The other side of Brexit: What about the Leavers?

I’m increasingly conscious that one really important group has become invisible in the storm around Brexit: the people who actually voted for it.

Canvassing recently my ear was firmly bent by someone who voted Leave and is worried about the NHS. The promise of £350 million per week might have evaporated on the morning after the referendum, but her concerns have not. She’s not angry at the lie: for her this is just one more in the chain of politicians’ lies. The worry is real.

One of the memorable moments in  Laura  Kuenssberg’s documentary on the referendum had  Leave voters  in Sunderland saying “now people in London have got to listen to us”.

Instead we have a prime minister saying “Brexit means Brexit” and talking of the “will of the people”, but who reacted to being reigned in by the courts by bring a bill before parliament to give her huge powers in the Brexit process. This sounds like a land grab from No.10 rather than an attempt at listening.

What happens now to the people who felt left behind?

People who voted Leave because life is hard were not voting for it to become harder. Cornwall voted for Brexit, and now finds the London will not provide the money they have been receiving from Brussels. People were persuaded that immigrants are to blame for many of life’s woes: that doesn’t mean they voted to find out the hard way that that is not true.

Some have suggested that the Brexit vote was a form of self-harm. That’s not an irrational act: it’s what people do when the pain from things they can’t control is too great, and alleviated by a pain they can. When people are in that place, the first thing to do is to listen to them.

Many of these people are traditional Labour voters, who they now seem to be ignoring. With honourable exceptions, it feels instead as if Labour and Conservatives are competing to out-UKIP UKIP. Our system expects the opposition to be a “government in waiting”: right now it is missing in action, failing to hold the government to account over Brexit, and failing to engage with those who would lose most from a hard Brexit.

The brutal criticism of traditional socialism is that it has to keep people poor so they go on voting socialist. New Labour was a valiant attempt to get out of that space that Corbyn’s Labour rejects.

The Liberal Democrat perspective on this is a game-changer. Our emphasis on community-based politics means we start in a different place. A world where no-one is “enslaved by poverty” has a different feel from the toxic language of envying the wealthy: it’s an invitation instead to create opportunity and possibility. It’s a hope-filled message when hope (rather than fantasy) is missing.

That is a more subtle message than can be conveyed in the heat of parliamentary by-elections, but it sits naturally with the community dimension of local election campaigns.

Personally, I think the Liberal Democrat messaging on diversity is about trying to change the whole of society for the better. Freedom from “enslavement by poverty” is one important aspect of this.

The deafness and ineptness of the two big parties are creating a need for the Liberal Democrats: can we step up to it? Can we show that listening was not confined to one badly-worded question on 23 June 2016?

* Mark Argent was the candidate in Hertford and Stortford in the 2017 General Election

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69 Comments

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Mar '17 - 9:46am

    I don’t agree with everything in this article

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/06/27/real-economic-reform-might-have-saved-tory-remainers-from-their/

    but I think it makes the point.

    Whatever people in the LDP, or writing on LDV might thing an awful lot of people out there felt that at best they had no stake in the EU project (i.e they’d been left behind)and at worst that the EU agenda was exacerbating economic dislocation.

    When it came to the crunch and a case for the EU had to be made it did feel a bit like the best REMAIN could come up with was – vote for the EU, it’s not all that bad. REMAIN pretty much bet the farm on economic arguments and found that they didn’t really cut through.

    I’ve said it on here previously, but I think it bears repeating. Whenever I think about the referendum I really struggle to get past a sense that if 2m+ young un/underemployed UK people could all head to the Eastern states for wages/housing/welfare and send money home then we’d just have had a 95% IN vote.

    I’m sure that a lot of people want hope – just I’m rather less convinced that they will see the EU as a project that gives hope. I don’t think some REMAINers have quite grasped that.

  • Quick quesion: how can you do that without a migration/economic policy? Sorry the terms of engagement have shifted. Leave is happening – why? because people don’t trust the old liberal elites in negotiating the global economy on their behalf and the Lib Dems have no intention of negotiating the psychological and intellectual ground to intervene in their own prejudices.

    Brexit could be a fantastic opportunity for you. You could actually come out as no border immigrationists. Just think outside the EU you can argue for an complete open door policy – just like you secretly want to do.

  • The brutal criticism of traditional socialism is that it has to keep people poor so they go on voting socialist. New Labour was a valiant attempt to get out of that space that Corbyn’s Labour rejects

    No, the brutal criticism of socialism is that it inevitably leads to totalitarianism as the state forces its way into more and more aspects of people’s lives under the guise of ‘redistribution’, and New Labour wasn’t an attempt to get out of that space, it was a leaning-into it as Gordon Brown redesigned the welfare system in order to make more people dependant on state handouts, whether in the form of tax credits or jobs in the public sector, than ever before.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Mar '17 - 11:09am

    As a historian of the present Andrew Marr made the point that 800 million people had the right to come to the UK, but did not do so.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '17 - 12:37pm

    Mark Argent

    People who voted Leave because life is hard were not voting for it to become harder.

    Yes they were. Brexit will make life harder for them, and they voted for it.

    Those of us who made that point before they voted for it are now being accused of being arrogant and elitist and anti-democratic if we continue to make it.

    As the right-wing elite who funded and pushed the Leave campaign have said, “Brexit means Brexit”. You voted for it, you’ve got it.

