It’s of no doubt that parliament getting a vote on Article 50 is a good thing, however, despite publicly welcoming this news, it now leaves Liberal Democrat MPs with a tricky decision to make.
Ever since June 23rd, the Lib Dems have been walking the tightrope between standing up for the 48% and appearing “undemocratic”, now there is (most likely) to be a vote on the beginning of the Brexit process, they must finally choose which side of the line they wish to fall on.
After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that the Lib Dems have only one choice, they must vote against the triggering of Article 50. Although their inclination as democrats may be to reluctantly vote for it, it seems more and more likely that this may be their only chance to put their anti-Brexit feelings on the record.
In many ways, I may have been felt more uneasy about this decision if it were likely to have an affect on the outcome, however, with a majority of both Conservative and Labour MPs surely likely to vote in favour, any Article 50 legislation is almost certain to pass. Regardless, those that still firmly believe the UK’s future is best served by remaining in the EU will be watching closely, and with the likes of Anna Soubry, Kenneth Clarke and Owen Smith all likely to vote against, many will wonder why the Lib Dems too could not be so bold if they choose to vote in favour. If the Lib Dems want to be the voice of the 48%, they must not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.
The only reason I can conclude it would ever be worth voting for Article 50 would be if the government were to concede to having a referendum on the terms of Brexit. However, as currently only the policy of the Lib Dems and the Greens, totalling a whole 9 parliamentary seats, the government is unlikely to be listening. Incidentally, I can’t help but feel this would have been a better policy on the Article 50 vote for Labour to adopt, as opposed to their demand for “access” to the single market* (*correct at the time of writing, it’s very hard to keep up with Labour’s policy on this / anything). With “access” being fairly meaningless (as anyone will tell you, North Korea has “access”), it’s a shame that Labour have decided that this is the best “opposition” they can come up with, although of course meaningless virtue-signalling is something of a speciality for the current Labour leadership.
Finally, although less significant nationally but none the less important for the party, it seems likely that voting in favour of Article 50 would see the thousands of new members who’ve joined the party post-referendum massively disheartened. With a crucial by-election in Richmond Park coming up, it’s vital that all party members are at best content, so as to keep the momentum gathered from Witney and council by-elections going, rather than falling into Labour-style infighting. As a party already with an unfortunate reputation for going back on past promises amongst large swathes of the electorate, now is definitely the time for the Lib Dems to stick to their guns.
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A few days on, having allowed the dust to somewhat settle, it’s time to understand what exactly went wrong within the Remain campaign that allowed the status-quo to be defeated in a UK referendum for the first time in its history. It’s also important to understand just what options are left for those of us who are still passionately committed to the idea of the UK retaining its place in the European Union, and how likely they are to succeed.
For me, the failure of the Remain campaign is threefold, with Remain supporting Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the SNP footing the majority of the blame. Firstly, the ridiculous scare stories, such as World War III and/or the end of the world, which flowed so freely from the mouths of the likes of David Cameron immediately set the Remain campaign onto the back foot; not only did it allow the Leave campaign to portray themselves as the positive campaign, but also cast doubt into voters minds into whether anything said by the Remain campaign was actually believable. All of a sudden, Brexiteer “facts” that £350 million could be reclaimed from the EU to be spent on the NHS sounded all the more plausible in comparison to the death and destruction foretold by the Remain campaign. What should have happened is that the positive campaign, focusing on the benefits of the EU, should have been made from the outset, rather than only once polls began to suggest that Brexit was increasingly likely.
The second major flaw was shown on results night itself, as Labour voters outside of London voted in droves for Leave. The blame for this must lie with the Labour Party, who for so long during the campaign struggled to get the Remain message out, with a poll half way through the campaign claiming that Labour voters were not sure as to the Party’s position on the EU Referendum being particularly telling. Even once Labour had decided to throw its weight more forcefully behind the Remain campaign it managed to make it as difficult as possible; the Labour leadership’s refusal to appear on platforms with members of other parties, in particular the Conservatives, meant that the campaign appear divided, meanwhile the Leave campaign managed to put differences of Left and Right to one side and appear far more unified, typified by the appearance of Labour MP Gisela Stuart in many of the TV debates. Jeremy Corbyn’s one TV appearance on the other hand could be seen as nothing less than a disaster for the Remain campaign, as he sat in front of a Sky News audience reeling off a list of complaints he had about the EU as much as promoting its benefits. Jeremy Corbyn’s luke warm embrace of the Remain cause undeniably helped pave the way for its downfall.
