Why we should “Stay” and not “stop Brexit”

Much of our campaign since the 2017 general election has revolved around the “Exit from Brexit”. We need to win over Remainers; by having a clear and repeated anti-Brexit position, the electorate will know what we stand for.

There are a few problems.

Firstly, we are not “anti-Brexit”, we are pro-EU. Every time we say “Brexit”, we evoke certain thought patterns within the minds of voters, particularly the so-called ReLeavers (those who voted Remain but feel we should Leave because of the referendum).

We normalise Brexit. We make it seem mainstream. In an effort to be radical outsiders, we make Liberal Democrats seem like they want to do something weird that nobody voted for. As such, we should avoid the term at all possible costs. For starters, Tom Brake should no longer be our Brexit Spokesperson but our EU Spokesperson.

Secondly, “stop Brexit” terminology forces our current campaign to be negative.

Thirdly, in many areas of the country, we are trying to win over Leave voters.

For instance, Sheffield Hallam – now a Labour seat – voted heavily to remain. Yet even here, part of Nick Clegg’s defeat can be attributed to Conservative Brexiteers who voted Conservative in 2017 having previously voted Lib Dem to keep out Labour.

Many Leave voters want to vote for us, particularly at a local level. It is easier to create space between local and national campaigns if we drop the word “Brexit” which is so fraught with emotion. By changing our wording to “Stay”, we build a positive case for EU membership.

In the context of the core vote strategy, Stay evokes many of the values that would attract those core voters. Togetherness, community, stability: all things that Conservative and Labour Remainers (or even Stayers) crave.

We’ll need a new slogan. So far, I’ve got to the distinctly average “time to stay” and “stay safe” whilst rejecting the even more awful “a final say and a chance to stay”. But this change of terminology allows us to attract a core vote without evoking a negative reaction in those voters who support the Lib Dems but voted Leave.

* Rajin Chowdhury is a junior doctor specialising in anaesthetics and critical care. He is also an ordinary member on the Sheffield Northwest and Central branch executive.

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22 Comments

  • Ian Hurdley 29th Mar '18 - 1:00pm

    I sincerely believe that we should expunge the word Brexit from both our external and internal vocabulary. Brexit is not a thing, a strategy, a philosophy; it is a brand pure and simple. Moreover it is a powerful brand with a strong emotional pull for a very large number of voters. To pursue that thought a little further, you won’t stop people putting ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ in their trolleys by continually telling them that it’s not as good as butter.
    So I agree that we need something equally emotionally compelling to promote continuing membership of the EU. What that something is, I don’t know. I’m sure though that this forum can come up with the goods.

  • Good points here. Stay safe is a good slogan, and “The EU protects us”. From shoddy goods, chlorinated chickens, Russian interference, and so on.

  • Wholeheartedly agree.

    GE2017 showed us that negative campaigning works against us – people are somewhat fed up of us complaining about what the other side is doing wrong- and not saying enough about what we would do right. The same goes for Brexit – we need that “positive case for remain” everyone keeps talking about.

  • **edit: need to make the positive case – I’ve no doubt that being in the EU is positive – but many voters are not convinced.

  • Shelagh Hemelryk 29th Mar '18 - 1:35pm

    I think you’re right it would be sensible to get away from the word Brexit and, stop Brexit ,as you say is negative. Want to help but think may have put some people off by using that term.

  • ‘Stay safe’ sounds like a slogan for seatbelts.

    There’s a lot of merit in this article though.

  • I would suggest that Brexit be rebranded as what it is – a craven abandonment of our position within the EU.

    After all, we can see from the exit negotiations so, we are heading for a position where, after we leave, we will end up following most of the rules and regulations that the other EU countries will decide in our absence.

    Why is it that while Ministers for countries such as Slovenia and Slovakia can go to Brussels and defend their national interests, our Conservative (& Labour) one’s are so useless they are unable and/or unwilling to do so? They can’t defend our national interests if they just run away. That’s just a “Dad’s Army” version of diplomacy.

  • I think we get it that the Lib Dems are opposed to Brexit or whatever other benighted phrase is used. But can we talk about something else. please – or does the party have nothing else to say ?

  • @David Raw – recent polling suggests most know nothing about our stance on the EU. Perhaps many do not care – but among those are many “Remain” voters looking for a home. And the fact remains that our staying in or leaving the EU has far reaching effects on every policy area you can name.

  • David – At least this article is a different take on it.

    I do agree though, as important as the issue is, we don’t appear to have much to say on anything else, and that’s a big concern – especially as its not clear that many people are actually paying attention to what we have to say on the EU anyway.

