Vince Cable writes: Why are Brexiteers so scared of the people?

Liberal Democrats are united on Europe. We strongly believe that Britain is better off as a full member of the European Union. I am proud of this stance, and continue to argue for an ‘exit from Brexit’. The European Union has been a project of huge economic and social success, fostering prosperity and maintaining peace on a continent historically ravaged by division and war. I want Britain to remain. The Liberal Democrats are the party of Remain.

Meanwhile, even the spectre of leaving is doing great damage. Parliament has been asked to confer huge new power on Government – far from ‘taking back control’ as the country was promised. Already our economy is being jeopardised by the huge devaluation in the pound, which is pushing up prices and leaving British companies vulnerable to takeovers. An exodus of highly skilled European workers puts public services at risk too.

As a party, we acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave. Yet it becomes clearer by the day that we were absolutely right to argue the negotiations would never deliver the promises of the Leave campaign. When the true scale of that failure is known, the public must get a first referendum on the facts. I believe they will demand it. And there will be no deal on offer which is better than staying in the European Union.

Our voice is being heard and listened to on this. The debate is shifting in our direction with key Labour figures like Sadiq Khan and David Miliband now signing up to our view. But to continue setting the agenda, we must not walk into a trap laid by our opponents. If our argument for a democratic exit from Brexit is drowned out by a chorus of “democracy deniers” we will get nowhere.

As your new Leader, I am keen that we learn the lessons of the election – but I hope we learn the right ones. Our message on Europe was strong, but we must be about more than Europe. Our manifesto was widely praised as credible, costed and progressive. Yet our excellent policies on health, education and the environment were obscured by a sense that the European Union was all we cared about. We need only look at how such a strategy affected the Conservative Party at elections in the late 90s to know that a mirror image of it is unlikely to be a shortcut to success for us now.

To amplify our voice in Parliament and at every level of government in the UK, we need to reconnect with voters, reaching out to both Remain and Leave supporters. We must show that we are the party with a grown-up approach to the economy, a commitment to good public services, and the ideas to meet the big challenges of the 21st century – housing supply, a changing labour market and excessive corporate power. As the Brexit negotiations falter, we can assemble a majority who will want to see an exit from Brexit, but only if we also understand what voters on both sides of the divide want from their government.

The Government is taking the 2016 referendum as carte blanche to pursue an extreme form of Brexit. It is undemocratic, it is dangerous for the economy and damaging for our society. Our party will fight them every step of the way. We have not yet left the European Union, and I believe it is possible to stop it: we are ready to lead the shift in public opinion. So as we debate this weekend let’s stick to our guns, make the weather and ask the Brexiteers – if they’re so confident in their deal – why are they so scared of the people?

* Sir Vince Cable is the former MP for Twickenham and was leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 until 2019. He also served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from 2010 to 2015.

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  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '17 - 12:08pm

    if they’re so confident in their deal – why are they so scared of the people?

    Of course the same question used to be asked of remainers before it was decided to have a referendum.

    What would Jean-Claude Juncker do if he knew for sure we were going to have a second referendum? He’d offer the worst possible deal in the hope it would be rejected by the electorate. He may still do that, but we can’t expect to do well if we play the game with all our cards face up.

  • I agree – which is why at the next public vote in a General Election (which may be round the corner…who knows?) we must give the people the fundamental option of voting for a party that opposes Brexit: that every one of our MPs commit to calling for the revocation of article 50, or, if too late, take us back in to the EU.

  • paul holmes 16th Sep '17 - 1:32pm

    Vince is absolutely spot on about the need to be known for a wide range of policies. Being seen as single issue obsessives damaged us badly over the last year.

  • Andrew Fitton 16th Sep '17 - 1:32pm

    My gut feel, and it is only that, is that for those who had Remain high on their agenda in the 2016 election, voting Labour was the only means of putting a marker on the government to slow, stop and embolden Remain. I must confess, as a Lid Dem party member, I thought long and hard about it before voting Lib Dem as in my constituency we have a “wet” Tory junior minister with a large majority (who is voting with the government and is remarkably quiet on Brexit in this Remain voting constituency), Labour second and Liberal some way back.

    Some more Remainers took/take Brexit as a fait accompli and, together with holding centre right views voted and may continue to vote Conservative with a hope a sensible deal will be struck. Many parents are stung by tuition fees. If you are well off but not rich and feel a sense of duty to try and make sure your kids can attend college with minimal debt, tuition fees keep you working several years longer than planned.

    Finally, notwithstanding my like for him, Tim Farron was not offering the “weight” someone like Sir Vince Cable can.

    I think it is right that the party has rounded and complete policies to demonstrate to centre left and right voters it is a complete and responsible party to vote for. I think it is right that we are very open and clear on Brexit. The last really big thing the Lib Dems opposed was Iraq and I doubt any of us want to be proven right with hindsight again.

    I doubt anyone who was for Remain but failed to vote will make that mistake again in a referendum on destination. Like many people I wrestled long and hard with my vote in the 2016 referendum in an absence of hard information, swaying first to Frank Fields’ argument before listing to some Dutch of all people and affirming myself for Remain. I wonder how many stuck at Mr Fields argument (which was go with your gut feel if you were wondering) but are no longer so convinced.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Sep '17 - 2:06pm

    Vince – give me a Norway option and I’ll vote for you.

  • Excellent common sense piece from Vince. Let’s put the issue to a vote in a referendum when we know what the alternative to maintaining our membership of the EU actually is – whether that alternative be a negotiated free trade agreement or an exit on WTO terms. If the public don’t like the alternative, we have the right and responsibility to change our minds.

    More importantly, in my opinion, is the message that we must be about more than Europe. We will have to deal with whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are. In doing so, important as it may be, our priority should not be on the EU, but as Vince Saya “on a grown-up approach to the economy, a commitment to good public services, and the ideas to meet the big challenges of the 21st century – housing supply, a changing labour market and excessive corporate power” – whether as a member of the EU or not.

  • There is no sense at all in having a second referendum on the terms of leaving. The EU, which is desperate to keep our financial contribution, would ensure that we got the very worst deal possible. Perhaps that is Vince’s plan, in which case it an insult to the intelligence. Either way, it is a bad idea.

    The only honest position for the party is to campaign at the next election to rejoin the EU and all that membership will entail.

    Personally, I think that would finish the party off.

  • Peter,

    Desperate really? You do know how much our contribution is

    But when each contributor’s payment is divided by the number of people in the country, Britain sinks down the table. On a per-head basis, Britons are the eighth-biggest contributors to the EU. The biggest payers are the Dutch: every one them sends almost four times as much to Brussels.

    I suggest you read the Telegraph article and then rethink your “desperate to keep our financial contribution” because i rather think that is yet another Brexiteer idea that will be shot down along with “they need us to keep buying their cars”.

  • Andrew Fitton 16th Sep '17 - 8:07pm


    I don’t agree. I think the EU had an expectation that we would be contributing some projects that we agreed to and want us to honour that commitment. They think it is fair. You might not but they do.

    Beyond that they simply do not want our leaving to have an adverse impact on any member of EU; that includes Ireland, EU citizens and not disadvantaging any member of the EU. There is no malice or greed in it despite the right wing tabloid press and the paragon of journalism for the common man, the Spectator, wanting to make it into a contest. However, it does highlight they will not be willing for a country near the EU (AKA the UK) to do well by virtue of it being near the EU if a state within the EU risked doing less well as a result.

