14 February 2019 – today’s press releases

No deal Brexit causing panic for people with diabetes (see here) Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say Cable: Govt defeat shows rejection of May’s time wasting Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say The Liberal Democrats have today tabled an amendment calling for a People’s Vote […]

  • No deal Brexit causing panic for people with diabetes (see here)
  • Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say
  • Cable: Govt defeat shows rejection of May’s time wasting

Lib Dems table amendment to give the people the final say

The Liberal Democrats have today tabled an amendment calling for a People’s Vote with the option to stay in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have ensured that there is a People’s Vote amendment for MPs to get behind on every single Brexit vote in the House of Commons.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

In an attempt to force through this unpopular deal, the Conservative Government have this week kicked the can another few weeks down the road and closer to the precipice.

That is why Liberal Democrats have tabled this amendment. Our party have campaigned for the people to have the final say on Brexit for over two years. We have ensured that there is always an amendment for MPs, from any party, to sign if they agree with us.

We cannot let the PM or Leader of the Opposition conspire to run down the clock. It is time for those who know the best thing for our country is a People’s Vote to stand with us.

Cable: Govt defeat shows rejection of May’s time wasting

Responding to the defeat of the Government’s motion this evening by 45 votes, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

The vote this evening demonstrates a complete failure of Theresa May’s Tory Government and Parliament’s rejection of more reckless time wasting as they drag us closer and closer to the cliff edge.

Theresa May’s brinkmanship may seem to her as a clever tactic in trying to force MPs to support her deal, but tonight Parliament rejected this ploy. The reality is the Prime Minister’s political games in refusing to take no deal off the table is having a serious effect on people’s day-to-day lives.

The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a people’s vote for over two years. Tonight’s defeat of the Government makes clear it is long overdue that the Prime Minister took no deal off the table, and offered the public a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU.

People’s Vote campaigners know they’re championing a lost cause

With just over forty days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the likes of Lord Adonis, Dominic Grieve, David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, to name but a few, continue to pound the “People’s Vote” drum. The Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiating strategy may have been branded as reckless, but second referendum […]

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With just over forty days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the likes of Lord Adonis, Dominic Grieve, David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, to name but a few, continue to pound the “People’s Vote” drum.

The Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiating strategy may have been branded as reckless, but second referendum supporters are surely being equally as reckless by continuing not to press their case so close to Brexit day. If they’re so confident of securing a People’s Vote, then they should put the amendment forward.

Although they may not admit it when pressed on Sky News or the BBC, those proposing a People’s Vote are not oblivious to the risks attached. The likes of Umunna, Soubry et al. know that the idea that the elite failed to implement the verdict of 2016 would play into the hands of populist leavers. If they thought ‘Take Back Control’ was fatal in 2016, then ‘Tell Them Again’ would be seismic.

And politicians can barely expect to look at the turnout statistics as a means of trying to reduce the legitimacy of the vote in 2016: the Brexit referendum produced a turnout not seen in a national election contest since 1992.

It may not be apparent to those in the claustrophobic Westminster bubble, but folk up and down the country are sick to their back teeth of hearing about Brexit. To many voters, it feels as if politicians have gone around in circles for the past two-and-a-half years. The electorate wants to change the conversation towards topical issues such as poverty, the NHS and education.

Since September 2014, there has been a Scottish independence referendum, devolved legislature elections, local council elections, two general elections and, of course, the EU referendum. What would be the result of forcing another referendum on an already weary electorate? There would be no guarantee that the turnout would be the same or greater than in 2016. Unlike our Australian counterparts, the UK does not use compulsory voting, so people are perfectly entitled to stay away from the polling booth if they choose to do so. What would happen if the turnout were less than fifty per cent and a Remain victory?  