In much the same way, the SNP are far from blameless for the Remain campaign’s demise. Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s more convincing appearances in front of the TV cameras, one has to wonder how much the SNP’s heart was really in it, on the basis that a vote to Leave would almost certainly allow them to campaign for a cause of far greater importance to them, a second referendum on Scotland’s independence. Despite Scotland voting for Remain, the turnout was far lower than that of the rest of the UK, which suggests that the SNP, as the majority party in Scotland, did simply not try hard enough to get the Scottish voters into the polling booths. Had the turnout in Scotland been anything close to the 80% turnout seen in the Independence Referendum, it’s likely that we would now be looking at a Remain victory.
However that is not the case, and those of us who still believe in Britain’s place in the European Union must look elsewhere for options, although I stress that the democratic decision made last Thursday must be respected as such, and any attempt to reverse this decision must be made equally democratically.
Whilst the online petition for a second referendum is a valiant effort, there is no way for it to be successful as Leave campaigning Conservative MPs would never allow it. Therefore with a second referendum for now off the cards, in my opinion the best way forward would be to campaign for an early general election, at which a party stands on the basis that it will reverse the referendum decision, therefore turning the general election into a de facto second referendum. The Liberal Democrats have already made this pledge, and they seemed best placed to lead the charge, as the Conservatives cannot possibly stand for continued membership of the EU as half of their MPs fundamentally disagree with it, and Labour would be taking a monumental risk to do so, as it risks creating an even deeper rift between the Labour MPs and their voters in the north of England, who voted to Leave. This would only play into the hands of UKIP, leaving us with the very real prospect of a Conservative government with a UKIP opposition. Therefore if we are to continue the campaign to remain in the EU, as well as at the same time stem the rise of the Right in this country, we must all, at least for now, join the Lib Dem fight back.
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Following on from my post a week or so ago concerning why you should register to vote, today I’d like to discuss why I feel we should all be looking to vote to remain in the European Union. Something I feel we haven’t seen enough of over the last few weeks is a strong, positive case for staying in, due mostly to the “project fear” campaign being run by senior Conservative figures who receive the majority of press coverage, leaving the positive message to be spread by the more marginalised members of the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green parties. On this basis, I have tried to make the following reasons to remain in the EU as clear from scaremongering, lies, and personal attacks as I possibly can.
There is perhaps no better place to start than the number one reason why the Leave campaign feel we should vote for Brexit on the 23rd of June. They would argue that immigration is a burden on this country, and that by taking in people from across the EU we are putting pressure on the country’s infrastructure. However I would argue almost the complete opposite; firstly in pure economic terms, according to a 2014 UCL report, immigrants who have arrived in this country since the year 2000 have had a net contribution to this country’s finances of around £20bn (see independent charity Full Fact’s website for more detail), so in the crudest possible manner you could argue that immigration makes the country money rather than costs it. Secondly, and I think more importantly, regardless of any monetary aspect, immigration has a rich cultural benefit to this country. Going to university in Birmingham, a city containing migrants from all over the EU, and indeed the world, I see first hand the positive effect of a melting pot of people. Far from resentment for one another, there is a real sense of togetherness in the city, where everyone is both respectful and tolerant of each other’s cultures and beliefs. The grey concrete buildings of Birmingham may not be much of an inspiration, but its people are. Instead of trying solve the challenge of a growing population in this country (which is caused by a higher life expectancy as much as immigration let’s not forget) by leaving the EU (which only accounts for a third of immigration anyhow), we should be meeting these challenges head on by working together to invest in both public services and housing, increasing supply rather than cutting demand, aspects of this country which remain very much under the UK government’s control.
For me working together is the key reason to remain in the European Union. I often hear the argument that the UK faired quite alright on its own before it became a member of what is now the EU back in the 1970s, however to me this is actually largely irrelevant, as the world we live in now has changed so much since then. In the internet age, both threats and opportunities pay no attention to border lines; the two main threats we face today are climate change and terrorism; it goes without saying that in terms of changes to the world’s climate, we are all affected regardless of the country we reside in, and to an extent, the same could be said about terrorism. Yes, perhaps in the 1970s the terrorist threat was some way linked to nationality, particularly in Britain with the likes of the IRA, however in the 21st century, whether you are British or French or German or Polish does not concern terrorist groups such as ISIS. It is not the nationality you associate with that they object to, but the liberal way of life that across Europe and much of the rest of the world we all share. A problem shared is a problem halved, why retreat to deal with these problems on our own when we can pool information and resources together to better combat these threats?
