Towards a Referendum Programme for Remain

The original remain campaign was negative and defensive. Nigel Farage, in his debate with Nick Clegg, has been described as “pushing on an open door”. Is all we can offer negatives – there is no European Army – there is no federal state – Turkey is not going to become a member – when all of these things are partly untrue?

Our opponents will say that “remain in the EU as we were before” would be to ignore the previous result; to betray the people’s vote, to disillusion the country and cast doubt on democracy itself.

The Remain side were shocked at the result. Had the result been the other way it would have been a call to arms. That urge has been submerged in the fight to Remain. The collapse of the moral foundation of the Leave vote hasn’t helped us to remember its strength.

Can we celebrate the EU but acknowledge the previous result and address Leave concerns?

I suggest reforms of our own political and social system and reform of the EU. I submit that the Leave vote itself shows that both are needed. These details can’t be exact or promised absolutely but this is a campaign programme, not a manifesto.

Not all my details will be correct or even possible; I am no expert and I expect to be corrected on detail. There is an element of appeasement which won’t be welcome to some. But, if we are to get anywhere, this will need to be part of the package.

First, we need our own bus. We should quantify the EU dividend, the additional wealth that being in the EU and the single market brings into the country, preferably using an independent estimate. This is not a counter-factual speculation. A quantifiable sum can be arrived at if we assume a situation where our trade with the EU remains constant but businesses have to do customs clearance, pay VAT upfront, pay the balance of tariffs, absorb the cost of customs and inspection delays, the cost of running our own regulators, cost of diplomatic and trade negotiators, international driving licences – and more.

Of course, not being in the EU would mean less trade with the EU and possibly more trade elsewhere, but this gives us a sum for the dividend we have now.

In the next instalment I will suggest reforms to the United Kingdom and its systems of government.

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  • Laurence Cox 21st Jan '19 - 11:16am

    Here is an analysis to get you started:

    Just one quote from it:

    “Or, to make it more relatable, anything from costing each household £1,000 a year to benefiting it by £7,500, through a variety of higher private living standards and better public services than would otherwise have prevailed.”

  • The trouble is that ‘remain’ has been tarnished, perhaps we need to emphasise the “looking after of UK interests”. The big difference between T.Mays deal and what we have currently, is the seat at the table from which we can currently present and defend UK interests both in terms of supporting favourable change (ie. the changes UKIP et al say can’t happen) and hindering unfavourable change (ie. the changes UKIP et al say will happen).

    What seems to be clear, once the UK leaves the EU28, it won’t be too many years (within the decade?) before the EU27 becomes a very different beast and less welcoming to the UK, at which point all those trade deals will largely be meaningless. Which brings us onto another dimension, namely with the EU we have an on-going dialogue and relationship with our neighbours, once outside we effectively only deal with our neighbours on a deal-by-deal/issue-by-issue basis; a much poorer relationship and totally at odds with the direction of travel over several decades where businesses have been actively building relationships with their customers.

  • Sandra Hammett 22nd Jan '19 - 12:08am

    @Tony Harms
    I too have suggested Remain and Reform as a platform for the LibDems but have found resistance on this very site because it is deemed to be too hard.
    I wish you better luck.

  • The UK has no business telling the EU to reform. The British public have acted in an utterly offensive way towards the EU by voting to Leave. To add to it we have a government held hostage to the far right and an opposition of communists, and moderate figures like Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Liz Kendall, Chuka Umuna, George Osborne and Grant Shapps are insulted daily by the political extremists.

    The EU was never the problem. It is the British who are the real issue.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Jan '19 - 8:41am


    I am entirely with Stimpson: Leave “concerns” had nothing to do with EU membership. Therefore, “reforming” the EU (how exactly?) will not alleviate them.