  • Jackie,

    Sorry you don’t get to pick your form of Brexit. You voted for the pig in the poke option, the fact the pig looks like a rabid dog trying to rip your harris off is unfortunate. What is more unfortunate is you where warned that once the box was open you didn’t get to pick the way Brexit worked out, I suspect many a brave Brexiteer will have the same issue in not getting their version of Brexit, Lexit or what ever else they thought would happen. Unless you voted for Brexit to get the hard right Libertarian Gove and Co option in which case you will be as happy a rabid dog (masquerading as a pig) in muck.

  • frankie 16th Sep ’17 – 8:10pm
    Sorry you don’t get to pick your form of Brexit.

    The “Norway option” isn’t a form of Brexit.

    ‘Brexit vote was about single market, says Cameron adviser’ [November 2016]:

    “Leaving the European single market was “the instruction from the referendum,” according to one of David Cameron’s closest advisers.

    Ameet Gill, who served as the former prime minister’s director of strategy until earlier this year and campaigned for a Remain vote, said the Brexiteers’ commitment to leaving the free-trade bloc was the key issue of the campaign and Downing Street spent “months trying to hang that round Leave’s neck.”

    He said it was “a bit weird” for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to now claim that Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t have a mandate for a “hard” Brexit outside the single market.


    Gill is particularly damning about the attempt to rewrite the history of the campaign by those who, like him, supported a vote to Remain.”

  • So this week the UK parliament voted to give unlimited powers to the minority tory government.

    The Government is taking the 2014 referendum as carte blanche to pursue an extreme form of Brexit UK. It is undemocratic, it is dangerous for the economy and damaging for our society. We will fight them every step of the way. Scotland has not yet left the European Union, and I believe it is possible to stop it: we are ready to lead the shift in public opinion. So let’s stick to our guns, make the weather and ask the Unionists – if they’re so confident in their deal – why are they so scared of the Scottish people?

    Sauce for the goose, Vince.

  • Jeff,

    You are demonstrating my point. Jackie voted for Brexit but wants the Norway version of it, you are telling him he can’t have that. I get that but you are not offering him the version of Brexit he voted for. Others voted for Lexit, but they won’t get that either. It’s sad they voted for different version but now the Tories are saying there is only one version theirs. Question the brave Brexiteers should ask themselves is would you have voted for Brexit if you’d known your own personal version wasn’t an option and only the Tory one was. I’d be interested to hear their opinions and by the way wishing the Tory party away so you can have your version really isn’t an option.

  • Philip Knowles 17th Sep '17 - 10:16am

    The ‘Norway option’ is nonsensical. Norway pays roughly the same per capita as we do (after rebates and support payments). It has to abide by the EU rules but has no say in the drafting of them. It has to accept the free movement of people. It has all the ‘costs’ of being in the EU without getting all the benefits.

    Even Boris Johnson couldn’t sell that one.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Sep '17 - 11:11am

    Jeff 16th Sep ’17 – 8:48pm There is a blow by blow account of the 2016 referendum in
    ‘All Out War’ by Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times, including Jeremy Corbyn being absent or asleep at key moments.
    In this comprehensive account there is no mention of a divorce bill.

  • “As a party, we acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave”.

    We have lost sight of the fact that the referendum was an unwanted imposition on the British public, undemocratically designed with no supermajority requirement which is an accepted safeguard in every other civilised country. There was no proper inclusion of expatriates and young people who would be most affected and it was mired in lies and misinformation. As our top philosopher AC Grayling has amply demonstrated, it was totally invalid and cannot be considered a mandate for anything. That such an farcical exercise has been made the basis of Britain’s future will surely go down as the anomaly of the century.

  • It’s all spilt milk.

  • Spilt milk or not Glen, supporting the result of a flawed referendum is like profiting from the proceeds of crime. The Lib Dems should avoid doing so.

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '17 - 12:35pm

    @John King “the referendum was an unwanted imposition on the British public, undemocratically designed with no supermajority requirement which is an accepted safeguard in every other civilised country.”
    So how will you ensure that the referendum being called for by Lib Dems is not an “unwanted imposition”, and are you calling for a “supermajority requirement” in the referendum to reverse the government’s Brexit after the 2016 referendum?
    After all this time, a lost referendum and a terrible general election, Lib Dems still seem some way from a simple message on Brexit. Hopefully this morning the party’s conference will produce one, but for a party that has suggested a lot of referendums in recent years and is demanding another one on Brexit, I would suggest that criticising referendums is not a consistent starting point.

  • Yes Glen it is split milk and how it’s starting to smell. Wondering round with a peg on your nose saying it’s all smelling of roses doesn’t really cut it. I think you and the rest of the brave Brexiteers need to step forward and start cleaning up the mess. After all you spilt it so only fair you clean it up.

  • To Peter Watson
    These are good points Peter. When AC Grayling in the new European advocated a supermajority requirement for a second referendum (i.e. a majority greater than 50 percent for changing for the status quo of EU membership), I pointed out that the acceptance of this would likely call into question the validity of the first referendum. It is probably more practical to keep the simply majority requirement the same, despite its faults.

    Though I have written articles for Libdemvoice in favour of a second referendum, I concede it is risky. The Brexit press would still be there, poisoning the air, and the rest of the British media tend to act as an echo chamber for them.

  • frankie 17th Sep ’17 – 12:56pm:
    I think you and the rest of the brave Brexiteers need to step forward and start cleaning up the mess. After all you spilt it so only fair you clean it up.

    The Northern Irish milk processing industry does, in fact, appear to be cleaning up…

    ‘Dairy firm LacPatrick’s British trade up as Brexit looms’ [September 2017]:

    A leading Northern Ireland dairy firm has seen its trade with Britain grow by almost a third as companies there reposition for Brexit.

    LacPatrick has just invested £30m in new facilities at its plant in Artigarvan, County Tyrone.

    It said big name food firms based in Britain had begun to source ingredients from it.

    Businesses involved in the manufacture of chocolate, biscuits and sauces have all been in touch.

    All are large consumers of dairy powder ingredients.

    Previously, they would have imported them from EU countries including the Republic of Ireland.

  • It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, Jeff.

  • Frankie.
    I see it as cleaning up the mess caused by signing Maastricht and I’m fine with the results so far.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Sep '17 - 4:44pm

    In 1992 MEPs were elected first past the post in enormous constituencies. We had none. Reform of the voting system did not come until after the 1997 UK general election, effective in 1999 except in Northern Ireland which elected by STV.
    I attended a celebratory dinner for £19.92. A tory at my table said:
    “When there is a cabinet reshuffle in Italy the Prime Minister is included”.

  • All the other sensible policies suggested – education, housing, health, etc – will be me-too policies at the next GE. So, no differentiation from which ever other party (both?) is proclaiming them. The one visible, indisputable point of differentiation for the LD’s is remaining in the EU. Yes, have the other policies in our briefcase, but our big seller is the EU where we promise deliver what neither Lab or Con will dare to do.

  • paul holmes 17th Sep '17 - 6:26pm

    If a ‘big seller’ in a commercial market did as well as our anti referendum outcome stance did in June, then the Company would be bankrupt.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Sep ’17 – 11:11am:
    Jeff 16th Sep ’17 – 8:48pm There is a blow by blow account of the 2016 referendum in ‘All Out War’ by Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times, including Jeremy Corbyn being absent or asleep at key moments.
    In this comprehensive account there is no mention of a divorce bill.