  • Richard Hall 9th Mar '17 - 12:59pm

    This is a more eloquent version of what I wrote the other week, that the Liberal Democrats fill a void left wide open by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. On a local level (and that has been the Lib Dems strength historically) Liberal Democrats have sought to find local solutions to local problems, but there is a need to accept that those who voted leave felt, and in some cases still feel out, and to find a way of expanding the Liberal Democrat approach to account for this but without attempting to ape the policies of UKIP or the Tories in suggesting that “foreigner’s” are the problem. The same goes for scapegoating anyone with money regardless of how it was earned.

    The parties of the left and the right too often build monolith’s to attack and with which to win votes, and the further apart they go the worse it gets. Our job should be to take apart those monoliths to show the reality.

    This does lead to a question though, are we trying to reject Brexit, or are we attempting to manage it and negate the obvious negative repercussions of Brexit?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '17 - 1:04pm

    Little Jackie Paper

    When it came to the crunch and a case for the EU had to be made it did feel a bit like the best REMAIN could come up with was – vote for the EU, it’s not all that bad..

    Well, we can’t win, can we? You come up with this, but at other times you come up with the exact opposite, claiming that those of us who supported Remain are all head-in-the-clouds idealists, who think it is super-duper wonderful, and support it for that sort of irrational reason, singing “Ode to Joy” as we do so.

    Right throughout my own view has always been that the EU is not all that bad, and that if I was to oppose it, I would need to see some actual factual arguments as to what it is doing that is bad for us, and what the alternatives are that are better.

    We didn’t get any, did we? Just vague hand-waving, and all this “Ode to Joy” nonsense.

    Sometimes life is like that. You have to accept something that maybe isn;’t wonderful, but isn’t bad either, if there isn’t a good alternative.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Mar '17 - 1:23pm

    Richard Hall – ‘Our job should be to take apart those monoliths to show the reality.’

    I don’t disagree with the point you are making overall, but aren’t you rather falling into the trap that the REMAIN campaign fell into? When it came to the EU we have Cameron and REMAIN didn’t so much as deny several LEAVE claims, rather they offered counter-claims (tax take of EU migrants for example) or saying that his new deal would resolve problems (so tacitly accepting that the EU is a source of problems).

    OK – I doubt very much that there were a great many people who would tell me that the EU we have is the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t deal in caricature. But ultimately the ‘reality’ you are talking about surely has to recognise that not everyone is on the good end of the deal. From there the question is what to do about it.

    I have said on here several times previously that the UK government should shoulder blame. There are things that can be done WITHIN EU law that the UK has not done. It perhaps should be noted that some of those things might not sit easily with the LDP mainstream. But that isn’t what REMAINers talked about in the campaign – there was no real thought given to what could/should be done to address concerns that were long-expressed. This is not to say that I think that the LEAVE prescription would solve those problems – but at least they had a prescription.

    See for example this report, notably p26-32 – http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/579001/IPOL_STU(2016)579001_EN.pdf. Would a REMAINer think that’s not a problem, or a problem in need of resolution? If the former, fair enough. If the latter, what would that resolution look like?

    I agree with the point that you are making in general, but the monoliths you talk about need more than ‘taking apart.’ REMAIN almost seemed, perhaps inadvertently, to promote a message of ‘more of the same.’ What I wanted to hear from REMAINers was what would be done differently from WITHIN the EU. I’m still waiting.

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Mar '17 - 1:32pm

    Huntbach – ‘Right throughout my own view has always been that the EU is not all that bad, and that if I was to oppose it, I would need to see some actual factual arguments as to what it is doing that is bad for us, and what the alternatives are that are better.’

    I agree. Really I do. You seem to think that I’m spoiling for a fight or trying to persuade you that you are wrong. I’m doing neither. You made your choice and I’m sure you did it in good faith.

    I think the only difference between you and I is that you could look past some aspects of the political construct that I could not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '17 - 1:35pm

    Richard Hall

    On a local level (and that has been the Lib Dems strength historically) Liberal Democrats have sought to find local solutions to local problems, but there is a need to accept that those who voted leave felt, and in some cases still feel out,

    Well I do, but the problem is that when I state this, I am accused of being a nasty liberal elitist who is refusing to accept the voice of the people, and is insulting them by claiming they were “fooled”.

    So what am I to say? My genuine belief remains that the unhappiness and loss of control which people feel and which led them to vote “Leave” are a result of the privatisation and shift of control of our country to big business that was initiated under the Thatcher government and continued by every government since.

    I believe that the “Leave” campaign was a cynical attempt to distract people from this, and to make out instead that the problems were all due to membership of the EU. The “Leave” campaign was run by extreme Thatcherists whose real objection to the EU was the way its international co-operation puts controls on some of the ways big business takes control and pushes us all down by playing one country off against another. Indeed we see that now, as they are using Brexit to push Britain into being a sort of shady tax-haven for the super-rich.

    Yet to say this, pointing out that those who voted “Leave” were tricked into supporting those who want the exact opposite of what they thought they were voting for just gets those accusations thrown at me.

    That is why it seems I just have to accept – those who voted Leave wanted our country to become an even more extreme Thatcherite country. They voted for it, and they are going to get it.

  • I personally canvassed 2000 houses during the referendum campaign & a clear pattern emerged amongst those voting for leave. In almost every case one of 2 reasons was offered for their decision.

