What more do we need to try to do to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the EU?

It seems to me that our position on Remaining in the EU is that people will see that we will be worse off outside the EU than in it. When they see the deal which is negotiated, they will have their ‘Road to Damascus’ moment and a significant proportion of the British will want to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU.

I don’t think that will be happen. The 2016 referendum was fought on a campaign which stated we would be much poorer outside the EU than by Remaining in it. That campaign failed to get a majority of the British people to vote to stay in the EU. I can see no reason why, if there was a referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, the result would be different. We would be doing the same thing as in 2016 and expecting a different result.

I hope there is still time for the party to adopt an alternative policy. – An alternative which tries to address what are often reported as the two main reasons why we lost the 2016 referendum. Firstly that we can only control immigration from the EU if we leave and secondly that we don’t control what laws are passed in the EU.

We often say the EU would like us to stay, but we haven’t asked them if they would like to reform the EU to assist us in achieving a “Stay In” vote in a referendum on the deal versus staying in. I think we as a party should ask that question and we should set out what reforms we think would assist us.

I think those reforms should be:

i) Allowing member nations to restrict the free movement of people from other member nations with GDP per capita lower than 20% of theirs until the economic drivers for economic migration within the EU are dealt with.

ii) Abolishing the Stability and Growth Pact and replacing it with a Full Employment Pact in which members countries commit themselves to obtaining full employment (defined as less than 2.5 % of the working age population unemployed) for at least one quarter every eight years and that they ensure unemployment is never above 7.5%.

iii) Increasing the EU budget above inflation each 7 year budgetary cycle (Multiannual Financial Framework) and targeting this extra revenue into the poorest 42 Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) regions.

iv) Only allowing ministers in the Council of the European Union to vote on legislation as directed by their national Parliament once their national Parliament has voted on the proposed legislation.

The first one keeps the principle of the free movement of people while giving countries the freedom, if they wish, to take action to restrict economic migration into their country.

The second one puts full employment and not controlling inflation, or deficits or national debts, at the heart of the EU. Put people first. If all governments can stimulate economic growth and work towards full employment, the pressure for their citizens to migrate for economic reasons are reduced.

The third one ensures there is an increase every time the budget is agreed to spend more money in real terms in bring up the poorest 42 regions closer to the EU average economic performance. This too will reduce the pressures of people to migrate for economic reasons.

The fourth one will make it very clear to the people that national parliaments have to agree changes in EU laws and they are not just agreed in Brussels.

I hope these four reforms will be enough to persuade a majority of the British people to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU. I am looking for members to support these reforms as part of an amendment to the Exit form Brexit motion at Federal Spring Conference.

* Michael Berwick-Gooding is a Liberal Democrat member in Basingstoke and has held various party positions at local, regional and English Party level.

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  • David Reardon 19th Feb '18 - 1:30pm

    You are living in fantasy land. There are only 2 ways you can get the British people to vote to stay in the EU:

    1. Hold another referendum – which isn’t going to happen; and
    2. Persuade the majority of those who voted “Leave” in 206 to vote “Remain” – which isn’t going to happen.

    As to your suggested internal EU reforms, they haven’t a hope in Hell’s chance of being adopted because (a) restricting the free movement of people from other member nations with GDP per capita 20% lower will NEVER be accepted by countries such as Poland and Hungary while (b) the French and Germans would laugh your budget proposal out of the Council chamber!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Feb '18 - 1:53pm


    Your approach to and o this is constructive.

    Your didactic manner or way is well served by adding more feeling or instinct to.

    Here is something to grapple with.

    Start from this, the immigration debate is like everything a Liberal and a Democrat oriented stance should deal with differently.

    It is polarised.

    We as a party on so much , make the mistake of coming down too heavily and dramatically on one side.

    Sir Peter Ustinov, one of my liberal heroes said:

    ” no extreme fascinates me … I am liberal but a militant liberal…!”

    We have not got freedom of movement. We have freedom of labour. We can cry in our drinks, but this party went too often to the one side and swallowed the soft soap ! We extol the by now tired virtue of that which is not the rule in the EU ! We can send out back to their country, anyone without a job, after three months. We do not have to accept anyone here without a job from the get go, or they must get going !

    We did not have to accept the new poorer Eastern EU countries, for seven years but did so as the bigger successful states did not !!!

    We do not claim , due to soft heartedness or soft heads or useless public sector, the payment owed for all EU citizens using our NHS, when all the big EUstates claim, and fast !

    We are failures at this project because we sing from a different song sheet, soppy, sickly songs, not a strong melodic, harmony!!!

    We need to be cynical and sensible, and pragmatic as well as idealistic.

    But you are correct in your article !

  • John Marriott 19th Feb '18 - 2:04pm

    According to today’s ‘Daily Politics’ there’s a ‘new kid on the block’ in the form of a new anti Brexit political party called Renew. In the immortal words of the lady from Bristol “Oh, not another one!”

  • What more do we need to do to persuade the Lib Dems on here that Brexit OUGHT to happen, on the basis that the 2016 vote should be honoured? And I say that as a Remainer.

  • Thanks for an interesting article, Michael BG.

    I would support the proposals outlined.

    However I think highlighting them too much as a way of winning over Brexiteers runs the risk of highlighting what THEY SEE as the problems with the EU.

