We must avoid being the sole obstacle to stopping a No-Deal Brexit

Boris Johnson has boxed himself into a corner – but he may not be the only one.

The prime minister has got himself into a situation where, it appears, he either has to break his promise to take us out of the EU on 31 October or break the law in terms of ignoring – or circumventing – the Benn Act that stops a no-deal Brexit. But circumventing may be an option for him; certainly the political commentators are far from confident that the Benn Act is watertight, and that at least one loophole exists.

Hence all the discussion about a vote of no confidence this week, as this may be the only way to guarantee that we avoid a No-Deal Brexit. But have our MPs perhaps also boxed themselves into a corner with their commitment to doing anything to avoiding a No-Deal Brexit yet at the same time committing not to prop up a Corbyn-led government, even a short-term one?

If the SNP and Labour are willing to support a motion of no confidence this week, it’s pretty certain the Plaid MPs and Caroline Lucas will follow suit. That would just leave the Liberal Democrats plus a handful of Independents – enoughto make the difference between success and failure.

There is a way out of this for Jo Swinson. It is for her to take the following position:

‘If we, the Liberal Democrat MPs, are the last obstacle to an interim government led by Jeremy Corbyn, if there would otherwise be a majority for it in the House of Commons, and if it was specifically time-limited for a matter of weeks to ensure an extension of our Article 50 period followed by a referendum or election, then we would support it, on the basis that our wish to stop a No-Deal Brexit overrides our scepticism about Jeremy Corbyn.’

This would have two advantages. Firstly it would re-state our scepticism about Corbyn, but in a way that recognises that stopping a No-Deal Brexit is the higher priority (a bit like those Conservative politicians who have said Corbyn is a lesser evil than Brexit because you can get him out at the next election whereas re-entering the EU would be much harder).

Secondly it would remove the risk that the Lib Dems become seen as the obstacle to a move to oust Boris Johnson, as is already beginning to happen. Brexit has been very good to us in terms of giving us an issue around which to resurrect the party after the awful election results we suffered in 2015 and 2017, but if we become seen as the hindrance to stopping a No-Deal Brexit, that support would quickly ebb away. That’s why removing the risk is essential, and saying we’d support a Corbyn-led interim government only if we were the last obstacle standing would be good Realpolitik.

On Newsnight this week, Layla Moran said our party policy was not against supporting a Corbyn-led interim government per se but simply a recognition that there was no majority for one when you consider the ex-Conservative MPs who would never support him. That appears to have been Layla’s own view rather than the party’s, but it’s a sound one. She may be right that there will never be a majority in the current House of Commons for a Corbyn-led interim government, but please let us not be the only thing that stops it if there really is no other guarantee of avoiding a No-Deal Brexit on 31 October.

* Chris Bowers was a two-term councillor on Lewes District Council and a co-editor of "The Alternative" which explored the idea of a progressive alliance.

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73 Comments

  • Denis Mollison 29th Sep '19 - 10:06am

    I agree that if there is to be an interim government under Corbyn it should have strictly limited aims.
    But it would be preferable for it to set up a referendum that an immediate general election that could well result in another hung parliament. And a referendum would take time to set up, perhaps 3 to 6 months.

    So we need to think what else might be acceptable policies for an interim government, apart from keeping govenment ticking over. Two obvious options are action on the climate emergency – where the policies of Labour, SNP and ourselves are closely aligned; and electoral reform, so that the subsequent general election could be under a proportional system – the existing FPTP system bears a large share of responsibility for the political chaos we’re in.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Sep '19 - 10:26am

    We have an opportunity NOW to put through VOTES AT 16.
    This has been Liberal Democrat policy for years.
    As an elected delegate to federal conference I voted to support it.
    David Cameron conceded it for the 2014 referendum.
    The SNP support it.
    Green MP Caroline Lucas supports it.
    On the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 today, 29/9/2019, a Labour frontbencher supported it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Rayner
    We might have a general election soon.
    The arguments are the same as votes for women and other extensions of the ballot achieved for the 1918 general election.
    The arguments have been passionately explained in an entire episode of The West Wing, but the USA has not yet done it. I doubt that Donald Trump supports it.
    Even if the general election is so soon that all 16-year olds cannot be put on the register, the law should be passed while there is a minority Tory government.

  • Simon Horner 29th Sep '19 - 10:31am

    My proposal would be to accept Corbyn as interim PM but with no Labour majority in the interim cabinet. For example, you could envisage, 10 Labour members and 11 from other parties:
    – 3 SNP (Ian Blackford as Deputy PM?)
    – 3 LibDem (Jo Swinson as Foreign Secretary?)
    – 2 Ex-Tory (Kenneth Clarke and Dominic Grieve ad Chancellor and Attorney-General respectively?)
    – 1 each from TIG, PC and Greens (Anna Soubry, Liz Saville-Roberts and Caroline Lucas).
    Apart from keeping things ticking over, the government’s sole purpose would to obtain an article 50 extension and organise a confirmatory referendum at the earliest possible opportunity.

    I recognise there would still be difficulties, notably:
    – persuading the ex-Tory independents to come on board; and,
    – persuading Jeremy Corbyn to accept a cabinet balance that does not reflect Labour’s relative position in the House of Commons (although it is generous to them if you look at popular support in the polls).

    If the LibDems were to make a proposal of this nature, they could avoid the accusation of being intransigent and of effectively facilitating a hard Brexit.