    A minority thought we would be better off after leaving. They believed the £350 million pounds a week we sent to the EU would be better spent on the NHS.

    However the majority acknowledged that we would be worse off, but it was worth being poorer in order to get rid of the immigrants.

    We now know of course that the £350 million pounds per week was a lie. In fact there will be less money for the NHS.
    We also have an admission from David Davies that immigration will continue as we need it.

    So all those I spoke to who voted for Brexit will be disappointed.

  • Brexit will make life harder for them, and they voted for it.

    You don’t know that for sure.

    Specifically, you don’t know that even if life does get harder, it wouldn’t have been even harder still if we were still shackled to a half-baked currency union in perma-crisis and a continent that for the most part still hasn’t woken up to the realities of having to live within your means in a post-crash world where you simply can’t all retire at sixty on massive pensions.

  • Graham Evans 9th Mar '17 - 3:27pm

    @ alan I think your comment regarding the attitude of Leave voters towards immigrants is very important in terms of the Party’s approach. Unless some specific issue takes on even more importance in these voters’ minds – which may be the case for local elections – we are never going to persuade this group of voters that they made the wrong decision no matter how worse off they become. Few of them will ever admit to themselves, much less to others, that they are victims of their own actions. While we may have a moral duty to try to alleviate these people’s plight, our electioneering efforts should concentrate on those Leavers who are open to persuasion, even if in doing so we offend many in the Leave camp. To govern is to choose.

  • Graham Evans 9th Mar '17 - 3:45pm

    @dav Even if your characterisation of the EU were correct, it is a delusion to believe that our economic fate will not be linked to our near neighbours for decades to come. As a member we have the possibility of influencing their direction of travel to our benefit. Outside we are powerless. The idea that our trading relationships with the rest of the world will in the short to medium term act as a substitute is a triumph of hope over experience, certainly compared to Germany, despite the latter’s EU shackles.

  • When Tim Farron took over as leader we were at about 4% in the polls. We know that about 50% of the population are pro-European. If we can attract just half of these people to us we have a fantastic chance of success. However the picture is even rosier. I called on many people who did not have a vote in the referendum. They usually have a G next to their name on the electoral roll. These EU citizens, who may have lived here for 50 years & have British children & grandchildren were denied a vote & now face an uncertain future.
    However they can vote in local elections. There are hundreds of thousands of these potential LD voters. I have spoken to many & explained that we don’t all hate foreigners. One party is openly pro-European. The Liberal Democrats. How many local parties are writing to these voters?

  • John Littler 9th Mar '17 - 4:18pm

    Dav, the UK is not in the currency union and reports of it’s demise are greatly exaggerated in my opinion. The vast majority support the Euro and the few parties that want out are not in government and will not be leading majority governments any time soon.

    The Euro has gone up against the US$ since inception by 8%, it has the biggest bank of gold in the world behind it as well as the world’s largest market. It is way too big to speculate against as was the ERM pound by Soros. The Euro is the world’s 2nd biggest reserve currency.

    By the way, the Eurozone is in recovery now, has grown faster than US$ for 3 quarters, unemployment has also been falling.

    The brexiters are more concerned with poverty in Greece than they are with poverty in the north of England, although no one wants out of the Euro in Greece as the EU are propping them up and to leave to would be catastrophic for them.

    But while there are problems in Southern Europe, those countries have had their infrastructure built up by the EU and the EU gives people the right to move and be supported. People in those areas were always on the edge of the European markets, were in effectively desert and with no history of industry generally. Just endless devaluations from weak domestic currencies are not the answer for them.

    But in brexiteer heads, the EU will always have a fixed false narrative.

  • Graham: I think it may be a little short sighted to abandon the leave voters who are motivated by immigration. UKIP will be eager to sweep these people up. Most of the problems are not people against people but competition for resources such as housing. I think good policies in these and other areas are not mutually exclusive with our desires to remain part of the European project. There will always be people who can’t be reached but lets try to keep this to as small percentage as possible. Maybe ‘alan’ can put some context on his experience.

  • PJ asked for some context to my experience so here goes.
    Of those opposed to immigration I found the following.
    The elderly just wanted their country back to how it was. That is not going to happen & gradually this demographic will disappear.
    There were younger self employed builders & plumbers etc (white van man) who resented the competition from skilled European workers.
    What was extremely noticeable was that the young & the educated were almost unanimously for remain. You could usually tell how a person was going to vote before asking them, but not always. One elderly person surprised me. He was an ardent European because he had lived & worked in Germany. Many elderly people were undecided. I asked them to speak to their grandchildren as they were voting for their future. I don’t think we spoke to enough elderly people on the doorstep.
    The young were overwhelming for remain, but did enough of them vote?
    When I asked one young man how he was voting his reply was, “Do I look mad?’
    Therefore the demographics are in our favour & education is the key. No-one has been promoting the positive case for Europe. The less educated are fed a daily diet of anti-European propaganda by the gutter press & this has gone unanswered. Now Brexit is threatened people are beginning to see what they might lose.
    I sense that the tide is turning. Tim has done a wonderful job in nailing our colours so firmly to the pro-European cause.

  • @alan
    Thank you for the update. Pretty much as I thought. The only one that was not in my mind was ‘white van man’. Again it’s not an insurmountable policy area based on enforcing current employment law and skills accreditation. Might all be academic but who knows.