Currently, the parliamentary arithmetic opposes the idea of a “People’s Vote”. Jeremy Corbyn, especially, appears extremely sceptical about the idea. Labour members seem to have failed to appreciate he is a lifelong eurosceptic – voting against EEC membership in 1975, siding with Tory rebels in the Maastricht debates and voting against Lisbon. Corbyn was in Ireland during the second Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign in 2009 and infamously described the Brussels project as a military Frankenstein.

Labour Party Conference kept the idea of a public vote on the table, as a last resort; however, this is a mere smokescreen. Unbeknownst to pro-EU party members, the idea of a public vote is still on the table, but the motion has been ripped up. Furthermore, in order to win an election, Corbyn knows he would have to gain marginal Tory seats which also voted Leave.

Amendments to government motions can be put forward by backbench MPs but the reality is that they are not legally binding. Convention suggests that if an amendment secures a majority, then it puts pressure on the Government to act; however, we live in such unprecedented times that nothing can be taken for granted. This was seen with regard to the series of amendments put forward on 29th January. MPs voted 318-310, a majority of eight, to reject the UK leaving without a deal; however, this amendment was meaningless since it does not change the default position should the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement. Furthermore, MPs rejected an extension of Article 50 (the Cooper Amendment) beyond the end of March. So, to quote Mrs. May: nothing has changed.

It is only the Government which can propose legislation and the Prime Minister opposes a second referendum. She has explained that a second referendum would undermine ‘social cohesion’. And a shift to a second referendum does not appear to be materialising as Brexit Secretary, Steve Barclay has reconfirmed that the UK will be leaving on 29th March, with or without an agreement.

In essence, People’s Vote campaigners know they are championing a lost cause. Despite continuing to defend the idea, they are extremely aware of the risks and know that a second vote might not even provide a different result to the vote in 2016.

Most importantly, as long as the Government continues to sit on its hands and stubbornly resist the idea of a public vote, then the dream of overturning the result of 2016 is up in flames.

The post People’s Vote campaigners know they’re championing a lost cause appeared first on BrexitCentral.

8 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Jenny Rathbone Warning Unacceptable – Welsh Lib Dems The Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision to only give Cardiff Central AM Jenny Rathbone a formal warning following an investigation into anti-Semitic comments she made. Jenny Rathbone had already been readmitted into the Welsh Labour Assembly Group in January whilst the investigation was ongoing. Her […]

Jenny Rathbone Warning Unacceptable – Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision to only give Cardiff Central AM Jenny Rathbone a formal warning following an investigation into anti-Semitic comments she made.

Jenny Rathbone had already been readmitted into the Welsh Labour Assembly Group in January whilst the investigation was ongoing.

Her remarks about a synagogue in Cyncoed were branded “extremely offensive” by the synagogue’s rabbi Michoel Rose.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented:

It’s extremely disappointing Jenny Rathbone has been admitted to the party with only a formal warning for her comments, which were clearly anti-Semitic.

I can only imagine the message this decision sends to the constituents of hers who attend the synagogue she made these offensive remarks about.

The way this entire process has been handled has been a farce, especially the fact Jenny was readmitted into the Welsh Labour group despite still being under investigation.

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour across the UK have consistently shown themselves unwilling, or unable, to tackle the anti-Semitism in their party, now Welsh Labour appear to be doing the same.

There can be no place for anti-Semitism in Welsh politics or Welsh society. That is why Jenny Rathbone should stand down, such views cannot be tolerated from anyone – let alone a sitting assembly member.

Lib Dems: Labour cannot keep playing both sides on Brexit

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake has warned that the Labour leadership “cannot keep playing both sides and get away with it” after John McDonnell suggested Labour would support a People’s Vote, if the Prime Minister does not support Jeremy Corbyn’s demands.

The Shadow Chancellor’s comments come despite Labour sources confirming the party would not in fact automatically back a People’s Vote if May rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit terms.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

The Labour leadership cannot keep playing both sides and get away with it. One minute they are offering terms upon which they would vote for a Tory Brexit, and the next the Labour party is offering a lukewarm endorsement of plans to give the people the chance to decide.

