Why Theresa May’s speech is good news

Theresa May’s speech today was a mixture of vacuous soundbites and ominous indicators of the direction of travel.  Shorn of the window-dressing, it is clear that she leads a government of the Hard Brexit.  She concluded with a nauseous section suggesting that the country is “coming together” after June’s referendum.  As one wag put it on Twitter, that is like setting a fire, burning the house down and expecting those who queried what you were doing to “come together” in the rebuilding project.  More seriously, by opting for a Hard Brexit, exiting the single market (ironically, an achievement of Margaret Thatcher) and almost certainly the customs union, she is demonstrating no respect for the 16 million people who voted Remain.

So, why do I think the speech is good news? The clue is today’s YouGov poll. This shows that the population currently splits as follows:

39%  – Hard Brexit

25% – Soft Brexit

23% – Remain in the EU after all

13% – Not sure

Pursuing a Soft Brexit would have been risky for May but not as risky as Hard Brexit.  For the first time, she has clearly put herself in backing a position supported only by a minority of voters.  This allows the divided Remain side to unite around opposition to the UK coming out of the single market (with much historic material from Dan Hannan and Boris Johnson to support them!).  It also allows them to peel off those Leavers who wanted to maintain single market access.

Furthermore, it is clear that there is no majority in the House of Commons to support exit from the single market.  It is also expressly contrary to the Conservative’s manifesto commitment which will allow the Lords full rein to oppose it.

The first opportunity will likely come with the bill to trigger Article 50.  It now seems inevitable that there will be a parliamentary tussle to attach restrictive wording to it.  This may lead to an immediate general election but even if it does not, there will be further chances.

But the better chance comes with the only real surprise in the speech – an express confirmation that the final “deal” would be put to Parliament for a vote.  The pound immediately spiked upwards. That is because there is every chance that Parliament will vote it down – a likelihood that increases with every parliamentary by-election that the Liberal Democrats win.  Hard Brexit can be defeated  and that is the chance that May has delivered to us.

Of course, we have ranged against us powerful forces – the Conservative Party, UKIP and most of the mainstream press.  But we have our supporters – business, trade unions, most political parties, experts and pressure groups.  And what a chance for the Liberal Democrats – with the Labour Party hopelessly confused and divided and incapable of opposing.   Can we seize it?

* Mark Goodrich is a former vice-chair of Richmond & Twickenham Liberal Democrats, a former expat who saw Brexit unfold from the other side of the world and now lives in Sevenoaks, Kent

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Only 23% want to stay in EU and that’s good news? I believe that poll was taken before Mrs Mays speech, Sky came out with a poll taken after her speech:

    51% of those surveyed said they support leaving the single market, while 39% oppose such a move. Just over half (51%) now trust Mrs May to get the best possible deal in negotiations with the EU, up five points since October, while the proportion who do not trust her is down three points to 36%.

  • Alan Depauw 18th Jan '17 - 2:30pm

    Careful, the parliamentary vote promised by the PM is intended as a trap. It would occur after Article 50 had been triggered and at the end of the 2 year deadline. Therefore, MPs who chose not to accept whatever deal had been arrived at, would in effect be voting for defaulting to WTO rules.

    So the only real opportunity to change the negotiation objectives presented yesterday by the PM is before Article 50 is triggered. Whereas it still looks like most MPs will be too pusillanimous to try, the Lords maybe will.

    If they do, it is unlikely the government would accept the ensuing year-long delay. They would surely succumb to the temptation of dissolving parliament to seek the mandate they so glaringly lack.

    Therefore, those who want to change the stated objectives had better start preparing for an early general election.

  • Mark Goodrich 18th Jan '17 - 2:41pm

    @Alan I don’t agree that the parliamentary vote at the end is a trap. A lot of legal experts think that the Article 50 notification could be withdrawn and the reality is that the EU would, in any case, almost certainly accept such a withdrawal if the UK decided it didn’t want to go through with the deal.

    In any case, this is the same issue as would arise if we voted the deal down in a referendum.

  • This is pretty desperate stuff

    These poll questions are just hypothetical questions on options that do not currently exist.
    People answer very differently to a hypothetical poll than that of an actual ballot paper that sets out their actual choices.

    “legal experts think that the Article 50 notification could be withdrawn and the reality is that the EU would”
    And there are just as many legal experts who believe the opposite.
    I do not believe the EU would, why would they want to set a precedent where a country can start brexit negotiation, cause 2 years of uncertainty and then withdraw if they do not like the deal offered. That would risk countries like Italy, Greece, Portugal etc. threatening to start article 50 negotiations if they did not get their own way on certain policy or monetary issues, that gives way to much power to the individual country and the EU does not like that..

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Jan '17 - 3:16pm

    Alan DePauw – ‘They would surely succumb to the temptation of dissolving parliament to seek the mandate they so glaringly lack.

    Therefore, those who want to change the stated objectives had better start preparing for an early general election.’

    How do you account for the Fixed Term Parliaments Act here?

    matt – On withdrawing A50 notices the best I’ve found is here – https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2016/10/17/aurel-sari-biting-the-bullet-why-the-uk-is-free-to-revoke-its-withdrawal-notification-under-article-50-teu/

    I’m no expert, but it’s convincing stuff.

  • Alan Depauw 18th Jan '17 - 3:35pm

    Little Jackie Paper- The Fixed Term Parliament Act is not an insurmountable obstacle.

    The Act removed the PM’s unilateral right to dissolve Parliament. Instead, it placed the right clearly in the hands of MPs by providing them with two ways to call an early election: 1. If two-thirds of them vote for it; 2: If a simple majority votes a no-confidence motion that is not overturned within two weeks.

    So the PM could certainly engineer option 2. I also read somewhere that Corbyn would support option 1.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jan '17 - 3:42pm


    You ask “Only 23% want to stay in EU and that’s good news? ”

    It sounds pretty good to me!

  • David Allen 18th Jan '17 - 3:46pm

    What can happen in the parliamentary vote at the end depends on what MPs, and on what the EU, then want to happen.

