Why didn’t remain politicians connect?

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What did the 2016 Remain campaign and the 2019 Revoke Article 50 position adopted by the Lib Dems teach us?

– That policies must engage people, not patronise them.

Let me explain.

Most analyses agree that Brexit will negatively impact the more deprived communities the hardest.

So the question being asked by so many people is this: why on earth did Cornwall, one the UK’s most deprived regions which receives so much funding from the EU, and which appears to have a lot to lose and little to gain, vote for Brexit?

The Leave message during the referendum may have been based on misinformation and lies but it was packaged as a message of hope for improvement and change. This was a stark contrast to the Remain campaign which consisted merely of warnings, hence it being dubbed ‘Project fear.’

Aside from offering ridiculously simple solutions to complicated problems, what do the slogans ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ have in common?

They sound proactive – they invite people to be part of the effort – and they are vague enough to allow people to project their own individual meanings onto them.

So although people who voted to Leave will sincerely insist that they knew what they were voting for, everyone’s perceptions and beliefs as to what Brexit actually meant are as diverse as the individuals voting.

A high profile example is Michael Gove and Boris Johnson voting respectively for and against Theresa Mays’ Brexit deal – even the two leaders of the Leave campaign couldn’t agree with each other what Brexit objectively meant.

During the 2019 general election we were campaigning in North Cornwall, which is a constituency with particularly high levels of deprivation.

Our team were speaking to over a thousand people a month. The complaints on the doorstep were less dogmatic opposition to the EU and more anger that politicians were not addressing the issues that massively affect their lives.

We repeatedly had discussions with people who were having to choose between eating or heating, and we met teachers who were worrying about the children turning up to school with empty stomachs.

Our largest town is Bodmin, where in some wards 40% of children are living in poverty. The majority of them have at least one parent in full time work.

Unemployment levels are low in Cornwall but poverty levels are high. This is because over 40% of people earn less than the living wage.

In-work poverty is a blight across North Cornwall. It makes people vulnerable to the desperate cycle of credit card debt or payday loan companies. People are working hard, they’re working long hours, but they’re still having to rely on food banks to feed their children.

Living in poverty puts strains on family relationships, saps the joy from life, and contributes towards our growing mental health crisis.

During this campaign we also met people who had considered or attempted suicide and were struggling to access the mental heath care they desperately needed. The causes of poor mental health are multifactorial, but struggling to make ends meet is recognised as a significant contributing factor.

Education is one route out of poverty, but if you’re attending school hungry you’re clearly not going to achieve your educational potential.

To stack the odds further against these children, Cornish schools receive significantly less funding per pupil than the national average. University isn’t for everyone, but it’s sobering to consider that your parents’ wealth, rather than your intelligence, is the more accurate indicator as to whether you will attend university.

Whether it is furthering your education or simply securing a job that pays the living wage, it is this lack of opportunity that causes a deep-seated frustration and resentment.

People in poverty don’t feel they have control of the direction that their own lives are taking.

Why didn’t Lib Dems and other remain politicians connect with people in deprived, Brexit-voting regions?

Many people who voted Leave were responding to the empowering message of ‘Take Back Control’, so the ‘Revoke Article 50’ position adopted by the Lib Dems made them feel disempowered, dismissed and that they couldn’t be trusted with any control or influence.

Revoking without a second referendum felt patronising and benevolent, telling them that despite voting for some sort of control they had got it wrong.

You can rationally explain to people that for every pound Cornwall puts into the EU we get £9 back, but if you go to food banks it probably doesn’t bother you that the EU helped build the Eden Project.

You can warn people they will lose their ability to work visa-free in 27 other EU countries, but if you’re struggling to find work that isn’t a zero hours contract in your own country, losing the opportunities to work abroad is simply an academic concern.

The benefits of EU membership feel intangible to many who are left behind.

During the EU referendum the Remain campaign drove Cornish voters to Leave by not understanding their desperation. This mistake was repeated in the 2019 general election.

The way to improve lives in Cornwall and other Brexit-voting areas is not to leave the EU, but for politicians and central government to genuinely care about improving people’s life chances and opportunities. The Lib Dems need to meet people at their point of need.

The question that urgently needs to be addressed is why are so many people feeling disenfranchised, unrepresented and left behind, with little control over their own destiny?

However Brexit pans out, one thing is for sure: politics cannot continue as normal or this powder keg of frustration and anger will manifest itself at the next opportunity.

Leaving the EU will not resolve this issue. Brexit is the wrong answer to the right question.

* Danny Chambers is a veterinary surgeon and writer, and was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North Cornwall in the 2019 General Election.

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60 Comments

  • Life is getting worse for a considerable number of the UK’s population ( to be fair the same can be said for much of the West). The political class has long been in denial about this (at best) or has attempted to blame others for their failures ( the worst of all possible options), or ignores the problem and obsesses about policies that impact the majority in no discernable way ( it merely irritates them and makes them ask why do you not care about me as much as you care about them). The problem with blaming others is although your slogans work and you get elected the absence of sunlit uplands, unicorns and other mythical creatures will leave the masses seething. What will they do then, double down on blame; us against the world. Well that is very likely but it won’t make people better off and a seething country can lead to many dangerous and unintended disasters, which can’t be voted away or be deflected by a couple of tweets or a comment in the DailyMail. The solution, well that is easy give people hope and improve their lives; implementing that solution well that is the hard part.

  • James Belchamber 10th Feb '20 - 10:42am

    There was a specific and conscious decision, by both the leadership and the membership, to try and grow our support amongst Remain supporters that agreed with us rather than persuade Leave supporters that didn’t. The message wasn’t so much “vote for us because you’re wrong” as “vote for us if you agree with us”, and of course that had (deliberately) nothing to offer people who were driven by Leave.

    I suspect if we decided to go all Lib Dem and triangulate between Leave and Remain there would be many more articles in LDV about why we should have picked a side (and why we’re still struggling to grow our membership, and find a single issue we’re distinctive on).

