No Deal would be horrendous – but let’s not forget that any other type of Brexit is bad news and we must resist it

So, let me get this right. Our own Prime Minister has admitted that we are now stockpiling food and medicines just in case Brexit goes disastrously wrong. Our ability to supply ourselves with the basics of life is now under threat because of her Government’s reckless appeasement of the extreme right of her party. And this really matters. It’s actually about whether people live or die. As my friend Jenny points out:

Tory extreme Brexiteers think that no deal would be just fine, we’d breeze through it. They also said that negotiating Brexit would be simple. No, it’s bloody complicated. And it would be even with a Government that didn’t turn up to the negotiations like a disorganised student turning in a badly crafted essay written in an all night Red Bull fuelled panic in the hours before the deadline. I’m slightly worried by all this ramping up of No Deal, though. I don’t want people to think that when the Brexit outcome is finally unveiled, that anything that doesn’t involve having to survive on barbecued rats, Baldrick’s coffee from Blackadder goes Forth and having our loved ones dying unnecessarily because they can’t get the medicine they need is in any way desirable. Just because we’re not cooking cockroach lasagne with boiled tulip bulbs from Theresa’s Brexit Cookbook and have our holidays cancelled because there are no flights anymore, it’s still a bad option that no responsible government would put before us.

Any sort of Brexit is really bad for this country. Don’t let the Government and the Brexiteers ramp up the possibility of No Deal to make the shambles they come back with look good in comparison. It really won’t be of any benefit at all to this country. How do we know? The Government’s own analysis tells us so. In January a leaked government document told us that we’d be worse off under every Brexit scenario. We can and should insist on a more ambitious approach – and the only thing that works is staying in.

The softest Brexit option of continued single-market access through membership of the European Economic Area would, in the longer term, still lower growth by 2%.

And some more misery:

Almost every sector of the economy included in the analysis would be negatively impacted in all three scenarios, with chemicals, clothing, manufacturing, food and drink, and cars and retail the hardest hit. The analysis found that only the agriculture sector under the WTO scenario would not be adversely affected. • Every UK region would also be affected negatively in all the modelled scenarios, with the North East, the West Midlands, and Northern Ireland (before even considering the possibility of a hard border) facing the biggest falls in economic performance. • There is a risk that London’s status as a financial centre could be severely eroded, with the possibilities available under an FTA not much different to those in the WTO option.

Bear in mind that the Chequers Plan doesn’t include EEA membership. There is no good Brexit option which is why it is bizarre that, while the Prime Minister actually talks about stockpiling stuff essential for life, Jeremy Corbyn goes around waxing lyrical about the opportunities of a Brexit there is no chance of achieving because the Tories are in charge of it and Labour is helping them. This makes it all the more important that the Liberal Democrats explicitly talk about stopping Brexit at every opportunity. We are winning the argument for the People’s Vote now. We started that when it was very unpopular back in September 2016 and now it’s mainstream. There is a huge amount to do to secure and win that People’s Vote. We must not allow the right wing press to do all the jingoistic will of the people nonsense and promulgate more lies. I seriously hope that some planning has been done to win that referendum for Remain. At Scottish Lib Dem Conference this year, I asked a panel including Sir Graham Watson, Christine Jardine and Jo Swinson how we should win that vote. Graham’s answer was very clear – we have to present a positive vision of what the EU gives us and why it’s so important to us. We need to show what we’d lose. I also think we need to show another way to sort the housing crisis and to help those on low incomes. That will be more difficult in a cross-party campaign. We can’t let the Remain effort come down to the lowest common denominator. It needs to be driven with a hopeful can-do, will-do attitude and run with empathy and passion and warmth and compelling oratory and optimism. Taking most of the Tories out of the equation will probably help with that. The dire Stronger In campaign was hampered by George Osborne thinking that Better Together had won the Scottish referendum when it actually almost lost. There is a huge amount to do and we Lib Dems need to be leading it.  We shouldn’t worry about it being difficult. We can do it. Heavens, if I can complete Couch to 5k, as I did this morning, winning a vote to remain in the EU doesn’t seem so insurmountable. We pro EU Lib Dems can’t afford to let up for a minute. If you can, take part in the Exit From Brexit campaign that’s escalating across the Summer. Get out there with your Brexitometer and win the arguments.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Jenny Barnes,
    I agree that it would be difficult to have the referendum before March and that Norway+CU is probably the least bad option for leaving the EU. However the Government would be able to get an extension of the timetable provided enough MPs force them to do so.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Jul '18 - 2:37pm

