What now for the Pro-EU Party?

Traditionally, at this point after a vote, Politicians start to mutter comments about “The will of the people”

I’m not going to.

Manifestly, the result of the EU referendum is not to our taste. However, I do not believe that it is to the taste of the voting public either – or at least, it won’t be once they’ve tasted the actual medicine that the Brexit campaign have prescribed.

The public have, throughout the EU referendum campaign, been systematically lied to, deceived and manipulated by the Brexit campaign. The warnings of the Remain campaign on the impact of leaving the EU were dismissed as “Project Fear” – and are already being proven horribly right, as the value of Sterling tumbles and the bleak reality of the economics of Brexit become apparent.


What we – as the only truly pro-EU party in the UK – must do now is to provide the public with opportunity to step back from the brink of Brexit. Once the British public see what the true consequences of the Brexit vote are, they’ll realise that they were sold a fantasy, and want a way back to a realistic, prosperous future.

As Liberals, we must provide that way back. Because nobody else will. Because nobody else *can*. And because somebody *must*.

* Alisdair Calder McGregor was Candidate for Calder Valley in 2015 and is a member of the party's Federal Policy Committee

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28 Comments

  • No.

    No, no, no.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Jun '16 - 11:10am

    Bad idea. Last thing the UK needs right now is more instability with people refusing to accept the brexit vote.

  • Mark Smulian 24th Jun '16 - 11:19am

    Quite right Alisdair. 48% of the country backed ‘remain’ and still need a party that can represent them and the Lib Dems can appeal to at least some of those. Some people seem to be behaving as though 100% of the population voted ‘leave’.

  • Roger Billins 24th Jun '16 - 11:22am

    I disagree-we can’t ignore this-to do so would be disastrous but what we can do is to campaign for the closest possible ties with our European neighbours short of membership. We must also work closely with our progressive friends in Labour, SNP, PC and the Greens together with liberal Tories to resist the attack on civil liberties, immigrants and the Green Agenda that will be unleashed by a Gove/Johnson government

  • We have to re-learn the lessons of the past, Liberals are internationalists not blind supporters of one particular form of International institution. We oppose the abuse of entrenched power by, all including international agencies, and above all we support the right of every person to achieve the best from their lives. Sadly many of us lost sight of that over the years.

    That one answer “I suspect it will be quite similar to what it is now,” sums up that view, but it was the final nail in the coffin for most of our MEPs in 2014. It should never be the answer to any question for any liberal, except possibly about his/her own marriage.

  • Alasdair Brooks 24th Jun '16 - 11:34am

    Long time lurker, first time poster, etc., etc.

    I joined (technically rejoined) the Liberal Democrats this morning in utter despair at the referendum result, hoping in part that by doing so I could make some small practical gesture of support in favour of liberal cosmopolitan internationalism.

    But stepping back from Brexit? How precisely? I’m no great fan of referendums as a means of developing public policy, but attempting to overturn last night’s result would clearly be an attempt to override a very real public mandate gained via a democratic exercise with generally high turn out. And let’s be brutally frank here… as a party we’re at a low ebb in the Commons, any attempt to use our influence in the upper house and stall in the Lords can be overcome via the Parliament Acts (never mind the potential hypocrisy of a party committed to Lords reform using the unelected upper chamber to stall a Commons vote over a national referendum result), and national media unfortunately seem to consider our current party leader to be a borderline irrelevancy.

    Rebuilding a genuine Liberal Democrat voice within the UK body politic – or what’s left of the UK body politic after all the implications of this result play through – is going to take years, and likely won’t be done in the lifetime of the present parliament. Do I think it’s reasonable to actively campaign for the support of disillusioned Remain voters on the basis of the staunch LibDem support for Europe? Yes. Would I support campaigning to return the UK to the EU in the future when the dust has eventually settled? Yes. Do I think that there is anything practical we can do to override the referendum result in the immediate term? No?

    That’s not an endorsement of Leave. That’s not an endorsement of Leave tactics and/or claims. That’s not a statement of complacency. It’s merely a brutally realistic assessment of where we are this morning.

    The United Kingdom is leaving the EU. Scotland might well be leaving the UK. Northern Ireland will likely come under significant pressure to hold its own referendum on its own status. We’re living in a new world this morning, and we have to come to terms with that.

  • 48% of the population have nowhere else to go. The LibDems have been the only pro-EU party and must remain the only pro-EU party.

  • Whether the electorate regrets its decision or not the electorate has decided. If we have a democratic system were the people decide but we only accept the result if we like it, then we don’t have a democratic system were the people decide.