  • The answer is pretty simple. Nationalism is not a dirty word for a lot of people. They like their nation states and do not see themselves or want to see themselves as part of the European family. A lot of Pro EU advocates are so convinced of the rightness of their views they can’t even contemplate the possibility that a lot of people disagree with and don’t want the world they want. The EU was foisted on Britain without consent and in the full knowledge that it if consent had been sought it would not have been granted. This is why earlier referendums were avoided. Brexit did not happen because of austerity, it happened because the EU is not a popular cause in Britain and because a lot people are not convinced the internationalist view of the world is a good thing. It is less to do with economics than nationhood. Every time, the pro EU camp told people they couldn’t leave or were stuck in the past, that their lives were grim or were doomed or nasty another nail went in the coffin. I love cities, but go out in to the suburbs or countryside and you will see neat gardens, new cars, lower levels of crime, less litter, fewer homeless people and so on. It was the countryside and suburbs that voted to leave the EU. Stable, relatively prosperous, middle England. A lot of people do not aspire to be urban or to emulate the “success of London”. When they visit cities they don’t see vibrant cosmopolitan wonderlands. They see overcrowded, scruffy dumps. Personally, I like cities more than suburbs, but I can see why others don’t.

  • Brian Edmonds 10th Feb '20 - 12:28pm

    The ‘Revoke’ policy did not patronise Remainers, it simply disagreed with them – what part of ‘we want to stay in the EU’ was anything other than a simple statement of the views of our party members? Of course it was poorly defended by our leaders, but that failure was only one aspect of a lacklustre and misguided campaign, as argued at length elsewhere. In the end it comes back to the salient fact of British electoral life: thoughtful and measured political argument is no match for a loveable rogue and a three-word slogan. For evidence of this sorry truth, look no further than any TV or radio vox pop – I give you the middle-aged male on Radio 4 last week who voted to leave because he believed that the EU had taken away the sixpence in his pocket and replaced it with two and a half new pence.
    At this level of discourse, rational debate has no currency – mindless populism is all too easily hijacked by those who would rule by personal fiat. Things are falling apart, and the centre isn’t holding. What we are learning is that the endgame may not be anarchy, but a resurgence of authoritarianism.

  • Martin Boffey 10th Feb '20 - 12:33pm

    Glenn – Very good points. However, I think it is a little simplistic to elide being internationalist and being pro-EU. It could be argued that the EU is not an internationalist endeavour, or at the very least one of limited scope. If, like most of the developing world and even half of the OECD you are outside the EU, in many ways the EU looks like a protectionist members club.

    You don’t have to be pro-EU to be an internationalist.

  • While I have sympathy with people whose lives seem to be so miserable and without hope, it does surprise me why the party that has been in power for so long in the UK continually fails to be punished in the polls for their part in the position these people find themselves in. I suppose now we are out of the EU it might focus minds on their future decisions.

  • Paul Barker 10th Feb '20 - 1:38pm

    Remain failed for a number of fairly obvious reasons :
    We were divided across 5 different Parties (GB) each of them claiming to be the Real Remainers.
    After Farage threw in the towel Leave Voters only had one choice – Tory.
    Both Remain & Leave Voters were sick of the struggle & just wanted it to go away.
    Remain had been campaigning for 3 Years, Leave for 47.

  • Peter Watson 10th Feb '20 - 1:38pm

    I think the title of the article is exactly right: “Why didn’t remain politicians connect?”
    It was a failing of the Remain campaign as a whole, not just the Lib Dems (who admittedly have exemplified the problem though!).
    I also agree with the author that the biggest problem was having a strategy that was all about “Project Fear” and nothing else. I can see why it looked like a good idea: when push comes to shove people would probably back the status quo so scaring the bejeesus out of them could only help. But it soon became apparent that it was not working for a number of reasons: decades of indifference/antipathy towards the EU; anti-EU elements in the media; Gove was right that people were getting a bit tired of experts; prominent Remainers did not have a “common touch” (with perhaps the honourable exception of Tim Farron!); the way that the message was pitched made Remainers look like they were unpatriotically belittling the UK; Remainers appeared to be personally abusing Brexiters on the grounds of age, education and racism; etc.
    There was a distinct absence of a positive message about all the benefits of EU membership, and even on this site it looked like Lib Dems were preoccupied by benefits like the Erasmus scheme, hardly something most voters are likely to care about.
    Personally, having started off as an instinctive Remainer I had to make myself bother to vote by the time the Referendum came round as the impression given by the Remain campaign was that staying in the EU was just the lesser of two evils!
    But the most infuriating thing is that none of this is “with the benefit of hindsight”. It was obvious and it was repeatedly pointed out, but the Remain campaign just kept sailing towards the iceberg without changing direction, even after the 2016 result which should have prompted some sort of change of tack.

  • Daniel Walker 10th Feb '20 - 1:38pm

    @Martin Boffey “EU looks like a protectionist members club”

    Except it’s not very protectionist, indeed it is quite open, so it would be a mistake to think that.

  • Peter Watson 10th Feb '20 - 1:40pm

    @James Belchamber “There was a specific and conscious decision, by both the leadership and the membership, to try and grow our support amongst Remain supporters that agreed with us rather than persuade Leave supporters that didn’t.”
    Indeed.
    It was infuriating that the “Bollocks to Brexit” message seemed to be more about attracting voters from the 48% than it was about actually stopping Brexit!
    ( I seem to be infuriated a lot today! 🙂 )

  • Peter Watson 10th Feb ’20 – 1:38pm:
    Gove was right that people were getting a bit tired of experts;

    Not all experts; Gove did specify a subset…

    I think the people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying they know best and getting it consistently wrong.

    – Interview with Faisal Islam, Sky News, 3d. June 2016.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb '20 - 2:09pm

    James Belchamber

    There was a specific and conscious decision, by both the leadership and the membership, to try and grow our support amongst Remain supporters that agreed with us rather than persuade Leave supporters that didn’t.

    This was a disaster, and I said it would be, and tried here to persuade the party not to do this.

    Your suggestion that the alternative was “triangulate between Leave and Remain” is nonsense. By saying that you are pushing the idea that everyone is a fixed supporter of Leave or Remain as if that is the thing most people care about more than anything else in politics and they can’t be persuaded to think again. In that way, we were encouraging many of those who used to be our supporters, especially in places where we used to be winning well, such as North Cornwall to vote Conservative.

