My views on Brexit and Revoking Article 50
By Andrew Simpson
Lots of people have asked me about my views on Brexit and why I support the Lib Dem policy of Revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU. So I have set out below the reasons why I support this policy and why I am committed to trying to keep us within the European Union.
Let's consider the starting points:
- The EU was not a big issue with voters historically - it ranked well down their list of priorities. When people were asked people back in 2015 - just around18% put it as a priority according to YouGov - it ranked 6th place in policy priorities. https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2015/04/15/health-tops-immigration-second-most-important-issu
- It was the rise of UKIP and Nigel Farage as well as pressure within the Conservative party from the European Research Group (ERG) (of which Daventry's current MP - Chris Heaton-Harris is a member) - that made David Cameron commit to holding a referendum when he got a majority in the 2015 General Election.
- Immigration was one of the top three concerns of voters in 2015 and had become more so with the free movement of labour that existed within the EU.
- But while EU immigration was having generally positive impact on the economy the UK Government was not investing in public services, housing and transport to cope with increased numbers of people living here. https://fullfact.org/immigration/immigration-good-or-bad-economy/
- That led to justifiable concerns over the numbers of people coming here to live and work.
What about the 17.4 million people who voted to leave - don't their views count?
The referendum did see one of the highest turnouts at a poll in recent years - in particular it motivated a lot of people to vote who don't normally and who don't usually engage in the political process - people who were put off by the mainstream politicians and parties.
It also motivated people to vote who were angry about the impact of austerity and the direction the country was heading.
But we also now know that Boris Johnson and the Leave Campaign deliberately misled voters with:
- Claims that £350 million could be spent a week on the NHS (the side of a bus claim) https://fullfact.org/europe/350-million-week-boris-johnson-statistics-authority-misuse/
- That Turkey was about to join the EU and we would be swamped with Turks wanting to come to Britain https://fullfact.org/europe/turkey-likely-join-eu/
- With images used of by Nigel Farage of Syrian refugees to again suggest Britain was about to be overrun.
The Leave campaign was also fined the maximum amount by the Electoral Commission for spending more than it should.
So the referendum result was built on many false claims https://fullfact.org/media/uploads/leave-remain-the-facts-behind-the-claims.pdf
But we should still do what people voted for, surely?
No: the referendum was not a mandate to leave the EU - legally it was an 'advisory referendum'.
It was David Cameron (and subsequent Conservative leaders) plus Brexiteers who said they would deliver the 'will of the people'.
But 52% is not the 'will of the people' as 48% of the people voted to Remain and they should not be ignored either.
In fact those who voted to Leave expressed the 'will' of only 37.4% of the electorate (i.e 27.8% of people didn't vote at all and so didn't express their 'will either way!).
What have the Lib Dems done about this?
The Lib Dems have been clear all along that whatever the deal we believe that the UK should be part of the EU.
We have a long history as an internationalist and outward looking party - it was the infamous Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe - who was the first party leader calling for Britain to join the then EEC (that's if you don't count Winston Churchill after the 2nd World War wanting 'to build a kind of United States of Europe').
- We have also said in supporting the People's Vote and a 2nd referendum that we would campaign to remain.
- There's nothing that has been suggested that is better than the deal we already have as members of the EU.
- We have tried 17 times in the current Parliament to get a People's Vote - but Labour have time and time again failed to back the move.
So in context, moving to a policy that states clearly that electing a Lib Dem Government would Stop Brexit (and Revoke Article 50) is a principled, consistent and logical step.
Is this Democratic?
Under our electoral system - however flawed - a majority Government (in terms of having a majority of MPs) is seen as being able to legitimately implement its manifesto commitments - and in fact it should do so.
If we did get a majority Lib Dem Government it would be accepted as a consequence of how we elect Governments in the UK and it would be a mandate to revoke article 50 and stay in the EU.
Also it is clear that:
- People are fed up and want Brexit resolved - we agree - that's why we would Revoke Article 50 if elected into Government
- It would give the country some breathing space to be really clear on what we really want for our future
- It would give us stability - it would take the heat out of the issue (for most people)
- It would put us in a better economic position than any deal and so is for 'the good of the country'. Lib Dems have calculated a £50 billion Remain Bonus that could be spent on public services. https://fullfact.org/europe/remain-bonus-reasonable-health-warning/
- It would enable us to tackle the issues that led to people wanting to leave the EU in the first place.
You could add that it would then enable the nation to consider whether it should hold another referendum based on a clearer understanding of what the actual consequences are of leaving and of where we want our future to be.
I think politicians have to be brave, fearless and show leadership - and this policy certainly does that.
I don't think that means Lib Dems are ignoring the result of the referendum - in fact by stating we want to 'build a brighter future' and announcing some very specific policies to do that I think we are trying to address the issues that led to people voting leave in the first place.
I believe that:
- The United Kingdom is stronger, safer and more prosperous as a member of the European Union.
- That with global challenges such as the Climate Emergency, International Terrorism and increased economic power from China and other nations we need to work together with our closest neighbours, friends and allies in other European countries.
- That the country made a mistake by voting to leave at the referendum in 2016 and that was because people were deliberately misled that it was a simple decision to take.
- That many people voted to leave for reasons that were not due to the fault of the EU and more down to the failings of our own politicians and system of Government.
- That the result of the referendum should be respected as a 'wake-up call' for all politicians to start to deal with some fundamental issues affecting our country.
- That it is not true that Brexit 'will be done' if we leave next year as it will take years and years to sort out trade deals and to change laws to align more with countries we want to do new trade deals with such as the USA. See the BBC Reality Check article https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50222315
- We now have far more of an understanding as to what Brexit means and what impact it will have on our future and that means that the current deal we have as members of the EU is far better than any alternative deal.
- That the Lib Dems are right to say they would Revoke Article 50 and Stop Brexit if elected as a majority Government. In the event of this happening we would have a fresh democratic mandate to implement this policy from our manifesto. It would end Brexit on day 1.