    May says the vote will be Leave with a negotiated deal versus leave with no deal at all. Well, if after 2 years Britain is screaming to get out and the EU have offered us a poor deal, then that is indeed what the vote will be about. On the other hand, if Britain has woken up to just how bad things would be if we left, and if the EU have reluctantly offered a deal which no longer attracts anyone much outside of UKIP, then the vote will be about accepting the Brexit deal versus staying in. If MPs have the right to vote, then they will seize the right to decide what their vote can achieve.

    The EU’s stance, however, will also be crucial. If and when the EU have agreed a deal, they will also have given thought to what they want in the event that Britain rejects the deal. If the EU see that it would be in their best interests to keep Britain on board, they will say so, thus making it possible for the UK Parliament to vote Remain. It is quite possible on the other hand that the EU will be sick to the back teeth of the Brits by the time the negotiations have concluded, and will offer us the options of leaving with a handshake or being ejected with a flying boot. In those latter circumstances, of course, the UK Parliament will not be able to vote Remain.

    Hence, expect the Brexiteers to make a farce of the negotiations, and to do whatever it takes to get the EU side boiling angry. That is what they will need to do in order to close off the Remain option. When the Tories threaten the tax haven option (and interestingly, get Hammond to make that threat and thus commit himself personally to the Brexiteer cause), they are already starting to play this blame game.

    It’s about needling the EU, niggling them until they make an intemperate response, and then blaming them for the ensuing row. The Brexiteers need to start a brawl and force an acrimonious divorce. Otherwise, there is every chance that Parliament (as currently constituted, at any rate) will finally vote Remain.

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Jan '17 - 3:48pm

    Alan Depauw – Perhaps. Whilst I guess that technically the PM could manipulate such a situation it would be a bit odd for governing party MPs to go back to the voters having voted for no confidence in the government and then try to get that government re-elected. Stranger things have happened I suppose. And maybe the politics of such a manipulation would not unduly bother voters all things considered.

    I’ll have to admit that I don’t see why Jeremy Corbyn would particularly want to fight an election now. I don’t think he (or Tim Farron for that matter) have called for one with any great vigour.

    More generally the LDP have a political problem with the FTP act in that having pushed very hard for it they would see the spirit of it fall at pretty much the first test. Again, maybe the politics of it wouldn’t matter much to the voters at large. But the message would be clear that the FTP Act is just something to be manipulated rather than something meaningful.

    I’m sure you are right that none of this is immovable. That being said I don’t think it’s right to talk in terms of, ‘They would surely succumb to the temptation of dissolving parliament.’

  • Sadie Smith 18th Jan '17 - 4:49pm

    The Parliamentary vote looks like a farce to me. Should the Court rule on the need for a proper vote that might change.
    I am concerned that this speech is supposed to be the Plan promised to Parliament. By just making a speech, she avoids the need for truthfulness which is supposed to go with statements to and in Parliament.

  • David Evershed 18th Jan '17 - 4:54pm

    Is the Lib Dem remain based campaign fishing in a pool of 48% of the electorate or only 23% ?

  • @David Evershed.

    I’m not a Lib Dem, but to me it looks like the Lib Dem position on the EU is based on the interests of the 100%. The smart thing to do is to persuade the electorate of the Lib Dem position and the principles it is based on, regardless of how popular or unpopular public opinion happens to be at any one time. That is the way to build a reputation for integrity and popularity over the long run – something that isn’t going to be achieved by being led by whatever the latest opinion poll says.

  • David Allen

    “That is what they will need to do in order to close off the Remain option.”

    The Remain option is gone David. It died on the 23rd June 2016. Theresa May made it abundantly clear that the available choices are ‘leave’ choices only. It now rests on getting either, an acceptable ‘leave’ deal,….. or the WTO ‘leave’ situation. Frankly, either of those leave options, are good enough, for Brexit purposes.

    If Parliament wants the final sovereign say on either,.. the UK/EU negotiated leave deal,.. or WTO, I as a Brexiteer, am more than happy to let them posture themselves over those two leave choices.

    Let’s just stop the dithering, and get this done. The sooner we can stop sending £12 billion (Net) per year, to fund that unelected,..un-reformable,.. ‘EU clown circus’, the better. I can’t wait for Merkel, to tell her electorate that as well as stumping up cash for multiple South European bailouts into ‘forever’,… Germany will also have to find another £12 billion [per year] to make up the post Brexit shortfall. The fun has only just started. Watch those black swans circling over Germany.

  • ethicsgradient 18th Jan '17 - 5:48pm

    My feeling is the article is reading of the zeitgeist is wrong but the main point of the article is right.

    May speech is good new’s because:

    Lib Dem’s have a real chance because of the Labour’s inability to respond to the speech coherently. This is giving a real opening to the Lib Dem’s and people think of you and the SNP as the voice of the oppsition in regards to Brexit.

    However the movement in the country is I believe, one of accepting the leaving the EU is going to happen and are were impressed by May’s clear direction. I feel support is coalescing the government to get on with Brexit and achieve the best deal possible. I think this is shown in the figures above…

    39% – Hard Brexit

    25% – Soft Brexit

    23% – Remain in the EU after all

    13% – Not sure

    So that is 64% supporting Brexit. near as damn it 2/3rds. There is still not bregret feeling and in truth there was never was, Shock at the result, but not regret.

    Parliament will not vote against leaving, Because it would be against where the populous are/are moving too.

  • The choices put to voters by Yougov are very vague – they don’t even mention the single market.

    Note that only one choice has been categorised as “hard Brexit” while two have been categorised “soft Brexit” – and one of those (the green one on the chart) I would describe more as malleable Brexit rather than soft Brexit, since it has features of both soft and hard!

    Yougov charts here :-


  • So the total brexit vote is 64% and remain has more or less halved to 23%. So much for The 48%.

  • There is a long way to go on this. If the EU makes Brexit economically expensive and jobs start going then the public will turn. For me the question is not if but when?

  • The vote at the end of the process is intended to give MPs the choice of shooting us in the foot, or in the head.

  • Two of the largest investment banks in the City of London have confirmed that some staff will definitely have to move abroad when the UK leaves the EU.

    HSBC’s chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, told Bloomberg he was preparing to move 1,000 staff from London to Paris.