    The numbers already exist: The UK has already lost 2% GDP since 2016 compared to a remain vote. This amounts to GBP 40 Billion, thereof 15 tax revenues. This means that after a remain-vote, the EU net contribution would have been forever self-financing by now. A Norway-deal would double these losses over 15 years, no deal quintuple them. The May-deal is somewhere in-between (closer to the no-deal scenario, as it does very little for services, 80% of the UK economy). (Unrealistic) global trade deals would just add 0,2%, in practice GBP 0.

    The EU is just like a cooperative: it leverages members’ strengths, and cushions their weaknesses. It cannot make the former absolute and the latter disappear. The UK is actually a major beneficiary, because of its especially pronounced wealth-generation profile: it is still the eurozone’s financial hub, eats largely continental produce, blueprints continental manufacturing, assembles continental blueprints for continental consumers. Disintegrating this will benefit no-one, least of which the typical “left behind” leaver.

    The fundamentals and the spin that drove the leave-vote were all home-grown.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Jan '19 - 9:57am

    @ Stimpson, @ Arnold Kiel,

    Don’t you understand that for many leavers, ‘it is not the economy, stupid’. Not the economy that economists furthering the current economic arguments that you repeat.

    Those who argue the economic benefits of the EU are viewed as the establishment. They are the very people who argued the benefits prior to the referendum and did nothing to challenge UK governments who, if they did reap economic benefits, did nothing to share them with the angry , so called ‘left behind’. (And not all leavers could be described as the ‘left behind’. Nevertheless a large proportion were, there were enough of them to have swung the vote to remain.

    The issue is one of trust. Trust that they will have a government that puts the needs of their families to the forefront in terms of decent housing, better schools , jobs that pay a fair return for the effort made.

    The referendum gave people the first real opportunity to tell governments what they thought of them. Their vote actually counted.

    You may think that they fired at the wrong targets, but until a government, any government can be trusted to create an economy that does not follow an economic model that disadvantages the already disadvantaged, ( I am referring to Osborne and his Osbornomic fellow travellers Stimpson) we will have a divided nation whatever, and Theresa May has a right to be concerned about the future of our democracy if the leave vote is overturned.

    May I also say, Stimpson, that, if your arguments prevail, I would vote leave in any public vote. It is not an EU that I would want to remain within. ( Cue : Peter Martin)

    Where are all those Buddy Holly lookalikes with glasses that give them 20/20 vision?

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '19 - 10:37am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    ‘Leave “concerns” had nothing to do with EU membership.’

    And how many leavers have you spoken to before coming to that conclusion? Try taking a leaf out of Dominic Cummings book. Just call in to an ordinary British pub and start to ask people about what they actually think. They might just surprise you.

    There would be a natural large majority for membership of something like the old EEC as many of us remember it. There are always going to be a few dissenters who make an issue out out the shape of sausages, or whatever, but largely us Brits were happy enough with a smaller, less intrusive, EEC style arrangement.

    On the question of reforms you ask: “how exactly?”

    What about jettisoning what doesn’t work very well, ie the EU after Maastricht, and going back to what did work reasonably well ie the EEC before Maastricht? But I appreciate that you can’t expel countries after they have been allowed in so I’m not suggesting that. But we don’t need all the nonsense of the single currency and the economic chaos it causes. We don’t want ‘ever closer union’. The fallout from this has tipped the scales in the UK towards Brexit. The EU is a poor market for UK exports and the resultant trade imbalance gives us a debt problem which in turn has created the conditions of economic austerity in the UK.

    Failing that I would round up all the top EU politicians and bureaucrats, then send them off to attend an Economics course designed to teach them how to successfully run a single currency. I even would be prepared to help organise that! Yanis Varoufakis might even want to be involved too. 🙂

  • @Arnold

    “The numbers already exist: The UK has already lost 2% GDP since 2016 compared to a remain vote.”