    Where does this myth come from that organising a referendum isn’t possible? If there ever is a majority in the Commons to do this then a referendum bill can be got through in a day or two. (Emergency legislation has been passed in 24 hours before now). I suggest that a bill is drafted now so that it can be introduced when necessary. It could if drafted now contain necessary safeguards. My advice to Tom and Vince, get it done this week!
    Jenny Barnes: There is an option, my preferred one actually. Parliament stops being supine, rejects the government’s proposals and votes to withdraw the Article 50 notice, because enough MPs have the guts to say ‘This has gone far enough and it’s truly not on for the UK’. OK, lots of screaming and shouting from the Brexiteers and eventually we have to have a General Election to get a new government, but it knocks Brexit into a cocked hat.

  • John Marriott 26th Jul '18 - 3:28pm

    Caron states that “any other type of Brexit is bad news” and this is precisely why, despite the dire warnings, many Leavers still appear to be sticking with their original decision. There might be some circumstances where leaving the EU could, in the long term, be the catalyst for change that the organisation needs, and has needed for many years, if we are honest.

    It’s this unswerving faith in the EU that blinds so many of its most fervent supporters to its faults. That said, I still think that we could be playing with fire. That’s why I would still vote to stay inside the tent. But my view would not necessarily be typical of many, who appear immune to all counter arguments.

    To be honest, I don’t know why I keep responding to the incessant febrile frenzy on both sides of the argument. A small majority voted to leave so it probably makes sense to negotiate some kind of relationship with our near neighbours. As I said before, let’s give the negotiations a chance first before we predict the Apocalypse. As that Rolling Stones song, that was recently adopted by the Trump campaign, goes : “ You can’t always get want you want….Sometimes you get what you need”.

  • If there ever is a majority in the Commons to do this then a referendum bill can be got through in a day or two

    It would have to be an overwhelming majority. You can’t get legislation through that quickly if there’s any significant opposition, even if there’s a certain majority for it.

    If there’s any significant opposition they could call for programme motion votes, submit amendments, etc, etc — even if they were guaranteed to lose, these things would all take time to resolve.

  • Jane Ann Liston 26th Jul '18 - 5:36pm

    On a recent Radio 4 programme a rank-and-file Tory party member from somewhere down south said yes she was still in favour of coming out of the EU. However she wondered why it was taking so long because she had thought that all we had to do was ‘sign a piece of paper’ and that would be that! I wonder how many other Leavers believed that to be the case?

  • Frankie,

    the abjuration of a majority of voters in the EU referendum is a reflection of the history and political culture of the UK.
    The founding members of the EU in the Coal and Steel Community and subsequently the Treaty of Rome were embarking on a grand scheme to ensure continued peace among nations riven by war throughout much of its history. Spain and Greece were leaving behind a history of military dictatorships. Ireland was escaping from half a century of rural poverty and mass emigration to a modern integrated economy. The Eastern European countries were emerging from post-war Soviet domination. For all of these countries, the EU was a positive step towards a brighter modern future.
    The UK from the beginning was a reluctant participant. Membership of the EU was part of a process of managed decline for a country that was a hegemonic power throughout the 19th century and a victor in two world wars. EU membership never had the same salience in the UK as it did on the continent and most likely never will.
    As a representative democracy, it is for parliament to find a sensible way forward in this political and cultural environment, perhaps by adopting the private member’s bill put forward by the Co-op party chair. Calling 17.4m voters and their elected representatives ‘brave Brexiteers or thicko’s’ is at best counter-productive and at the worst simply reinforces stubbornness on the part of detractors.

  • David Wright 26th Jul '18 - 10:32pm

    The Brexiteers are repeatedly trotting out their propaganda slogan ‘Project Fear’ with the aim of writing off all reasoned argument against Brexit as scaremongering. We need to boldly refute this nonsense.

    I regard our campaign as ‘Project Prudence’ in the face of ‘Project Cloud-Cuckoo-Land’.

  • Peter Martin 27th Jul '18 - 5:15am

    @ JoeB @ Frankie,

    I’m one of those who’s essentially pro-Europe but dismayed that the term Europe and the EU are used synonymously. The neoliberal/ordoliberal EU can’t just be dismissed, as so often it is on the ‘lexit’ left as a ‘capitalist club’. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were a successful capitalist club. But it’s a disaster! Neither is it, as the right seems to imagine, some 21st century ‘Napoleonic’ European conspiracy to subvert good old Great Britain and achieve by economic means what various previous wars have failed to achieve by military means.