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Mar '17 - 6:03pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach, alan, John Littler: thank you; your observations and interpretations sum it all up. And, please, don’t get intimidated by aggressive leavers.

    When evaluating the performance of the EU, we must not ignore the context:
    Europe was the center of the world for centuries. But it has little land, few natural resources, expensive people, high environmental standards, and low birthrates. Others have the land, the resources, population growth, little environmnental concern, and are hungrier to succeed. Their elites are equally well educated. Container shipping, airtravel, and the internet has put Europe inescapably in direct competition with this rest of the world.

    We will continue to slip, and our elites will continue to secure a disproportionate share of our wealth for themselves. This is what the EU is up against; I believe, it has been quite successful in mitigating these effects, but reversing them would be asking too much.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Mar '17 - 6:26pm

    @ alan – “When Tim Farron took over as leader we were at about 4% in the polls. We know that about 50% of the population are pro-European.”

    Is that true?
    In the the context of a renegotiation that failed to renegotiate much of significance, what are we left with:

    https://fullfact.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Future-of-the-EU-Ipsos-European-Pulse.png

    Even adding the “stay the sames” to the “more power” and “federal EU” options, you have less than a third deemed pro-EU and more than two thirds anti.

  • ethicsgradient 9th Mar '17 - 8:40pm

    @Alan

    your last comment boils down to …people need more education to vote the ‘correct’ way…

    Wonderful. people voted to leave because they were silly and just didn’t understand…

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '17 - 9:34pm

    Dav

    a continent that for the most part still hasn’t woken up to the realities of having to live within your means in a post-crash world where you simply can’t all retire at sixty on massive pensions.

    Isn’t that precisely what people who voted Leave thought they were voting for? A return to a sort of golden age past.

    The point I am making is the point you are making – that leaving the EU won’t put us in a position where we can live beyond our means with jobs and houses for all and we can all retire at sixty on massive pensions and so on.

    Clegg managed to do a massive propaganda job in favour of Leave when in his argument with Farage he accused Farage of wanting just what Farage wanted people to think Leave would give us i.e. turning the clock back to the mythical golden age.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Mar '17 - 9:44pm


    One of the memorable moments in Laura Kuenssberg’s documentary on the referendum had Leave voters in Sunderland saying “now people in London have got to listen to us”.

    You have been listened to. You voted for what the right-wing Thatcherite press was pushing, and you have a right-wing Thatcherite government. I hope you wear your “I love Maggie” badges with pride.

  • As a leave voter. I’m pretty pleased with things so far.
    Personally, I suspect some in the remain camp are projecting their own emotions and anger onto an imagined lumpen proletariat. Contrary to the endless claims the vote really was mostly about the EU and a split between those who feel an attachment to Europe and those that don’t.

  • To ethics gradient I would say that my experience on the doorstep reinforced what every survey has found. The higher your level of education the more likely you are to have voted remain.

  • @alan

    “The higher your level of education the more likely you are to have voted remain.”

    Whether that is true or not, what is the purpose of that statement? What exactly are you insinuating?

  • Alan,
    I’d say so what. The thing is most people who go through higher education are not anymore expert on the intricacies the EU than any other group. Plus as leave voters tended to be older they also tended to have been educated before going to uni was common (now virtually compulsory) plus you were also more likely to vote remain if you were a catholic, but more likely to vote leave if you were COE, More like to vote leave if you were English, than if you were Scottish or Irish. More likely to vote leave if you were the parent of teenage or grown up children, but more likely to vote remain if they were still in school. More likely to vote remain if you were urban than rural and so on. All it proves to me is that there’s a tribal element to voting patterns.

  • Colin Walklin 9th Mar '17 - 11:38pm

    I have no sympathy for Leave voters at all. They will get what they deserve for their stupidity. Unemployment & poverty.

  • PS
    If you look at the Ashcroft Poll the most common, 43%, reason for voting Remain was fear of economic consequences and only 9% did so out of a sense of shared culture or strong attachment to the EU. The educational split was 57% of those with a degree v 43%, which still means a lot of educated people and far from the attempts to depict it as a huge margin.
    IMO if Brexit is not a disaster then the 48% will start collapse. In truth most people have already moved on.

  • Seriously Glen, it was only 57% with a degree who voted for brexit, not that I thought that had any purposeful meaning behind it anyway, but the way it kept getting trotted out by remainers, i thought it was like in the 70-80% or higher of this higher educated demographics who voted remain and there was some kind of insinuation undertones going on here about all leave voters not having the benefit of a higher level of education and were therefore “unqualified” to vote or something.
    I am not really sure why the line keeps getting trotted out

  • Mr. Brian Powell 10th Mar '17 - 8:15am

    I’ve heard a lot of arguments from Remainers, that have concentrated on the single market, asking why we should leave a market with half a billion possible customers, as it will destroy our businesses.
    To them I say, for every possible customer in the EU, there are 13 possible customers in the outside world, that we will not now have to pay a tariff to deal with. So just the opposite of destroying our businesses, Brexit will give our businesses the opportunity to grow.