  • Charles Pragnell 29th Sep '19 - 10:34am

    If we end up with NUG , the one piece of legislation I would like to see go through the Commons is votes for 16 and 17 year olds. It is crazy that 16 year olds can be of consent, can join the army, at seventeen have a full driving licence.being .Paying National insurance! Also can be married at 16 and 17, yet are unable to vote.

    That would be my first prority in reforming parliament . If we had allowed three million 16 and 17 years olds the vote in 2016 we might not be now in this sorry mess.

  • David Becket 29th Sep '19 - 10:43am

    The 10-11 split makes sense. It will boost the position of all participants in the polls as it shows they are prepared to work together to sort out the mess whilst avoiding no deal.

  • I strongly agree with this. Whilst I would prefer a candidate like Ken Clarke due to the fact that he would almost guarantee the 22 Tories it is Corbyn’s position to have first chance.

    Brexit is bigger than any party and only a party that truly believes this will put their political interests second. It will only be for two months to ensure that Article 50 is extended safely and a General Election occurs.

    The only downside to this is that the Tories could come back stronger during the election as the ‘Leavers’ could feel Johnson is the right man for the job, however, I hope Brexit party comes into play and ravishes the Tory vote… It will then have to be a coalition government, either Labour & SNP (Brexit & Scottish Independence Referendum) or Labour & Liberal (Brexit with Labour backing remain publically). Our choice…

  • Michael Sammon 29th Sep '19 - 11:13am

    No way, Johnson is required by law to request an extension. He can’t get away with breaking the law. This would play right into Johnsons hands and we would get hammered in the General Election that follows. Johnson would then be in with a hard Brexit majority. Backing Corbyn in any way is absolutely toxic.

  • Nom de Plume 29th Sep '19 - 11:51am

    No. No proping up Corbyn. Stick to Revoke. It is for others to move their position, in particular Labour. Any interem government should not be led by Corbyn. The LibDem position is consitent and clear. It is all the other parties who are boxed in.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Sep '19 - 11:58am

    Chris Bower
    This is too clever, by at least 50%.
    We know why we would vote against Boris Johnson MP as PM. He was on the Andrew Marr Show on 29/9/19 and his lips were moving. Both Robert Peston (ITV) and Andrew Marr (BBC) have obviously read the judgement of the Supreme Court, as have I. Boris quietly and repeatedly asserted something that is directly contradicted by the evidence. Peston and Marr both asserted the truth but Boris repeated the opposite. Perhaps they gave him too much respect. He could walk out of an interview, perhaps not at the next PMQ. One minister did that to Robin Day (not then knighted) who had said “here today and gone tomorrow”.
    Jo Swinson has said that both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are incompetent. which is on the record. A useful compromise would be that Jeremy Corbyn would move a vote of no confidence under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, as he has done before, but he does not need to be the next PM. Labour has several prominent MPs who might be willing, although Harriet Harman wants to be Speaker. Good luck to her. Among the 21 MPs outside the Tory whip is Ken Clarke. There is also Amber Rudd and bookies are offering odds.

  • I completely agree with the original article

  • There is a lot going on that we do not know about, Ken Clarke is still favourite, although Margaret Beckett may be an opportunity, would give Labour the leadership. Corbyn knows that and is big enough to accept it.
    All I can say to Chris, forget what you see and hear on TV , is just let matters happen, it will, and by the end of the week we should have an altrnative government in place.

  • The opposition to Corbyn as interim PM is not “The Libdems plus a Handful of Independents” its 40 Independents Plus 18 Libdems. Some of us seem to have swallowed the Labour/SNP line completely.
    There is also the small problem that Corbyn is the most unpopular Leader of The Opposition ever, it doesnt look good putting him in Number 10.

  • Do not panic, there is always an alternative. The media and others will try to create a sense of panic and hope we do, don’t play their game, keep a cool head and stick to our principles.

  • Chris Leeds 29th Sep '19 - 2:23pm

    It seems to me that four things are important.

    1 The only fullproof way of preventing a 31 October crash out is to remove Johnson.

    2 Stopping Brexit is more important than anything, even Lib Dem advantage. Being seen as the obstacle to preventing a crash out would be both unprincipled and electorally damaging for us. Why would we do that? Jo should put on record that we’ll do anything to stop Brexit. We’ll fight the idea of a Corbyn Government at the next GE. Different considerations apply now.

    3 If the only rebel agreement that can be made is for a temporary PM to secure an extension and then call a GE, I see no good reason why that temporary PM shouldn’t be Corbyn. That, though, is a far from ideal situation. We should be looking to resolve Brexit before a GE.

    4 A much better solution is for a GNU to last for long enough to have a referendum, probably May’s deal v Remain. That would probably have to be led by an MP who won’t stand in the next GE. The incentive for Corbyn is that Brexit bores him and he wants to talk about anything but. Those few months would allow him to campaign on that basis.

  • Paul Barker 29th Sep '19 - 2:33pm

    A quick reminder that over the last few Weeks both Tories & Labour have lost support, both see their Polling down by one or two percent while Libdem support has gone up by two or three percent.
    Johnsons tactics dont seem to be working while Ours do.

