Vince Cable: Labour and Liberal Democrat silence over Brexit will cost the country

Vince Cable has challenged Labour and the Liberal Democrats to speak up more about the damage Brexit is doing to our country o stop even more damage being inflicted.

The former Lib Dem Leader recently became President of the European Movement and writes in the Independent (£) that support for Brexit is collapsing.

Outside that goldfish bowl, opinion is shifting. An Opinium survey showed that 60 per cent of voters (including 40 per cent of Leave voters) think Brexit has “gone badly”. Ipsos found, in June, that 45 per cent of those surveyed (including 22 per cent of Leave voters) felt that Brexit had “made life worse”. Support for Brexit is collapsing, but its core support remains.

He lists the damage that Brexit has already done:

The economy is measurably smaller than it otherwise would be. Investment, hit by Brexit uncertainty, still hasn’t recovered. Trade is down. Sectors badly hit by Brexit-induced labour shortages are still struggling. Alternative visa arrangements are not in place. And inflation is worse than it should be.

And if that isn’t bad enough:

The government has managed to postpone the introduction of checks on food imports from the EU three times.
British science faces exclusion from the EU’s valuable, collaborative, Horizon science programme.
The government is committed to legislation nullifying the negotiated Northern Ireland protocol.

But why are the Labour and the Liberal Democrats not saying more about this?

They may have concluded that they need the support of soft-Brexiteers to achieve a breakthrough in the northern Red Wall and the southwestern section of the Blue Wall. But there is a price to be paid for this silence.

The hard line ideological Brexiters, he says, are hell bent on making the damage they have done irreversible:

There are 2,400 EU laws still in place in the UK, mostly uncontroversial and beneficial to us all. But the anti-European fanatics are now dedicating their political lives to scrapping them, regardless of the costs involved. The more significant task is to repair the damage already done to our relations with the EU. The Liberal Democrats have set out a staged process to rebuild trade and cooperation with Europe, and Labour has set out a five-point plan to restore trust and goodwill. Neither is contemplating re-joining the EU in the foreseeable future and re-joining the single market, and customs union is not yet on the agenda.

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28 Comments

  • Andrew Toye 31st Aug '22 - 1:23am

    Sad to say it, but Brexit has happened: the ship has left port. To re-join the EU, we need the approval of all 27 members, so the offer of re-joining simply isn’t on the table. We have heard friendly noises from liberal/liberal-minded parts of Europe, but even they would want to see a long-term commitment to the EU project and not leave the risk that a future Tory/Brexit government would take us back out again at the earliest opportunity.

    We should of course work to improve diplomatic and economic relations with the EU, and hammer home the campaign message that Brexit was a terrible mistake – but we must accept that re-joining the EU is a long-term ambition, not something we can deliver in one Parliament even if by a miracle we win the next general election.

  • Martin Gray 31st Aug '22 - 3:48am

    The British public are exhausted with Brexit …
    That fight is over . They’ll be no option of rejoining in the near future – not for a significant period.
    We had a considerable number of opt outs which would not be available again . & as for joining the Euro – something the British public would never agree to. Good luck with that if you think it’s a vote winner …

  • Mick Taylor 31st Aug '22 - 6:08am

    Vince is right. I have listened for far too long to the silence about Europe in the pronouncements of our leader and most of our MPs. Yes, we do have an acceptable policy, but no-one talks about it.
    Now, no-one thinks rejoining is an immediate possibility, but there are many steps along the way, like joining the single market and the customs union that would mitigate some of the worst aspects of Brexit. [Ironically, this would put us in the position of a rule taker, which the Brexiteers incorrectly said we were]
    I do think that perhaps we should talk about the positive benefits of the steps we propose, rather than saying how bad Brexit is.
    And yes, Michael Gray, we did have a very good deal as members of the EU. Losing those benefits IS one of the prices we have paid for leaving. Right now the Euro looks like a pretty good bet with the pound currently plummeting to new depths. Our party has never had the courage to speak out about the benefits of a single European currency [which could of course be issued with the Queen’s head on it]. Perhaps we should. It will take time, but if we never start…

  • Tristan Ward 31st Aug '22 - 7:55am

    If Britain is to rejoin the EU it will take many years. If find it hard to belive the EU27 would have us back unless and until the vast majority of our political class is in favour. That won’t happen until the Tories are reformed or destroyed (no sign of that in the foreseeable future – the disease has to run its course). Say 20 years at the earliest.

    We must however work for closer ties, and that starts with keeping the damage of Brexit in the political conversation so far as we can. Not as a major part of our narrative, but just dropped in as part of a conversation. “Of course, before Brexit we could export at lower cost……”

    The other point is that we have no idea what the EU will look like in 20 years time and more. But an aim to rejoin the Single Market and Customs Union ought not frighten the horses that are likely to vote for us. The farmers have certainly worked Brexit out, and I suspect the fishermen have too.