Jeremy Corbyn and his cronies cannot keep stringing along millions of Labour members and voters who demand the party campaign for a people’s vote now that Labour have failed to secure a general election. The stakes are too high.

There is no deal better than the deal the UK has as a member of the EU. The public deserve the chance to reject this mess with a people’s vote, with the option to stay in the EU.

6 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Thousands dying waiting for social care as Govt ignores crisis Lib Dems: 50 days until Brexit cliff-edge Greg Clark’s warning exposes recklessness of Tory Govt Lib Dems: Govt must investigate civil service support for Tory meetings Lib Dems threaten veto to force Govt u-turn on knife crime Thousands dying waiting for social care as Govt […]

  • Thousands dying waiting for social care as Govt ignores crisis
  • Lib Dems: 50 days until Brexit cliff-edge
  • Greg Clark’s warning exposes recklessness of Tory Govt
  • Lib Dems: Govt must investigate civil service support for Tory meetings
  • Lib Dems threaten veto to force Govt u-turn on knife crime

Thousands dying waiting for social care as Govt ignores crisis

Responding to the research by Age UK showing that more than 50,000 older people have now died waiting in vain for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish a Social Care Green Paper, Former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

These figures are tragic for many families and the stories of some of those who have been impacted should give many in government and across politics pause for thought.

People are turning for help in their old age and help is not there. Despite the crisis in adult social care the Conservatives are consistently and consciously underfunding these services and the social care green paper promised in March 2017 has now been delayed six times.

The Conservative Government is incapable of solving this problem themselves. They must now work with other parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care.

Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax and directly invest funds in social care. We will also keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system which will be there for our loved ones when they need it.

Lib Dems: 50 days until Brexit cliff-edge

With just 50 days to go until exit day, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake MP has laid a Private Members Bill to give the people the final say on the Brexit deal.

Commenting on the Bill, Mr Brake said:

With just 50 days to go it is irresponsible that the Conservative Government have failed to rule out crashing out of the EU. The Tories have made a mess of Brexit and are as far away from agreement within their own party as ever.

It is time to stop this mess and move the UK away from the cliff edge. The only way forward now is a People’s Vote.

That is why the Liberal Democrats have tabled this Bill to extend Article 50 and give the people the final say on May’s deal, with the option to stay in the EU.

Greg Clark’s warning exposes recklessness of Tory Govt

Responding on Greg Clark’s appearance before the BEIS Select Committee, in which the Secretary of State said the effective Brexit deadline for exporters was within “the next couple of weeks”, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Greg Clark’s warning exposes the recklessness of this government’s strategy of gambling on an unlikely last-minute breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations.

UK companies exporting competitively to the rest of the world thanks to EU-negotiated free trade agreements are now facing a hit to their business long before March 29th, notwithstanding the uncertainty they have already faced. Businesses and workers are paying the price of No deal already.

This is yet another example of the damage Brexit will inflict on our economy. It is time the people were given the opportunity to avoid all this chaos through a People’s Vote, with the option to remain in the EU.

Lib Dems: Govt must investigate civil service support for Tory meetings

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake have today written to the Head of the Civil Service urging him to investigate allegations that civil servants are assisting with the so-called Malthouse Compromise working group.

This working group of Conservative MPs has been meeting with officials in the Cabinet Office. Given the group are not members of the Government, the Liberal Democrats believe the provision of civil service support breaches rules and raises questions for the Prime Minister to answer.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

The Civil Service should not be spending time on a Tory party peace initiative which has no relevance to our negotiations with the EU and which is undeliverable.

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake added:

If Ministers have been instructing civil servants to assist Jacob Rees Mogg and Nicky Morgan in their quest to find a unicorn, that can piece the Tory party back together again, this would be a flagrant breach of Ministerial rules.

Any costs associated with such a naked party political stunt would have to be reimbursed to taxpayers and instructions issued to all Ministers to refrain from abusing civil service resources in this way.