    Had it been known at the time that the EU would try to blackmail us one suspects even more people would have voted Leave. The so-called ‘divorce bill’ has no legal validity…

    ‘UK not obliged to pay Brexit bill, say peers’ [March 2017]:

    The House of Lords EU financial affairs sub-committee report, published at the weekend, concluded that there would be no legal obligation to meet a so-called Brexit divorce bill at the end of the exit negotiaions.

  • I’m afraid refusing to accept the referendum result is not helping the Lib Dem cause, most voters, regardless of how they voted in the referendum, just want to get it over with as quickly as possible.

  • @ Richard Underhill

    The EU Parliament election was in 1994 and we won two seats under the FPTP system (recovering from our fourth place in 1989) both in south west England. (1992 was a general election year.)

    @ Ken Munn

    Our position on the EU has always been a vote loser. This is why during EU parliamentary elections we didn’t normally say much about the EU but fought very local campaigns. The exception was 2014 when we were reduced from 11 MEPs to 1.

  • Martin – maybe most voters do “want to get it over with as soon as possible”. But when (as most people who were relatively informed knew beforehand) there were major contradictions to be solved, some of which bring the whole process into a total mess, it is not a clearcut process or issue.

    As I have said from the beginning of this sorry tale, when the term “negotiation” was mentioned, if there is a “negotiation” it is with the UK electorate, not the other 27 and the EP. Theresa May has been desperately trying to close down the arguments, and address her twin obsessions (presumably developed from her experiences as Home Secretary) of the ECJ and immigration control. On the latter she seems to take a very right wing populist stance. So, in some way, a more detailed negotiation with electors needs to take place, which is where some sort of gathering of views needs to take place. I don’t think TM is capable as PM of conducting such a process.

  • Jeff

    Economics 101

    In theory, a devaluation will cause the following to happen:

    The price of UK exports will be lower in foreign currencies. This will increase the competitiveness of UK exports and should cause an increase in demand for UK exports.
    The price of imported goods into the UK will increase. This will reduce our spending on imports and instead we will be more likely to buy domestic goods.
    The increase in (X-M) should cause an increase in Aggregate Demand (AD), economic growth and cause a reduction in unemployment.
    The increased competitiveness should cause an improvement in the current account on the balance of payments.

    You are Lording the fact that by crashing the pound against the Euro goods priced in Euro’s are being replaced by goods priced in cheaper pounds. The puzzling thing is even with the major devaluation Brexit caused our balance of trade is still so poor. Downside of currency devaluation is we are all poorer.

    Martin “I’m afraid refusing to accept the referendum result is not helping the Lib Dem cause, most voters, regardless of how they voted in the referendum, just want to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

    That is the problem most voters face though isn’t it Martin no matter how much they want it over it will drag on. In a years time it will still be here, in two we will be dealing with the impact of Brexit. The next election will be framed by how success or not Brexit was. Perhaps in a decades time we will be past Brexit, but if it goes really badly perhaps not. So no matter how much we may all want Brexit to go away it won’t and asking it too won’t make it go away either.

    We live in a Brexit wonderland, everyday a new headline about Brexit, we better get used to it, it is our reality and as the deadline for the cliff jump comes ever closer the headlines will become more alarming and frequent, much as we may wish they didn’t.

  • The thing about “crashing the Pound” is that it was a deliberate policy of QE. Which is why wages stagnate over the last 8-9 years. The possibility of raising interest rates seems to have lead the £ to rally. Currencies go up and down for all sorts of reasons, Brexit caused a fall, but it does not mean it’s a permanent situation or that you will get inflation anything like it was in 1976 after that referendum delivered a pro-Europe result when it hit 24% or in 1992-93 at the formation of the EU when it was in the teens. Currently, it’s what 3-4%(?) which is not actually historically high at all and not much higher than it was during the coalition years.

  • undemocratically designed with no supermajority requirement which is an accepted safeguard in every other civilised country

    So you reckon Ireland (no supermajority requirement for constitutional referendums) and Canada (no supermajority requirement in the Quebecois independence referendums) aren’t civilised, then?

  • 2.9% is not high inflation.

  • nvelope2003 18th Sep '17 - 9:57am

    2.9% inflation may not be historically high but it is in the present circumstances

  • How valid are elections and referendums in those countries which do not require any ID at the polling station ? We are even told that we do not need to bring the card issued by the electoral registration officer. There have been numerous reports of people voting more than once, some up to 6 times. This needs to be looked into as these elections are wide open to manipulation.

  • undemocratically designed with no supermajority requirement which is an accepted safeguard in every other civilised country

    Oh, and Australian states, which have no supermajority requirement (federal Australian referendums have a odd system where they have to carry both an overall majority and a majority of states to pass; but again, no super-majority is required in either case).

    Is Australia not civilised?

  • To non-Brexiter Martin, once everyone accepts that we are going to leave people can concentrate on exactly what they want in a deal to make it a good deal.

  • To Remainer Martin’
    Personally when someone uses the phrase “get it over with as quickly as possible” I don’t immediately jump to death. I usually think more in terms of having a tooth filled or pulled. It’s not pleasant, but the alternative is toothache.

  • Spot on Glenn.

  • Theresa May has been desperately trying to close down the arguments, and address her twin obsessions (presumably developed from her experiences as Home Secretary) of the ECJ and immigration control.

    From Boris’s recent ‘vision’ piece in the Telegraph [ ] we can see a reason why – there has been no real progression in thinking!

    Boris’s piece also reveals just how woolly and confused his thinking is. For example a clear implication he wishes people take away is that:
    – Our infrastructure is too expensive
    – The failure to build enough houses
    – Insufficient basic scientific research

    are all due to the EU and thus somehow post-Brexit we’ll be able to wave the magic wand…

    I take wry amusement in that it is the Tory’s – the party of small government, that is overseeing the biggest expansion in government we’ve seen in many decades…

  • John King, I wonder if you would have called it a “flawed referendum”, if you had got the result you expected? And exactly how was it “an unwanted imposition?” It was in the Tory manifesto and they won the election, that’s how we do democracy in this country. I seem to remember Lib Dems in favour of an EU referendum not long ago, conveniently forgotten now of course.

  • John Littler 18th Sep '17 - 9:59pm

    As an exporter I know that the Norway EFTA/EEA option is neither in the EU, nor is it a great alternative, although it is better than the appalling WTO terms and it works for exporting most services, which are critical for the UK

    For exporters in goods and commodities we actually need to be in the Customs Union, which solves the N.I border issue, and gives use free trade with 53 countries off the shelf as well as with the 27 and with Japan on the way shortly and the EU talking anew to USA, China, Australia, NZ and India. There is nothing in the world left that would finance Davis’s whisky tab and we would not have to spend the entire resources of government for decades trying and probably failing to get back to where we are now.
    Instead a fraction of the resources without the disruption could have been employed doing something useful, like an Industrial renaissance.

    Democracy is continuous and any government can reverse anything enacted by a previous government. That stupid “advisory” vote was deliberately staged on a reduced electorate, with no threshold as is usual for constitutional issues and was predicated on lies

    It was not just the EU finances which were lied about, they made glib and misleading statements such as “trade would continue as it does now” and that leaving the EU would be as quick and simple as repealing one short act of parliament. If ever an issue deserved being re-visited, then this is it.

    As young voters get onto the register and are now voting in large numbers, while the most convinced Leave voters leave the stage to be pushing up the daisies, then obviously time is on our side and the little inglanders know it.