    I think of interest was “Start the Week” today on Radio 4. One of the guests said how emotion often wins over facts. And she highlighted a debate between at the time Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carlson on the issue of childhood vaccinations. Carlson, a highly qualified doctor presented the facts on childhood vaccination which are overwhelmingly in favour. Trump told an emotional story on the problems that the child of one of his employees had had after being vaccinated. The radio guest said that Trump absolutely won the argument and even she a (?medical) scientist knowing the facts absolutely favour childhood immunisation was pretty much persuaded by Trump.

    Aspects of life that come with emotion, she said are highly memorable because in the past they have been in real life and we want to either avoid them or repeat them! Either run away from the lions when we encounter them or find the good source of food again.

    (Carlson might have been better highlighting the devastation that polio used to cause to children’s lives and has now been eliminated thanks to immunisation rather than reciting dry statistics ).

    The “emotion” was definitely on the Brexiteers side.

    The problem is that once humans have decided on something emotionally we tend to seize on facts that support that and reject facts that don’t.

    I like to think that I made up my mind on the facts to support Remain – and I was only 55%/45% in favour of remain. But some will say that the facts support Brexit.

    Unfortunately the Remain side did not do a great job on the emotion. Remainers need to put some emotion into their argument. May be the collaboration between European scientists leading to cures for childhood diseases saving their lives. Cutting air pollution through co-operating with our neighbours – air does not respect borders – again saving lives. Jobs through easier trading with a market of 500 million people on our doorstep. A better NHS through a stronger economy than the Brexit alternative.

  • We often say the EU would like us to stay, but we haven’t asked them if they would like to reform the EU to assist us in achieving a “Stay In” vote in a referendum

    Didn’t Cameron ask them that? And wasn’t the response, ‘sod off, we’re not changing the way the EU works just to suit Britain’?

    (Plus, I don’t think you’re going to get many British people to switch to voting for the EU if one of your points is increasing the EU budget, something which would result in the UK sending even more money to Brussels.)

  • @Rob Parker

    What about the 1975 Referendum? Nothing is ever (finally) decided in a democracy. If Labour had been elected in 1983 we would have left Europe (and they weren’t proposing a referendum on withdrawal) within 10 years of 1975 referendum.

    The people always retain the democratic right to change their minds. To have nationalisation then privatisation and then nationalisation again if that is their wish! To have free market Tories or socialist Labour.

    I appreciate there are issues about having a “Nevereferendum”. It does seem to me that one of the advantages of a further referendum for Brexiteers is that it would settle the question much more firmly in their direction if they won.

  • “We often say the EU would like us to stay, but we haven’t asked them if they would like to reform the EU to assist us in achieving a “Stay In” vote in a referendum”.

    I thought Cameron was supposed to have done that.

    The great miscalculation: David Cameron’s renegotiation and the EU …

    Lorenzo, enjoyed your post and completely agree that swallowing soft soap is not to be recommended – nor is it a pleasant experience.

  • @ John Marriott “According to today’s ‘Daily Politics’ there’s a ‘new kid on the block’ in the form of a new anti Brexit political party called Renew”.

    Has Party HQ surreptitiously teamed up with them ? I used to get emails saying DONATE – now I keep getting RENEW instead.

  • Phil Wainewright 19th Feb '18 - 2:58pm

    This is all very reasonable, but I’m afraid it’s asking the wrong question. People voted Leave because they felt they weren’t being listened to as their living standards fell and public standards worsened. Offering them a better EU doesn’t fix those problems. As OFOC campaigner Femi Oluwole said today on Twitter, “It would unforgivable to stop Brexit and not fix the inequalities in this country that pushed people to vote for Brexit.”

  • John Marriott 19th Feb '18 - 3:59pm

    @Rob Parker
    My feelings entirely! Some people are just gluttons for punishment. I will say one thing, however. If they had changed the phrase from ‘Free Movement of People’ to ‘Free Movement of LABOUR’, we probably wouldn’t be where we are now!

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin

    Thank you for your positive comments.

    @ David Reardon

    I think it is possible that countries which are losing large numbers of their population – those with the most get up and go – might support their being some reduction in the numbers of people leaving their country.

    If the EU wants to keep the Euro one day it will have to replace the Stability and Growth Pact with something that deals with the levels of unemployment across the EU unless they want the EU’s population to congregate in a few countries. You may be correct and the EU is not ready to take that necessary step yet, but we should find out for sure.

  • Sean Hyland 19th Feb '18 - 5:18pm

    Referring to all leave voters as little englanders or narrow British nationalists will not persuade them to change their views.
    The reasons for the leave vote are many and varied although regretfully some did vote on racist grounds. Until engagement is made to address these reasons it is doubtful that a sufficient number of leavers will ever be persuaded to change, or that those who opted out could be persuaded to get engaged.
    I voted leave based on what I believe is an increasing democratic deficit in the governance of the EU. I remain a LibDem voter because I believe in the principles of the party but wait to see some policies to address the wider concerns of the population. People don’t feel listened to, as Phil Wainewright says, and not just on the Eu.

  • @ Michael 1

    You may well be correct that we need to appeal to people’s emotions, but I’ll leave that to others.

    Perhaps those running the Remain campaign were appealing to emotions when they presented the UK and each individual being poorer outside the EU than by remaining in.