    In reality, before the referendum few people saw membership of the EU as the most important political issue, but having been asked to give their opinion many voted Leave because they are unhappy with the way our country has developed and thought voting Leave would show that and encourage changes to be made.

    In particular, the claim by those leading the Leave campaign that it would restore control to our country helped give the impression that all the problems we have had are due to the EU, and a more democratic and less business-controlled society would be given to us by EU.

    I.e. by us pushing the idea that all that counted in the general election was Leave/Remain we were encouraging people to do what many did: vote Conservative to oppose what the Conservatives stand for.

    What we needed to do was to do was show sympathy and understanding for poor people who voted Leave, but explain to them what the EU actually does and how it does it, and so to think again about whether leaving the EU will really help them. Especially as what the right-wing Conservatives who were pushing Leave wanted form it was the exact opposite of what poor people who voted Leave thought it would give us.

    By dismissing such people and not campaigning in a way that gave proper information about the EU and behaving in a way that assumed everyone must be fixed as Leave or Remain supporters, our party was behaving in a way that was exactly opposite what we are supposed to be about: “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

  • John Barrett 10th Feb '20 - 2:14pm

    Danny goes a long way towards answering the question he put, “Why didn’t Lib Dems and other remain politicians connect with people in deprived, Brexit-voting regions?” a few paragraphs later when he says, “Revoking without a second referendum felt patronising and benevolent, telling them that despite voting for some sort of control they had got it wrong.” and then details arguments that we used, such as, “You can warn people they will lose their ability to work visa-free in 27 other EU countries, but if you’re struggling to find work that isn’t a zero hours contract in your own country, losing the opportunities to work abroad is simply an academic concern.”

    We simply did not connect with the vast majority of people.

    This article sums up really well where it all went so wrong in terms of party activity and messaging in Brexit voting regions.

    However a very similar question could also be put in Remain voting area, such as Scotland (or cities), where we also failed to connect, despite the fact that Scotland clearly voted remain and that was clearly the party’s position.

    Someone else might have analysed the results, but I suspect we maybe did not much better (or maybe worse) in terms of vote share in Scotland than in the south west, despite returning 4 MPs north of the border.

    Reconnecting with the voters must be clear priority if we are ever to return the numbers at Westminster which will have any influence on future governments.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb '20 - 2:40pm

    Barry Lofty

    it does surprise me why the party that has been in power for so long in the UK continually fails to be punished in the polls for their part in the position these people find themselves in.

    In part because we, the Liberal Democrats, worked hard in the 2019 general election to persuade people who wanted to punish the Conservatives to do so by voting Conservative. We did absolutely nothing to point out how the Conservatives were doing the trick of blaming the EU for how our country has changed since 1979. So people really did think that leaving the EU would reverse what has been caused by privatisation and government spending cuts.

    Perhaps it does not help that what used to be called “Thatcherism” now gets called “Neoliberalism”, and I suspect many people now do think that means it is what we are all about. The Labour Party has also supported us in getting people to vote Conservative by pushing this idea. They love to get out the message that all of us Liberal Democrats were keen supporters of everything the 2010-15 Coalition did, so that is what the Liberal Democrat party stands for. The consequence of that is to strengthen the Conservative Party since its main effect has been for us to lose much of our support in seats where we were once the main opposition to the Conservatives.

    We have done absolutely nothing to deal with this either. We needed to make it clear that as a party whose MPs formed just one-sixth of the Coalition MPs in the only stable government that was possible (thanks to the electoral system that Labour supports), we did not have a major say in what it did. We were not in a position to be able to force the Conservatives to drop the main thing they stand for. So all we could really do is shift it just slightly in cases where the Conservatives themselves were fairly evenly divided, and get a few small things that weren’t in direct opposition to what the Conservatives stand for.

    But we didn’t make that clear in the 2015 general election, or the 2017 general election or the 2019 general election. So now, I think, with the Conservatives being seen as the true successor of the UKIP party, we are seen as the true successor of the pre-2016 Conservative Party.

    I am sorry to say those appointed at the top of our party who run its national image seem quite happy with that.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Feb '20 - 3:06pm

    Danny starts well by depicting the remain campaign as patronising but then spoils it by telling the Cornish voter that they get a lot of EU funding. They will look at you in respectful silence but it may cross their mind where the EU gets this funding from.
    It’s all too late but the remain campaign had me groaning in despair. Osborne in hi-vis and hard hat every night wagging his finger and saying this factory will close if you dare vote leave, Clegg who couldn’t think of a better vision of the future EU than ‘same as now’, C list celebs lining up to insult the voters.
    A straight forward win thrown away by self preening over confidence and then the remain camp has the cheek to blame the Russians, a number on the side of a bus, Cambridge whatever it was, the racist stupid voters. In short anything and everything but their own mistakes. No wonder this catastrophe has come to pass.
    There are only three politicians on the scene now who have any name recognition at all – Farage, Boris and Corbyn. What a state we are in.

  • David Evans 10th Feb '20 - 3:11pm

    It really does disappoint me how so many Lib Dems, especially those who choose to style themselves as Progressives, aspire to the highest of ideals and then make a total mess of them, and then try to rationalize it by saying what happened was all wrong and so on. Quite simply, most so called Progressives are disastrously bad at campaigning.

    We believe in Democracy as a means of controlling governmental power, but when we get into government make such a mess of things that we are almost destroyed in the subsequent election. We get another chance with Brexit, which gives us just a chance of redemption – and then squander that as well, allowing a quick election, with an ill thought out campaign, starting with an awful slogan, an extreme key policy, and ending with a defeated leader.

    Quite simply, our leaders were not prepared for either event and even worse, refused to alter course, even when the consequences of their actions became clear quite early in the endeavour.

    Vince came and spoke to us about Brexit about 18 months ago. He gave an earnest speech setting out why the EU did lots of good things and a few bad ones, but was on balance a clear good influence in the world. It needed our support, but when it came to what sort of support, things got a bit sketchy – campaigning was important, but what sort of campaigning was not clear, but it would be decided when the election/referendum came near. Until then carry on with the Street corner Pop Up campaigns with Better Together etc.