  • John littler.
    Young people are just old people in waiting. But more than that, when they were given a chance to vote in the first post-Brexit general election the Lib Dem vote, The Party of Europe, went down. Voting is not predicated on a single issue.
    I would argue that it is in fact the ideologues of the hard remain camp who are “scared” and that this is why they make constant demands for a second referendum. After 2019 they will be forced to argue for re-joining the EU with increased payments, no rebates and adoption of the EURO. The window of opportunity for carrying on with the project is thus small and shrinking by the day. This will be especially difficult when the sky fails to fall, when it becomes perfectly clear that we will not starve or have motorway clogs for miles and that their dystopian sy-fyesque prophesies are just so much hot air. Because of course this not really about economics. It’s about differing visions of the future and the end of a dream.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '17 - 11:38pm

    @John Littler “while the most convinced Leave voters leave the stage to be pushing up the daisies, then obviously time is on our side”
    That is not the way to persuade Leave voters to change their minds.
    Indeed, if you had the little bird of freedom next to your name and were posting as a Lib Dem member, it is the sort of comment that could cause problems if “retweeted”, echoing as it does comments other Lib Dems have made less explicitly in the past.
    Challenge the arguments of Brexiters by all means, but don’t sound like you are looking forward to the deaths of those you disagree with.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 6:52am

    Peter, the use of a comical statement about changing demographics is illustrative and begs a response, but is mild compared with modern political satire, such as in comedy and cartoons. Talking about it neither wills it on, increases it nor changes reality any more than gravity sometimes causes accidents. It did however, illicit a response which is something, so thank you.

    Glenn, I believe you underestimate the gravity and impossibility of the government’s present policy from working in any sensible and realistic timescale. No one on the Remain side suggested that starvation (or world war) would result from the UK leaving the EU.

    I do believe that after 20 years of leaving the EU, the Uk would have found an alternative vision that worked, but that over that transition period of half a working life time, most people and the public finances would be severely disadvantaged and the loss in compound growth and tax receipts would greatly damage the UK permanently and people’s lives. The transition could not be done in 5-10 years, of that it is certain.

    There are 700 odd treaties that the EU has around the world, such as on governing trade, standards and relations, such as airline flights. These will cease for the UK, the moment we leave the EU, whatever is negotiated and they take an average of 10 years each to negotiate and could never all be done concurrently. The only alternative that would work for sellers of services and goods that generate our foreign currency would be to stay in the Single Market through the EFTA/EEA alternative such as Norway, as well as the Customs Union, such as Turkey. Otherwise, everything is up for grabs and there is too much detail in too many places and other countries would all look to gain advantage from the UK’s galloping desperate state.

    In looking to achieve Free Trade Agreements outside of the EU to try to replace what we have now is a pointless and highly damaging enterprise as the markets for UK goods and services do not exist. I repeat. They do not exist in India, or Brazil, or Russia, South Africa, or even China for the UK on any scale to rescue the situation.

    The EU is shortly have a FTA with Japan and is re-opening talks with China, India, Australia and New Zealand, as well as USA. All have said that they will not offer the UK a trade deal unless they first see what the UK is doing with the UK which would set the key standards, which are highest in the EU.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 6:52am

    The UK does more business in little Eire than in India, Brazil, Russia and Commonwealth combined ( if leaving out Canada which the EU has a free trade agreement with). Other EU countries such as Germany, France and even Belgium far exceed the UK’s business in these territories, so EU membership is not impeding them. For the UK the problem ifs structural. we have ignored and disadvantaged our shrunken industry and the regions for far too long.

    Trade economist specialists at the University of Groningen have crunched the numbers and predict that a hard brexit would lose the UK 16% of it’s exports, but the continental countries only 1% to 2% of theirs to the UK. They maintain that there is no option better than the one the UK has now. This because long range trade deals help little because of the costs and difficulties of doing business and even FTA;s in every country in the world would still lose the UK 6% of it’s exports if on WTO terms. All of those countries already have their own regional trade deals for the same reason.

    China does not respect copyright and patents and routinely rips off investors and business as I know clearly myself. It is also looking more inward these days and is 250% of GDP in debt, plus has slowed down and is corrupt.

    Brazil is also heavily in debt, is one of the most incredibly corrupt countries on earth, is expensive to ship to, is mainly very poor and few overseas countries manage to import or export from there without giving up and it has recently been deep in recession.

    South Africa is incredibly corrupt, is expensive to ship to, is mainly very poor and has an economy sinking long term, with incredible crime levels. Russia is a kleptocracy, mainly very poor, in recession and without many developed markets outside of Luxury goods in two cities. To suggest that these or arab countries could replace the EU is laughable.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 6:52am

    The UK Treasury under a Tory government forecasts a loss of £59bn p.a. in GDP. With UK finances and the balance of payments being so bad already, this would be the cliff edge and would tear up politics here forever.

    The costs of brexit are racking up. There are hundreds of lawyers on £3k a day each and many trade consultants on similar money, but there are not enough of them available. Whitehall needs an extra 30,000 civil servants but cannot recruit them because unemployment is low and the pay is pitiful for central London. In order to run WTO procedure, Customs and Excise would need 5 times the staff they presently have and there is not the space available around ports and airports to built it all.

    The CBI has identified 36 new industry bodies that would be needed to be set up, with buildings found, staff trained and negotiations made around the world to make this work. Yet it would only be duplicating what is already done for 27 countries already by the EU within our fees. This would costs billions and take a decade and for what exactly?

    On leaving, the UK would lose the EU’s medical and Finance bodies for the 28 countries and would have to cover the cost of their relocations. For the medical body alone, this has been estimated at £580 million.

    You might as well get used to the idea that brexit either will not happen, or that the fall out will be so bad that we will be in rapidly, wishing this had never happened.

  • Glenn, I believe you underestimate the gravity and impossibility of the government’s present policy from working in any sensible and realistic timescale.

    I think it isn’t just Glenn and other Brexit supporting members of the public who underestimate matters; For example , HMRC this last week made public a rather important piece of information: it needs to know the final customs arrangements within the next 7 months if it is to have systems ready for March 2019 and by the way we will also need to spend an additional £700m on Brexit IT projects, this news seems to have fallen on deaf ears or T.May and her Brexit monkeys are just hoping the real world will go away – evidenced by Johnson’s Telegraph piece…

  • For exporters in goods and commodities we actually need to be in the Customs Union

    For consumers, though, the whole point is to be outside the customs union and therefore able to drop the Common External Tariff, which is designed to pander to the continental populist protectionism (you think Donald Trump invented anti-import self-harm? The EU’s been doing it for years!) of, for example, French winemakers or Italian clothing-makers.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 10:01am

    Dav, all countries ( except NZ) that are not in free trade agreements, have external tariffs such as the EU’s Common external Tariff. The EU has the biggest free trade area in the world, in terms of trade, numbers of countries etc. It is soon to expand to include Japan and the EU is well ahead of the UK in next talking to China, India, Aus & NZ as well as the USA. There is no way those countries will give the UK an interim deal until they know what the UK is doing in the EU, such as on standards. The right wing Tories & UKIP think they can have it all ways but they can’t.

    As to the Minford model as in NZ, of opening trade barriers to everyone unilaterally, that would lose the UK the bargaining chip of negotiating the tariffs away from other country’s markets.