    As for immigration, I am afraid that it is a huge problem, although not, as some have tried to make out, a racial problem but, more of a strategy problem.
    There are close to 2 million homeless, about 50% being children, in this country. This figure includes those living in Hostels and B&B accommodation, as well as families living in relatives or friends spare rooms and/or garages/garden sheds.
    I call it a strategy problem because it is a consequence, unseen or not, of the 1980’s strategy of privatising housing.
    The private sector will never provide enough housing for the country’s needs and that is good business sense, for if there is more demand than supply, the price keeps going up.
    Education and the NHS are another two area’s that feel the strain of unrestrained immigration. Neither can get back to a level playing field as they are always reacting to an ever speedily growing population.

  • I am a socialist, one of the 500,000 members of the Labour Party and a Jeremy Corbyn supporter. I voted “Leave” to ensure that at some point there will be a pure, socialist government in this country unadulterated by Blairite, Tory Lite, Thatcherite or Neo Liberal economic policies. The EU’s competition laws are inimical to socialist programmes of public ownership and the holding of assets in common for the benefit of all. They are also inimical to a truly mixed economy in which the State has parity with the interests of private and corporate greed. The EU bosses’ club is inimical to Socialism and works only in the interests of global corporates. I am relaxed about immigration. For me it is much more important that a democratic parliament is sovereign and makes our laws and not unaccountable EU Commisioners. The Liberal Democrats, who brought about the country’s exit from the EU by shoring up an austerity driven Tory government for five years and allowing Cameron to fly the kite for a referendum instead of stifling the Tories’ advance with Confidence and Supply will never persuade me to vote anything but “Leave” should there be another EU referendum.

  • Paul Murray 10th Mar '17 - 9:00am

    @matt – Here is the data that is being referenced : http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/

    It is important to remember that this data is based on how 12,369 people *actually voted* – it is not a poll of intention before the referendum.

    Glenn and Matt make the point that 57% of those with a first degree voted “Remain” which is lower than might be expected given the widely repeated narrative – especially on this site – that “smart people” acted as a monolithic bloc and all voted “remain”.

    Surely by far and away the most telling figures in Ashcroft’s data are voting differences based on age and social group. While the differences in voting by age are widely discussed, I would note that 64% of C2DE voted “Leave”.

    The “Remain” campaign was organized by urban professionals who ran a campaign based almost exclusively on fear of house price and stock market collapse. It is hardly surprising if this failed to resonate with the C2DE group who mostly live in housing association or council housing and have no private pension arrangements.

    To those that say that leavers made their own bed and now they’ll have to lie in it, I would suggest that the bed was made for them by a remain campaign that failed to provide good reasons to vote for it.

  • Antony Watts 10th Mar '17 - 9:21am

    There are three issues, and we must acknowledge them all equally: Geo-politics, Economics, Social Cohesion.

    The EU has a great advantage in everyone of these areas. It is a Union of 28 states that all agree on a way to manage themselves. They do it democratically, in a law abiding way, in a coordinated and collaborative way. Thus forming the world’s ONLY and BIGGEST group with common principles.

    That is a major achievement and one in which any country can freely exist and make it own contribution.

  • Mark Argent – ‘I’m increasingly conscious that one really important group has become invisible in the storm around Brexit: the people who actually voted for it.’

    Perhaps we have nothing to be angry about and are just sitting quietly waiting to see our wishes to be realised. I do agree …. we are a ‘really important group’.

  • @Mr. Brian Powell:
    Germany has managed to sell it’s cars, machine tools and optics all over the world and from inside the EU. There has been nothing stopping UK industry exporting except for lack of business acumen and competitive products. Free trade works both ways and it is the working class that will bear the brunt of the down side. As for your other point, I don’t see how you can blame the EU for the failure of UK house building problems. It has already been conceded that immigration will need to continue because we need the skills and tax revenues to support our businesses and welfare system. The lack of home grown skills, another failure that the Leave voters love to blame the EU for, but is that really defensible. I ask, not in a bigoted, unquestioning way, but for analytical rigor.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Mar '17 - 10:01am

    Pat, do you realise that many EU migrants, even those married and with kids in the UK, think a minority of brexiters want them to be deported? It’s important not to just sit there quietly waiting but to make clear that you don’t want to tear British families apart, because that’s what Theresa May is threatening to do. It’s much harder than people realise to get British citizenship.

  • Mack> I voted “Leave” to ensure that at some point there will be a pure, socialist government
    What you’ll achieve by doing so is a Conservative government in perpetuity in Westminster, and assaults, post-Brexit, on workers’ rights, environmental laws, etc.
    While the fall in sterling has already had an impact on jobs (cost me mine, for one).
    So, thanks for that.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th Mar '17 - 12:59pm

    Mark I too think and hope that the Lib Dems can provide us with a solution to the mess we are in and that we must work on behalf of the 52% as well as the 48%. So we are fighting hard to get some sort of brake on May’s mad dash to to the cliff edge, but we must also alleviate the problems of those who did not feel any benefit from membership of the EU because of our own domestic economic and tax and benefits policies, which resulted in the deterioration in housing, education, social services and the NHS. Rather than tackle these problems May elected to blame, and try to control, immigration during the Coalition years and obviously now she is PM she herself seems uncontrollable in this respect. We must also look at how the operation of the EU can be improved and one obvious problem that I can see is that it’s not just our own Tories who wave the sword of austerity but the EU as well, so not only do we have to reverse domestic policy but EU policy too! Well, the good news is that David Laws thinks austerity has gone too far, so there is some hope that others can be persuaded of this argument also.
    There has been a lot of discussion about why the Remain campaign failed and imo it was because the emotive arguments of Leave were met by endless details and intellectual argument, which obviously appealed to those who voted Remain but which had little effect on those who supported Leave. It was only Tim Farron who used emotional arguments about staying in the EU and he was given very little air time. By emotional I mean the appeal for an open society, a generous society, a welcoming society.
    However, when resources are scarce many people are easily persuaded that they don’t want to share them, so it’s an obvious ploy for unscrupulous politicians to blame immigrants for a scarcity which they themselves have caused.
    I think it’s time for us to get angry. Not with the people who voted Leave, but those whose self interest got us into this mess. Let’s use that anger to create a plan for a truly Liberal society which values both wealth creators and those who need more of that wealth being spent on them to improve their lives. It’s only the Lib Dems who have the intellectual freedom to create that kind of society.