Remaining in the EU does not only help to better deal with threats, but also continues to offer great opportunities. Free access to the single market has been covered many times over the course of the EU Referendum campaign, but as well as this I think it’s also important to remember the other benefits, such as being free to work and travel from the very north of Finland to the very south of Greece and Spain. A great deal of people who read this will be young people, and it’s perhaps them who would most benefit from the EU’s latest regulation, abolishing data roaming charges within the EU by 2017. This means that not only do our holidays to Ibiza or our gap years spent inter-railing across Germany and Holland stay cheap and easy, but the uploading of the thousands of selfies which come part and parcel with these trips abroad is about to become and damn sight easier and cheaper too.
By claiming to be “taking back control”, the Leave campaign often try and portray themselves as the patriotic choice at this referendum. Again, I disagree. To me, the UK is not a country that takes a step back from its seat at a table of nations, it a country that not only takes a seat at the table but also takes the lead of it. Nobody is arguing that that EU is perfect, but by staying in, staying strong and taking the lead in Brussels, we can change it for the better. Over the past hundred years Britain has fought for a better Europe; it is not now, just because things appear slightly tougher than we originally thought they might, that we retreat and give up. In 2017 Britain takes on the presidency of the council of the European Union (assuming we vote to remain), this is our country’s chance to lead from the front not only in facing the global challenges that affect us all, but also at the same time to build a fairer, more democratic, more representative Union at the same time.
Thank you for reading, please cast your vote to remain in the European Union at the referendum on the 23rd of June.
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Throughout the build up to the EU Referendum on the 23rd of June, I’ve spoken to a lot of family, friends and random people in the street about their thoughts and feelings towards the EU, and how these will affect the way they cast their vote. One of the most disheartening things I have heard is that many people, particularly younger members of society, feel so disenchanted by politics in this country that they most likely will not vote at all, and by consequence of this are not even registered to do so. In the perhaps naïve hope that I may be able to change just a few minds, I’ve laid out four reasons for why you, fellow young people, should be registered to vote in just over two and a half weeks time
1. This is most likely the biggest political decision we’ll make in our lifetime.
This is different to normal elections. With General Elections it could be argued that, as they take place approximately every five years, nothing that we vote for is permanent, and so could seem insignificant to you, however, with voices on both the Remain and Leave sides of the argument stating that the result of the upcoming Referendum should be respected and so will therefore be definitive, in all likelihood you will not get your say on this matter again, regardless of the result. The last time a referendum was held on this issue was forty-one years ago, if you are a young person then at the very least you will have to live with the outcome of the Referendum for the majority of your adult life, I’d argue that’s not a decision you want to pass up on having a say on.
2. The outcome will have a real impact on how you live.
Even as a keen fan of the democratic process I have to concede that sometimes it’s hard to see just how the outcome of a vote has impacted upon you, so much so that just a few weeks ago I decided to forgo the opportunity to vote for my local Police & Crime Commissioner on the basis I had absolutely zero clue how the people in these positions actually benefitted either me or indeed anyone else. Come the 23rd of June however, I’m in no doubt that the result will fundamentally affect each and every one of us, whether it is our ability to travel across (or indeed work in) the EU freely, or even our ability to afford a house, the outcome of the Referendum will impact on us all, so don’t let others make the decision for you.
3. Old people vote. Old people are old.
It’s a well known fact that turnout amongst older generations at election time is far higher than amongst their younger equivalent, therefore if we do not vote ourselves, then we leave the decision on our own future in the hands of those who will not have to live with the consequences of either a vote to remain or a vote to leave anywhere near as long as we will. Whilst I am not saying that people from older generations can afford to be complacent with their vote, it is probably fair to argue that there is a difference of opinion between younger and older generations on a whole variety of topics, and the opinions of young people simply will not be heard if we do not vote for them.
As a by-product of this, by turning out to vote, young people will soon find that those in government listen to their voices far more. As a result of young people not voting, governments know they can get away with implementing policies that will have an adverse affect on the young, as it will have little to no impact on their support at the ballot box. By registering to vote in the EU Referendum, you automatically register to vote in all future elections held in the UK.
4. “It’s not even f***ing hard”.
As so eloquently pointed out to me by my good friend Charlie Spargo, editor-in-chief of The Mancunion according to his LinkedIn profile (worst name drop ever?), it’s really not hard to register to vote. The entire process can be carried out online here, and only takes a couple of minutes. I know because I did it the other day, albeit unnecessarily because it turns out I was in fact already registered, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. This is especially true following recent legislation from the Government which left an awful lot of young people unregistered, as they can no longer be registered by the head of the household and must register individually themselves. In order to be eligible to vote in the EU Referendum, you must be registered by Monday, so make sure to do it now and don’t delay.
In the likely event that you skimmed over the paragraphs above, just to reiterate, you can register to vote here – http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register-to-vote.
You can follow me on Twitter here – @Briggs_AndyJ.