According to YouGov, about a third of Lib Dem supporters, those who normally vote Lib Dem, voted Leave in the 2016 EU Referendum. It’s a fair bet that most were thinking along the lines of Norway at the time. Odd that Ed Davey forgot that figure on Question Time this week. It’s in my head, it must be in his, inconvenient though it might be.
Once upon a time I was strongly pro-EU. I have a degree that includes EU Law, and European Political Cooperation. Right up to 2016, with reservations, I would still have been firmly in the Remain camp. My movement over to the softest of exits began when Cameron went to Brussels for some concessions and came back with zero. But really doubts had been developing for a while.
The UK’s approach to free movement of people is completely different to most other EU countries. If you want to move to Italy you need to support yourself and your dependents, including healthcare and housing. After 3 months you need to register and prove your means or off you go. Here we seem to be more generous if the EU migrant has worked here. It’s a myth they can get benefits if you’ve never worked here. Generosity and myths combined and made the UK a major destination for inbound migration from the rest of the EU. This level of net migration was unsustainable – inadequate infrastructure, insufficient housing, limited space to expand cities and towns. Not to mention downward pressure on wages as a result of an often highly educated but cheap labour influx. The causes were an unforeseen consequence of too rapid Eastward expansion coupled with over-generosity.
The CFP and CAP (Common Fisheries and Agriculture Policies) are also a major negative for the UK, although our Government have been noticeably silent about how they sold out British fishermen. Like Norway and Iceland we must have control over our resources.
Remain does not solve these fundamentals. So I was wavering. Then I saw Project Fear unfold in Lib Dem strategy discussions. Truth, the moral high ground, had little to do with that strategy. I recall reading a briefing for doorsteps where virtually every point could be refuted in seconds. No way could I lie through my teeth to family, friends, and neighbours as suggested. And if it needed lies to Remain, would Leave be that bad. Well No Deal Leave would be that bad, but the Norway / Iceland model coupled with adoption of stricter free movement rules and maybe an emergency brake to sort out infrastructure and housing issues, would be my strong preference.
So we are in 2019. Fellow Lib Dems (well the few that went to Conference) have decided to alienate the third of supporters who want a Leave deal. Tories and the current Farage Fellowship have forgotten Deal promises. Second referendum suggestions are all binary and are unlikely to arrive at the compromise we actually need. If I am given a choice of Norway/Iceland or Remain, my vote will not be Remain. No Deal or Remain would probably see me vote Remain with a heavy heart but we all know that won’t shut up Brexiteers for a nanosecond.