  • Allistair Graham 10th Mar '17 - 6:26pm

    @Mark Argent

    “Can we show that listening was not confined to one badly-worded question on 23 June 2016?”

    How then, in your view, should the question have been worded?

  • Eddie Sammon – just for the record, my partner is German. She has lived in the U.K. for 20+ years. Initially, a research scientist, she now teaches chemistry GCSE and A-level. Neither of us expect her to be ‘deported’. This country has given her opportunities (teacher training) and she works hard and is an excellent teacher. We do have different views about Brexit but c’est la vie.

  • jedibeeftrix 11th Mar '17 - 4:45am

    Eddie Sammon – just for the record, my partner is Polish. She has lived in the U.K. for 15+ years. She works in the NHS. Neither of us expect her to be ‘deported’. This country has given her opportunities (post-grad diploma) and she works hard and is an excellent administrator. We do have different views about Brexit but c’est la vie.

  • Andrew Tampion 11th Mar '17 - 9:46am

    Given our emphasis on community based politics perhaps we should be asking ourselves why we failed to pick up the discontent of the leave voters and address it? On the education point I recently met up with some friends: two, one a retired Chartered Accountant and another with a PHD in Chemistry and currently working in manufacturing industry voted leave; two myself and a friend both educated to degree level and with professional qualifications voted remain with varying degrees of reluctance. In fairness our ardently pro EU friend wasn’t there but on the other hand another friend with a degree in material science and recently retired from a lifelong career in manufacturing industry is passionately in favour of leave. So in my experience there is no correlation between educational achievement and leave or remain. Furthermore those commentators who seek to draw such a correlation are patronising and insulting my friends and through them me.

  • Simon McGrath 11th Mar '17 - 11:54am

    Andrew – actually data from polls shows a very strong correaltion between education and voting Remain

  • Andrew Tampion 11th Mar '17 - 12:36pm

    Simon the poll referred to in Paul Murray’s post above shows 57% of people with a first degree which doesn’t seem a particularly strong correlation (correctly spelt) to me. Perhaps you have some other evidence that you would like to share? In any case as others have pointed out many more people now go to university now than 30 years ago and since we know that more younger people voted to remain you would expect a higher proportion of “educated” people to be in the remain camp for that reason.

  • Andrew Tampion 11th Mar '17 - 12:38pm

    Oops should read 57% of people with a first degree voted remain

  • Still people go on about those who voted remain tend to be better educated with degrees and yet still, not one of them will go out on a limb and say this is meaningful how?

    What is it you are trying to say about the “less educated” leave voters? Does this effect the validity of their vote? Should their vote be halved, quartered depending on the level of education / qualifications they reached? What is it your trying to say?

  • Bill le Breton 11th Mar '17 - 1:56pm
  • @Bill le Breton

    Thanks for the link.

    Interesting read, all I can say is thank goodness the entire white paper talks of the EU27 and does not include the UK in any of their scenarios for the future of the EU.

    The sooner article 50 is triggered and we are out the better as far as I am concerned

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Mar '17 - 5:07pm

    Very thought-provoking White Paper from the EU Commission, thank you Bill le Breton. Of the comments above, Sue Sutherland’s stands out for me. You make so many good points, Sue, and I particularly like your call for an enhanced emotional appeal – for an open, generous and welcoming society – and your demand for constructive anger ‘to create a plan for a truly Liberal society’ which values both wealth creators and those who need a share of the wealth. Thank you, please keep on sharing and developing those ideas.
    Less positively, I have to say to Little Jackie Paper that to ask for a question and then not to bother to remark on, much less answer, the question is discourteous; so the chance for any future consideration of your posts and discussion of them is unfortunately gone for me.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Mar '17 - 8:40pm

    Thank you Katharine, the reality is that over the next 6 months the EU27 will be putting most of its energy into deciding on which of these five routes it will be taking. Well they will try to make it Route One won’t they? A vain hope.

    First considerations will be agreed by December’s European Council.

    People should also read https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/five-presidents-report-completing-europes-economic-and-monetary-union_en

    Yes, vain hope. I don’t think the 27 will survive this process. Germany and its supply chain neighbours will form the premier league with tighter fiscal as well as monetary union. But they won’t provide the necessary transfers to ‘the rest’.

    In brief there will be these EZ states and EEA/single market states (the markets that maintain/supply Germany and its supply chain states’ surpluses).

    The UK? As a market, as a finance organiser for the EZs and EEA and as a key supplier of defence capability the UK will have a ‘special relationship’ with the EuroZone, and the EEA, rather as it has with the US.

