There is scope for soft-peddling on the all-consuming anger

There is much anger – dejection even around today. I found myself in the unusual position of putting a consoling arm round a hard-bitten colleague’s shoulders – he was really quite upset by the referendum result.

I am angry for the young people who voted in droves for remain.

That said, we can’t change this result. It’s a democratic outcome. I respect it and move on. I pledge to roll up my sleeves to work as part of the nation to make us as successful as possible in the new situation.

Goodness only knows how Cameron managed to paint himself into such a corner. He was surprised and delighted to be elected just a year ago – and he’s gone from hero (to some) to zero in a year. Extraordinary. However, I admire his courage in putting the EU issue to the electorate. Democracy is a messy affair. I am still shouting at the radio.

But it is not healthy to let anger consume one. The birds are still singing, it’s quite warm weather and the world is still turning.

I pledge to work for the liberal values that we hold dear, to welcome our new members and do justice to their aspirations.

But we all need some rest, and to get this into perspective. Democracy has worked. Democracy very often doesn’t work the way we want it to. We need to move on and be positive about the future.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Europe Referendum.


  • Bill le Breton 24th Jun '16 - 5:25pm

    Coming out now and pushing for the European Economic Area (EEA) solution splits the leavers’ camp. It begins the unification of those in the Commons and Lord’s who want to retain the single market with its four freedoms. It provides Leadership in a time when Leadership is needed, both here and in the ruins of the European Union.

    That is not soft peddling but it is also not running around like headless chickens.

  • The picture of Geldof sticking two fingers up to working fishermen from a expensive gin palace, was worth more than a thousand words. The English will endure much hardship but not the sneering contempt of those wealthier than them.

    The two fingered salute comes from when archers would wave their fingers at French captives. The French would cut off the index and middle fingers of the right hand of captured archers. Archers were free men( not serfs forced to fight by a lord), who trained for 11 years and volunteered to fight for the lord at fixed price for fixed time; pay could as high as 6 times a labourers wages, wages which would be £150,000 in todays money.

    I suggest people go and work on a construction site or a trawler for a period, then perhaps they would understand.

  • @Charles – it is a shame Geldolf made that gesture, rather than stick with his substantial point, that Farage is a useless MEP.

    The idea that the gesture comes from archers having their fingers cut off by the French is a myth for which there is no documentary evidence. The idea that an archers wages were equivalent of £150,000 is wildly inaccurate.

  • Alderman David Beckett is correct we need to set out our agenda for the UK.

    Hopefully we can all agree on tackling the issues caused by austerity, but I would like to see a Citizens Income and have no idea what he means by “a fully working credit system”, but I do understand that the party is not united on bringing in a Citizens Income. I have been suggesting we need to build 200,000 new homes a year for a while. There is also a need to have a more interventionist employment policy.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jun '16 - 9:08pm

    David Beckett is of course right when he calls for us to:

    We apply to join EFTA
    We attempt to negotiate an EEA agreement with the EU
    We maintain common agreement with law enforcement forces for the transfer of suspects and exchange of information
    We contribute to and implement Europe wide Climate Change policies
    We maintain workers rights
    We, possibly through NATO, maintain our contribution to security in relation to Russia
    We continue with our foreign aid policy
    We seek closer relationships with genuine liberal administrations in Europe and worldwide”

    Much as we would like to widen our campaign, but this is not the time for that. The immediate need is to lead on the international relations agenda.

    Focus, focus, focus.

    There is an alternative to the EU which is not exit from the single market. That solution – EEA membership was not alas on the ballot paper – had it been so, then, it would have won. And it can still happen.

    Let’s take a lead.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jun '16 - 9:20pm

    I see that, better late than never, Matthew Parris has joined the EEA fan club.

    Why haven’t we been leading on this for weeks? I repeat, as I have been repeating here for weeks now – it is the Liberal solution. A single market – the four freedoms of movement + the primacy of the Westminster Parliament to decide at what level decisions are taken – international, european, national (all four nations), local and yes, even town and parish level. True subsidiarity.

    Yet we hitched our wagon to another appalling campaign that relied on creating fear with bullying. Remember the President of the United States telling us to vote remain and threatening us with going to the back of the queue? Well tonight he is saying that we have a special relationship.