    So I asked who did he think would be the leader of the campaign for Remain, the figurehead. The answer was that would have to be decided.

    How many years start did Nigel Farage have, and we could overcome it in a couple of months?? Oh yeah!

  • Danny makes some excellent points.

    More generally, one never hears positive reasons for remaining in the EU in the long term, especially when the spectre of Eurozone membership and a federal state are things that Remainers don’t want to discuss. Project Fear worked in the beginning but reality proved all the usual experts to be just fear mongering. After a while, people stopped caring and paid no attention to them.

  • Evidently there is one left of centre party (who in general I disagree with) in the British Isles that currently seems to be promoting a message of better conditions for the sort of people from North Cornwall Danny is talking about, and winning today against a long entrenched right of centre establishment.
    Sadly though, in 2020, no one here in the UK seems capable of achieving such success.

  • Regarding “why did the voters not blame the Conservatives for the last ten years” … perhaps one explanation can be that numerous grandees of the “old” Conservatives – Major, Clarke, Hammond, Grieve, etc. etc. were lining up to criticise the 2019 Conservative party as not their sort of thing, to defect to the Lib Dems, run as independents, and so on.

    Effectively Johnson – having angered so many “establishment” Conservatives into opposing him, thrown many of them out of the party, etc. – was able to run as “New Conservatives” versus not only the normal opposition but also the previous “Old Conservatives”, and therefore not have a lot of the previous Conservative governments’ failings “stick” to him – at least for now. It probably won’t work again in 2024, but by then he’ll have a record of his own to win or lose on.

    Likewise, agree or disagree with him, Corbyn undoubtedly managed to put a large break between 2015-2020 Labour and 1997-2015 Labour … again, helped in part by the very public disagreements of previous Labour grandees. That gained some voters and lost others, but the break from the past was clear.

    Perhaps this is also a lesson for how the Lib Dems might “get past” Coalition and successfully recover some left-of-centre voters – elect a leader who publicly rejects the whole thing, and have Nick Clegg, etc write some articles about how the new leader is betraying the party with angry quotes from “senior Lib Dem sources”.

  • Danny Chambers 10th February 2020 – 9:30 am:
    You can rationally explain to people that for every pound Cornwall puts into the EU we get £9 back,…

    Most people are astute enough to know that it was our money in the first place that was expensively recycled via the EU. And it was deducted from the UK’s rebate…

    ‘UK rebate’:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_rebate

    The UK government was aware that two-thirds of any EU funding would have in effect been deducted from the rebate and came out of UK government funds. Thus the UK had only a one-third incentive to apply for EU funds. […]

    Furthermore, many EU grants are conditional on the recipient finding a proportion of funding from local sources, frequently national or local government. This increased the proportion coming from UK government revenue even further.

  • Danny Chambers 10th February 2020 – 9:30 am:
    Most analyses agree that Brexit will negatively impact the more deprived communities the hardest.

    You’d need to cite them so we can see what assumptions they’ve made. Are they recent? Were they based on the UK Treasury / Bank of England projections? Do they assume we’d still follow the Maastricht debt and deficit criteria? What tariff regime have they assumed we’d adopt? What form of Free Trade Agreement, if any, do they assume we’d reach with the EU? Did they predict that the UK economy would grow faster than the eurozone?

    Even fairly recent analysis from Germany’s IFO Institut is now looking overly pessimistic…

    ‘Brexit: A Hard-but-Smart Strategy and its Consequences’ [May 2019]:
    https://archive.intereconomics.eu/year/2019/3/brexit-a-hard-but-smart-strategy-and-its-consequences/

    Scenario S4, in which the hard-but-smart Brexit strategy is used, reduces the economic damage in the UK to half a percent. […]

    …there is no longer any statistically significant difference between the effects in the UK and the EU. What applies to the average of the EU Member States also applies to e.g. Germany, which at 0.48% loses about as much as the UK, or France at 0.40% (see Table 1 for details). When the UK plays hard-but-smart, it suddenly no longer gets the short end of the stick.

    By “lose” here, they mean less growth than might otherwise occur and not an actual fall in GDP.

    The IMF is now predicting the UK to grow faster than the eurozone…

    ‘British economy will grow faster than eurozone rivals, says IMF’ [January 2020]:
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/british-economy-will-grow-faster-than-eurozone-rivals-says-imf-k2h3vbdjm

    Britain’s economy will grow faster than those of other major European countries this year as chief executives regard it as an increasingly attractive place to invest, two studies have found.

    Amid growing optimism over Britain’s economic outlook, the International Monetary Fund said that it would outperform the eurozone this year and next.

    ‘World Economic Outlook, January 2020’:
    https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/01/20/weo-update-january2020

  • Id like to ask Jeff of the WTO aka the Mage of Wrexham what he thinks about his hero’s latest pronouncements
    Michael Gove confirms post-Brexit trade barriers will be imposed
    De facto deputy PM says nearly all EU imports will be subject to checks from next year

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/10/checks-on-eu-bound-goods-inevitable-gove-tells-business-leaders

    I seem to recollect O Mage you assured us all we could trade on WTO and there would be no more red tape than we had now. You do of cause realise that Mr Gove has announced the end of just in time production in the UK if you need EU parts, so where O mage do you think Airbus and Co will be moving too. Reality no amount of shouting WTO or posting obscure links will divert it. You won now explain the consequences.

  • Danny Chambers 10th February 2020 – 9:30 am:
    [“Take Back Control” is] vague enough to allow people to project their own individual meanings onto [it].

    It was frequently unpacked as ‘take back control of our money, borders, laws, and trade’. Even Larry the No 10. cat knows what that means.

    So although people who voted to Leave will sincerely insist that they knew what they were voting for, everyone’s perceptions and beliefs as to what Brexit actually meant are as diverse as the individuals voting.