  • Stay safe is a good slogan

    It’s a terrible, patronising slogan dripping with condescension that makes it sound like you think the electorate are children.

    and “The EU protects us”. From shoddy goods, chlorinated chickens, Russian interference, and so on

    So… before we joined the EU, we had no consumer protection laws?

    And while we were in the EU, the EU made sure that Russians never slipped polonium to anyone in our tea-rooms?

    You’re going to have to come up with less-obviously-nonsense arguments if you want to get through to people.

    (As for chlorinated chicken… how bad can it really be? I’ve been to the USA & I had chicken while I was there. Presumably it was chlorinated. It didn’t seem to do me any harm. It doesn’t seem to do most of the yanks any harm either, unless it’s what’s causing their obesity epidemic.)

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Mar '18 - 3:01pm

    I do not relate to the view that we have nothing else to say, policies on many areas,mostly good some not, but all there to see!

    The leadership need to emphasise them and media give coverage.

    That does not mean those of us in the party have nothing else we are interested in.

    I do think there is too much emphasis on this topic. It alienates me as it is not my greatest concern.

    Although I do think it is important, we must persuade the public we are mainstream and sensible, this is what is needed.

  • John Marriott 29th Mar '18 - 3:28pm

    Yet again. I agree with David Raw. How many more angles can you work on the subject? OK, the Lib Dems are the party of Remain (although I remember that subtle Cleggian phrase from the Farage debates, something about “we are the party of IN, UKIP is the party of PutIN”). Let the Lib Dems campaign in the local elections on REMAIN. Have they really become a ‘one trick pony’? And… if the breakthrough fails to materialise, will it be time to change the script?

  • Ian MacFadyen 29th Mar '18 - 5:12pm

    I agree fully with Rajin.

  • This is a strange article. It seems to be saying we invented the term “Brexit” and if only we stopped using it, nobody would use it. If my memory is correct it was Vince who came up with “Exit from Brexit”, which should be catchy enough to lodge in the public’s mind. I don’t recall Tim using “Exit from Brexit” or us using it during the 2017 general election.

    It also appears that Rajin Chowdhury does not know the official title of the government position David Davis holds. It is not the “Brexit Secretary” it is the “Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union”. And Tom Brake’s official job title is “Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Exiting the European Union”.

    I can’t see any benefits from not saying “Exit from Brexit” and instead saying “we are the party of staying in the EU”.

    Also I don’t think we should present ourselves as the pro-EU party. The EU has lots of problems and we need to be the party which is calling for reforming of the EU to make it more popular in the UK. I also don’t think we should be the party of stability; it sounds too much like our failed 2015 general election campaign; we should be a party calling for change and not a party which just wants to keep what is existing – that is the Conservative Party.

  • nvelope2003 29th Mar '18 - 8:27pm

    Dav: How do you know if the chlorine is causing the US obesity problem. It might be – there has to be a cause unless they all eat huge amounts of food.

  • Bruce Milton 29th Mar '18 - 10:11pm

    I agree with many points here.
    We have well thought through policies in the main but presentation and the modern required strap line is not well thought through.

    To convert voters and surely to move ourselves to a party in government we need to demonstrate our policies have a positive answer even for your ardent Brexiteer.

    Exit from Brexit
    – British values to Stay. Lead. Change EU
    #LibDemGiveMeHope

  • I agree that we Libdems should make a positive case. Thanks for this article.

    Jane Reed Activist in York

  • Ian Hurdley 30th Mar '18 - 8:37am

    Spelling out policies is right and proper for political activists and commentators. Voters don’t register policy detail but cast their votes on the basis of emotional attitudes to the choices available – sound bites, if you like. ‘Exit from Brexit’ is a sound bite, but in my opinion, a poor sound bite which speaks only to the converted, whereas we need to convert the undecided who still largely think in two party terms when it’s time to vote. Our current slogan unintentionally endorses ‘Brexit’ by thrusting the ‘brand’ into prominence. BA positions itself as ‘The world’s favourite airline’, though it probably isn’t; it doesn’t insist, ‘We’re not Quantas’.

  • I am not sure how food production got into the thread, but I think that it is one of the keys to the debate. The truth is that we need strict regulations for a number of reasons. One is that everything in the food – including pesticides, artificial hormones or whatever, ends up in us. Our bodies can get rid of it, but there are limits. We build up poisons. This results in chronic illness. Increasingly food – including that from animals – is produced by limiting the range of nutrients used. The body needs a very wide range of nutrients which it won’t get if they are not in the food. This leads to chronic illness. We must work with our European partners to prevent an ever increasing spread of poor quality food.
    By the way I entirely agree with the piece by Rajin. However we are always too defensive.

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