    @ Dav

    I don’t think Cameron asked for what I think is necessary and I don’t think he believed that the British people would vote to leave the EU. This meant that neither did the EU leaders. The EU leaders now understand that the UK is very likely to leave and if they wish to assist us in trying to convince the British people to vote to stay then something more than what was given to Cameron is needed. I hope I have identified what would make the difference.

    @ David Raw

    That is a very interesting article that you provide the link for. One of the lessons from it, might be to have a more united campaign. Another might be to have the relevant text for a new treaty written up even if not ratified. We would need to be clear what difference the changes could make to numbers coming from the EU.

    @ Phil Wainewright

    My suggestion is not instead of dealing with the UK’s inequalities and solving the issues that large numbers of the British people are concerned about, be it lack of housing, lack of access to the NHS, lack of the needed training or falling living standards. It is to do both.

  • John Laband 19th Feb '18 - 6:04pm

    Cameron concentrated on curtailing in work benefits which was an obvious non starter as obviously discriminatory. Out of work benefits would have been better and we can already send people back with no job after 3 mo. Etc.
    I don’t accept that the result of a second referendum would be the same. The first was too close, corrupt and unrepresentative and we should keep saying that…until we are blue in the face

  • Mick Taylor 19th Feb '18 - 6:42pm

    David Reardon wants us to honour the 2016 referendum. Surely that principle applied to the 1975 one. Oh wait, that wasn’t the right result, so it could be ignored, attacked and undermined for 40 years. Never mind the will of 66% of the people.
    But when those of us who want to stay in the EU do exactly the same, we’re traitors undermining the will of the people, anti-democrats trying to stop Brexit by the back door.
    I don’t support referenda at all, because we’re a parliamentary democracy, where MPs are elected to make political decisions on our behalf. If the Lib Dems as a party don’t address the very real concerns of many leavers and some who voted remain then a further referendum on the facts – once the Brexit deal is known – will not change anything.
    The big issues that caused many people to vote leave are about inequality, where the rich get richer and avoid paying taxes and a substantial minority get poorer or are forever out of work. Many are utterly fed up with the refusal of politicians of all parties to do anything about the left behind.
    Remainers have to address these issues and make sure that they deliver on their promises. The EU is undoubtedly the best deal the UK can have on many economic and political issues, but without spreading income and wealth fairly many many voters just don’t believe it.

  • @ Sean Hyland

    I wish you had addressed my reform of the EU whereby there is a clear and very public link between decisions in national Parliaments and how ministers vote in the Council of the EU.

    @ Mick Taylor

    Do you understand that some of my proposals would reduce economic inequalities? Do you realise that running the economy to achieve full employment would reduce economic inequalities?

    Do you think we should support these measures so those concerns of the “Remainers” can be not only addressed but solved?

  • Peter Martin 19th Feb '18 - 10:53pm

    @ Mick Taylor,

    I don’t know if you were around then but the result of the 1976 referendum was generally accepted in the wider community. There was no sense of division in the way there now is, even though “anti marketeers” were, of course, still “anti marketeers”. That referendum was about being part of the nine country EEC. There was no common currency. There was no European Parliament. No “ever closer union”. It was just a Common Market. The feeling was that we’d joined so we might as well just get on with it.

    That EEC ceased to exist in 1993. The EU which followed was a very different organisation. There probably should have been a referendum after the Maastricht or Lisbon Treaties. It was these Treaties which changed everything. So by the time we did have one in 2016 it certainly wasn’t before time.

    I think you’re right that the vote on the EU wasn’t totally driven directly by EU issues. It It was more about the economic austerity that we’ve seen in the last decade or so. But the EU is at least partly to blame for that too. So there was a strong indirect effect with the austerity question.

    If the EU imposes austerity internally, the EU/EZ economies end up in depression. That means they aren’t good markets for UK exports. The resultant high trade deficit has to be financed by UK borrowing. The UK Govt imposes then its own austerity to try to reduce the borrowing. This creates disgruntled voters in the Northern towns and other less prosperous regions. They then hit back by voting against the Establishment.

  • Peter Martin 19th Feb '18 - 11:11pm

    @ Michael BG,

    Economically your arguments are quite logical. But politically there is no chance of their being implemented. Angela Merkel has made it quite clear that free movement isn’t negotiable. It is required to keep wages down in Germany and Holland.

    German/Dutch capitalism has no interest in having full employment in the peripheral countries. That again will force up wages in Germany and the Netherlands.

    The EU plan is that power should slowly be transferred away from National Parliaments as we saw in the 2015 Greek crisis. There’s really no chance of it being handed back in the way you suggest.

    And Fiscal Transfers? We won’t see any German Govt agree to them any time soon.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Feb '18 - 11:47pm


    Thanks, and yes to the soap, though the box is one we could use more with a message people could hear more.


    Yes to much of that but the mistake that all shades of this and many discussed stance on an issue make is not dealing with supply and demand.

    Inequality is like any bad result , supply and demand has to figure in it.

    Demand for housing, not met by much supply, few houses or flats, more demand, higher prices, more inequality, same for health care , education, et al.

    The immigration population may have thankfully added to our number of medical and such , like much valued staff shortages, but to the list of those waiting.

    In Europe their public private systems dove tail and provide additional input not one or the other in monopoly contracts. They also claim for their citizens treatment.