    Why do people still consistently try to portray this misleading line? You cannot lose something that you never had in the first place.
    It’s like me saying….I have been on a diet since 2016 and lost 2 stone but actually I lost 3 stone, because “IF” I had eaten all the cakes I had contemplated eating, I would have been 1 stone heavier to begin with. Therefore the weight loss is 3 stone. Obviously that is total nonsense as to lose it, I must have had it in the first place.
    I suspect if you presented your arguments in a more factual manor and said…”The UK economy has grown since 2016, however it has grown less than it “might” have done had we not voted to leave”. That would not fit in with your project Fear, which failed so miserably last time.
    You accuse the leave campaign of telling untruths and yet you still continue to present your arguments in a way that seeks to mislead the public into thinking that the UK economy is shrinking.

  • @Jayne Mansfield
    I have to agree with you to quite an extent in your comment. Trouble is, not only did leave voters shoot the wrong fox, they actually shot the dog that was guarding the hen house. What to do? Refuse to recognise the mistake till all the chickens are dead, or try to get people to realise the fact and protect there future interests. David Lammy’s speech to parliament was good in this respect.

  • The left behind Leavers need to foster a competitive spirit and adopt a pro-globalisation mindset, rather than blaming everyone else – be it immigrants, corporations, bankers, elites, identity politics or neoliberalism.

    Why should we pander to the far left and far right? There is absolutely no place for these vicious ideologies in 2019.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '19 - 11:58am

    @ Matt,

    I agree that arguments along the lines of ” The UK has already lost N% of GDP since 2016 compared to a remain vote and will lose M% by 2030 in the event of no deal” are largely just a rehash of what we heard in the last EU campaign.

    This approach didn’t work then, largely because people simply don’t believe figures and forecasts as quoted by the Establishment. They remember that they used to have better jobs and with better wages and they know they don’t any longer. We tend not to be too influenced by statistics – especially ones we don’t believe ie Most of them!

    But maybe we shouldn’t tell the Remainers that! The remain message last time was something like “yes things aren’t good but they would be even worse if we weren’t in the EU”. The smarter ones will have worked out for themselves they need to do much better. They will be looking for something more positive than project fear 2.0.

    I really can’t think of what they might say though.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '19 - 12:10pm

    Can I nominate Stimpson for the job of directing the Remain strategy in the even of another referendum?

    “Left behind Leavers need to foster a competitive spirit and adopt a pro-globalisation mindset ……”

    Brilliant! I wonder why that message wasn’t conveyed more strongly last time!

  • nvelope2003 22nd Jan '19 - 1:04pm

    Peter Martin: Have you ever heard of the Far East – China etc ? Labour costs are cheaper there so that is where the jobs are going and no amount of fiddling with the money is going to change that.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Jan '19 - 1:23pm

    @Jayne Mansfield,
    “‘it is not the economy, stupid’”, just “decent housing, better schools , jobs that pay a fair return for the effort made”. Reminds me of: money alone does not make you happy, you also need gold, securities, and real estate.

    @Peter Martin,
    where to start? A high correlation between austerity-effects and leave-vote is now firmly established. This has nothing to do with the EU. It neither caused the GFC nor compelled the UK to its reaction (right though, IMO). Your proposal to abolish the euro is neither surprising nor practical. If the “EU is a poor market for UK exports” (despite being the biggest), go after better ones! EU membership does not prevent Germany from doing so. Funny: all kinds of FTAs with all kinds of remote countries are supposed to be the big price of Brexit, but with the EU, WTO-terms will be OK. Indeed, impoverishing Britons until they stop importing will likely be achieved by Brexit; not sure this will solve your debt- and austerity-problems though. Looks rather like a tripple whammy to me. No, thank you to your or Yanis’ economics.

    how sophisticated (but meaningless). Just replace “lost” with “lost out on”. Besides, UK real disposable household income has been shrinking. Whether these arguments are believed and will make a difference remains to be seen.

    I am also frequently surprised that global has become a derogatory term attached to despicable (and therefore reversible) policies. In fact it is nothing but the cumulative effects of technical progress, esp. the jet airplane, the container, the computer, and the internet. Being against globalisation is like wishing the horse-drawn carriage back. The alternative is poverty, as practiced by North Korea or Cuba.