    And that won’t be a bad thing. The freedom to develop its freedoms. Sea-girt (which will be its greatest asset in the second half of the Twenty-First Century – perhaps even from 2025). Trading, innovating, and exporting its culture. Sharing the wealth of its South Eastern region in exchange for Federation and special-special relationships with its Rest of UK cultural dynamos – the edges, its edgy cities, the landscapes.

    Perceived by its citizens and a lot of the rest of the world as one of the best places in the world with which to work and invest and/because one of the safest – perhaps one of the few safe places.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Mar '17 - 9:52pm

    Bill, that is certainly an optimistic view of our nation’s future! I don’t see us being ‘sea-girt’as an advantage now, although it has been historically; now it would mean more hassle after Brexit at the ports for the lorries transporting the car parts etc. back and forth, and already there is a great difficulty in stopping trafficked people and illegal immigrants being brought in to tiny ports around our coasts. As for the EU itself, I didn’t read the second reference you give, having no interest in economic and monetary union, but I imagine the best development would be for a tight cluster of EZ countries which do share that interest, and a looser band of the others, perhaps relating to Strasbourg rather than Brussels, with a different set of authorities, maybe a more powerful Parliament and a less controlling branch of the Commission. Pure speculation! I continue to ask for a study or working group of Lib Dems, bringing in representatives from their allied parties, to consider what future developments WE would like to see.

  • I forgot to add one more thing that I discovered by canvassing on the doorstep almost every evening of the referendum campaign.
    Those who voted Remain saw freedom of movement as an opportunity while those who voted to leave saw it as a threat.
    Perhaps that is why level of education was the most significant factor in determining how people voted.
    The most quoted reason to me for voting leave was the fear of 70 million Turks coming here. This was never going to happen, but it was believed by many people.
    Finally the leave campaign admit that they painted their bus red to make less educated Labour voters think that Labour was supporting the Leave campaign.

    The lies worked, but particularly with those who were less educated. If education does not help people to think, what is the point of it?

  • Alan.
    I think you’re just trying to get a rise out people by saying naughty things.

  • My final comment on this issue. I also canvassed regularly in the Richmond Park by election – the constituency with the highest proportion of graduates in the country (64%). In an entirely pro-Remain campaign a 23,000 majority for Brexit supporter Zac Goldsmith was overturned & Sarah Olney won a fantastic victory.
    Contrast this with Hartlepool which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Here only 18% of the electorate have degrees. Education is the key to enlightenment.

  • @alan

    ” to make less educated Labour voters think that Labour was supporting the Leave campaign.”
    “The lies worked, but particularly with those who were less educated. If education does not help people to think, what is the point of it?”
    “Contrast this with Hartlepool which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Here only 18% of the electorate have degrees. Education is the key to enlightenment.”

    You’re really condescending to such extremes that it has tipped over into idiocracy.

    Maybe your education was somewhat lacking in certain fields and you need to brush up on a few core area’s where you will gain “enlightenment” well hopefully anyway

  • Alan’
    How enlightened were they when they voted for Zack Goldsmith originally as a Conservative or did enlightenment only occur after he stood as an independent?
    Will they still be enlightened if they return a Conservative in the next general election? Or is enlightenment only characterised by support for the EU?
    As I said before you’re just trying to get a rise out of folk.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Mar '17 - 8:27am

    Katharine, thanks for engaging. I welcome your speculation. Thinking about the best future for the UK requires much more of it.

    Putting to one side for a moment the UK’s relationship to the 27 and also to the rest of Europe (the new Iron Curtain has moved East by many miles and surely includes the Ukraine), it is surely clear that the next 10 years wont be a period where things ‘are not much different’ (in the words of Nick Clegg to Farage). We seem to be trying to relate to a situation which is like a moment fixed in time which has actually passed, or is passing in front of our eyes.

    The UK is already part of the German supply chain, both physically (eg the Mini and the Rolls Royce) and financially – perhaps even legally and certainly culturally, but it is not a surplus seeker (despite Tory ambitions), is not willing to give up its currency just as Germany is not disposed to ‘fund’ by transfers the development of ‘southern’ Europe and the former Easter bloc countries. It has already done that with East Germany and knows the huge effort this requires and the risk politically in domestic politics.

    But the UK and Germany (+ its supply chain countries, call it Greater Germany) need each other and will come to an arrangement. That Greater Germany may even come to see advantages to it that the ‘Rest’ have a similar relationship to it that EEA non EU presently has to the EU. Poor France, where will it belong?

    And I have always argued that this will be the better status for us and that our pioneering of this route, this will be good not just to the UK but to all of continental Europe West of Russia, Belarus and Turkey.

  • Peter Watson 12th Mar '17 - 11:26am

    @alan “Education is the key to enlightenment.”
    Might there also be differences in wealth, or income, or social class, etc. when comparing the voters of Richmond Park and Hartlepool?

    I think you are correct that many who voted Remain see freedom of movement as an opportunity (to work and to buy property abroad, to employ or rent out property to workers from abroad, etc.) while many who voted for Exit see freedom of movement as a threat (to their livelihoods, to their communities, etc.), but I don’t think that having a university degree is what makes the difference. Correlation does not imply causation.