    We didn’t vote for “Brexit” (to be recursively defined by a remain voter). We voted to Leave the EU; in its entirety as defined prior to the Referendum by the elected government of the day (the only body who could “implement what you decide”). The government explained what Leave meant in numerous media interviews, an official booklet sent to every household, and in statements in parliament. Here’s David Cameron, at the despatch box on June 15th. 2016 in the last PMQs before the Referendum, stating what both a Remain and a Leave vote would mean…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BjtP00IRPA&start=2170

    “In” means we remain in a reformed EU; “Out” means we come out. As the leave campaigners and others have said, “Out” means out of the European Union, out of the European single market, out of the Council of Ministers — out of all those things…

    A high profile example is Michael Gove and Boris Johnson voting respectively for and against Theresa Mays’ Brexit deal – even the two leaders of the Leave campaign couldn’t agree with each other what Brexit objectively meant.

    May’s ‘deal’ (actually an international Treaty) would have left us half-in half-out; trapped until such time as the EU gave us permission to leave – on their terms. In the Referendum we voted to Leave the EU, not to ask the EU’s permission to leave. The Conservative manifesto reiterated that and stated “no deal is better than a bad deal” (top of Page 36). Honourable Conservative MPs were in an invidious dilemma: vote for May’s “worse deal in history” or risk our democratic decision to leave the EU being overturned by the EU’s fifth columnists in parliament. Both Gove and Johnson knew what Leave meant; they just took different views on the least worse path when presented with May’s stitch-up.

  • Blrss Jeff what are you going to do as the imimpediments to trade are implemented and jobs leave. Post a link and shout WTO at them?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb '20 - 8:09pm

    Jeff

    During the referendum I remember very clearly Norway and Switzerland being given as examples of successful countries which are not in the EU. But they have deals with the EU that are much closer to what membership requires than Theresa May’s proposed deal.

    So your claim that leaving the EU without any deal is what the referendum was about is just not true. If only a small portion who voted Leave did so because they assumed it would mean that a deal like that of Norway and Switzerland would take place, and would not have voted Leave if it really did mean what you are claiming it meant, then there would have been no majority for Leave.

    In what way is what Theresa May organised so bad, and what could now easily be achieved that would be so much better? Please answer this question.

    Do you really believe that having no agreements whatsoever with your neighbours means true freedom? Or does it mean less freedom because you can’t trust them and they can’t trust you, so you have to be more cautious? Plus they are free to wreck you as you are free to wreck them. Is that a better life?

  • Peter Chambers 10th Feb '20 - 9:06pm

    Did I hear a quote from David Cameron back before the referendum saying something about how he would “win it on fear”? Just who lead the Remain campaign, some minion of Cameron’s?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb ’20 – 8:09pm:
    So your claim that leaving the EU without any deal is what the referendum was about is just not true.

    I’ve not made any such claim. The leave campaign suggested we’d leave on our existing WTO agreements and then quickly negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The government restated that, but dismissed the prospects of a quick deal as being ‘hard to strike’ (see official leaflet under ‘What happens if we leave?)

    Do you really believe that having no agreements whatsoever with your neighbours means true freedom?

    We have many agreements with the EU which will continue unchanged. All EU member countries and the EU itself are members of the WTO and we are all mutually bound by our WTO agreements such as the Trade Facilitation Agreement. In addition, since the Referendum decision we have concluded numerous sectorial agreements which apply regardless of how we leave. An example is our continued membership of the CTC…

    ‘UK to remain in Common Transit Convention after Brexit.’ [December 2018]:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-remain-in-common-transit-convention-after-brexit

    The UK is set to remain in the Common Transit Convention (CTC) after Brexit, ensuring simplified cross-border trade for UK businesses exporting their goods.

    The CTC is used for moving goods between the EU member states, the EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) as well as Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia.

    The UK is currently a member of the CTC while it is in the EU, and has successfully negotiated membership in its own right after Brexit. This would apply to any new trading relationship with the EU or in the unlikely event of a no deal.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb ’20 – 8:09pm:
    In what way is what Theresa May organised so bad,..

    I mentioned the most egregious problem: that the so-called ‘backstop’ would have handed the EU a veto over us finally leaving, enabling them to blackmail us into accepting their terms in a future trade agreement.

    There are numerous other serious concerns…

    ’15 Reasons to Hate Theresa’s EU Surrender Document.’ [ February 2019]:
    https://facts4eu.org/news/2019_feb_withdrawal_abomination

    A quick and readable summary of why Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement stinks.

    For a more detailed analysis by Professor Jonathan Story of INSEAD see ‘The May-Barnier Withdrawal Agreement: not the end of this story.’ [December 2018]:
    https://storybookreview.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/the-may-barnier-withdrawal-agreement-not-the-end-of-this-story/

    If ratified it ensures that the UK remains under the jurisdiction of a federalising EU of which it is not a member. No previous PM in the UK’s history has ever presented such a surrender document for ratification to parliament.

    and here’s Martin Howe QC…

    ‘The deal: everyone is looking for legal loopholes, but they don’t exist’ [December 2018]:
    https://lawyersforbritain.org/the-deal-everyone-is-looking-for-legal-loopholes-but-they-dont-exist

    The Attorney General’s advice to the Cabinet explained the position with stark clarity. If the UK ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement, we cannot prevent the backstop coming into force, nor escape from it once it is in force, except with the agreement of the EU — and if there is a breakdown in negotiations then it will “endure indefinitely” with no legal route of escape.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb ’20 – 8:09pm:
    …and what could now easily be achieved that would be so much better?

    Here’s Martin Howe QC again…

    ‘This flawed deal is a tolerable price to pay for our freedom’ [October 2019]:
    https://lawyersforbritain.org/this-flawed-deal-is-a-tolerable-price-to-pay-for-our-freedom

    …despite the marked improvements over the disastrous TM deal, the revised deal is still overall a bad deal. It lands us unconditionally with huge financial obligations for nothing concrete in return, beyond the opportunity to negotiate a trade deal which we would be able to negotiate anyway. A UK-EU FTA is one-sidedly beneficial to the EU, given the UK’s huge importation of goods from the EU concentrated in high tariff sectors such as agriculture, cars and clothing.