    If the UK failed to have some market protection, especially for agriculture, there is no way much of UK agriculture could compete. The UK’s farmers would often go to the wall, land would overgrow with gorse, ferns, birch and other weeds losing the look and many walks for tourists. The UK’s food production strategically would be shrinking dangerously and after the world wars and rationing, as well as the possibility of environmental disasters and popn growth, this would be foolhardy.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 10:07am

    Roland, that is an interesting point about MOD and computer systems needed for Customs. Many years ago I worked in a Civil service computer section and saw several systems in development that were scrapped as failed, costing millions each which never made the media. Most don’t get heard of unless huge as with IDS benefits and iD database. Even if they know what the arrangements will be ( they don’t) in 2 years and act ( they won’t), there is no certainty that it won’t be just another colossal waste of money and time.

    Brexit is the biggest white elephant in history.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 10:10am

    Not MOD, but HMRC.

  • John Littler
    I don’t believe I do. I think parts of the remain camp are simply going OTT in the old fire and brimstone department as they see portents on every corner.

  • To Martin,
    yes , of course it would still have been a flawed referendum if Remain had won, and no doubt the Brexiters would have demanded another one. The referendum was essentially a ruse to enable the right wing media to seize power, since they control public opinion in the UK to a substantial extent.

  • John King.
    I would not have demanded another one immediately and more to the point had there been such a demand the Remain camp would rightly have said no way. These article’s are more aimed at keeping the troops on board than realistic attempts to reverse the results. “Keep steady chaps, we have God on our side, the line will hold” and so on is what they is.

  • It is important to keep the troops on board yes, or to build morale. But the answer to Vince’s question, why are the Brexiters so scared of the people, is surely that the people may start to think for themselves, rather than lapping up what the Government propaganda machine says. The greater the discrepancy between the promises and reality, the greater the probability that they ill stop buying the Daily Mail. On the other hand, old habits die hard and there is no guarantee of this.

  • But the answer to Vince’s question, why are the Brexiters so scared of the people, is surely that the people may start to think for themselves, rather than lapping up what the Government propaganda machine says.

    Didn’t the Government propaganda machine, last year, say ‘Vote Remain!’ quite strongly?

    So it can hardly be as influential as all that…

  • not at all strongly, Dav. Half hearted in fact, after the Brexit press cartel had twisted Cameron’s arm to hold a referendum. But now we have a different government who have come out in their true colours and nailed them to the mast, or should I say the masthead?

  • Half hearted

    Half hearted? I seem to recall briefings from everyone from the Treasury to the ONS about how awful Brexit was going to be, warnings of instant recessions and punishment budgets, and a pro-Remain leaflet delivered to every household in the country, all driven by a Prime Minister and a chancellor who knew their political lives were on the line and would have done literally anything to get the result that would have allowed them to survive.

    If that’s the government propaganda machine in ‘half-hearted’ mode, what on Earth do you think it would look like going flat out?

  • Will we ever learn the lessons of the Brexit debate.
    Remain lost because it concentrated on the economic argument and ignored the sovereignty argument. Leave won because it concentrated on the sovereignty (take back control) argument and blunted the power of the economic argument (project fear). Yet, as remainers we still fail to address the sovereignty argument. Sovereignty and who administers it needs to be addressed if the remain side wants to sway the argument. In the modern world no nation has total sovereignty in a ‘might is right’ sort of way. We subscribe to a rules based international order in return for benefits (peace in basic terms). These rules will always limit the level of sovereign independence. As part of the EU we subscribe to a set of rules and receive the benefits of EU membership. The judgement of the balance point is where remainers and leavers differ. Lets talk about that rather than throwing bricks at one another across a sterile landscape. Maybe this is what both sides are scared of.

  • Half hearted?
    Yes half-hearted! I agree “project fear” might have been running but as we saw the Leave movement had those who could conjure up a vision and tap into people’s emotions. The Remain cause was hampered because effectively Remain meant active participation in the EU ie. effort.

    Cameron made a very poor decision to run an in/out referendum when he did. Also whilst his negotiation contained much that would in time bear fruit, it wasn’t going to deliver the instant gratification the anti-EU media and rabble-rousers wanted. It was obvious that he should have sat on the dissent and used the dissent to harden the UK’s position in the next round of EU ‘advancement’ negotiations. I suspect if he had done so the UK could have achieved so much more (than it will achieve with Brexit) – with handshakes and smiles all around.

    A challenge the UK will have post-Brexit will be restoring it’s political reputation and influence, the UK’s decision to walk away rather than step up to the line and fully play its part in the European tripartite – balancing French and German influence, will haunt the UK for decades to come – shame really as Cameron’s negotiations contained much that would, in time, move the centre of the EU away from France and Germany…

  • Roland.
    Remain had everyone from Obama to Daniel Radcliff on board. There was nothing half hearted about it at all. The blunt truth is the British are just not European in the political sense. Different electoral system, different legal framework and different recent history. It was never a comfortable fit and the vote simply confirmed it.

  • @Glenn – Would Leave had got the same result if it had only campaigned on the negative of remaining in the EU? I suspect not – hence why I say the Remain campaign was half-hearted.

    What is also interesting is the power of negative. Remember the psychological experiment where the instruction is “whatever you do don’t press that button”, at which point the guinea pig is left in the room on their own with the said button…

  • Yes half-hearted! I agree “project fear” might have been running but as we saw the Leave movement had those who could conjure up a vision and tap into people’s emotions. The Remain cause was hampered because effectively Remain meant active participation in the EU ie. effort

    That doesn’t mean the government campaign was half-hearted; it just means that even running at full capacity, the ‘government propaganda machine’ has limited effects. Which was my original point.

  • Roland.
    Half hearted means a lack of commitment which I see no evidence for. Basically, the remain campaign was based on a fundamental misjudgement of the terrain and the natives. The British just are not that European and the referendum provided an opportunity to demonstrate it.

  • It is quite clear that post the referendum, “Leavers” are losing and maybe are now close to having lost the arguement. The facts are clearly going against them. What worries me is that as time passes more and more of our industry, finance and commercial organizations will commit to moving into Europe. There was a very worrying Sky article on the car industry yesterday or the day before, which presented clearly how many of the uk based manufacturers are looking into moving operations to mainland Europe. Even before we get to the 1st referendum on the facts our country is going to be badly damaged economically by the movement of capital! Is this really what Leave voters wanted? I don’t think so!

  • “The British just are not that European and the referendum provided an opportunity to demonstrate it.”

    I would agree with that for the most part, but Maastricht was bluntly the unacceptable killer blow, which left a deep open wound to British sovereignty, and it frankly had to be resolved. The British are a very accommodating bunch of people, and every political shift between the 1975 referendum and 1992, which could be described broadly as a trading relationship, could be assimilated into a very accepting British psyche.
    BUT, signing away British sovereignty, as Maastricht did, and not even having the common decency to ask the British people first, was the most horrendous and unforgivable act of treachery.
    Do not underestimate the determination of ‘leavers’.

    Leavers demand that their sovereignty is restored in full, and they want democratic control of their elected representatives, who we can hire and fire as we see fit. No ‘soft’ half measure will resolve this wound.

    The one fear Leavers had, was that Theresa May was dithering, because she was either, not fully committed to Brexit, or was simply not up to the job. Thankfully, Boris has made it very clear that if May is not up to a ‘full on’ Brexit, then there is an alternative team of true Brexiteers, behind Boris, who will, if requited, take over from May, and do the job that was determined on the 23rd June 2016.