    I would not go so far as to request a global competitive spirit from the competitively disadvantaged (many of them compete hard locally), but we should educate them that some of their countrymen/women must remain globally competitive to pay for their healthcare, benefits, tax credits, and social housing, unless they are happy to lose even more of that.

  • @Matt

    Your comment reminded me of a French translation passage we had when I was at school that a man decided to walk rather than taking the bus and his wife said that next time he should decide not to take a taxi and save even more money!

    It is not “project fear” to say that I will have less money in my wallet if I take the bus rather than walk or cycle. Or “project fear” that if I eat sensibly I will have less health problems than if I continue on my path of stuffing my mouth with cream cakes. Arnold DID give his comparison which was carrying on with the status quo and having voted remain.

    It is relatively clear that businesses have been delaying investment, making investment in the other EU countries rather than here, beginning to ship jobs abroad etc. Even Brexiteers say there will be short term pain before the advantages (as they see it and I don’t) kick in.

    There is always room for a lot of debate especially about the longer term in different scenarios (if there wasn’t no-one would be commenting on LDV or debating in Parliament!). There is a fairly clear short term relationship between having fewer calories and weight loss. There is more debate about the longer term – the body adjusts to a degree. Or spending less and having more money but taking the bus may allow you take a better job further away or spend more time working and earning money.

    Rather than “Project Fear” I view remaining in as “Project Hope” – a more prosperous Britain, more money to spend curing people of cancer, less poverty. But Hope and Fear are two sides of the same coin.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Jan '19 - 1:59pm

    @ P.J.,
    David Lammy’s speech was that of a true statesman.

    Where do we go from here?

    Well it is tempting to follow the line in the joke:-

    Enquirer:- Excuse me how do I get to A. Respondent:- Well I wouldn’t start from here.

    However, we are where are. My problem is that there are those who have not learnt any lessons on the journey so far.

    I would start stop the project fear and replace it with humility, and a mea culpa from those who chose to ride roughshod over the concerns of those who felt powerless to change a system that was disadvantaging them. A system that was run by politicians who had a vested interests in directing anger, directly or indirectly away from themselves and their CHOICE of policies, or claimed, you would have been even worse off if it hadn’t been for us.

    More time is needed, not only for the reasons usually given, but to give time for those who have the honesty, inclination and passion to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated against those who were least able to defend themselves. ( Some who have have been working at up to three jobs to earn enough to keep their heads above water, and then not very succesfully, Stimpson).

    This is not a time for equidistance or ‘moderation’. In my opinion. It might work with voters who live in the leafier areas of London and our cities, but in my opinion, it will cut no ice with those who have suffered most under governments with such self -styled labels.
    We have a government and political parties that that seem to be oblivious to how far to the right that moveable feast, the so-called ‘centre’ now is.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Jan '19 - 2:00pm

    @David Raw,
    so they must not be educated, but their will is sacrosanct…..says it all, really.

  • @David Raw

    I do dislike the term “educate” but all politics and political campaigning is about “educating” people on the world view as you see it and spreading information (or propaganda if you want to be derogatory about it) – especially when it is somewhat hidden especially from people’s day to day experience. No doubt you want people to be “educated” as you see it about the inequities of universal credit.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '19 - 2:31pm

    @ nvelope2003,

    Yes I think I might have heard of China and the Far East. I ‘ve actually been there. But no matter what we make or what services we supply, and no matter what they make and what services they supply, our trade involves us swapping what they have for what we want and what we have for what they want.

    If we don’t have anything then why would they bother supplying us with iPhones and computers etc?

    As currency issuing nations both the UK and China can create the conditions for full employment.

    @ Arnold,

    “A high correlation between austerity-effects and leave-vote is now firmly established. This has nothing to do with the EU.”