  • Barry Lofty 31st Aug '22 - 9:09am

    As usual some sane and sensible statements by Vince Cable, although rejoining the EU will probably not happen in the near future, given the catastrophe of Brexit it is imperative that the UK seeks a friendly working relationship with our European allies and as soon as possible. What a mess this government has made of our country and in such a short time, which proves that it takes generations to build good relationships and a very short time to lose them.

  • I agree with Mick Taylor. I’m afraid fearfully dodging an issue wins few friends. I also happen to agree with Tristan Ward, that, “If Britain is to rejoin the EU it will take many years. I find it hard to believe the EU27 would have us back unless and until the vast majority of our political class is in favour”.

    However, I would gently remind Tristan that the issue of EU membership is seen very differently in Scotland. The Lib Dem leadership needs to remember this if they are to make any progress north of the Border.

  • A good way to put pressure on the political class and to make sure the conversation starts is to join the National Rejoin March to Parliament Square on Saturday week. I will bemawrching, and I am sure many other Lib Dems will, too. https://marchforrejoin.co.uk/

  • @ Mick Taylor
    Sterling is marginally stronger against the Euro compared with 12 months ago but has fallen 17% against the US dollar. If joining the Euro was the price for rejoining the EU it will never happen. Not that people were given the choice,but Europeans were sold a pup with the Euro, in that they were not told that a single currency implied a federal Europe. Even if Europe wanted it they’d have been better off with EuroNorth and EuroSouth. There are 8 EU countries not in the eurozone and it would not be insumountable to rejoin the EU at a future time without joining the Euro. In the meantime we should bang on about the problems brexit is causing and shout from the rooftops the benefits of SM/CU/FOM. If it loses us votes (which I doubt) then so be it. I’d MUCH rather be still in the EU than have a libdem PM

  • Peter Martin 31st Aug '22 - 11:53am

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “Right now the Euro looks like a pretty good bet with the pound currently plummeting to new depths.”

    The Exchange rate is today 1.16 euros to the pound. And what was it on this day last year? Answer: 1.16 euros to the pound.

    Sure there are variations like any other exchange rate but overall it is more that the US$ is rising against both currencies which may or may not be a good thing.

  • Paul Barker 31st Aug '22 - 2:22pm

    On Topic.
    Labour policy is none of our business while they are in Opposition.
    We have nothing to lose by being upfront about wanting to Re-apply (in the long term) because most of out potential Voters assume that’s our policy anyway. Silence or dithering just make us look shifty & gutless.
    Off Topic.
    The level of the Euro against other currencies is irrelevant.

  • I agree with Martin Gray 31st Aug ’22 – 3:48am….

    The worse things get due to Brexit the more the media will blame ‘the nasty EU picking on plucky little Britain (England)’..No-one likes having his mistakes pointed out and most of the 52% will get even more hostile to the EU before too long..

    Rees-Mogg, sadly, speaks for a lot of people with remarks like “Delays at Dover are caused by the EU stopping our freedom of movement” …Ignoring, of course, that the loss of that ‘freedom’ is exactly what Brexit meant..

  • Alex Macfie 31st Aug '22 - 4:55pm

    @expats: “Rees-Mogg, sadly, speaks for a lot of people…” maybe, but not those whose votes we are chasing. As @Paul Barker points out, most voters assume we’re pro-Rejoin anyway, so there’s no point in pretending anything else. We just wouldn’t be believed.

    @Martin Gray: We are seeing the fallout from this government’s Hard Brexit every day. People can be “exhausted” about a lot of things, it doesn’t mean we can pretend they don’t exist. And @Andrew Toye, no-one is suggesting the UK can rejoin the EU in the next Parliament. Lib Dem policy is to rejoin the SM and CU, with rejoining the EU as a long-term objective.

  • George Thomas 31st Aug '22 - 9:19pm

    I’m afraid my immediate reaction to Vince Cable’s name now is the bizarre comments he made on GB News (and then in newspapers) about Chinese Government’s genocide…

    Looking beyond that, there was once an Independent article which said that when polled British people have wildly different views compared to facts of the day – hanging too much weight on public opinion polls is silly – and there is enough noise that arguing that things aren’t quite as bad as they otherwise would be is a difficult point to make, Especially when austerity came before Brexit and many of our issues today stem from that firstly.

    Are people ready to talk about Brexit again? One of the advantages of pushing to be third biggest political party in the UK is that you can talk about unpopular things and therefore set stall out as leaders longer term. LD’s hold advantage over Tory and Labour in being a party united on this issue and growing closer to Europe is not only something which will happen but also something that fits into LD political views – Vince Cable is right to bring this subject matter back into public eye and highlight opposition weakness on it.