  • Tony Hutson 29th Sep '19 - 4:00pm

    Paul Barker – “The opposition to Corbyn as interim PM is not “The Libdems plus a Handful of Independents” its 40 Independents Plus 18 Libdems. Some of us seem to have swallowed the Labour/SNP line completely”
    Absolutely right Paul. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s not even safe to assume that all current Labour MPs would vote for Corbyn. (Kate Hoey? Margaret Hodge?)
    As regards Chris Bowers’ suggestion (we should say we’ll vote for Corbyn if it seems we will make the difference), it’s an interesting idea but it does assume that we will know how every single MP plans to vote. And we won’t. We’ve all seen the tense parliamentary clips of the tellers lining up in front of the speaker to announce the votes. Often in this parliament the result has come as a bit of a surprise, even to the commentators who claim to know so much. Some MPs genuinely seem to wait till the last moment before they decide how to vote. So it’s just not really practical that we would be in a position to know before they themselves do.
    In any case, is it not better to take a position and stand by it, rather than letting your vote be determined by what others are doing?

  • Everyone who mentions Ken Clarke seems to conveniently forget that he is opposed to a 2nd referendum.

    Also this:

    Aditya Chakrabortty
    @chakrabortty
    Something for @joswinson to ponder, from @LordAshcroft polling: “Forced to choose between a Conservative govt led by Boris Johnson and a Labour govt led by Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem voters preferred a Corbyn government by two to one.”
    https://t.co/Z9exaxZbHo?amp=1

    https://twitter.com/chakrabortty/status/1178335990009778176?s=20

  • How about accepting Corbyn as caretaker PM but insisting that a Remain Tory/Libdem will be the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

  • Arnold Kiel 29th Sep '19 - 5:48pm

    Let’s not forget that an extension needs 26-0 approval from all EU Governments. They are very fed up with the UK Government by now, but also despair at the UK’s public discourse and its press.

    It will be granted only if it promises a high likelihood of an orderly Brexit and good subsequent cooperation, or a definitive remain-decision that stands. They will not concede this to an interim caretaker who will disappear at the GE, and damages Corbyn’s chances in the process. They need to be able to look somebody in the eye who has a good chance to be their interlocutor for the coming 5 years which will be needed to either negotiate an amicable future relationship, or rebuild the UK’s standing and role in the EU. Corbyn is their and the UK’s only realistic bet. They also know that Labour is unlikely to win a majority of its own.

    Any MP who wants to exclude a no-deal Brexit must therefore not just hold his/her nose and accept Corbyn as a caretaker, he/she must formally endorse him to signal to everybody on the continent (including the hard to convince E.Macron) that Corbyn enjoys full opposition support for this mission and the following implementation of a deal/remain policy.

  • @Anold Kiel

    You want Corbyn to save you from Brexit and no doubt protect your EU Budget and from struggling Germany having to cough up more contributions to plug the gaping hole, well I am happy to say that the UK electorate are not prepared to have Corbyn trash our economy as a price to pay for your precious EU, thankfully Liberal Democrats would also never prop up a Corbyn Government.
    I suggest you start canvassing your motherland and her sisters and tell them to start negotiating in better faith and secure a deal that will protect EU economies and German Car Makers, you might find your efforts are more fruitful than trying to win support for a Corbyn led Government 🙂

  • Matt,
    Arnold Kiel is Dutch. The EU have offered a deal, the fact you think you are hard done by is a reflection of your view we are special, well we are not, we are a medium sized badly split state trying to take on an economic superpower and losing badly. This is reality, this is how it will go and no amount of ” We are special, we demand cake” will change this. Your really have drunk deeply of the Brexit coolaid. Remember you need a functioning social safety net more than most and that is what the hard Brexiteers have no intention of providing. If ever there was a man voting against his own interests it is you.

  • @frankie

    “The EU have offered a deal”
    Wake up and smell the coffee Frankie, the EU with the support of their remain saboteurs offered a deal that they knew would never get through parliament on either wing of the brexit divide, which of course has been the plan all along.

    The problem with the remainers risky strategy is that it looks more likely to blow up spectacularly in their face as the risk of now leaving with no deal intensifies.

    “well we are not, we are a medium sized badly split state trying to take on an economic superpower and losing badly”
    Medium sized? funny, I thought we were still the 5th Largest economy, hardly “medium sized” and I think you will find that it is the EU “economic superpower” that is in trouble, or are you also in denial about the next global financial crisis that is heading our way and the state of the Italian Economy? It will be interesting to see the EU weather that storm and the further the UK is out of it the better IMO.

    It is the poorest who has been hammered the hardest for decades under governments of all hues and Brexit or no Brexit is not going to make one iota of difference to that, are you forgetting what your party did to the poorest when it was in government WAY WAY before any referendum or talks of Brexit, it smashed the poorest with benenfit cuts, benefit freezes, sanctions, bedroom taxes to name but a few, so please lets stop taking the moral high ground here.

  • @frankie

    “The EU have offered a deal”
    Wake up and smell the coffee Frankie, the EU with the support of their remain saboteurs offered a deal that they knew would never get through parliament on either wing of the brexit divide, which of course has been the plan all along.

    The problem with the remainers risky strategy is that it looks more likely to blow up spectacularly in their face as the risk of now leaving with no deal intensifies.