Lib Dems threaten veto to force Govt u-turn on knife crime

The Liberal Democrats have forced the Conservative Government to withdraw their amendments on controversial knife crime prevention orders.

Following the Home Secretary’s announcement last week of his intention to introduce ‘asbo style’ prevention orders, the Government intended to today amend the Offensive Weapons Bill at the House of Lords Grand Committee.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson in the House of Lords, Brian Paddick, threatened to oppose these amendments forcing the Government to withdraw them due to the need at Grand Committee for unanimity.

Responding to the withdrawal, Brian Paddick said:

ASBOs were jettisoned because they unnecessarily criminalised young people, were seen as a badge of honour in some communities and did little to prevent crime, but now the Conservatives want to resurrect them under a new guise.

The Liberal Democrats are wholly opposed to Knife Crime Prevention Orders being imposed on children as young as 12 who haven’t been convicted of any crimes, where a minor breach can result in a criminal record and a prison sentence.

There are not enough community police officers to patrol our streets, let alone enforce these orders. Instead of gimmicks that won’t work, the Government must urgently give forces the funding they need to restore community police and stop the rise of violent crime.

At what point do we call for Article 50 to be revoked?

At what point short of the cliff edge do Liberal Democrats say “Enough!” When in this utterly bonkers trashing of our economy do we call for the immediate revocation of Article 50? We know that the UK can do that without requiring the consent of the other 27 EU member states. We also have it […]

At what point short of the cliff edge do Liberal Democrats say “Enough!” When in this utterly bonkers trashing of our economy do we call for the immediate revocation of Article 50?

We know that the UK can do that without requiring the consent of the other 27 EU member states.

We also have it as  part of our policy to call on the Government to suspend Article 50 to legislate for a People’s Vote or to avoid no deal and, if that suspension isn’t agreed, to call for the revocation of Article 50.  Here’s the motion we passed at Conference last year.

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitment to:

Fight for an “exit from Brexit” referendum to be held once the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations is known, for the public to choose between “the deal” or Britain remaining a full member of the EU.

Campaign for Britain to remain a full and active member of the EU.

Enable all UK citizens living abroad to vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies, and to participate in UK referendums.

Introduce votes at 16 for all elections and referendums across the UK.

Conference calls for:

The Government to release full impact assessments of all options, prior to any meaningful parliamentary vote, thereby demonstrating that there is no Brexit deal on offer that will deliver the promises of the Leave campaign.

The Government to seek to extend Article 50 if required to legislate for a referendum on the deal, or to provide enough negotiating time to avoid a catastrophic no-deal scenario, and if such extension is not agreed to withdraw the Article 50 notification.

The right to full participation in civic life, including the ability to stand for office or vote in UKreferendums and General Elections, to be extended to all EU citizens not already entitled tovote as Irish or Commonwealth citizens, who have lived in the UK for five years or longer.

The UK Government to guarantee unilaterally in law, including in a no-deal scenario, the rights of all EU citizens living in the UK, ringfencing the Withdrawal Agreements’ Chapter on citizens’ rights.

The bit about the revocation was put in as an amendment, but was not opposed by the leadership. It’s not as if Conference forced them into something that they didn’t want to do like we did over the immigration motion.

So the motion commits us to fighting for a People’s Vote and to campaign for Remain in that referendum. We are obliged to do that, therefore, until that becomes impossible.  I agree with Vince that there is a route to getting it, but the deal will have to be rejected by the Commons again first.

At that point, if the Government refuses to ask for the suspension of Article 50, or if that suspension was refused. then we should without doubt call for it to be revoked. 

If we do, we will no doubt face the “democracy” argument. Well if we had a properly functioning democracy in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess. If people had got the Parliament they asked for in 2015, the Conservatives would not have had the majority to have the EU Referendum in the first place.