    From open minded comments I’ve read here, I’m convinced that true liberals will understand, and will survive and thrive beyond March 2019, but I have to say that this weekend, the body that calls itself The Liberal Democrat Party, have constructed an effective ‘suicide pact’ from which there is no viable return as a political entity.

  • John Littler 19th Sep '17 - 8:24pm

    PJ, Sovereignty should have been taken apart as an argument. It is not possible to go to the kind of cut yourself off from your neighbouring countries type of sovereignty without ruining the economy. Franco tried it in Spain and put the country back a generation at least. people were living in bars and eating out of bins.

    Britain has always had waves of people coming over from the continent and it has always increased wealth, started industries and forged most of our national and many regional dishes. Custard, Lob Scouse, Fish and Chips and pasties all came from the continent.

    In order to pay the bills the UK has to trade with the rich countries on our doorstep. They are the cheapest and easiest to deal with and they offer the most rich pickings. Our industries and public services desperately need their labour, we need their inward investment and one day we might need them to fight to help protect us. Tiny national armies may not cut it in future wars where China and India have over 1 billion people in each while the environment breaks down.

    If we trade with EU countries, then we need to work with their standards and regulations or it will not work and we cannot work with both USA’s low standards and the EU’s high standards. One would leak into the other and the UK’s products would be banned restricted or just avoided as unsafe or inferior. On a thousand other areas the exchange of goods and services have to be regulated, such a medical, flights, investments, electrical goods, food, nuclear, radio and telecoms gear, defence equipment. It goes on and on and if we have to work together, we are best in the EU co-operating sharing all of the benefits and tasks instead of a near impossible and expensive attempt to duplicate it all for no reason other than petulance and acting on lies.

  • Arnold Kiel 20th Sep '17 - 3:53am

    John Littler’s arguments are overwhelming, but Leavers simply ignore them and resort to the often-heard but never-costed sovereignty-nonsense. Assuming the general public remains equally unreacheable by logical reasoning, the necessary shift in public opinion and consequently political dynamics in Parliament require real pain. The queston is: will the economic damage of the coming 18 months result in enough pain to enough leavers?

    Maybe not. While I am confident that the deteriorating state of British afairs will eventually produce a robust remain-majority, the irreversible cliff-edge date March 2019 might come too soon. The old were rightly mentioned in this thread. Naturally declining mental flexibility and triple-lock-insulation from economic reality (paid-for by the young they chose to triple-lock into little England) are powerful barriers to critical self-reflection.

    Some food for discussion to address this: a status-quo transition is becoming increasingly likely, as the Government fails to negotiate anything conclusively, and the EU is under no pressure to make any concessions above and beyond continued single-market access at current terms. The discussion about the duration of this transition-period is essentially Tory-internal politics, but there is no practical need to predetermine it. However, leaving the EU and operating under open-ended single-market and customs-union rule is discrimination and violates WTO-rules.

    Therefore, revoking the Article 50 notification is the cleanest way to enter into a status-quo, open-ended transition-phase. Seen as such, a decision by Parliament (without referendum) can be justified. The only problem would be that under the Lisbon treaty, the EU’s obligation to negotiate a separation agreement would end. However, it should be agreeable to continue the talks nevertheless without time-pressure.

    Now there is time for the British public to evaluate the costs and benefits of an evolving deal and a business-climate impacted by the related prolonged uncertainty. Also, the UK would have the chance to send fresh and constructive people to the European Parliament and restart its engagement from within. Once this phase has produced a separation agreement and a prospective new relationship (or a hard Brexit has been confirmed as preferable), another referendum can be held. The options would be: implementing Brexit through an abbreviated Article 50 procedure (as only ratification remains to be done) or remaining.

  • Sheila Gee
    I agree Maastricht was the killer blow.
    Sovereignty is short hand for a whole set of constitutional and parliamentary arguments about the nature of Britain. The Maastricht treaty altered the nature of government and of nationality. Partly because it really is designed to create a federalized Europe, hence a single currency, citizenship. legal framework and parliament. It’s an entirely political project. You certainly do not need these things for mere trade otherwise why stop at Europe, why not invite every country any European country trades with to become European or why not have world government? The answer is because it actually about Franco/German tensions resolving in a concept of Europe as a single civilisation joined through music, art, and philosophy heading in one direction. It’s undoubtedly an attractive idea for some people, but thankfully not to everyone and one suspects no even to a lot of the people who voted Remain.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    I’m glad you have joined this discussion. In terms of sovereignty (and I’m not talking about monarchy, just the nation state), how do you feel about sovereign debt pooling in Europe?

  • @Sheila Gee
    How do you feel your notion of sovereignty feed into your views on Scottish independence?

  • Peter Martin 20th Sep '17 - 10:02am

    @Sheila Gee,

    “…… but Maastricht was bluntly the unacceptable killer blow….”

    I’d agree with this statement but for slightly different reasons. Maastricht was perhaps the key moment when the ERM started to become the euro project. Sensibly the UK kept out of that so the “killer blow” was struck harder against the rest of the EU than the UK itself. Although the fall out from the euro experiment has affected us significantly. It isn’t confined to EZ borders.

    As Wynne Godley, writing at the time, explains in the link below there is much more to making a common currency function properly than setting up a central bank. There needs to be a formal mechanism for redistributing the surpluses from the wealthy to the less wealthy areas.

    The German govt is ideologically opposed to that and, consequently, ideologically opposed to the creation of a successful and prosperous EU.

  • P. J.
    “How do you feel your notion of sovereignty feed into your views on Scottish independence?”

    The consequence of an ‘OUT of the EU’ result gives some genuine credibility to the SNP claim that things have changed significantly. With hindsight, the Scottish IndiRef, ought to have been held off temporarily, until after the EU Referendum. That said, the economics in Scotland have deteriorated, and they still haven’t addressed important questions, about which currency they would use in independence. Also, the question of why the burning desire to reclaim independence and sovereignty from Westminster only to curiously, hand your sovereignty to the EU Brussels-Berlin axis? It’s frankly a bit bizarre, but I guess we need an SNP voice to answer those questions.

    On balance I think Scotland ought to have a second shot at independence if :
    1. The SNP can show an increase its vote base.
    2. Only when Brexit has ‘bedded in’, in about a decade from now.

    Generally, I’m for more direct voter involvement in the big issues that affect society. Representative democracy, works best when voters and prospective representatives can ‘rub shoulders’.
    I suppose we could call it the ‘hustings effect’ of representation? There are no hustings for the likes of Juncker, Tusk and their like in the EU, because the democratic connection between ‘voter’ and the ‘seat of power’, has been ‘cut’ or diluted multiple times, in a kind of ‘homeopathy’ sort of way.
    When a ‘X’ on a ballot gets diluted, diluted, diluted, into the ‘parts per million’ stage, and when it no longer worries the ‘seat of power’ what the people of Scunthorpe or Seville think, the process can no longer be called either, democratic or representative.

  • BUT, signing away British sovereignty, as Maastricht did, and not even having the common decency to ask the British people first, was the most horrendous and unforgivable act of treachery. Sheila Gee

    And surprise surprise! it was the Executive at Westminster who signed Maastricht, and using all the tricks and games that the current system of government at Westminster permits, got Parliamentary support!

    I broadly agreed with Nigel Farage’s original case that the Executive and Parliament had gone beyond their remit and should have gained the agreement of the UK electorate on this and the subsequent EU treaties that impacted ‘sovereignty’. Additionally, we shouldn’t dismiss his acceptance of the 1975 referendum result and hence ‘Out’ wasn’t a rejection of Europe (EEC/Single Market) but of the Maastricht etc political union and hence the mess of an ‘out’ vote was a problem for both Westminster and Brussels to resolve.