    It’s a good idea gone badly wrong. I tend to favour the cock-up theory of history rather than the alternative conspiracy theory. The EU is no exception. Just what on earth were the PTB of the EU thinking about when they decided that it would be a good idea to have 19 countries share a single currency? That’s by far the biggest cock-up of them all!

    My views tend to go down fairly well in all Leave circles. Because, they aren’t overtly of the left nor of the right. They are, dare I say it, what sensible centrists should be saying about the EU. There don’t seem to be many at all on the National stage but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a general view in the country. 17.4 million votes for leave is 4 times more than UKIP ever got. Yes some are on the Tory right and some are on the Bennite left but most are fairly centrist in their politics who just know instinctively that the EU, which is heading either for a break up or the United States of Europe just isn’t right for the UK.

    We aren’t particularly brave nor are we of lower than average intelligence!

  • Still no explination or plan of why Brexit will work. At best we have the EU will fail or turn into a super power, well it isn’t failing while we palpably are. Back to the future cry the brave Brexiteers while ahead of us lie the cliffs. When we go over them, you will have to explain why it happened and yes people will be angry, how are you going to deal with that; have you a plan because two years in we are still planless. Brexit has left us looking weak and foolish and much as you might not like that, well the truth hurts. You have all trotted out your own personal Brexits. Glenn “Not much will change” that’s not looking good is it, Jackie “Give me NORWAY” not looking good either, Peter “the EU will fail, because of the Euro” not looking good is it Peter and Lord knows what Matt’s own personal Brexit is. You can’t even agree what Brexit should be, how then can it be a success, it can’t can it.

  • John Roffey 27th Jul '18 - 7:09am

    Is [65 yo] Tony Blair the high-profile – potential leader – that VC is trying to get to join the Party?

    Final Say: Tony Blair backs Independent’s campaign for a referendum on final Brexit deal

  • John Roffey 27th Jul '18 - 7:35am

    Frankie: “For once you are half right. I don’t think on the whole Brexiteers are brave they are some of the most frightened people I know, hence their desire to retreat to a mythical land of their youth and there is evidence for that”

    I think it is more a case of Brits generally preferring to be poor masters – than rich servants. Some are content to have others determine their future – if the pay is right – others would prefer to be less well off – but to retain their independence.

    Loss of sovereignty comes harder to many UK citizens because of the victory in WW2 – whereas most of the EU members lost theirs at that time – so is easier to accept.

  • Just two quick notes….

    It hasn’t been two years to come up with a plan, Brexiteers have been speaking about this since I was born and still had no idea what Brexit should look like when they won the referendum.

    For some people the vote wasn’t about whether the EU was a good or bad institution to be part of rather that whether a massive change would make their lives better or worse and decided their lives couldn’t get much worse. You’ll need to show staying in the EU forms part of a plan to make these lives better.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Jul '18 - 8:08am

    This thread is now on pre-moderation and I have removed several comments which were disrespectful and unpleasant.

    This is an emotive issue. Do not resort to name-calling. It really doesn’t help.

  • John,

    I’m on record as saying the only two rational arguments for Brexit are

    1) The recovery of sovereignty at any cost
    2) In the long term we would be better off. The long term seems now to be fifty years.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg Says It Could Take 50 Years To Reap The Benefits Of Brexit

    So for most of us that only leaves the regaining of sovereignty as a reason we will see in our lifetimes. Now you feel that as a country we would prefer “to be poor masters – than rich servants. Personally I feel that poverty robs you of the ability to master anything, however I didn’t vote leave so a better viewpoint would be that of our resident Brexiteers. So here is the question Peter, Glenn et al

    How much poorer are you willing to be for the regaining of your sovereignty or as John would say “How poor a master would you be”?

  • Jane Ann Liston 26th Jul ’18 – 5:36pm…………………….On a recent Radio 4 programme a rank-and-file Tory party member from somewhere down south said yes she was still in favour of coming out of the EU. However she wondered why it was taking so long because she had thought that all we had to do was ‘sign a piece of paper’ and that would be that! I wonder how many other Leavers believed that to be the case?………………….

    My sister-in-law was one of them; and why not?

    From Fox to Farage, from Davis to Redwood, from Carswell to Johnson we were told, “Leaving the EU would be easy”; “it would cost nothing” and “they needed us more than we needed them”.
    Warnings about Ireland, Dover tailbacks, etc. were dismissed, by Gove, as “From Experts” and, as such, “Should be ignored”; (how those two phrases go to together is anyone’s guess).The same ‘anyone’ buying a ‘popular’ newspaper would have seen much prominence given to the ‘wonderful opportunities’ and none to the ‘problems’.