And honestly, I really don’t think that there are many people who would be that bothered if Article 50 were revoked. A few thugs in hi-vis jackets might carry out some random acts of vandalism, but we really shouldn’t let that threat stop us doing what is right.

That doesn’t mean  it would be easy, though. There would be loose ends which would infect our politics for some time to come.

No deal is an abyss that no responsible Government would ever take us near and I still expect May to teeter on the edge of that particular precipice. At that point, if we can’t get a suspension of Article 50 for a People’s Vote, we have to be calling loudly for revocation.

Vince has been softening up the ground for this by saying that No Deal is a choice for the Government. The logical conclusion of  that is that they should pick a plausible course that avoids it. If their terrible deal is rejected, then the only options any government that cares about the national interest can take are revocation or a People’s Vote. The latter is a much cleaner option because it allows the nation to express its view and finally put this to rest.

 

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

The 3 Arguments I wish Remainers would stop making (and I’m a Remainer!)

We may not have got much credit for it in the polls, but the growth of the People’s Vote Campaign is a Lib Dem success story. Our policy broke into the mainstream, caused a march of 700,000 people, and gained supporters from every major Party (other than UKIP, that would be weird.) The reason for […]

We may not have got much credit for it in the polls, but the growth of the People’s Vote Campaign is a Lib Dem success story. Our policy broke into the mainstream, caused a march of 700,000 people, and gained supporters from every major Party (other than UKIP, that would be weird.)

The reason for the growing popularity of the People’s Vote is because – I believe – the central argument for it is compelling, and goes something like this:

Britain voted for a departure but not a destination. We now have a much clearer idea of what Brexit would look like, and given this additional clarity, we should get the final say on if we want to proceed.

That’s the message we must continue to hammer home, relentlessly, to make our case.

What bothers me is the fact that too often people seem to prefer using bad arguments against Brexit rather than the good one. With that in mind, these are the top three things I wish proud remainers like you and I would stop saying, because I fear it is harmful for the cause.

1. “Lots of the old people who voted for Brexit are now dead”

I have seen this argument surfacing a lot over the last year or so, and it was recently directly put to Jacob Rees-Mogg by Sky News as a reason why the EU referendum is somehow invalid.

First off, I find the way age so often gets pitted against youth at the moment deeply uncomfortable. Not every ‘old’ person voted for Brexit, and those that did had every right to have their say – it’s their country to.

But more to the point, every democratic exercise is a moment in time, and it is simply ludicrous to suggest that a result should be retrospectively changed every time somebody dies. Was the 2010 Election suddenly invalid a couple years later because people had died since then too?

No democratic choice should be everlasting or irreversible, and that’s a point we should continue to make, but not because people snuff it. We can do better than that.

2. “Only 27% of the population voted for Brexit. It’s not the will of the people!”

It is true of course that the total percentage of the UK population who voted for Brexit is 27%, when you factor in those who were not eligible to vote or chose not to. But this is a disingenuous use of stats.

Yes only 27% voted to leave but even fewer voted to remain (less than a quarter of us!) So if Brexit is not the will of the people, the same logic dictates that remaining certainly isn’t, and would be an even more unjustified course of action! In short, 27% voting to leave in no way means that 73% support remain (oh if only.)

3. “Referendums are just a stupid way to decide things.”

I totally agree. Referendums are a stupid way to decide policy, especially when the policy is a nuanced, complex, and non-binary choice. I wish Cameron had never called the bloody thing and that we lived in a parallel path of the Black Mirror multiverse where none of this had ever happened.

Problem is it did though, and once people have been asked for their say, overruling them on the grounds that referendums are dumb just comes across as disingenuous. This line of argument gets especially tricky when we then advocate for another referendum ourselves. If referendums are such a bad thing why call for more of them?

As with any movement, we have to be self-critical. Our opponents love to think of us as bitter losers just clutching at straws. Let’s not give them any excuse to make that claim.

Viva la People’s Vote!