    You tend to get these things wrong because you don’t understand much, if any macroeconomics. But it’s not that difficult. If we are part of a semi depressed trading bloc then we’ll inevitably end up with a trade deficit unless we do what Germany and Denmark do and use a currency which is artificially kept cheaper than the free market would dictate.

    So the Government needs to either depress our economy too (ie some austerity to keep in line) or struggle with running budget deficits to keep the ‘money supply’ in the economy topped up to replace the ££ lost to pay our import bill. It actually does a bit of both.

    The simple point that most German economists fail to grasp is that the German surplus has to be someone else’s deficit. Eurocent for eurocent. Somehow they seem to have convinced themselves that the world would be a much better place if everyone was like them and ran a big trade surplus. 🙂

    Does anyone, besides German economists and politicians, need me to explain why this isn’t possible?

  • @Arnold

    Adding the words “out on” changes the meaning to lost entirely.

    The problem is, whenever I see you present your arguments and from other’s like you, you resort to project fear and attempt to play on the public’s ignorance and give the impression that the UK economy has lost this money and is shrinking.
    You refuse to present your argument in an honest unbiased way because you know, if you said to the people, look here are the 3 scenarios on brexit
    A) Leave without a deal the uk economy WILL STILL grow by A%
    B) Leave on the negotiated deal and the uk economy will grow by B%
    C) Remain in eu on current terms, the uk economy will grow by C%

    You know, if you present your arguments in a more factual manor, your biggest fear would be the people would say A. If were still going to grow, whats all the hassle, get us out.
    So instead you chose to use language to create fear of god in people.

    It did not works last time and it will not work this time.

    Armageddon is not happening. Employment is at an all time high and unemployment is at it’s lowest levels since 1975. That’s hardly an economy that is tanking through fear of brexit.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Jan '19 - 3:05pm

    Perhaps we should make more of being a member of the eu improves our ability to stand up to Trump, China and a host of unknown challenges in the future.

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Jan '19 - 3:16pm

    @Peter Martin,
    yes, “we are part of a semi depressed trading bloc”, but not because it is a trading bloc, but because all European economies suffer from high cost, lack of natural resources, and overage. But this “bloc” is not exclusive; just sell outside, if you can. The UK can’t. So how does this structural fact support your view that Brexit is beneficial? Germany will not introduce an appreciating D-mark or stop making competitive products to solve your problem. What is your Brexit-point? At least today, competitive UK products and services are easily available on the continent. Where is the benefit of making this harder or uncompetitive?

    I am just relaying the Government’s numbers, not calculating anything myself. They have calculated deltas, i.e. performed a comparative static analysis.There is nothing non-factual, biased or fearsome about this; it is just one, generally accepted, method.

    What you want is a dynamic analysis, that would model three scenarios independently. This is much harder, and was not done for good reasons. But be honest: if anybody presented you with such an analysis, would you believe this? You Brexiters would simply resort to your standard line: all economists are useless, because their predictions are never right.

    In reality, the difference between today’s trading environment and diverging regimes can be modeled much more easily than three different universal economic models, and are therefore a much more reliable decision-making basis.

    Besides, just having a nominal growth rate >0 is not sufficient for broadly improving living standards, as can be observed in the UK since 2008.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '19 - 3:35pm

    @ Arnold,

    “The UK can’t.”

    Actually we can. Sell outside of the EU that is. As Larry Elliott writes in the Guardian

    “The UK’s trading performance with the rest of the world has been better. Exports and imports were broadly in balance from 1999 to 2011 but since 2012 there has been a fivefold increase in the surplus from £8bn to £39bn”

    Not that I would want to be like the mercantilistic Germans and screw our world trading partners, as and when we develop closer trading ties, by continuing to run unnecessarily large trade surpluses. Trade works best for all when it is more closely balanced. This stops the build up of debt levels which create the conditions for the imposition of austerity economics.

    Imbalances in trade also create the conditions for international conflict as we’ve seen between China and the USA recently. Except China is much less guilty than Germany in wanted to rig the game on its own behalf. The last time I checked, there was something like a 2.5% of GDP Chinese trade surplus which is about a third of the German surplus.