    “well we are not, we are a medium sized badly split state trying to take on an economic superpower and losing badly”
    Medium sized? funny, I thought we were still the 5th Largest economy, hardly “medium sized” and I think you will find that it is the EU “economic superpower” that is in trouble, or are you also in denial about the next global financial crisis that is heading our way and the state of the Italian Economy? It will be interesting to see the EU weather that storm and the further the UK is out of it the better IMO.

    frankie, I do wish you would stop parroting about people like me and the social safety net. It is the poorest who has been hammered the hardest for decades under governments of all hues and Brexit or no Brexit is not going to make one iota of difference to that, are you forgetting what your party did to the poorest when it was in government WAY WAY before any referendum or talks of Brexit, it smashed the poorest with benenfit cuts, benefit freezes, sanctions, bedroom taxes to name but a few, so please lets stop taking the moral high ground here, it is falling on deaf ears

  • Andrew McCaig 29th Sep '19 - 7:50pm

    Paul Barker,
    We are talking about avoiding no deal Brexit here, not trying to improve our voting intention.

    But believe me, if if we vote against Corbyn or abstain, and a no deal Brexit results, our voting intention will be back in single figures.

    I realise we don’t want want to endorse any sort of Corbyn government, but the SNP are setting a trap for us with a catastrophic outcome if we enable a no deal Brexit by being too proud to deal with Corbyn. It will be the Pledge all over again, because Swinson has said repeatedly “I will do anything to avoid a no deal Brexit”

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Sep '19 - 7:51pm

    No, Chris Bowers, sorry. Parliament has decided how to stop a No Deal Brexit, and it’s not up to us to try to manage the process, even if we could. In real political discourse, your attempted justification put into the mouth of Jo Swinson in your article would be blown away: we would simply be known as the party that gave J. Corbyn, now sunk in the estimation of Labour voters as well as the public generally according to YouGov, a taste of power. As others have said above, that could be ruinous for us.

    A neutral interim prime minister could surely be appointed with cross-party support for just long enough to arrange the necessary General Election, with no other function, no Queen’s Speech or programme, daily business left to the Civil Service and security and policing to the heads of the defence forces and police. An interim arrangement for a month – why should not that work? That’s if we HAVE to have a vote no confidence before October 19.

  • Andrew McCaig 29th Sep '19 - 7:58pm

    There isnt going to be a GNU leading to a referendum. The Tory rebels want a deal, not a referendum. They will vote Johnson down, probably, in a VOC, and might be ok with a GE (although Turkeys do not usually vote for Christmas), but they are not going to support 8 months of Corbyn faffing around with the EU trying to get a new deal then calling a referendum (which tskes 24 weeks minimum)

  • Everyone who mentions Ken Clarke seems to conveniently forget that he is opposed to a 2nd referendum.
    I’ve no problem with that.
    There is no need for a second referendum; unless you are a politician and really want to be able to pin the post-Brexit mess on the electorate with “you voted for this”…
    The fact is Westminster MP’s will be tarred regardless of whether they revoke or meekly do what Boris and co. want. So they might as well do what is right for the national interest rather than attempt to please a vocal minority.

  • Andrew McCaig 29th Sep '19 - 8:04pm

    Katharine,
    I am afraid Corbyn has to have first try, and we have to support him. He will probably fail, then someone else gets a go.

    And quite a few of the Kinnockites might not support a compromise candidate..

    However this whole early VOC business is very risky, imo. It is risk free for the SNP, who would secretly quite like a no deal Brexit.

    We made a cross-party deal that led to the Benn Bill, and we should stick to that. It is the SNP that are breaking ranks and putting the project in danger

  • Matt,

    You thought wrong, currently seventh in the latest figures I can find. Brexit has an effect dropped us behind France and India.

    United States (GDP: $21,410,230)
    China (GDP: $15,543,710)
    Japan (GDP: $5,362,220)
    Germany (GDP: $4,416,800)
    India (GDP: $3,155,230)
    France (GDP: $3,060,070)
    United Kingdom (GDP: $3,022,580)
    Italy (GDP: $2,261,460)
    Brazil (GDP: $2,256,850)
    Canada (GDP: $1,908,530)

    You may think the poor can’t be any worse off, but you are badly wrong, when the price of Brexit comes due the poor and economically inactive will bear the brunt of it. I’ll console myself with the fact I didn’t vote for it, you’ll be left blaming the EU but that won’t help you in anyway.

  • @frankie
    https://www.focus-economics.com/blog/the-largest-economies-in-the-world
    and
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)
    and
    https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/
    all state the Uk is 5th and besides even if it was 7th it can hardly be classed as “medium” as you put it

    So again frankie you have no answers from when your party was in Government and what it did to the poorest????
    What is to say when the next financial crash comes and it will with or without brexit, what if your party is in power again, what is to say it will not make the same decisions again to burden those with the weakest shoulders to carry the brunt again??
    It is what political parties do all the time.
    So I reiterate again, your project fear will not work, try to start exploring other avenues frankie and singing a new tune

  • Tony Greaves 29th Sep '19 - 9:36pm

    For goodness sake. We all want to stop Brexit and we all want our MPs led by Jo Swinson to do what is needed in the immediate future and beyond. What that is, frankly, depends on the rapidly changing situation and on the discussions that are taking place between all the people opposed to crashing out on 31st October. It’s time that individual Liberal Democrats stopped making public assertions of their own individual plans and gave support to what the people “in the front line” decide to do, and trust them to do what is best. Sorry to say this, and I know lots of people are very wound up, but threads like this one are of no benefit to anyone, frankly.