    You can argue that in the sweep of history, paying large sums of money we did not owe will be forgotten and the important thing is to regain our freedom. This is unfortunately a cheque the British people must pay for the negligence of Theresa May.

    Of more concern are the longer term negatives which remain in the WA such as saddling ourselves with long term ECJ jurisdiction. I predict that we will have bitter cause to regret such concessions in future years as unpredictable and activist judgments come out from the ECJ, which the UK and our Parliament will have no choice but to obey.

  • So Jeff you are happy to leave Northern Ireland in the single market. Not very nice to the shock troops of Brexit the DUP. Still their usefulness is over and under the bus they must go. The only problem as the Brexit process goes forward more and more must go under the bus of reality and I’m sure your time will come.

  • David Evans writes “We believe in Democracy as a means of controlling governmental power” but then conveniently chooses to ignore the democratic Brexit vote in favour of leaving.

    Which is it, Mr Evans?

  • It’s impossible to predict the future; the best we can do is watch events and talk to people. Will the electorate become disillusioned with BJ and his government and if so what will replace them? Tapping into the prevailing mood is essential. Reassurance will be important and must be accompanied by solutions, even if unachievable. Competence could be key.

  • Roger Cubberley 11th Feb '20 - 12:07pm

    Brexit brought our whole family together (for the first time maybe). We were and are passionate Remainers. However, I observed through three years of increasingly acrimonious discussions with friends and acquaintances, that ‘Leavers’ were consistent in their simple sound bite explanations for their decision. ‘Remainers’, on the other hand, even argued amongst themselves as to why it would be better to stay in the EU! No consistent message that the nation’s electorate could identify with. So there we are. The country is as divided as ever. I might forgive them when they apologise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb ’20 – 8:09pm:
    …and what could now easily be achieved that would be so much better?

    Johnson’s revised Withdrawal Agreement removes the so-called ‘backstop’ so we can now end the transition period unilaterally (without the EU’s permission). Here’s Martin Howe QC again…

    ‘This flawed deal is a tolerable price to pay for our freedom’ [October 2019]:
    https://lawyersforbritain.org/this-flawed-deal-is-a-tolerable-price-to-pay-for-our-freedom

    …despite the marked improvements over the disastrous TM deal, the revised deal is still overall a bad deal. It lands us unconditionally with huge financial obligations for nothing concrete in return, beyond the opportunity to negotiate a trade deal which we would be able to negotiate anyway. A UK-EU FTA is one-sidedly beneficial to the EU, given the UK’s huge importation of goods from the EU concentrated in high tariff sectors such as agriculture, cars and clothing.
    […]

    Of more concern are the longer term negatives which remain in the WA such as saddling ourselves with long term ECJ jurisdiction.

  • ……………………..So the question being asked by so many people is this: why on earth did Cornwall, one the UK’s most deprived regions which receives so much funding from the EU, and which appears to have a lot to lose and little to gain, vote for Brexit?………………………….

    Not just Cornwall..S. Wales, the NE and other areas who received the most funding voted most heavily for ‘Leave’..
    My explanation, for what it’s worth, it the lack of political nouse among the general population. I can’t help but contrast today’s ‘man in the street interviews’ with those from 50 years ago; couple that with a media that is almost entirely biased against the EU and you have a perfect storm.
    I remember a BBC visit to a S. Wales town, whose regeneration (civic centre, library, high st. improvement, etc.) was almost entirely due to EU funding; not a single person interviewed knew that fact!
    I was in an argument with an ‘intelligent’ leaver friend from the NE who stated that there had never been any EU funding in his area …I mentioned the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) for Sunderland, Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside and to the almost half a billion pounds to the North East between 2014-2020, etc.
    He didn’t believe a word and refused even to ‘google’ the information…..As my mother used to say, “There are none so blind as those who will not see”…

    Would more information from the ‘Remain’ side have changed many minds; somehow I doubt it? Like warning a child about the dangers of fire, for some, the only lesson that counts is to ‘get burned’

  • expats 11th Feb ’20 – 3:05pm:
    He didn’t believe a word…

    Wise.

  • Jeff 11th Feb ’20 – 4:48pm..He didn’t believe a word…Wise…………

    Morcambe!

  • Dilettante Eye 11th Feb '20 - 6:10pm

    expats
    “I was in an argument with an ‘intelligent’ leaver friend from the NE who stated that there had never been any EU funding in his area”

    He was correct.
    Indeed there has never been any EU funding in Britain ever !

    It’s strange that no matter how many times this EU funding misnomer is explained, someone will eventually use the same bogus EU funding arguament. Indeed Jeff explained how this scam of EU funding misnomer works, but again an ‘intelligent remainer’ missed it.

    How difficult is it to understand that if Britain sends £19 billion per year to the EU, and the EU sends the regions of Britain £9 billion for a variety of projects, its actually British taxpayers money ! recycled after being skimmed by £10 billion to feed the greedy EU machine?

    FACT ~ There Is No Such Thing As EU Funding !!

    If you still struggle to understand, then please send me a £20 note, and I will send you a £10 note to use as ‘funding’ for any project you like.

  • Expats
    Britain is a net contributor to the EU. This means we put in more than we get back. Effectively, the EU funding is simply part of our payments being recycled. But, it depends on how valuable you think the wider European project is. Personally, I think it is pointless. Others disagree.

  • The UK membership gets tariff free trade, etc. etc. in the wealthiest ‘club’ in the world…The idea that the UK payments are without benefits is the misnomer.

    BTW if any of the independent estimates of what ‘Brexit’ has cost the UK in lost GDP are even in the right ballpark then ‘Brexit’ is an expensive folly,.

  • @Dilettante Eye – I see you’re not familiar with regional funding prior to Westminster deciding to opt into the various EU regional/regeneration development funds and leaving the decision making to Brussels…
    Whilst you can represent the state-of-affairs as you have, this misses the fact that prior to Westminster’s decision regional funding was both much more politically driven and short-term, so whilst the government might announce a multi-year investment, it would quite happily prevaricate or even cease funding when each year’s bill became due. Hence why so many places in the UK actually qualified for EU deprivation & regeneration funding!