    Yes they have been “systematically lied to, deceived and manipulated” and the leaders of the Brexit campaign have failed the electorate with their dishonesty. But the electorate have also failed themselves; when you have the Bank of England, the Treasury, the OECD, the IMF, the IFS on the one hand and “Einstein” Gove on the other, it’s not difficult to see who can be relied on.

  • If we try to ditch the result six hours after its declaration, we’d better become the Liberals. Because the “Democrat” word won’t apply any longer!

    There is still a lot to play for. The Tory leadership election is liable to be Boris up against it trying to defend a campaign which by then has demonstrably done Britain a great deal of harm, versus a concilator (Theresa May?) promising to go for the Norway or EEA option (continued access to the single market, albeit at a price) version of Brexit. We could make common cause with others, including the Ken Clarke wing of the Tory Party, to stop Boris and start a Brexit-to-EEA process. That would merely mitigate the disaster, but it would be a lot less bad than full-blown Brexit.

  • Alfred Motspur 24th Jun '16 - 11:47am

    I don’t see the problem with the Liberal Democrats favouring – whilst not explicitly campaigning for – the UK’s membership of the European Union.

    As aforementioned, 48% of the country voted Leave. ‘Leave’ does not represent London, nor Scotland, nor Northern Ireland – and in London, there have been passionate renewed calls for Scotland-style devolution or independence following the vote. This goes right to the heart of Liberal Democrat values regarding localism. Like the SNP increased in support after the Scottish Referendum despite the failure of their campaign, so too can the Liberal Democrats do well following this referendum because opinions may shift as we uncover the full ramifications of Brexit – as was mentioned in the article. Indeed, in Greenland, after the vote to leave the EU in 1982 (which was 53% versus 47%), the general election the year afterwards was won by broadly-pro-EU liberal party Atassut with a 5% increase in vote share.

    In short, it seems to me at first impressions as though the demands for devolution in Remain areas and the closeness of the results mean that the Liberal Democrats have lots to gain and little to lose by continuing to favour the UK’s membership of the EU.

    Of course, “favouring” is not the same as “campaigning for” or “emphasising the belief in” – and there should be never be a commitment to rejoining the EU unless there is a substantial change in opinion polls, like the SNP have argued, and only a certain amount of time after Brexit. The Lib Dems could look to Norway’s politicians.

  • I heard so many saying I voted Leave but I expect Remain to win. What are they thinking today?

  • Yes we are internationalist. Yes we will always advocate nations collaborating to work for a peaceful, sustainable and economically equitable world. But to turn around now and say ‘well you’ve all had your fun now listen to teacher’ will get the response it deserves.

    The game may change as the exit negotiations progress. Elections or major events may open up room for manoeuvre, but any message from us now that sounds at all like ‘listen thickos’ will likely mean that we won’t be a part of it.

  • Dal
    I think the British electorate was at one time considered to be mature, of course they didn’t have referenda in those days. The issues are complex with no quick fixes.

  • Firstly welcome to Alaisdair Brooks.

    I think we’re missing the point in trying to get straight back into the EU. Our values are internationalist – but how far does the EU match our values? We’ve debated this ad infinitum over the past few months and there are fundamental issues with the EU, even for those like me who ended up as firm remainers.

    If we go back to our values – begin to form alliances, see where the wave of discontent about the EU that Britain has unleashed is going – then we might be in a position to put a far stronger proposition to the British people, almost certainly involving fewer countries, more flexibility, less political overtones and more humility. Can any such grouping form? I don’t know. But I think casting a vision for EU v2.0 is a far better proposition than calling for another referendum to get back into the existing EU.

  • We should continue to be The Party of Federalism & we should stand ready to call for a third Referendum if public opinion shifts significantly. We need to “claim” the 48% in the way The SNP claimed the 45%.

  • Bill le Breton 24th Jun '16 - 12:56pm

    We should not be saying that this is Farage’s vision of Britain. We should be saying that there is a majority – a large one – in the country and in the House of Commons for a reformed Europe – and that they way to achieve this is for Britain to be a member of the EEA.

    That is a more Liberal position than being a castrated member of an EU that won’t reform, and which we were the moment Cameron failed to get meaningful reform from within.

    This way we can lead other sceptic members of the EU into the EEA, leaving the EU for those that want a fast track to a political union with a single currency.

    I have been warning here for weeks now that Remain with its appalling campaign would lose and that the Lib dems could build a position for just this situation as an advocate of EEA participation.

    We are at present a member of the EEA. Some interpretations of Lisbon suggest that we cannot leave the EU without having to re-apply as a member of EEA. Even if that is so, it is in every countries’ interest for the UK to be a part of the EEA.