    And Axel Weber, boss of Swiss bank UBS, told the BBC “about 1,000” of its 5,000 London jobs could be hit by Brexit.

    The comments underline that many thousands of banking jobs may move.

    The statements from the two banks come just a day after UK Prime Minister Theresa May outlined the UK government’s Brexit negotiating strategy which would, she said, involve leaving both the European single market and the EU’s customs union.


    and so so it begins my Brave Brexiteers; feel free to pay my share of the extra taxes required to plug the gap.

  • I’m sorry but the country’s economy and fabric being damaged, possibly for 2 or more generations, is rather more important than a boost in the polls for the Lib Dems

  • Katharine Pindar 18th Jan '17 - 9:49pm

    The clearest position in support of the Lib Dem stance taken above, in my view, is that of a non-Lib Dem, Angry Steve. (Steve, why aren’t you, and sometime tell us why you are angry!) As he says, the Liberal Democrat position is based on the interests of the 100%, and we should persuade the electorate of our position and the principles behind it. Absolutely right, Steve, and our only difficulty is (as usual) to make ourselves heard, but the by-elections will help.

    I also like David Allen’s clear argument, that at the end of the negotiations the question before Parliament should not be as Mrs May probably wants, Leave with this negotiated deal or leave with no deal, but rather, Accept the negotiated deal or stay in. This could be a possibility, as David suggests, if the country is by then convinced that Brexit is indeed bad for Britain (as I personally insisted in an October piece here), and the EU is content for us to remain.

    In fact, David, we could still surely stay in even if they are sick of us, if, as Little Jackie has helpfully sussed out through referencing the article by Awel Sari published by the UK Constitutional Law Association, Britain may be able to revoke the withdrawal notification of Article 50 before the necessary procedures are completed. The article is headed, ‘UK is free to revoke its withdrawal notification.’ Actually that sounds like common sense to me, and meantime I don’t care two pins for this or that poll, since they are about as dependable as economists’ judgments.

  • @Katharine Pindar

    ” UK Constitutional Law Association, Britain may be able to revoke the withdrawal notification of Article 50 before the necessary procedures are completed”

    There are just as many legal opinions on the other side of the argument.

    Ultimately, this would have to be something that is decided upon in the courts, the ECJ.

    I find it ironic though that the remain campaign where pinning their legal arguments in the recent case to the supreme court on the basis that article 50 was not irrevocable and since this would remove peoples rights and protections under EU Law then parliament being sovereign had to give it’s consent to this.

    Now the very same people wish to bring a case to the ECJ to make a claim that article 50 is revocable at any time in the hope of being able to stop brexit somewhere down the line

    I do have a question for you, if you don’t mind.

    Since when did the Liberal Democrats move so far up the Authoritarian scale? Playing politics through the Courts?

  • @matt
    The case was not brought by the “remain campaign” but by two courageous individuals, Gina Miller and Dier Dos Santos. Gina Miller and her family now have to live under security protection because of the fascistic hysteria whipped up by the Leave establishment in the press. When you say “Now the very same people …” I’m afraid you are just making stuff up. Please stop.

  • @ matt
    “since when did the Liberal Democrats … (play) politics through the Courts?”

    I find this comment odd in a number of ways. The Liberal Democrat Party as far as I know has not applied to the courts for a ruling on revoking exiting the EU and to get a final ruling from the European Court of Justice. Personally I would like it to do so. (It seems strange to campaign for a second referendum that could keep the UK in the EU if this option is not open to the UK after Article 50 has been triggered.)

    If the law is unclear then in the UK the accepted behaviour is to go to court for the courts to define the law. This is part of our traditions on the rule of law and the independency of the judiciary. I do not understand how anyone can believe that getting the law clearly defined is “playing politics”!

  • @Michael BG

    To be fair, I did not not say “liberal democrat party” I said remain campaign.

    I did ask when did Liberal Democrats moved so far up the authoritarian scale, because as far as I can tell, especially from postings on here, Liberal Democrats seem to be advocating all manor of court cases in order to try and stop brexit.
    Using the argument in 1 case(supreme court) that article 50 is irrevocable, therefore automatically changes to citizens rights and protections requires parliamentary consent
    Then to changing the argument in a (European Court of Justice) saying that article 50 is revocable, in the hope of being able to stop brexit somewhere later down the line.

    To my mind that is legal hypocrisy and playing politics through the courts.

    I thought that being a Liberal and believing in Democracy (not necessarily equating to being a Liberal democrat ) would stand for allowing the people to decide if we stay or leave the EU / Single Market not to use the courts to try and block the results of a referendum through playing politics in the courts.

  • @matt, I suggest you stop handwaving. The people who took the Article 50 case to the high court, weren’t “the remain campaign”, they were private individuals seeking clarification on the extent to which the government ie. Theresa May and her cabinet, could abuse the Royal Prerogative to avoid Parliamentary (and public) scrutiny. In this respect they are peforming a public service, because they are helping to clarify just what Art50 clause 1 means in the UK’s case and thus reduce the possibility of further challenges further down the road.

    However, concerning the status of a notification under Article 50, I agree with the parties that took the case to the Supreme Court. Having read the article by Aurel Sari, reference by LJP and Katharine, I see no reason to alter my viewpoint, as fundamentally Aurel is relying on successfully arguing the UK’s interpretation and applicability of International law before the ECJ; who’s decision is not under the Westminster Parliament’s control.

    The only reliable way to revoke an Article 50 notification, is with the consent of the EU; unfortunately, such consent is likely to have a ‘price’ – spoken or unspoken.

  • Before anyone starts using that Sky News poll, it was a poll of Sky customers, not the general populace. 😐

  • @Roland

    “The people who took the Article 50 case to the high court, weren’t “the remain campaign”, they were private individuals seeking clarification”

    Come on, are you seriously suggesting that those that brought the case are not “remainers” and are purely doing this out of their love of the law. That is just nonsense.
    They are part of the remain campaign, just as much as most of the remain campaign advocates what they are doing in the courts.