    The Leave campaign got a majority because people don’t like to be bullied and they knew that there was wholesale bluffing going on.

  • Stevan Rose 24th Jun '16 - 9:42pm

    Plan B, just hope it works Bill. Where we are today, not yesterday, I agree with you. I also agree it was a diabolical campaign. It wasn’t the result I wanted because there’s no guarantee we’ll get Plan B but it is the unifying option.

  • So does Plan B still allow free movement of labour into the UK?

  • EEA membership on the Norway / Iceland model would mean free movement of goods, services, capital and of labour but with exemptions for agriculture and fisheries.

  • Laurence Cox 24th Jun '16 - 10:54pm

    What I don’t want to see is the Tories and Labour coming to an arrangement between themselves about Britain’s negotiating position with the EU and freezing out everyone else’s point of view. The people made a constitutional decision and it is up to the whole of Parliament to agree how to implement it. I agree with the comments above on the EEA, but we must insist that Tim’s voice is heard as representing 8% of the electorate.

  • Kevin colwill 24th Jun '16 - 10:58pm

    As I understand it the ball is now in the UK’s court to make proposals for a new relationship with the EU.
    Why doesn’t a Lib Dem contingency position already exist? It could have given you the jump on other parties.
    Get to it boys/girls!

  • @ Bill le Breton
    “EEA membership was not alas on the ballot paper – had it been so, then, it would have won.”

    This is unlikely. I have a vague memory that in 1975 during the last referendum the EFTA was discussed as an alternative. We could join this organisation but only if free movement of people across member states and the EU is not included. UKIP and others in the Exit campaign made it clear that exit from the EU means the end of free movement from citizens of the EU and this has to be adhered to, not matter what we think. I think that being a member of the EEA includes paying money to EU as well as the free movement of citizens within both the EU and members of the EEA, which is also unacceptable to the majority of the voters who voted Leave.

    I suppose we could call for a referendum about joining the EEA?

  • Rightsaidfredfan 24th Jun '16 - 11:43pm

    @ Paul

    As Brexit voter I can say that if you want EEA you can have it providing you look after the disadvantaged. That means building a certain quota of social housing based on last year immigration figures.

    If the establishment can do that then they can have free trade and the free movement of people with the support of the vast majority of the uk population.

    The problem is if they do what they’ve done for the last 12 years. Ignore the working class, mount dozens of local campaigns based on a promise to block housing developments and call anyone who complains racist.

    Do you think you can do it Paul?

  • As I recall the EFTA was actually set up by the UK after DeGaulle said non. He said that Britain was too internationalist and independent to cowtow to the rest of Europe and he was right.

    I wonder why the Swiss don’t suffer from the disastrous consequences of being outside the EU as has been predicted for the UK. Could it be….shock horror, that trade is not actually controlled by government diktats but by buyers and sellers?

    In the months to come it will dawn on everyone that life outside the EU is pretty much the same as being inside because 40 years of technological progress has made the EU obsolete.

    I trust we now focus on the real issues that cost jobs; ie crazy house prices, poor transport links, expensive energy, excessive red-tape and banks that play casino capitalism rather than lending to startups.

    I hope also that Liberals stop trying to copy the anti-industry greens and start focusing on jobs and growth again – like they used to!

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jun '16 - 5:05am

    Michael BG – We should NOT take orders from UKIP. It is our decision how we react and what we campaign for. We should take a lead. It was bad enough our leader ‘bigging up’ Farage yesterday by suggesting that every single person who voted leave was a Faragite. We should have belittled him yesterday and spoke not for an impossible out come but from the pragmatic route from here. Let’s set our agenda. We have wasted a day.

    As people above have said, EEA membership includes the free movement of people. It is not the free movement of people within the single market that has been the problem, it has been the deliberately deflationary policies of the ECB (the Bundesbank) + plus our own weak recovery caused mainly by the fact that our main markets in the EU have had this deflationary policy. Our own B of E has also been weak willed on the deflationary front- talking for a year or more about interest rate increases.

    We are a small party representing about 5% of the UK pop at the moment – we have nothing to lose by advocating the EEA route. Also I think it requires only a qualified majority to make this possible. The Remainers should have gone for this yesterday morning. What chaos!