  • Corbyn is probably mistaken even wanting to be sat there in the hot seat; unelected by the public, in what , let’s face it, will be a highly controversial role – thinking of the tabloid press reaction to any ‘remainer’ flavoured GNU.

    Of course, petty party tribalism needs to be ditched and Swinson needs to do what’s necessary to get that extension it’s the main priority. Incidentally, it will favour the Lib Dems in any election let’s not forget – remaining will still in play after October 31.

    So, as laid down by precedent : Corbyn first dibs , but have a backup plan.

  • Richard Underhill. 29th Sep '19 - 10:16pm

    matt 29th Sep ’19 – 7:40pm “thought we were still the 5th Largest economy”
    We were, but there is a risk of leaving the EU.
    The next two are France, similar sized population, twice the land area
    and India, over one billion people, more land, growing fast.

  • Here is the definitive LibDem position, as presented by Chukka Umunna on his facebook page at lunchtime today (Sunday?)
    https://www.facebook.com/22625199708/posts/10157523904394709?sfns=mo
    Other than that, I agree entirely with Tony Greaves. It’s not really helping anything for us all to talk about it here. Maybe emailing your views to Jo or Sal or any of the MPs might be a better option than posting them here on this public website where our opponents are watching and liable to intervene and cause trouble. But what do I know?

  • Matt.

    Austerity was the wrong choice, I left the Lib Dems over it. I rejoined because of Brexit. Brexit will lead to further austerity and while many people assure you sunlit uplands await, further austerity awaits and I’m sure many won’t make it through the cuts and I fear you will be one of them. So no I won’t be singing a different tune. We have a country perched on a cliff, if they jump the poor and economically inactive will act as the shock absorbers. I’m more than happy to keep shouting don’t jump but you and your followers still want to, I’m afraid in those circumstance,s there will be little we can do for the jumpers; collateral damage you will be and damn little to be done for you, or those like you. Campaigning for a red in tooth and claw economy really doesn’t work if you are not a carnivore and most Brexiteers are more of the herbivore variety and pretty old herbivores at that.

  • @frankie

    I have never said that sunny uplands awaits, in fact I have been saying the complete opposite for many years now. I have posted time and time again that another global crash is coming, everyone knows it, all the economists are expecting it.
    It is because of the storm clouds that I believe the UK will be best to weather the storm outside of the EU.
    The EU’s share of global GDP is on an ever shrinking downward trajectory, the EU’s answer to this is ever closer union and protectionist policies. I happen to believe that this is not in the uk’s best interest.
    The central banks do not have the same tools at it’s disposal for the next crash.
    Italy’s economy is in a mess and threatens to bring the whole project down, Italy holds over 40 % of the EU’s total bad debts, it’s economy has been stagnant ever since joining the Euro, that is not stable for any economy.
    If or when Italy falls, the whole project implodes and the further that the Uk is away from that the better in my opinion, the only way to weather it is to be totally independent and able to trade with ever changing global markets.

    As I keep saying, a financial storm is coming with or without brexit and those with the least will shoulder that burden no matter who is in Government, sad fact, but true, all political parties are the same when it comes to such things.
    That is why your argument falls flat with me frankie and so many others

    You have your beliefs as I have mine, we will just have to wait and see what history tells is in a few years time to see who was right

  • Tony Greaves: “It’s time that individual Liberal Democrats stopped making public assertions of their own individual plans and gave support to what the people “in the front line” decide to do, and trust them to do what is best. … Threads like this one are of no benefit to anyone.”

    So – Leave everything to the old men in grey suits. Don’t bother your little head with things that are above your understanding and your pay grade. Trust the Bubble.

    Am I hearing right? Is that a Liberal Democrat – a community politician – speaking?

    This thread ranges from crazy, to off-topic, to intelligent but missing things, to spotting potentially great options. That’s democracy. It means being upfront with what matters, and not letting bubble politicians mess up out of self-centred ignorance. Don’t diss it, Lord Greaves. Get your colleagues to read it and interact with it. The messier the problem, the more important is broad discussion and consensus.

  • Matt – “the Uk is away from that the better in my opinion, the only way to weather it is to be totally independent and able to trade with ever changing global markets”; “The EU’s share of global GDP is on an ever shrinking downward trajectory, the EU’s answer to this is ever closer union and protectionist policies”
    Most studies show that even if we sign trade deals with every other country in the world (a complete fantasy btw), it still will not come close to making up for the loss to GDP. The EU may not be a bigger market than China or the US, but it is also right on our doorstep, and the single market and CU provide a far deeper level of integration than a standard FTA ever could. Also, UK service sector will never have the same access to other markets in other trade deals like it currently has with the Single Market. You drank too much Brexit koolaid.

    Currently, the only 3 markets/trade blocs that can replace EU Single Market are the US, China, as CPTPP simply cannot make up the loss trade. Trade deals with Trump America (you know, “opening up” NHS will a requirement) and China will become more like capitulation treaties much worse than May’s Deal (so much for “take back control”). If Trump loses 2020 re-election, then kiss goodbye to a US deal at least for the next 4 years, as House Leader Nancy Pelosi had already made it clear.