    The fact of the matter is (as far as I see it) Liberal Democrats will be more than happy to see as many legal challenges brought as possible in order to thwart brexit.
    So I see no reason to change my arguments for saying that i see this as playing party politics within the courts and I am baffled at the further Authoritarian directional of travel of some Liberals, Democrats, Liberal Democrats

  • Mark Goodrich 19th Jan '17 - 12:45am

    There are a quite a few comments suggesting that the YouGov poll means that support for Remain has halved and Brexit is now at 64%. That isn’t an accurate description.

    In fact, polls since the referendum have been suprisingly consistent in showing that approx 50% think the decision was right and 50% think it was wrong. So, basically hardly anyone has changed their mind about whether it was good or bad – it’s just that a significant chunk of Remainers would go along with a Soft Brexit. Hence, I think that would have been almost impossible to stop.

    By opting for Hard Brexit, May is taking a huge risk that forces opposed to single market exit will coalesce against her. She has taken that risk because the Labour party is poorly led and hopelessly split and divided. However, in doing so, I think she puts tactics above long-term strategy so I disagree with those (looking at you Stephen Tall http://stephentall.org/2017/01/17/theresa-mays-hard-brexit-politically-and-tactically-smart/) who think it was it was a smart move.

    Finally, it is terrible for UKIP as a party. I have seen the speech described as UKIP-lite but, in reality, Farage had it right. The speech was pure UKIP (with the possible exception of the nod towards diversity). Expect UKIP to chuck everything at Stoke-on-Trent to try to show that it is still relevant.

  • Mark Goodrich 19th Jan '17 - 12:47am

    @matt – Um, if you think that it is “authoritarian” to bring court cases against the Government, I think you need to do some reading up.

  • David Evershed 19th Jan '17 - 1:23am


    Thank you for your response to my question at 4.54pm.

    I am totally persuaded by, and in full agreement with, your answer.

  • Mark Goodrich 19th Jan '17 - 1:35am

    I am with AngrySteve as well. Sure you aren’t a Lib Dem really?

    One of the reasons why I think that May’s proposal will come unstuck is precisely because she is trying to deliver something she doesn’t really believe in and probably knows isn’t a very good idea. That Tory single market manifesto commitment can’t be wished away.

  • Arnold Kiel 19th Jan '17 - 7:41am

    In this case, polls have ceased to be a useful guide for decisionmaking; sometimes you have to have a conviction.

    I would strongly encourage LibDem MPs to switch from tactical to strategic positioning: supporting a referendum was a mistake, and “respecting” its result but asking for another one is a weak derivative of the original sin.

    Voting against triggering Article 50 gives your party a chance of vindication, supporting this Government again will render it eternally irrelevant.

  • Alan Depauw 19th Jan '17 - 7:55am

    For those of us who oppose the government’s interpretation of the referendum, the question over the revocability of Article 50 must be answered. Because it is part of an EU treaty, it can be settled only by the European Court of Justice. The only way to request an ECJ ruling on matters of this type is to go through national courts.

    Right now, I believe only one such process is underway- in Ireland (details are available here: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/brexit-for-the-100/)

    It is unsatisfactory and strange that no process has been initiated in the UK. It is unfair to wait for another person with Gina Miller’s courage to do so. Surely the LibDems, as an official institution, with the considerable legal expertise at their disposal, are in an excellent position to raise the matter?

    Hopefully they are ready to do so and are merely waiting on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Miller case (where both parties have agreed to assume that the notification of Article 50 is irrevocable).

  • Mark
    The fact is there is more support for so called “hard Brexit” than either of the the other options you try to link. Soft Brexit is not the same as no Brexit which only has 23% in this poll. The point being that some people giving Soft Brexit as a preference in this survey would settle for hard Brexit. So it is still possible and indeed likely that Hard Brexit would have majority support. Don’t know is not the same as no Brexit either. Polling v real results also suggest that people who say they don’t know tend actually tend not to want to say because they are embarrassed or don’t want to be judged (the shy Tory syndrome). The bottom line is that only 23% favoured no Brexit and given the rhetoric about the 48% you really would expect the figure too be much higher. What you’re doing is taking the hard Brexit percentage as its absolute number of supporters and then doing the opposite with the other groups, when really there will be more flexibility and splits in either direction in the middle.

  • Arnold Kiel is right. In the end it is about how we take decisions. The English, for the most part resist thinking about such matters but Liberals/Lib Dems in good times and bad have been to the fore in stimulating those conversations.

  • Mark Goodrich 19th Jan '17 - 10:17am

    @Glenn It’s about positioning. May has decided to position on minority side rather than in the middle of spectrum of views.

  • @Mark Goodrich

    “Um, if you think that it is “authoritarian” to bring court cases against the Government, I think you need to do some reading up.”
    The court case is not being brought just against the Government, it is being brought against the will of the 17 million + people who voted to leave the EU.

    No need to do “reading up” as you suggest, look at a dictionary yourself 😉
    Authoritarian definition: favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.”
    I regard what the “minority remainers” are attempting to do through the use of the courts is to attempt to deny and control the democratic will of the “majority of leavers” is by definition Authoritarian.

  • @Arnold Kiel – so you think the Lib Dems should now say “Yes, the Lib Dem parliamentary party voted in favour of having the referendum, but only because we thought it would deliver a Remain result. Had we known it would deliver a Leave result we would never have voted for a referendum. So we’re sorry we did that. And now we will vote to stop the implementation of the result of the referendum which we – wrongly – voted in favour of holding. PS Please vote for us at the next election after which we might or might not do the things we say we will do.”. That is – in your view – the correct message from the Lib Dems right now?