    We have been useless at social market economic management of much of our private business and public services.

    Time for a voice to say it and persuade we have the solutions. But few see the problems we have the solutions to.

  • @Michael BG
    Re reform of EU as you mention. Its difficult to see the EU moving to accept any of this. I think national parliament have an input already through the summits of heads of state,ministers etc. My concern was the the need of the EU to protect the Euro project and the Eurozone. This can not be allowed to fail as far as EU concerned. Eurozone countries represent, when voting together, an automatic qualified majority. If push comes to shove the Euro will always be protected even if this impacts negatively on non Eurozone countries.
    I could not see any scenario whereby the EU would amend this at this time. Ever greater union is the mantra in vogue at this time and I ,personally, can see any change to this.
    I have never had any issue with free movement and have welcomed as friends and worked with various EU nationals.

    If I could have seen a different way forward with the EU being truly willing to look at governance my vote may have been different.

    I see your points on economic/fiscal changes and agree that a more equatable way to introduce redistribution to the “poorer” areas is needed. Unfortunately I don’t think the powers in France and Germany will agree.

  • Michael BG,

    it is always good idea to look at what the actual outcome of policies has been. The G7 economies with below average unemployment include Japan, Germany, the UK and the USA https://data.oecd.org/unemp/unemployment-rate.htm. Canada has average unemployment, while both France and Italy have maintained consistently high unemployment rates.
    Francois Hollande ran a full-employment policy along French socialist lines , increasing public spending and raising taxes during his term of office from 2012 to 2017 to little effect. By the end of his term, he was the most unpopular president in the history of the French Republic and a significant cause of the rise of the Marie Le Pens Front National. Few EU countries will want to emulate this experience and will look instead to countries like the Netherlands and Poland.
    There may be an appetite for major reform in the EU at some stage in the future; but dealing with the issues arising from absorption of refugees from outside the EU and the structural fault-lines within the Euro currency zone are likely to be immediate priorities. Radical reforms to assist UK politicians in presenting a case for staying-in to the British people would seem a long way off.

  • @Peter Martin

    “I don’t know if you were around then but the result of the 1976 referendum was generally accepted in the wider community.”

    Well – except by the Labour party – a substantial part immediately and within about 5 years as official party policy and I suspect by quite a large number of trade unions. Of course Europe was a substantial part of the reason for the formation of the SDP and the reason why many left Labour for the new party. And Conservative euro-scepticism grew quite quickly as well.

    If you look at the BBC 1975 results programme, MPs and others are already saying that they will be fighting for Britain to come out.

    And of course the ’75 result was much more decisive.

    Perhaps unfortunately because there was quite a big split in the population quite quickly -and within parties rather than between the did not mention it – increasingly the three big parties did not mention it and the narrative got framed by the Mail, Express and Telegraph running stories (some written by Boris Johnstone) on regulations about bananas etc. A point made by Charles Kennedy in his (?) last speech to conference.

    It is also very much more than likely that there was more than 2% among Brexit voters that wanted us to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union.

  • Rather than seeing the leave vote as an aberration, I suspect that British EU membership wouldn’t have survived an early vote on Maastricht and yet its supporters have spent 20 odd years talking as if the project had achieved some kind of new consciousness. Lot’s of proclamations of change, new attitudes, a new kind of people, shaking off the past and a bold step the future. Essentially it was a sort of cultural revolution that people didn’t ask for and it fell at the first hurdle when they finally were asked. The EU is under twenty-five years old, most of the big changes only happen between 1999-2003 and some of it was only finalised in 2010. This is very recent history.

  • Peter Watson 20th Feb '18 - 8:53am

    @Peter Martin “That EEC ceased to exist in 1993. The EU which followed was a very different organisation. There probably should have been a referendum after the Maastricht or Lisbon Treaties.”
    That is what used to be the Lib Dem position. And what remained (remains?) the Lib Dem policy should any more powers be transferred to the EU.
    It’s why it was such a disappointment that the party appeared woefully unprepared to make the case for membership of the EU when a referendum came along (but perhaps that should not have been a surprise given that coalition government was something else long-espoused by the party but handled badly when the opportunity arose).

  • Antony Watts 20th Feb '18 - 10:49am

    Agree with all, but would like to implement “iv” differently. No MEPs, just send 73 MP to Brussels to vote for us. Integrate the parliamentary agendas.

  • Before the referendum Cameron did try to reform the EU. Unfortunately, the EU are so stubborn that they basically gave us nothing, and were then very surprised at the referendum result.

    I do agree with a lot of your points, but why do you believe the EU will be more flexible now? And why weren’t they previously? The UK has always been the black sheep of the EU as it is.
    With both Corbyn’s and the Tory’s positions being us leaving both the single market and customs union, I don’t see any way or preventing us leaving currently. Not a big enough change in public sentiment to demand a second referendum, and I don’t think people care enough for anything else to happen sadly.
    Sorry I can’t come up with anything really constructive myself.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Feb '18 - 4:15pm

    The author makes a convincing case for ways to reform the EU’s economic and employment policies which would help meet the objections of Leavers on immigration, and potentially the problems of poor living standards and inequality. Many comments here are constructive, too. Our party should be debating and advocating EU reform as a matter of urgency, so as to offer the voters positive reasons for voting Remain if we succeed in getting another Referendum, and in any case to affirm our commitment to the EU.

