Over the past few months I have called at literally thousands of doors in Liverpool. I was, of course, calling about the local elections but amazingly what people have talked to me about time and time again is BREXIT and in particular the behaviour of most of our parliamentary representatives.
Typical was a call I made to a house in Mossley Hill yesterday. The lady knew who I was and immediately said as she opened the door, “I don’t want to talk about BREXIT”. We then spent the next 10 minutes before I could get away talking about BREXIT! She was a Leaver and respected the fact that I am a Remainer. But as in countless conversations I have had the issue now is not about leaving or remaining but about how Parliament has behaved in the 1000+ days since the referendum.
Typically, the conversation begins either, “I know you are a Remainer and I am not but…” or “I know you are a Remainer and I voted Leave but….” From either beginning the rest of the sentence leads on to, “but why can’t they sit down and talk to each other. What people are particularly complaining about now is the failure of both Labour and Tory Parties to try and develop a series of scenarios that could be sensibly discussed with each other and with the people of the UK.
It could be possible to create a deal which minimises the drastic effects of Brexit. It would not be as good as remaining but it would depend on a serious discussion of four aspects of trade and commerce:
- What does sovereignty mean when so much of our commerce is conducted via the World Wide Web? Neither we or any other democratic country can control thought, movements and ideas in the way that we once could. Information does not stop at our borders. It flows globally within mini-seconds.
- What will we always have to do to trade with other Countries? Around the world countries have different views of what is safe and what they require from products which are used in their Country. If we want to sell cars to Europe, for example, we will always have to meet their safety and environmental standards. We now contribute to those standards if we were to leave the EU, we would still be bound by them but have no say in their making.
- Where does trade take place? Most trade takes place in Countries that are nearby. There is an obvious reason for that – cost and time. Even now when China is at the heart of international trade flows UK companies are starting to once again manufacture because of the time delay in producing and delivering products especially in time critical fields such as fashion.
- What is our place in the World? Does the Commonwealth pine for us to return to our rightful place as the Leader of the ‘Empire on which the sun never sets’ or do they want to work with and trade with Countries with clout and adjacency? I must tell my readers that whatever we do now our position in the World has been massively reduced by our behaviour as a nation. We are now being mocked by Countries who once thought that we had the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ and the strongest legal system in the World.
If we had honestly and fairly looked at these issues, we would have had a decent debate but in both the other Parties such a debate has been spurious. Before I turn to them let me have a go at my own Party and my fellow Remainers in other Parties. We too have been guilty of a failure to engage either on these questions and give good answers to them or to a further question, “what sort of Europe do we want?”
I believe that we do need to make some changes to a system which can appear sclerotic to many outsiders (or even insiders!) What should the relationship be between the Parliament and the Council and members states? At what points do we stand together on international opportunities and threats. Who represents who and where do they do it? As someone who believes in the European way forward and who knows that I wake up every day in Liverpool and in Europe I feel strongly our failure to address these issues.
But this problem is nowhere near as bad as our opponents:
The Tories believed that all these complex issues outlined above would be, “the easiest trade deal in history. Sorted out in an afternoon and finished with a nice cup of tea” These were the comments of the first Brexit Secretary who later bemoaned how complex the issues are. These people had an over inflated idea of our own importance and a belief that every other nation would run around and ignore all the rules which we had been insisting on for years as a Member State.
Labour are just confused. This is largely because they are a Remain Party led by a Leave Leader. Corbyn’s antipathy to the EU is well known and has been well documented over the years. Labour’s pretence that they don’t want THE Customs Union but A Customs Union is farcical. They haven’t spelled out what they want for a deal that would take about 3 years to negotiate but have put a block in the way of any deal. They want to end the free movement of Labour. No Customs Union deal with the EU is possible without such free movement.
So why am I talking about this when, some might say, I should be concentrating on the local elections? It is because these decisions will have a huge effect on our Country; our City; and our Council. Who knows what problems we will face if we leave without a deal or even with a poor one? They are just unquantifiably huge. How will all these affect what we need to spend money on and how much money will we have? No-one knows.
So unusually I am asking the people of Liverpool to look at international issues at this set of local elections. Electing more Lib Dem councillors in Liverpool will have two effects:
- It will help the resilience of our City by having more people elected that understand the need to answer questions like those above and who can plan, with our partners, local solutions for the problems which will beset us; and
- It will send a message to the b****rs in London that enough is enough. The Mother of Parliaments is a disgrace to us all. We can’t chuck Tories out In Liverpool – it’s 25 years since they elected a Councillor in this City. We can chuck out Labour councillors who support a Party whose Leader nationally is acting as Theresa may’s little helper in bringing us to the edge of a no deal precipice which would set our nation back decades.