  • New yougov Poll https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xalfiwu0ed/TimesResults_170118_VI_Trackers_MaySpeech_W.pdf

    Seems the public overwhelmingly support Theresa May’s Brexit Strategy.
    The Majority still support Brexit and think the EU referendum result the right result,
    overwhelmingly support controlling immigration
    overwhelmingly support leaving the single market

    In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union?
    Right to leave 46%
    Wrong to leave 42%

    Britain must be able to have control over immigration from European Union countries
    Right to do 74% {Even 54% remain support this}
    Wrong to do 12%

    Britain will NOT try to remain inside the European single market, but will instead try to negotiate a new free trade deal with the EU giving us “the greatest possible” access to the single market
    Right thing to do 57% {even 34% remain supported this option}
    Wrong to do 21%

    Britain will leave the European customs union, but will try to negotiate an agreement to have as few custom barriers as possible while allowing Britain to make its own trade deals with other countries
    Right thing to do 56% {39% of remainders support this option}
    Wrong thing to do 20%

    Looking again at the sort of Brexit Theresa May has said she will try to negotiate… Leaving the single market and negotiating a new free trade deal Leaving the customs union and negotiating a new customs agreement Controls on immigration from EU countries Open border with Ireland Guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens already in Britain and UK citizens already living in Europe Continuing to work with the EU on security and law enforcement If Britain does secure the sort of Brexit deal that Theresa May has suggested do you think it would be good or bad for Britain?
    Would be good for Britain 55% (Including 32% who voted remain)
    Would be bad for Britain 19%

    Theresa May suggested that Britain would walk away from negotiations if other European Union countries are not prepared to offer a good deal
    Should be prepared to walk away 55% incl 34% remainers
    Should not 24%

    Doesn’t look good for all those that put so much faith in the polls trying to claim that public opinion is shifting towards remain and wanting a 2nd referendum. Seems very clear to me that opinion is shifting but ever more towards leave and wanting a harder brexit, even amongst those who voted remain

  • Mark
    23% is the minority view and the 25% in middle represents a spectrum of views that at a push would favour even hard Brexit over a compromise that means no Brexit. Why include the 23% amongst a natural centre position when if you add the figures up it’s pretty clear that a lot of former remain voters will support some kind of Brexit. Piers Morgan for instance is a Remain Voter who now accepts the logic so-called hard Brexit as is May herself. So why assume that the middle position is fixed to a more pro EU outcome. Plus the fact is Remain only has 23% in this poll, To me this comes down to whether or not you see the Remain position as part of the middle ground and the middle ground as a fixed position. I dispute both points as the balance is tipped much more in favour of some kind of Leave option than some sort of Remain option. Remember it is Remain who keep talking about the allegedly rock solid 48% against leaving the EU and the supposedly Bregetful when clearly the ground has in fact shifted to a broader acceptance of the reality of Brexit. The thing is people ultimately will back up the nation state above vague internationalism if pushed because societies and democracies are organised at a national level. In fact I’ll go further and say the more the EU is perceived powerful/in control in these negations the more the pendulum will swing to nation state based loyalty.

  • @matt re: “Doesn’t look good for all those that put so much faith in the polls trying to claim that public opinion is shifting towards remain and wanting a 2nd referendum. Seems very clear to me that opinion is shifting but ever more towards leave and wanting a harder brexit, even amongst those who voted remain”

    Given the announcements made yesterday, which are just the beginning of a flood, it looks like it will be a very hard Brexit when it finally happens. Wth the mass transfer of financial operations from London to other EU cities, the government is going to be hit very hard very quickly, as firstly such ‘investments’ are tax deductable, secondly a significant proportion of the governments revenues come from the City, both in terms of levies on transactions and on salaries. About the only benefit that will arise is that as many of these people moving will be non-UK EU nationals, their very generous salaries, that are currently included and hence skewing the findings of the various “how economically wonderful immigants are” reports, will no longer be counted and thus largely demolish the economic benefits argument for mass immigration…

  • @Roland

    So we are moving the language again now its allegedly a very hard brexit.

    As far as I am concerned, it is simply “Brexit”

    “Wth the mass transfer of financial operations from London to other EU cities, the government is going to be hit very hard very quickly”
    I simply do not buy this is going to happen. The EU wanted to impose an EU Financial Tax, but this was strongly apposed by the UK and the city.
    Do you really think that when push comes to shove all the major banks are going to rush to France or Belgium, wherever, were they are likely to be stung by the EU? I don’t think so.
    On top of that, with Britain no longer paying Billions of Euros in to the EU, the EU is going to have to make up that shortfall, Could it be the EU much wanted EU Tax Identification Number will make its way quickly into reality.
    Bankers are not going to be prepared to be hit with a double whammy EU tax

  • @ matt

    So when you say “Liberal Democrats” you do not mean the Liberal Democrat Party, but mean people who you think are members of the Liberal Democrat party and so speak for all members. I find this a very strange use of language, which is just asking to be misunderstood.

    The present court case is to stop the Prime Minister from using the Royal Prerogative to repeal all acts and parts of acts of Parliament that link us to European Union law. To think of it as a means to stop Brexit is to misunderstand the legal arguments used in the court case. (This impression might have been given to you from the media, but to know the truth you should read the High Court judgment (https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/judgment-r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-the-eu-20161103.pdf). It might be possible that even if the exit process could be stopped once started this does not give the Prime Minister the right to start the process by the Royal Prerogative because of the need to repeal acts and parts of acts of Parliament.

    The argument about abusing the use of the Royal Prerogative is a UK only matter, but the revoking of the exit process is an European Union matter.

  • @ matt

    The rule of law is the opposite of being authoritarian, because authoritarians wish that they can just issue laws, while those who believe in the rule of law, believe the correct process has to be followed. I do not know of any authoritarian country that has the rule of law above the authority of the government.

    In our liberal democracy the law trumps the popular will and we have process for the making of laws within Parliament where the role of the opposition is to oppose the will of the government and each member has a responsibility to act in what they think is the best interest of the whole country. This is why governments sometime fail to pass into law everything they promised in their manifestos. The role of the opposition is also to persuade the public that what was in the government’s manifesto is not in the best interest of the country. I am sure that those who feel most strongly about staying in the EU believe it is not in the best interests of the UK to leave the EU and they have a moral duty to try to convince the people of this and stop or delay the process so people can change their mind. I expect they feel it is so important because they do not see a way to restore the UK’s position in the EU as it is today once we have left. This is how our democracy works. It is not undemocratic to delay or oppose something that the people voted for in a general election or referendum (it was not undemocratic to oppose our membership of the EU after the 1975 referendum).We could have a system where this is not true, but having it makes a dictatorship ever happening in the UK less likely. We could have a democracy that abolishes Parliament and people just vote on who will be Prime Minister and then the Prime Mister just issues laws as degrees.