    The German mentality creates conflict in the EU too. It divides euro countries into winners and losers. This cuts right across the noble aim of ensuring that there is no more war in Europe. Mark my words. It will be the undoing of the EU project. It could even lead to military conflict if countries like Greece and Italy depart the eurozone owing hundreds of billions of euros to Germany and Holland.

    They won’t be able to repay these large Target2 debts in any case but stupid German economists and politicians are insisting on exactly that if a country does want to exit the eurozone.

  • @Arnold

    You’re right on one thing, I do not trust government or economists forecasts.
    Especially when they were forecasting that within 18 months of a leave vote the uk economy would shrink by 2.1%, when in reality the UK economy ended u growing by 2.8%

    Why would I trust any government who said overhauling Disability Living Allowance and replacing it with personal independence payments would save the DWP 20% when in reality, the benefit is now costing the department 20% more.

    These are huge numbers to be getting wrong over a relatively short forecasting period, so do i think they are incompetent and not worth the paper they are written on…..Absolutely.

    If the agreed consensus is that the UK economy would still grow if we leave the EU, then I am all for that.
    I would far rather have growth of around 2% a year and leave the EU, than I would be being a part of this undemocratic institution that is in real danger of falling on it’s backside and collapsing in the most ugly manor when the next global financial shock happens

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jan '19 - 6:39pm

    “I don’t think trade balance arguments will do much for a Brexit campaign.”

    Not directly. But the semi-depressed nature of many EU economies leads to a highly asymmetric migration pattern. The trade deficit needs to be financed by someone in the UK by borrowing. This gives us a debt problem which in turn gives ammunition to those who advocate austerity economics.

    So it’s very much an integral issue.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Jan '19 - 7:18pm

    @Arnold Kiel,
    There are individuals who receive a good response amongst those who already agree with them. There are others who recognise that the issue is not one of demonstrating their erudition to the converted but actually listening to those who take a different position and understanding why they might take a position that one believes, will make their situation worse.

    The educational process is transactional.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Jan '19 - 7:33pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,
    Scrub the term transactional. Replace it with a two way process.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jan '19 - 9:28am

    @ Arnold Kiel, David Raw, Michael1,

    I agree that it is patronising to accuse political opponents of a lack of education. The implication in this case is that only the uneducated would object to the creation of a European superstate known as the EU and have the UK be a part of it.

    I don’t bandy my academic credentials around but if anyone really wants to know I’ll send them my CV! There’s plenty of sound academic opinion that the EU, as it is, will fail under the stress of its own internal contradictions. If anyone doubts that I’d say it is likely they have no idea how the euro operates, just what the Target 2 imbalances mean, and just how the operation of the so-called Stability and Growth Pact, followed by its successor, the European Fiscal Compact, hamstrings the power of national governments to control their own economies. Essentially, the rules are only favourable to the EU’s large net exporters.

    So, at the risk of being patronising, I’m saying there’s more than a little education needed on the Remain side too. Most Remainers don’t have an informed opinion. They’ve likely never heard of the SGP or the EFC. If they have, they won’t know what the motivations behind them. To them, the euro is good thing because they don’t have to bother with more than one currency when they’re on holiday in Europe. They don’t have any view beyond that.

  • Joseph Bourke 23rd Jan '19 - 10:42am

    David Raw,

    “The findings raise fresh questions over whether people who are struggling with mental ill health are at a disadvantage when they have to negotiate the benefits system.’

    They are and have been since the work capability assessment was introduced in 2008 and the task of assessment outsoourced to ATOS. For claimants with mental health conditions this new program has proved particularly ineffective.
    This is coupled with a very high correlation between personal debt problems and mental health difficulties. We are still a long way from where we need to be in ensuring that peolpe suffering with mental health conditions can get the kind of social care support they need to cope.

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