* Jon is a political consultant for the public affairs agency Field Consulting, based in London. He joined the Lib Dems after Brexit and wants a People’s Vote.

Don’t let no deal talk distract from how bad the deal actually is

The next crucial vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal takes place on Tuesday. Much of the focus has been on taking no deal off the table. That’s important, because it would be a disaster. However, we shouldn’t forget that the actual deal would damage us too, leaving us poorer and less safe. Back in November, […]

The next crucial vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal takes place on Tuesday. Much of the focus has been on taking no deal off the table. That’s important, because it would be a disaster.

However, we shouldn’t forget that the actual deal would damage us too, leaving us poorer and less safe.

Back in November, the Bank of England said that all forms of Brexit would leave us worse off than staying in the EU.

Vince said at the time:

The Bank of England has concluded that Brexit – with or without a deal – will leave the UK poorer, less productive and with an economy 4% smaller than if we had stayed in the EU.

Although the headlines are drawn to the dramatic economic collapse forecasted in the event of no deal, this report shows that the deal will cause harm to our economy and the living standards of people around the country.

The Conservative Government must stop using fears of no-deal to pretend that its deal will be good for the economy; today’s assessments put that myth to bed. It is time for a final say on the deal, with the option to remain.

This came around the same time as Philip Hammond admitted that there wasn’t an outcome of Brexit that would leave the country better off.

Tom Brake said:

It was shocking to hear the Chancellor candidly admit that Brexit will make the country poorer.

The Government’s own analysis shows real wages falling, every region in the UK worse off and no Brexit dividend.

The assessment of Theresa May’s deal assumes a rapid transition to a frictionless trade deal with the EU and other free trade arrangements with third-party countries, but the prospect of these negotiations happening quickly is wildly optimistic.

In reality the Conservatives’ deal could leave the UK much worse off than even these dour assessments forecast.

The case is stronger than ever for giving the public the final say on the Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU.

And Ed Davey found the Withdrawal Agreement withdrew the UK from useful information networks:

Article 8 of the withdrawal agreement, published by the Government this evening, states that the UK “shall cease to be entitled to access any network, any information system and any database established on the basis of Union law”.

Article 63 states that we will only be able to access the Schengen Information System for a maximum of 3 months after the end of the transition period, and Europol’s SIENA platform for a maximum of 1 year.

Meanwhile, Article 62 makes clear that the European Arrest Warrant will only apply to people arrested before the end of the transition period.

He said:

Theresa May’s deal finally spells out in black and white what the Liberal Democrats have been warning about for the last two years: Brexit will rob the UK of crucial cross-border crime-fighting tools that help to keep us safe.

After the transition period, we’ll lose the European Arrest Warrant and access to vital data-sharing systems, making it harder for the police to put serious criminals behind bars and keep us all safe.

The Government says it hopes to strike a ‘comprehensive’ deal on security co-operation, but euphemistically admits negotiations have been ‘particularly challenging’. Essentially, Theresa May is asking us to trust her to sort all this out within the next two years, while admitting that she’s failed to make any progress over the last two years.

For me, the worst thing is that it kicks so much down the road. We haven’t got a clue about what our future trading relationships with the EU and everyone else would look like.

Failure to reach a trade agreement before the end of the transition period could put us on a dash off the cliff edge at the end of next year. Except at that point we would be out of the EU with nothing we can do about it.

Don’t think the extreme No Dealers in the Conservative Party are going to give up fighting for that calamitous option if May manages to get her deal through. The moment of danger will not pass if we get a deal. That’s one of the many reasons why we need a People’s Vote.

As Vince said when the deal was announced, it is a disaster for the British people.

This is a sad day for everyone involved; the deal the EU have endorsed remains a disaster for the British people.

What has been agreed is vague at best and is essentially an agreement to have an agreement. There is still no majority in Parliament for it, and “No Brexit” remains the only real alternative.