  • @matt – “I simply do not buy this is going to happen.”

    Believe what you want, I know what work I and my consulting colleagues have been doing these last few months – but am not at liberty to be specific. However, we had identified that the UK financial crisis was going to happen about a year prior to it hitting the headlines…

    Just remember May in her speech has made it clear, she will be leaving the Single Market – the only question is whether this will happen prior to Brexit or subsequently to Brexit, given leaving the EEA is a totally separate process to leaving the EU…
    Thus as European business that does substatial business because of our membership and access to the single market, it doesn’t make sense to have these operations outside of the EU. The rational is exactly the same as used by (mostly) US companies locating their EU operations in Ireland; remember post-Brexit the UK is a gateway to nowhere….

  • David Allen 19th Jan '17 - 3:51pm


    Before May’s speech, Yougov had it as 44% right to leave, 44% wrong. After May’s speech, the balance has shifted to 46 / 42, which you ludicrously describe as “overwhelming” support for May’s strategy. That’s Brexiteering of course, the brave new post-truth politics….

    What you’re seeing is a small, short-lived bounce in favour of a PM who has made one well-reported speech. It will quickly disappear as business reacts against it and the EU gives short shrift to “all take and no give”.

  • David Allen 19th Jan '17 - 4:19pm

    Something which baffles me is that no party leader has made the following speech:

    “The referendum was a catastrophically divisive event for Britain. We have become two virtually equal warring communities within a troubled nation. Only the Labservacrats can Reunite Britain!

    We stand for the 52% who voted to Leave. We also stand for the 48% who passionately believe that we belong with Europe. The only way to reunite Britain is through the Labservacrat “Very Soft Brexit” project. We will gently disengage from the EU, and regain our crucial parliamentary sovereignty. But we will retain our vital trading, social and cultural partnership with the EU, and stay in the Single Market. Only by doing this can we stay strong, retain global respect, and unite our people.

    Both sides talked a lot of nonsense about immigration. UKIP, who have covertly planned for MORE immigration and a cheaper supply of labour from beyond Europe, were the worst. The truth is that business has been calling all the shots, and that’s why Cameron deliberately kept immigration high, while fibbing about attempting to do otherwise. The truth is that we can – within single market rules – take action which will stop agencies recruiting sweated labour from abroad. Vote Labservacrat for rational, achievable immigration controls that will not bankrupt Britain!”

    To be clear, I don’t think Tim should be giving that speech! Outright opposition to Brexit is a better policy, it is right for Britain and it is right for us. But hey, why aren’t Labour, or the ex-Remain Tories, making that speech? It would have traction…

  • @Michael BG

    When I say liberal democrats I am referring to either members, activists, supporters or voters, I am not suggesting that they speak for the entire party because as we all know over 1/3 of Liberal Democrat Members or Supporters voted to leave, though not many of those leave voters are very vocal on here as i suspect many are fearful of the reception that they would get. But point taking, I should take care more care when referring to “Libdems” and will try to do so

    With regards to my comments on Authoritarian, I was not suggesting that the country was Authoritarian or even the party, I was suggesting that it seemed to me through comments on here that some people who identified with being libdem, appears to me to be becoming very authoritarian.
    I would have thought that above all else, Liberals and Democrats alike would firstly believe in individual judgement, freedom of choice. It does seem to me though that some people are attempting to challenge those principles through the courts.

    Maybe my interpretation is way of the mark. I freely admit, I am not a well learned man and I am defiantly no politico, I struggle to articulate myself at times. Most of my knowledge comes from a journey of self discovery, experiences, personal feelings and values.

  • @ David Allen
    “you ludicrously describe as “overwhelming” support for May’s strategy. That’s Brexiteering of course, the brave new post-truth politics”
    If you look at the entire poll results, what I said was true, nothing ludicrous about that at all, the figures speak for themselves.

    Britain must be able to have control over immigration from European Union countries: Rights has a lead of 62% over Wrong (Overwhelming support for Mays strategy)

    Britain will NOT try to remain inside the European single market: Right has a lead of 36% over Wrong (Over whelming support for Mays strategy)

    Britain will leave the European customs union: Right has a lead of 36% over Wrong Overwhelming support for Mays strategy)

    Looking again at the sort of Brexit Theresa May has said: Good for Britain has a lead of 36% over Bad (Overwhelming support for Mays strategy)

    Theresa May suggested that Britain would walk away from negotiations if other European Union countries are not prepared to offer a good deal : Should has a lead of 31% over shouldn’t (Overwhelming support for Mays strategy)

  • @ matt

    Liberals do believe in freedom of choice and that all adults should be able to vote on who represents them (not voting for delegates who lack the freedom of representatives). As I explained democracy includes the right and duty to oppose what the majority has voted for, and to delay implementation of the government’s programme in the hope that the public will change its mind. An example would be the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry – nationalised by Labour in 1949, opposed by the Conservatives who denationalised it after 1951, then re-nationalised in 1967 and privatised in 1988.

    Hopefully I have successfully explained that it is not being authoritarian to support the rule of law, ensuring that the government acts within the law; opposing government plans; or attempting to get the public to change its mind.

  • @Michael BG

    “Hopefully I have successfully explained that it is not being authoritarian to support the rule of law, ensuring that the government acts within the law; ”

    I think the reason we are singing from different hymn sheets is because I was referring to remainers as behaving in what I perceive as an “authoritarian” way towards the 52% of the voters who voted to leave, not towards the Government.
    Voters were asked to make a judgement on whether we should remain or leave the EU, the individual judgements collectively amounted to the majority wanting to leave the EU.
    Now I see it as though there are those who will use any means necessary including the courts in order to thwart the will of the Majority, isnt that authoritarian?? I am not talking about the principle of using the courts in order to ensure the government acts within the law, as I do not really believe that is what these court cases are about, that’s just a smoke screen. In my honest opinion these court cases are purely about attempting to stall brexit as long as possible, or to derail it entirely.
    I get that Democracy allows people the right to appose the majority, I am not disputing that, but there is a world of difference between apposing something and campaigning to change peoples minds and using the law to try and block it