    As we have seen today with BoJo’s HS2 announcement, which only ‘guarantees’ the construction of the London-Birmingham section, the Conservatives are going back to their old ways: thanks to voters north of Birmingham for believing our “northern powerhouse” lies and voting us into office, here’s two fingers as your reward.

  • Dilettante Eye 12th Feb '20 - 9:22am

    expats
    “The UK membership gets tariff free trade, etc. etc.”

    Again, not the full picture.

    I could give you a list of the tariffs which are effectively an extra tax on the European consumer, but I’ll give you just two.

    Coffee ~ Africa and in particular Kenya are penalised by tariffs for their green coffee beans. They could process the coffee in Africa much cheaper, were it not for the tariffs imposed by the EU to protect the German coffee processing industry. So tariffs mean more expensive coffee for EU consumers.

    Solar panels ~ Up until 2018 there were anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese (pv) solar panels of up to 30% simply to protect Spain and German pv industry. So again, anyone in the UK who had a solar installation pre 2018, paid over the odds because of those tariffs.

    This EU protection mentality by using tariffs has several downsides.
    At the consumer end of the process, it means that EU consumers inevitably pay more than they need to for any particular product or service. So EU tariffs = European Consumer Tax. (A proxy VAT).

    Tariffs also cause a kind of sclerotic siege mentality in EU industries. If your industry is surviving on the back of protective tariffs there is little financial headroom or motive to re-tool and develop your technology and improve the quality of your end products. So eventually the processing plants across the EU fall behind those of cheaper and innovative producers in the East. The only industries in Europe which buck this trend are where the design and development ‘brains’ are centred in Europe, but the product processing is done in the cheaper Far East.

    This protection mentality by using tariffs and their offset mechanisms to maintain that wall of protection, is one of the many reasons the EU won’t be around in ten years or so.

  • Dilettante Eye 12th Feb ’20 – 9:22am…expats, “The UK membership gets tariff free trade, etc. etc.”…Again, not the full picture…I could give you a list of the tariffs which are effectively an extra tax on the European consumer,The EU does certainly have barriers to trade, and they do, one way or another, raise the cost of imported goods.

    Not the full picture..
    Every country has some sort of barriers; however, those of the EU are relatively low on the world scale (higher than the US but lower than both Canada and Australia; both countries on which we are basing our future trade agreements).

    As for Africa, although there are some tariffs, most African nations benefit from the EU ‘Everything but Arms’arrangement that allows almost completely tariff and quota free access for their goods..

    Regarding your, “This protection mentality by using tariffs and their offset mechanisms to maintain that wall of protection, is one of the many reasons the EU won’t be around in ten years or so.”…
    If the EU has such a protectionist mentality why has it spent most of its existence seeking to form new or upgraded free trade accords with the rest of the world?

    Finally, it is not the EU, but the US (under the Trump administration), which is the western world’s most strident critic of global free trade.

  • Daniel Walker 12th Feb '20 - 10:53am

    @Dilettante Eye “Coffee ~ Africa and in particular Kenya are penalised by tariffs for their green coffee beans. They could process the coffee in Africa much cheaper, were it not for the tariffs imposed by the EU to protect the German coffee processing industry. So tariffs mean more expensive coffee for EU consumers.

    Expats has already mentioned the Everything But Arms program, which covers many African countries, but Kenya is not a Least Developed Country, so is not covered. However, coffee exports from Kenya have a 0% tariff under an Economic Partnership Agreement.

    Anti-dumping rules on solar panels, which we must have agreed with, were because it was felt that the Chinese were (de facto) subsidising their industry (c.f. steel, which we didn’t agree with and so didn’t happen, and UK steel manufacturers thus went under) and, as you point out, has now been resolved amicably.

  • Dilettante Eye 12th Feb '20 - 11:59am

    expats
    Your reply on EU trade with Africa gives the impression that the EU is benevolent with Africa, when it’s not.

    For sure the EU is more than happy to import 0% tariffgreen unprocessed coffee beans from Africa. However the real value in a jar of coffee is in the processing. So it’s the EU tariff on imports of processed coffee at about 11% which protects German coffee producers and makes it rather pointless for Africa to process coffee beans cheaper themselves.

    In short, Germany makes far more revenue from the processed coffee than Africa makes from growing the actual beans. And the average EU consumer pays a hefty price for that German protectionism.

    The advantages that the US has in global trade comes less from tariffs but rather from the fact that they (solely), can ‘print’ and distribute the $ which is the world’s reserve currency. Having the reserve currency means that the USA’s biggest and most valuable export is US debt.

    The reason why the EU finds it difficult and lengthy to create a trade deal with the likes of Canada or Japan is because whilst a singular nation like Japan has only one sign-off on a deal, the EU has to get 27 sign-off’s. So it’s the EU’s sclerotic protectionist nature which takes the EU years to ‘herd its 27 cats’ into an agreement on trade.

    Exiting membership of this abominable EU edifice is the best thing the UK has done in decades.

  • expats 11th Feb ’20 – 10:41pm:
    The UK membership gets tariff free trade, etc. etc.…

    Saying we get “tariff free trade” with the EU is like saying the food in an ‘all-you-can-eat’ restaurant is free after you’ve paid £30 to get in. Outside the EU on WTO terms our exports to the EU would face around £5 billion in tariffs – less than a third of our membership fee.

  • Daniel Walker 12th Feb '20 - 5:09pm

    @Dilettante Eye “For sure the EU is more than happy to import 0% tariffgreen unprocessed coffee beans from Africa. However the real value in a jar of coffee is in the processing. So it’s the EU tariff on imports of processed coffee at about 11% which protects German coffee producers and makes it rather pointless for Africa to process coffee beans cheaper themselves. “

    … what part of “Everything but Arms” is ambiguous? Processed coffee is covered under either the EBA arrangement or other EU agreements with nearly all African countries, the exceptions being Gabon, which takes the Third Country tariff of 7.5% on nondecaff and 9% on decaff, neither of which is 11%, and Nigeria, which did not wish to participate in the ECOWAS/EU agreement and so pays 2.6% on nondecaff and 3.1% on decaff.