    Hence what is notable about the entire Brexit debate, is firstly the total absence of any discussion about real reform at Westminster ie. Magna Carta level of reform; that would prevent repeating the mistake; currently Brexit supporters are blind to the simple fact that there is nothing preventing Parliament repeating Maastricht… and the one certainty is that “once bitten twice shy” there will not be a referendum… Hence now is the time to push for meaningful reform of powers – it was how we got Magna Carta. Changing the voting age, the voting system are unimportant as they don’t change the powers that Parliament exercises on our behalf.

  • @Sheil Gee

    Whatever your thoughts about Maastricht, I think that you are completely wrong in your statement “The British are just not that European…”. Whether it is liked or not, Britain is far more cosmopolitan than it was even 10 years ago. Many families have at least one family member who comes from Europe originally, and many from further afield. So we are increasingly European and global culturally and in outlook. Leavers might like to go back to a world of homogeneous Britishness, but that world (if it ever existed -it didn’t) has gone for good. What I think you really heard at the referendum and the subsequent election was a vote of no confidence in politicians, and given the performance of the current Conservative government as an example, that attitude is hardly a surprise. Until policies are seen as fair and meeting the needs of all in our society, rather than the powerful, this attitude will persist.

  • Whether it is liked or not, Britain is far more cosmopolitan than it was even 10 years ago

    Cosmopolitan? Maybe. But not European: just last year, only 15%of Brits described themselves as ‘European’:

    (section ‘Identity’, about halfway down)

  • Paul DP
    I don’t think it as anything to do with going backwards and seeing as in 1970s the referendum resulted in a vote to stay in EEC the evidence surely suggest Britain is actually getting less European. As for the protest vote idea. The Party with the most pro-EU stance was wiped out in 2015 and made little progress (as a percentage the vote went down) in 2017 with a campaign focused on Europe! Also as the vast majority of the Leave votes were in Tory held seats which mostly remained Tory with a larger share of the electorate in 2017 it seems unlikely that “no confidence” was as big factor. Again the Eurosceptic Corbyn increased the Labour vote. So maybe the referendum really was about the EU and the electorate IMO delivered the right result.

  • Dav, you need to read your (rather old) article a bit closer. People were asked how they would best describe themselves, and not surprisingly only 15% of Britons described themselves as European. However “identification as “European” peaks among younger Britons (23% of 18-24s and 31% of 25-34s), a function, to some extent, of the higher proportion of these age groups born in another EU country. However, it does suggest that, if we remain in the EU, Britons will become increasingly likely to identify themselves as European. In London, where diversity is greatest, nearly half (44%) already describe themselves in these terms. And I think it also underlines my point. Lots of families have European family members, and this will go on increasing! This is the direction of travel however much little englanders would wish otherwise! I also think that Glenn’s arguement is refuted by this. People voted Labour, in part as an anti Brexit statement, as they thought that Labour was best placed to make a change ( and they were right). As time moves on Labour are becoming increasingly pro single market and customs union, and it may be only a matter of time until they and sensible Conservatives, as well as the Liberal Democrats, the SNP etc. concur that a 1st vote on the facts must take place before we step off the cliff!

  • Paul.
    It’s not refuted by anything you say.

  • @Sheila Gee
    2. Only when Brexit has ‘bedded in’, in about a decade from now.
    I would infer from this that you would hope that the Scotland would remain a part of the United Kingdom (me too). That would say to me that you think it is acceptable for a nation to subsume part of it’s sovereign domain into a larger politic in return for the benefits that accrue. On this basis would you support the same for the UK if the political set up in the EU was different and more democratic? Not trying to trap you here, just interested to understand.

  • Arnold Kiel 20th Sep '17 - 8:07pm

    @ P.J. concerning debt pooling, very simply: whoever incurs debt and spends the money must be responsible for its repayment. This body might well be a supranational one. What makes no sense is one country borrowing and spending, and another one paying the money back. This would destroy the sovereignty of both.

    “Undemocratic EU”: I wish this nonsense were stopped or somebody explain it to me. The Parliament is elected, the commission is appointed by elected Governments, and the council of Ministers is formed of representatives of democratically elected Govenments. JC Juncker’s aspiration to be the candidate of the center-right parties, and thereby be carried by European voters was rejected (for different reasons) by both Germany and the UK. This is the way “sovereign nationstates” wanted it to be to minimize legislative competition between two democratically legitimate levels of governance. Do you want a democratically acting EU freed from all constraints from national Governments? How would you resolve the conflicts? Do you want majority voting, i.e. the possibility of the UK being overruled by other countries? The fundamental idea is: the nationstates agree on the agenda, the commission initiates related legislation, and a democratically elected European Govenment votes on them. This is entirely democratic, it respects the supremacy of nation states (your cherished sovereignty) while providing a harmonized legal framework in areas where ALL members agreed on pooling of sovereignty in order to have the benefits of harmonization. This setup continues to be the consensus; I do not believe Juncker’s idea to introduce majority voting in some areas has any chance, and that is quite ok for me.

    While you are at explaining to me why this is undemocratic (specific, please), please also specify the EU-reforms you deem so urgent, and please without forgetting about the resolution mechanism for resulting EU-national conflicts.

  • P.J.
    “On this basis [exchanging subsumed sovereignty for wider benefits] would you support the same for the UK if the political set up in the EU was different and more democratic?”

    No, it’s about being asked. It’s not my place to assume that exchanging sovereignty for some accrued benefits is a valid exchange.
    If a government of the day were to ask that very question, it is my place to respond with my one vote, alongside the single vote per person, of all my fellow citizens.
    It is then, my place to listen to the tally of those votes and respect the majority outcome. Disrespect of that majority outcome, no matter how personally painful, risks a disorder long since abandoned by civil society in favour of using democracy as a preferred tool of conflict resolution.

    On a wider observation, like many here, I too see the individual voter as a tad opaque at times, but I believe that cumulatively, this ‘legion of the flawed’, get it about right for the most part. So whilst the individual can be a mystery even to me, I hold the very liberal view that the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ comes good in the end.

  • Arnold Kiel’
    IMO it’s irrelevant whether or not the EU is democratic. To me it’s more of a question of whether we need it at all as another layer of government given that we already have a national government and that at least in Britain turn outs to elect MEPs were so low and always seemed more like an after thought to electing local councillors than a serious demonstration of commitment to European citizenry . However, the argument about the EU being “undemocratic” tends to focus on whether or not it creates a democratic deficit. Tony Benn was better at making that argument than me and it’s fairly easy to find him making it on YouTube. But really since Britain will no longer participate in EU elections the issue is a pretty dead un’.

  • Andrew Tampion 21st Sep '17 - 4:26am

    I think it is very sad that so many of the EUphiles can’t or won’t understand that being cosmopolitan and being pro EU aren’t the same thing.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Sep '17 - 8:18am

    @ Glenn

    “IMO it’s irrelevant whether or not the EU is democratic.”

    Not really the enlightening answer I was hoping for, but you cannot be serious: It is just a few miles away, more than a million of your fellow-countrymen live there, and most rules it issues will continue to be binding for the UK if she wishes to continue frictionless trade.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Sep '17 - 8:35am

    @ Andrew Tampion,

    “I think it is very sad that so many of the EUphiles can’t or won’t understand that being cosmopolitan and being pro EU aren’t the same thing.”