  • Richard Cripps 24th Jun '16 - 1:10pm

    I voted “Remain” because I believe “stronger together”. However, I wonder if the voting pattern was in any way affected by the fact that UKIP voters (as with Lib Dems and Greens to a lesser extent) at the last GE were effectively disenfranchised by our broken parliamentary election system and there was a bit of “at last our votes count” feeling from that section of the population. If their voice had been heard last year (however much I disagree with it) maybe that would have helped in getting a “Remain” vote this time. Also, there is (where I live anyway) still a feeling that politicians and “experts” don’t have the same experiences as the majority of the population and so took the opportunity to express that view. Just a few thoughts

  • Alasdair Brooks 24th Jun '16 - 1:16pm

    I’ve just realised that sloppy punctuation led to an unintended note of ambiguity in that despairing morning screed.

    One of those rhetorical flourishes should have read… ‘Do I think that there is anything practical we can do to override the referendum result in the immediate term? No.’ … ending with a full stop rather than ending with a question mark.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 24th Jun '16 - 1:41pm

    @Paul & Chris

    Claiming the 48% will not be as easy as claiming the 45% was for the SNP because every establishment party favoured remain.

    The Tories are divided but the 48% would have to be split with labour, the SNP and the greens with UKIP claiming the 52% and the Tories split.

  • Alisdair McGregor 24th Jun '16 - 1:51pm

    I am willing to bet that buyers remorse on the result will kick in very soon.

    With the true consequences of Brexit rapidly becoming apparent – and far worse than even what the Remain campaign warned about – I do believe that it is possible to reverse course if we do so quickly.

  • Kevin colwill 24th Jun '16 - 2:07pm

    The world has changed. There is absolutely no going back in the short or medium term and in the long run we’re all dead.
    The challenge is to make Liberalism relevant in a political landscape increasingly dominated by the populist right.

  • The pound is currently 1.24 euros – larger than the rate of 2007 when the pound crashed in a financial crisis unforeseen by any of those economic ‘experts’ and much the same rate as most of time since 2008. Over the Winter it stood at 1.4 euros during yet another Euro crisis that engendered money-printing QE by the ECB.

    Most of the public don’t believe in the establishment anymore – and for good reason. If I ever find an economist who predicted the recent oil price slump (hint: there aren’t any) then I’ll certainly listen to him/her.

    As liberals you should realise that folk are indeed pro-Europe – just not pro-EU. We need a better deal than to be run by faceless men worshipping a many-faced god.

  • Conor McGovern 24th Jun '16 - 3:55pm

    Our party need to accept the result – Liberal DEMOCRATS, anyone? – and look at why people voted to leave: for many it was as much a revolt against the Big Money austerity drive as against a distant, unaccountable, corrupt Big State holding Europe down. We could be looking for new ways to forge a liberal, decentralised Europe with social justice at its core, but it’s no surprise we’ve still got EU centrists from Blair to Clegg to Farron rejecting the will of the majority.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jun '16 - 4:31pm

    A pro European and international harmony party need not be slavishly pro EU.

    I voted to Remain.The public by a significant majority in most regions voted to Leave.

    I am a Liberal Democrat.

    I suspect some of the advocates of not accepting this result ,or that Brexit is going ahead , are those who like the name Liberal and think they above any know what that is , yet have never liked the word Democrat in our name !

  • “The warnings of the Remain campaign on the impact of leaving the EU were dismissed as ‘Project Fear’ – and are already being proven horribly right, as the value of Sterling tumbles and the bleak reality of the economics of Brexit become apparent.”

    No!! You can’t judge what’s going to happen to the economy on a few hours worth of market fluctuations. To repeat the analogy I made the other day: that’s like passing judgment on global warming based on a quick look out the window at what the weather is doing.

    As a matter of fact, the pound has already recovered about half of its early losses, and the FTSE has recovered about two thirds of its. In fact the FTSE is at one of the highest points it has been all year.

    EU Exit may or may not have bad economic consequences – but we certainly won’t be able to tell for a long while yet.

    Just to make everyone even more depressed: you can bet your life that Farage, canny investor that he is, has made a small fortune from today’s markets. In fact, when it was put to him on the news the other day that a Leave vote would cause the pound to tumble, he just laughed and said that that was exactly what he planned to do.

  • To see a Liberal *Democrat* argue for subverting the democratic will of the people disturbs me.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jun '16 - 9:44am

    Brexit is such a disaster I’m actually beginning to think maybe a second referendum would be democratic.

    But if people really want to leave then we must.

    I think the tone matters on these things. We can’t say we won’t accept it, but maybe we can say “are you sure?”

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