A Liberal Democratic Victory?

I fail to see what is liberal or democratic about Sarah Olney’s victory at the Richmond Park by-election. Olney is the ninth member of parliament’s rump party. The so-called Liberal Democrats, a political project committed to reducing parliament’s status to that of the parish council. A party committed to demos-defying federalism, austerity at the altar of the Euro and economic protectionism.

Elected by a majority of 1,872 votes, with only  53.6 percent of Richmond’s constituency bothering to turn-up at the ballot box, Olney sneers at the people. For she promises to vote against parliament triggering Article 50, a process for Britain to leave the European Union. A decision made by 17,410,742 people (turnout: 72.2%) voting in a referendum for Britain to leave the European Union.

But Brexit stinks. Even though I support it. I don’t blame Baroness Warsi for switching to “Remain”. The vile vitriol and vomit of Farage & Co taints us liberal internationalists seeking to shake-off the shackles of fortress Europe.

“Brexit means Brexit” is bollocks too. Let us encourage an exchange of ideas to parry populism’s phantom. A letter to The Times  (2 December) from two QCs, Anthony Speaight and David Wolfson:

Far from it suiting the UK to assert that the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement would fall away on leaving the EU, it may be a better tactic to assert the opposite. First, the EEA agreement contains provisions for free movement of goods, services and capital – but the provision on free movement of persons applies only between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states and “EC member states”, so arguably would not cover the UK after leaving the EU.

Second, by Article 126 the EEA agreement applies only to the territories to which the European Community treaties apply, and a list of EFTA states; after leaving the EU, the UK would be neither. It must be strongly arguable that the effect is that the remaining EU countries would have to accord access to goods, services and so on in their territory, but that there would be no obligation on the UK to allow free movement in Britain. Third, settlement of a dispute between the UK and the other 27 countries as to whether the above argument is correct would not go to the European Court of Justice.

Until the UK gives notice of withdrawal from the EEA, the UK remains a contracting party. It might well be in the UK’s interests to maintain that position, unless and until the EU member states agree satisfactory terms in the coming negotiations.

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