    Also, the (price) inelastic nature of demand for British exports mean than a pound tank will do very little to boost our exports. And the deeply integrated supply chains in manufacturing mean that British exporters and mamufacturers will be actually worse off because of more expensive inputs. Whatever you think, I will not forget Patrick Minford’s vision of a post-Brexit UK economy (which, of course, will be the Tories’ vision).

  • @Thomas

    Again, I have never said that the trade deals that we strike up with other countries would totally replace the ones that we have with the EU.

    In all the scenarios of Brexit, be it remain, leave with a deal or leave with no deal, all forecasts have shown that the uk economy will still grow, albeit at different paces.
    I am quite prepared for an economy to grow at a “slower” pace for 5 years if it means we are shielding ourselves in the best way that we can from an economic storm due to a disaster in the eurozone and as a member of the EU because of a collapse in Italy in another financial crisis. If the UK is better placed to weather that storm outside the EU by being independent and able to adjust its own trade agreements with emerging and changing economies and the price to pay is a slightly “less” rise in Gdp over a few years, then that is a price worth paying in my opinion.

    I also happen to think that if we leave with no deal and resort to WTO rules, negotiations will still be ongoing for a FTA with the EU, it will be in the EU’s interest to get a FTA agreement done in order to protect the German Economy which is facing recession. It might take a couple of years to get that FTA done, but it will still happen and in that couple of years we will have the trade agreements that we have negotiated with countries outside of the EU, then eventually the Fta with the EU
    and like I said, the UK will be entirely independent and better placed to weather any oncoming storm.

  • Matt,
    If the Eurozone goes into recession we do less trade with it and we suffer, your solution is do no trade at all because when they they go into recession it won’t affect us because we have already taken the pain of stopping trading with them. This like a man cutting off his legs to avoid the risk of in growing toe nails. You are In afraid economically illiterate, no trade deals can replace what will be lost and when the pain starts it will start with people like you, ill prepared for reality and easily gulled by people who care nothing for you.

  • @frankie

    I think it is you who is economically illiterate.
    Where did I say that we would not trade at all if they go into recession?
    A country in recession does not stop it trading or other countries from trading with it.

    Where have I ever said brexit would stop us trading with the EU?? Er nope, all I have mentioned is trading on different terms.

    Stop waiving the fairy dust about frankie, it’s clouding your judgement.

    All forecasters and economists have agreed that the UK will continue to grow albeit at different paces in all scenarios of brexit, or do you disagree with that?

  • The so called “Interim Government” that is proposed would be an outrageous subversion of democracy. It would be a government that none of the electorate had voted for. If established, it should immediately be put to the electorate for validation in a general election. Otherwise it would be perceived as a putsch or coup. Particularly if it remained in power for months and months in order to set up the conditions for a rigged re-run of the 2016 plebiscite with votes for 16 year olds, EU nationals and a 60 per cent threshold, as some have proposed. This, I am sure, would be perceived as immensely provocative by those who voted for independence and won, thus creating ever more poisonous and unnecessary division. The only sensible course is to take up Johnson’s offer of a General Election now.

  • Steven Deller 30th Sep '19 - 10:10am

    The anti-England alliance you lead can be defeated and brexit delivered very easily. The Conservative’s just need to have the courage to call a vote of England only MP’s and withdraw England from the United Kingdom on 31st October.

  • Richard Underhill. 30th Sep '19 - 10:11am

    https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=tony+greaves&qpvt=tony+greaves&FORM=IGRE
    Why does Tony Greaves look like Bill Clinton?
    Is this a photo from the Orpington by-election?

  • Daniel Walker 30th Sep '19 - 10:18am

    @Steven Deller “The anti-England alliance you lead can be defeated and brexit delivered very easily. The Conservative’s just need to have the courage to call a vote of England only MP’s and withdraw England from the United Kingdom on 31st October.”

    Even if your first sentence wasn’t cobblers, that would be a somewhat quixotic course of action for the Conservative and Unionist Party.

  • “Here is the definitive LibDem position, as presented by Chukka Umunna on his facebook page at lunchtime today (Sunday?)”
    https://www.facebook.com/22625199708/posts/10157523904394709?sfns=mo

    I agree with Chukka!

  • @Mack “The only sensible course is to take up Johnson’s offer of a General Election now.”

    No, it’s a trap. We have to deal with the emergency, which is to avoid crashing out without a deal on 31st October.
    I agree that if there is an interim government, it will need to set out very clear and limited aims and ideally a timeline to last no more than 2-3 months.

  • John Probert 30th Sep '19 - 11:04am

    Andrew McCaig: “I am afraid Corbyn has to have first try, and we have to support him.
    He will probably fail, then someone else gets a go.”

    That’s it precisely. Say no more!

  • ohn Probert 30th Sep ’19 – 11:04am…….Andrew McCaig: “I am afraid Corbyn has to have first try, and we have to support him. He will probably fail, then someone else gets a go.”…..That’s it precisely. Say no more!…

    If he fails, because Jo Swinson refuses to support him, then any no-deal scenario will be her, and this party’s, responsibility..
    That’s it precisely. Say no more!…

  • @ Julian Tisi
    @ “A timeline to last no more than two or three months”
    Your interpretation of immediate validation of an interim government by a General Election is far more elastic than my own.

