Monday, 4 July 2016

The Liberal Democrats and Brexit

This is the first in a series of posts taking a look at UK political parties.

The Liberal Democrats are campaigning to remain in the EU in spite of the vote to leave. They are right to do so. The party has been consistently pro-EU, and argued their case during the referendum. Liberal Democrats are entitled to continue to express their opinions; a referendum result does not end debate.

Liberal Democrats are also calling for a General Election before the UK triggers the process of leaving the EU. Again, that is in line with their pro-EU views, and has the advantage of giving people the opportunity to elect new MPs, with a fresh mandate, in what is now a very different situation.

If an early election took place, and if a majority of the MPs elected had stood on a clear platform of staying in the EU, those MPs would be entitled to keep us in the EU.

That is very unlikely, though, for two reasons. First, large numbers of MPs would be wary of saying they would vote against Brexit: Lib Dems and of course the SNP could, but even if they supported Remain many Conservative and Labour MPs in the parts of England and Wales that voted strongly to leave would probably commit themselves to accepting the result. If they did not do so they might well lose. Secondly, and even more significantly, from the public statements so far it seems an incoming Tory Prime Minister will not call an early election.

So, Brexit is almost certain to happen, and is perhaps even necessary because both sides said the result would be final. Liberal Democrats, while rightly continuing to argue their case in favour of EU membership, should ask themselves what happens if those who ran the Leave campaign are now allowed to set the agenda. The only way to prevent that is to unite across parties in support of the outward-looking, inclusive values of those who voted to remain.

The 48 Movement therefore asks Liberal Democrats to join with us, and endorse our eight-point programme now as what should happen if the UK leaves the EU. That's the way to help shape the future of the UK outside the EU, accepting the political reality of the vote to leave while building a new consensus that can include many moderate Tories, most of the Left, business people and trades unionists, and most young people.