    Unfortunately, the argument you are making, particularly with its condescending overtones, plays directly into the hands of those who believe they are being ignored by a so-called metropolitan liberal elite. I don’t think it is an approach that will win over people to the Lib Dems and looks more like a strategy to pack the party with “people like us” making it narrower and exclusive.

  • Peter Watson 12th Mar '17 - 11:30am

    @alan “In an entirely pro-Remain campaign a 23,000 majority for Brexit supporter Zac Goldsmith was overturned & Sarah Olney won a fantastic victory.”
    “In an entirely pro-Remain campaign” the margin of victory was considerably less than the margin in the EU Referendum, so are you suggesting there was a swing towards Brexit amongst the “enlightened” graduates of Richmond Park?

  • @Peter Watson. Peter you make a very valid point about the danger of creating a Party packed with ‘people like us’. A Party drawn from a narrow base and concentrating on near single issue politics has no future -especially in a First Past the Post electoral system. A Core Vote and Party demographic of those who are ‘liberal, educated, urban, middle class’ would have nothing to say to a very large part of the country. Certainly very little to those on for example the Sheffield Council Estate where I grew up, or the rural Constituency demographic Nick Harvey describes in his recent, excellent, Liberator magazine article.

    It has worked, up to a point, for D66 in the Netherlands but they operate in a Proportional Representation system. We don’t. In any event I would not want to be a member of a UK Party that defined itself and its policies in such a narrow sectional way.

  • Alan.
    Also Tower Hamlets had a 67% remain vote. Not many graduates.
    Personally, I don’t really care who voted for what and I respect people who disagree with me, but I do like the internets ability to provide stats. The biggest factors in the way people voted was sadly actually support for the Conservative party and age. As a mostly left liberal voter I felt unrepresented apart from maybe David Owen at a pinch. What I found oddest was that I found myself thinking Jacob Rees Mogg often made a good case for the Parliamentary argument.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Mar '17 - 11:09pm

    Bill le Breton – you are surely right, Bill, in thinking of changes that are bound to come in the EU in the next ten years, as I would think Nick Clegg also accepts, and I am interested in your suggestion of natural links being in place between the UK and Germany, together with EEA countries. But that seems to be primarily because of practical factors such as the car industry’s needs and financial links. (Where would that leave the Japanese car industry, I wonder? ) I would think that the sense of the European project and their leadership of it are important factors to keep Germany and France in close working relationship, given their status as founders, as the largest and wealthiest countries, and as those who know the historic importance of thus having secured perpetual peace between them. I don’t see any rearrangement severing their ties – power, prestige, culture, history and the leadership role surely working to keep them and probably their satellites together.

  • Thanks Alan for your dispassionate analysis of what Leave voters really wanted. I think it helps us a lot.

    They didn’t vote for more money for the NHS – they largely, and rightly, didn’t really believe that claim. They didn’t ignore the financial arguments – on the contrary, they mostly thought Brexit would cost Britain more money, and were prepared to make that sacrifice. What they (most of them) did believe, was that Brexit would bring immigration down. They thought that that was very important, so they voted Leave.

    It follows that, when the economy turns pear-shaped, they won’t regret their votes. When the NHS runs into worse trouble, they won’t regret their votes. But when immigration fails to fall, they will regret their votes. When Government makes a special case for EU students, and then for EU fruit-pickers, and then for EU agency workers, etcetera, the leavers will regret their votes. When Farage jumps up and says now we can take in even more Bangladeshi immigrants because they are even cheaper than Romanians, the Leavers will desperately regret their votes.

    Immigration is what matters to most Leave voters. It matters for a complex mixture of non-racist reasons, cultural reasons, and to some of them, out-and-out racist reasons. But it matters. When the Leave voters realise that they have been conned over immigration, that’s when the worm will really turn.

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Mar '17 - 9:05am

    Bill le Breton – ‘And I have always argued that this will be the better status for us and that our pioneering of this route, this will be good not just to the UK but to all of continental Europe West of Russia, Belarus and Turkey.’

    To add to this. My wife is from non-EU Eastern Europe. Debate over there really has moved quite rapidly to what relationship those countries can have with the EU that does not involve membership. Policy-wise governments still look to join, however there is certainly far more identifiable ‘euroscepticism’ in the region now that was the case 10 years ago, even 5 years ago.

    Greece and the euro showed that where small, economically weak countries are concerned the risks of monetary union are not at all theoretical. Following the migrant/refugee debacle the Eastern countries are now seeing that free movement is a two-way deal, even if not in the way they expected. The concern about ‘EU creep’ is mentioned a lot.

    The (foolish) optimist in me thinks that if one outcome of the referendum is some sort of better thought out arrangement between what would be EZ IN states and ‘European’ (in the geographic sense) states then that’s no bad thing.

    In truth it’s probably what we all should have been doing over Maastricht – but that’s for another day.

  • David Allen.
    Alan did not offer a dispassionate argument. He offered highly unreliable anecdotal evidence and a lot unbacked up assertions. What you seem to offer is the amazing gift to see into other people thought processes and an ability to see future events.
    As a Leave voter I never presume to understand the motives of remain voter or attribute them on mass ideas based on my emotions.
    But sure Immigration did undoubtedly played a part, as did sovereignty and as did a lot of other factors. On the other side of the debate, based on the evidence, fear came tops (48%), was a major shared culture very low (8%) and the feeling the EU offered the best of both world, a pretty decent 30%.

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