  • @Andrew McCaig/John Probert – sorry but you’re over-looking an important point. This is a two-stage process: The VONC comes first, and only if that passes is there then a 2-week process of trying to establish a GNU and deciding who should lead it. And what the whipless Tories are saying (see Alastair Burt’s comment) is that they won’t support a VONC if they think Corbyn might end up as PM. Nor will some of the ex-Labour MPs, who despise JC. In other words, the very possibility of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister makes the VONC less likely to pass – in which case the whole process gets nowhere. So Jo’s point is that – for this reason – we need to rule out Corbyn as PM before we have the VONC, in order to maximise support for it in the House. That’s the issue – and she is right. It’s a lot more complicated than the media are making out.

  • This is no longer just a UK-matter, but an international diplomatic crisis. The sentiment to cut the UK loose is growing by the day among EU member-states. By now, granting another extension is less likely than ever before, and makes only sense as a bet on a UK regime-change to a Labour-led Government. All actors who want to avoid no deal must accept this regime-change is a necessary condition.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '19 - 3:17pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “The sentiment to cut the UK loose is growing by the day among EU member-states. By now, granting another extension is less likely than ever before……”

    For once I hope you’re right ! 🙂

    But why would you want to hand on a truculent and petulant UK? Why would you want Nigel Farage and his band causing havoc in the EU Parliament?

    You’ve got other, much more pressing, problems to solve. Concentrate on fixing these and making the EU a popular organisation in its own right – instead of allowing the critics to pick up the “populist” vote.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/24/the-europe-union-has-bigger-problems-to-deal-with-than-brexit

  • David Allen 30th Sep '19 - 4:14pm

    TonyH; “We need to rule out Corbyn as PM before we have the VONC, in order to maximise support for it in the House.”

    But – If we successfully VONC Johnson, but then cannot establish a GNU with a specified leader who will command the confidence of the House within two weeks, then all we will have achieved will be a massive own goal – the delivery of the early General Election which he has been gagging for!

    So – What we must do (Denis Loretto’s point) is to identify the leader who will command confidence, name that leader in the VONC, and thereby make quite sure that a GNU is indeed formed.

    To achieve that, we surely also need to reach consensus on the composition of the GNU (see for example Simon Horner’s useful ideas, third post from top), and on its outline programme (will it seek referendum first, if so on what basis). That is complex. If negotiations between multiple players are all kept to whispers behind closed doors, confusion will reign and nothing will quickly evolve. Better to have open discussion, establish the strengths of the various parties’ red lines, and pressure all parties to find a way through.

    Chris Bowers’ proposal helps in that regard because it puts pressure (if Swinson adopts it) on Corbyn to offer enough concessions to talk the ex-Tories round, and equally on the ex-Tories to respond with a viable alternative to Corbyn if they want to avoid it being Corbyn.

    Frankly, it just isn’t that important who is interim PM. If it’s Corbyn, he will gain from getting his face on telly, but he won’t gain anything in terms of pushing Corbynista radical policies, because those will be embargoed by the rest of the GNU. Would Clarke / Harman be better? Hard to say. Better presentationally, but at greater risk of instability due to ructions within Labour. Not a lot in it, in my view. Let’s do whatever works.

  • Paul Barker 30th Sep '19 - 4:20pm

    I have to agree with Tony Greaves that most of the comments on this thread (including this one) dont actually say anything useful.
    The BBC has a short piece on the results of The Opposition Leaders meeting this afternoon. Thankfully The SNP have been persuaded to drop their idea of a VONC this Week. Apart from that “Talks” are continuing & I doubt that we will be told any more.
    Please take any Journalist talk of “Sources” saying this or that as Speculation.

  • @David Allen – yes I have no problem with the idea of getting the interim PM agreed (informally) before the VONC. My point was in response to those who said we must let Corbyn have ‘first go.’ The basic reality is it can’t be Corbyn, and we should establish that in advance so everyone knows.
    I also agree with you that GNU PM not that much of a prize. In fact I actually think JC is missing a trick here. If he was to announce right now that he would be magnanimous and stand back to let person X do it – “stopping a No Deal Brexit is a bigger cause than any one individual” etc. – he would probably gain a lot of kudos for that from Remain voters, and he really wouldn’t be giving up very much. We’ll see.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Oct '19 - 1:21pm

    Perception is vital and the electorate would not forgive us if it was that we stood in the way of preventing a no deal Brexit, especially if it goes pear shaped that it undoubtedly will. How can Jeremy Corbyn be any worse than the incumbent of No 10? Perhaps we could bargain for electoral reform or at least a Citizens’ Assembly with teeth on it though preventing Brexit is the priority.

  • Many have made the point about the logical inconsistency in Swinson’s position here; namely, she keeps saying Corbyn ‘doesn’t have the numbers’. Well, what’s the harm in testing that theory with the Lib Dems both urging support and supporting themselves?

    Swinson is making this whole thing about Corbyn, and that only encourages already jittery Tory MPs to throw up similar excuses.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Oct '19 - 6:21am

    Andy: So LIb Dems should become Corbyn cheerleaders? Why not go the whole hog and merge with Corbyn’s Labour Party?

  • Andy
    It’s because the Lib Dems have penned themselves in and can’t be seen to hand over their big selling point to Labour. It would put the party back down to single digits. Loss of specialness is the inherent danger in pursuing single issue politics. In a way they’re now as reliant on not achieving their aims regarding EU membership as UKIP were.