  • @ Peter Martin

    The ‘EU’ Parliament existed long before we joined the Common Market in 1973. National Parliaments elected its members and I remember before 1979 there being Liberal members (maybe only 1). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_members_of_the_European_Parliament_for_the_United_Kingdom,_1973%E2%80%9379

    1979 was the first year of direct elections to the ‘EU’ Parliament.

    I am not proposing the abolition of the principle of free movement of people. I can’t imagine the Liberal Democrats supporting this. Under my proposed reforms Germany and the Netherlands would be free to allow nationals from all EU countries to migrate into their country. However France would be able to restrict Lithuanians if it wanted to because Lithuania’s GDP per capita is more than 20% lower than Frances.

    As a liberal I am an optimist and so believe that even German and Dutch politicians would recognise the need to increase economic equality across the whole EU and especially the Euro zone. A common currency needs regional fiscal transfers to be stable.

    @ Anthony Watts

    You are advocating a return to the pre-1979 position.

    @ Sean Hyland

    Thank you for your further comments. I am not sure that all Euro countries will act as a block. I don’t believe it is the interests of the poorest countries to do so. However, you are correct there is a strong politician will to ensure that the Euro member countries stay in the Euro. I think my proposals would help this.

    There has to be a balance between centralisation and power being at the lowest level. The EU states that it is committed to having power at the lowest level. As liberals we need to do more to make this a reality. And for this reality to be seen and understood by the public.

  • `Instead we have to argue for the EU as it is, the benefits of pooled sovereignty, of support for peace and democracy, of individual freedom, the benefits of EU freedom of movement.`

    There were about 700,000 Liberal Leavers at the referendum who probably didn’t vote or didn’t vote for the Lib Dems in 2017. I would guess that for some it wasn’t that they didn’t want the EU to succeed it was that on balance the loss of sovereignty wasn’t worth the incompetence of the EU project.

    Peace and democracy? Since we are one of the 27 who haven’t invaded another EU state which country are we `saving from themselves` and what is our quid pro quo?

    Individual freedom? Try telling that to the Greek unemployed, the people whom are effected by free movement of Labour here or the misogyny of parts of German economic migration?

    The benefits of free movement is mostly a `middle class bubble issue` and is symptomatic of the out of touch politics of our political class. The Lib Dems are the worst at this – at least the Tories and Labour TRY and understand things (Norman Lamb excepted).

    In the end the Lib Dems have a choice – a choice faced by every party in the Western world: Do we have an economic vision that believes globalism serves everyone OR do we believe in rampant free market migration devil take the hindmost?

    If it’s the first then you have to intervene in your own prejudices and orthodoxies – if it’s the latter then it’ll best to focus on what you’ll do post-Brexit in case Brexit doesn’t happen and putting that at the front of policymaking.

  • @ JoeB

    You may be correct that the EU is not looking to reform itself along the lines I suggest. I think it should no matter if we stay or go. The two economic reforms are crying out to be done to save the Euro zone and fight the rise of the right.

    France had a policy to reduce its deficit to 3% of GDP by 2013. This doesn’t look anything like a policy to achieve full employment. It reduced it to 3.4% in 2016. Again this doesn’t look like running the economy to achieve full employment. According to BNP Paribas, “Since 2014, … austerity measures (freeze on some government’s areas of spending, cutbacks in transfers to local governments, etc.)” were pursued (http://economic-research.bnpparibas.com/Views/DisplayPublication.aspx?type=document&IdPdf=29951) . Again this doesn’t look like running the economy to achieve full employment.

    @ Michael Romberg

    Please see my response to Dav above (19th Feb 5.54 pm). The only way to find out if the EU would reform itself along the lines I suggest is to ask them. We shouldn’t just assume they will not.

    @ Giles M

    I don’t think Cameron asked for what I am proposing. I think the replacement of the Stability and Growth Pack and providing more money for the poorest regions will need to happen in the future no matter if we stay or go.

    We are a net contributor to the EU (in 2016 about £8.6 billion) and our leaving will leave about an 8% hole in the EU’s finances. The biggest contributors don’t want to pay to cover this amount and those who receive more than they pay in wouldn’t want their grants cut so it is in their interests to keep us in. I think that my other two proposals are a very small price to pay for not having a hole in their finances. We should find out if they are prepared to pay such a small price. If we don’t try we will never know the answer.

  • Nick Hopkinson 20th Feb '18 - 5:09pm

    Afraid there are misperceptions here about how the EU and member states function. As such few of the recommendations are feasible.

  • Michael BG,

    France has had a high level of unemployment for decades pre-dating its adoption of the Euro and the financial crisis. Hollande increased taxes to bring the historically high level of deficit down, but maintained and increased spending levels as he himself stated to bring unemployment down from the 12% levels it had reached. It made little difference for the reasons that BNP Paribas discuss in their repot on umemployment in France http://economic-research.bnpparibas.com/html/en-US/About-structural-unemployment-France-11/24/2017,30436. France has a high element of structural unemployment that cannot be addressed by demand management in the way that cyclical unemployment can. This is the problem with one size fits all programs. Each country has its own unique economic structures and institutions. Only France can address its unemployment issue. It requires a major liberalisation of domestic employment law – not something that either the EU or fiscal policy can address. Whether Macron’s prescriptions will be successful we will have to wait and see.