    But highly correlated. Just as being a Brexiteer and being parochial is. Relax, I don’t mean you. Just making a statistically correct statement.

  • Andrew Tampion.
    I think that goes back to the days when some Anglo people had a sort cultural inferiority complex and thought anything European was sophisticated. I suspect a lot of them think that when we leave the EU they’ll be forced by law to eat a pie of some sort at every meal and venerate old Carry On films as religious artefacts. The other weird think is how closely some of them resemble 19th Century imperialists in that they often seem to see us non-Europhiles as embodying the heart of darkness with our strange customs and unwillingness to accept their self-proclaimed moral superiority. After we leave the EU I’m fully expecting anthropological studies to make a come back with exaggerated tales of the daring do involved in spending a year amongst brightly adorned Oompa Loompa people of Essex.

  • Andrew Tampion, I think it’s sad that so many Leavers cannot understand that being cosmopolitan means that people are more likely to be understand the benefits of the EU. So being more cosmopolitan is likely to mean that people will be more pro EU, something that the young clearly are. The direction of travel will increasingly be determined by these young people. Better to get used to it.

  • Andrew Kiel;
    What I mean is that whether or not the EU is democratic was not relevant to the debate on leaving it. IMO, the EU is at least semi-democratic, but as I said in the same post the argument to me was about whether we needed to be part of a big political project with another layer of government additional the national one. I think that voters decided rightly that we didn’t.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    ‘(your cherished sovereignty)’
    Far from it. I merely probe the arguments in the hope of opening minds. IMO Brexit is just sad. A whole load of issues blown out of all proportions and used as a scape goat for governmental failings.

  • Arnold Kiel 21st Sep '17 - 2:26pm

    Sorry, P.J., my second paragraph was not intended to address you.

    Glenn, (28+54-1) x 28= 2.268. This is the number of bilateral trade negotiations which would have had to be concluded to achieve the current EU-related trade ecosystem without the EU existing (mathematicians please help, I forgot how the ! works). And this ignores the inevitable interdependencies among them. Good luck with your single-level Government model in the 21st century!

    But you are very much in fashion: your PM is not only messing up what is anyhow a losing proposition, she has now proceeded to threatening the UN (another superfluous layer) with funding cuts, if it doesn’t become “more effective”. Effective leadership of a global Britain! It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

  • Arnold,
    Most countries manage fine. The EU is not actually the norm. Countries not in the EU include America, Australia, Iceland. Norway, Canada. New Zealand, Japan and a lot more because the EU consists of 27 countries.

  • Glen-
    I think geography comes into it – we are geographically part of Europe which is why we have been cementing closer trade and political links for the past 40 years, with considerable success – from being the sick man of Europe we are now a leading figure in it. Obviously America, India etc may be managing fine as you say, but it would not make sense for these far distant countries to be part of the EU, would it? And as regards Norway, they are dissatisfied with their own deal and envious of ours.

  • John King
    Ah yes the sick man of Europe claim again. The Three Day Week 1973 to 74 happened when we were in common market. The IMF bail out of 1976 and hyper inflation of 24%? Yup still in the common market. Winter of discontent 1979 to 1980? Still in the EEC. The unemployment rates, social problems, still high inflation, deindustrialisation and various banking crashes of the 1980s? Still part of the European project I’m afraid. So surely it must have got better by the earl 1990s when the EU was formed? Sorry not really , Another banking crisis, interest rates through the roof, more deindustrialization and inflation in double figures yet again. So maybe by the 2000s the EU miracle had worked it’s special magic? Again sorry. The Worst recession in history hits in 2008, national debt and private debt at mindboggling levels resulting in 10 years % interest rates, wage stagnation, austerity. more riots, political upheavals and so on. So personally, I take claims for the positive impact of the European project with a lake of salt.

  • @Glenn – re; 3 day week etc.
    Personally, I take claims for the negative impact of the European project with a lake of salt.

    The (rhetorical) question is what would the last 40 years been like outside of the European project. About the only certainty is that the UK would have avoided Black Wednesday.

  • @ Glenn – “IMO it’s irrelevant whether or not the EU is democratic.”

    I understand how you could arrive at that conclusion!

    From a UK perspective the EU has repeatedly been portrayed as being ‘unelected’ and by inference undemocratic [Aside: many in the UK fall into this inference trap over the HoL], with no real attempt by Westminster politicians to counter this perception for several decades. Thus attempts to point out the truth of the matter, as Arnold Kiel did here, will not really be listened to.

    However, it is relevant!
    As Arnold Kiel demonstrates, many in Continental Europe understand the way the EU works and regard it as democratic. Hence view those in the UK calling it ‘undemocratic’ in the same way we would view someone trying to convince us black was white.
    Which doesn’t bode well for a successful outcome to the Brexit negotiations.

  • Roland.
    We can’t know what would have happened without membership of the various phases of the European project as we were part of it. The alternative is the subject of conjecture. I was just pointing out that the Sick Man of Europe stuff actually occurs after joining the common market and that claims that the last 40 years have been a rip snorting triumph are delusional.

  • Andrew Tampion 22nd Sep '17 - 5:10am

    Arnold Kiel
    What is your evidence For your claim that there is a statistical correlation between being pro EU and being cosmopolitan?

  • Arnold Kiel 22nd Sep '17 - 8:20am


    the biggest economy (US) is naturally the most domestic one, but has still greatly benefitted from NAFTA. There is also ASEAN. You are listing a few more ressource-rich, specialized, and poorly populated islands, and ignore the fact that The UK is very different.

    It might well be that outside the EU, the UK would have developed differently and more in tune with it’s insular geography (and midset of many of it’s inhabitants). In contrast, though, the UK is today the most internationally integrated economy on the globe, and will not thrive any other way. There is not a single industry in this country that could finish any product without imported components or maintain employment without exports. Imagine the UK today without car manufacturing (100% resurrected by foreigners), without being the world’s banker, without cheap labor in most manual sectors, etc. Does not look like the world’s healthy man to me.

    Incidentally, your PM will now offer the first 20 b downpayment, to preserve exactly these benefits without which you believe to “manage fine”.

    Andrew Tampion,

    potential embarrassment should not prevent you from acknowledging your sociodemographic company in the leave-camp: older, poorer, less educated, more rural. The opposite of what I consider cosmopolitan.

    Stupid slogans of a global, outward-looking Britain are used by educated leading leavers (whose comfortable public office insulates them from global competition) to justify their position in their cosmopolitan elite circles; but they (and you should) know full well that most leave-votes were motivated by the exact opposite.

  • Arnold’
    The EU is a political project, not a mere set of trade deals. It is nothing like NAFTA. Pro-EU ideologues tend to try to hide this behind economic arguments and the pretence because they know full there is little support for further integration. Immigration on the level we now know it really only goes back the early 2000s and certainly no earlier than 1997. It’s alleged benefits are at best highly debatable and it has virtually no electoral traction. As I will keep repeating the last 40 years do not indicate the European Project has had much positive economic impact. The EU is itself only 24 years old and as we’ve spent most them in one economic crisis or other, then I would suggest the evidence that it is a triumph is pretty darn thin. So yeah, I think Britain will be fine.

  • Andrew Tampion 22nd Sep '17 - 7:58pm

    Arnold Kiel

    So you don’t have any evidence for a statistical correlation for being pro EU and cosmopolitan. It’s just your perception of leave voters again your interpretation of what cosmopolitan means.

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