  • Peter Watson 19th Jan '17 - 7:33pm

    @David Allen “Before May’s speech, Yougov had it as 44% right to leave, 44% wrong. After May’s speech, the balance has shifted to 46 / 42”
    Do you have a reference for that?
    This Yougov table seems to be reporting 46/42 in favour of those who believe that Britain was right to vote for Brexit both before and after May’s speech.
    Perhaps disconcertingly for Lib Dems, between the two polls it looks like those with a Lib Dem voting intention or who voted Lib Dem on 2015 show a swing towards believing the vote for Brexit was right after May’s speech! (Previous poll)
    Curiously, the survey appears to show significantly more people thinking the UK will be worse off in a number of ways (but not on immigration) but this has not translated into any sort of “Bregret”. Perhaps this should inform the Lib Dem strategy: have voters accepted the doom-mongering of the Remain campaign but factored that into their support for Brexit? Maybe those with the least to lose are less inclined to believe that they personally will be any worse off, and perhaps that is a constituency from which Lib Dems have become detached.
    However, surveys showed Remain winning, and doubting this made me a tidy profit from my first ever bet (so I was one of the first winners from Brexit despite voting against it!), so who knows how useful they are on this issue!?

  • @Paul Murray
    So the entire British political class shall be populist followers of a misguided and deceiptful advisory referendum? Why are we contributing here, then?

    Do you have an alternative proposal for starting a resurgence of this decimated and demoralized party? There is no easy way; I propose to bet on a vindication of remain. There is a 48% market unserved; sounds tactical, but incidentally happens to be the right thing.

  • @ matt

    “I get that Democracy allows people the right to appose the majority, I am not disputing that, but there is a world of difference between apposing something and campaigning to change peoples minds and using the law to try and block it”

    As I have already tried to point out the current court case will not stop Brexit. It is purely about not allowing the government to use the Royal Prerogative to change UK law. Getting Parliament to pass an act to trigger Article 50 is unlikely to stop Brexit. As I have already pointed out the judgment from the High Court points out what the court case is about. Asking for the European Court of Justice to rule on if a country can revoke their notice to withdraw also does not stop Brexit. However having another referendum will give the British population a chance to change their mind. I think I have pointed out that the idea of getting the public to change its collective mind is an essential part of democracy.

  • @Michael BG

    “As I have already tried to point out the current court case will not stop Brexit. ”

    I never said that it would. I said it is my belief that there are those that “hope” it will in some way stop Brexit by delaying article 50 being invoked or derailing it altogether.
    I also said that I believe it’s a smoke screen that the people who are bringing the court cases are only doing so because it’s about holding the government to account and making sure they act within the law. I believe the real motive is as I keep repeating to stall or derail brexit entirely. I am not and have never said that the court ruling would stop Brexit.

    But it is entirely possible to tie the government up in months or years of legal battles a tactic often used by those with deep pockets and the means to do so.

    “However having another referendum will give the British population a chance to change their mind.”
    Is that what you support? And what are the terms you would want the referendum legislated for this time? Enhanced Majority / Minimum Turn Out / Advisory / Binding,
    Insisting 16-18 year olds get the vote, EU citizens residing in the UK getting the vote, what else do you think the remain camp is going to be demanding happens next if not crying fowl play

    Do you support Scotland having another Referendum on independence?

    Did you support the AV referendum being legislated so that it only needed a simple majority vote and no stipulation on turn out?

  • Mark Goodrich 19th Jan '17 - 11:57pm

    @David Allen – I agree with you. The campaign for Soft Brexit would have traction and has completely disappeared. The pro-Remain Tories seem to have given up entirely (although I wonder if Osborne is lurking to see if things go wrong). And the Labour Party’s policy is just waffle about holding the Government to account without any clear view of what their plan is.

    So, whilst I agree with you that Tim shouldn’t be delivering that speech, he has to start incorporating elements of it. The hardcore Remain group is already convinced by us – we need to start tacking back to the central position to start picking up soft Remain and soft Leave votes. Returning to my original theme, the May speech gives us that chance.

  • Mark Goodrich 20th Jan '17 - 12:08am

    On the post May speech, YouGov polling, I would have expected initial support and a bounce. The speech was well delivered, I think there was a feeling of relief that the Government was finally setting out some clear lines and coverage from the media was highly supportive. That said, the initial numbers were more positive for May than I expected so perhaps my post above was unduly optimistic. Still, I think it was a useful corrective to the overall media narrative!

    However, Peter Watson is right. It made zero difference to the polling on whether people thought the right or wrong decision was made (I think the 44/44 was an earlier YouGov poll). Basically, both sides have been engaged in wishful thinking. Remainers thinking that there was significant Bregret and Leavers thinking that Remainers have decided that things are not so bad after all. In fact, the polling shows consistently that hardly anyone has changed their view. It is quite remarkably stable.

  • Mark Goodrich 20th Jan '17 - 12:19am

    Final comment on the polling. There really is some interesting conclusions in the detailed numbers. Despite support for the negotiating objectives, people think leaving the EU:

    – will be bad for the economy (37 to 29)
    – will give us less influence in the world (35 to 21)
    – will be bad for jobs (32 to 28)
    – bad for pensions (25 to 10)

    People think (very marginally) that it will be good for the NHS (I suspect that won’t last given the other numbers) and that it will reduce immigration. Let’s see our campaigning link up economy, jobs and pensions along with the loss of international influence and talk less about process. There is really an audience for that.

  • @ matt

    I note you have responded to my facts with your beliefs. I can only state the facts and hope they will change your belief. Can you give any internet references where either Gina Miller or Dier Dos Santos state that the reason they went to court was to stop Brexit. Included in the statement made on behalf of Dier Dos Santos was “In fact I voted for Brexit in the referendum for the sole reason that I wanted power to be returned from Europe to the British parliament.”

    As you stated earlier there are many views on whether the leaving process can be stopped once started. I think it is very important that we find out if the leaving process can be halted once started. The government is not going to go to court to get a ruling on this. I wanted the Liberal Democrats to do it, but I think this is unlikely. Therefore we have to hope that somebody will. As Alan Depauw pointed out someone in Ireland is doing so in the Irish courts.