  • Arnold Kiel 2nd Oct '19 - 8:27am

    Implementation of “Bollocks to Brexit” is not one decision, but a 5-year project. It will not happen under Johnson. Selectively supporting a Labour minority-Government or a supply- and demand-agreement will not do: this requires a stable coalition Government (including the SNP) that has a plan for all the many decisions that would flow from remaining. Hopefully, Labour will replace its leader and the PM along the way, but that cannot be forced now.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Oct '19 - 8:48am

    @ Alex Macfie,
    Who is suggesting a merger with Corbyn’s Labour party, or acting as his cheer-leaders?

    I am afraid that there are many who are far from being Corbyn supporters who who point out Jo Swinson’s logical inconsistency and the speed of her early intervention. Her more recent comments do seem to give a better picture and reason for both.

    If Jeremy Corbyn , as leader of the largest opposition party was given first option and failed to get support then he could have been replaced by someone who might succeed.

    I am afraid that we have a government that is not fit to govern and a group of ‘rebels’ who are too rebellious to mount any serious challenge against them.

    It is unbelievable that Johnson and crew are able to get away with their behaviour and intentions and those opponents who should be giving us hope, are seem to be behaving as though they are too interested in their own political agendas and dislikes to temporarily put aside antipathy.

  • Glenn: it is nothing to do with that. Locally here in a Con/Labour potentital seat the Lib dems have gaioned many members over the last 18 months, almost exclusively from Labour, over the issue of Corbyn. This picture can be repeated up and down the country, and shows why she needs to stick to her guns.

  • Alex Macfie 2nd Oct '19 - 12:00pm

    Jayne Mansfield: You are, and so’s Andy and everyone else who is saying that Jo should “step into line” to support the Dear Leader JC. The JC cultists seem to think that as Leader of the Opposition, JC has an absulute natural right to lead any alternative government. Well no, that’s not how it works. He may, under the FTPA, be entitled to be the first person to be considered as PM in the event of a VONC, but this does not confer any obligation on other MPs to support him. It’s the responsibility of Corbyn and his supporters to convince others that he sould be a suitable PM following a VONC. It is not the responsibility of Jo or anyone else to fall behind him.
    The key word in “Government of National Unity” is “Unity”, and Corbyn is simply too divisive to be a suitable PM of such a government.

  • Theakes
    I think it has everything to do with it. Not, that I’m complaining. As a leave supporter I’m very happy to watch the remain camp flapping about. Leave gets divided into Brexit and Lexit when really they’re united by a desire to leave the supranational EU, but remain is dived between nationalists, socialists, liberals, conservatives and greens who can’t even get past bickering about who should lead their imaginary government of unity! To quote Father Ted “it really is tremendous fun”.

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Oct '19 - 1:49pm

    @ Glenn,
    Playing with the future livelihoods of the British people is not fun.

    It says something not entirely complimentary about you if you think it is, ( even if , I hope you were speaking in jest).

    @ Alex Macfie,
    It is not so much about thinking that Jo Swinson should fall into line, but what her behaviour indicates about her position on the political spectrum and what her priorities are.

    As someone who belongs to no political party, but has strong views about the need to remove , first Theresa May and then Boris Johnson before he causes even more damage to the reputation and well being of this country, I am quite clear about my priorities.

    As for cultists- a nice example of projection Alex.

  • Jayne Mansfield
    I was talking about the antics of the remain camp. A proposed government of national unity all wanting different things and too divided to agree on a leader!

  • Leave is also divided, those who just want to get out, those who want to get out with one type of deal, those who want another sort of deal and those who appear now to have given up and just want it over, even if it means remaining.

  • Sorry, sorry. I sent the meassage not Glenn. It was a message for Glenn. Time I went back to bed.

  • jane pickard 4th Oct '19 - 1:54pm

    I completely agree with the article, we need to make our position much clearer.
    I understand that Jo’s original position matches Morans statement,( Im sure I heard: If he had the numbers I would meet with him, Radio 4 August) but at present labour push the idea we are vetoing any GNU it places blame on us for their failures and so they can win back some of the Remainers who are leaving their fold. It’s a great Labour strategy.
    No one I speak to understands that Jo has said she would speak to Corbyn if he could prove he had sufficient numbers.
    ‘Jo vetos’ is a very easy line: it must be replaced by :
    Jo leading efforts to get sufficient numbers over the line.
    I’m a novice but recent lessons seem to be that in politics never ever be associated with the negative: ( see No to independence, No to leave. No to corbyn).
    Lib Dems say yes to GNU if numbers reached , puts responsibility back to Independents and Corbyn.

  • Chris is absolutely correct, this is what NEEDS to happen. I really hope what we’re seeing now from Jo Swinson is more hyperbole than reality. It would be catastrophic for the country and party if the Liberal Democrats ended up “accidentally” enabling a no-deal Brexit, in fact IMHO it would probably mean the end of the party entirely.

  • Nasser Butt 5th Oct '19 - 10:27am

    I dont care much about anyone at present being a PM. I am neutral.
    However as a LibDem all I care about is staying in EU and acheiving this thru one way or another.
    I think we need to come off our emotional high horse and get together with others for this Unity Government and achieve the objective as well defined by Sir Oliver Latwin.
    Vote of no confidence, Unity Govetnment, followed by A Referandom, then followed by Gen Election.

    Lets not make it a personal issue about J Corburn or anyone else. Lets be democrats and work with the majority vote of coilition partners about who will be the PM for Coilition Gov.

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