Nobody voted to make themselves poorer and damage the UK’s standing in the world. It is time the Prime Minister granted a People’s Vote, with the option to remain in the EU.

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

Time for more courage and a greater sense of the national interest from our political leaders

One can’t help but admire how well Theresa May has defended her indefensible deal and the perseverance, firmness and skill with which she’s done it. If only she’d shown the same skills in negotiation with a tricky eurocrat whose brief was to ensure that Britain suffered from leaving… Instead she’s negotiated on her knees, surrendered […]

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One can’t help but admire how well Theresa May has defended her indefensible deal and the perseverance, firmness and skill with which she’s done it. If only she’d shown the same skills in negotiation with a tricky eurocrat whose brief was to ensure that Britain suffered from leaving…

Instead she’s negotiated on her knees, surrendered her cards and agreed massive payments (without securing anything) and become trapped in a Northern Ireland cage to end up with a deal unacceptable to both Brexiteers and Remainers. Now the Government is committed to the last resort of madness: repeating mistakes in the hope of producing a different answer. It may work, but it probably won’t. In which case it’s “no deal”, which the Cabinet will be scared to face.

That puts Britain in a desperate end game which can only be won by putting the ball back into the EU’s court, testing their unity and ability to negotiate sensibly, and facing up to damaging both Britain and their trade with us. So far, they’ve had the easy job of saying “no”, relying on their Remainer allies in Britain to undermine our government and its case.

Crunch time removes all the evasions and excuses for rejecting the will of the people, makes the pirouetting of Grieve, Benn and Cable irrelevant and forces government to firmness. Who else can now act?

The favourite excuse of those whose soft hearts control soft heads is a second referendum (the so-called “People’s Vote”). Not only would this take a year – and another £185 million – to organise, but it can’t happen unless there’s something to vote on. Which there isn’t until Parliament agrees a deal.

And the new centre party which Chuka Umunna and Mathew Parris prefer would have a gestation period longer than that of a mastodon. It really is wishful non-thinking. So is an agreement negotiated with the opposition, because Labour has no agreed alternative? Even if it had, it’s bound to conceal its disunity by futile demands for an election which ain’t going to happen.

The rising hope that Parliament will seize power from the Executive and impose its own decision, is another impossibility. Parliament can’t agree. Most MPs are Remainers in a nation which voted the other way. It can’t negotiate. Its aim is to give instructions to the Executive and it can’t even agree on what those are.

So, we come back where we started, to a Prime Minister and her divided Cabinet. All the ultra-Brexiteers have been dropped, but the Chancellor and his mates are ready to cancel withdrawal if their weak deal for Brexit without Brexit fails. Another section will resign if there’s a sellout.

So far, they’ve failed to get the EU to agree to any of the usual fudges or accept the essentials from control of immigration to the ability to negotiate new trade deals. Emboldened by the British Remainers with whom they collude, they’ll be as unhelpful to Theresa as they were to David Cameron.

Which leaves only two ways forward: Leave without a deal, relying on the fact that they desperately need our money and can hardly deliberately damage us without arousing the anger of the British public and a world which will be eager to displace their exports on our market; or go back with new proposals for a better deal, which they can hardly refuse to discuss seriously.

Both demand more courage and a greater sense of the national interest than anyone has shown so far. They also require an understanding that the manufactured fears about “no deal” are enormously exaggerated. But either is the only way Britain’s elite can avoid humiliation and alienation by serving the will of the British people.

Photocredit: © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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25 January 2019 – today’s press releases

Brake: Lavery’s comments show Labour figures still ignoring party members Responding to Ian Lavery’s comments that a People’s Vote would be divisive, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: I am sure many Labour voters will see these comments by their Party Chair as the real divisiveness. He side steps the fact that campaigning for […]

Brake: Lavery’s comments show Labour figures still ignoring party members

Responding to Ian Lavery’s comments that a People’s Vote would be divisive, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

I am sure many Labour voters will see these comments by their Party Chair as the real divisiveness.