    Here’s a useful graphic of the top 51 coffee exporting countries: https://twitter.com/Jim_Cornelius/status/967865568966606850/photo/1 (African ones are in blue)

  • Dilettante Eye, Jeff,
    I’m not going to waste all our time by playing ‘verbal tennis’ in an item by item match…Suffice it to say that every independent analysis (and even ERG members like Rees-Mogg) accept that, as a nation, we will be ££££s poorer outside the EU, there must be SOME advantages in being in…

  • Danny Chambers 10th February 2020 – 9:30 am:
    Why didn’t Lib Dems and other remain politicians connect with people in deprived, Brexit-voting regions?

    Perhaps because they never grasped that economic factors weren’t a major consideration in wanting to be free of the EU? Numerous surveys and academic research papers tell us that the main reasons for voting leave were a desire to regain national sovereignty followed by control over immigration (itself an attribute of sovereignty)…

    ‘As the EU moved closer to political union, Britain drifted away. Brexit became inevitable’:
    https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2016/07/21/xenophobia-austerity-and-dissatisfaction-with-politics-may-have-contributed-to-the-brexit-vote/

    …evidence from the BES internet panel and Lord Ashcroft’s large post-referendum poll suggests that overall national sovereignty may have been just as important an issue for Leave voters as immigration, and that austerity hardly registered.

    ‘All the lies about Leavers’ [January 2020]:
    https://unherd.com/2020/01/all-the-lies-about-leavers/

    Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at the University of Kent.
    Our leaving is the result of a collective decision, taken by a majority of its people, about the destiny of their national community — or what most consider to be their home. And this decision, contrary to the liberal view of citizens as autonomous individuals who are mainly driven by self-interest, was never rooted in transactional considerations about money.

    Nor was it focused on individuals. Rather, it was anchored in a collective and sincere concern about the wider group, about the nation, and in profound questions about identity, culture and tradition. Who are we? What kind of nation are we? What holds us together? Where do we want to go, together, in the future?

    Remainers never grasped the potency of these questions — or how to answer them in terms that the majority would recognise.

    Leaving the EU will not resolve this issue.

    No, but extricating ourselves from the EU is an essential prerequisite.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Feb ’20 – 8:09pm:
    During the referendum I remember very clearly Norway and Switzerland being given as examples of successful countries which are not in the EU.

    Not during the Referendum; at least not by the leave campaign.

    Some years ago, Norway and the EEA, were touted as a transitional step for leaving the EU. This plan was advocated by Dr. Richard North who called it Flexcit. The idea was rejected as it could have left us trapped under EU control as has happened with Norway.

    After the Referendum, James McGrory of Open Britain released a video in which several politician’s words were truncated mid-sentence to misrepresent their views on the ‘single market’. A 2009 interview, in which Farage floated North’s idea of using the EEA to smooth our exit was cut-off to falsely imply that the EEA was the destination. A Matthew Elliot speech dismissing the “Norwegian option” was given similar treatment. This video may have misled many into believing Farage or Elliot had advocated staying in the EEA. They didn’t. McGrory’s deceptive video was brutally debunked by the BBC’s Andrew Neil…

    ‘BBC Sunday Politics – Andrew Neil interviews James McGrory, Co-Executive Director of Open Britain’ [November 2016]:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHzmCHcM7cA

    A decade later, Farage’s suggestion of using the EEA as a ”holding position from which we can negotiate” has been replaced by the transition period.

    As an EEA member, Norway has to pay the EU substantial sums of money, accept ‘free movement’ and implement the majority of EU Directives. As an example of what this means in practice consider the controversy over the forced privatisation of rail services…

    ‘Norway: Rail workers hold national strikes over EU rail privatisation’ [October 2019]:
    https://labourheartlands.com/norway-rail-workers-hold-national-strikes-over-eu-rail-privatisation/

    Trains across Norway stopped for two hours on Thursday as employees walked out to protest against the implementation of the EU’s 4th Railway Package, a set of legislative texts designed to complete the single market for rail services. Protesters said the rules would weaken train services in Norway and have announced more strikes for 31 October. Norway is bound to follow EU rules due to its EEA membership.

    Even Sir Topham Hatt knows that this is not what is meant by ‘taking back control’.

  • Danny, Comments on your article have drifted to reinforce the disconnect! Your points ring true to me. I live in the Midlands. When our above average paying jobs in coal mines, power stations and engineering disappeared they were replaced by NMW jobs in warehouses. Our area was classified by the EU as ERDF Priority 3. The Westminster (Labour) government had little option but to offer matched funds through the Single Regeneration Budget. At least there are now jobs instead of unemployment. But would Westminster have provided any assistance if not backed into it by the EU? I doubt it.
    Our new success drew in thousands of EU workers. Our rented housing market was over heated. Our schools were bursting at the seams and there were no spaces for local children. The area voted decisively Leave in 2016. And elected a Tory last year with a massive majority.
    And still Westminster politicians do not listen or understand what has happened.
    Danny, perhaps we would do better with voters in areas like ours if the Liberal Democrats started talking about the 50% of school leavers who do not go to university? Or, if we put forward strong policies to solve the housing crisis, instead of accepting continued home price inflation? What I am saying is if we don’t have policies to address the problems of the public why would they vote for us? We should stop talking to ourselves.

  • Neil Sandison 20th Feb '20 - 2:37pm

    The reason remain failed to gain any real traction during the GE campaign was we were a house devided with Labour and the SNP fighting their own turf wars .Indeed no one knew where the labour leadership was until the final two weeks and then they sat on the fence .The Nationalist put independence before the Brexit and second vote and went on to harvested seats from their opponents .Revoke was seen as disrepectful of the outcome of the first referendum . We helped build our own bear trap by giving Johnson what he wanted which was a Brexit GE .

  • John Littler 27th Feb '20 - 8:23pm

    Graham Hughes’s #PUBCAST 53 | Who Killed The Remain Campaign?
    21 Feb 2020
    Graham Hughes
    30.7K subscribers

    In this edition of Graham Hughes’s PUBCAST, I’m joined by Ben Chambers of the fantastic 16 Million Rising radio show: https://www.mixcloud.com/

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