SSTIE Member’s address on Brexit to the Liberal Democrats Spring Conference

I fully support this motion, but it could go a lot further.

Although we are the only party to have taken an unequivocal Remain position, we have continuously failed to prevent the debate, in both parliament and the media, from focusing almost entirely on the virtues of a hard versus a soft Brexit.  It is essential the debate is realigned – to be between Remain, on the one hand, and any form of Brexit, on the other.

The right to revisit the outcome of the 2016 referendum is entirely justified by the evidence of misrepresentations made by Leave, by the passage of almost 3 years and by the emergence of the true facts and consequences of leaving the EU.  And it’s not solely a matter of justification; a further referendum (or People’s Vote) is vastly more than a last-ditch option. It is the electorate’s entitlement and a democratic imperative for parliament, now that there are real, factual alternative paths to choose between.

A People’s Vote however is not enough. The PV is a necessary process, but it lacks the emotional traction of our real, substantive purpose.  Alongside the PV campaign, we must urgently develop a new Remain campaign, working with The Independent Group and all pro-Europe organisations in the most united way possible.

A new Leave campaign is already underway, with the backing of ultra-wealthy individuals, especially via mega posters and social media.  This campaign has considerable emotional traction. It cannot be defeated by a campaign merely about voting process.

In 2016 we lost largely because we were obliged to campaign for the status quo (never a great rallying-cry) against an unscrupulous opponent promising change as a remedy for all ills.  Now in 2019 Remain is no longer the status quo. The status quo is national crisis, and Remain is the solution.

Our new campaign must force both MPs and the electorate to compare the outcomes of any form of Brexit with the outcomes from Remain.  The former promises at least a decade of continuous negotiation (from a much weakened base) full of uncertainty and divisiveness within the UK, within Europe and internationally.  The latter provides a solution which quickly ends the crisis and enables the UK:-

  • to avoid a divorce bill of £39 billion
  • to have no hard border in Ireland
  • to have free access to the world’s largest market for all our goods and services
  • to participate in existing beneficial trade deals across the world
  • to participate in the coordination of international security, climate change, medicines, chemicals, nuclear materials and air transport
  • to have secure markets for our agricultural products and fish
  • to ensure its citizens can live, travel, work and study freely within 27 neighbouring countries; and
  • to play a leading role in the shaping of Europe’s future

Which would you vote for?  

We need to invest in a visceral, creative, professionally-crafted campaign to promote these messages with the maximum emotional impact.

Richard Morris

15th March 2019