  • Katharine Pindar 20th Feb '18 - 9:02pm

    Nick Hopkinson, I think it would be good if Lib Dem members of ALDE were to propose and discuss ideas for EU reform, of which any number have been raised in LDV in recent months, even before Michael put the well-argued and followed-up case above. It seems to be generally accepted that for Nick Clegg to have ever said in debate that he thought the EU would continue as it is in years to come was a mistake.

    Complacency among Lib Dems has contributed to the wrong assumption by many that the UK may be obliged to join in a federal EU, whereas as David Raw’s yesterday’s link shows, the EU during David Cameron’s attempt at renegotiation was prepared to accept that our country need not be bound by the ‘ever-closer union’ principle. There is also needless confusion, with lack of informed statements from our party, about whether the EU itself seems to be heading towards ever-closer union. I believe Sean Hyland is quite wrong in suggesting, above, that ‘ever-closer union is the mantra at this time’. The Netherlands, I understand, is among other states which do not agree with this, and the SDP leader in Germany, Martin Schultz, a proponent, has given up the post after his party’s poor showing in the German elections. There are many divisions in the EU, including among the EZ countries, which we should know of and consider in policy-making here..

  • Mick Taylor 20th Feb '18 - 9:12pm

    Peter Martin. Not only was I around for the 1975 referendum but I was one of the organisers of the pro Europe campaign. The campaign was largely argued on the issues of Europe, but the principle difference was that the pro side ran an upbeat and positive campaign that argued strongly for the benefits of membership and outlined clearly what they were.
    It still amazes me that in 2016 the remain campaign ran such a short sighted campaign filled with negatives instead of being up front about the real benefits of EU membership and campaigning positively for staying in and reforming the EU.

  • Peter Martin 20th Feb '18 - 10:03pm


    French unemployment rose in the late 70’s as Keynesian economics was replaced by more neoliberal /ordoliberal monetarist economics. France also then started to try to align its currency with the DM which required ever tightening monetary policy.

    A couple of relevant references:



  • Peter Martin 20th Feb '18 - 10:09pm

    @ Michael BG

    “As a liberal I am an optimist….”

    You’d have to be to contemplate that the EU would ever reform itself along the lines you suggest. It’s not the way it is without reason. Arnold Kiel strikes me as very much in line with the voice of the EU on this blog. Have you asked him what German voters might think of your proposals?

  • @Michael BG I fear that the Euro currency cannot be allowed to failed. As we were clear we would not join the focus switched to those using it and those working for convergence as the were required to do as post Maastricht members.
    The EU has shown that it is prepared to change its rules only if it suits its agenda. When the Euro became a physical currency the criteria had to be amended to ensure France and Germany could actually make the move. As the architects of the scheme it had to happen but they did not meet the criteria to join.
    It is true that the EU and its previous incarnations have achieved much but this is lost in the push to a US of Europe. I think pressure is building within the EU and the present rise of nationalist elements in some countries is a major concern. Unfortunately I’m not convinced the EU recognizes the need to reform or adapt the present plans.

  • Katharine I would welcome clearer signs of change and challenge across the EU through negotiations. When I put I my earlier comment about waiting for policies I think I should have been clearer in saying that I was looking to the LibDems to come forward with options for reform of EU amongst wider policies about housing,employment, NHS etc.
    I agree that Nick Clegg comment was not helpful to the debate by implying things in EU would be the same.

  • @ JoeB

    I have looked at the BNP Paribas report you link to and it seems to be arguing that French unemployment is not mainly structural because of problems estimating structural unemployment, the assumption that when productivity falls the high unemployment rate is structural (they state this “is not necessarily the case” (p 2 col 1). They also state that if unemployment has been high for a long time it is difficult to estimate the amount of it which is cyclical. They even say that if the government stimulates the economy long-term structural unemployment can be reduced because “companies will have greater incentive to recruit the long-term unemployed and give them new skills, making people who were unemployable in bad economic times employable again (p 2 col 2). They even state that we should expect to see “inflationary pressure arising at a higher level of unemployment than in the past … This is not what we are currently seeing … in France.”

    My conclusion is therefore that this estimate for structural employment in France must be too high.

    I accept that cutting taxes as a method to deal with structural unemployment is doomed to failure. However the government spending money can help depending on what the government spends the money on – training the structural unemployed to do other roles or employing them directly or regional support to provide the correct types of roles where the unemployed are or even according to BNP Paribas report, you link to, by providing long-term stimulus.

    @ Peter Martin

    The financial system in the Euro zone as you know is based on what you call “neoliberal / ordoliberal monetarist economics”. We, I think, both believe that this will doom the Euro to failure. Therefore if EU politicians want the Euro to succeed they will have to move away from neoliberal / ordoliberal monetarist economics. The German people will need to be persuaded that if they want the Euro to succeed they will have to treat every member of the Euro zone as they treated the former East Germany.

  • Peter Martin 21st Feb '18 - 8:21am

    @ Michael BG,

    I agree that the integration of the EU does require everyone to think of all their fellow citizens in the EU as compatriots. At least the same sense that we, in the UK think of Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish people as fellow citizens. It doesn’t mean that we have to merge all National identities into one. We can still have separate national football teams and separate entries in the Eurovision song contest, but it does mean that taxes will have to be raised according to ability to pay and spent according to a need for it to be spent.