  • We have a larger aging population in the UK than younger people that I can’t deny but ongoing mortality (not to put too finer point on things) and a younger university educated young people reaching voting age may turn the tide. It will happen sooner or later and in the meantime pointing out the many disadvantages of Brexit will keep it on the agenda. How sharply the tide turns will depend on how heavily the Tories are beaten into opposition as even they may reverse track on Brexit at that stage.

  • The UK made a huge mistake and if we didn’t know it at the time we must surely know it now.
    The anti Tory parties must “get a spine” and make rejoining the EU a priority before the now desperate Brexiters burn too many bridges. Luckily PM Truss will prove do incompetent and such a laughing stock that a General Election will have to come within months
    The Tories’ split opposition must fight that election promising to undo Brexit. I feel sure that the EU will want to have us back asap as they need us as much as we need to rejoin.

  • ric 31st Aug ’22 – 11:16pm…………….. as they need us as much as…..

    Now where have I heard that before?

  • Peter Martin 1st Sep '22 - 4:49pm

    Inflation now has reached 10.1% p.a. which the pro EU lobby is happy to say has been mainly caused by Brexit.

    Inflation in 1975 reached an all time high of 25% p.a. This was just a few years after we first joined the then EEC. So by the same logic, can we say this was mainly caused by us joining?

    Or can we be slightly more intelligent and accept that both joining and leaving might have had some very minor short term affect on prices but agree the main reason for both spikes in inflation has been a sharp increase in world energy prices?

  • Martin Gray 1st Sep '22 - 8:55pm

    @Martin…
    Unless the labour party do a full 360, there is zero chance of us joining the sm/cu – or for that matter rejoining in full. It’s about stating the obvious . There’s no appetite amongst the British public to go through all that after such a short period of time …
    Martin , as I’ve stated many times – there was never any deep affection for the EU for millions of British people, not when we were in & not now …
    Many voters are socially conservative – we find that out at virtually every GE.
    Of course we could of had a very soft Brexit – but that was never enough for some….

  • @ Martin Gray “there was never any deep affection for the EU for millions of British people”.

    Don’t you mean the English people, Mr Gray……… Who do you mean by,”We” ? Certainly not Scotland which voted 62% Remain.

  • Vince is absolutely right, we need to be pro rejoining at least the EEA and Single Market (i’m not sure what policy he actually supports?) which would appear to reflect majority opinion in 2022 and help us to build a much needed core vote.

    We were on 16-19% in the polls when Vince stepped down. I didn’t agree with his “B******s to Brexit” slogan but he is a political heavyweight with good judgement.

  • Martin Gray 1st Sep '22 - 10:01pm

    Martin..
    17 million + Britain’s voted to leave …. There was plenty of impoverishment amongst many communities all throughout our our membership of the EU …Who can blame those looking around their community & asking what has EU membership given me & my community ..
    They couldn’t see it & certainly couldn’t feel it …
    There will be no rejoining – probably not in our lifetime..
    And I’ve knocked on enough doors to realise that the British public would never accept the Euro…
    As painful as it is for us …
    Of course we can have rejoin as a long term aim …
    But let’s not be under any illusion that it will be universally popular – it won’t ….

  • Martin Gray 2nd Sep '22 - 4:52am

    @David Raw …
    Scotland is part of the United Kingdom – that what makes the ‘we’….

  • Nigel Hardy 2nd Sep '22 - 1:51pm

    What an unholy mess. We know that the Tories always make a mess of everything they touch, but with Brexit they have excelled themselves in every sense. Who would have thought the progressive parties would not not want to talk about the biggest self inflicted tragedy for generations?

    Of course Tristan Ward is correct in saying rejoin probabaly won’t be for another twenty years, but that does not give our MP’s a licence to hide behind the sofa. Unless we start leading the way as a consistently pro European party, led by our MP’s, in setting out the harm Brexit has done to the country, economically and socially, followed by the case for closer EU alignment with a plan nothing will be achieved. Why are we not showing the way for Labour to follow?

    I understand the reasons the fear exists, but not frightening the horses is not leading the country. Of course the Tories want the collective opposition to step on the landmine marked Brexit so they can ramp up their woke war (or whatever it is), and a rabid right wing media doesn’t help our cause either. But are we really going to allow our political leaders to idly sit on their hands as we get poorer outside the EU when polling now shows Brexit blues?

    Failure to plan is planning to fail. Where is the plan for finding the path back?

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Sep '22 - 2:47pm

    Brexit could become a scapegoat for our failings as a country sooner than some might think. It is already falling down the political agenda and this might be a good thing. At some stage we’re going to have to reverse our diving economy and a relatively easy way is to rejoin the eu.

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