    Yes I do support a second referendum, because I believe it is the only legitimate way to overturn the result of last year’s referendum. I would let 16-17 year olds vote in any future referendum. (It makes no sense that they could vote in the Scottish referendum but not in the UK one.) I don’t think non-UK citizens should vote in a future referendum as they do not have the right to vote in UK Parliamentary elections. However every UK citizen living outside the UK who has the right to vote in UK General Elections should be able to vote in any future referendum.

    I think it is legitimate for there to be another referendum on Scottish independence because one of the arguments for staying in the UK was its EU membership. If in a second UK wide referendum the UK population votes by a simple majority to leave the EU under the conditions negotiated then I think the Scottish Parliament should negotiate to stay in the EU (assuming that the majority of the Scottish population voted again to remain in the EU) and if it can get a deal to stay in, then I think it would be right for Scotland to have another independence referendum that includes their continued membership of the EU. If they cannot get a deal to stay in the EU I am undecided on whether there should be another Scottish independence referendum.

  • Why should polls change now? Nothing has happened. Unfortunately, Britons need to get poorer first, just wait…

  • @David Allen
    “Outright opposition to Brexit is a better policy, it is right for Britain and it is right for us.”

    The trouble with the current Lib Dem position is, there is no sense of contingency. Nobody is saying, “well we want to stay in the EU and will make fighting for that our top priority for the next two years; but just in case we are unsuccessful and Brexit does come to pass, we will also work with other centre & left parties to fight to keep as many of the rights and protections (in matters like employment and the environment) as we possibly can in a post-Brexit Britain.”

    There’s none of that. All we get instead is endless heaping of abuse upon Jeremy Corbyn and a never-ending debate about who is the “real opposition” that sounds more and more like two bald men fighting over a comb.

    If, come April 1st 2019, we’ve fallen out of the EU and all those valuable rights and protections are gone but the Lib Dems are back up to the high teens in the polls and look likely to get a minibus or two’s worth of MPs in 2020, will Tim Farron regard the two years just passed as a triumph or a disaster?

  • Peter Watson 20th Jan '17 - 12:51pm

    @Mark Goodrich “Let’s see our campaigning link up economy, jobs and pensions along with the loss of international influence and talk less about process.”
    But the polling suggests that those still supporting Brexit have already accepted the likelihood of problems in those areas. Perhaps the strategy should instead honestly and openly address immigration and sovereignty which appear to trump economic concerns, some of which, in all honesty, are more likely to impact on middle-class liberals like myself than those who voted for Brexit.

  • David Allen 20th Jan '17 - 1:11pm

    Peter Watson, here’s my reference:


    and a confession – your reference to a 9th Jan poll which came up 46 / 42 in favour of leave is slightly more up to date!

    As Mark Goodrich says, these tiny shifts in the data are insignificant. We are still a deeply divided nation. Rather than seek to reunite the nation, Theresa May has gone for a one-sided divisive way forward. Our opposition to that should be robust but it shouldn’t be equally divisive.

  • @Matt – “But it is entirely possible to tie the government up in months or years of legal battles a tactic often used by those with deep pockets and the means to do so.”

    Nothing wrong with that, it’s the way the system works in the UK. Remember the referendum only happened because Farage spent years campaigning. Hence what you are effectively saying is that the referendum result should be discarded…

  • Phil Craxford 21st Jan '17 - 9:12am

    Can we seize it? Yes.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Jan '17 - 9:14pm

    Catching up with this fascinating debate, I’m grateful to you chaps who have provided the many references on polling, and I gather that as far as can be seen there isn’t any surge of opinion to give Remainers hope at present. As Mark Goodrich wrote, maybe there has been wishful thinking on both sides. He did expect a ‘bounce’ and some feeling of relief after May’s speech, with which I concur; another reason for little change is that there is an increasing general feeling, I believe, that Brexit must happen. But I don’t share that feeling, and I still expect that our economic situation will worsen so considerably that Leavers will be shaken and the polling figures will change, probably by next spring.
    At the same time, our Government will be winning concessions (Stuart) on matters like rights and protections for workers, and mutual rights for non-British citizens living here and Brits on the Continent. There will seem to be a soft Brexit emerging, But the bottom line is that we won’t be able to keep the same trade in goods and services with the EU as we have now outside the internal market. We need to stay in the EU. So Tim Farron’s line is correct, at the end of negotiations our people have a democratic right to decide, and that decision must include the possibility of staying in, an EU by then possibly less centrally controlled, and probably much more ready for management of internal migration.

  • Andrew McCaig 21st Jan '17 - 9:56pm

    On the YouGov poll:

    I dont think anyone on here has pointed out that the way the questions about May’s speech (no doubt written by The Times editor) were designed to get the best possible result for her and the Tories.

    There were a bunch of routine questions. Then they asked the immigration question without asking the Single market question (people think we should both control migration and be in the Single Market, which is impossible). And then they asked specifically on May’s hoped-for deal, which is ridiculously optimistic…

    Finally though they asked if people thought May will get that deal, and they said “no”. So we have no idea what people will think when the deal becomes apparent. But at present the question was akin to “would you like to win the lottery”

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMary Reid 5th Jun - 11:26am
    Love that one, @Ian Sanderson
  • User AvatarJohn McHugo 5th Jun - 11:17am
    I agree with Steve Richards and Joe Bourke. Politics is the art of the possible, and how to do the greatest good in the particular...
  • User AvatarRoland 5th Jun - 11:05am
    From what is being implemented locally, don't see much real difference, other than the media headline. My teenagers go back to school as from 15-Jun....
  • User AvatarRussell Simpson 5th Jun - 11:03am
    Sean Hagan I think the post from Joe Burke is really important. Since I moved here from NZ in 1986 I think the Coalition govt...
  • User AvatarAlison C 5th Jun - 10:54am
    Do please keep on with your isolation diary. It is the only posting I always read right through, reminding us of our many blessings. But...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 5th Jun - 10:52am
    I do so hope Tom's assumption is correct. My memory of American Presidents goes way back to Harry.S. Truman and given that we've had eleven...