    “…….cutting taxes as a method to deal with structural unemployment is doomed to failure”

    I wouldn’t agree with this. Of course it depends on what taxes. VAT has steadily crept up from 8.5% to its current level of 20%. It should be reduced to 15% IMO as stimulus measure. It may well even raise more revenue as the economy picks up – but, of course, that isn’t the right way to think about it!

    Similarly, a reduction in the rate of income tax could help too. Whether it’s more spending or less taxation has to be a political decision.

  • @ Peter Martin

    It was not my intention to imply that treating other countries like the former East Germany meant uniting them all into one country I meant in terms of fiscal transfers. And so exactly like the countries of the UK as you say.

    While I accept what the BNP Paribas report states about an economic stimulus. They emphasis it has to be long-term and I think it is difficult to cut taxes year in and year out. And so my conclusion – cutting taxes to deal with structural unemployment is doomed to failure. This of course does not apply to cyclical unemployment. Unless there is a downturn in the economy (say economic growth rate below1%) I would not cut taxes just to stimulate the economy. When economic growth is above 1% I think government spending if targeted into the right areas is better and if in the correct areas might be less inflationary.

  • Peter Hirst 21st Feb '18 - 3:14pm

    Unfortunately, they will not be sufficient to gain a sizeable majority to reverse the decision. Perhaps sufficient voters are still weighing up whether they made the wrong decision. My own view is that we should make more of the fact that as a nation we need eu migrants to give our economy the capacity to increase our standard of living. We will never know if we don’t get an outcome referendum.

  • @ Peter Hirst

    You don’t state why you think my proposals would not change the vote of enough people.

    While I recognise that having more workers would be a way to increase the GDP of the UK it will not necessary increase everyone’s standard of living. A better way to increase GDP would be for British businesses to invest in their businesses and their employees and so increase their productivity and then this increased productivity can be shared between the owners and the workers to increase their standards of living.

    According to Willie Rennie there was “a mega opinion poll after the referendum (which) found that one third of Leave voters chose to back Brexit as they saw it ‘offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders’”. I hope that my proposals for reforming the EU would in the short term give the government the opportunity to reduce the number of migrants from the EU and in the long term reduce the number of people from the EU wanting to come to the UK. And these reductions would get enough of these third of Leave voters to change their vote to give victory to the stay in the EU side.

  • Peter Martin 21st Feb '18 - 10:52pm

    @ Joe B @ Michael BG,

    I don’t agree we can clearly distinguish between cyclical and so-called structural unemployment. The latter is said to arise when there are enough jobs available overall to match the total pool of unemployment but that there are mismatches between the skills demanded and the skills supplied. Taken to its logical conclusion nearly all unemployment can be said to be structural. Anyone with a high level of nursing or medical skills can nearly always find employment , for example!

    Changes in the composition of industry create job losses in declining sectors and new job opportunities in emerging sectors.

    Changes in technology are also considered to have structural impacts in the sense that new skills become relevant while old skills cease to be in demand by firms. All of these disruptions to the pattern of employment can take time to resolve. It is the changing pattern of required skills, the changing location of jobs and the extended time taken to resolve the resulting demand and supply imbalances that defines the concept of structural unemployment.

    However, there are a couple of other considerations.

    The concept of a skills shortage is a relative concept. The notion of structural unemployment arising from “skills mismatch” can also be seen to be an unwillingness of firms to offer jobs , perhaps with corresponding training opportunities, to unemployed workers who may lack the usual qualifications and experience. When the labour market is tight, firms can’t afford to be too picky! When it is loose, they can.

    The willingness of firms to offer training varies with economic activity. This means that the concept of structural unemployment is difficult to distinguish from any other category of unemployment which we define, and which is usually related to a lack of aggregate demand in the economy.

    Having said all this, we cannot deny that the best qualification for any job is the ability to hold down an existing job. Employers are more likely to offer retraining to workers, especially young workers, with a good employment record. It is also true that extended periods of unemployment can lead to unemployability if that unemployment also leads to such a loss of self esteem that it induces a tendency towards drug and alcohol abuse or even criminality.

  • @ Peter Martin
    “I don’t agree we can clearly distinguish between cyclical and so-called structural unemployment”.

    That was what the BNP Paribas report Joe provided the link for was saying. It also talked of employers giving their new workers “new skills, making people … employable again”. However, they pointed out that for employers to do this the stimulus has to be sustained over a long period of time. I agree.

    Generally employers don’t like employing the long-termed unemployed, however as more people are employed and the demand for labour is still not met those who have been unemployed long-term will be considered by employers who have little choice (when it is no longer a buyers’ market for labour).

  • We always shy away from pushing for reform of the EEC.
    In the {in]famous Orange Book, one Nick Clegg,M.E.P., advocated that ” much of regional, agricultural and social policy should be reallocated back to national governments”
    Ideally, any such changes would apply to all members states rather than result in an abundance of cherry picking opt outs

  • Teresa Wilson 26th Feb '18 - 7:16pm

    There is one major problem with the Michael Berwick-Gooding’s article. People did not for the most part vote leave in 2016 after having been told they would be worse off outside the EU and deciding it was a reasonable price to pay for whatever they hoped to get out of Brexit. They voted leave having heard the warnings and dismissing them as scaremongering.

