. I do not have that idea, primmarily because it is inaccurate: the EU is not a superstate. It is a body of states who have agreed to work together under certain conditions. We have been successfully a part of this body for decades, with no compromise to our sovereignty.

    “felt pressure on cultural values and identity” I think this is a complex and delicate issue. I do not ignore these, but I do think the word “felt” is important there. I do not think the actual pressure on culture or identity is nearly as big as it is perceived to be. In my view the perception is driven by a very successful tide of misinformation from right wing sources who have an interest in ruling by dividing.

  • Rob Parsons 14th Feb '18 - 3:03pm

    Simon 13th Feb ’18 – 12:23pm my main point is that a lot of the issues which need to be dealt with are blamed on the EU while having nothing to do with the EU. Doing something about them will perhaps open people’s eyes to the realities of what the EU does for us, and what cannot be blamed on it.

    In terms of the NHS, I have no problem with private involvement, as long as it is properly controlled. The current government, like the Tories in coalition, treat the NHS as an opportunity for people to make money. Far too much effort is being put into, and money is being spent on, privatising for the sake of it rather than finding the best way of delivering the service. Oversight and quality control are feeble, and seem to put the interests of the corporations ahead of the interests of patients.

  • Rob Parsons 14th Feb '18 - 3:03pm

    P.J. 13th Feb ’18 – 2:45pm thank you 🙂

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