  • The verb is “to soft-pedal” not “to soft-peddle.” It is a metaphor taken from piano playing, where one of the pedals can be used to lower the volume of the music; hence, in more general terms, to de-emphasize.

  • Stevan Rose 25th Jun '16 - 7:32am

    “which is also unacceptable to the majority of the voters who voted Leave.”

    But acceptable to enough of a minority who want a Norway solution, when added to the Remainers, to form a substantial overall majority of voters. No need for another referendum. Where we go now is not a debate where participants are restricted to 17m Brexiteers. The 16m Remainers are back in play.

  • The temptation to ride on the coattails of the extreme-left must not be given in to. What we need as a country now is strong, sustained economic growth by adopting a true internationalist outlook. The option to continue trading with the EU will never go away, but we now have a massive opportunity to look far beyond. Exiting the EU – in many ways an illiberal entity – needs to be faced positively. This doesn’t mean the end of liberalism. On the contrary, it could be a new beginning.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jun '16 - 8:38am

    Stevan you are right. We should not be driving the exiters into the Farage camp, but those who have genuine complaints against the EU organisation should be persuaded to join ‘us’ in a campaign for EEA pro-activity. Single market, Four freedoms + sovereignty restored!

    But this requires ‘cencentration’ of resources. Now is not a time to widen the discussion. It has to be about relations with countries in Europe including those presently ‘still’ in the EU.

    To try to communicate other matters is to aid confusion rather than clarity.

    We must bring all our forces to bear on communicating the advantages of EEA activity.

    Campaigning is all about concentration!

  • Jane Ann Liston 25th Jun '16 - 8:51am

    By the way, it’s soft pedalling, not soft peddling.

  • @ Alderman David Becket

    I think it is immoral to ignore the majority of the voters in the referendum. I think lots of people who voted to Remain voted because of the economic costs of withdrawal. I can’t see us convincing them that they should accept both the economic costs and the free movement of people across the EEA.

    @ Bill le Breton

    I agree to a certain extent that the reasons for the result of the referendum was due to the failure of the economic policies of the EU and the ECB and the failure of UK governments to provide solutions to the real concerns of the voters about the social costs of the large increase in population caused by the free movement of people within the EU / EEA. But we have lost the argument and joining the EEA means the situation will not have changed and we need to ensure that the situation is changed. However I am content for us to make the argument for joining the EEA in another referendum, but I think we would lose by a larger margin.

    I think the government has a moral duty to provide what the Leave campaign promised or confidence in our political system will collapse and the rise of populist (nationalist) parties will continue.

  • What David-1 and Jane said.

  • @Jamesg

    The Swiss have a trade deal with the EU which allows for the free movement of people and places them inside Schengen. As a Brexiter will you agree to that? Will your fellow Brexiters who voted Leave to stop foreigners coming into the UK agree to that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jun '16 - 10:17pm

    Paul Walter

    That said, we can’t change this result. It’s a democratic outcome. I respect it and move on. I pledge to roll up my sleeves to work as part of the nation to make us as successful as possible in the new situation.

    Yes, I respect it, but since I believe it will not deliver what it promised, I don’t think I can be involved in trying to do so. I can only sit back and let those who believed in it demonstrate that I am wrong.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jun '16 - 10:24pm


    In the months to come it will dawn on everyone that life outside the EU is pretty much the same as being inside because 40 years of technological progress has made the EU obsolete.

    But people didn’t vote Leave on the grounds it wouldn’t change much, did they? Look at how the pro-Brexit press are pushing it as Britain free from shackles, an end to slavery, control back to the people. The impression is being given that it will leave to a BIG improvement in people’s lives.

    So, I think those who promised it would must now do that. The rest of us should just say “You won, so now deliver what those who voted for you expected from you”.

    Give it a few years, and THEN tell the people “Look, you were lied to rotten, vote out the liars”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jun '16 - 10:28pm

    Liam Birch

    The temptation to ride on the coattails of the extreme-left must not be given in to. What we need as a country now is strong, sustained economic growth by adopting a true internationalist outlook.

    People voted against that in the referendum. The constant line heard from people voting Leave was “we want our country back” and similar things suggesting they most definitely did NOT want an “internationalist outlook”.

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