    They were told that we would make advantageous trade deals that would be far better than those the EU had already negotiated AND that the EU would give us a deal that would replicate all the benefits of membership without the costs.

    They were told that the country would recoup £350 million out of the £250 million paid weekly to the EU and spend it on the NHS, whilst at the same time continuing to honour the £100 million or so weekly EU grants to farmers et al.

    They were told that economic experts like the governor of the Bank of England actually know nothing about finance.

    They were told that the EU routinely paid firms like Dyson to relocate to eastern Europe whilst we were member, but that firms like Nissan who had built factories in this country to access the single market would not do anything similar once we left.

    They were told major institutions like the European Medicines Agency could stay in London.

    They were told we could take back control of our borders, but that we wouldn’t need one in Ireland. At all. And even if we did it wouldn’t affect the GFA.

    I suspect that by the time we get around to having a referendum on the deal most leave voters will have realised that some, if not all, of these promises are not going to be realised.

  • Alan Whitfield 18th Mar '18 - 1:21am

    The result of the referendum cannot be laid at the feet of the Liberals. Successive governments have continually covered up the European project. From Macmillan to Cameron all UK PMs have denied that the formation of a superstate was the ultimate aim.
    We were sold a Common Market by Macmillan and when Heath eventually signed up , the Werner Report was all ready published and worrying the civil service (PRO /FCO 30 / 789 )
    Every Government since has given away a little more of our sovereignty, whilst denying that the EU was creating a superstate.
    The EU has its own government and civil service, Preeminent Judicial system, currency, bank, flag, anthem and President . It is also in the process of creating its own army.
    Our country was being run not from Westminster but from Brussels.
    How many times were we promised a referendum if there was to be any major transfer of sovereignty, but apparently it was never anything serious that we were signing over.
    The country had been lied to far too often .
    But never by a Liberal Prime Minister.

  • Arnold Kiel 30th Mar '18 - 9:10am

    Michael BG,

    your proposals are totally wrong and impossible to implement, because they would not only require fundamental EU treaty-change, but would also massively intervene in the constitutional principles of every single member state. Specifically:

    ad i) you would abolish FOM precisely where it is most beneficial, thereby disabling a key mechanism for dealing with “economic drivers for economic migration”.

    ad ii) Full employment cannot be ordered or bought by politicians; just hyperinflation and state-insolvency.

    ad iii) More of a transfer-union? How about the UK-rebate? How could 20 out of 28 PMs in the EU supporting that hope for re-election?

    ad iiii) Abolishing EU legislation in reserved matters would turn the EU’s founding principle upside down, and would mean nothing less than its abolishment. Brussels would become purely a source of proposals, and consequently soon cease to operate, as agreement in all 28 member parliaments would never occur. Totally inconsistent with your proposal iii) BTW.

  • @ Arnold Kiel

    i) My proposal does not abolish Freedom of Movement it just gives every country the ability to put in place restrictions on people coming from countries whose economy is 20% lower than theirs. I don’t believe it is in the interests of poorer countries for their best people to leave their country. The EU in the past allowed countries to restrict the free movement of people from certain countries so it doesn’t have a principle against temporary restrictions.
    ii) History proves you wrong. Most western countries had full employment in the 1950’s and 1960’s. However, perhaps my enthusiasm for full employment got the better of me and I should have advocated that the European Central Bank be given the responsibility to manage the monetary supply to achieve full employment (defined as only 3% unemployed) in 20% of the countries in the Euro zone (which rounds up to 4 countries). Also instead of requesting the abolition of the Stability and Growth Pact I should have advocating reforming it to increase the National Debt limit to 90% and the deficit limit to 40% of GNP. (As I think it is wrong for the EU to impose Ordoliberal economics on member states it would be wrong for it to impose Keynesian economics on them instead, which might be what my original proposal did.)
    iii) In 2015 we contributed 15.35% to the EU budget. So even by 2022-23 the budget will have a shortfall of 7.68% which I think should be made up. The largest contributors excluding us are Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Sweden and Poland. The total budget of the EU is only about 1% of GNI. Inflation is about 2%. If we stayed and increased the budget by 5% above inflation this would be 7% = 0.7% of EU GNI. If we left they would need to increase their contributions by 9.68% just to continue EU funding as its current level. Therefore supporting this reform and keeping the UK in the EU would benefit all member countries and reduce the amount they will need to pay to just stand still. And so would make it easier to get re-elected!
    iv) I am not proposing abolishing EU legislation in any way. All I am proposing is where the Council of the European Union has a role in EU legislation instead of each national minister just voting how their government wishes, they can only vote how their national parliament wishes. An increase in democracy and accountability. I think a liberal thing.

  • Therefore I don’t think it would be impossible to convince the other 27 countries it would be in their own interests to agree these reforms even if not my original ones. The increasing of the EU budget and spending the extra money in the poorer regions should be especially popular (please see map for where these regions are http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/images/2/2e/Gross_domestic_product_%28GDP%29_per_inhabitant_in_purchasing_power_standards_%28PPS%29_in_relation_to_the_EU-28_average%2C_by_NUTS_2_regions%2C_2015_%28%25_of_the_EU-28_average%2C_EU-28_%3D_100%29_MAP_RYB17.png).

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