He side steps the fact that campaigning for a public vote is Labour policy after last year’s conference.

Labour can either join the Conservatives and push this deeply unpopular Brexit through, or act in the interests of the country and on the wishes of their supporters and join the Liberal Democrat campaign for a People’s Vote, with an option to stay in the EU.

Davey: Appalling that Tories are willing to jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland

Responding to the concerns of Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that no-Deal Brexit could lead to border controls, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:

It’s essential Theresa May puts keeping the peace in Northern Ireland above keeping the peace in the Conservative Party.

The Irish Prime Minister could not be more clear that Brexit is already posing a challenge to that hard-won peace. His warning today over the threat to the peace from a no-deal Brexit is surely the final argument Theresa May needs to take such a disastrous outcome off the table.

It’s appalling that the Brexiteer Tories are willing to jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland for the sake of their Brexit obsession.

The people of Northern Ireland deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. Theresa May must immediately rule out a no-deal Brexit and put her deal to a People’s Vote, with the option of an exit from Brexit.

Out of Brexit Chaos part 2: Government of National Unity

In the preceding article, on the People’s Vote [link], I argued that the process should be given significantly more time. However, we also have a real problem: both of the big parties are too fractured either to govern or to face a General Election. The unedifying results create the opposite of the sense of stability […]

In the preceding article, on the People’s Vote [link], I argued that the process should be given significantly more time.

However, we also have a real problem: both of the big parties are too fractured either to govern or to face a General Election. The unedifying results create the opposite of the sense of stability needed for such the People’s Vote.

This is the time for a Government of National Unity bringing people together from across Parliament, not as a formal coalition between parties, but as an interim arrangement, which would need a more collaborative way of working. The obvious person to lead this is Kenneth Clark. This is partly because of his considerable depth and experience. Age means he is also likely to stand down at the next General Election, so it would be clear that the Government of National Unity is there to provide stability in an exceptional time without being subsequently returned to power. He is also sufficiently unpopular with the right wing of his party to mean that MPs from across the Commons could support him.

The clear message from forming a Government of National Unity is that we are in exceptional times. Something exceptional needs to happen to enable the People’s Vote to happen fairly. Frustration with politics will have produced a different way of doing politics.

How can a Government of National Unity form?

Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, an election happens if the Commons passes a motion that it has no confidence in the government and doesn’t then pass a motion that it does have confidence within a fortnight. With sufficient agreement among MPs in advance, it would be possible for Tory MPs to vote with the Opposition “no confidence” in Theresa May’s government, and then “confidence” in the Government of National Unity.

What would a Government of National Unity do?

It would have three tasks:

People’s Vote

To provide stability to enable the People’s Vote to take place in an orderly way (described in the first part of this article).

Enable government

Get on with the things that have been sidelined in the last two years because of Brexit, such as urgent changes to          Universal Credit. It would also be a good time to begin the overdue cross-party thinking on the future of the NHS. It would have to be doing things that have the broad consensus of parliament so that it would be listening, but this only really rules out things from the political extremes.

Enable political change

There are deep divisions in both the Conservatives and Labour. Both face the question of whether to split or to reunite. As the SDP found, it is very hard in our system to set up the infrastructure of a new party and get it to a point where it can run a General Election campaign. That provides a huge pressure against change because a party dividing would almost certainly precipitate a General Election — if the ruling party splits, it loses its majority, and if the main opposition splits, it tempts the Government to seek an immediate election. However, in the context of a Government of National Unity, there is space for both parties to make an active decision to reunite or divide.

This does mean that the Government of National Unity should remain in office for long enough after the People’s Vote to enable political parties to draw up manifestos in the light of its result and initial repercussions.

The Brexit process did begin as an attempt to settle an internal Tory party squabble. With adequate preparation, overseen by a Government of National Unity, the People’s Vote can become

* Mark Argent was the candidate in Hertford and Stortford in the 2017 General Election