    I’m sure there are many ‘Leavers’ who thought the problems would be worth it but most of those I talk to seem still to believe that the delays are due to May not being tough enough with the EU rather than accepting that, like a marriage of 40 years, any divorce settlement would be anything but easy.

  • John Roffey.
    The main problem with the rich slave argument is that the economy was in a poor state before the referendum, with static wages, low productivity, cut services and personal debt through the roof. On a political level the policies of the EU rather than reducing tensions has increased them. It has not actually delivered on its promises.

    The wider problem is that the ties are very tight, IMO this means the best compromise is a soft Brexit. However, the problem with that is both sides of the argument are dominated by people who will not budge because it’s connected to their long held beliefs. Neither of these groups can be seen to faultier, less they look like unbelievers telling the flock that the kingdom of heaven is not at hand.

  • @Arnold

    “matt. I am noticing that you have given up arguing substance and focus on form now. That’s at least progress.”
    No, not given up on arguing on substance at all. I just have not posted on here in a while as I have been ill and in and out of hospital the last couple of months.
    I just did not like the tone of discussion last night and cannot understand why we can not engage each other whilst disagreeing in a more grown up and constructive manor.

    I know what my own brexit would look like, I have posted it many times on these forums as you well know.
    You imply that Brexiters are divided and yet remainers are all singing from the same hymn sheet which is simply untrue.
    A large proportion of remainers would like to see controls on immigration, some would like us to remain and have more EU, USE, The Euro, Schengen etc, and some see the EU not being any different in 10 years time i.e Nick Clegg, you try to portray the remain side as being a united front is simply false.

  • Philip Knowles 27th Jul '18 - 9:38am

    At LaunchPad North in Sheffield in Spring Vince Cable was saying that the numbers would start to change before the summer recess and that the money was on a third (to me) referendum being called in October for the first week in December.
    That still seems to be on the cards – and Vince has a good track record for predictions.
    In 2011 Jacob Rees-Mogg said in Parliament that “we could have two referendums. As it happens it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed”
    In 2016 Nigel Farage said 52 48 would be ‘unfinished business’.
    Of course, both of them meant if they lost. Time to call the hypocrites’ bluff and someone should ask them every time they spout off why there shouldn’t be another referendum.
    We should also be asking why the ERG is funded out of MP’s expenses? If they believe in it they should be using their own money not ours.

  • John Roffey 27th Jul '18 - 9:58am

    Final Say: Nick Clegg backs Independent’s campaign for a referendum on final Brexit deal

    It comes as petition demanding a fresh vote on the Brexit deal attracted over a quarter of a million signatures in just 48 hours

  • John Roffey 27th Jul '18 - 1:15pm


    My personal concern with respect to sovereignty – is to give the UK national government total freedom of action with regard to measures to be taken to cope with the consequences of Climate Change – which, I believe is likely to make any financial concerns about Brexit pale into insignificance – within the next decade or two. I cannot answer for others in this regard.

    JRM believes no action should be taken with regard to climate change.

  • Glenn – the poor state of the economy is caused by British policies and the Thatcherite, extreme free-market “Anglo-Saxon capitalist model” rather than EU. Such problems would have been mitigated significantly with a Nordic/German economic model.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jul '18 - 8:31am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    in 2107, Americans also “spent more than they earned”. So would you say they were more towards the slave end of the spectrum, or the master end?

    German, Dutch, Danish people, on the other hand, spent less than they earned. That’s their choice. But, to make the world economy work spending has, in aggregate, to equal income.

    In other words it’s just a matter of arithmetic. Some spend less and others spend more.

  • Assuming there’s going to be some sort of Brexit for the moment, it would be logical for the deal to be flexible so that it can be altered with time. If we need to balance conflicting criteria, then where we would like to draw the line will become easier as we progress. We should campaign for a flexible Brexit if it goes ahead that I hope it won’t.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Jul '18 - 11:51am

    An interesting article in The Conversation by Thiemo Fetzer of Warwick University:

    I haven’t had time to read through his 100-page paper that he links to, but this is certainly a plausible conclusion as austerity primarily affected what became Leave-voting areas in the North of England.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Oct '18 - 12:13pm

    Rees-Mogg, son of Rees-Mogg has used what appears to be unparliamentary language, on the record, describing the PM as a “punk” in an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson. He was tense, so perhaps he is worried that his estimate of “up to 80” rebels would be exposed.

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