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What more do we need to try to do to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the EU?

February 20, 2018 2:24 PM
By Michael Berwick-Gooding

Exit from BrexitIt seems to me that our position on Remaining in the EU is that people will see that we will be worse off outside the EU than in it. When they see the deal which is negotiated, they will have their 'Road to Damascus' moment and a significant proportion of the British will want to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU.

I don't think that will be happen. The 2016 referendum was fought on a campaign which stated we would be much poorer outside the EU than by Remaining in it. That campaign failed to get a majority of the British people to vote to stay in the EU. I can see no reason why, if there was a referendum in late 2018 or early 2019, the result would be different. We would be doing the same thing as in 2016 and expecting a different result.

I hope there is still time for the party to adopt an alternative policy. - An alternative which tries to address what are often reported as the two main reasons why we lost the 2016 referendum. Firstly that we can only control immigration from the EU if we leave and secondly that we don't control what laws are passed in the EU.

We often say the EU would like us to stay, but we haven't asked them if they would like to reform the EU to assist us in achieving a "Stay In" vote in a referendum on the deal versus staying in. I think we as a party should ask that question and we should set out what reforms we think would assist us.

I think those reforms should be:

  • i) Allowing member nations to restrict the free movement of people from other member nations with GDP per capita lower than 20% of theirs until the economic drivers for economic migration within the EU are dealt with.

  • ii) Abolishing the Stability and Growth Pact and replacing it with a Full Employment Pact in which members countries commit themselves to obtaining full employment (defined as less than 2.5 % of the working age population unemployed) for at least one quarter every eight years and that they ensure unemployment is never above 7.5%.

  • iii) Increasing the EU budget above inflation each 7 year budgetary cycle (Multiannual Financial Framework) and targeting this extra revenue into the poorest 42 Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) regions.

  • iv) Only allowing ministers in the Council of the European Union to vote on legislation as directed by their national Parliament once their national Parliament has voted on the proposed legislation.

The first one keeps the principle of the free movement of people while giving countries the freedom, if they wish, to take action to restrict economic migration into their country.

The second one puts full employment and not controlling inflation, or deficits or national debts, at the heart of the EU. Put people first. If all governments can stimulate economic growth and work towards full employment, the pressure for their citizens to migrate for economic reasons are reduced.

The third one ensures there is an increase every time the budget is agreed to spend more money in real terms in bring up the poorest 42 regions closer to the EU average economic performance. This too will reduce the pressures of people to migrate for economic reasons.

The fourth one will make it very clear to the people that national parliaments have to agree changes in EU laws and they are not just agreed in Brussels.

I hope these four reforms will be enough to persuade a majority of the British people to reject the deal and vote to stay in the EU. I am looking for members to support these reforms as part of an amendment to the Exit form Brexit motion at Federal Spring Conference.

* Michael Berwick-Gooding is a Liberal Democrat member in Basingstoke and has held various party positions at local, regional and English Party level. He posts on this site as Michael BG

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